Archive for the ‘lions’ Category

Cats, Dogs and More Cats at the Cincinnati Zoo   Leave a comment

I know it’s been a while since I’ve done a Cincinnati Zoo post. Time to rectify that. I believe I posted about John and Imani, the zoo’s power couple.
John and Imani

They had kids! Three female cubs, named “Huruma,” “Kya,” and “Willa.”
Five Lions

I’m afraid that, in spite of good guidance, I can’t tell them apart. One was sitting close to her parents.
Sweet Cub

The other two stayed by the fence.
Sisters Hanging Out

Relaxing…
Sisters Make Great Pillows

…until one of them decided it was playtime!
I Bite My Sisters Butt!

Nearby, were Imara and Brahma, the African painted dogs.
Imara and Brahma

They had ten pups, all with “Batman”-themed names.
Fighting Over Eggs

The “Batman” theme started with one, Joker, who seems to have a question mark on his back.
Joker and Sib

They had paper Easter eggs in their enclosure as enrichment.
Jumping the Ditch with an Egg

It was fun to watch them scamper about.
Jump the Ditch!

Just watching them wore the bat-eared fox out.
Bat Eared Fox

As we left the Africa area, we watched a cheetah take a bath.
Sluuuurp!

We stopped by the nursery to see Zeke, a serval cub. He was about eleven weeks old when we saw him.
Baby Zeke

It was late in the day, so mostly, he wanted to groom himself…
Clean Paw

…and take a nap.
Napping With Plush Animals

We had to stop and say “hi” to Nubo and Renji, the snow leopards.
Smug Nubo

Our visit began as a lazy afternoon.
Yawn!

But Nubo saw something.
Crouching Leopard

He stalked towards it. I was confused, and fixated on the cats.
Stalking...

Renji joined him. Some idiot kids jumped a barrier, and went to a side of the enclosure not accessable to the public. Not cool!
What's Out There?

It did stir them up a bit.
Jumping Renji

Nubo jumped up on an off-camber…he handles them so much better than I do.
Off Camber

He’s such a handsome cat!
Nubo's Profile

On the way out, we saw a peacock, who wanted to show off.
Peacock Unfurled

It was fun to see all the cats, dogs, and babies!
Proud Dad, Overwhelmed Mom

Red Panda Village at the Knoxville Zoo   Leave a comment

Red Panda Portrait
Our last stop on our way home was at the Knoxville Zoo. One really nice perk of a zoo membership is reciprocal agreements with other zoos. Most either offer free admission or give a signficant discount to members of other zoos. In Knoxville, all we had to pay for was parking. Our museum membership has a similar network–definitely a great way to support local institutions and at the same time save money on vacation.

It was, however, a somewhat grey day, with showers on and off. There were very few other attendees, as the animals were also taking it easy. The river otter, however, was having a good time doing back flips.
Otter Backflip

Otter Backflip 2

They have a striking profile.
Otter Profile

My daughter has been taking up the photo habit as well.
Otter Paparazzi


There were a pair of non-releasable bald eagles hanging out.
DSC_0217

The red wolf is a very endangered species. The core wild population is actually in my old neck of the woods: southwest Louisiana and southeast Texas.
DSC_0234

I think we woke the lion.
Relaxing Lion

We went to go see the Malayan tigers, where a keeper was just wrapping up a talk.
Tan the Tiger

We spoke with the keeper. Tam, and his brother, were cubs five years ago in the Cincinnati Zoo. They were some of my first cat photos! I showed them a few baby pics, with a lot of “awwws.” They looked at my favorite shot of them, below, and they thought it might be Tam.
Snug in the Logs

The drizzle picked up, and Tam got bored of us.
Tan Wanders Off

The centerpiece of the Knoxville Zoo is their Red Panda Village.
Firefox Trio

In fact, more red pandas have been born in Knoxville, 101, than any other zoo in the Western Hemisphere. Only a Dutch zoo has had more.
Panda Ball

Red pandas are the only remaining true panda species. The giant panda–the black and white kind–are actually bears.
Boop the Nose!

Red pandas were actually discovered (and named) first.
Firefox Logged On

They also happen to be my daughter’s favorite animal.
Caits and the Red Panda

We had a lot of fun wrestle and chase each other.
Wrestling 5--In the Tree

Wrestling 1

Wrestling 2

Wrestling 3

Pounce!
Wrestling 4--Pounce!

We could have spent a long time watching the firefoxes, as red pandas are also known, play. However, we had to make our way back to Cincinnati.
Bye Bye, Firefox

Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in Columbia, South Carolina   1 comment

Our path back to Cincinnati from Florida took us through South Carolina. We took a break at the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, in Columbia. It was a smaller zoo, but had some wonderful exhibits. The first thing we saw was one of my wife’s long-standing favorites, koalas.
Sleepy Koala

We saw two, each in their own tree. We looks a bit closer, and realized our count was off.
Mom and Joey

One of the koalas had a joey, a little baby, sleeping snuggly with its mom.
Snug Little Baby

Neither did much other than doze. We talked to a keeper, who showed us a video on her phone of the joey riding around on its mother’s back. Cute!

The koalas weren’t the only antipodal animal.
Who's Looking at You, 'Roo?

Dragons were hanging out.
Dragon Pile

One thing I did not like, at least in th aquarium/reptile area, was the lack of signage. I’m not sure if this is an alligator or crocodile. He looked happy either way.
Croc Grin

Perhaps because they were playing “dogpile on the turtle.”
Crocpile on the Turtle

One of the many things I learned reading Bill Nye’s book, Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation, is that a group of giraffes is called a “column.”
Column of Giraffes

They had a pretty good cat collection, divided between large and small cats. In fact, they had the largest cat, the Amur tiger.
Amur Tiger

They had two lions, this handsome male…
Perched Lion

…and this shy female (actually, she was just washing her face).
Embarrassed Lion

WINK!
Winking Lion

The website indicated they had black-footed cats. Other sources didn’t mention BFCs, but did allude to fishing cats. We weren’t sure what we’d get to see. We first came across a pair of fishing cats.
Fishing Cat Profile

They are among my favorite felids. We got to see a surprising number of different cats on this trip: snow leopards, jaguars, cougars, leopards, tigers, lions, servals, caracals, lynes, bobcats, fishing cats, sand cats, and black-footed cats. Fourteen in all (fifteen if you include a felis silvestris catus we saw at a bookstore).

Perched Fishing Cat

I like to take pictures of cats yawning.
Big Yawn!

As I mentioned, they had a representative of the largest of the cat family, the Amur tiger. The black-footed cat is the second smallest cat.
Black Footed Cat in Front

They are fierce predators–I wouldn’t want to meet one in a dark alley. These two, however, were having fun peeking around their log.
Peek-a-Boo!

BFC Stalks the Feather

It was a fun stop, and we enjoyed seeing some of our favorite animals.
He's Looking Right At Me

Big Cat Rescue   Leave a comment

Tampa is home to Big Cat Rescue, a rescue for, well, big cats. Big Cat Rescue is home to cats that have retired from circuses or part of the exotic pet trade. We took the opportunity to join one of the tours of their facility.

Big Cat Rescue got its start when rescuing bobcats from a fur farm. It takes forty bobcats to make a fur coat, and they are usually kept and killed in a brutal fashion. There really is no humane fur.
Bobcat Yawn

Their cougars (or, as they are known in Florida, panthers) were having a mellow afternoon.
Lazy Cougar

Bengali was a circus tiger, moved from city to city. He seems quite relaxed here.
Bengali the Tiger

He keeps it clean.
Clean Toes are a Tiger's Friend

Big Cat Rescue’s odd couple are also retired circus cats: Zabu, a female white tiger, and Cameron, a male lion.
Cameron and Zabu

Cameron had to be neutered to ensure he and Zabu wouldn’t create a hybrid (a liger). Because of the reduced testosterone, he no longer can grow a mane.
Lion Strut

Hybrids are a serious issue: usually, they are caught between competing sets of instincts, and have health issues. Jojo, a caracal/serval hybrid, has serious digestive system issues. While I would not want to create hybrids, I do think he’s a very striking cat.
Serval/Caracal Hybrid

Sabre is a melanistic leopard. He was a pet, but abandoned by his owner. Fortunately he made his way to big cat rescue.
Panther Up High

Why do I find myself drawn to silly black cats?
Enrichment Ring

He does have striking eyes.
Pretty Black Cat

Frosty is one of their many servals.
Frosty Paws

Many of these cats were pets, who, well, aren’t domesticated animal. they have no reason to be in someone’s house.
Lounging Serval

When such animals are surrendered by their owners, they sign a contract to never own another exotic cat.
Serval in the Ferns

My personal favorite was their caracal pair, Sassy…
Sassy

..and Rusty.
Rusty

Big Cat Rescue is a great organization, committed to the welfare of their cats. They advocate against the many ways wild cats, when put in inappropriate settings, are a problem. We need more folks looking out for animals in these circumstances. The humans are at fault, as they expect the cat to act in a tame fashion, millenia of instincts to the contrary. Unfortunately, too often, it’s the animal that is punished.
Bobcat Silhouette

Lions, Tigers, Caracals, and Old Friends at the National Zoo   2 comments

Hanging with Dad
From Philadelphia, we went south to our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. Our first stop there was the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, otherwise known as the National Zoo. There were several animals we wanted to see, and was an amazing campus.

On entry, a prairie dog peeked up to greet us.
Prarie Dog Peep

But, let’s face, it, I was there to see cats. The National Zoo did not disappoint. There were two sets of lion cubs, for a total of seven.
Cub on a Ledge!

They were getting into everything!
Tugging the Hose

Reach the Branch

Cub by the Branch

Two Cubs Walk Into a Bar...

…and on to everyone!
Attack Mom!

There dad is Luke, a very handsome dude.
Luke and His Kids

If I’m reading this right, he’s the father of John, the new African lion at the Cincinnati zoo. Good looks clearly run in the family. And he knows it.
Smell That Fresh Air!

But, seven cubs can be exhausting!
Snoozing Lion

There were also two tiger cubs and their mom. The cubs are right at a year old.
Tiger Secrets

They like to stalk…
Stalking Tiger

…have a drink…
Have a Drink

…and, of course, take a nap. They are cats, after all.
Don't Wake the Tiger

I was excited to see a caracal, a cat they don’t have at very many zoos.
Sitting Caracal

He was a bit shy.
Caracal in the Grass

The caracal decided to wander off. As a cat geek, I understood, even if I think I was one of the few who was most excited to see them.
Caracal Stroll

As is often the case, the caracal was positioned near a bobcat.
Bobcat

We got to see a snoozing sand cat.
Snoozing Sand Cat

And a snoozing clouded leopard. Like I said, they’re cats; they sleep.
Dream Cloudie

Another sleeping cat we saw was an old friend. Lek is a fishing cat, born in Cincinnati. I have pictures of him and his brothers as cubs.
Dozing Lek

This Queen City boy has fathered four cubs with Electra, a female.
Lek Watching Me

We like cheetahs.
Alert Cheetah

DC Cheetah

Lounging Cheetah

My daughter has also started taking photos at zoos, getting her own perspective on the animals.
Caitlin Taking Pictures

Caitlin Photographs a Meerkat

There were seven Asian small clawed otter pups.
Peeking Otter Pup

Some were busy constructing something.
OTTERS at WORK

Others…less so.
Otter Belly!

I’m always amused at zoos when there are animal “tourists.” Usually it’s a squirrel or some birds. The elephants appeared to have a pet deer.
Pet Deer
The keepers seemed to indicated this was an ongoing problem, but didn’t really pose a danger to either species.

Meet the Ruppell’s griffon vulture. While this one was hanging out on the ground, these are the highest-flying bird on the planet. They are typically cited as flying in the thin air at 20,000 feet, though there are records of them being as high as nearly 40,000 feet.
Ruppell's Griffon Vulture

Lots of turtles on a log.
Turtles on a Log 2

Turtles on a Log 1

Degu are small rodents native to South America.
Degu on a Branc

I’m becoming quite the fan of the burrowing owl.
DSC_7438

We had a great day at the National Zoo, and walked over its great expanses.

The Philadelphia Zoo is a Series of Tubes   Leave a comment

Tiger in the Tube

Our summer vacation took us eastward this year. Our first stop was Philadelphia. There, we checked out the Philadelphia Zoo, the nation’s oldest zoo. I was rather impressed by their animals, as well as the enrichment they were afforded.

One of the neatest bits of enrichment was Zoo360 Animal Exploration Trail, a series of enclosed paths for animals to meander. They had it for primates, but I first encountered some goats.
Goats on a Bridge

But the coolest was yet to come: Big Cat Crossing. This path allowed their lions, jaguars, leopard, cougars, and snow leopards to explore the zoo. When we were there, a pair of tiger brothers, born at the Columbus Zoo, were watching the crowds.
Tiger Tube

Looking Down on Us

They really are handsome cats.
The Sun is Too Bright!

In the big cat area, we also got to see lions.
Makini the Lion

Maya, a female snow leopard was there with her two (older) cubs, Buck and Ranney. The cubs were quite active, pouncing and wrestling with each other.
Tag! You're It!

Teasing a Sib

Peek-a-Boo

Tusslin' Flurry

Pondering the Next Pounce

Though her kids tried to get her into the mix, Mama Maya decided to stay above the fray.
Happy Maya

Such a pretty snow leopard!
Pretty Maya

The tiger girls were in their enclosure, stalking.
Stalking Tiger

Sniff!


One came right up to the glass I was crouching by to take pictures, and sprayed right next to me. At first I was disgusted, until my daughter pointed out by “marking” me, she was claiming me. I was…honored…really.
Contemplative Tiger

There were black-footed kittens!
Sleeping Like a Log 2


Of course, they were all asleep. Still quite cute.
Cats Love Boxes (Whatever Kind They Are)

Was this one getting up?
Wrong Side of the Bed

Nope. Just shifting.
Sleeping Like a Log

A Canadian lynx sat in the sun.
Sunny Lynx

There was a cheetah nearby. A keeper gave a talk, discussing his encounters with different cheetahs who passed through his care. The cheetahs had a lure system, which the keeper seemed surprised was good enrichment for the worlds fastest mammal.
Philly Cheetah

Cheetah Trot

The series of tubes proves to be enrichment for homo saphiens, too.
Rebecca in the Tubes

My daughters new favorite animal is the red panda, which I’m a fan of, too.
Peeking

Quite cute and fluffy!
Snack Time

O HAI!
On the Platform

Tony is a southern white rhino with a big horn!
Tony, the Southern White Rhino

Ever see a Galapagos tortoise cuddle puddle?
Tortoise Cuddle Puddle


Serious close-up!
Snugglin' Tortoise

I liked watching the maned wolf. Such striking color.
Maned Wolf

Having obsessed over their pens lately, it was nice to see brown pelicans Crackle and Snap.
Snap and Crackle

Overall, I really enjoyed the Philadelphia Zoo. It was a good size for walking around and spending a day, and they clearly cared a lot about their animals. And the animals seemed to enjoy each other.
Changing of the Guard

Baby Snow Leopards at the Akron Zoo   2 comments

Otter Sculpture

My daughter has been at camp this month, leaving my wife and I alone. This gave us a weekend to ourselves. We felt that the combination of being temporarily childless and our anniversary entitled us to a romantic weekend away…

To Akron.

Not an obvious choice, but there were a couple things we thought would want to do. One of the things we wanted to check out was the Akron Zoo. Zoos are a favorite of my family, but, in particular, we wanted to see Malaya and Makalu, their baby snow leopards.
Siblings

They weren’t quite three months old when we got to see them, and were only out for about an hour-and-a-half. There was a line to see them–groups were allowed to go to the window, and you could get back in line (which we did–four times). It was actually well run. When we got there, Malaya, the girl, was climbing about as snow leopards (and, really, all kittens) are want to do.
Cub on an Incline

On the Cliff

Climbing Cub


Her brother was dozing at first.
Tuckered Out

On our second pass, he moved to the other side, where he could see the deer in the next enclosure.
Interested Cup

It was then that we realized that Shanti, their mother, was in there with her. She was quite stunning.
Mama Shanti


With mom around, everyone settled in for a nap (and a family portrait).
Sleepy Family Portrait
I have a 16:9 aspect ratio version of this photo for use as wallpaper on Flickr.

We walked by the snow leopard enclosure later–it was near the entrance–and Roscoe, the father was out. He was equally handsome.
Roscoe the Snow Leopard

If a bit cheeky.
I Think I'm Annoying Roscoe

Near the snow leopards was a cool jaguar.
Pretty Jaguar

Jaguars are one of three cat species who enjoy going in water (along with tigers, and, of course, fishing cats). This jaguar wanted his floaty.
Getting the Ring

Got it!
Grabbing the Ring

Speaking of tigers, Jae Jae was dozing. Cats do sleep a good chunk of their days.
Tiger Doze

Shani and Tamarr, the lion couple looked quite magnificent on their perch.
Lion Couple

The second most interesting cat was an example of felis silvestris catus, a domestic cat.
Sneaky Cat

She was stealing the food from a pair of storks.
Unaware

We were told that this was a stray who had a kitten. The keepers were trying to catch her, but haven’t had much luck. They said that the storks don’t seem to mind. The cat, however, got a bit annoyed when they took a step too close.
DSC_6085

One thing we did learn in all this is that storks are carnivores. I hadn’t really considered it one way or the other.

The birds were pretty cool. They had five non-releasable bald eagles.
Bald Eagle

I’m afraid I got a bit too close to the burrowing owl. Once again, I’m sorry, little guy!
Burrowing Owl

The flamingos were hanging about in their pond. They always make me think of my mom.
Flamingos!

Two different canids were present. We loved watching the coyote run around, even without a road runner.
Running Coyote

Happy guy!
Coyote Grin

Next door, a red wolf napped in the sun.
Rolling in the Grass

“Why did you wake me?” (We didn’t really wake him, but he did look like he could use a cup of coffee.)
Wolf Needs His Coffee

The otters got a great tank to swim in, and we could easily get different views of them–and them us!
Diving Otter

I love to see red pandas, even when they are in a ball, as Zheng demonstrates.
Firefox Ball

There was a small aquarium, which had lionfish, a favorite of mine.
lionfish

And a Galapagos tortoise sunning himself.
Sunning tortoise

I really liked the Akron Zoo. It is a smaller zoo, but all the enclosures seemed very up to date. Their app is awesome, and gives the names for many animals (in some cases, I couldn’t tell who’s who, but nice to have some idea). They had some neat displays, such as one showing how coral exhibits photoluminescence.
glow in the dark

There was a slide that went through part of the otter’s tank. They could easily stay away from it, but I saw them swim along with sliding kids (or, kids at heart).
Otter Slide


There was a cool sculpture by the eagles.
Eagle-Go-Round

One think I really liked was that almost every enclosure had a tag for an advocacy group for that animal. For instance, by the snow leopards, there was one for the Snow Leopard Trust. Appropriately, I was wearing one of their t-shirts.
Romantic Weekend in Akron


We had a great time at the Akron Zoo, and definitely think we’ll need to go back with our daughter.
Nap on a Log

Bouncy Snow Leopard   Leave a comment

The Marvin Lewis Community Fund sponsored Learning is Cool. Cincinnati Public School students who were on the “A” honor role twice were invited to an evening at the zoo, and receive a medal, given by members of a local sports team. Once again, my daughter was on the “A” honor role four times. Of course we would go to the zoo!

John the lion has a new pal, Imani.
John and Hiding Imani

She’s pretty!
Imani

John must think so, too, as he’s trying to look his best.
John's Bath

They do make a cute couple.
John and Imani

Nearby cheetahs were looking like bookends. No runs were scheduled that evening.
Cheetah Bookends

Gizmo, an African white-faced owl, was out. We saw him before. He’s quite cute.
Gizmo!

A red panda was in the tree, grooming.
Firefox Bath

One of the Malayan tigers was demonstrating his camouflage in the tall grass.
Tiger in the Grass

A cougar was relaxing in a less-than-camouflaged fashion.
Lazy Cougar

The highlight for me was Nubo and Renji.
Handsome Nubo

The snow leopard duo were bouncing off the walls!
Bouncing Off the Walls

Who says cheetahs are the only cats who can sprint.
Who Says Cheetahs are the Only Sprinters?

We got to see a baby flamingo.
Flamingo Baby

Later, they paraded by.
Flamingo Parade

Before we left, we said “hi” to Louisiana girl Sayia.
Seyia

It was an enjoyable evening at the zoo.

Saint Louis Zoo   2 comments

I was surprised to realize that, in 2014, I haven’t been to a zoo. I’ve been to the Newport Aquarium, but the last time I saw non-fish was when we went to the Birmingham Zoo just before New Year’s Day. The Polar Vortex played a large role in that. With Spring and Zoo Blooms upon us, I’m sure we’ll be rectifying that, but it really had been far too long. When we had an opportunity to visit the Saint Louis Zoo, we were excited.
St. Louis Zoo Statue

The Saint Louis Zoo is among the oldest zoos in the country, and has many of the original buildings (at once an interesting and depressing point). It’s also notable that, for what many regard as a top zoo, admission is free. If you look hard enough and/or don’t mind walking, the whole day can be of no charge to you.

The first animal we encountered was a Malayan sun bear. I confess I thought this small bear was a cub until someone clued me in.
Malayan Sun Bear

Next door, a grizzly bear appeared to be sleeping one off.
Passed Out Grizzly

We set out towards the big cats, making a stop to say “hi” to one of our new favorites, the red panda.
Amblin' Red Panda

He climbed up to some of his favorite treat, bamboo.
Climbing to Bamboo

A nearby prairie dog seems to have picked up the bamboo habit from his neighbor.
Prarie Dog with Bamboo

Some of the enclosures are historic. This isn’t uncommon in many zoos, though they do try to house species which are a better match to the space by modern criteria. There was one indoor area for some animals, such as the giraffe, where the age showed, and was retro in the sense that it wasn’t generally done. In there, I didn’t want to take pictures. I’m sure the animal welfare is considered–the Saint Louis Zoo is AZA accredited (the gold standard, in my opinion), and participates in Species survival Plans–but it seemed some upgrades were needed.

Another place this seemed to come out was in the big cat area. The animals did have plenty of space, but it did not seem to have the modern attempt at habitat like, say, Cat Canyon. The Amur tiger, largest of the felids, had plenty of space, but the area had an artificial bent.
Amur Tiger

He was able to confer with a next-door jaguar, again, in a seeming unnatural fashion. Neither cat seemed to be bothered by the presence of the other. Personally, I worry when two cats have too many conferences.
Cat Conference

As you can see, the jaguar is melanistic–a panther! I couldn’t see spots from the distance, but I always love how light plays on a black cat’s coat.
Stalking Jaguar

I have a soft spot in my heart for black cats.
Black Cat

The lioness seemed to be having a chat by a gate.
Girl Talk

The snow leopard took an afternoon nap.
Snow Leopard Nap

The Amur leopard was also taking a nap.
Leopard Nap

Amur leopards are among the rarest cats in the world. There are 176 are in captivity, and less than thirty believed to be in the wild.
Sleepy Eyes

There were only three small cats on display, mostly due to their position on the purr/roar line. The snow leopard, cheetahs (who weren’t out on this dreary day), and cougars. They were also hanging out in a cave.
Cougars in a Cave

However, for some reason, they had a Bobcat in the black rhino’s enclosure.
Bobcat in the Rhino Enclosure

The zebra grazed a bit.
Zebra

One of the non-cats I always love is the okapi.
Okapi

The oakpi are related to giraffe, which seems obvious from their tongues.
Okapi Tongue

Two cow-like critters were represented. The bantang…
Bantang

…and the takin. Not sure if he’s been promoted to Grand Moff.
Grand Moff Takin

A small herd of red kangaroos was munching on grass.
Red Kangaroos

The sea lions were having an argument.
Sea Lion Argument

The Asian elephants kept their distance.
Asian Elephants

Hyenas always strike me as awkward looking.
Hyena

My daughter is a huge otter fan.
Caitlin at the Otter Statue

A river otter surveyed his domain.
Master of His domain

In the bird exhibit, a rhinoceros hornbill ate lunch.

I had never seen a bateleur eagle before, but was taken by his colors.
Bateleur Eagle

The crested wood partridge also had some great color.
Crested Wood Partridge

The Bali mynah is a rare bird, with only sixty left in the wild.
Bali Mynah

The tawny frogmouths were hanging out.
Tawny Frogmouths

A burrowing owl took a break from lunch to say “hi.”
Burrowing Owl

Outside, there was a bald eagle.
Bald Eagle

His wings were impressive.
Big Wings!

Overall, we had a great time at the Saint Louis Zoo.
Family at Saint Louis Zoo - 5x7

Cat Tour at the Birmingham Zoo   5 comments

Our journey south continued through Birmingham. When we woke up in Huntsville, I googled the Birmingham Zoo, mostly out of curiosity. It turns out they have perhaps the best small cat collection I’ve seen outside of Cincinnati. It was also close to a restaurant where we thought would make a good lunch stop. Cheap admission through a reciprocal arrangement with the Cincinnati Zoo sealed the deal.


When we arrived, it was a dreary day–cooler temperatures with a drizzle. Cold for Birmingham, but my family are zoo geeks, tough, and slightly crazy. We decided to check it out anyway.

We were the only guests at the zoo–the only other people we saw were staff. The bald eagles looked at us as if to say “primates be crazy.”
"Why are you here in this weather?"

We entered the predator house, and started a conversation with the staff, asking about the cats, their names, and where they came from. They seemed to dig that we knew so much, and, as it was near closing and there was no one else around, they walked us through and answered questions.

The first cat we saw was an ocelot named Toby.
Ocelot on the Ledge

Next was a pallas cat (I was told all the names, but for many, I can’t quite read what I wrote).
Fluffy Time

They had two fishing cat brothers.
Gone Fishing

I started fishing around to see if they were descendents of Cincinnati fishing cats. They weren’t, but they were Ohio fishing cats–they were born in the Columbus Zoo. They were the third, fourth and fifth cutest kittens in Ohio born in 2011.
Fishing Cat Crib

They’ve grown to be handsome cats.
Fishing Cat March

Katie is their African wildcat. Wildcats were neat to see for a couple reasons. The African wildcat (felis silvestris libyca) is a subspecies of wildcat (felis silvestris). Another subspecies is felis silvestris catus, better known to me as “Eddy, Luna, and Beso.” Like all members of her species, she viewed humans skeptically, especially ones out on a rainy, drerey day.
Stink Eye


What was cool about Katie in particular (aside from her wild good looks) was that she is a clone, produced at the Audobon zoo, to find ways to save endangered species. This is the first time I have (knowingly) seen a clone in person. Even though my morning was spent looking at rocket ships, it was the most SciFi thing I did that day. Katie mated with another clone, and produced a litter of wildcats, who I was told lived up to the wildcat name.
Hiding Wlidcat

There were two black-footed cats.
Black Footed Strut


Tut was the male.
Black Footed Profile

He watched Mica, the female, walking around.
Stalking Black-Footed Cat

He’s a handsome cat!
Black Footed Portrait

Sand cat Toby seemed eager to see us.
Bart the Sand Cat

The female, Angsa (but I may have that wrong), just wasn’t feeling sociable.
Won't Get Out of Bed

At 3:30, they do a demonstration of feeding the lions, and how they have been trained behaviors to help facilitate their care. The keepers who do that were walking through, “come on. Let’s go feed the lions.” Though it was rainy and we hadn’t intended to see the lion feeding, we followed our new friends–we were the only guests, and we couldn’t let Aquila and Kwanza down.
Aquila and Kwanza

Kwanza is a nine-year-old male lion, born on the first day of Kwanza that year.
Handsom Kwanza

Back inside, we saw the non-cats such as the mongooses (mongeese?).
Mongoose

We are big red panda fans. They had two adults and two cubs.
Nom!

Sniffin' Bamboo

We made one last stop, to see the giant otters.
Swimming Giant Otters


They were huge.
What's Up There?

We enjoyed our day at the Birmingham Zoo. In spite of the cold, rainy day, it was a great experience, and it was neat to have an unofficial private tour of their predators. Thank you so much!

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