Jeremiah and I went to Minnesota and Wisconsin last year for my birthday week. I wanted one last big hurrah before my parents moved to California, as I knew I wouldn't go back very often after that.
One of the places to visit on my checklist was the Minnesota Zoo. I hadn't been since I was a child, as my family and I normally would go to Como Park Zoo. I wish we had time to do both, so maybe we'll just have to fly back again one day and have that on our agenda.
It's always amazing to me how similarly house cats and large breeds behave at times. This leopard, for example, was in a very playful mood the day we were at the zoo.
Zoos and Wildlife Sanctuaries have been hard at work at keeping the Amur Leopard from going extinct. To learn more about this beautiful creature and how we can help the Amur Leopard from going extinct, please click on the link below.
A second large breed cat featured at the Minnesota Zoo is the Amur Tiger - that's right, from the same region as the Amur Leopard.While tigers are slightly safer from extinction than the leopard, it is still important for us to do what we can to save the species.
One fact I was surprised about that I read on the Minnesota Zoo's website for the Amur Tiger is that it's the largest of all cats! I seriously would have thought lions were bigger, so thank you, MNZoo for educating this girl!
In case you can't tell by the order of these photographs, they are being posted in the order that I took them at the zoo. First the Amur Leopard, then the Amur Tiger, and now the Takin, which is another animal native to Asia.
This Takin may not look that large, but they can weigh up to 700 pounds! From the MNZoo website, it sounds like they are a matriarchal society, with females and young offspring making up the herds. Older males tend to live in solidarity.
Coloradans are no stranger to this beautiful creature, but that may have not been the case if protective measures were not enforced to save the bison back in the 1800s. There was a point in time where there were less than 600 bison left, but thanks to conservation efforts, the population is up to more than 30,000, meaning this animal is a top conservation success story!
It just goes to show that if we put forth the efforts to save a species (or, hey, the planet itself), we can succeed.
Another animal familiar to Coloradans is the Black-Tailed Prairie Dog. When I first moved to Colorado back in 2015, I was so excited to see these little ones popping up all over the place in the eastern plains. I was warned by locals not to go near them, however, as apparently they carry the Bubonic Plague. Sounds fake, right? It's not, unfortunately.
I do love how these two looked to be in a serious conversation, and then both looked my way after they heard my shutter click.
Who else was taught as a child that the humps of the camel hold water for when they are out in the desert for a long time? Anyone?
Apparently they store fat, not water, to help them survive long periods of time without food. They have special blood cells which help with hydration.
Read more about the Bactrian Camel here: https://mnzoo.org/blog/animals/bactrian-camel/
Another conservation success story involves the Asian Wild Horse.
In the 1960s, the wildlife populations of this horse disappeared completely. Thanks to zoos and conservation efforts, there are now about five hundred horses living in their natural habitat.
Our favorite part of our trip to the Minnesota Zoo was the Llama Trek, which is a seasonal exhibit (summer tiiiiiiime). I love seeing llamas and alpacas, so I was extremely excited for this exhibit.
There was even a younger llama which is in the second photo below, looking very zen. Jeremy and I decided if we ever adopt a llama that we would name it Kuzco, as in Emperor's New Groove, however, his dad brought up the ingenious idea of getting two and naming them Barack Ollama and Michelle Ollama. Ha.
Another favorite section of the Minnesota Zoo that has been there since I was a kid is the Wells Fargo Family Farm.
There's a goat barn with a guarded area where the goats can eat along with a kidding stall. You can join the goats outside where they gently bump you with their heads and demand lots of attention. I could definitely have a couple of small goats in my future - they are so cute!
There were a couple of goats that were a few weeks old while we were there, and they decided to show their little faces for just a moment - but the moment was long enough for me to photograph them.
To read more on these goats, read the MN page https://mnzoo.org/blog/animals/goat/
The Wells Fargo Family Farm also features chickens, cows, pigs, rabbits, and horses. Chickens creep me out, but these two were okay. https://mnzoo.org/blog/animals/wells-fargo-family-farm/
If you don't know this about me already, I freaking love moose. I would love to see a moose in the wild, but I have not been blessed with this experience yet.
I have to get my moose satisfaction from seeing them at zoos. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs has Tahoma, and Jeremy and I go see him maybe once a year. I was excited to see moose at Minnesota Zoo, especially when there was a calf! So cute.
Jeremy and I attended the bird show, and I'm pretty sure we were the only adults there without kids. Oh, well.
It was fun watching all of the birds performing their tricks and flying over the crowd. Here are the links to the birds we saw in the show in the order of the pictures below.
Couldn't find a link for the fourth and fifth birds :(
If you or your kids have ever watched the movie Madagascar, then I'm sure seeing this animal makes you want to break out into the song "I Like to Move It".
The ring-tailed lemur spends more time on the ground than other lemurs, spending their time foraging and playing, so they truly do like to move it ;).
One of Jeremy's favorite creatures to spot at the zoo is the Komodo Dragon. While these creatures are large, I was still surprised to find out that they are large enough to feast on water buffalo!
These two were not having play time when we stopped by their exhibit. It was nap time. They never even opened their eyes for a peak at me when my shutter went off.
We were both excited to see a red panda at the MN Zoo, and when he started sticking his tongue out at his viewers, I knew I had to capture his personality in a picture.
I find it amusing that they are named red pandas. Apparently, when they were named, it was believed that they were closely related to the giant panda. DNA evidence shows they are more closely related to the raccoon, which I think makes complete.sense when you compare their physical characteristics.
I was surprised to see a coyote at the Minnesota Zoo. They are a common animal across Minnesota, and the midwest in general, and are not experiencing a decrease in population. I'm sure there's a good reason this coyote is at the zoo - perhaps health related reasons. While a lot of people dislike coyotes, I think they are beautiful.
The gray wolf is a symbol of Minnesota (Timberwolves, anyone?)
They used to be found all across the state, but now, due to growing populations, have found refuge in the forests of Northern Minnesota. Wolf populations have been introduced elsewhere throughout the United States, the most popular release being in Yellowstone National Park. Studies have shown that introducing wolf populations can help ecosystems thrive - interesting, right?
Pumas go by many names: mountain lions, cougars, and panthers, being common names.
Their populations are also doing well. I know they are relatively common in Colorado, which is cool!
The Canada lynx is a beautiful cat known for its short tail and big feet.
While populations have dwindled in Minnesota, their wildlife populations are still doing well elsewhere. Their numbers dropped to nearly zero in Minnesota in the 1980s, but have slowly been recovering, so we shall have to see what their future in the North Star state will bring.
Thank you, everyone, for taking the time to look at these photographs and read about these beautiful creatures!
Photographer, visual artist, mother to five fur-babies, and travel enthusiast.