Cat in a bag!

We spent most of today at Auckland Zoo, on a photography meetup – that is, a group of photographers gather in one place to take photos, discuss photography, etc. etc. I just went along because it’s the zoo, so I can spend the time wandering around looking at cute animals :)

We really did see a cat in a bag – one of the tigers had decided to sleep inside a large bag in its enclosure! (Photos to follow in Giles’s blog post.) Other highlights included:

  1. The kiwis! The zoo has a night house (which is kept well-lit during our night, but dark during our day – so the kiwis are basically about 12 hours out-of-sync – kind of creepy when you think about it!) Giles had never seen them before, and luckily I think he was suitably won over once I persuaded him. It’s the way they walk – they waddle, because they have such short and stubby legs, and their bottoms stick in the air, and they’re continually bobbing their heads up and down to dip their beaks into the ground. We even saw the two kiwis tapping their beaks against each other when they were both trying to get at the same food!
  2. The spider monkeys – there were about 10 of them, and they never stopped moving, sometimes tugging at each other, or just jumping around. They slid down one of the ropes like it was a zip-wire/flying fox! They also had five feet – well, since they use their tail to cling onto things it effectively acts as a fifth foot. There was a heart-stopping moment when one of them misjudged its leap into lower branches, failed to catch anything on its way down, and crashed to the ground!
  3. The little blue (fairy) penguins – I’ve seen these a few times before, including seeing hundreds of them coming in from the sea in Melbourne, but they’re still amazing. And so different to the stereotypical image of a penguin. And so small! They are truly tiny creatures :)

We also saw kaka (endangered New Zealand parrots), rainbow lorikeets (so named because their feathers are coloured in most of the colours of the rainbow), cockatoos, macaws, bleeding heart doves (they have a dark red patch on their chest that looks like they’ve been shot), eels, baboons, orang utans, lions, tigers, cheetahs, a serval cat (a bit like a lynx, with pointy ears), giraffes, zebras, rhinos, flamingos, meerkats, red pandas, tortoises, and an elephant called Burma.

Oh, and chickens. Lots and lots of chickens. And a few cockerels. For some unfathomable reason, there were many of them running around in the bushes between the enclosures – and making a lot of noise! One chicken was wandering around the elephant enclosure with three tiny chicks, getting perilously close to the elephant’s feet…

When we saw the cheetahs constantly circling within their small enclosure, we were a bit concerned that there wasn’t enough space for them, but one of the other photographers said that the staff take them out and walk them round the zoo in the mornings, before it opens, and you can get tickets to come in early to walk with them. So they do get enough exercise!

Finally, on a conservation note: one of the zoo’s major projects is to try and save species such as Sumatran tigers, and orang utans, whose habitats are massively threatened by logging in order to produce more palm oil. Since palm oil (the most common source of sodium lauryl sulfate) is in huge numbers of household products, esp. cleaning products, there is a vast industry dedicated to producing it, but this encourages farmers in Indonesia to destroy the native forests so they can grow more palm trees. As a result, orang utans and Sumatran tigers are now virtually extinct in the wild, and many other species that live in those forests are threatened as well.

Obviously since palm oil is used in so many products it is difficult to avoid buying it, but if you do want to help save the Indonesian rainforests, here are some sites with more information on the issue:

Palm Oil Facts, from Auckland Zoo
More information about avoiding Palm Oil
List of products usually made from palm oil

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