Saturday, June 25, 2016

Fun in the hot, hot sun - Taipei Zoo

With the conference over, the question became what to do with the rest of the week. Over casual breakfast conversation, one of my new friends from the conference suggested the zoo. I added my suggestion of some temples, which he found amiable, so we decided to explore together. I will cover the temples in another blog post - too much to write about at once!

Partners in Taipei discovery.
To put it succinctly, the zoo was fantastic. I remember reading about animals in theory growing up, but somehow I missed out on the study of animals in practice (Ranger Rick magazines apparently did me no good). I felt like a little kid, fascinated by seeing many things for the first time. "They DO that?!?" came out of my mouth more times than I care to admit... I was grateful to have my friend along - he was a wealth of information, a patient teacher, and good at spotting the animals within the rocks and trees. I don't think I would have seen half of the animals I saw without him there! These ones were pretty easy to see though:


My friend was exceptionally good at spotting a huge, local, non-poisonous spider that spins webs as large as a bicycle wheel. Females can grow as big as your hand, but the males remain tiny. I asked, "is this one of the species where the female eats the male after mating?" My friend replied, "well it depends on fast the male can run, but generally, yes." Oof... I got a picture of a female spider with 6 or 7 competing males crawling into her web. My friend held up his sunglasses as a size reference. The female is black and yellow, perched on the back of the web - see her legs hanging down? The males are the tiny red spiders dotted all over the web.

The weather in Taiwan is HOT and HUMID this time of year. We learned to keep an eye out for the shaded areas (of which there were many, thank goodness), but even so we both sweated like crazy. If you go, I recommend lots of water bottles and the occasional ice cream, for good measure. The Taipei Zoo is designed to be congruent with nature - the paths maintain the local habitat as they weave around the exhibits. My experience with the Bronx Zoo many years ago felt commercial and urban in comparison. I enjoyed the vibrant flowers and butterflies that met us along the path. For example, orchids:

I also discovered a beautiful red bird: the Scarlet Ibis. I have never seen such brilliant colors in a bird before, and the photos barely do it justice. I found my future pet here as well - the adorable side-necked turtle! The name comes from the fact that these turtles have much longer necks than usual, and therefore they bend them back sideways into their shell. This little guy was swimming all over the place - how could you not love such cuteness??

Side-Necked Turtle 
Scarlet Ibis
I was hoping to see the African elephants (bigger than the Asian elephants we saw) and the gorillas, but the elephants were out for a medical checkup, and the gorilla area was under construction. The Taipei Zoo is also famous for its family of pandas - mom, dad, and baby. We stopped in to see them, but they were sleeping and not doing anything interesting. More for next time, I guess!

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