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Rainy Day Blog

It's cold, wet, and worse yet for the Zoo, muddy! But I like the rain, so I decide I'm going out for a visit the Zoo on this rainy day. If you decide you want to visit the Zoo on a rainy day, though, make sure you call (714) 836-4000 to find out whether or not we are open. We sometimes have to close the Zoo if it is not safe for our guests.

I start at the front of the Zoo and immediately I am faced with a choice. I can make my way to the left past the Treetop Toys Gift Shop and Bean Sprouts. I am tempted because a hot coffee sounds like a good way to start my journey. I can then head around the side behind the carrousel into Rides Plaza. The Train and 50 Monkey Ferris Wheel will have to close on a day like today, but sometimes the Carrousel is able to remain open. I'll leave the farm animals for later. I decide I want to see the other animals first, though, so I make my way to the right.

Unfortunately, there is no way to avoid the muddy path in this direction, but I find if I stick to the sides, I can avoid most of the puddles. When I reach the pavement in front of the Amazon's Edge rental area, I'm good to go. I head straight up the path, leaving Amazon's Edge for later, and then I turn right toward the ocelots. To go right up to their habitat, I'll have to go through a muddy path, so I just pass them by from a distance. I see one of them wondering around, so I wave hello and head over to the camels.

The camels are both under the cover of a structure built as an Eagle Scout project. They both look at me as I walk by, probably because I am the only person they have seen in a while, but they do not come out to greet me. They are smart to stay covered, and I am thinking I need to find cover myself, because I did not bring an umbrella and it's starting to rain harder. I wave goodbye to the camels and hurry on past the eagle and the rainforest exhibit. I rush under the cover in front of the world's smallest monkeys, the pygmy marmosets. I dry off a bit as I watch them run around their climate controlled environment.

When I feel adventuresome enough, I leave the cover and head up toward the Jack Lynch Aviary, where our black and white colobus monkeys recently moved. They are smart to be back in their inside covered area, but one has ventured outside a bit. He watches me as I scoot by, looking for my next spot of cover. I find it up at the Treetops Exhibit, where I can duck under the roof and outside of the rain. I watch the emperor tamarins for a bit while I brush off the rain. In a brief moment of stoppage, I go to the very far end of the Zoo, where I look for the red-handed tamarins, but I see they are all huddled inside their own structure. Smart for them, I think as the rain starts up again and I head back to my cover.

It's coming down harder now, so I skip the primate row exhibits and head back by the colobus monkeys again. The path has been paved the whole time, but now I step off into the mud a bit to duck under the cover of the handwashing station. This station is conveniently located in front of the Conservation Education Station so that if you are lucky enough to get to touch one of our education animals at an animals presentation, you can wash your hands afterwards. There are no presentations on a rainy day like today, though.

I watch the guanacos out at Tierra de las Pampas. It rains on the pampas, so they don't seem to mind the rain at all. I consider taking the path in front of their habitat, but I know that's going to be very muddy, so I stick to the pavement and head back around the ocelots. This time, however, I turn right and head toward the bathrooms in the center of the Zoo. I duck inside to dry off for a bit and hope the rain isn't too heavy. When I'm finally ready to head out again, I continue to the right and come around the back side of Amazon's Edge. I look up for the howler monkeys, but I decide not to tarry too long in the rain. The path into the farm area is muddy, so I just make my way over as little mud as possible and head to Bean Sprouts. That cup of hot coffee sounds good now!

Overall, I've had a good day at the Zoo. I've seen many of the animals and how they behave in the rain, and I've practically had the whole Zoo to myself. I love the rain, so I enjoyed being out there, but I know it isn't for everyone. Still, if you're like me and love the rain, consider the Zoo for a different type of escape. Just make sure to call first to make sure we're open!

Scary Things
by Ron Glazier, Retired Director of the Zoo

Next month, the Santa Ana Zoo will be filled with scary things showing up for Boo-at-the-Zoo. To be honest though, many will be cute and enjoying a merry Halloween. Boo is possibly the best family event in the County for a safe and fun-filled Halloween. The animals at the Zoo are not scary, with two possible exceptions: the tarantula and the boa constrictor, which can be seen in the Exploration Outpost, are in a general group of animals that many find scary.

The fear of spiders and snakes is not totally irrational as many of their species are venomous or certainly can inflict painful bites. I said venomous to distinguish them from poisonous. Venomous animals inject venom through a bite (spiders and snakes) or sting (scorpions, bees, and wasps) as opposed to animals that have some type of poison in their skin or glands. An example of a poisonous animal can also be seen in the Exploration Outpost, the poison dart frog.

These frogs have a poison in their skin that can cause severe distress and even death if they were to be eaten by another animal. Although this poison would not save that individual frog, the population of potential predators learns not to eat them. These frogs are usually brilliantly colored as a warning sign. Some animals that are not poisonous have become mimics in coloration or appearance of a poisonous species to fool predators. In the case of the poison dart frog, the poison is in the skin. Native tribes in South America extract the poison from the skin of these frogs to use on the tip of blowgun darts used in hunting small animals.

Generally, spider venom is not harmful to humans and most snakes are not venomous but they can inflict a painful bite, so keep your distance. These animals are usually not aggressive and prefer to be left alone. I had a personal interaction with a tarantula that illustrates this point. My wife and I were in New Mexico and were cruising slowly along a back road one evening just to see what wildlife we might come across. We drove by a large tarantula in the middle of the road. Fearing I might have run over it, I got out of the car to see if I had-yes, I know many of you think that is weird. I had not, but it was in a defensive posture with its two front legs raised and chelicerae (spider "fangs") out. I decided to get it to move off the road-yes, I know that may seem weird, too. I got out a credit card to scoot it along but it struck the card with its chelicerae, it was scared. I then placed the card on its backside and tapped it. In a flash, the tarantula sought a safe haven and before I could move, it climbed onto my shoe and disappeared up my pant leg. I could feel it crawl up my leg to my knee. At that point, it could go no farther (thank goodness). I shuffled to the road edge and seeing no other cars around dropped my pants down to my knees whereby I could nudge the tarantula off my leg onto the grassy roadside. It scampered away and neither of us were the worse for wear.

All spiders are venomous to a degree but the venom is normally specific to their prey. However, in Orange County black widows, brown recluse, and tarantulas can inflict bites that may affect people to various degrees depending on age, health, and allergic reactions. Rattlesnakes are serious venomous reptiles and always should be avoided. Interestingly, the common gopher snake or bull snake can do an impressive mimic of a rattlesnake by flaring their jaws to look like the triangular-shaped rattlesnake head, vibrate their tail, and strike a coiled-up pose. They are capable of a bite so are best left alone.

Despite being "scary" these venomous and poisonous animals serve a purpose in the grand scheme of things in nature. They do help control the number of insects and rodents in nature which, left uncontrolled, would have serious consequences to us all. Pesticides and poisons do control insects and rodents but present another set of serious issues to be considered.

In the end, Nature Works, and we must learn how to live with it and not try to control it!

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