Friends, Photography, Wildlife

Pandas!

Ever since the Giant Pandas arrived at the Toronto Zoo in 2013 I have been meaning to take a trip down to see them. Like everything else, life got in the way and time marched on. Well, this is their final year in Toronto before moving on to Calgary, so yesterday we made the trip to the zoo. Along for the ride was my good friend and her 2 awesome boys.

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We did A LOT of walking, rode the Zoomobile and had lunch beside the Rhinos. Although there were a lot of people at the zoo, it did not feel overly crowded and there were very few line-ups to see the animals. As most boys are, Jake and Nate were mesmerized by the creepy crawlies…snakes, frogs, spiders and bats. Although they were interesting, they were far from my favourites.

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Jake almost walked right into this colourful spider as we walked between exhibits.
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Tortoise

For as long as I can remember, the Giraffes have always been my favourite. I am just in awe of their size and stature…not to mention their sweet faces.

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Love the blue tongue…it’s blue to protect it from the sun

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As we walked around a bend in the path, we came across a large mass of people at this one particular exhibit. When we got closer to the exhibit, we realized that it was the hippos…who knew hippos were such a big draw of attention. They actually were fun to watch as they swam around in their enclosure. It’s amazing how massive they are…I very quickly realized why they are one of Africa’s famous 5!

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We saw so many different animals throughout the course of the day…some looked cute and cuddly while others looked strange and even a little scary.

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Those horns can grow to 6 feet in length and are completely hollow.
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I forget what their actual name is, but whatever it was, it translated to “cow with big horns”…go figure.
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A hyena having a siesta in the afternoon shade…he sleeps just like my golden retriever, Seamus!
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Male white lion…simply majestic!
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Momma Cheetah and her cubs

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This ostrich was hilarious…as soon as he saw a bunch of us standing at the fence, he came right over and put on a show.

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It was amazing to see the bone structure on the under-side of his wings.
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Antelope
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Pigmy Hippo
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Ring-tail Lemur

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Big Silver-Back Gorilla…he was beautiful!

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Meerkats

Another favourite of mine, and almost everyone I know, are the stunning Polar Bears. By the time we arrived at their exhibit, it was feeding time for them and they weren’t very active. I was only able to get a couple shots of them laying up in the grass while having their snacks.

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Last, but definitely not least, were the cute and comical Pandas. They very quickly became a favourite for me…I could have sat and watched them all day. Initially just as we arrived at their exhibit, they were being let inside.

IMG_6086Everyone thought that was it and they were going to stay inside. So the large group of people hurried to the indoor viewing area. We stayed outside and I’m so glad that we did because one of the keepers entered the exhibit to gather the old, mostly eaten bamboo branches and then put out a fresh supply. He looked up at the few of us that didn’t run to the inside viewing area and said that the pandas would be out again in a couple minutes. So needless to say, because the crowd had vanished inside, we were able to get a great spot right up front and center to view the pandas when they returned to their outdoor enclosure. And when they returned, they did not disappoint! They were amazing. When they saw the fresh bamboo stocks, they were like cats with a fresh supply of catnip…it was hilarious! I cannot say enough how much I loved the pandas and will be sad for the day when they leave Toronto and head to Calgary. Because of this rare opportunity to see them, I took LOTS of photos…so I apologize in advance.

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Aren’t they amazing??? I absolutely love them!

Zoos are such a controversial subject for many people. Is it right or ethical to have wild animals living in captivity? Should we not have zoos at all and let all animals live in the wild and let nature take its course? Or should we have a chosen few live in captivity in zoos/animal parks that are held to the highest of standards in order to educate, preserve and protect the health and well-being of each species? I don’t know what the right answer is. I definitely sit on the fence on this issue. Do all creatures have the right to live wild in their natural habitats like Mother Nature intended? Absolutely! But in doing so, we risk losing entire species of animals forever to extinction. Are all zoos functioning to those high standard in order to protect the health and well-being of the animals? No…not all of them. But I think we, as a society, need to target those who are not upholding those high standards and make them do so and if they do not or refuse, shut them down. But I don’t think that it is fair to group all zoos into the same category because I do think that there are excellent ones out there who truly do have each animals best interest at heart.

I think well-run zoos are an important part of preserving vulnerable animal populations through their reproduction practices as well as educating the public on animals at risk and what needs to be done to have them thrive and continue to live in the wild.

Take the Giant Pandas for example…there are just over 2000 left in the wild but because of China’s dedication to restoring and preserving it’s various bamboo forests, the panda population has increased to the point where they are no longer considered an endangered species and have been upgraded to a vulnerable species. That’s pretty amazing, I think! And that’s only one species…there are so many more out there at risk of extinction.

I think education is key! We can’t fix what we don’t know about. And I think, in their own way, zoos help this cause. If people can physically see animals, learn about them (including their struggles) and form some sort of connection, they are more apt to do something to help.

If you want further information about animals at risk or want to help, please contact

http://www.wwf.ca

World Wildlife Fund at WWF-Canada 410 Adelaide St. West Toronto, ON M5V 1S8         Tel: 1-800-26-PANDA (72632) Tel: 416-489-8800 Fax: 416-489-8055

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