Sun bears, named for the patch of fur on their chest that resembles the rising sun, are the smallest and rarest species of bear. A native of South East Asia, sun bears are known to be very curious and energetic which was quite evident on our visit. With indoor and outdoor enclosures full of climbing structures, enrichment toys, a waterfall outdoors and a heated pool indoors, as well as a honey drip so visitors can see the bears use their long tongues, that range from 8 to 10 inches, to reach the sweet treat. On our visit the Edinburgh Zoo’s pair of sun bears were in their indoor enclosure. While one casually relaxed on a log overlooking the enclosure, the other was busy playing with a tree branch, carrying it around, pawing at it like a toy and thrashing it in its mouth. It was certainly entertaining and great to see a bear, in captivity, active and enjoying much needed enrichment.
After an entertaining visit watching the sun bear play we strolled past a large outdoor yard that housed a family of southern pudus. Native to southern Chile and southwestern Argentina’s dense temperate forests, the southern pudu is the smallest species of deer in the world ranging from 20 to 30 pounds and with a height of 10 to 17 inches. It was amusing to peer into their large enclosure only to barely see these sweet little deer walking through the grass that was almost taller than them.
As I mentioned in a previous post, the Edinburgh Zoo is known for their penguins, even showcasing one in their logo and I was looking forward to seeing them. The zoo’s Penguin Parade started by accident after a few birds escaped in 1950, it proved to be so popular with visitors that the zoo featured it daily until this spring when they started work on their Penguin Rock enclosure. With a maintenance and upgrade overhaul in place the zoo temporally relocated their prized king penguins and some of their other penguins and shuffled the gentoo and rockhopper penguins that would remain at the zoo to other enclosures. So sadly I didn’t get to see their kings nor the Penguin Parade on my visit but I was still happy to see work being done to better improve the lives of their penguin colony. Our next stop was to the rockhopper penguin enclosure; with their furrowed brow of yellow feathers these serious looking penguins know how to have fun. I always enjoy watching penguins that are so at home in the water yet some, as they stand at the edge of the water look like they’re unsure, shuffling their feet as a monologue runs through their head “should I?” or “shouldn’t I”, and then as graceful as they are in the water, at the edge they just sort of fall in. No dive points here! As we watched on they were playing in the water, jumping in and out, showing off and one was even doing a sideways shimmy in the water like he was dancing. With many penguin species being endangered there is hope, as movies like ‘Happy Feet’ and ‘Surfs Up’ give these amazing animals star status it will also hopefully bring awareness to their very real endangered status.The big cat trail that is home to the zoo’s jaguars, Amur leopards and Sumatran tigers showcases some great enclosures for these endangered and elusive cats. The enclosures are a fair size with loads of lush vegetation, water features and plenty of safe places to hide out of the rain. The Sumatran tiger enclosure even has a beautiful, large waterfall.
Following the steep trail leads you to the zoo’s African Plains exhibit. Weather permitting you even have the opportunity to ride the Hilltop Safari bus that takes you there with a guide sharing stories and information about the animals along the way. The African Plains exhibit is literally a massive open yard with trees and a watering hole and is home to zebra, nyala and lesser kudu. Here you’ll find a long boardwalk that takes you out amongst and over the wide open space to watch the various species.
Just around the corner from the African Plains exhibit is another secret gem of the Edinburgh Zoo. The hilltop viewpoint is high above the zoo’s rolling hillside trails and offers a fantastic view of Edinburgh. Sometimes you might need a bit of an imagination, like on the rainy, overcast day I visited the Edinburgh Zoo. But standing at the hilltop viewpoint with the drizzle and haze over the city I could still see the forest though the trees or in this case the potential of a great view through the fog of a great city.