Penguins and Gorillas and Jellyfish, Oh My!

I adore the zoo. When I was little my mom bought the “diamond membership” for the San Diego Zoo, though perhaps a more accurate name for the membership would have been “the pass for people who are obsessed with the zoo and basically live there”. On second thought, I guess that title would be a little lengthy.

Unfortunately, after I moved away and went to university I haven’t been to the San Diego Zoo, or any other zoo, for quite some time. Needless to say, when I found out the research program I’m in was taking the group to the Omaha Zoo, I was ecstatic. While it wasn’t as awesome as my childhood zoo, I still took way too many photos. Just warning you, my point-and-shoot skills have deteriorated quite a bit. However, I still managed to get a few decent shots of some pretty awesome animals.

The first exhibit we went to was the Desert Dome, which was a giant dome that housed a desert… obviously. On the outside it looked like an awesome exhibit, however upon entering I was really disappointed with how tiny and cramped the living quarters were. It almost seemed kind of inhumane. Despite that, the best part of the exhibit was the snakes. I was really excited to see them because 1: I’m terrified of snakes and I felt really brave looking at them and 2: It reminded me of the first Harry Potter book when Harry spoke to a snake and trapped Dudley in the snake’s cage.

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Next up were the monkeys. The gorillas were housed in the first section of the exhibit. On a side note, I had actually written a lovely paragraph about my harrowing encounter with angry gorillas. But it got deleted. I quite liked that paragraph and am still a bit upset about its disappearance. I’ll try to rewrite it as best as possible. Basically, when we entered the exhibit there were two gorillas, one on either side of the pen. The gorilla nearest the entrance had a large gash across his face, however he looked quite nonchalant about the whole ordeal (I’m assuming they got in a fight 30 minutes to an hour prior to our arrival due to the freshness of the wounds and the haughtiness of the second primate). It was actually a little comical, as it looked like the first gorilla was doing yoga.

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The second gorilla, however, was still pretty upset about his loss… or maybe he was the victor and was super stoked about his dominance. Who knows? Either way, I discovered that gorillas really do pound their chests and charge at things like rocks and the protective glass between man and animal. I didn’t take a photo of him during his bought of fury, however I did manage to catch him as he was contemplating the act. Water always seems to give people, and animals, the best ideas.

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I also thought this photo of him was pretty cool too. He looked so focused and ready to rumble. I did feel a little bad for him, as there was a huge crowd of people watching his every move. He probably just wanted to be left alone after beating up a fellow gorilla.

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After I witnessed the whole chest pounding and charging ordeal, I didn’t stick around much longer. I kind of wanted to give the gorillas some space. To be honest, I was slightly afraid that they would break out of their exhibit and one of those monkey take over movies would come into existence.

With all that adventure behind me, I moved to the part of the zoo that held the tigers and bears (no lions, unfortunately). It was also unfortunate that I couldn’t get a decent shot of any of those animals, as they were pens were enclosed in bars. I mean, I don’t want them to escape or anything, but a better field of vision would have been nice. When we moved on to the aquarium I was expecting yet another disappointment. However, I was wrong. Very wrong. Upon entering the aquarium I saw penguins. I now have a new favorite animal. I mean really, just look at him! It’s as if he’s going “hey bro, check me out. I’m fabulous.”

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These penguins were also fabulous. No, I did not put a filter on the photo. Penguins and puffins just always look suave and the lighting naturally matches their arctic flair. Actually, the lighting was wonky because it’s technically the penguins winter right now so it needs to be dark. I like my reasoning better. I was so enamored with the penguins that I bought a penguin stuffed animal and named her Penelope. She and I are great friends.

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Naturally, there were sea lions, jellyfish, tropical fish, swamp fish, sharks, and strange creatures of the deep. I’ve discovered that I’m not very good at photographing fish (at least not with my current photography skills). I also don’t have any interesting stories to tell, so you’re not missing out on much. I do, however, have an interesting story about these fluffy critters. Enter, the prairie dog.

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This photo looks too clear… There’s no glare from glass and there aren’t any obnoxious bars in the way. That’s because there weren’t any bars or glass. The prairie dogs tunneled out of their pen and into the humans pen. Actually, they tunneled into the lion’s pen first. Apparently that was a bit of a scare for the zookeepers (and the prairie dogs, I’m sure… maybe that’s why there aren’t any lions). When the keepers got the prairie dogs safely back into their own exhibit, they tunneled right out again, only this time they made their way to a hilly area on the path towards the rhinos. The zookeepers found that the prairie dogs preferred their new home, weren’t in danger of lions, and weren’t a threat to humans (unlike the tigers and bears I was complaining about earlier). As a result, they’ve lived happily out in the open ever since.

It made me pretty happy too, as I got to witness what prairie dogs do to salute their friends. Their hole openings are about 10 meters apart, and whenever a new prairie dog surfaced they’d do multiple cute little bows and squeak to get their friends attention. I wish I got a video of it. I guess you’ll just have to YouTube it.

That pretty much sums up my zoo adventure. Perfect timing for you to go watch cute prairie dog videos. It’s also time for me to go to sleep. If you read all the way through this, huzzah to you! I’ll try to not make any more posts this lengthy, for my sake and yours.

I hope you had a great weekend!

Ailish

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