Welcome back to 2012 – the land of live animals and no more 80s references.
First up were the gorillas. I just want to go ahead and warn you that there might be an overabundance of pictures, as gorillas are quite possibly one of my favorite animals to watch. They’re big but not too slow and cumbersome (elephants, rhinos). They interact but they’re not overly cute (seals, smaller monkeys). About the only thing that even comes close to being as interesting to watch, in my book, are the large cats (tigers, lions, cougars). I remember when Riverbanks got their gorillas and one of my favorite pictures of myself (whoa, that sounds humble…) was taken at the zoo by a girl I was dating at the time.
At the NC zoo, there are four gorillas: Nkosi (male silverback), Acacia, Jamani, & Olympia (all adult females). Nkosi was born in the Columbus zoo and came to NC in 2008. Acacia came from Oklahoma City in 2010 and was born there in 1995. Jamani was born in the San Diego zoo in 1999 and came to NC in 2010. And last but not least, Olympia was born in the Atlanta zoo in 1996, is the newest addition to the NC zoo as of July 2011, and was named for the summer Olympics held that year in Atlanta. They also had a big board with the details of all of their previous gorillas. Many were born in zoos but they’ve had a couple that were actually born in Africa.
Then one of the females came up close to just sit and watch the people. Not entirely that much different than what we were doing. This is why I could watch them for hours on end. They have expressions you just can’t get from other animals.
By far, my favorite three pictures from the trip.
I just happened to be there during their feeding time as well. One of the keepers came out to talk to the crowd while two others fed the four gorillas. According to the keeper, they eat four times a day and a total of 75 pounds of vegetation. That’s a lot of veggies! The fun thing though, is that two of the three females are pregnant. They’ve only had one live baby born in their zoo before and they’ve got two ready to give birth this year. Jamani’s due any day now and Olympia’s due in November. Pretty cool! I’m not sure which one this is but it’s obvious she’s carrying around some extra weight.
Nkosi was obviously the most active around the feeders tossing food down into their home. He’d just wait to snag carrots and lettuce out of the air underneath one of the keepers.
After the keepers left, he came over by the crowds of people to gather the loose food. He was all about hoarding some lettuce. He had two handfuls and a mouthful by the time he was close to the glass.
I eventually gave up my front row spot to the rest of the crowd and moved on to the lions. One random tidbit I learned from a keeper at the lion exhibit was that the female was on birth control. Who knew they made lion birth control? She seems to run the show too. The keeper said last week, she bloodied the male’s mouth really bad. Apparently she’s really aggressive and they aren’t comfortable with trying to breed them yet. #NotTooCoolForSchool
The Forest Edge section was next. It housed the ostriches, zebras, and giraffes. It was pretty tame though, since a baby giraffe was born earlier in July. So a lot of the animals were put away to help the baby acclimate to the area. The zebras were out though. So here’s my obligatory zebra picture to try and make up for the one I shot in South Africa in 2004.
Last on the list was the Watani Grasslands Reserve. The elephants, rhinos, ostrich, and antelope lived here. I’m so used to the elephant exhibit at the Riverbanks Zoo. It’s nice, since it’s relatively new, but after seeing the area the NC Zoo has for their elephants, the one in Columbia seems super cramped. This exhibit stretched for tens, if not hundreds, of acres. There was so much room for the animals, which is really cool.
I barely even saw one rhino, as it took a note from the bison’s playbook and was hiding in the back of the exhibit under some shade. I did get a glimpse of one of the elephants up close though. And then two bongos were up close to the fence on the way out of the reserve.
By this point, I was drenched from the hot temperature, my feet were killing me from walking what had to have been 5 miles or more, and I was tired from the early wake up call and two hour drive. So I decided to grab a seat on the tram and ride back to the North American side of the zoo. I managed to sit next to a fellow Clemson alum there with his family, so pleasant conversation was had on the ride back. And since he used to live in Charlotte, he also passed me a BBQ recommendation which happens to be right down the road from me. Gotta love Clemson people looking out for their own!
The NC Zoo is a little out of the way, in terms of the major metropolitan areas of North Carolina, but it was definitely worth the trip. Their website boasts of being on 1500 acres, so if you ever go, be prepared for a walk. But as I said in the earlier post, this allows for ample room for both their animals, as well as the flexibility for major improvements like the polar bear exhibit. Overall, I had a blast and has been one of the better things I’ve done since becoming a North Carolina resident!