This is the third and final installment of photos from The Toronto Zoo
. I hope to return for another visit in 2013 to take a lot more pictures, particularly of the animals we didn’t get a chance to see. And because the zoo is planning to bring in some pandas in the spring.
We start this post with photos of Grevy’s Zebra; the largest living wild equid. Compared to other zebras, this one has larger ears and narrower stripes. It can be found in southern and eastern Ethiopia, and northern Kenya.
Because of certain threats like hunting for skin and meat, and the loss of grazing habitat and access to water, amongst other things, there has been a 70% reduction in population size in the last 30 years.
Up next is one of the best sightings of the day: the Masai giraffe. This is the tallest animal in the world, ranging in height from 3.8 to 5.5 metres (12.5 – 18 feet), and weighing up to two tonnes. It can be found in the southern half of Kenya and Tanzania.
|"How's the weather down there?"|
The Masai giraffe was a very curious animal. It walked right up to the people and – literally – looked down on them. That inquisitive nature gave photographers like myself a wonderful opportunity for some interesting photographs.
It took awhile to find out that the bird below is the White-breasted cormorant, which can be found in Sub-Saharan Africa. Next time I photograph animals at zoos and such places, I will also photograph the signs near them informing the public of what type of creature it is. Live and learn...
Can a visit to the zoo be complete without penguins? Never. Below are images of the African penguin, an endangered species found on the coast and islands of southern Africa and Namibia. Disappointingly enough, but not surprising, the greatest threat to these birds comes from humans.
According to the zoo’s website: “The present population is probably less than 10% of that in 1900, when there was estimated to be about 1.5 million birds on Dassen Island alone. By 1956 the population had fallen to roughly half that in 1900, and had halved again by the late 1970s, when there was an estimated 220,000 adult birds. By the late 1980s the number had dropped to about 194,000 and in the early 1990s there was an estimated 179,000 adult birds.” Efforts are being made to protect this interesting animal from extinction. Let’s hope they’re successful.
Below is the Pink-backed pelican, and although by no means is it a small bird with its wingspan of about 2.4 metres (8 feet), it is considered small compared to other pelicans. This bird is native to sub-Saharan Africa, where it is usually found in swamps and shallow lakes. It is believed to have formerly been found in Madagascar, but it is now extinct on that island.
The brightly-coloured bird in the image below is the Scarlet Ibis, a bird with protected status around the world that can be found in tropical South America and islands of the Caribbean. Occasionally, the Scarlet Ibis wanders into Central America, and it has been introduced to southern U.S.A. This is the national bird of Trinidad, and it is featured on the present-day coat of arms of Trinidad and Tobago along with Tobago's national bird, the Cocrico.
Next is the Female White-Faced Saki (the male has the characteristic white face for which the species is named), which can be found in Brazil, French Guiana, Guyana, Suriname and Venezuela. This species lives in the understory and lower canopy of the forest, feeding mostly on fruits, but also eating nuts, seeds, and insects. White-Faced Saki pairs often mate for life, and are very devoted. One way they strengthen their bond is by grooming each other.
Up next is the American Alligator (sometimes referred to as a gator), a large crocodilian reptile endemic to the Southeastern United States. No matter how you feel about this animal, one thing’s for sure: it is a keystone species. That means that it’s an animal that plays a unique and crucial role in the way an ecosystem functions. At one point it was endangered, but both the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and state wildlife agencies in the South contributed to its recovery. Let’s hope it continues to be that way because the ecosystem that this animal plays a key role in would be dramatically different or cease to exist altogether should the American Alligator become extinct.
Below is the Reticulate gila monster that grows to about two feet along. It is venomous, but because – thankfully – it’s a slow-moving lizard, it poses very little danger to humans. But despite its sluggish nature and minimal threat, it has earned a fearsome reputation in the Southwestern United States and northwestern Mexican state of Sonora where it can be found. Urban sprawl and habitat destruction has affected Gila monster numbers, and as a result, this lizard is now protected by Arizona and Nevada state law. It is illegal to "harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect the Gila Monster."
This is the Midland painted turtle, the most widespread native turtle of North America. It can be found in slow-moving fresh waters from southern Canada to Louisiana and northern Mexico, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific. And it can be found posing happily for photographers like me, as you can see from the image below.
There was no way to miss getting a glimpse of the striking birds below with all the shrieking and screeching they were doing. The blue and yellow macaw can be found in tropical South America from eastern Panama through parts of Columbia, Ecuador and northern Peru, south through Venezuela and Brazil to Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina.
The scarlet macaw is found in southern Mexico, Central America, and South America. In South America, the species is found as far south as northeastern Argentina. It is most common throughout the Amazon basin.
Did you think this series would end without a photo of a flamingo? The following image is of an American flamingo; it has the brightest plumage of all the flamingo species with its deep pink colouring. This vibrant bird is common throughout the Caribbean, especially in the Bahamas and Cuba, as well as along the Caribbean coast of Mexico and in Central America. It is the only species of this bird found in North America.
We end the Toronto Zoo posts with the star of the whole excursion, and one of my most beloved animals: the polar bear; the largest land carnivore in the world, matched only by very large individual Kodiak brown bears. It is circumpolar in distribution, inhabiting all Arctic seas and coastlines.
I could have sat for hours watching this animal swimming, clearly enjoying being in the water while doing the backstroke. Such an amazing swimmer, too.
Polar bears are threatened by global warming. They rely on sea ice as a platform from which to hunt for food. When ice does not form or forms too late in the season, some polar bears die of starvation. Scientists in Hudson Bay have found that a main cause of death for cubs is lack of food or lack of fat on nursing mothers.
Exploitation of minerals and fossil fuels in the polar bear’s environment also poses a threat. Twenty percent of oil and natural gas deposits are located in the Arctic, and as ice caps recede, they become more accessible. As a result, countries are competing for ownership of the area and its resources, which will inevitably have further impact on this animal’s habitat. A sad state of affairs for this beautiful creature.
|This is one of the most beautiful animals in the world. How sad it would be if it became extinct.|
That concludes the zoo series. I thank you for taking the time to look through each post as I realize that every one of them has been quite long. But many of these animals are in danger, and as far as I’m concerned, they merit more than just a few photos and a paragraph or two, particularly because it is our species that poses the biggest threat to their survival. My faith in humanity is shattered whenever I dig deep into the horrible things we do to the vulnerable creatures amongst us, but I do hope that we continue to evolve and do right by these animals by learning to share this planet with them. Selflessly. They have as much right to be here as we do.
At The Toronto Zoo (Part 1)
At The Toronto Zoo (Part 2)