With the crowds of the San Diego Zoo and its vast expanse behind me I was excited to visit a smaller, quieter and more intimate zoo. I was more than pleased with the sweet and charming Santa Barbara Zoo. To learn more about the zoo visit my Santa Barbara Zoo post and see what there is to do and see! Join me here as I take you around the zoo from chatty swans to the California Trails at the Santa Barbara Zoo.
In pure Santa Barbara flair the entrance building is in the Spanish style and welcomed you into the company of some chatty black swans. My first encounter was with the zoo’s snow leopard pair, Zoe and Everett, who in true snow leopard fashion were at ease on the rocky ledges in the enclosure and almost blended in with their creamy, spotted coat. Next I found myself among some of Asia’s most beautiful and most endangered of species, the Amur leopard. With possibly less than 50 individuals left in the wild, the Amur leopard is sadly the most endangered of the big cats. But at the Santa Barbara Zoo I was in awe of this majestic creature as it perched atop a high rock structure in its enclosure and seemed to pose for all to see and adore.
Across from the regal Amur leopard was the Wings of Asia aviary, set in an enchanting setting of pretty trees, a tranquil pond with turtles basking on rocks in the sun, two waterfalls and all around, in the trees, on the footpath and in the bushes were ten species of stunning and rare birds, some of which I’d never seen before. Strutting around was the bleeding heart pigeon, named for the red splash on its white breast, and on the highest branches was the gorgeous Indian roller with iridescent feathers that caught the sun’s rays and sparkled. A new species to me was the Himalayan monal pheasant, though the females were unadorned with shades of brown, the males were dressed in vibrant shades of green, purple and blue and reminded me of my beloved peacocks but smaller. Found from east Afghanistan through the Himalayas to Bhutan the Himalayan monal pheasant is also the national bird of Nepal.
One of my favourite exhibits at the zoo was Gibbon Island, home to white-handed gibbons, with loads of trees and ropes for them to swing from. I loved the idea of their own island oasis, with no barriers or bars, it felt natural and serene. From gibbons, who at rest look like wise yogis, you enter the Elephant Walk, home to two female Asian elephants named Syatha and Little Mac who have been at the zoo since 1972. These two lovely elephants, at over 40 years old have made lasting memories for the zoo’s staff and visitors over the years.
At the Santa Barbara Zoo I was pleased to encounter a new species I’d never heard of and learned are sadly critically endangered, the Channel Island fox. Found on six of the eight Channel Islands just off the coast of Santa Barbara, the Channel Island fox is the only carnivore that is unique to California. These monogamous animals were once on the brink of extinction but with the help of conservation organizations their numbers are increasing.
The California Trails are home to two of California’s endangered species, the little known Channel Island fox and the well-known California condor. I learned something new about these incredible birds that really surprised me, it turns out that California condors can make no vocal sounds because they have no vocal cords. Strange. I took time to sit and watch these once almost extinct birds, and caught sight of the more dominant birds pecking at the younger one (juveniles have a dark head, opposed to the adult pink/red head) and making sure it stayed on the branches below the more dominant and older ones. I learned that this is a common behaviour to let other birds know their place and who’s in charge.
I learned so much during my visit to the Santa Barbara Zoo, from seeing new species to strange facts about others, and fell in love with it’s animals. Hope you enjoyed this half of the zoo and hope you’ll join me for the next!