Tuesday, April 01, 2008

It's Not Just Any Zoo

It's the National Zoo.

So here are a few pictures from last week's trip to the National Zoo.

We all love going to the zoo and I thought it would be a good spring break diversion. It is a reasonable driving distance, the zoo itself is free (parking is another story) and the weather promised to be fairly good (especially compared to the truly awful heat and humidity DC experiences in the summer).

Originally I planned for us to leave by 9, quarter to 10 was closer to the truth. The Zoo's website recommends that you arrive before 10, but that's just crazy talk for this crowd. I was a little concerned about parking, but driving was really our best option. Paying for public transportation and parking would be prohibitively expensive for the five of us. I figured that even with the cost of gas it was better for us to risk the parking. Plus then we could have a picnic and be able to stash our stuff in the car when we were done.

We got up there at about 12:30 and the parking lots were full. We did a slow tour of the lots and were waved on by the parking attendants. I briefly contemplated parking on one of the residential streets nearby, but I was leery of the 2 hour time limit. I would have been happier with a three hour limit, that struck me as about the right amount of time. So I turned the van back towards the zoo's lots and tried to remain hopeful. After one slow lap I saw a lot open up for the car ahead of us. I was allowed in and at that point the lot was closed off again. Talk about lucky! We had to wait for the family of 10 (!) load up their van, but I was fine with that. We were going to have a legitimate parking space.

Then it was off to the zoo.

We entered the grounds by the maned wolf. One of them was out and checking out the antelopes housed next door. The wolves are visually striking and possibly one of the stinkiest animals (short of a skunk) that I have ever smelt. You do not want to eat your lunch by them. We did, however, enjoy watching it before the wolf retreated to it's little den.

mop tops
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Then it was time to move on to what we really wanted to see, Pandas.

Two of the of the pandas were outside in their yards. The third (and I have no idea which one it was) was lolling about on some rocks indoors. I got one rather grainy shot of the panda scratching it's belly, but I like this one more of my boys.

As you can see they have decided to grow their hair out. Both of them have mop tops with Nate looking positively Beatlesque.

Anyhoo, after the pandas we ended up going to the birds.

in the pink
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
The indoor exhibits were very nicely done, I liked the large indoor aviary, but the outdoor exhibits wee better. We were all fascinated by the Double-wattled Cassowary. The combination of the horny protuberance on it's head and the vivid coloration of it's neck and wattles gave it a rather Jurassic appearance. But, they were not my favorite bird. That honor went to the flamingos. I love their brillant pink plumage. We have them at our local zoo, but they never get as close to the fence as this flock. From the birds we strolled back through panda world and eventually ended up in the Small Mammal House.

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
We got to see tree shrews (very cute), tamarins (also very cute), meerkats (cute) and naked mole-rats (freakishly ugly).

You know how sometimes something is so ugly it's cute? Naked mole-rats are not like that. Their little tunnel exhibit looked like some sort of post apocalyptic hamster habitat gone horribly wrong. Excessive nuclear radiation gone wrong. They are nothing like Rufus from Kim Possible. So I won't show you them, instead you'll have to settle for a picture of Rebecca (extremely cute) under a palm frond. (Note: the line across her face is a stray hair that was not nearly as noticeable in the dimly lit building).

After the small mammals we by passed the great Apes because nobody was interested. However we did like the Orangutan highway above our heads. From April to October at certain times the Orangs are free to move from on part of the zoo to another via overhead cables. The Orangs weren't out yet, but it was still fun to imagine them swinging overhead. We also gave a pass on the reptile House (too crowded, there was a line just to get inside.)

dino love
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
However we did see the Komodo Dragon, which was on Jake's must see list. It was terribly active, but we did find it. At this point everybody was getting anxious and ready to go. We paid a quick visit to the big cats, had a quick potty break and headed over to the all important gift shop.

On the way we passed a life sized sculpture of a triceratops. This is Max's all time favorite dinosaur. I asked him if he wanted a picture and he zoomed on over. His smile is a bit odd because he is showing off the little gap in his smile. He had just lost that tooth just a few days ago.

Rebecca than dragged us on to go shopping. She had been dying to buy something from the get go. Quite honestly she would have been happy with just going to a gift shop and blowing her allowance. But instead her mean mommy dragged her through out the zoo before letting her shop. The first shop was a bust (she only had $7 and it really wasn't enough to get what she wanted), but the next one we stopped at was the clearance tent and she got a cute little camel. Max got a triceratops, Jake got a panda and Nate got bupkis. He didn't bring his money and confided to me it was probably best that he left his money at home. That way he would save it for something good. Such a smart boy. We then headed back to the van and home.

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