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

Friday, March 28, 2014

This N’ That – March 2014

Time for another compilation of miscellaneous photos…appropriately…actual bits and pieces or vignettes of what’s we’ve been doing and what we’ve been seeing around us when we’re laid back and just hanging around the home and the immediate area…

One morning, I made up this nice combo over easy fried egg and breaded pork tenderloin breakfast… Add a bit of Tabasco and I was ready to start my day!

It was lunch time and I couldn’t figure out what to eat… Then I remembered that we had some packaged flatbread that we’d bought at Costco and I started imagining what I could do with it.  The result was these 2 flatbread ‘pizzas’.  It couldn’t have been simpler…
·        Put flat bread on paper plate
·        Sprinkle shredded sharp cheddar cheese all over the flatbread
·        Sprinkle packaged bacon bits (real bacon) over the cheese
·        Add a little shredded asiago cheese on top
·        Put in the microwave on high for one (1) minute
·        Eat!

Surprisingly, the flatbread held up well.  I was afraid that it would get soggy but the cheese actually helps to hold everything together and the flatbread was still fairly crisp…

As spring approached, we had plenty of deer sightings in our neighborhood!  This pair was crossing our road just as Laurie was taking the mail out to the mailbox.  As you can see, they weren’t exactly frightened off…

Laurie took this close-up of our cat J.D.  He was sitting in her lap at the time.  J.D. continues to rule the house…and he runs a tight ship too!  He has a place on the bed where he expects to be ‘severely petted’ every morning, he has a special watering ‘hole’ in the laundry room and he won’t drink water anywhere else…and he tells us when it’s time to go to bed at night!

These are J.D.’s favorite toys...or items.  There's a pair of Laurie’s flip flops he rubs on, a sock monkey he likes to cuddle while being massaged at bedtime and his mice… Did I mention that he has his own room with a big cat tree, a couple of cat beds to sleep on, food, water, (which he doesn’t drink…only the water in the Laundry room is acceptable), etc.  In the winter, he also has a heating pad for one of his beds and an electric heater for the coldest nights.  I want to come back as J.D. in my next life!

This was another flatbread pizza I created.  This was Laurie’s first taste of one of these luncheon snacks.  This one was made with a mix of shredded pizza cheese, hot pepper and pieces of leftover bacon.  She gave it 2 thumbs up!

My flatbread pizza was almost the same as Laurie’s… The only difference was that I used a combination of shredded sharp cheddar and the shredded pizza cheese.  Then of course…following this photo…I added tabasco.  Yum!

Laurie captured this brilliant sunset one evening as the weather began to warm up.  Spring was right around the corner!

You might be asking why this photo of Laurie's feet?  You might notice that the one on the right is a bit black, blue and swollen!  She helps a neighbor with her horses.  This is what happens when a horse is startled and steps on your foot!! Ouch!!  It's much better now... No broken bones and yes, she did have her cowgirl boots on.

We both loved this photo of these miniature horses that don’t live too far from our home here in East Tennessee… They are tiny and they are really cute!

We were out for a drive in an area close to our home and we came across these very formal hunt club riders along the east side of Tellico Lake at Morganton.  We believe that this group was from of the Tennessee Valley Hunt, which is based in Greenville, TN. ( There must have been 25 – 30 horse trailers parked at this trail head and boat launch site.

That’s about it for now.  Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave  

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Touring Zoo Miami – Part I

One of the attractions that Dawn really wanted to visit was Zoo Miami, also known as the Miami-Dade Zoological Park and Gardens.  Laurie and I really like animals so we were all for this adventure!  Best of all, the weather was marvelous…lots of sunshine with temperatures in the mid to upper 70s with relatively low humidity.  

Zoo Miami or Miami-Dade Zoological Park and Gardens was formerly known as Miami MetroZoo.  It is the largest and oldest zoological garden in Florida, and it has the distinction of being the only tropical zoo in the United States.

In 1965, Hurricane Betsy devastated the zoo and caused the death of 250 animals. After that hurricane there was talk of a new zoo for Dade County, but nothing was done until 11 December 1970, when Dade County officials applied for 600 acres of land from the Richmond Naval Air Station property, a former WWII anti-submarine blimp base.  Construction began in 1975 and Miami MetroZoo opened in 1980.  

These pink Flamingos are about the first thing you see after entering the zoo… I believe that these are American Flamingos, a large species of flamingo closely related to the Greater Flamingo and Chilean Flamingo.  The American Flamingo breeds in the Galápagos, coastal Colombia, Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, along the northern coast of the Yucatán Peninsula, Cuba, Hispaniola, The Bahamas, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.  Their life expectancy of 40 years is one of the longest in birds.

As you will see below, these birds are one of Zoo Miami’s iconic exhibits…

In 1992, a visitor named Hurricane Andrew came to the Zoo!  This iconic photo shows the Zoo’s flamingos huddled together in a restroom.  They stayed here for the duration of the storm… As you may recall from the headlines back in August of 1992, the zoo and much of the rest of South Florida suffered severe damage when Andrew swept ashore.   This photo served as a rallying image for the eventual rebuilding and recovery of ZooMiami.

After the storm, zoo staff discovered this Sun Bear amid the fallen trees.  He was doing just fine and suffered no injuries.  However this small but powerful Category 5 hurricane toppled over 5,000 trees at the zoo.  While preparing for the storm, zookeepers didn’t manage to get a large Rhino indoors.  After the storm when they went back outside, they found the Rhino standing relatively unscathed amongst the devastation.

The post-storm zoo, though looking quite different, was reopened in December 1992.  By July 1993, many of the animals had been returned to Metrozoo, and 7,000 new trees had been planted to begin restoring the zoo.

We were startled by the first 'animal exhibit' that we encountered upon entering Zoo Miami!  Laurie and I are sure that our grandson, Emmett Lee, would love this display.  He is a true LEGO fan!

Zoo Miami currently features "Creatures of Habitat”, a huge muli-million piece LEGO animal adventure!   There were many of these displays to look at.  The LEGO “Creatures of Habitat exhibit made up of LEGO® bricks, came to Zoo Miami from the Philadelphia Zoo…via Utah’s Hogle Zoo.
In this scene, Humboldt Penguins explore the rocky shores of Punta San Juan, Peru, home to colonies of Humboldt penguins. The idea is to educate visitors, especially children, about the harmful effects to the penguin of over-fishing, seabird and marine mammal communities.  

In this display, it’s a LEGO Polar Bear Journey into the arctic tundra with 8 ½ foot polar bear stranded on a melting ice floe.  The intent is to learn what changes can be made to reverse the loss of the polar ice caps before it’s too late.

Other displays include Micronesian Kingfisher travels to the island of Guam;  13 Golden Lion Tamarins in a Brazilian paradise; a Diamond-backed Terrapin; a Borneo Rainforest, and; a Harlequin Frog.

Interestingly, this exhibit was not assembled in conjunction with the LEGO Group.  Instead, a LEGO Certified Professional and his team spent 6 months to create the 32 individual sculptures that make up the exhibit.  I had no idea that there was such a thing as a “LEGO Professional”!

Leaving the LEGO exhibit, we encountered this Siamang.  Siamang are tailless, arboreal, black-furred gibbons native to the forests of Malaysia, Thailand, and Sumatra.  The Siamang is the largest of the ‘lesser’ apes and they can be twice the size of other gibbons.

The Siamang is quite distinctive.  They have 2 digits on each foot that are partially joined by a membrane.  They also have a large gular sac, which is a throat pouch that can be inflated to the size of the Siamang's head.  This pouch allows these apes to make loud, resonating calls or songs.  The Siamang can live more than 30 years in captivity.

Orangutans are the only Asian species of great apes.  They are native to Indonesia and Malaysia but Orangutans are currently found in only the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra.  Orangutans spend most of their time in trees. Males and females differ in size and appearance.  Dominant adult males have distinctive cheek pads and produce long calls that attract females and intimidate rivals.  Adult males can be as tall as 5 feet 9 inches and they can weigh up to 260 lbs. 

They are the most solitary of the great apes although mother Orangutans stay together with their offspring for the first 2 years after they’re born.  Fruit is the most important component of an Orangutan's diet.  However, they will also eat vegetation, bark, honey, insects and even bird eggs. They can live over 30 years in both the wild and captivity.  Orangutans are among the most intelligent primates.  They use a variety of sophisticated tools and construct elaborate sleeping nests each night from branches and foliage.

This is a Cuban Crocodile.  It has several characteristics that make it different than other crocodilians.  This includes such things as its brighter adult colors, rougher, more 'pebbled' scales, and long, strong legs.  It isn’t a large Crocodile. Large males reach no more than 11 feet in length and usually don't weigh more than 475 lbs.

The Cuban crocodile can only be found in Cuba's Zapata Swamp and on the Isle of Youth.  It is highly endangered.  Its range was much broader in the past… Fossils of this species have been found in the Cayman Islands and the Bahamas.  The Cuban Crocodile favors freshwater habitat such as swamps, marshes, and rivers.  A colony of this species at Gatorland Florida has exhibited what is strongly suspected to be pack-hunting behavior.  The Cuban Crocodile is also the most terrestrial of Crocodiles…and also possibly the most intelligent.

This striking pair of Malayan or Asian Tapir is the largest of the five species of Tapir and it’s the only one native to Asia.  Their hair pattern is for camouflage.  The disrupted coloration makes it more difficult to recognize it as a Tapir.  

Malayan Tapirs grow to between 5 ft. 11 in. and 7 ft. 10 in. in length. They are large, standing up to 3 ft. 6” tall and weighing in at up to 1,190 lbs. 
Malayan Tapirs are vegetarians… They forage for the tender shoots and leaves of more than 115 species of plants, moving slowly through the forest and pausing often to eat and note the scents left behind by other Tapirs in the area.  When threatened or frightened, despite its considerable bulk, the Tapir can run quickly, and they can also defend themselves with its strong jaws and sharp teeth. 

The Wings of Asia Aviary, which opened in the spring of 2003, is home to more than 300 birds, representing 70 species.
The Sarus Crane is a large non-migratory crane found in parts of the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia and Australia.  It’s the tallest of the flying birds, standing at a height of up to 5.9 feet.  This crane is easily distinguished by its overall gray color and its contrasting red head and upper neck.  They forage on marshes and shallow wetlands for roots, tubers, insects, crustaceans and small vertebrate prey.

Like other cranes, Sarus Cranes form long-lasting pair-bonds and maintain territories within which they perform territorial and courtship displays that include loud trumpeting, leaps and dance-like movements. In India they are considered symbols of marital fidelity. 

I’ve always wondered what the visual clue might be when viewing herons and cranes.  It turns out that cranes fly with necks outstretched, not pulled back.

As with the butterflies we observed at the Fairchild Gardens, these ‘dang’ birds don’t fly around wearing little identifying signs… I included this striking avian just because I liked his/her looks!

I’m pretty sure that this is a dove… So I figured…just how tough would it be to look it up on the Internet and identify it?!  As it turned out…good luck!  There are a plethora of doves and their closely related relatives…pigeons.  I discovered that there are roughly 316 varieties of doves and pigeons!  I gave up my efforts to ID this bird…  If you’d like to give it a try, check out a very extensive list of these species at

I think that Pheasants are some of the most beautiful birds…but once again, good luck identifying them!  I found a couple of species on the Internet that resembled this bird…but none had the full ‘face-mask’ like this one does.  For information about the pheasants of the world as well as a list of the many varieties of this bird, just go to

Here is one of the many colorful breeds of ducks that are on display in the flight cage… It reminded me of our North American Wood Ducks…or perhaps an Asian Mandarin Duck.  However a little research revealed that it is neither of those species.

I included this photo just to provide a perspective… This big tree with its roosting cranes is completely enclosed within this giant flight cage!  This ‘new’ Wings of Asia Aviary opened in the spring of 2003.  Hurricane Andrew destroyed the preceding aviary back in 1992…even though it had been designed to withstand winds of up to 120 mph!  The 300 birds that had been in the aviary at that time were lost…

I was curious if any of these escapees had survived and perhaps begun breeding in South Florida.  It turns out that the Purple Swamphen, (shown above), is probably the only species that has established itself in the area.   Six to eight birds escaped from the Miami MetroZoo and several others escaped from private pens following the hurricane.   

These birds are established in storm water treatment areas north of the Everglades, Lake Okeechobee, Everglades National Park, and Big Cypress National Preserve.  They are omnivorous, and can live in colonies numbering 50 or more.  Purple swamphens are territorial and aggressive, even among themselves.

Finally…!  A bird that I can positively identify!  The Indian Peafowl or Peacock belongs to the pheasant family.  It is native to South Asia, but it’s been introduced and is semi-feral in many other parts of the world.

In its native setting, the Indian Peafowl is found mainly on the ground in open forest or on land under cultivation where they forage for berries and grains but they will also prey on snakes, lizards, and small rodents. Their loud calls make them easy to detect, and in forest areas their call often indicate the presence of a predator.  They avoid flying although they will fly into tall trees to roost. This bird is celebrated in Indian and Greek mythology and it’s the national bird of India.

Now onto something that’s even easier to identify!  Who doesn’t love elephants?!  The Asian Elephant is found throughout Southeast Asia from India in the west to Borneo in the east.  Asian Elephants are the largest living land animals in Asia.

Since 1986, the Indian or Asian Elephant has been listed as endangered as the population has declined by at least 50% over the last three generations.  In 2003, the wild population was estimated at between 41,410 and 52,345 individuals. The earliest indications of domestication of Asian elephants are engravings on seals of the Indus Valley civilization dated as the third millennium BC.

In general, the Asian elephant is smaller than the African elephant.   The shoulder height of males rarely exceeds 9 feet and for females the maximum is about 8 feet. The average weight of a female is 2.72 tons (4,840 lbs.) and a large bull elephant weighs in at 10,800 lbs.  The largest recorded Asian bull elephant stood 11 feet tall at its shoulders and it weighed 17,600 lbs.! (That’s a little more than the combined weight of 3 - 2012 Cadillac Escalade EXTs!)

This is a pair of Sumatran Rhinoceros…one of five species of rhinoceroses. This is the smallest rhinoceros, standing no higher than 4 feet 9 inches at the shoulder, and with a weight of usually no more than 2,200 lbs.

Members of this species once inhabited rainforests, swamps, and cloud forests in India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and China.  They are now critically endangered, with only 6 substantial populations in the wild: 4 on Sumatra, 1 on Borneo, and 1 in the Malay Peninsula.  They are estimated to number fewer than 275 survivors in the wild.

The decline in the number of Sumatran rhinoceroses is attributed primarily to poaching.  Their horns are highly valued in traditional Chinese medicine, bringing as much as $30,000 for 2 lbs. 3 oz. of horn on the black market.

This is a Sunda or lesser one-horned rhinoceros.  It’s more popularly known as the Javan rhinoceros.  He or she didn’t want to come out of the water for a photo session… Only adult males of this species have horns.

This was once the most widespread of Asian rhinoceroses.  It ranged from the islands of Java and Sumatra, throughout Southeast Asia, and into India and China. The species is now critically endangered, with only one known population in the wild… It is possibly the rarest large mammal on earth!  There is a population of as few as 40 in Ujung Kulon National Park at the western tip of Java in Indonesia. 

The Sunda rhino can live approximately 30–45 years in the wild.  It historically inhabited lowland rain forest, wet grasslands and large floodplains. The Sunda rhino is mostly solitary, except for courtship and offspring-rearing, though groups may occasionally congregate near wallows and salt licks. Aside from humans, adults have no predators in their range. Scientists and conservationists rarely study the animals directly due to their extreme rarity and the danger of interfering with such an endangered species.

What would a tour of any zoo be without checking out the King of Beasts!  However, as usual these big cats were just lying around and sleeping.  One of Lionesses actually raised her head while we watched! 

With some males exceeding 550 lbs. the African Lion is the second-largest living cat after the tiger. Wild lions currently exist in sub-Saharan Africa and there are still a few living in Asia, where an endangered remnant population resides in Gir Forest National Park in India.  Other populations and types of lions have disappeared from North Africa and Southwest Asia in historic times.  Until about 10,000 years ago, the lion was the most widespread large land mammal after humans.  They were found in most of Africa, across Eurasia from Western Europe to India, and in the Americas from the Yukon to Peru.

This handsome fellow is an African Wild Ass.  He is a wild member of the horse family.  This species is believed to be the ancestor of the domestic donkey.  These wild asses live in the deserts and other arid areas of the Horn of Africa, in Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia.  It’s range originally extended north and west into Sudan, Egypt, and Libya.  Only about 570 individuals exist in the wild!

African wild asses have tough digestive systems, which can break down desert vegetation and extract moisture from food efficiently.  They can also go without water for a fairly long time.  Their large ears give them an excellent sense of hearing and they help in cooling the animals in the desert heat.  They have very loud voices, which can be heard for almost 2 miles.  This helps them keep in contact with other asses over the wide spaces of the desert.

The Asian Small-Clawed Otter is the smallest otter species in the world.  It weighs no more than 11 pounds.  It lives in in the mangrove swamps and freshwater wetlands of Bangladesh, Burma, India, southern China, Taiwan, Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.  Its paws have developed to give this otter a high degree of manual dexterity.  This enables it to use its paws to feed on mollusks, crabs and other small aquatic animals.

These otters dislike bare and open areas that don’t offer much shelter.  They like to choose areas with low vegetation and their nesting burrows are dug into the muddy banks.  Unlike most other otters, the Asian Small-Clawed Otter spends most of their time on land.  

The Demoiselle Crane is found in central Eurasia, ranging from the Black Sea to Mongolia and North Eastern China.  There is also a small breeding population in Turkey.  These cranes are migratory birds.  Birds from western Eurasia will spend the winter in Africa whilst the birds from Asia, Mongolia and China will spend the winter in the Indian subcontinent.

The Demoiselle is the smallest species of crane.  As Laurie and I have seen on the National Geographic Channel, Demoiselle Cranes make one of the toughest migrations in the world.  In late August through September, they gather in flocks of up to 400 individuals and prepare for their flight to their winter range.  They reach altitudes of 16,000-26,000 feet as they cross the Himalayan Mountains to get to their over-wintering grounds in India.  Many die from fatigue, hunger and predation from Golden Eagles.  In March and April, they begin their long spring journey back over the Himalayans to their northern nesting grounds.

The Black-necked Stork is a tall long-necked wading bird in the stork family. (In  this photo however, he's resting on his "knees".) It’s found across South and Southeast Asia with another grouping living in Australia. It lives in wetland habitats where it forages for a wide range of animal prey.  In Australia, this stork is sometimes called a Jabiru.  This is one of the few storks that is strongly territorial when feeding.  Black-necked Storks can be as tall as 5 feet with a wingspan of up to 7 foot 7 inches!  

This is a Banteng, a species of wild cattle found in Southeast Asia.  Banteng have been domesticated in several locales across their range.  It’s estimated that there are 1.5 million domesticated banteng, which are called Bali cattle.  Bali cattle are used as working animals and for their meat.  Banteng were also introduced to Northern Australia, where they have established stable feral populations. 

The banteng is similar in size to domestic cattle.  In the wild, Banteng live in sparse forests where they feed on grasses, bamboo, fruit, leaves and young branches. Wild banteng are generally active both night and day, but in places where humans are common they adopt a nocturnal schedule.

In the wild, banteng are considered an endangered species.  They are the second endangered species to be successfully cloned.  Scientists at Advanced Cell Technology in Worcester, MA extracted DNA from banteng cells kept in the San Diego Zoo's "Frozen Zoo" facility, and transferred it into eggs from domestic cattle, a process called somatic cell nuclear transfer.  One of the banteng offspring survived and lived at the San Diego Zoo.

Here is one of the infamous Komodo Dragons… It’s also known as the Komodo Monitor.  This large species of lizard is found in Indonesian on Komodo Island and 5 other islands.  This is the largest living species of lizard, growing to a maximum length of about 10 feet and weighing up to 150 lbs.

Their unusually large size has been attributed to island ‘gigantism’, since no other carnivorous animals fill the niche on the islands where they live.  However, recent research suggests the large size of Komodo dragons may be better understood as representative of a relict population of very large lizards that once lived across Indonesia and Australia.  Fossils very similar to the Komodo dragon have been found in Australia that date back more than 3.8 million years.
As a result of their size, these lizards dominate the ecosystems in which they live.  Komodo dragons hunt and ambush prey including invertebrates, birds, and mammals.  The diet of big Komodo dragons mainly consists of deer, though they also eat considerable amounts of carrion.  Komodo dragons also occasionally attack humans.  Amazingly enough, Komodo dragons were not recorded by Western scientists until 1910.

I couldn’t help but notice this ‘exotic’ creature posing on a trash bin close to the Komodo dragon’s habitat.  This is of course, an eastern gray squirrel and ZooMiami is a form of squirrel paradise!  The woods surrounding our house in East Tennessee are full of these squirrels.  Many people think of these rodents as pests…but they sure are entertaining to watch! 

This squirrel has been introduced to and is thriving in several regions of the western USA.  For better, or in many cases, worse, gray squirrels have also been introduced into Ireland, Britain, Italy and South Africa.  This squirrel has largely displaced the native red squirrel in England and in parts of Ireland.

Did I mention that the pathway leading to Zoo Miami's 100+ exhibits is about 3 miles around!  Fortunately, during our visit it wasn’t too hot and the humidity was minimal.  However, we were dragging a bit by the time we finished our tour!  This monorail operates throughout the zoo, with 4 different stops.  I did consider buying tickets, ($3.00 for an all-day pass), but with only 4 stops we would have been backtracking and our trek would have even been longer.

Other options for touring Zoo Miami are the Tram Tours, ($4.95 each), and the Safari Cycle Rentals.  A 2-person cycle can be rented for $22.00 and the large 4-person cycle costs $32.00.  By the time we finished our visit to the zoo, the cycles were sounding like a great idea!

That’s about it for Part I of our visit to Zoo Miami.  Part II will follow within a week or so.  Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by and sharing our Zoo Miami experience!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave