A fox in a box!
If you’re looking for something fun to watch, check out the Honolulu Zoo’s Christmas with the Animals video, with music by the Royal Hawaiian Band. The animals received special holiday treats and seemed to enjoy unwrapping them as much as eating them! Some animals seem to always be sleeping when we visit, so it was a hoot to see them active for once. Aloha and Mele Kalikimaka!
The Honolulu Zoo’s African Crowned Cranes are a bit shy, and tend to stay in the center of a large exhibit that includes Bongo antelope and other animals. It’s a little hard to get a decent photo, so you have to be patient. But I was in for a surprise!
I was tracking one beautiful crane with a zoom lens when I noticed some blurred movement in the crook of a tree behind it.
Upon refocusing I was shocked to see a Cheetah staring right at me! The adjacent Cheetah exhibit has been closed to the public for months, and there’s no way to see the three female Cheetahs who live there. But apparently this Cheetah got a little bored and climbed into the tree to see out over the walls. She was only up there for a minute or so, and we marveled at our lucky timing. For a quick second we half-expected to hear a panicked announcement that a Cheetah was on the loose!
The first and only time we have seen a Hoopoe was a random encounter last year in a hilltop park in Barcelona, Spain. We heard some scratching around in the brush, which is common in Hawaii when you encounter feral chickens, paused to investigate and there it was. Turns out the Hoopoe can be found around mainland Asia, India, and Africa, as well as Southern Europe. A few hops and pecks later, this one was gone and we now wonder if we’ll ever see another.
We see Cattle Egrets all day, to the point that we often don’t even really see them anymore as they hunt for geckos and other little critters in the yard or the park. But every once in a while one stands out somehow and we’re reminded of how pretty their simple colors can be.
Some Rose Ringed Parakeets, or Green Parrots as they are commonly called here, have begun visiting our backyard bird feeder. It’s pretty comical to see them clamber around like monkeys to access the feeder, which was designed for much smaller birds. They’re an invasive species, for sure, but they’ve become pretty ubiquitous on Oahu at this point. They’re colorful but loud, and certainly not graceful.
The Mariana Fruit Dove has been wiped out on Guam as a result of invasive Brown Tree Snakes and habitat loss, and these beautiful birds are highly endangered in the Northern Mariana Islands too. There are no snakes here in Hawaii unless they are smuggled in or stowaway in a plane, ship, or cargo container, which actually happens quite a bit. Just the other day a Garter Snake was discovered in a shipment of Christmas trees that arrived here. It would be wonderful if the birds at the Honolulu Zoo could help repopulate the species on Guam, but Guam would have to get rid of the snakes first, and that seems very, very difficult.
The tiny Fennec Foxes at the Honolulu Zoo are pretty adorable with their oversized ears and imploring eyes. These natives of the Sahara Desert and Sinai Peninsula are the smallest foxes in the world, and their big ears help dissipate heat. They probably hear pretty good too!
A young Aukuu scanned the muck-covered pond for something to snap at. They wait patiently for long periods and then strike with lighting speed when they spot the right victim just below the surface.
Tarsiers are among my favorite animals, and I’ve only seen them once. We met these tiny nocturnal primates at a shabby little roadside zoo in the central Philippines a few years back and I only had a junk camera with me. They’re almost unbearably cute, but the sad reality is that there are few left in the wild. In fact it was probably illegal to exhibit them in a private zoo, and we probably contributed to the problem by paying to see them. I hope the Philippines can find a balance that protects the land, the water, and the wildlife but also makes nature accessible to visitors and helps provide a livelihood for residents. It’s a tall order, and one we certainly struggle with in Hawaii.
The Red-billed Leiothrix is one of my favorite non-native birds in Hawaii. These colorful little guys are sure to make their presence known when you stumble upon them in the forest, as they will hop around and loudly chatter to sound the alarm that an intruder is present.