A Trip to the Zoo, with Pictures

This past weekend my sisters and my niece came for a short visit. We don’t get to see them very often, so I was excited when they said they were coming for the weekend.

In addition to playing Kinect, showing them our local farmers’ market, and just hanging out & catching up, we took a trip to the NC Zoo in Asheboro on Sunday. I’d planned to Tweet some photos while we were there, but my cellphone signal was so weak it kept failing out on even text-only tweets. So I decided to pick some of my favorite pics and share them here instead:

An ostrich with its wings spread

Not at all camera shy!

This guy was one of the first animals we saw at the zoo. He was in with the rhinos, gazelles, and other African herd animals. As soon as he saw us, he came right up to the fence, spread his wings, and waited for his picture to be taken. In fact, he turned to the side and struck a few other poses so we could get lots of photos!

Savannah and Sam play a sidewalk boardgame at the NC Zoo

They're such trendsetters!

Not long after that, my niece Savannah and my sister Sam found this life-sized elephant board game. No one else was around when they started playing, but soon enough another family joined in. Of course, they drafted Chad to man the spinner.

Heather stands in the mist from a misting station

Heather claimed this misting station as her own.

While Savannah and Sam played the game, my sister Heather cooled off in one of the zoo’s awesome misting stations. It was a very hot day, and we took advantage of every misting station we found — although not all of them were as big as this one, and at one point Mother Nature took over “misting” us by letting loose with a thunderstorm.

A bobcat lays on a ledge

That's her ledge!

This bobcat was wandering around her enclosure when we stopped by — but, as soon as she saw us, she jumped up onto this ledge and laid down. She was actually looking away when I was taking the picture, but turned her head at the last instant to stare right at the camera. So accommodating!

Most of the other big cats were dealing with the heat in every cat’s favorite way — by taking a snooze:

A lion sleeps in the shade

Finally, a cat that knows to sleep in the shade when it's hot!

Like this lion, who had plopped down right in the middle of the grass. At least she was in the shade!

A cougar sleeps in a den made to look like a hollow tree trunk

Pretty nifty place to sack out for a siesta

A close-up of a cougar asleep in its den














This cougar, on the other hand, decided to sack out in his cool tree-trunk den.

And then there were the ocelots.

An ocelot eyes something below her while her kits sleep in a crevice above

Whatever it is, it's not getting away from her!

Two ocelot kits sleep in a crevice in a wall

Ready... set... AWWWW!!!!!!












The NC Zoo welcomed two ocelot babies a few months ago, and I guess because of that mom and kits were in an enclosure in a building. We spent a long time awww’ing over them. They snuggled up together in a wall crevice, one asleep and the other awake, while their mom eyed something on a lower level. We never could see what it was — possibly the door the food came in through — but she was completely fixated on it!

Chad holding a cup

Caught him unawares!

You’d think by now Chad would have caught onto the whole yell-his-name-then-snap-his-picture-when-he-looks thing, but, nope! Gets him every time!

Two albino alligators, separated by a fence

I wonder if they don't get along?

The African Pavilion, which used to house the bonobos and the colobus monkeys, had been scaled down and most of the animals moved while the zoo works on renovating and expanding it. In the meantime, it’s featuring an exhibit called Legends of Fortune and Good Luck. The stars of this exhibit are the two albino alligators in the picture above — called the “ghost gators”. Not a great picture of them, I know, but they are completely white, so this was the best my iPhone could manage.

Savannah leans in close to a monkey statue and makes her best monkey face

She kept calling him her brother! LOL!

We did get to see some monkeys, though, and baboons and chimpanzees — including baby chimpanzee Nori, who was just adorable! Sadly, she never came close enough for me to get a picture. I’ll have to go back sometime with my dSLR and a zoom lens.

At one point Savannah found this monkey statue and, of course, couldn’t resist making her own monkey face!

Three geysers erupting

Photobombed by a plant!

Not an animal, but the zoo has an exhibit so kids can learn about geysers. These erupt every five minutes, and I stuck around long enough to snap a picture. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice that I’d been photobombed by a plant until I got home!

Two snakes with trees and rocks

Can you find the second snake?

These two snakes completely freaked me out by staring directly at me the whole time I was there. I like lizards — we’ve had a menagerie over the years, including an iguana, a tokay gecko, and a bearded dragon, to name just a few — but I don’t like snakes. My rule is, it has to have legs and can’t be poisonous (to which Chad always counters, “What about a legless lizard?”).

A tiny frog floats on a leaf in a pond

I wonder how he steers that thing?

Now, this little guy is a herptile I can get into! He was so tiny! This picture doesn’t even come close to showing you just how tiny he was — smaller than my pinky finger!

Here’s a close-up:

A tiny frog floats on a leaf in a pond

Soooo tiny!

He just looks so content sitting there, doesn’t he? When I first saw him, I thought he was a curl in the leaf or another leaf on top of it.

A bunch of bees in a hive

Can you find the queen?

The state insect of North Carolina is the honey bee, an insect vital to agriculture, so I was glad to see that the zoo had added a honeybee exhibit since my last visit years ago. We got to taste some honey, learn a bit about bees, and even see them working in a hive. (A tube connected it to the outside world so we could see them come and go.)

I got to chatting with one of the volunteers at the exhibit, and it turns out he lives in the same town as me. We chatted bees for a bit, and he pointed out the queen to me. She’s the one in the picture above with the pink dot on her head. Can you find her?

Here, I’ll give you a hint:

A bunch of bees in a hive, with a yellow circle around the queen

There she is!

She is literally a baby-making machine. No sooner did the volunteer tell me that the queen had finished laying one egg that she was halfway through laying another. I think I’ll pass on being royalty!

Savannah, Sam, and me on a bee

Yeah, this thing isn't gonna take off.

On our way out of the honeybee exhibit, Heather insisted on getting a picture of Savannah, Sam, and me on the back of this ginormous honeybee sculpture. The bumblebee might fly anyway, but this thing wasn’t going anywhere! (And somehow, despite the fact that Savannah and Sam were sitting on it and I was mostly leaning, I got soaked but they didn’t. Not sure how that happened….)

A polar bear holds onto a plastic chair while swimming

Forget buckets -- chairs are the thing!

This is my favorite picture from the day. This is Wilhelm, one of the zoo’s polar bears, and his chair. He swam all over the place with that thing, hugging it for all he was worth. Under the water, up to the glass, then kick back with his feet and raise up high out of the water before drifting across his pool on his back. We actually felt kind of bad for him that he seemed to be all alone, but I read on the NC Zoo website later that the zoo’s other polar bear, Aquila, is living at the Detroit zoo while the NC Zoo expands the exhibit. He’ll be coming back in 2013 to an exhibit that’s almost three times the size of the current one!

I was glad to read about that, too. I’ll admit that it’s been several years since Chad and I have visited the NC Zoo — not since before we moved to Ohio, I think, which was about ten years ago, and certainly not since we’ve moved back to NC — and I’ll admit it seemed to be showing some wear-and-tear. It’s still an amazing zoo with large enclosures for the animals that are designed to simulate where they’d live in the wild, and an excellent veterinary staff that takes great care of the animals. But Chad and I left wondering if the zoo was a victim of the economy — two of its biggest donors over the years have been BB&T and Wachovia — and some of the exhibits did seem to be showing their age. But it definitely sounds like the zoo is working to update those exhibits and make things even better for both the animals that live there and for the people who visit.

If you’re in the area, I definitely recommend stopping for a visit. But set aside a whole day — it takes that long to get through the whole zoo!

Of course, as much fun as the zoo was, I think my favorite part of the weekend was when we were talking about books and my six-year-old niece turned to me and said, “I like creepy things.” It’s enough to warm a horror writer’s heart, that is. 🙂

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