Posted in Tips, tagged animals, aquarium, botanical, butterflies, collection, conservation, environment, exhibit, flora, flowers, garden, museum, photography, plants, spring, tip, tourism, trees, zoo, zoo critic, zoocritic on March 23, 2016|
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Spring is here and with that is warmer weather, blooming flowers, and the desire to explore the outdoors! While nature is a beautiful thing and wild places are a magical place to experience, not everyone has access to them. Whether it be because you live in a city, don’t have a lot of time off, or your country/area does not have a lot of native flora you are interested in seeing, there are other options for you! Zoos (and sometimes aquariums) are a wonderful option for people wanting to experience some extra plants in their life. The more updated style of zoos aims for a more natural look and strives to transport the visitor to the natural world of the animals they house. Exhibits with towering trees, lush grass, and even streams are more and more popular in the zoos of the world. Indoor pavilions provide tropical flowers and plants for the many birds and insects they house. Some areas have plants as the main focus!
There are a number of zoos worldwide that are also partnered with a botanical garden. Sometimes admission to both is included, or at least a discount ticket is offered. Not only does this give more variety to your visit but also the opportunity for experiencing new and exciting plants you never knew existed! I have definitely seen more species of plants in my life from visiting zoos!
Visiting a zoo with a good horticulture department and staff really heightens your experience and makes for a better zoo visit. Seeing animals in a more natural environment in general is great, but in a natural environment with plants that are native to their wild ranges is even better. Yes, learning new facts about the animals you are seeing is fantastic, but what about learning about the plants! Did you know many zoos house plants that are extinct in the wild? Did you know some zoos have more species of plants than of animals? Maybe that there are over five zoos in the US that are officially recognized as museums due to their plant collections? Or how about that the Toronto Zoo’s collection of plants is said to be worth more than their animal collection?
So now that you’re craving a little more flora, where should you go? Any zoo that also has ‘Botanical Garden’ in the name is a good bet. Look to see if they house species like butterflies or tropical birds, or if they have any greenhouses or pavilions on site. If you’re still unsure, give them a call!
While many plants are grown to be used as food and enrichment for the animals, most of the plant collection is used to enrich the exhibits and grounds of the zoo itself. So next time you’re visiting, take time to stop and smell the roses!
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Posted in Feature Animals, tagged adaptations, america, animal, animals, capybara, central, children, communal, coprophagy, eat, environment, exhibit, feature, feces, feet, geography, herbivore, lake, largest, litter, photography, river, rodent, south, swamp, tourism, water, webbed, zoo, zoo critic, zoocritic on September 16, 2015|
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It’s feature time! The next animal I’d like to feature is the largest rodent in the world – the capybara! Native to Central and South America, the capybara is actually fairly stable in their numbers and relatively easy to keep in captivity. Males reach up to 150 pounds which is quite large considering fellow species in the rodent category (mice, squirrels, porcupines, beavers, etc). Similar to some other rodents they are often found in family groups, usually around 10-20 individuals large. Females produce 4-5 young per litter and they are communally nursed and raised by the females of the group.
Their common name, capybara, comes from the native Brazilian ‘one who eats slender leaves’, while their scientific name means ‘water pig’. Both these translated names tell a lot about capybara characteristics. Capybaras are herbivores eating grasses and water plants, as well as fruit and bark. They also practice coprophagy, eating their own feces. This helps to digest tough cellulose and gain more nutrients out of their diet. The capybaras most famous trait is their affinity for water. They are considered semi-aquatic, spending a significant time in the water. This is for many reasons: protection from the sun and heat, to escape predators, and for mating. They have adapted webbed feet to better swim and move along muddy banks, as well as thin coarse hair which dries quickly. Facial features towards the top of their head are easier for water living, and they are able to fold back their ears which prevents water from entering. Being able to remain submerged for up to 5 minutes also helps! Although they only live near water, they are not picky about the type. They are found along rivers, lakes, swamps, ponds, marshes, and even flooded areas. This water requirement enhances their viewing in zoos as well. Seeing them sitting or swimming in the water is interesting and fun for children. Capybaras provide an excellent educational moment for people of all ages: learning about the geography of their native habitat, the species which make up rodents, and adaptations essential for their survival.
While they may not be one of the major draws to zoos, I have found that they are a fairly common resident of them! Check your local zoo to see if they have them!
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Posted in Tips, tagged adopt, aquarium, children, christmas, cwf, date, donate, environment, gift, giving, green, holidays, ideas, last minute, membership, recycle, shopping, tip, trip, wildlife, wrapping, wwf, zoo, zoocritic on December 7, 2014|
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It’s officially the holiday season and that means the time for giving! There’s so much going on this time of year it’s easy to forget to make greener choices which help wildlife and wild spaces. Here are some tips which help zoos, aquariums, and wildlife even after the Christmas season is over:
- Memberships: Why not give the gift of a zoo membership this year?! Most zoos have individual or family memberships which allow you to go the whole season! There are usually member only events and specials discounts throughout the year as well.
- Zoo Trip: Give the gift of a trip to a zoo or aquarium near you! An exciting trip for kids, a fun date idea, or a great afternoon with friends. Awesome gift for those who don’t need anything…give them an event to look forward to instead!
- Adopt-an-animal: Many zoos, aquariums, and organizations have adopt an animal programs. These allow you to symbolically adopt or sponsor either an animal in the zoo or a wild species. Money goes towards feeding, vet care, or enrichment for zoo animals and is a great way to connect with the animals you’re seeing. Organizations such as WWF and CWF have programs where money goes towards initiatives to keep animals safe in the wild.
- Buy Smart: If the above aren’t what you’re looking for you can still make choices which are better for animals and the environment. When you can buy local, hand made, or repurposed products. Choose products with less packaging and more environmentally friendly components.
What if you’ve already purchased all your gifts? There are still ways you can make better choices!
- An added gift: Instead of wrapping presents, use a reusable bag or box that the receiver can use afterwards.
- Recycle: Use old newspapers or comics to wrap presents, most wrapping paper cannot be recycled.
- Scavenger Hunt: If presents are hidden for a scavenger hunt, no wrapping paper is necessary!
What happens if you’re reading this post AFTER the holidays?
- Donate: Anyone get new bedding, towels, or clothes for Christmas? Donate the old ones to a zoo or aquarium near you! Many welcome donations for bedding, keeping orphaned newborns comfortable, and enrichment items (the apes especially love them!).
- Recycle: Electronics are usually hot items for the holidays…what to do with the old? Recycle! Many zoos have cell phone recycling programs to benefit gorillas in the wild.
These are only a few options on how to make your Christmas more environmentally friendly. Even if you implement just one of these tips you will be helping wildlife and the environments they live in.
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Posted in Tips, tagged adopt, animal, aquarium, back to school, classroom, environment, field trip, green, recycle, sanctuary, school, student, teacher, tip, trip, wwf, zoo, zoocritic on August 26, 2014|
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Summer is coming to an end but that doesn’t mean it has to be the end of zoo visits!
Field trips are something that should be fun and educational – zoos and aquariums are both! Most have great education departments that work to provide lesson plans, educational tours, and curriculum based activities for students coming for a visit. Whether you tie it to biology, chemistry, general science, art, geography, writing, or any combination of subjects, the zoo is a place for learning. Many zoos are also open year round or until Thanksgiving – you can plan a trip in the fall or spring. Build off of the sights and sounds of the zoo – art projects depicting their favourite animal, creative writing papers researching an endangered species, science projects showing the ecosystems of rainforests or oceans in other parts of the world. Zoos have the ability to inspire children to learn more about the world and the animals within it.
The zoo is a great place to learn about both animals and plants!
Perhaps the greatest benefit is the environmental or green practices that are often kickstarted by seeing endangered animals in person. In preparation of your zoo trip organize some classroom activities:
- A recycling program teaching why plastic and garbage can be bad for the environment and the animals.
- An old cell phone collection: students can collect from family and friends to be recycled on their zoo visit to help gorillas
- A wish list collection: many zoos have a ‘wish list’ of towels, food, toys, etc for their animals
- A scavenger hunt for their trip, things to find and see
- Sponsor/Adopt an animal: as a classroom adopt an animal from the zoo and visit during your trip or check out WWF for a great Classroom adoption package
- Make a pledge to carpool, walk, or ride a bike to and from school
What if you have limited resources or a field trip is not feasible? Doing any of the above activities would still be benefiting the children and the zoo animals.
A great example of educational signs found in zoos, aquariums, and sanctuaries.
So as a teacher if you are planning a field trip for the year consider a zoo, aquarium, or sanctuary near you! Parents and students suggest it to your teacher or school as a trip that you would like to go on…you won’t regret it!
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Posted in Tips, tagged environment, lunch, tip, zoo on December 2, 2012|
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Many zoo-goers know that packing a lunch is the way to go!
Not only do you save money by bringing your own food from home, your packed lunch is generally healthier and more eco-friendly. By bringing a variety of snacks you can walk and eat at the same time. Packing food in reusable containers is much better for the environment than cardboard or paper plates that zoo restaurants usually provide. Also, don’t forget your reusable water bottle – most zoos have water fountains or taps throughout the park to refill throughout the day! Usually there is an eating area or picnic benches located in the zoo; however, I like to find a bench positioned near one of the exhibits so I can observe the animals (or people watch!) throughout my meal.
If you’re concerned about having to carry a heavy cooler bag with you throughout the day, you can always leave it in the car and retrieve it at lunch time (just double check that this is okay with the main gate before leaving the park).
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