San Francisco Zoo: Walking about the Outback to Bear Country

emu and kangaroosHave you ever trekked Australia’s Outback?  How about South America’s rainforests? Have you seen a bear in the wild? Well, if these are some of the items on your bucket list than perhaps a stroll through San Francisco Zoo’s Outback Walkabout, encounters with some amazing South American animals and getting up close with bears in Grizzly Gulch is in store.

When we think of Australia’s Outback iconic animals spring to mind like bouncing kangaroos and adorable snoozing koalas.  At the San Francisco Zoo you’ll encounter these fascinating marsupials and more.  Wait, what is a marsupial?  A marsupial is a class of mammals, most of which live in Australasia and carry their young in a pouch.  The first animal on San Francisco Zoo’s Outback trail is the always cute koala.  In Koala Crossing you’ll see these fluffy marsupials usually sitting in a crook of a tree and sleeping, which is what they spend most of their day doing due to the lack of nutrients in their diet.

joeyLike many a great zoos I’ve visited, here at the San Francisco Zoo they have a Australian Walkabout where you can go deep into the actually exhibit with kangaroos, both red and grey, wallaroos and many joeys (baby kangaroos), they’re so cute especially when they stand in front of their mothers with their head stuck in her pouch.  TOO funny!  Life most of the Zoo’s exhibits, this exhibit houses animals as well as plants that are native to Australia, giving a true authentic experience.

ant eaterLeaving the Outback you’ll head towards San Francisco Zoo’s South America exhibit through Puente al Sur otherwise known as Bridge to the South.  Here you’ll find the South American Tropical Forest house, home to South American reptiles, fish and birds.  It’s here you’ll also meet capybaras and a multi-species exhibit with black necked swans (one of which sat perched atop a large nest at the water’s edge), white-faced whistling ducks and one of my favourites the giant anteater.  Giant anteaters are remarkable creatures reaching weights of up to 140 pounds and lengths of seven feet.  They have no teeth but long tongues, more than 2 feet long, and can lap up 35,000 ants and termites a day.  I was thrilled to see it up and about, as I walked up it came swaggering, with that massive tail, towards the front of the pond.  I was totally surprised when it actually kept going right into the water and walked around in it for a while, mostly submerged – definitely a new sight for me!

sea lionThe South American exhibit is also home to two very special animals, Henry and Silent Knight, the zoo’s sea lions.  Both of these sweet sea lions are blind and were rescued from the wild.  Silent Knight was found in Sausalito with a facial gun shot wound and rescued in 2010.  Henry was also found blind and rescued that same year.  Both were brought together and with healed wounds and unable to be reintroduced into the wild they have become great friends and great ambassadors for their wild kin.  At the San Francisco Zoo they have a safe home, lots of care and an 85,000 gallon pool to swim and play in.

bearUp next is Bear Country, home to the zoo’s polar bears, chacoan peccary and even more memorable animals.  In the center of the exhibit is a large pond and at it’s center is Eagle Island.  An island with no mesh, no cage and an eagle.  But sadly this majestic bird can not fly away as she, Sureshot, was injured in the wild and unable to fly.  Here she’s safe and watches over the zoo’s other special animals like Kachina and Kiona.  Kachina and Kiona, meaning sacred dancer and brown hills from a North American dialect, are sisters and were once wild and orphaned and were going to be euthanized because they were considered ‘problem’ animals, hunting livestock and coming in to contact with humans.  When the San Francisco Zoo found out they chose to take them in and provide a safe home for them.  They now have a gorgeous large habitat, with a herb garden for enrichment, a waterfall to play in and a refreshing 20,000 gallon pool.  As California state’s mammal and sadly extinct in the state, Kachina and Kiona are now ambassadors for their wild brethren.

I not only fell in love with the San Francisco Zoo but also with its love and dedication to protect and save wild animals and of course its amazing animals, those born at the zoo and those saved from emanate death in the wild.  With the Zoo’s mission to connect people with wildlife, inspire caring for nature and advance conservation action, the San Francisco Zoo is a great place to support and explore.

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