Hello Friends and Family,

Mexico and California, 1972, Part 5

Link to this year's index by clicking here.

Our next touristy adventure was going to San Diego to see the zoo. Most Americans have heard of the San Diego Zoo because it was a pioneer in the concept of open-air, cage-less exhibits that re-create natural animal habitats — i.e., no bars spoil the view (or photo) of the animals. Here we see what I think is a rhea — a large flightless bird native to South America and distantly related to the ostrich and emu.

These animals are easy to identify — even a young child knows the giraffe.

And here we see a small herd of Bison, AKA Buffalo. Most folks know that they lived in huge herds in the plains of North America but were hunted almost to extinction by white hunters. According to Wikipedia, "Spanning back many millennia, Native American tribes have had cultural and spiritual connections to the American bison. It is the national mammal of the United States of America."

A nearby enclosure contained a pair of hippopotamuses (or if you don't have a dictionary handy, "hippos") munching on a salad. In the wild, these animals are semi-aquatic, spending much of their time in the water to remain cool. They also mate and give birth in water. They do come out of their favorite water spots at dusk to graze on grasses. Per Wikipedia, "The hippo is among the most dangerous animals in the world due to its highly aggressive and unpredictable nature."


In addition to the zoo, the Zoological Society of San Diego has built and maintains a separate Wild Animal Park (which was renamed to San Diego Zoo Safari Park in 2010) which differs from the zoo in that the enclosures are huge so that the animals are very much in an environment similar to their native lands.

One of my favorite exhibits here was the aviary — a screened-in structure with what seemed like hundreds of birds of many species. The birds have become acclimated to humans but that does not mean they are tame — get too close and they fly away.

Interesting sign — I did not have to be warned — it seems obvious to me that one would yield to a 13,000-pound elephant.

We climbed aboard the tram to explore to the expansive African exhibits and I spotted something that seemed a bit odd to me — the animals are in a huge natural enclosure but this elephant was chained to a stake. It did not seem in distress so I could only guess that perhaps it was an animal recently added to the elephant area and was chained until it was able to feel more at home and ready to meet its new elephant friends.

And here is the elephant enclosure. Note that they have a pond for drinking water and cooling off, also a huge shade area — this area can become quite warm and both would be welcome. It is interesting to note the barriers to keep the elephants from wandering into a different enclosure — they don't look formidable but I guess they work as intended plus they do serve a second purpose of moving water around the park.

This area is shared by a small herd of giraffes and some type of antelope. As one might expect, the feed basket is at a height convenient for such a tall animal.

Here we saw a momma and baby white rhinoceros. These animals are classified as Near Threatened. This allowed the guide to mention another purpose of the Wild Animal Park — providing a habitat in which endangered species feel so comfortable that they will mate and produce offspring.

Last for today is a petting area for kids to be able to get close to some of the tamer wild animals. This young zebra seems to have found a girlfriend of a different specie.

By the way, I thoroughly enjoyed the Wild Animal Park (now the San Diego Zoo Safari Park) and, if you only have time for one zoo, I would recommend this park over the more famous San Diego Zoo — although both are wonderful.

Life is good.

B. David

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