Sunday, January 8, 2012

Zoo Encounters: Delaney is in Heaven!

Delaney received an amazing gift from her Uncles and Aunt for her 8th birthday.  They gave her a Zoo Encounter at Brookfield Zoo.  These start at age 8, although some you can't participate until 12.  The one she got was "Walking with the Herps."

We arrived at the zoo an hour and a half before the zoo opened to the public, which was a half hour early for her event.  We walked the zoo and got cold quickly.  But it was empty (other than employees) and it was so beautiful with all the snow and unbelievably peaceful!

Since no animals were out yet...other than 3 peacocks here:

And another three here:

...we went straight to the Feathers and Scales building. 

A nice zoo keeper, Emily, let us in and talked with us about how she was going to feed the pelicans some fish.  We watched her clean out two bird exhibits with the birds near and around her as she told us a little about her job. 

We then walked around the small building, looking at the various animals and talking.

Then we met Bethany. 

She began by telling us about each of the herptiles in the building.  She explained so many things in how they can't regulate their own body temperature, so there are heat lamps in their cages set at various temps and they can go to certain spots to be warmer or cooler.  We also learned that snakes unhinge their jaw (which we both knew), but their bottom jaw separates again from itself (pulls apart to the side).  We saw a legless lizard, which I would've laughed had someone told me those I would probably say something like "you mean a snake?"  But we learned that they are very different.  My favorite thing we learned were about the beautiful, brightly colored, tiny Poison Dart Frogs.  Did you know they carry their toxins on their back?  And, that they only have those toxins because of what they eat in the wild?  So, any of these frogs you see at zoos are not poisonous.  Oh, and we learned that frogs have very sensitive skin and absorb things that way.  One has to be careful handling them because our lotions, soaps, and oils may harm them.  They never drink water, but if thirty will sit in water and absorb and quench their thirst that way.  Wow.  I feel so smart about frogs, lizards, and snakes now! 

I don't think Delaney stopped smiling the whole time.  There were a couple moments where she wanted to stop listening and get to the petting and feeding part.  Delaney was not allowed to hold any of the animals, but she was able to touch and pet many!  Sadly, I had to sign a release and agree to not take pictures during this part.  It was amazing though!  First, Delaney went behind-the-scenes and pet a small tortoise.  This little guy fit neatly into the palm of Bethany's hand.  We learned how their shells grow and expand with them. I wanted to take this guy home, he was so cute. Bethany took out about 3-4 snakes, the leg-less lizard, and a few other guys for us to pet.  Sadly, we couldn't pet our favorite:

But, we looked at her and watched her a lot (she just laid and burried eggs last week). was feeding time.  Bethany got two large pitchers out and put several live crickets in each.  We went over and she opened up the Poison Dart Frog cage and Delaney fed them. 

These guys are so little and beautiful.  And quick.  Within seconds, they were all in the area that Delaney dumped the crickets and hopping and climbing over one another to get to their food (there was plenty).  Their tongues are so quick, I never saw one, but did see them open their tiny mouths once the cricket was to their lips. 
Next she fed more crickets, but to some Milk Frogs.  She also got to spray these frogs, as they are to be misted twice a day so they don't get too dry.

For her final moment, Delaney fed a (dead) mouse to a pretty big lizard.  Bethany had to stand really close-by for this one because he likes to jump out of his cage.  He was crazy fast and tried a couple times to leap out.  Scared the crap out of me the first time, and we all jumped and laughed.  He grabbed that mouse SO fast too! 

After 90 minutes with the Herps, Bethany gave us both "Zoo Encounters" shirts and we headed out.  We stopped at a gift shop where she got two souvenirs as well as something for her sisters.

A very special THANK YOU to: Uncle Charming, Aunt Leann, Uncle Teddy Bear, Uncle Smart-Stuff, and Uncle Apple-Noodle.
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