Saturday, September 3, 2011

9-3-11 The Denver Zoo

We got there just a few minutes after opening and there were plenty of parking spaces right up front. Forgive me but since I have the Houston Zoo as the constant reference in my head, this will probably read more like a comparison between the two than just a review of Denver. And observation #1: you would never get a parking space up front after the zoo was already open in Houston. 

The Denver Zoo was founded in 1896 when an orphaned black bear cub named Billy Bryan (for William Jennings Bryan) was given to the mayor of Denver at the time. The fledgling zoo started out with the bear, some ducks, free roaming antelope, and prairie dogs. A decade later, after some red squirrels were added, they had decimated the birds and were relocated to many of the Rocky Mountain parks.   Bear Mountain was built in 1918, the first of its kind in zoo design with open enclosures and moats instead of cages.

 bronze giraffes in the morning light

from the Zoo's information:
Twenty-two life-sized stainless steel animal sculptures were especially designed for Denver Zoo by artist Heath Satow and were installed along with the zoo’s new entry plaza in 2004. Among these sculptures dispersed in the plaza, there are six gazelles, three giraffes, three baboons, two gerenuks, a crocodile, a leopard and a lioness with her two cubs. 

(I had to look up a gerenuk and I clearly missed them during our day at the zoo. They look very cool.)

Bob, Caylee, and Sam watch some of the little critters right at the entrance. It was about 60° at this point and Caylee was wishing she'd packed heavier for the weekend. 

We decided to hit the bathrooms before diving into the zoo and, yes, I was the crazy lady taking pictures of the stalls. 

Once inside the stall: 

 I'm kind of glad I didn't get the rhino one now. . . 

They also regale you with animal bathroom information over the loudspeaker. No "african savanna" music, no sir. In my brief stint in the john I learned about certain animals' propensity for gas and, as Bob reported, just a few minutes behind us, "did you know an elephant pees more than 25 gallons in a day?"

Setting out, Sammi was thrilled to show off that at 16 she does have to actually bend down to get in the kiddy play places of the "termite mound."

 hey, this angle looks familiar.  .  .

A number of the indoor houses definitely need to be on the planning list for expansion. Their areas are just tiny. 

The rare maned wolf from South America was chilling in his house after winning it from his brother who went off sulkily into the corner. 

Feline House:

 Servals snoozing together in their box. They aren't much bigger than Bruiser.

Next door was the leopard who was very vexed. He was madly pacing back and forth and growling the whole time. Since they are behind glass you have two options: get a blur without the flash or blow out the picture with it bouncing off the glass. 

The tiger enclosure was being hosed down when we walked through, so this guy had been confined to a small spot next door. It looked empty except for the tell-tale stripes hanging down from the top of the tree. 

See? There's the rest of him. He was walking slowly enough we didn't end up with tiger butter for a picture.

Back outside the giraffes were taking turns in the sun, including Nitro, who is a year old. 

One very lonely looking polar bear. Last summer two of their oldest polars passed within two months of each other. They were both in their 20s. 

Roaming about the zoo are quite a few peacocks, but none were in the mood to show off for us.

Sea-lions! The old tank front and center at the Houston Zoo isn't as elaborate as the multi-ponded enclosure here. 

This was the sunniest area, so four of the guys were lazing about when we stopped in. 

Bactrian camels curled up in the rather chilly shade. I thought this was a little odd given their home climate, but clearly they've adapted to the cooler climes of Denver. 

We think this bird was the inspiration for Kevin in Pixar's Up.

Pumba!! Warthogs are adapted to grazing in the savanna thanks to their eyes up high to see over the grass their snouts plow through. They also slide backwards into holes so only their tusks are approachable by their main predators, the lion and the leopard. 

The rhino, whose pregnancies last 16 months (yikes) has more in common with the horse and zebra than any other animal. They can run 40 miles an hour.

This hippo was in a very playful mood when we stopped by. She swam and dived (whenever I didn't have the camera ready) and, the highlight of Sam and Caylee's day, laughed. I've never heard this before, but I am positive the makers of Super Mario had. It sounded exactly like Bowser's laugh in the game.

Here's what it sounds like:

At one point she seems to be watching the rhino through the fence. 

Hippos do not have sweat glands, but do possess a unique gland that produces a red liquid that appears like blood, especially when they get excited. 

This little dude is one of the Asian (or Indian) Elephants - his African cousin has much bigger ears and are the ones you see predominately in circuses. The elephant trunk has more than 100,000 different muscles in it. And her pregnancies are the longest of any animal -- 22 months. 

The rhino, hippo, and elephants are slated for a new home starting next spring in the massive expansion under construction at the back of the park that will be called the Asian Tropics, which will include the original duck pond of the zoo from 1896. In more poo-lore, this newest addition will be powered by a "biomass gasification system." Yes, it will be poo-powered and reduce the zoo's landfill refuse by a whopping 90%.  

Probably the only animals indigenous to Colorado at the zoo besides the bear, the bighorn sheep have a very nice climbing area that lets them show off some of their amazing skills. They can leap 7 feet and turn in midair to land. I need some of their "shoes" the next time I go hiking: "the hooves of the bighorn sheep have a hard outside rim used for digging into the ground or cutting into snow or ice. The inside of the hoof is soft and spongy like the bottom of a tennis shoe to aid in traction. They have split hooves that pinch and hold rocks somewhat like clothespins and the claws higher up on the foot act like brakes if the sheep starts to slide on loose rock or slippery surfaces." 

And, pretty incongruently, but it's a zoo after all, just up from the bighorn are the . . . African penguins.

Sammi is happy to show that she is taller than even the biggest penguin. 

Next stop: Bears.  We spotted some of our natives, the Grizzly, out and about.  


And then, on to the monkeys, which are currently Sam's favorite. She wants to work with chimps and teach them sign language. Or work in a zoo with the little ones so they'll climb all over her. It's a toss up.

There is a zoo train, the first natural-gas powered one in the U.S. But don't get your hopes up. You are going on a less-than-five minute ride past some birds. Hermann Park, it is not. 

Back to the monkeys:

not a monkey, but quite cool

These two gorillas were out in the yard and not happy about it. The rest of the gorillas were inside. I don't know if this was a time-out, but their body language indicated it certainly wasn't a reward. The male kept peeking in to see what he was missing. The female sat there pissed with her arms crossed, as if it was the male's fault she was stuck outside with him. 

After we'd finish the monkey touring, we stopped off by the train for a bite. Sam shows off her tiny penguin cup. 

And then we got in line for the train!

After our five-minute train disappointment, we tried out the carousel. Well, the girls did anyway. 

While they were waiting to get on, I took a few (or ten) shots of some of the great animals you could choose from.  All are endangered species. The carousel will celebrate its tenth year in the park in 2012. All proceeds go to zoo conservation projects. 


Sam (who chose the baboon holding a banana) and Caylee (on the ostrich) decided each time around I would get a different pose. Here's the best of the lot:

As they were getting off, Sam posed on the lion (which would have been my choice) for me.

On our way out, we stopped through Predator Ridge and caught sight of a few of the animals napping in the sun. 

That's a hyena pushed up against the glass by Sam's feet. 


Nice angle. Why aren't there one of these in the bathroom?


We didn't get to see everything, but the combination of Bob's cold sapping his energy and my infection returning about midway through the morning (which involves more pee narratives, of which I've had enough) we headed for the gates at 1:00. 

Not however, before stopping at the gift shop. 

While Bob took the picture of me with the mama lion and her cubs, Sammi got to hold all the cups and bottles. She was not lacking in hydration. 

Back at the parking lot, everything had filled up and we made some family very happy they took a chance on the "full" lot as we pulled away only steps from the gates. 


Post a Comment