Tag Archives: Cincinnati Zoo – Cincinnati

Greater Bushbaby

Greater Bushbaby

The bushbabies are members of the strepsirrhines, which is a suborder of the primates known to have wet noses (and other things). Strepsirrhines apparently split off from the haplorhine primates between 55 and 90 million years ago, at a time that was called “the primate radiation”.

Interestingly, the primate radiation is the only known form of radiation to have given special powers to real life humans but not comic book characters.

Grey Bird Grasshopper

Grey Bird Grasshopper_1

In reading about these guys I found them described as both grasshoppers and locusts – so I went a researching.

It turns out that all locusts are grasshoppers, but not all grasshoppers are locusts. Certain grasshoppers, when conditions are right, will go into a swarming mode. This is often triggered by over-crowding. Interestingly, the over-crowding response is triggered by their hind legs being stimulated, which causes a release of serotonin (I believe in the brain, but the articles aren’t clear). This release causes the grasshoppers to change form, eat more, breed more quickly, and start to congregate into groups. Then they all fly away to devastate the land all around them.

That’s right, the grasshoppers’ genetic response to overcrowding is to eat all their food and make more grasshoppers.

I guess it works.

Bactrian Camel

Bactrian Camel_5

Did you know that you can replace any Ziggy comic with a photo of a bactrian* camel and the caption still works?

  • “I wished for patience over a month ago … when do I get it?”
  • “Nope … this isn’t your day either.”
  • “Whoever said ‘talk is cheap’ probably had unlimited texting”
  • “Talk about irony … I ordered a GPS and it got lost in the mail”
  • “I just ate six happy meals and I’m still depressed”

* This may work for dromedaries as well, but I have not tested it.

Antelope

Antelope_5

According to the Internet, the best way to tell if an antelope is ripe is to locate a small depression at the bottom that yields somewhat when pressed. Sniff there to see if it smells sweet.

In unrelated news, I am not certain the voice search on my phone is working properly.

Goodbye to Harapan

This is Harapan. He is a Sumatran rhino and, as of this morning, no longer lives in the Cincinnati Zoo.

Sumatran Rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis)_28

The zoo’s 30 year old Sumatran rhino breeding program has ended and Harapan has been sent home to be with the others of his species. All one hundred of them. Let’s ponder that for a minute.

Sumatran Count

The fact is, it’s hard to breed rare species. We’ve made tremendous progress, considering how short of a time humans have been trying, but the fact is that the captive breeding project for Sumatran rhinos hasn’t gone nearly as well as those for other species of rhinoceroses.

Sadly, neither has wild conservation. Originally living in throughout South East Asia, as of today, they can now be found only in:

  • Malaysia – Three captive, one wild
  • Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary – Five captive + Harapan, arriving shorly
  • the island of Sumatra – Around 90

(Source: Save The Rhino)

So let’s look at that again:

Sumatran Count 2

That’s still a lot of rhinos. I mean, the Southern White Rhino went from 20 individuals to 20,000 in a hundred years. So there’s reason to hope.

However, Indonesia is on fire.

No, really:

Indonesia
(Source: Global Forest Watch , October 30th, 2015)

So this means that our happy little rhino square could soon look like this:

Sumatran Count 3

And then:

Sumatran Count 4

Which means that, because people today like Starbucks, Pepsi, and Kraft, their children might never see . . .

Sumatran Rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis)_21
A little furry rhinoceros playing hide and seek.

Sumatran Rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis)_26_v2
A tiny forest rhinoceros wearing a leaf as a hat.

Sumatran Rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis)_32
Or a soft, buoyant rhinoceros pretending to be a submarine.

I’m glad I got the chance before they were gone.


For more information on the palm oil issue, see the latest scorecard.

Blue Tree Monitor (Varanus macraei)

Halfway up, he pauses, questioning.

His instructions were as specific as they were simple. Climb to the top. Do not speak. Do not look back.

Violating any rule would bring ruination. It would be the end of all he had worked for. Stealing the map from the mammoths of Lyrcea. Choosing a reed from the Minnorie, making from it the flute, and charming the guardian of the gates. The eons of walking across the shards littering the floors of the caves of death. Arrival. The endless days of debate and negotiation. All for the goal he finally achieved, that he knows is almost his. Behind him, unseeable, unhearable, unsmellable, trailing.

At least, he thinks. He hopes. But he how can he know?

Can he really trust the lords of the dead? Stories abound, of tricks and lies, of slippery words and slithering tongues. True, he’d done his best. He’d driven a hard bargain, given up less than he had feared. Yet, was it too little? Should it have hurt more, cost more?

He re-runs the talks in his head. Did he err? He had traded years of his life and half of his soul. Was that enough? What was the value of a year, to those that lived forever? What was the value of a soul, to those that had a multitude? He had wagered his skill against their champion, and won. But had he? For a champion, she had seemed flawed. Surely she could have sustained higher trills and more mournful lows. Why did she give it less than her all? Was he truly more motivated, as he had thought? Had she felt some measure of pity?

Or was it a trick?

It may have been. Perhaps in a century, stories would be told of his folly in the underworld. How he had hazarded it all and been played a fool. He wants to look back, to calm his fear and assuage what remains of his soul. A slight turn of the head, a shift of the eyes, and he can know.

But no. He will climb to the end. Or until, unable to continue, he will fall, damning himself and his love forever to death. No. If he is to fail, it will not be from weakness.

He pauses, tensing his muscles, resting a mere moment, then continues his climb.

Blue Tree Monitor (Varanus macraei)_5

Sand Cat (Felis margarita)

A year wasn’t enough.

She remembered them, small and mewling. She remembered their loud purrs, echoing in their cave throughout the night as they suckled and slept. Later, she’d bring them meals, carefully parceled out for their tiny teeth. A gerbil a day, perhaps a hare. They grew so quickly. Soon they were hunting on their own.

The grasshoppers were amusing. It took them a while to master the technique, but until they did, their hops, alerting the grasshoppers … a passel of bouncing across the desert.

As they grew, they pursued greater prey. Jerobas, larks, geckos, all eventually fell to their tiny claws.

She’d lost one to a viper. That had hurt, but the others had helped. Her family reduced by one, she became more careful, collecting the threats, one by one. She showed them all the tricks, ensuring they knew how to attack. Snakes, from behind. One massive strike to the head preventing another. Scorpions, flipped, removing the sting with the sand. She’d tried to teach them of drought, but that is a lesson they would need to learn on their own.

She knew it was time when their play took them further afield. Some nights, one wouldn’t return, and her heart would race a bit faster. They’d be there come morning though. All but the one she’d lost — the brave one. She hoped the others would be brave, but not too brave. They gradually moved further, coming home less and less often. Until now, when none returned. Three nights she’d watched, hoping, waiting.

Tonight, she just listened.

She thought she heard one, off in the distance, the soft slide of sand cascading down a dune. She imagined another, far in the East, lazing after a kill, first to see the sunrise. She hoped for the best for them, but knew her time with them was done. She’d done her best. Made them as strong, as quick, as smart as she could. Their lives were their own now. She knew it was right. She knew it was proper.

Still, a year wasn’t enough.

Sand Cat (Felis margarita)_5

Potto (Perodictus potto)

They feast on dreams.

They weren’t always this way. Their dreams were once glorious. Songs were sung in lilting verse of the deeds done by their heroes. Poems recited over an entire day, yet kept their audience in constant rapture. Epics sculpted into entire cities, homes for the future forever telling the stories of the past. A single dream could feed a clan for a week and be crafted into dances, novellas and watercolours.

But they grew jaded. The greater their successes, the more they saw their flaws. Their dreams became reinterpretations. Impressions fed impressions — a single thread of dream stretching into the distance past. But it wasn’t enough. In the pursuit of ever higher art, they hit the limits of dream. They began to experiment with forcing dreams of specificity. Such dreams were less succulent, less filling, but created such art. Vivid colours, stark shapes and contrasts. A song of beauty crafted from nothing but two notes alternating with various patterns. A drama created for audience and of the audience, with no script but the prompts found on props. Such work was talked about far and wide.

But it faded fast.

New and increasingly garish works were required, so they experimented with pain. The pain of life infected the dreams, and painful dreams were ever so delicious. The art became darker. Images of blood and ravens. A single feather resting on a dusty mirror. A thorn pressing, not piercing, the eye’s surface. The slow, steady thumb of bass replacing the heartbeat of the dancer until they lost all sense of self in the inky black.

Such art was beautiful in its despair, but they could not survive on the dreams. They tried to recapture their dreams of old, but the truth and elegance was lost. In the pursuit of ever better art, the very art of dreaming was lost.

So they turned to others.

They tasted the dreams of the bluebirds and wove them into mile-long tapestries of cloud and wind. The dream of a tortoise was small and hard, slow to digest, but had such depth of meaning. Operatic cycles are still being written from the nugget of the first tortoise dream ever harvested. Hummingbird dreams were hard to collect and dissolved quickly, but evoked kinetic sculpture so light and fast that it seemed to move without effort.

They became addicted, seeking wider experiences, forming packs, learning to hunt.

They hunt best alone. They make small … adjustments to lives. The frustration of a misplaced item, joy of an unexpected find, despair from a total loss, any of these with twist a dream. It can take many weeks to craft the perfect dream with the right mix of broken hearts and blush of love, of the rush of success or the crushing pain of loss, of thrilling life and yawning death. Then, when their prey are right on the brink of collapse, they lurk in the dark, waiting for the right moment to strike.

They just need you to fall asleep.

Potto (Perodictus potto)_4_v2