at the zoo

The grandkids always love a trip to the Minnesota Zoo, with its warm and humid tropics trail a key attraction on a cold winter or spring day.  Getting there early meant we had the place almost to ourselves, and as a result, saw some things we normally would not have seen.

aquarium-MN zoo-

A brilliant array of tropical fish swarmed in front of the kids, but the highlight was watching the sharks and rays get fed.

minnesota zoo animals-

Animals are far more active earlier in the morning, but the group of monkeys in this cage looked incredibly bored. DeBrazza’s Monkey (on the left in back) was looking around with heavy lidded eyes; the Black and White Colobus Monkey on the right stood in this pose for minutes, while others moved around it.

spotted whistling duck-MN Zoo-

A Spotted Whistling Duck took off from its lagoon and stopped for a visit with us on the observation area railing.

beaver family-MN Zoo-

The beaver family swam out of their underwater lodge entrance and made a guest appearance on their fake dam. Dark beaver pelts in bright sunlight and deep shade — could the photography get any more challenging?

cockroach-MN Zoo-

The grandkids screamed when they thought one of the Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches had escaped its cage — but it was just an ordinary cockroach on the wire of the Hornbill cage.

Apparently the zoo environment is so attractive, House Sparrows, mice, and cockroaches have invaded to find better homes in the winter.  The House Sparrows enjoy the food put out for the captive birds in the aviary, and nest in places the zoo staff can’t reach, so they are difficult to eradicate.

black bear - MN Zoo-

Some animals were a lot more active than usual on this visit. The tree-climbing black bear surprised us because it climbed so high and was such a big bear. It moved around like it was trying to figure out how to get down — we didn’t stick around to see it though.

I am not a great fan of captivity for wild animals, but of course, some of the zoo’s inhabitants have debilitating injuries or are simply unfit to be returned to the wild, so zoos are a good alternative existence for them.  Because there were so few other visitors around, zoo staff had time to talk with us about some of the success stories of captive breeding, rehabilitation, and even stress management programs that help promote healthier, long-lived zoo inhabitants.  The “ah/awe” factor can’t be discounted either — kids and adults alike were wowed by gigantic sharks and rays politely, but dramatically, taking their meals of herring.