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Saturday, May 5, 2012

Penguins, Protea, exotic birds and an otter at the SF Zoo

This was the shortest visit I've made to the San Francisco Zoo. I was only there for a couple of hours but managed to see a few of the animals and birds that weren't active the last time I was there.

As always I felt torn that the zoo animals are deprived living in the wild but also appreciate that they live safe and sheltered lives in captivity. After seeing more and more environmental disasters and poaching stories in the news I'm leaning more towards supporting captive colonies to protect species as a whole. Without them many will go extinct. Some will eventually go extinct even with captive breeding programs because the breeding programs are not large enough to sustain certain species. But I'd rather see them go extinct later rather than sooner :(

This is Penguin Island, where the San Francisco Zoo maintains the largest and most prolific breeding colony of captive Magellanic penguins. Since 1985 the zoo's colony has fledged approximately 205 chicks that are shared with other zoos through a nationally-coordinated population management plan.

I watched the penguins swimming around their large pool and ducking into their burrows. In the wild the penguins are nearing "threatened" status due to oil spills and declining fish populations.

They're so cute! When they swim they float on their stomachs and preen in the water on their backs.

The last time we were at the zoo we didn't see the North American River Otter at all. On this visit I could barely see him/her the first time I went by its habitat. A bit later he/she was out and about scampering over the rocks and branches so I was able to get a few pictures. But they didn't come easily. The glass fence was so high I had to extend my monopod to it's maximum height to get my camera high enough to clear the partition.

And just outside the tunnel to the lower viewing area of the African Savanna were blooming protea. I'd noticed the exotic flowers the last time we were there in March but didn't take the time to photograph them that day.

I was really happy to see they were still blooming!

Also back in March we weren't able to see the Roseate Spoonbills. There were two up on a high branch sleeping along with some Scarlet Ibis in the South American Rain Forest exhibit. So I was pretty excited to see them awake and preening last week. I don't think I'd ever seen a Spoonbill before. They are so unusual! They reminded me of a cross between a duckbill platypus, a flamingo, a vulture and a shoe horn.

They're beautiful and oddly strange looking. I loved the colors of their feathers and the way they had different, thin, tendrils of feathers on their necks.

Their beautiful plumage is the reason they were hunted almost to extinction in the 1800's as they were used to make women's feather fans and hat decorations.

What do you think? Beautiful or bizarre?

And the Scarlet Ibis. It's so strange. I'm not sure I've ever seen an Ibis before this spring and now I've seen several including the Waldrapp and Hadada Ibises in the African Aviary at the SF Zoo and the White-faced Ibis we saw at the Colusa National Wildlife Refuge up in Colusa County, CA.

A Green-winged Macaw trying to take a nap.

Because they're often kept as pets, this Green-winged Macaw wasn't as exotic to me as the Spoonbill and Scarlet Ibis. What was unusual though was to see macaws with their full flight feathers and so much space to fly around in. They're really beautiful. Their feather condition was much healthier than many macaws I've seen in pet shops over the years. I'd love to see them in the wild, someday, down in South America.

All in all it was a good visit and I discovered where the free parking lots are over on Sloat Blvd. just east of the Great Highway. The entrance to the paid parking lot is off the Great Highway. So if you're going and want to save a few dollars ($8 on weekdays - $10 on weekends) be sure to park on Sloat Blvd in a space or in the lots alongside the north side of the zoo.

You can visit the San Francisco Zoo's website by CLICKING HERE or visit the zoo itself at:

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