Saturday, December 31, 2011

Denver Zoo, Part Four: Things that Swim

The THRILLING conclusion to our free day at the Denver Zoo! Or, I don't know,  not really "thrilling," since most of the pictures are of animals that move, so slow, they only look cool moving when a videographer speeds the movie up, like, 100%. Anyway!

The Denver Zoo has a really cool reptiles/invertebrates/aquarium house that you could get lost in for HOURS and still feel like you hadn't seen everything. It was, by far, the busiest place in the whole zoo, which is probably why Nikki had a freak-out at one point and left me with Steve so she could run outside to get air. (She doesn't always do well in large crowds of people, plus, it was really humid in there with all the tropical animals.) I'll have to make her take me back some time when there's maybe fewer people. :P

Fun fact about Nikki: she's TERRIFIED of fish! Catfish especially, and ESPECIALLY fish that are larger than she is. (Tuna, for example, which are waaaaay bigger than you'd think because they only come in those tiny cans.)

This little frog's bright, beautiful color is a warning to those who might think it tastes delicious. Kinda like how Mr. Yuk is a neon green, this guy (girl?) is neon yellow to warn predators that it's poisonous.

Yertle the Turtle? Can't be...I don't see any other turtles piled on top of him!

"Please, sir, may I have some more algae gruel?" - the sea urchin (heh heh)

TOTALLY click on the two pictures above to see the full-size versions. They're totally awesome.

I LOVE starfish! Have you ever seen a video of a bunch of starfish moving all sped up? It's probably one of the coolest, creepiest things ever. I also like starfish because when one of their arms gets eaten or cut off, it grows back, which is totally badass. They don't let a little thing like getting eaten stop them!

Back in the day, Nikki had gotten dumped by a guy who she thought was the love of her life. (This was WELL before she met Steve, obviously.) She was really upset about it, so her younger brother James told her a story about a starfish whose legs had gotten eaten by a shark. The starfish grew his legs back tougher and stronger. When he met the shark again, he was all ready to get eye for an eye, a leg for a leg. (Metaphorically speaking, of course, as sharks don't have legs.) But then the starfish realized that, had the shark NOT eaten the starfish's legs, the starfish wouldn't be as strong as he was now. So he thanked the shark and let him live. It's a wonderful parable for the old idiom "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

To end our visit at the Denver Zoo, I'll leave you with some swimmers who breathe oxygen, move fast without the help of camera tricks, and have relatively large brains: sea lions!!

Oh, to be a sea lion! I'd get to swim around and frolic and play all day.


Here's something interesting about one of the sea lions, Bismark: he was found without back flippers! You can go here to make a donation to ensure that Bismark gets lots of tasty fish to eat this winter.

Denver Zoo, Part Three: Bears and Tigers and Lions OH MYYY!!!

A marvel of the zoo engineering world (for its time), Bear Mountain is a great place to check out ursines in a habitat that sorta resembles what you'd find in the wild. See this helpful sign for more information:

There were two types of bears at the exhibit. The first were Asiatic black bears, and they looked GOOFY (not that I'd ever say that to their faces!). I mean, look at the big flaps of skin and fur they have on the sides of their heads! How can they move around with all that extra weight?

Kinda reminded me of the human kids who add those huge spacers to their earlobes. They just looked silly.

The other kind of bears hanging out at Bear Mountain are the grizzlies. Some of you may know that one of my besties is a grizzly (or brown) bear named Cocoabob.

This is her chillin' with Nikki's friend Ashleigh. Cocoabob is quite the ladies' bear, if you catch my drift. (Fun fact: She was named after Bob Marley.)

Anyway, so I'm a fan of grizzlies, because I've found that most of them are just as chill and quirky as Cocoabob. The two at the zoo def weren't chill; they kept pacing back and forth, like they were waiting for someone to show up. Nikki said that this happens with animals in the zoo; their cages/habitats aren't big enough, so they get all restless. It had me wishing that Cocoabob was there; SHE could find a way to calm then down QUICK, especially since her favorite method of relaxing is legal here in Denver (with a prescription). ;)

I never realized how BIG tigers actually are til I saw one "up close." I mean, this tiger could probably snort me up its nose whole and not even have a problem breathing!

However, regardless of their size or where in the world they live, cats are all the same. They're only good at sleeping and eating. Hell, do you know how many pictures on Facebook there are of Tasha sleeping in this exact position?! She'd get along with the tigers really well, I bet.

Okay, so this next picture is really the only reason this particular blog entry exists; the rest is just filler. We were walking back to the zoo entrance, and we passed the lions. We got there just in time to see the King of the Jungle...ah...*ahem*...prove that he really was the king.

Caaaan you feeeelll the loooove tonight? *giggles*

He finished up pretty quickly. (Isn't that always the way, ladies? *giggles*)

While his mate when back to sleep, unimpressed, Mr. Lion gave a few roars to let all the spectators (a bunch of confused kids and their giggling parents) know that he was a TOUGH BRUTE MAN!

PS: The Denver Zoo has some SKINNY lions!! They ought to let them come over to our place for dinner sometime. Nikki'll fatten them up!

Me with a snake. I took this picture because one of the newest members of my family is Lady Josephine, Duchess of Ssssoutherland, a king boa constrictor.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Denver Zoo, Part Two: Elephants and Other New Friends

After getting our fill of birds, Nikki demanded that we visit the elephants. Fun Fact: elephants are Nikki's favorite zoo animal. [Nikki note: I prefer Asian elephants, with their smaller ears, to their larger African relations.] As I said in the last entry, the elephants still haven't been moved to their new habitat, but they seemed to like their old habitat just fine.

The elephants were chowing down on breakfast.

I think we've been spotted! I hope Nikki's right, and elephants don't have beef with armadillos!

Whew! She just wanted to get some of those tasty-looking leaves.

The Zoo had a TON of warm-weather animals, like the elephants, roaming around outside. It got me thinking: how long did it take for those animals to adjust to such chilly temperatures? Denver can get pretty hot in the summertime, but it can also get pretty cold in the wintertime. It reminded me of the polar bears in the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore and how uncomfortable they look in the sweltering Baltimore summer. I wish I had thought to ask one of the zookeepers about that. Next time...

How often do kangaroos see snow, for example?

Ditto for giraffes! [Nikki note: Giraffes are my second-favorite zoo animal!]

Probably the highlight of our zoo trip for me was seeing gorillas for the first time! I've seen them on TV and in movies where they help chimps take over the world, but never in person. Nikki and Steve had never seen gorillas in person either! Turns out, every time they've visited a zoo with gorillas, the great apes have been mysteriously absent. Nikki kept joking that she was starting to wonder if maybe gorillas didn't really exist; they were just guys in giant monkey costumes. :P But this time, we were in luck! We got to see MULTIPLE gorillas!

This guy was one of two "bachelor" brothers, and he devoured that celery like I devour ant pizza!

Growing weary of the paparazzi ruining his lunch, our gorilla friend lumbered off inside.

Besides celery, turns out gorillas LOVE snacking on grass and hay! One lady gorilla tried to grab a bundle bigger than her and climb up to her resting spot with it, but she dropped half and almost landed on her head falling after it!

So by now, y'all know that Nikki is a very silly person who likes to take very silly pictures. Well, the Denver Zoo had a ton of displays with various animal skulls and claws and paw prints scattered around the exhibits, I guess so people can compare themselves to different animals and see who'd survive best in the wild. (Hint: it's NOT humans.) Well, here's a series of photos of me posing with these skulls.

Simian skull of some kind. The same ape nearby looked just as cranky as this skull did!

Oh no. Help. Help. It's got me in its monster jaws, and I can't escape. *eyeroll* *impatient sigh* /sarcastic teenage armadillo voice

Ok, for real? Komodo dragons are TERRIFYING. They're like dinosaurs still roaming the earth. They can eat a whole human (even one Steve's size!), and they don't care. Honey badger's got nothin' on a Komodo dragon!

Skulls weren't the only thing Nikki saw as perfect photo opportunities: 

Remember when we went to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and Nikki made Steve take a picture with a dead sabre tooth tiger he had taken a picture with years before? She made him do the same thing with this snake. The next two photos were taken on their very first trip to Denver in 2008.

I will NEVER, EVER get over how weird Steve looked with long hair.

And this is the picture she took this year. Different hair, same awkward placement of that snake.

Finally, here are some of the human friends I made while walking around the zoo:

This little girl was nice enough to make sure I didn't fall off the hippo statue while Nikki was taking a picture.

I was so excited to see another stuffed animal at the zoo, that I begged Nikki to get our picture taken with her (and the zookeeper, who looks a little surprised at the sight of a grown woman walking around the zoo with a stuffed armadillo).

This is Claire. She overheard me talking to the zookeeper lady and quietly approached Nikki afterward to let her know that we share the same name. Of course, I had to get my picture taken with her! Claires of the world, unite! :D <3

The Denver Zoo is for the birds!

I love the Denver Zoo, but I have one problem with them: THEY DON'T HAVE ANY ARMADILLOS! I mean, I'm glad I don't have to see some distantly-related cousins in captivity or anything, but still. What zoo is complete without armadillos?!

Now that that's out of the way, I have to say that I HIGHLY recommend everyone visiting the Denver Zoo at least once in their lives. It's such a great zoo, and they're building a new elephant habitat, which unfortunately wasn't ready when we visited. They also have FREE DAYS, which is great if you're an armadillo (or a person) on a budget. We had such a good time, I'm going to have to make this a multi-part entry. :)

The day we went was a free day, and it was COLD! but so worth it. The first thing we did was make a beeline for the penguin area on the other side of the zoo from the entrance. We wanted to get a good spot for their feeding time!

While we were all waiting for the trainer to come out with their breakfast, a guy near us noticed that the penguins were following the light reflection his watch was making. It was pretty adorable and a great pre-show!

Hopefully you can hear everything the trainer is saying about his penguin friends!

Penguin vs. Machine

No! You have so much to live for!
Oh. Good. Glad you made it. Too bad no one was watching your awesome jump.

After we were done watching the penguins eat, we decided to see how we measured up to our feathered friends...literally!

So I'm about the same size as a fairy penguin. (What a cute name!)
But an emperor penguin could totally kick my ass. :( Big bully.

I find it strange that my best human friend is only twice as tall as the tallest penguin.

Steve, however, could totally take an emperor penguin in a fight! I know who I'll be hiding behind after smack-talking a penguin!

We went to the bird house to warm up after walking around in the cold, looking at exotic animals that had no business being in the cold. Luckily for me, my nose doesn't run like Nikki's and Steve's, so I didn't need to duck into a bathroom and blow my nose.

It's animals like this that make me SO HAPPY I'm an armadillo and not some crazy bird. See that giant yellow hump on its beak? THAT'S A PART OF ITS BEAK! Scientists don't know why the bird has that thing, but they have theories.

Next up, two technicolor birdies and bffs:
What are these two beauties?

One of the neatest aspects of the Denver Zoo is that they have a large muster of peacocks (that's the official word for a "group" of the birds) that roam the zoo grounds. Steve told me that when he and Nikki first visited the zoo years ago, a male peacock actually displayed his tail for him! We didn't have such great luck this time, but it was still neat getting so close to the birds.