Stef (firecat) wrote,

animals animals animals

I have an enormous compost pile in my back yard that's just a cylinder of chicken wire, open at the top, with a small "door" in the side. Most warm nights I hear rustling out there. Tonight, right after the rustling stopped, I saw a large raccoon standing on its hind legs, about 6 feet away, and staring through the window at me with intense curiosity.

Maybe it was chastising me for not having put any fruit or veggies onto the compost pile in the past few days.

Driving home from San Francisco in the early evening, I took the back route through the hills, and there were four deer standing calmly in the middle of a side street.


Many dog people know that a Kong is a hard rubber dog toy with small holes that you can put food treats into. The dog is supposed to be entertained and "stimulated" (as if dogs aren't overstimulated enough, most of the time) by trying to get the treats out.

My sweetie kyubi and I went to the San Francisco zoo this afternoon. We saw an elephant playing with a large plastic ball. It would wrap its trunk around the ball, brace the ball against its leg, and roll the ball up its leg. Then it would wrap its trunk all the way around the ball and knock the ball against its lower jaw for a while. Then it would drop the ball and nose around on the ground. We finally figured out that this was essentially an elephant Kong. There was a hole in the ball just large enough for the elephant to fit the prehensile end of its trunk into. Then it would hold the ball and shake it so that treats would come out of the ball and onto its trunk. Then pop! into its mouth. I was amazed at how dextrous (um, not quite the right word. Nasally skilled?) it was to be actually shaking the contents of the ball into its trunk the way I would shake peanuts out of a jar into my hand.


The San Francisco zoo specializes in breeding three small cat species: snow leopards, ocelots, and fishing cats. Fishing cats are about 1.5x the size of a house cat and they have brown stripes and spots. They come from Asia, and unlike many cats, they love water. A keeper was feeding them and cleaning their inside nesting/eating area. She stuck a hose through the fence into their outdoor enclosure and turned on the water, and they played with it the way house cats play with pieces of string.

We also saw another fishing cat that had just come out of the water. It climbed onto a perch and proceeded to shake the water off with the same finicky "euw, I'm WET" movements that a house cat uses to shake water off.


When we sat outside the cafe to eat lunch, we noticed a lot of little black and brown birds begging (successfully) for bread, and we wondered how the zoo had gotten rid of the seagulls that used to also beg for food (considerably more obnoxiously). After lunch we headed over to the penguin exhibit and discovered where the seagulls had gone. The penguins were getting fed. This was a complex, two-person operation. The keeper took fish out of a bucket and put them on a tray, then stuffed the fish whole into the mouths of various penguins (they could swallow surprisingly large fish). As she did so, she called out their numbers -- "One for 103B" -- to the volunteer who was marking things off on a clipboard. The keeper knew all the penguins by name: "Come on, Ditsy, focus and don't let the stealers take your fish." The "stealers" were several fellow penguins, and sure enough, about half a dozen raucous seagulls. The keeper waved a stick at the seagulls to keep them from attacking too aggressively, but they did get away with a fair amount of fish. There was also a net stretched over about a 10 foot section of the "moat" surrounding the rock island, and the keeper had also apparently trained the swimming penguins to go under the net when she pointed the stick at it. When they were under the net, the gulls couldn't steal their fish.

To make matters even more complicated, some of the fish apparently had medicine and supplements stuffed inside, designated for particular penguins. So she had to fend off the other penguins and the seagulls and convince a particular penguin to take a particular fish. She also had to climb up the concrete nesting area and coax penguins lurking in little holes in the concrete to eat their medicated fish. She was also followed incessantly on land by about a dozen penguin "chicks" (identifiable as chicks because they had brown feathers instead of black, but they were about twice the size of many of the adult penguins) and periodically fed them too - only they were fussy, and half the time they rejected the fish she gave them by shaking their heads.

Someone should make a video game out of that.

We watched her for at least half an hour and she still hadn't finished when we left.


The lemurs were a joy as always. They were "sun"bathing (although, this being the west end of San Francisco in the summertime, there wasn't much sun to speak of). They have dark fur on their bellies, and they lie on their backs with their legs flung in all directions. The visitor path through the exhibit is a high walkway above the lemur area, and most of the lemurs had chosen to lie in a spot where visitors could look straight down on them.


The zoo has almost finished its new "African Savannah" exhibit, an open area that includes giraffe, zebras, ostriches, kudu, dik-diks, and a couple of other birds. When we went in there, one of the giraffe was lying down in a sand pit. I've never seen a giraffe lying down before. The volunteer docent who was there tending an educational cart with a bunch of giraffe bones and hide said that the giraffe never lay down in their old exhibit. I guess that means the giraffe are more comfortable in the new exhibit. That's good to know.

kyubi, did I miss anything?
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