Surprise encounter at the zoo

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!

A Monarch finds solace in rough weather


It’s been super-windy and rainy on Oahu lately and this Monarch Butterfly had a real hard time coming in for a landing. The gusts kept blowing him back and shaking the flower blossoms but after several failed approaches he finally touched down and remained long enough to be photographed. We see Monarchs from time to time in urban Honolulu but rarely see them in large groups like on some other islands.

Backyard parrots cavorting


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.


I swear they are smiling


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 king lives alone


He’s not quite as lovable at Toucan Sam, but the King Vulture is colorful and majestic and has a large enclosure all to himself at the Honolulu Zoo. A sign there warns that he bites fingers! In the wild, King Vultures soar for hours in the skies above Central and South America looking for carrion, and sometimes for injured or dying prey. I guess somebody’s got to do it to keep that stuff from piling up and spreading disease and whatnot.

Sunny disposition


The Sun Conures are among the most colorful birds at the Honolulu Zoo. These South American beauties are in a way cursed by their colorful plumage, however, as they are relentlessly hunted and captured for the pet trade, and are also endangered by loss of habitat. There are said to be more Sun Conures now living in captivity than in the wild.

Magnificent dragon


The Komodo Dragon is a pretty amazing creature, but I wouldn’t want to encounter one in the wild, much less a bunch of them, unless I was clearly in a safe place like a boat or vehicle. It’s the world’s largest lizard, and can weigh up to 150 pounds. The Honolulu Zoo’s dragon walks quickly like it’s on a mission, and it’s not hard to image it taking down a deer, big, or human. Yikes!