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.