This month’s Zooworks winners have created some amazing poems about their favorite city animals! Do you have a favorite?
Sometimes it’s hard to see how we can have an impact on the lives of wild animals half a world away. Even if we want to help endangered species, it can be difficult to see the connections between their lives and ours. Take orangutans. These Zootles Great Apes live on the island of Borneo in the Pacific Ocean, and they’re endangered. But even though they’re far away, the threats that they face are close to home—in fact, you can probably find one of those threats in your home: peanut butter.
How can peanut butter endanger orangutans? Are they allergic? No—the Bornean forests where they live are being destroyed so people can plant palm trees, which are used to create palm oil. Palm oil is used in many products that we use every day, including peanut butter. Avoiding products that contain palm oil is one (tiny) way to help orangutans (don’t worry, you don’t have to give up your PB&Js—just look for a brand that doesn’t use palm oil). For other ideas about how to help the animals that we all love, keep reading Zoobooks!
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons contributor Dave59
A trip to the Austin Zoo wouldn’t be complete without a chance to pet a Texas Longhorn! The Austin Zoo’s domestic animal exhibit gives you a chance to see animals that don’t live far from home but that you don’t often get a chance to see up close, including Longhorn bulls. For instance, while llamas’ wild cousins, camels and alpacas, live all over the world, there are llama farms right here in the U.S. You can not only see a llama at the Austin Zoo, but also pet and (for $2.50) feed one. These kinds of close encounters with animals are both fun and educational. And even if you can’t make it out to Austin, see if a zoo near you has a petting zoo for your family to engage with!
Photo credit: Austin Zoo
In City Animals, you can learn all about the different animals that we share our urban environments with. It’s interesting to think about the profound impact that humans have had upon the planet—no other species has made as many changes to the earth or affected as many other species as we have. Many animal species’ habitats and habits have changed based upon their interactions with people. For instance, squirrels used to live only in forests, but when people began farming, squirrels moved closer to them to snag some corn and grains. Now, squirrels are common in just about every city in the country.
Can you think of any other animals that are different because of their relationships with humans?
Photo by Flickr user Henry Hemming
It’s not every day that you get to see your close relatives in Zootles! Our latest issue, Great Apes, is all about the group that contains gorillas, chimps, and orangutans. Great apes are primates, just like monkeys, but they don’t have tails, and they don’t exclusively live in trees.
Great apes are extremely intelligent animals. Koko the gorilla (Remember her? At 43, she’s old for a gorilla, but she’s hanging in there!) gained fame for learning an adapted form of sign language; it’s reported that she can sign 1,000 words and understands 2,000 words of spoken English. Chimpanzees make tools out of sticks to fish termites out of their nests (yum!). And the smallest great apes, bonobos, can recognize themselves in a mirror, something few animals (including some other apes) are able to do. Makes you feel proud to be related to apes, doesn’t it?
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons contributor Mike R.
Normally when you go to a zoo, you make a beeline for the animals that you can’t see every day, like lions and bears. But many zoos also feature exhibits of animals that live more locally. These animals are often rescues that can’t live in the wild. For instance, at the Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary, you can see Crash, a raccoon who got his name after he was rescued after being hit by a car. When animals are injured, even if they’re nursed back to health, they don’t always have the ability to make it on their own—a damaged wing might make it impossible for a hawk to hunt for prey, or blindness might make a skunk more vulnerable to predators. Zoos, nature centers, and wildlife sanctuaries can provide these animals with a new lease on life. And they’re exciting for you to visit, too—even though foxes, possums, raccoons, and squirrels might live near you, you can get a much closer look at them at the zoo!
Photo by the Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary.
We normally think that if you want to see some animals, you have to go out to the forest or countryside. However, there are lots of animals that thrive in our neighborhoods and cities, too! For thousands of years, animals have adapted to living near humans and taking advantage of our buildings for shelter and our garbage for food. But the raccoons, possums, squirrels, and rabbits that live in most American cities aren’t the only animals that can be found near people. Peregrine falcons make their nests on the tops of skyscrapers (in less urban areas, they live up on rocky cliffs). In Miami, you can sometimes spot alligators near the roadside, and in Churchill, Manitoba, you can see migrating polar bears.
For animals that have adapted to living near humans—like the raccoons and possums that you see going through your trash—the spread of our cities is nothing to worry about. The more humans there are, the more garbage there is to eat! For animals that live on the edges of cities, like bobcats and bears, humans spreading into their space can spell trouble. You can learn more about how we can better share our planet with our animal friends in Zoobooks and at your local zoo or nature center!
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons contributor Carsten Volkwein.
You know dolphins. They’re gray, and the live in the ocean. Right? Not always! If you’ve read the latest issue of Zootles, you’ve probably learned quite a few fun new facts about dolphins. And one of the greatest things about reading is that once you get curious about a subject, you can’t help but want to learn more. For example, did you know that freshwater Amazon river dolphins are pink? It’s true!
And once you’re done reading (or rereading) Zootles, there are plenty of other places you can look for more information about dolphins. Take a trip to your local library (if it’s nice out, you can even walk there!) and check out some books on your favorite animals—the librarians there can help you find both stories and nonfiction books about them. Your favorite zoo or aquarium can be a great resource too. Even if you’re not able to make it out there in person, most zoos have websites with photos and fun facts about their animals—some even have videos, games, and crafts for you to try!
Photo credit: Flickr user rruiz3960
Whether you’re dyeing eggs this weekend or not, you’ll love the fun facts about ostriches and their eggs on the San Diego Zoo’s website! Ostriches have the largest eggs in the world—the liquid inside one of them is equal to about 24 chicken eggs. And while it shouldn’t be surprising that these huge eggs hatch into huge birds, but we’re still amazed every time we remember that ostriches can be up to 9 feet tall! Their long legs enable them to run up to 43 miles per hour, and they even use their legs as defense. When threatened, they can kick predators with their strong legs and clawed feet—a swift kick from an ostrich can kill a lion!
Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Our most recent issue of Zoobooks, Ostriches and Other Ratites, covers the biggest birds in the world—and some little ones, too. Kiwis are about the size of chickens, but what these birds lack in size, they make up for in quirkiness.
These shy birds from New Zealand have thick, soft feathers that look almost like fur—in fact, fuzzy brown kiwi fruits got their names because they look like these birds! Kiwis are the only birds in the world with nostrils right at the end of their bills. This helps them sniff out the insects and grubs that they eat. They’re one of the only birds in the world with a good sense of smell. Of all the birds, kiwis lay the largest eggs compared to their size. A five-pound kiwi can lay a one-pound egg—that would be like a human woman giving birth to a baby that weighed about thirty pounds!
Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Dolphins are both very similar to humans and very different. We have long regarded dolphins as some of the most intelligent animals, and they’re highly social. They live in family groups, like humans do, and they even communicate with each other through a series of clicks and squeals that make up their own “language.” Some scientists even specialize in trying to learn what dolphins are “saying” to each other.
Even though we have a lot in common with dolphins, there are some big differences. For instance, while dolphins are mammals like us, their aquatic lifestyle means that they do a lot of things differently, including breathing and sleeping. When they sleep, dolphins float on one side and keep one eye open. And to breathe, dolphins take in air through their blowholes when they surface, and then seal up their blowholes when they’re swimming—like how we hold our noses when we go underwater! What other similarities and differences can you and your family find between humans and dolphins?
Photo source: Wikimedia Commons
What’s your favorite way to get around? Car? Bike? …Ostrich? It’s true– two thousand years ago, the Egyptian queen Arsinoe rode an ostrich with a special saddle. And while you probably wouldn’t try to get to the grocery store by ostrich, people still ride ostriches for fun in races today.
Ostriches have been important to humans for thousands of years. These easily domesticated birds have been used as everything from cart-pullers to sheep herders to food sources– a single ostrich egg weighs almost four pounds and can feed up to ten people. However, ostriches nearly went extinct due to humans killing them for their feathers. Ostriches are now thriving, though, so with further care, these enormous birds will be around for years to come!
Image source: Wikimedia Commons
This month, our Zooworks winners have drawn some fantastic camels! Each of these drawings shows a lot of talent and creativity—do you have a favorite?
Penguins always look dapper, with their tuxedo-patterned coats. Even though they might look like they have fur, penguins, like all other birds, have feathers. Their feathers are very thick and are coated with oil to help keep them warm and let them sleekly swim through icy water. Even the colors of their feathers help them to survive by making them harder for predators to see while they’re swimming. Their black back feathers help them blend in with the deep, dark water when viewed from above, and their white tummies blend in with the bright sunlight that streams through the ocean, making them harder to see from below. Can you think of any other animals whose fur or feathers are specially adapted to live in certain climates?
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons