Monday, March 31, 2014

Touring Zoo Miami – Part II

This is a continuation of our tour of Zoo Miami… This zoo has over 100 exhibits, 327 acres of developed zoo property, over 3 miles of walkways, more than 2,000 animals, (over 500 species of which 40 species are endangered), and 70 species of birds in the Wings of Asia Aviary.  The good news is that I’m not planning to show you every exhibit or animal that we saw during our tour…

The dromedary camel, aka the Arabian camel or Indian camel, is a large, even-toed ungulate with one hump on its back.  The dromedary’s diet includes foliage and desert vegetation, such as thorny plants, which their extremely tough mouths allow them to eat.  They have various adaptations to help them exist in their desert habitat.  Dromedaries have bushy eyebrows and two rows of long eyelashes to protect their eyes, and can close their nostrils to face sandstorms.  When water is scarce, they have specialized kidneys, which allow them to tolerate water loss of more than 30% of their body mass! 

Almost 13 million dromedaries are domesticated.  They are beneficial as beasts of burden, and their docility and toughness compared to cattle, provide additional advantages.  The hair is a highly regarded source material for woven goods.  Their meat is eaten in many cultures and their dung is used as fertilizer and for fuel.

Note: I remember Laurie pulling hair from a friendly camel at Grant’s Farm in St. Louis and presenting it to my elated mother for a weaving project.  We did have to throw away Laurie’s smelly hobo purse afterwards though…

The Bactrian camel is native to the steppes of Central Asia.  There are 2 species of camel and the Bactrian is by far the rarer.  Its population of about two million exists mainly as domesticated animals.  Back in 2002, it was estimated that Wild Bactrian camels had dwindled to a population estimated at only 800 individuals.   Its range in the wild is limited to remote regions of the Gobi and Taklamakan Deserts of Mongolia and China.  A small number of wild Bactrian camels still roam Kazakhstan as well as the Kashmir valley in Pakistan and India.  In addition, there are feral herds of Bactrian camels in Australia.

Camels are members of the biological family Camelidae.  Other members of this family are dromedary camels, llamas, alpacas, vicuñas, and guanacos.
The domesticated Bactrian camel has served as a pack animal in inner Asia since ancient times…serving as a critical conveyance for caravans of the Silk Road.   To learn about the Silk Road, an ancient trade route, just go to  As pack animals, these ungulates are virtually unsurpassed, able to carry 370 to 550 lbs. for a distance of 30 miles per day.

This is a sable antelope.  They live on the wooded savannahs of East Africa and in Southern Africa.   Male sable antelopes are about 20% larger than the females.  Males can reach 55 inches at the shoulder and they typically weigh around 520 lbs.  Both sexes have ringed horns which arch backward.  In females these can reach 24 to 40 inches long, while in males they can reach 65 inches in length! 

When sable antelopes are threatened by predators, including lions, they will confront it, using their scimitar-shaped horns.  Many lions have died during such fights.  Unfortunately, the sable's horns have contributed to their sharp decline, as they are a highly prized hunting trophy.

The spotted hyena is also known as the laughing hyena.  It ranges widely across Africa in numbers estimated between 27,000 and 47,000 individuals.  This species may have originated in Asia, and it once ranged throughout Europe. The spotted hyena is a highly successful animal, being the most common large carnivore in Africa. Its success is due in part to its adaptability.  It’s primarily a hunter but they may also scavenge…with the ability to eat and digest skin, bone and other animal bits and pieces. 
Unlike most dogs, the social system of the spotted hyena is openly competitive rather than cooperative.  Access to kills, mating opportunities and the time of dispersal for males depend on a hyena’s ability to dominate other clan-members. Females provide only for their own cubs and males display no paternal care.  Spotted hyena society is matriarchal; females are larger than males, and they dominate them.  On average, the top weight for female spotted hyenas is 141 lbs. and for males its 121 lbs.

The gaur is native to South Asia and Southeast Asia. The gaur is the tallest species of wild cattle, reaching up to 7.22 feet at the shoulder!  An occasional large bull can weigh up to 3,300 lbs...that’s a ton and a half!  The gaur is the largest of all bovines.
Due to their size and power, gaur have few natural enemies. Only the tiger and the saltwater crocodile have been reported as having killed a full-grown adult. When confronted by a tiger, the adult members of a gaur herd often form a circle surrounding the vulnerable young and calves, shielding them from the big cat.

The Arabian or white oryx is a medium-sized antelope with a distinct shoulder bump, long, straight horns, and a tufted tail.  It is native to the desert and steppe areas of the Arabian Peninsula.  The Arabian oryx was extinct in the wild by the early 1970s, but it was saved in zoos and private preserves and was then reintroduced into the wild starting in 1980.

The Arabian oryx was the first animal to improve and revert to ‘Vulnerable’ status after previously being listed as extinct in the wild.  In 2011, populations were estimated at over 1,000 individuals in the wild with another 6,000–7,000 individuals in captivity worldwide.

In the 1930s, Arabian princes and oil company clerks started hunting Arabian oryx with automobiles and rifles.  Hunts grew in size, and some were reported to employ as many as 300 vehicles.  The last Arabian oryx in the wild, prior to reintroduction, was reported in 1972.

This is an addax.  It lives in the Sahara desert.  Its long twisted horns can reach to 33 inches in length.  The addax is a critically endangered species of antelope.  Although extremely rare in its native habitat due to unregulated hunting, it is fairly common in captivity.  The addax was once abundant in much of North Africa.  It has been reintroduced in Morocco and Tunisia.

Addax are amply suited to live in the deep desert under extreme conditions. They can survive without free water almost indefinitely.  They get moisture from their food and dew that condenses on plants. Scientists believe the addax has a special lining in its stomach that stores water in pouches to use in times of dehydration. They also produce highly concentrated urine to conserve water.  The pale color of their coat reflects radiant heat, and the length and density of the coat helps in thermoregulation.

Kind of cute, don’t you think!?  The pygmy hippopotamus is native to the forests and swamps of West Africa, primarily in Liberia and small populations in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Ivory Coast.  They are reclusive and nocturnal.  The pygmy hippopotamus is semi-aquatic and relies on proximity to water to keep its skin moisturized and its body temperature cool.  Behaviors such as mating and giving birth may occur in water or on land. The pygmy hippo is herbivorous, feeding on ferns, broad-leaved plants, grasses and fruits it finds in the forests.

As a rare nocturnal forest animal, the pygmy hippopotamus is difficult to study in the wild.  Pygmy hippos were unknown outside of West Africa until the 19th century.  They were introduced to zoos in the early 20th century and they breed well in captivity.  While they thrive in zoos, there are less than 3,000 pygmy hippos remaining in the wild.  The pygmy hippo is only half as tall as the hippopotamus and weighs less than 1/4 as much as its larger cousin.  Adult pygmy hippos are only between 2.5 and 2.7 feet tall at the shoulder and they only weigh from about 400 to 600 lbs.
Note: In 1927, Harvey Firestone of Firestone Tires presented Billy the pygmy hippo to U.S. President Calvin Coolidge.  In turn, President Coolidge donated Billy to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.  According to the zoo, Billy is a common ancestor to most pygmy hippos in U.S. zoos today.

The giant eland is an open-forest and savanna antelope. It is the largest species of antelope in the world.   A male can weigh up to a half ton!  This eland is native to Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea, Mali, Senegal, and South Sudan.

The giant eland is an herbivore, eating grasses, foliage and branches.  They usually operate in small herds consisting of 15–25 members, both males and females. Giant elands are not territorial, and have large home ranges. They are naturally alert and wary, which makes them difficult to approach and observe. As big as they are, they can still run at up to 43 mph and they use this speed as a defense against predators.

This strange looking little antelope is the gerenuk or Waller’s gazelle.  It is a long-necked species of antelope found in dry thorn bush scrub and desert in East Africa, including Somalia, Djibouti and eastern Ethiopia through northern and eastern Kenya to northeastern Tanzania.  The word gerenuk, (pronounced with a hard ‘g’), comes from the Somali language, meaning "giraffe-necked".

Typically, these little antelopes are only between 36 and 40 inches tall at the shoulder and they usually weigh between 66 and 99 lbs.  Gerenuks generally browse on prickly bushes and trees, such as acacias.   With their long necks, they can reach higher branches and twigs than other gazelles and antelope.  Gerenuks do not seem to drink water.  Apparently they get enough water from the plants they eat.  This allows them to survive in very dry habitats.

Note: Many breeders of gerenuks and zoologists have described gerenuks as being extremely humble animals, always helping fellow gerenuks.  In ancient African tribal tales, the gerenuk has often been crowned 'Queen of Humbleness.' 

The larger animal in this photo is the okapi.  They are native to the Ituri Rainforest, which is located in the northeast portion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Note the striped markings that are reminiscent of zebras.  However, it is most closely related to the giraffe.  Like the giraffe, its flexible tongue is used to strip leaves and buds from trees… The okapi's tongue is also long enough for the animal to wash its eyelids and clean its ears (inside and out).  Okapis are quite solitary, coming together only to breed,

This odd looking animal gained early attention in Europe due to speculation on its existence found in popular press reports covering Henry Morton Stanley's journeys in 1887.  Roughly 10,000–20,000 okapi remain in the wild.  As of 2011, 42 different zoos display them throughout the world.

Note: Zoo Miami has successfully bred Okapi’s…resulting in 2 offspring to date.

However, the small critter next to the okapi is not a baby okapi… It is a very small antelope called a duiker.  They are small to medium-sized antelopes that are native to Sub-Saharan Africa.  The name ‘duiker’ comes from the Dutch or Boer word for diver, which refers to this animal’s practice of diving into tangles of shrubbery.  Because of their rarity and interspersed population, there is not much known about duikers.  They range in size from the 6.6 lb. blue duiker to the 150+ lb. yellow-backed duiker.
Duikers are primarily browsers, eating leaves, shoots, seeds, fruit, buds and bark, and often following flocks of birds or troops of monkeys to take advantage of the fruit they drop.  Interestingly, they supplement their diets with meat.  Duikers consume insects and carrion from time to time and even manage to capture rodents or small birds.  

Who could resist a face like this!  The Masai Giraffe is the largest subspecies of giraffe and it’s the tallest land mammal in the world. (It’s up to 20 feet tall and can weigh 3,500 lbs.)  The Masai giraffe is found in Kenya and Tanzania.  The giraffe's range extends from Chad in the north down to South Africa, and from Niger in the west to Somalia in the east. Giraffes usually inhabit savannas, grasslands, and open woodlands. Their primary food source is acacia leaves, which they browse at heights most other herbivores cannot reach.

The circulatory system of the giraffe has several adaptations for its great height.  Its heart, which can weigh more than 25 lbs. and measures about 2 feet long, must generate approximately double the blood pressure required for a human to maintain blood flow to the brain.  As such, the wall of the giraffe’s heart can be as thick as 3 inches.  Giraffes also have unusually high heart rates for their size, at 150 beats per minute.

Note: Visitors to Zoo Miami can buy fresh produce and feed the giraffe’s from an elevated platform.  Its lots of fun!

How cute is this little giraffe!  Giraffe gestation lasts 400–460 days.  The mother gives birth standing up…so a baby giraffe enters the world the hard way… The calf emerges head and front legs first and falls to the ground!  A newborn giraffe is about 6 feet tall.  Mothers with calves will gather in nursery herds, moving or browsing together.

This group of giraffes has their eyes on a couple of their familiar zookeepers who entered the area.  In the wild, while giraffes are usually found in groups, the composition of these groups tends to be open and ever-changing.  They have few strong social bonds, and aggregations usually change members every few hours.

Giraffes have an unusually long lifespan, up to 25 years in the wild.  Because of their size, eyesight and powerful kicks, adult giraffes are usually not subject to predation.  However, they can fall prey to lions and are regular prey for them in Kruger National Park.  Nile crocodiles can also be a threat to giraffes when they bend down to drink.

The Grant's zebra is the smallest of six subspecies of the plains zebra.  There are more Grant’s zebras in the wild than any other species or subspecies of zebras. They are not endangered.  Grant’s zebras eat the coarse grasses that grow on the African plains, and they are resistant to diseases that often kill cattle, so they do well in the African savannas.

There are several species or sub-species of Zebra.  In addition to Grant’s, there are Burchell’s, Selous’, Chapman’s, Crawshay’s, Cape Mountain, Hartmann’s Mountain and Grevy’s zebras.  Another zebra, the quagga, is now extinct.  To learn more about zebras, to view their varying appearances and to see a picture of a quagga, just go to

Zebras evolved among the Old World horses within the last 4 million years.  Although zebra species may have overlapping ranges, they do not interbreed.  Their stripes have several possible advantages:
  • The vertical striping may help the zebra hide in grass by disrupting its outline. In addition, even at moderate distances, the striking striping merges to an apparent gray.
  •  The stripes may help to confuse predators by motion dazzle—a group of zebras standing or moving close together may appear as one large mass of flickering stripes, making it more difficult for the lion to pick out a target.
  •  The stripes may serve as visual cues and identification.  Although the striping pattern is unique to each individual, it is not known whether zebras can recognize one another by their stripes.
  • Experiments indicate that the stripes are effective in attracting fewer flies, including blood-sucking tsetse flies and tabanid horseflies.

Thomson's gazelles are is one of the best-known and most common gazelles. These gazelles can be found in numbers that exceed 500 thousand in Africa.
Thomson's gazelles are dependent on short grass.  Their numbers are highly concentrated at the beginning of the rains since the grass grows quickly.  These gazelles follow the larger grazing animals such as plains zebras and blue wildebeests.   

Thomson's gazelles major predators are cheetahs, which as the fastest land based animal, are able to attain higher speeds!  However, these gazelles can outlast them in long chases and are able to make quicker turns.   This small antelope-gazelles can run from 50 to 60 mph!

Laurie and I both love the big cats and the jaguar is one of our favorites!  The jaguar is the third-largest feline after the tiger and the lion, and it’s the largest in the Western Hemisphere.  The jaguar's present range extends from northern Mexico, (occasionally the southwest corner of the USA), and then through much of Central America and south to Paraguay and northern Argentina. Jaguars usually weigh between 124 and 210 lbs. although larger males have been known to weigh as much as 350 lbs.!

This big spotted cat most closely resembles the leopard, although it is usually larger and of sturdier build and it’s behavioral and habitat characteristics are closer to those of the tiger.  While dense rainforest is its preferred habitat, the jaguar will range across a variety of forested and open terrains.  It is strongly associated with the presence of water and it is notable, along with the tiger, as a feline that enjoys swimming. The jaguar is largely a solitary, opportunistic, stalk-and-ambush predator at the top of the food chain.  The jaguar has an exceptionally powerful bite and it uses an unusual killing method.  It bites directly through the skull of prey between the ears to deliver a fatal bite to the brain.

These are giant otters, a South American carnivorous mammal that lives mostly along the Amazon River.  It is the longest member of the weasel family, reaching up 5.6 feet in length.  They weigh between 49 and 71 lbs.
The giant otter is a social species, with family groups typically supporting three to eight members.  Although generally peaceful, the species is territorial, and aggression has been observed between groups. It is the noisiest otter species, and distinct vocalizations have been documented that indicate alarm, aggressiveness, and reassurance.

Decades of poaching for its velvety pelt, peaking in the 1950s and 1960s, considerably diminished the giant otter’s numbers.  Wild population estimates are typically below 5,000 individuals.  The giant otter is also rare in captivity.  As of 2003, only 60 animals were on display in zoos. 

The Northern Caiman Lizard is a species of lizard found in northern South America.  This lizard has a large heavy-set body and short but powerful limbs. Their jaws are heavily muscular to help aid in eating its normal prey of snails, crawfish and fresh water clams.  The long flattened tail helps the Caiman Lizard successfully swim and dive.  It also has a clear third eyelid which is thought to act like a pair of goggles underwater.

The body of the caiman lizard is very similar to that of a crocodile.  These lizards can grow up to 4 feet in length and weigh up to 10 lbs.  This species was heavily hunted for their leather.  In 1970 they were provided protection and the export of their hides dropped.  Farms have been established to provide animals for the leather trade.

The African bush elephant is the largest living terrestrial animal… Their large ears enable heat loss.  The upper lip and nose form a trunk.  The trunk acts as a fifth limb, a sound amplifier, and an important method of touch.  I didn’t realize it but African elephants' trunks end in two opposing lips…and the Asian elephants’ trunk ends in a single lip.  A big male African elephant can stand 13 feet tall at the shoulder and they may weigh as much as 13,330 lbs. (Over 6.5 tons!)

African elephant societies are arranged around family units. Each family unit is made up of around ten closely related females and their calves and is led by an old female known as the matriarch. When separate family units bond, they form kinship groups or bond groups. After puberty, male elephants tend to form alliances with other males.

African elephants are amongst the world's most intelligent species.  With a mass of just over 11 lbs., elephant brains are larger than those of any other land animal.  Elephants exhibit a wide variety of behaviors, including those associated with grief, learning, mothering, mimicry, art, play, a sense of humor, altruism, use of tools, compassion, cooperation, self-awareness, memory and possibly language.  All of this indicates a highly intelligent species that is thought to be equal with dolphins and primates.

The Harpy Eagle is the largest and most powerful raptor found in the Americas and it’s one of the largest eagles in the world.  It usually inhabits tropical lowland rainforests in the upper canopy layer.  Destruction of its natural habitat has seen it vanish from many parts of its former range, and it is nearly extinct in Central America.

While we were watching this eagle, 2 zookeepers were cleaning the eagles’ cage.  They had also placed a dead rabbit on a stump…and this eagle was completely focused on her lunch!  Female harpy eagles can weigh as much as 20 lbs., with a wingspan of over 7 feet…  Males are much smaller and they rarely weigh more than 11 lbs.

The literature that I read states that both the male and female harpy eagles have exactly the same striking plumage.  I found a couple of photos on line that indicate that when they’re hunting or focused on something, they look like the eagle in the first photo…

The Harpy Eagle is an active hunting carnivore and is an apex predator… They are at the top of the food chain and have no natural predators.  Its primary prey is tree-dwelling mammals, with the majority of its diet being sloths and monkeys.  The Harpy Eagle routinely hunts prey weighing more than 15 lbs.!  Harpy eagles possess the largest talons of any living eagle…

The red river hog is a wild member of the pig family living in Africa, with most of its distribution in the Guinean and Congolian forests.  It is rarely seen away from rainforests, and they generally prefer areas near rivers or swamps.
Red river hogs eat grasses, berries, roots, insects, mollusks, small vertebrates and carrion, and are capable of causing damage to plantations. They typically live in herds of 6 to 20 members led by a dominant boar, with sows rearing three to six piglets at a time.  Adults may weigh up to 254 lbs.

The New Guinea singing dog, (also known as the New Guinea dingo), is a wild dog once found throughout New Guinea.  New Guinea singing dogs are named for their unique vocalization.  Little is known about New Guinea singing dogs in their native habitat.  There are only two confirmed photographs of wild singing dogs.  Captive-bred New Guinea dingoes serve as companion dogs.

The New Guinea singing dog is relatively short-legged and broad-headed. These dogs have an average shoulder height of 12 to 18 inches and weigh no more than about 30 lbs.  Curiously, they don’t have rear dewclaws.  The limbs and spine of Singers are very flexible, and they can spread their legs sideways to 90°!  They can also rotate their front and hind paws more than domestic dogs, which enables them to climb trees with thick bark or branches that can be reached from the ground.  

New Guinea singing dogs are named for their distinctive and melodious howl, which is characterized by a sharp increase in pitch at the start and very high frequencies at the end.  At the start, the frequency rises and stabilizes for the rest of the howling, but normally shows abrupt changes in frequency.  A trill, with a distinctly "bird-like" character, is emitted during high arousal.  It is a high-frequency pulsed signal that has never been known to be made by any other canid.

This saddle-billed stork is a large wading bird.  It’s a widespread species that is a resident breeder throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa.  When they aren't sitting on their knees...or is it their this one, these very large birds can reach a height of 59 inches, weigh up to 17 lbs. and have a wingspan of up to 8.9 feet!  Its bill can measure up to 14.2 inches.

The saddle-billed stork breeds in watery forests and other flood lands in tropical lowlands.  It builds a large, deep stick nest in a tree, laying one or two white eggs.  It doesn’t form breeding colonies, and is usually found alone or in pairs.  Like most of its relatives, these storks feed mainly on fish, frogs and crabs, but also on small birds and reptiles.

This of course is a koala, a tree dwelling herbivorous marsupial native to Australia.  Its closest living relatives are wombats.  Koalas are found in coastal areas of Australia’s eastern and southern regions, inhabiting Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.  A large koala may weigh as much as 33 lbs.  They typically live in open eucalypt woodlands.  The leaves of these trees make up most of their diet.  Because this eucalypt diet has limited nutritional and caloric content, koalas are largely sedentary and sleep for up to 20 hours a day.

Koalas were hunted by indigenous Australians and depicted in myths and cave art for millennia.  The animal was also hunted heavily in the early 20th century for its fur.   Because they get so little energy from their diet, koalas typically spend only 4 minutes a day in active movement!  Koalas are mostly active at night and spend most of their waking hours feeding.  They typically eat and sleep in the same tree…possibly for as long as a day before moving on to the next tree… 

I just took this photo of a waterfall near the entrance/exit because I liked waterfalls!  

Well…that’s about the end of our tour.  We definitely enjoyed our tour of Zoo Miami.  It did take the greater part of a full day for us to walk around the complete zoo, check out all of the animals, take photos and eat lunch.  We would recommend Zoo Miami for families and animal lovers alike.  It’s nicely organized and the exhibits are quite people friendly.  We were a little let down by the limited Australian exhibit but overall, this zoological park is hard to surpass! 

Zoo Miami is located at 12400 Southwest 152nd Street in Miami Florida.  Phone: 305-251-0400.  The Zoo Miami website may be found at  I really found that the interactive map of the exhibits on the website was very helpful.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for going with us on our tour! 

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. What a fun place to visit and you really got some great shots David. I can see why it took the greater part of the day to see everything. The giraffe is probably my favorite, but as you said, who could resist that face. He looks like he's posing for you.

  2. Well--you know me. I love the waterfall the most!!!!! ha.. But--that zoo is amazing---with so many different animals (some I've never heard of)... I haven't been to a zoo since my kids were small. Need to go back.

    Maybe Spring is finally coming to our area this week... I hope so since it has been a LONG winter and a crazy one!!!!


  3. We've seen a lot of zoos, but not this one, even though we went right by it. It sounds great with all its exhibits. We adopted, etc. a snow leopard at Brookfield Zoo (bet you've been there!!!) for our 3 year old grandson. Can't wait to take him there this summer. My favorite camel is in the Geico commercial, love him! Thanks for the great tour in Miami.

  4. You guys got lots of great shots and it looks like a well done zoo.

  5. I love this post, especially the Koala (cute) the elephant, and the Okapi, many animals here I never saw before David!!

  6. Dear Dave, What an exciting experience. That is a magnificent zoo! Blessings, Catherine