SAN DIEGO — Before we even walked in, a lovely young man took our photo in front of the San Diego Zoo sign. Then passing through the entrance, we entered the Reptile House. The blue-spotted tree monitor was of interest to me. It is a brightly-colored lizard from New Guinea, first discovered in 2002. This creature feeds on small birds, eggs, insects and other small prey. The Angolan python was also featured, which lives in Angola and Namibia. These snakes here at the San Diego Zoo were hatched at the Dallas Zoo.
And to the left of the Reptile House is the Children’s Zoo. The North American Porcupine was in a glass cage. They live in forests, grasslands, desert shrub and even tundra. They eat tree bark, roots, leaves, berries, seeds and grasses.
Next was the Insect House, inside was the giant roach from Central and South America. They are usually considered as dirty creatures, but spend a great deal of time grooming. They also keep habitats clean. Next was the assassin bug, which originated in Africa. They kill their prey many times their own size. Their salivary secretions are toxic when injected.
The African Penguins were in water and live in the cold ocean waters and on the sandy beaches of South Africa. Penguins are birds; they have feathers, not fur. They fly under water as fast as 13 miles per hour.
We saw the Fennec Fox who live in the Sahara Desert. To avoid the scorching heat, they hole up in underground burrows during the day.
We also rode the Skyfari, which is an overhead gondola lift for an aerial view of the park. What a great view from up there. After the sky ride, we stumbled upon the Chacoan Peccary which lives in South America. They are a brown/black pig-like mammal with a long, flexible snout. Then came the Cuvier’s Gazelle from northwest Africa. Overhunting by humans and predation by dogs threaten the species, which is the reason for their decline in numbers.
Then there was the underwater world of the Polar bears, zebras, sea eagles from Russia, snow leopards, and the hippos. Otis, the hippo, was born on March 1, 1976. The Polar Bear Plunge is an underwater viewing area for observation of the polar bears swimming in their 130,000 US-gallon pool. We watched them swim and play with balls underwater.
We slowly walked through the Panda Trek where there was a 45-minute wait. We saw a red panda up in a tree. Also a three-year-old black and white panda born on July 29, 2012 at the San Diego Zoo. Pandas are solitary by nature. There are less than 24 left in the world. There are 12 pandas in our country. A panda requires up to 36 pounds of bamboo each day to survive. These pandas here are on loan from China.
We also saw the tigers, which migrate in Malaysia. The Siberian tiger in the snowy north may weigh up to 750 pounds–the largest cats in the world. But Sumatran, the smallest of the tigers, live in the tropical equator and weighs only 400-450 pounds.
Upon following the trail, we came across the Urban Jungle with the koala bears in the Australian Outback. The experience begins at the entrance with several totems that represent well-known Aussie animals. We uncovered fascinating facts about the Australian forests and wildlife.
Then came the Elephant Odyssey where we saw elephant and camels. The beginning of the Elephant Odyssey is a fossil portal, an artificial tar pit that drains to reveal prehistoric man-made bones. There was a comedy and musical show by the Alley Cats at this exhibit. They were funny and sang songs in great harmony.
We had the opportunity to take the 35-minute guided bus tour which covered 75 percent of the park throughout the 100 acres. The future site of Africa Rocks, which will open in 2017, was seen on this tour. Africa Rocks will feature new exhibits that will create a new African experience. This will include Rady Falls, which will be the largest man-made waterfall in San Diego. It will also feature a Madagascar habitat that will showcase seven species of lemurs.
The San Diego Zoo, dubbed the “Best Zoo in the Country,” is located in Balboa Park, San Diego. It houses over 3,700 animals of more than 650 species. The hours are Monday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tickets are $48 for adults (ages 12 and older); $38 for children (ages 3-11). For more information, visit their website at www.sandiegozoo.org