Hello Friends and Family,

Link to this year's index by clicking here.

Phoenix Zoo, Part 2

As you wander about the zoo, you cannot miss the elephants — this is an Asian elephant. There are three — all female — but on this day, only one was out in the sun when I was there. The zoo has begun a campaign to raise money for enlarging the elephant enclosure — to twice its current size. Good idea, the area is probably sufficient for one elephant but three would find it a bit crowded.

One of the challenges for modern zoos is giving the animals stimulation — in earlier times, they often became quite bored with their sterile surroundings — sometimes leading to destructive behavior. The same elephant seen in the first photo was presented with a cardboard box containing food — in this case, hay. She smelled the box, obviously recognizing the smell then playing with the box until the contents were revealed. Now time to consume that treat.

More lovely zoo landscaping in the form of a pink orchid tree with a bounty of gorgeous flowers. The shape of the flowers really do remind one of an orchid flower.

This small island is home to a pair of Siamang gibbons, an ape from Sumatra. Their long, dense, shaggy hair is the darkest of all gibbons. They eat mostly plants and fruit and prefer their fruit ripe. They are an endangered species due to habitat loss in Sumatra as a result of clearing of land to be used for palm oil plantations. They seemed to be engaged in quiet conversation — not paying the least bit of attention to the humans on the other side of the moat.

We have now entered what is considered the children's part of the zoo. Next up is an emu, a relative of the ostrich. It is the largest bird in its home of Australia and, fortunately is not endangered. These remarkable birds cannot fly but can cover great distances by running with speeds up to 31 mph (50 km/h).

Their breeding habits are a bit unusual in that the females fight among themselves for the best males. Also, the males tend the eggs and the young. The females then run off and mate again with a different male.

Here we see a black swan. Interesting how its feathers are tipped in white.

A windmill introduces us to the farm — back when most people lived on farms or, at least had a big garden. The windmill, of course, was used to pump water out of a well to irrigate the crops and livestock that folks grew themselves. Most of the young visitors to this part of the zoo do not know that folks in those days did not have electricity delivered by wires to their homes. Windmills, kerosene, candles, human power and animal power provided the energy input for planting, raising and harvesting the crops.

A small garden that might have been typical of that time, say 100 years ago, is planted in this area of the zoo. Here is a huge head of purple cabbage.

This is a Nasturtium, a plant that provides multiple benefits. For one, it tends to keep bugs away from the garden. Years ago, when I lived in Minnesota and had a large garden, we planted Nasturtiums for that very reason.

All parts of the plant are edible. The flowers are often used in salads — making for an especially ornamental salad ingredient; it has a slightly peppery taste reminiscent of watercress, and is also used in stir fry.

Even city dwellers who only have a tiny garden will recognize these flowers — that of the tomato plant.

Again remembering back to my Minnesota days, I grew baby tomatoes in the winter in an indoor planter with lights on a timer. Because there were no natural pollinators inside (thankfully), I had to pollinate the flowers using a cotton swab to move the pollen from the stamen to the pistil. It worked.

And what gardener doesn't love the sight of tomatoes ripening on the vine. The taste of a garden-raised ripe tomato has no peer — sorry Safeway.

This photo shows a nice stand of pansies. They are primarily used for ornamentation and come in a variety of colors.

To be continued...

Life is good.

B. David

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