What do you do on a gloomy, cold, drizzly day when you need to get out of the house and you’re not sure you’ll be able to find any wildlife to photograph — why, go to the zoo and see what’s happening there.
Needing a challenge to photograph animals that are usually much closer than the ones I see outdoors, I decided to focus on faces and see if I could capture some characteristic animal expressions. This really was a challenge because the lighting inside the zoo was even darker than that outside, and the animals rarely sit still for portraits. Result — grainy images, but hopefully a few good portraits among them.
Asian small-clawed otters are the smallest of the otter species.
A small family group of otters was very active in the early morning just as the zoo opened, but being the only person around, they were somewhat interested in me (or my lens) because they kept looking back to check whether I had anything to offer them. Like many of the captive animals at the MN Zoo, this is an endangered species, threatened by habitat destruction and pollution in its native Asia Pacific island habitat.
The Malayan Tapir calf was born this July, after a 13 month gestation period! I was too close to the tapirs with my long telephoto lens, and it was a challenge to get both mom and offspring in the same shot.
Interestingly, Tapirs evolved originally in North America, along with their odd-toed (that is odd number of toes, not strange-looking toes) horse relatives. They spread to South America and Eurasia and southern Asia, where tapir species can still be found, but the Malayan Tapir is one of the most endangered animals in Southeast Asia due to loss of their forest habitat. According to Zoo literature, there are fewer Malayan tapirs than tigers in the wild.
Another resident of Southeast Asia — the White-cheeked Gibbon — is also threatened by logging, and by poaching young animals for the wildlife trade. Their name is appropriate to describe the all black male with his distinctive white cheeks; females are buff colored, although they too are dark-furred before they mature sexually.
Gibbons put on an amazing vocal display early in the morning, loud enough to make me want a pair of earplugs. This early morning duet by the mated pair is usually associated with a territorial claim on a feeding area. You can hear a good example of the contribution by male (high-pitched hooting) and female (reverberating yells) in the video below (female yells start at about 1:00 min in the video).
Leaving the Tropics Trail, I was among the first to walk through the Minnesota Trail, where the big carnivores were still actively chowing down on breakfast delicacies.
A coyote looked up at me, in between bites.
One of a pack of 5 Timber Wolves housed next door to the coyotes, Even though they had their own meat scraps to feast on, they were all fixated on staring at the coyotes next door. Probably not because they had better food, but because wolves don’t tolerate coyotes and will kill them if they can.
This “pack” of wolves was brought to the zoo about two years ago as 6 month old pups. They had been rescued from a forest fire in Alaska. Being the young, healthy animals they are, they put on quite a show of run and chase, dashing at full speed all around their large pen for several minutes.
Mama Lynx had four kittens with her the last time I visited the zoo. Today there were only two with her — the others may have been sent to other zoos.
Tomorrow — bird faces at the zoo.