More than a year ago, I won a special guided tour of the Bronx zoo at a fund raiser for another zoo. Actually using that tour voucher turned out to be incredibly difficult, with me going through three different people at the Bronx Zoo until I got one that stayed working there long enough to actually get things scheduled and solid until I actually got there. However, once I got to that point, things were great.

As most of you know by now, I am most interested in seeing as many of the critically endangered species as I can before they are (inevitably, I feel) gone. Thus, I’m a bit difficult as a zoo guest, because I don’t really care about the big impressive animals. I mean, don’t get me wrong, tigers are pretty awesome … but I’ve seen a *lot* of tigers by now. No, when I go somewhere new, I want to see that zoo’s pet projects – the animals I can’t see anywhere else (sometimes literally; some species are extinct in the wild and only exist at a single zoo). I am also interested in zoo history, but mostly, it’s about the weird, rare, little critters.

This is the maleo. These birds are from Indonesia where, fortunately, they are protected. However, their numbers are dropped and the last census – taken over a decade ago – had them pegged at 4,000-7,000 breeding pairs. Fortunately, conservation breeding is working, and we’re getting more of them out there, now that we know how.

What’s with the “know how” bit? Birds are birds, right?

Well … you know bird eggs have to be kept at a certain temperatures if you want little birds to pop out of them? You know how most birds sit on their eggs, with a few weird ones choosing to incubate in compost piles like alligators do? Not the maleo.

Nope, these critters live in Indonesia, which are volcanic islands … so these birds incubate in hot lava. Well, hot as compared to air temperature. It’s quite cool lava compared to, well, lava. Okay, they lay their eggs near thermal vents that are heated by lava, but it’s practically the same thing, right?