Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Our Classroom Today--November 10

After visiting several area nature centers, today's outing took us to another zoo!
Our classroom

The Minnesota Zoo is great. We have been members since Kiddo was a toddler. One of the major benefits of being a member is that we never feel bad about only visiting for a couple of hours at a time. We try to go early and leave just before the kids get too worn out for it to be any fun anymore. We can go back any time we want to. Since we went with our Tuesday group, however, we stayed much, MUCH longer than normal. We got there at 10 and we weren't headed toward the door until 3:30 or later. I have never before heard the announcement that the zoo is closing, but we did this time!

One of the best parts about the Tuesday group is that there is never a rush to make sure we are getting enough in. Even though we were there for over 5 hours, we didn't see everything. The kids soaked it in. They ran as a pack and looked at the animals. They ask awesome questions. They remember a ton. And they share what they know with each other. So much fun.

One of the newest things at our zoo is the Grizzly Coast exhibit. It is so well designed! They have 3 grizzly bears, all of which were found alone as cubs and would not have survived in the wild. The great thing is that their exhibit allows them to come right up to the people. The kids were touching the bears paws--with a large piece of glass between them, of course. It just gives you a much better sense of just how big they are when you can get that close to them.

On this trip, in particular, we were blessed with a plethora of awesome volunteers. They answered our questions so nicely! When they didn't know what the huge horn on the hornbill was for, they went and found out, then came back into the trail and found us to tell us! (It is just for display. The one pictured is a male, hence the huge horn). They also pointed out the Victoria Crested Pigeons on their nest. We were amazed to see the baby already had the crest. We probably would have missed it if the volunteer hadn't pointed it out. We also learned how they transport our giraffes (they are only here in the summer because we don't have good winter housing for them. They have to be moved twice a year in a 19 foot tall horse-like trailer with hydraulic sides that can be lowered temporarily if they have a low passage they can't go around. Who knew?!), that the sea otters are the most expensive animals to feed (because they eat restaurant grade seafood), and that the bears are not actually fed raw meat, but are instead fed fruits and vegetables along with a hefty serving of dog food. We learned there are 3 amur leopards at the zoo, 2 females and one male. The females are sisters. At least one of the leopards is on loan from somewhere in Europe for an unknown period of time. Oh, and of the 3 bears, only one knows how to fish, but he only gets to eat about a third of what he catches because one of the other bears takes away the fish if he can. All of this we learned from the volunteers (the bear stuff was a staff person, I think). What a wealth of knowledge, and kindness. Thanks zoo volunteers!

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