Crook January

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Observing Nature at The Austin Zoo and Animal Sanctuary

     My sister and I had been planning on going to the Austin Zoo and Animal Sanctuary for quite some time. Growing up, we’ve been used to very large and crowded zoos, so the idea of an intimate experience with the animals at the Austin Zoo appealed to us. According to the Zoo’s Website, “The mission of Austin Zoo and Animal Sanctuary is to assist animals in need through rescue, rehabilitation and education. We currently have over 300 animals from over 100 different species at the Zoo.” It was so relaxing wandering about the grounds of the zoo and seeing, hearing, and unfortunately smelling the enclosures of the animals that reside here. Even though the animals are nonnative and enclosed, the large majority of the animals are rescued and rehabilitated critters.

     “Austin Zoo started out as a goat ranch. In 1990, it became the Good Day Ranch, which catered to animals in need. At that time, the animals consisted mostly of goats, pigs, fallow deer, donkeys and ponies… with just a few exotics. Today, the ranch is home to many more exotic animals, as well as domestic animals, that were either rescued from, or unwanted by, their owners. Due to the growth of “roadside zoos” and private ownership of exotic animals, along with the release of older animals from big city zoos to smaller facilities, the number of animals in need of a safe and healthy home has multiplied at a rapid rate.” -The Austin Zoo & Animal Sanctuary Website

Viewing how each animal lives was very fascinating. Certain animals needed larger habitats, whereas others required a playground layout. The tortoises, for instance, needed to be on damp mud whereas the monkeys needed a completely caged in jungle gym. It made me happy being able to see that this was a place where animals weren’t taken from their natural habitat solely for the purpose of entertainment; these animals were in need of a safe place to live. We saw a goat with only one horn and a three-legged wolf that most likely wouldn’t have made it very long in the wild alone. As stated in A Sand County Almanac, “Conservation is a state of harmony between men and land” (The Land Ethic” page 207). At the zoo, man is not only taking care of the lands (because the Hill Country wooded area is protected and maintained), but also is taking care of the residents of the land, these animals. They’re in a state of harmony with man as well because they are rehabilitated, protected, and given the chance to thrive and live happily in a wooded, nicely shaded, and spacious home thanks to the efforts of man.

  • Location: 10808 Rawhide Trail, Austin, TX 78736
  • Start Time:  2:30 p.m.
  • End Time: 4:45 p.m.
  • Forecast: Sunny/Clear skies
  • Temperature: 76 degrees Fahrenheit

IMG_9113 This video shows a deer grooming his/her friend.

IMG_9051 This video is of two ring-tailed lemurs grooming each other.

IMG_9050 The monkey maneuvered his hand through the gate and grabbed hold of a stick. After I stopped filming, he began to eat the bark off of the branch. (Note my sister’s surprised reaction).

IMG_9047 This video shows the same little monkey from above trying to communicate back with my sister. (She had a hair color that almost perfectly matched the fur of the monkey).

IMG_9116 This video is of a female turkey (I believe) who is loudly communicating with her flock.

 

Being able to hear the sounds that each type of animal uses to communicate was fascinating. There were so many different types of bird songs that at some points, it became nearly impossible to pinpoint the direction that they were coming from. I’m sure that the beautiful weather made the animals much more inclined to be outside, rather than in their covered habitats, consequently making viewing them much easier. Seeing how similar the monkey’s movement is to mankind’s is very interesting. Plus, because we were able to be so close to all of the animals, spotting little nuances was much easier. Even watching how members of the cat family moved was interesting; A tiger has such a notably similar form and walk compared to a common house cat. Plus, we noticed how the saying “eat like a pig” was very appropriate after we watched a pig devour it’s meal. We even realized while looking at the tortoises just how prehistoric they really do look.

The train ride through the hill country was beautiful; The view of the hilly woodlands was stunning. Additionally, the beautiful weather welcomed and encouraged the sounds of nature that we were lucky to have heard. For instance, we noted dozens of different types of bird calls, the rustling of the leaves as breezes would roll in, and we even heard the crunch of leaves as the train peacefully rode along the track.

Even though these animals weren’t in their natural habitat, they made and continue to make the Zoo grounds their new home. They’re all a part of nature whether they are on one side of the globe or the other. We all are intertwined; We all are born, learn to survive and adapt, reproduce, and die, whether we are the king of the jungle or a simple song bird. Each pebble that made up the gravel pathways that weaved through the Zoo are just as much a part of nature as mankind is. Experiencing these creatures firsthand in such a close proximity was truly magical. All energy originates from the sun and ironically, perhaps the combination of such a sunny day, especially after a heavy cold front, falling on an actual Sunday created the perfect conditions that allowed for nature to come alive, both biotic and abiotic factors alike. 

-Emily Crook

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