Friday, 12 July 2013
Colchester Zoo - Happy 50th Birthday!
It's a yearly tradition that for mine and Zoe's birthday we take a trip to one of my favourite places - Colchester Zoo! This year, they were also celebrating their 50th birthday, and on Sunday June 2, I was lucky enough to be there on their official birthday.
I love visiting Colchester Zoo, mainly because all the animals are well looked after and it gives me the chance to get up close to some particularly interesting species.
One of the most fascinating animals, for me, is the Komodo dragon and it was great to see that on January 18, 2013, Colchester Zoo was lucky enough to have a new baby Komodo dragon join the adults.
The largest land lizard in the world, this huge reptile only lives on a few Indonesian islands: Komodo, Rintja, Padar and Flores. Although they can run up to speeds of 13mph, what makes this lizard so deadly is its stealth and power.
These amazing animals can spend hours waiting in one spot for that tasty meal to come along, and while it can see up to 300m away, its main primary food detector is its sense of smell. Using its long, forked tongue to sample the air like a snake, it can smell prey up to two and a half miles away if the wind is right.
That't not all. These cannabilistic dragons also produce a venom and these toxins send their prey into shock. This also prevents the wounded animal's blood from clotting and if the lizard's prey has managed to escape their jaws, this toxin will kill it within a week. Interestingly, their venom has no affect on fellow dragons.
Another great part of Colchester Zoo is that you're able to get up close to the animals. The Lost Madagascar Train takes visitors through their first lemur walkthrough enclosure, and as you can see from this photograph, I was just as interested in this ring-tailed lemur as he was in me!
In the wild, these beautiful primates are only found on the island of Madagascar, just off the coast of Africa. Unmistakable due to their long, striped, black and white tail, they use their hands and feet to move between the trees. However, they cannot grip with their tails as well as some other primates can.
They live in groups, which are known as troops, and these can include up to 30 at any one time. Both males and females live together, but unlike other animals, a dominant female presides over the troop. Sadly, the ring-tailed lemur is currently endangered because the dry forests that they love are vanishing.
Colchester Zoo is well known for its informative and entertaining talks and shows, and all are extremely popular, including the patagonian sealion show at Playa Patagonia.
Home to their five female sealions, Atlanta, Milan, Paris, Sydney and Winnipeg, unlike seals these sealions use both their fore and hind limbs on land and mainly their front flippers for swimming. Mainly feeding on fish, crustaceans and squid, they are widely distributed in the wild, but are prey for killer whales and sharks.
Sealions are also sexually dimorphic, which means that that the males and females have different physical appearances. The males are much larger, weighing between 300-350kg compared to the females who weigh 144kg.
Lastly, as a new member of the Cage & Aviary Bird Magazine team, my day at the zoo was not complete until I had seen one of the various bird displays! I was lucky to view the Serengeti Skies display and come across these white-backed vultures.
This old world vulture has a wingspan of an amazing 6.4-7.4ft (that's longer than me!), which enable them to soar and circle while looking for food. Found in sub-Saharan Africa, they live in groups and have no natural predators apart from humans.
Everyone knows that vultures feed on carrion (the carcass of a dead animal) and are legendary for their ability to find this. Although, their sense of smell is poor, their eyesight enables them to spot food while in the air. They also keep an eye on each other, and if one bird swoops down, the rest eagerly follow.
With more than 260 different species and set in 60 acres, I definitely think that Colchester Zoo is well worth a visit!