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Occupation: Girl

Please close the door and switch on the fun without fail.

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Some of what I did last week
pallas cat - intrigued
I have so much to talk about from last week that I've kind of had a mental logjam. But posting pictures of our zoo trip on Tumblr seems a nice way to organize that part, at least.

Foresthouse ("Emily" hereafter) is taking an epic trip around half the country on her way to NADWCON (she's the chair), and while we've been friends for years, we'd never actually met. We decided that this was ridiculous and must be remedied. She stayed with Dayna/queenanthai first, and I think she's currently with Kevin/alliancesjr, so it's sort of a Made of Fail tour. Anyway--I'll get into more of her actual visit later, but last Tuesday, I took her to the zoo first thing that morning. Part of my goal was to run around so much that she would pass out that night and actually be forced to get some sleep instead of letting the convention eat her (Dayna had to confiscate her netbook), and to that end, I took her to the zoo, lunch, X-Men (my second time. Somehow, I survived two more hours of hot guys. Somehow), a visit to our friend Julia's crafts store, dinner, and then a coma back at the hotel. SUCCESS.

But like I said: more on that later. Here are the more entertaining pictures from the zoo, with my image descriptions from Tumblr.

It is not the biggest or most exotic zoo in the world (though we did just get some kangaroos and a new elephant). On the other hand, it's small enough that you can get through it in a couple of hours, and they have lots of casual activities for kids (play fountains, a carousel, decorations made by kids from local schools at Halloween), so it's geared more towards repeat visitors than HERE IS OUR ZOOOOOO OF WONNNNDERRRRRRRS. So, if you like animals, you can spend a few hours comfortably there without dashing around trying to see as much as you can. Primarily, though, Emily and I were making a pilgrimage to see the Pallas cat.

You go straight to the Predator House and he (he?) is the second habitat you get to, and you have to get there pretty early anyway, because the Pallas cat is nocturnal, and you have to get there before he goes to sleep. The first/previous time I went, his habitat was getting cleaned, and then he got put back in and went straight to sleep. This time, he was ready for us.

Emily (foresthouse) came to visit me last week, so on Tuesday, I took her to the zoo to see the local Pallas cat (this was her idea, I swear).

[Image description: it’s a glassed-in habitat in the Predator House; the walls are painted a cool blue color. It’s filled with rocky faux-mountains and “fallen” logs and branches. So you’re looking at the Pallas cat grumping with narrowed eyes on a big rock, with his front paws up on a slim branch passing diagonally in front of him. Another branch is passing over his head, because otherwise trying to get a clear picture of him through a sheet of glass would have just been too easy.]

@GreyDuck: “D’awww!” “Stop that, I’m disapproving of you!” “So CUTE!” “Cut that OUT. I DESPISE YOU ALL.” “Squee!” “GAH!”

@cleolinda: That is pretty much exactly what happened.

Just for kicks, here’s a wide shot of the Pallas cat’s blue-walled, faux-mountained, deadtreelicious habitat. I’m sure he mistakes it for the steppes of Central Asia all the time. That’d be him a third of the way down the picture, bathed in in a haze of track lighting, grumping majestically on an outcropping of rock.

Apparently the Pallas cat has been teaching the other animals to be snarky.

[Image description: two shots of a meerkat. Top, the meerkat is looking at the other meerkat (offscreen), and I can’t remember if the second meerkat made a really bad joke or what, but in the second picture, the first meerkat has turned to look at me with this expression of, “This. This is what I live with.”]

This here is the tayra, a “tropical weasel,” or rather, two of them. The habitat itself has a rocky bottom with lots of twisty “fallen” branches and kind of a puddle-pool in the lower right corner of the picture. The walls are painted with jungle ferns and trees, because otherwise the tayras might mistake it for the steppes of Central Asia. One tayra is on the rocks at the upper middle-right, and the other is in the lower left corner, or at least they were when I managed to snap this picture, because they literally, in the literal sense of literally, spent the entire five minutes we watched them chasing each other in circles around the exhibit. Most of my pictures are slinky blurs, which is why Emily dubbed this species the Blurry Weasel.

[Image description: I’m not sure how to explain this big rock, except a lion is sleeping on top of the right side, and it’s got this table-like outcropping on the left side (OMG ASLAN’S TABLE?!?!), so I framed the shot so that a giraffe in an adjacent area could be seen under the rock, because lol photography. Also: lots of nice green bushes and deciduous trees, because this is Alabama.]

@particle_person: I'm sure someone has said this already, but I think that is a Petite Lap Giraffe in the lion picture.

@cleolinda: I FORGOT ABOUT THAT! Emily used a water bottle in her picture to create the illusion of a PLG.

I haven't seen any of her pictures yet, though.

[Image description: Two cables run across the frame, holding a white sign that reads, “PLEASE DO NOT FEED These animals are on a special diet.” To the left, two giraffes are looking around while a third one licks his foot. I’m just saying, that special diet might need some more protein.]

This is a wide shot of our new elephant (a ten-year-old African elephant named Callee) and his home. Actually, based on the zoo map, I thought we had two others, but this article says that there’s only one more.

Callee, considered a teenager, had been rejected by its mother and other female elephants at the Pittsburgh zoo [where he was born], said Willie Thieson, elephant manager at the Pittsburgh Zoo.

That’s what happens naturally in the wild, Thieson said. “I think it’s a mechanism to keep down inbreeding,” he said.

AWWWW. Anyway, this is a picture of his exhibit, because I find it kind of amazing to see an elephant just wandering around in an Alabama woodland setting. There are scrubby little tufty plants in the foreground on kind of a rise, and lower down and way further out is the rest of the habitat, a mix of grass and sandy soil and deciduous trees and fallen logs. If you look closely, you can see a brown elephant walking towards the middle.

Here’s a zoomier shot of Callee the teen elephant, stretching out his trunk to get something incredibly tasty by a fallen tree. (He was snacking while we watched.) Actually, the tree looks kind of sawn-off, with the log placed right next to the stump, which makes me wonder exactly what the process of designing a zoo habitat is like. Are all the rocks and branches placed just so? Do zookeepers study feng shui?

aminathehyena's reply:

At our zoo, the answer to the “just so” question is: to a degree, yes!

For example, we have to have a variety of branches at various levels for our ravens so that they can all perch at different heights, which makes establishing dominance and avoiding fights among the birds easier. Also, having branches that criss-cross at just the right point is important for a lot of our animals so that we can place enrichment (puzzles/toys/etc.) on one branch and know that the animal can sit on the other and be able to reach it.

Not to mention where you put branches/logs that animals sit on/play with can be important to the visitors. If you know the monkey likes to store food in a certain hollow branch, then putting that in the front means the visitors will have a better chance of seeing the monkey interact with the branch.

I, personally, also prefer keeping ground-sitting logs out of the poo zone area for some of our primates. Gibbons tend to poo in the same area, and cleaning said poo off of objects is infinitely harder than simply scooping it up.

So there you go! Sometimes placing objects in an enclosure really can be very strategical!

[Image description: We Three Geese of Petting Zoo Are. In the top image, they’re observing a thunderstorm (not pictured, but kind of scary) approaching from the left. In the second, the blurry arm and leg of a zookeeper (is he holding a bucket of grain?) is herding them to the door of their stall in the barn. In the third, Arm and Leg are herding the geese around the door into the stall. Seriously, this was about ten minutes of strutting geese getting chased up and down the barn with gothic thunder in the background.]

[Image description: a high-stepping grey rooster tries to decide between the tiger-skin Coke machine and the elephant-hide Coke machine at the zoo. Given that no one is trying to chase him into the barn, I have to assume he’s a paying customer.]

[Image description: the carousel at the Birmingham Zoo. The carousel animals go around three by three, and the way the wooden frame is set up, the beam over each animal says what kind it is, although you can’t see all the signs in the picture. You can see a giraffe in the background; a polar bear and a zebra approaching the middle of the frame; then a baboon (I guess?), the back end of a lion, and the tail of what we are informed is a Cape Hunting Dog. The core of the carousel has mirrors and paintings of animals, including a turtle, a manatee, a beaver, and some kind of leopard.]

I did take other pictures, but they were either not as interesting (the kangaroos were being petted by so many kids that there was no way to get anywhere near them) or didn't come out as well (apparently taking an iPhone picture with one hand and holding your purse with the other does not give you the clearest result). I can post more (flamingoes, zebras, petting llama, butterfly garden, etc.), but this is our selection for now. Also, it is late and I am tired. Fin.

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The elephant in particular was PRECIOUS.

As soon as I saw the tiny giraffe, I was forced to read this entire post aloud to myself in a thick Russian accent.

I went "Aslan's got a lap giraffe!" :)

You mean she isn't kidnapping you to go to NADWCON with her? That would be the most epic Leaving of the House ever. Though I suppose your Petite Lap Bear would pine for you, and we cannot have that.

I am Petite Lap Bear's Seeing-Eye Human! It would not work at all. :(

Poor Callee.

I gotta say that Pallas Cat reminds me of the looks I get from my Catrice. Usually when the kittens have done something silly.

“This. This is what I live with.”

This sounds like home. ^_^

That's it, I'm putting "see a Pallas cat" on my bucket list. Also, Grumping Majestically is going to be the name of my rock band.

I love Callee. He's wandering around and you can almost hear him, "Alabama. Huh. Well, I like the trees, and at least it's warmer than Philly. Alabama. I'll be Go To Hell."


(sorry, Pittsburghers/Philadephians have somewhat large amounts of animosity for each other)

I remember once I went to the B'ham Zoo as a kid, and the monkeys were pulling each other's tails, and there were monkeys with human faces that looked unholy. And the tiger tried to attack us through the glass.

Well. It's not a tiger. BUT.

Hurrah for animal picspam! ^_^

The Pallas cat appears to be a Majestic Grump indeed.

Ooh, that does look like a Petite Lap Giraffe!

Dawww, Callee the teen elephant. The wide shot seems very lonely.

(Also, I love the carousel!)

I don't know--he might be lonely. I do know that elephants need a lot of space, because apparently their feet get sores if they don't have enough space to wander around in.

That sounds like so much fun.

Washington Park Zoo needs to get a Pallas Cat, obviously. All I got out of this year's zoo trip was some lions and bears. Not even tigers.

Well, yes, ducks. Always ducks.

I don't even think we have any bears anymore. We had a polar bear when I was a kid, but... he was green and very sad.

The Birmingham Zoo is so much better than the Pittsburgh Zoo.

...I just realized that carousel is why I had nightmares about baboons as a child.

aww the pgh zoo has gotten a lot nicer in recent years! the polar bear exhibit is made of awesome-Cleo would love it!

though the tiger always makes me want to cry, it always seems so miserable just pacing back and forth on its cliff thing.

THESE ARE SO GREAT. Made much greater by your commentary!

Dude. The lion photo totally reminds me of the lion king.

That was my thought. The stone thing totally looks like a mini Pride Rock (which I only know the name of because I've been playing Kingdom Hearts 2)


"Enrichment" just gives me flashbacks to Portal.

I have heard of enrichment at zoos before, actually. In the context of Pallas cats (of course I would know about this), some zoos have put their food in jack o'lanterns or play tubes or on ropes so they get exercise or have to solve problems to get to it. I also saw a video where the zoo employees made snowmen for the large animals to play with.

Pallas cat! Snarky meercats! The geese and the rooster! I'd say that was a successful zoo trip.

There's always a couple of roosters wandering around, which is hilarious. We saw a ton more; I might post stuff from that, I don't know. I know the zoo well enough in general that I know where the fun things are. We also had a huge storm come in, so we did have to hurry a bit in the second hour.