Visit Africa (at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo)

Do you remember when you were a little child and picture books of animals held boundless fascination? I think many of us grew up with images of lions and tigers and bears without knowing that they were exotic, because at that young age we learned their names alongside those of more common critters, such as horses, deer, or dogs. But even if we were lucky enough to be raised with a variety of animals in our surroundings, it probably took us some time to realize that not all species live all over the world.

Though we might have been charmed by photos or drawings of giraffes and elephants when we were young, our fascination would not have come close to the sensation observers from far-away countries must have experienced when they first lay eyes on them. I still long for that primal, genuine sense of wonder of seeing something new for the first time without even knowing it existed.

Animals with looong legs and necks that eat leaves from the tops of trees? Whose babies are dropped from 6 feet when they are born only to stand shakily on their own 5 to 10 short minutes later? Animals with prehensile trunks sensitive enough to sniff out and pick up a single peanut from a pile of vegetation and paint with a brush, yet strong enough to uproot a tree and broadcast a trumpeting sound across miles? Animals with horns growing out of their snouts (resulting in the German name nosehorn, Nashorn), who look plump and plodding at rest but can reach speeds upward of 30 miles per hour? Animals who look as though they should sink but who are most in their element when surrounded by water (in German they are called river horse, Flußpferd, or Nile horse, Nilpferd). As my astute and linguistically well-versed fellow blogger Steve Schwartzmann who blogs at https://portraitsofwildflowers.wordpress.com/ pointed out after reading my post, “Regarding Nashorn, the Greek rhīnokerōs from which we got rhinoceros also meant ‘nose horn.’ And just as Flußpferd is a ‘river horse,’ so in its Greek origins is a hippopotamus.” Thank you, Steve!

Africa for me is the most evocative of the earth’s continents—from the sound of its name, its role as the cradle of humanity, its jaw-dropping fauna, and its natural beauty, to its problematic, often heart-rending history. It is doubtful that I will ever encounter all these otherworldly-yet-from-this-marvelous-world creatures in their natural setting, especially not in half a day, but I relish being able to do so at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.

To enlarge a photo, click on it. 

The zoo is well-known for its giraffe breeding program. Several individuals of the reticulated giraffe herd with its seventeen members are usually outside in their savanna enclosure where they can be fed lettuce available for purchase, a favorite activity for young and old alike.

The Eastern black rhinoceros Jumbe is out for a romp and in a playful mood on the day of our visit. He is known for being docile and for loving to snack on apples.

One of the zoo’s African elephants enjoying a balmy day and taking a drink from the pond. The elephant herd at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo has six members whose ages range from 35 to 52 years! They take turns spending time between the elephant barn and their 2-acre outdoor “vacation yard.”

Adult lions Abuto and Lomela with their daughter, Elsa, taking a catnap in the sun. Elsa was one of three siblings born on June 25, 2015 at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Her brothers, Boma and Aslan, are kept separate from their family after they were banished by their father, similar to what happens in the wild.

The brand-new Water’s Edge exhibit is home to hippos, penguins, and long-tailed lemurs (“we like to move it, move it…”). Animals can move freely from the inside to the outside. A suspension bridge provides a unique view of the hippos for visitors from a raised vantage point. The last photo in the series proved irresistible and reminded me of Gloria’s glorious curves in the movie “Madagascar.” 😀

To read my first post about the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, click here.

35 thoughts on “Visit Africa (at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo)

    • I’m with you, Ann. Elsa’s brothers, on the other hand, were awake and active in another enclosure (behind very strong plexiglas, so I didn’t get good photos) and both their paws and teeth instilled much respect!

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      • As they should! A family story told by my Dad: His father had taken his two younger sisters out to see a lion in a cage. Littlest sister Jean was only a babe in arms and must have looked like a tasty snack to the lion because it grabbed at her with its claws and wouldn’t let go. My grandfather quickly punched on the nose so it changed its mind and luckily no real harm was done. But Jean’s dress was shredded. Strangely enough, later on, Jean absolutely loved domestic cats! 🙂

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      • You’re welcome. German has traditionally been good at creating what linguists call calques or loan translations, meaning that the components of a borrowed word get literally translated into the receiving language. Another German example is Wolkenkratzer from English skyscraper.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Many German nouns are descriptive (e.g. nosehorn), but I hadn’t attributed this to their being literal translations from other languages. I also don’t recall having ever heard the word calque(s), which is definitely a Bildungslücke!

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      • I didn’t mean to leave the impression that all descriptive German nouns like those under discussion are translations from other languages. Some are and some aren’t. Calque is a technical linguistic term, so there’s no reason for you to have heard of it.

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  1. The only thing I’d note is that speaking of “Africa” as a whole can be misleading. When I lived and worked in West Africa, I never saw any of these animals; they belong to the eastern side of the continent. On the other hand, Liberia is the home of the Pygmy hippopotamus, which I was lucky enough to see in the wild just once. The Wiki article mentions something you’ve highlighted, too: that zoos can help with the preservation of species that are declining in the wild. The Pygmys apparently breed well in captivity, which is all to the good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a good point, Linda. Africa is a vast continent with many different geographical regions and habitats.
      How exciting for you to have seen a pygmy hippo in the wild. I don’t remember ever hearing about that species before.

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  2. I’m guessing your winters must be very, very cold! This must seem very alien to many of the African animals, whose natural habitat in much warmer. How do they cope? Are they allowed out at all, or do they stay indoors in heated accommodation during the coldest months?

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    • That’s a great question, Mr. P, but our winters tend to be mild to moderately cold only, and even when we receive snow, it usually melts within a few days. I’m not exactly sure how the zoo handles this, but I suspect that many of the animals acclimate and are able to spend at least a few hours outside. I suspect they are given the choice whether or not go outside.

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  3. River horse is a lovely name for a Hippopotamus – although they are a bit less elegant than earth horses… Giraffe’s are such beautiful, almost alien, creatures. Many years ago I had an internship with Chester Zoo as part of my diploma. I still have the magazine I helped to create back in 1982 featuring an endangered fruit bat that they had saved from extinction in the Dominican Republic.

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    • I also find the hippo name very apropos, Kerry, and agree with your characterizations of giraffes. They always awe me and I particularly like to watch them run across the savanna (something I have only seen in nature programs).
      Good for you for having worked at a zoo and being part of a happy back-from-the-brink experience. We need more of those!

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  4. I’m glad you got to see those amazing animals, Tanja. Also, it seems like they do have more room to roam on more thoughtfully designed surroundings, which makes me happy. In our nearby Worcester Ecotarium the cages and animal areas were so small, I was actually sad seeing the animals.
    I think that the way you feel about Africa is how I feel about Australia. Ooh, kangaroos and koalas and the Great Barrier Reef and the Sydney Opera House….World tour, anyone?

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  5. I agree with you about the allure of wildlife in the African continent. My one time safari experience in South Africa changed the ways in which I viewed nature and my own connections with it. I always wonder whether it is strange for these animals to be housed somewhere so different to their native landscape…but I suppose if they are bred in captivity, they wouldn’t know any different.

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    • Good for you for having had the opportunity to experience wildlife in South Africa. It’s a long-held dream, but given the reality of climate change and our other discussion in response to your recent blog post, it’s unlikely to happen. I am grateful that I can see some of the world’s animals in zoos.

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