Hello Friends and Family,

Link to this year's index by clicking here.

Wildlife World Zoo, Part 6

In addition to the pens and cages outside, the zoo also has several buildings with exhibits. Unfortunately, the low light level makes photography difficult. Even if I had my tripod, the animals did not want to sit still long enough for a long exposure. Thus I decided to experiment with the camera in my iPhone4. Surprisingly, that little camera did well in a pinch — certainly not award-winning photography but good enough to share the experience.

Both this photo and the one above are monkeys (of course), but I forgot to write down the types. They were fun to watch because they were so active — chasing their companions in their respective enclosures.

This is a poison dart frog. Native to Central and South America, they derive their name from the Native American's practice of using their toxic secretions to poison the tips of blow darts — which, in turn, were used to bring down prey for human consumption. Their bright coloration is thought to be a warning to predators of their toxicity with the hope that they will be left alone.

These frogs are endangered due to loss of habitat, predation by introduced species but especially by a fungus that has attacked many amphibian species.

And everyone's favorite — penguins, specifically Humboldt Penguins. This species is native to coastal Peru and Chile. They are named after the cold water current in which they swim and feed — a current named after an explorer named Alexander von Humboldt.

They are considered threatened because of habitat destruction, over-fishing and ocean acidification. Curiously, they were historically a victim of guano over-exploitation (used for fertilizer) — which impacted the penguin population because they nest in holes in the guano.

And since you have a zoo with lions, I guess you have to have lionfish in the aquarium. Although, with those stripes I think one could also have named it a tigerfish or even a zebrafish. Lionfish have fan-shared pectoral fins and a spiky first dorsal fin which remind one of a lion's mane — or so they say. The dorsal fin spines do contain a venom as a defense against predators and which can also inflict a painful but non-fatal injury to humans.

They are not listed as endangered or threatened.

Here we encounter a Nautilus, one of the oldest creatures in the world — little changed in the last 500,000,000 years. Their spiral shells are one of the most recognized seashells around. This tank had very low light so I had to coax out the image of the animal in Photoshop — so the coloration may not be exactly true to life, particularly the shell. The low light level in the tank simulates the animal's natural environment since they are night feeders.

The Nautilus operates like a submarine, draws in and expels water from a chamber of its shell to maintain buoyancy. Interestingly, both the submarine in Jules Verne's classic Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and the first U.S atomic submarine were both named "Nautilus".

They use their many tentacles to grasp their prey — and hold on so tenaciously that if you are successful in pulling away their prize, they may lose several tentacles in the struggle.

Their conservation status is currently safe however some marine biologists are concerned because of the animal's slow rate of reproduction.

Peeking out of its cave is a Moray Eel. With a gaping mouth and large teeth, they look menacing if you ever encounter one while snorkeling or scuba diving. However, they are actually fairly timid around humans and would rather flee than fight — attacking only in self-defense or mistaken identity. This is another tank that was dimly lit (although not as dark as the Nautilus tank) so the colors are a little off.

Morays are widespread and not threatened or endangered.

So cute, a seahorse seen in shadow, also slightly out of focus but cute nonetheless. They are quite different than most fish — lacking scales, swimming upright and possessing a dorsal fin which is used for propulsion albeit poorly. They usually are found resting upright attached to vegetation which also provides camouflage.

Seahorses are also unusual in that the male receives the eggs from the female, storing them in his egg pouch as they mature. The male may hold as few as 5 eggs (smaller species) to as many as 1,500 (larger species) although 100-200 is typical for most species. When the fry are ready to hatch, the male expels them with muscular contractions. The parents provide no further care.

Certain species of seahorse are listed as vulnerable.

I believe these are a variety of pipefish which, as you can see may swim vertically unlike most fish. They seem just to hover in the currents and undulate with the ebb and flow of the water, camouflaged by the seaweed that moves to the same rhythm.

As far as I could determine, they are not endangered.

As I was about to leave the building that also houses the restaurant, I spotted this rare white (albino) alligator. Truthfully, it looked like it was made of concrete or plastic — not real at all. However, I assumed that it was real and I certainly was not going to jump into the display area to prove the point.

This concludes the tour of the Wildlife World Zoo — I hope you have enjoyed it. I highly recommend a visit if you live in or visit the Phoenix area — quite remarkable.

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com