I’m told this zoo is only one of two zoos in the States (the other being San Diego) with Koalas! And, in the feline department, the zoo can boast two white Bengal tigers. Most of the animals are in a "natural" environment and there is quite a bit of renovation going at the moment: a new home for the Mexican Gray Wolves is under construction, as is a large area called Adventure Africa.
We arrived early to beat the summer heat and the crowds, something I heartily recommend. Being without a map (see introduction), we wandered a bit before the 10:30 feeding at the Seal Pond. Past the flamingos, standing so still in their shaded pool, looking like their plastic lawn counterparts, we found our way from the hot dry southwest to the steamy heat of Tropical America, an enclosed rain forest exhibit amid a Mayan ruin. The jungle creatures here were all small, from the spider monkeys to the tiny tree boa curled up on a branch inside a hollow tree trunk complete with viewing window, though the little tamarin monkeys from Colombia seemed to be the favorite with the kids.
Feed the seals was not so much a show, as the keepers feeding the seals while a Zoo Guide gives a short talk about seals and sea lions, their habitat, habits, and personalities. Nevertheless, just being themselves, the seals put on quite a show, edging each other out for a bit of lunch or catching fish in mid-air.
Off to the Cat Walk, which we timed just right, since the keepers were setting out food and piñatas for the cats (yes those little papier mâché figures you bash with a stick at parties and toys fall all over the place), though the tiger version had bits of meat inside and was sprayed with a "perfume" to entice them to play. The two white tigers, who are still under a year old, sniffed, batted, and poked at their round paper balls. Finally, the young male pounced, the ball broke, and bits of meat flew across the cage. Did he notice? No. Just like a little kid at Christmas, he was more interested in the wrapping.
On our way to lunch we stopped to see the bird show, primarily because I was told that was the only place in the zoo where I would see a Peregrine! All the birds here are those who for one reason or another cannot be released back into the wild. Some are quite humorous, like the vulture that makes his entrance in a low glide over the audience.
The finale is the Peregrine, who won’t be making any spectacular 200 mph dives since some idiot shot him in the wing! He and his trainer make a slow progress through the audience so everyone can see this magnificent creature up close. It’s a show I would highly recommend.