I swear they are smiling

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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

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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

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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

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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!

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