When you visit the zoo in the winter, some of the animals might look out of place in the cold weather, or might need to move indoors when it’s chilly out. For snow leopards, though, it’s the perfect time of year!
Snow leopards are found in the wild in the mountains of central and southern Asia. They’re slightly smaller than the other big cats—small females are only around 55 pounds, about the size of a collie dog. They do have big paws, though– fluffy pawpads keep their feet warm and help them walk on snow!
Photo by Eric Kilby
Lots of zoo animals have to get used to a different climate than the one they’d live in in the wild. But Siberian tigers, which come from the cold, mountainous regions of Russia and China, are no strangers to snow. They fit right in at the Minnesota Zoo, where the keepers find ways to entertain the tigers and keep them physically and mentally fit. In the winter, the keepers build snowmen for the tigers to play with—they sometimes drizzle the snowmen with blood to attract the tigers’ attention.
You can learn all about a day in the life of a Minnesota Zoo zookeeper here on their website!
Kentrosaurus is one of the most eye-catching members of the Stegosaur family. Instead of just having a few spikes at the tip of its tail like Stegosaurus, Kentrosaurus had long spikes along much of its body, as well as two long spikes on its shoulders. These spikes were probably used as defense, or maybe to attract mates.
Stegosaurus is found in the western US and Peru, but Kentrosaurus lived pretty far away—its fossils have been found in Tanzania, in Africa. The largest Stegosaurus fossils come from animals that were 29.5 feet long, while the biggest Kentrosauruses were more like 15 feet. But in spite of these differences, both animals had beaks for snagging plants to eat, small heads, and big, dangerous-looking tails!
Here are some of the Zooworks winners this month for Whales. It looks like our readers had a whale of a time making these drawings!
Blue whales get a lot of love– they’re not just the biggest whales, they’re the biggest animals ever discovered. But the second-biggest whales in the world, fin whales, are worth remembering. They’ve been described as the “greyhounds of the sea”– they’re long and sleek, reaching lengths of over 80 feet. But while they’re within ten feet in length of blue whales, finwhales are much skinnier– while blue whales weigh up to 200 short tons, fin whales are only 126 short tons. Their sleek shape means that they can move quickly through the water, hitting speeds of up to 29 miles per hour.
Fin whales are more social than most of their closest relatives, living in pods of six to ten individuals. And they don’t just live together– they communicate with each other through low-pitched sounds. For animals that look nothing like humans, they’re really not so different from us!
If after reading Zoobooks Whales your kids are all excited about ceteceans, be sure to visit the Georgia Aquarium’s website. The Aquarium is home to some of the most beloved whales in the world, belugas. These animals’ name is derived from the Russian word for “white,” and their pale skin helps them to camoflage in their arctic home. Belugas are also known as the canaries of the sea because they communicate in chirps and whistles.
You can watch the Georgia Aquarium’s beluga family from their live webcam!
With Halloween just around the corner, the colors black and orange are everywhere. But depending on where you live, you might have recently seen a whole lot of black and orange in nature—migrating Monarch butterflies. These amazing insects travel thousands of miles to escape cold weather and spend their winters in warmer climates in Mexico.
And monarchs aren’t the only butterflies with Halloween colors. Since the milkweed that Monarch catterpillars eat makes them poisonous, predators have learned to avoid them. Their bright orange coloring acts as a warning sign. Other butterfly species, like Viceroys, have evolved to mimic Monarchs’ coloring, which means that predators avoid them too, even though Viceroys aren’t poisonous. You can tell the species apart by the black line that cuts through the bottom portion of their wings—Viceroys, like the one in this picture, have it, but Monarchs don’t!
Photo by Benny Mazur
Our readers have giant talent! Check out their giraffe drawings.
Giraffes are strange animals—their scientific name, Cameleopardis, comes from the way they look a little like camels with leopard spots. But they’re not camels at all (or leopards for that matter). They don’t have many close relatives, but their nearest cousins are shy, forest-dwelling creatures with deer-like heads and zebra-like legs: okapis.
While at first glance, okapis and giraffes look very different, they have some key features in common. Both animals have skin-covered bony horns, called ossicones, lobed canine teeth, and long, purple tongues!
Reaching up to 18 feet, giraffes are the tallest animals on land, and they look pretty lanky and ungainly. But, as you can learn on the Oregon Zoo’s website, there’s more to them than meets the eye. While they normally move slowly as they nibble on leaves, they can gallop at speeds of up to 35 miles per hour. Plus, these usually gentle giants defend themselves when threatened—they’ve been known to kill lions with a kick from their hind legs.
Maintaining such big, strong bodies takes a lot of work. Giraffes eat up to 75 pounds of leaves every day, and their hearts pump 2-3 times harder than a human’s in order to get blood all the way up their necks to their heads. Giraffes don’t even get much of a break when they sleep—since lying down and getting back up again is tricky for such big, lanky animals, they sleep standing up!
For thousands of years, humans have been wondering if fearsome, long-necked, flesh-eating monsters lurked in deep, dark water. But while all the stories of Nessie, Champ the Lake Champlain Monster, and sea serpents have gone unproved, in the time of the dinosaurs, animals that looked like Nessie were very real. These creatures were called plesiosaurs.
Plesiosaurs weren’t dinosaurs. Instead, they were swimming reptiles. The smallest ones were around the size of a person, while the biggest ones were the size of a bus. Elasmosaurus was 40 feet long and had a long, skinny neck, while Kronosaurus had a short neck and big, crushing jaws it used to eat its prey– including other plesiosaurs!
If you loved the wild horses in the latest issue of Zoobooks, it’s worth seeing if a zoo near you has any to see in real life! If you live in Missouri, you’re in luck– the St. Louis Zoo, one of the nation’s best, has a number of Somali wild asses. These wild horses, which are found in Africa, are endangered due to the destruction of their habitat. However, zoo breeding programs like the one in St. Louis are helping to preserve the species. In recent years, several foals have been born at the zoo. Some of them even have Swahili names to reflect their African heritage!
You can also learn all about these animals on the zoo’s website. For instance, wild asses look a little like the burros that live in the Southwestern United States. That’s because the Spanish brought domesticated wild asses to North America centuries ago– today’s burros are their distant relatives!
Dozens of species go extinct every day. Our efforts to stop these extinctions can sometimes feel hopeless, but there are success stories that prove why we should keep trying. Take Przewalski’s wild horse (it’s pronounced “She-vall-skee’s”). These wild horses live in central Asia, and habitat loss and poaching led to them going extinct throughout much of their natural habitat. However, small numbers of these horses lived in zoos around the world. Scientists worked to establish a breeding program so that new, healthy horses could be born. Some of the horses born in zoos were then reintroduced into the wild. Today, Przewalski’s horses are still endangered, but they’re making a comeback, thanks to the hard work of scientists, zookeepers, and people who care about animals!
Image by Claudia Feh
Giraffes are some of the world’s most recognizable and beloved animals– with their long necks and flashy spots, it’d be hard to mistake them for anything else! However, their scientific name reflects the confusion their strange appearance caused.
All plants and animals known to science have an official scientific name, in Latin– we’re Homo sapiens, dogs are Canis familiaris, cats are Felis catus. These names help scientists keep track of different living things and tell how they’re related to each other. However, these names sometimes show how science has progressed– the old scientific names reveal mistakes made by scientists. Giraffes are a good example of this. The ancient Greeks and Romans, when they first saw giraffes, thought they might be a combination of camels and leopards. So, they gave them the name cameleopardalis. Even though giraffes aren’t closely related to leopards at all, and only distantly related to camels, the name stuck and is still there in giraffes’ official scientific name: Giraffa camelopardalis.
Photo by Sarah Ferguson