Tuesday, March 21, 2017

London Zoo Part I: Rainforest Life and Nightlife

London Zoo is situated within a large park with abundant opportunities for birding. Here a mute swan browses from a waterside tree.

A European green woodpecker, a lifer for me. This species is ecologically similar to the North American northern flicker, which I'm more familiar with. Both woodpecker species forage mainly for ants on the ground.

I had to restrain myself from spending too much time on birdwatching in the park, but I eventually made it to the zoo.

My first stop was the exhibit closest to the zoo's main entrance, the aquarium. It has a nice collection with many rarely-seen fish species, but it is so dimly-lit that getting any decent photos was a real struggle. My only fish photo taken there that is remotely presentable was of this white-eyed moray.

There is also a poignant display on plastic pollution.

Next, I headed to the Rainforest Life/Nightlife building. Half of this building (the "Rainforest Life" half) is a walkthrough rainforest exhibit where monkeys, sloths, and tamanduas roam freely. Some of the branches in the exhibit are arranged so that the animals can (and do) venture close right overhead or next to the visitors. Here is an emperor tamarin keeping its distance for the time being.

Most surprising to me, however, were the narrow-striped bokies kept in a glass-fronted display on the side of the walkway. Though commonly called the narrow-striped mongoose (including by the exhibit signage), the narrow-striped boky is no longer considered a true mongoose, but a separate radiation of carnivorans endemic to Madagascar. I must have taken around thirty photos of them trying to get a good shot.

The other half of the building (the "Nightlife" half) is a nocturnal exhibit. I'd heard that Panay cloudrunners could be seen here, but, to some slight disappointment, they didn't appear to be on display when I visited.

I did, however, have a great time watching some other rodents present, namely the rakalis. Not only were they a first for me, they are an interesting species in themselves, being the largest Australian rodents. As placentals living in a land of marsupials, rakalis have taken on the role of semi-aquatic predators, a niche that hasn't been exploited by Australian marsupials. They have a decently-sized pool with underwater viewing at the London Zoo, though I didn't see them use it. Regardless, their terrestrial antics were plenty entertaining enough. As is typical of nocturnal houses, my attempted photos turned out less than stellar.

I also received another opportunity to get pictures of Malagasy giant jumping rats. Not there yet...

Say what? It is possible to get halfway decent pictures at nocturnal exhibits? It helps, naturally, when the subject of the photo is one that spends a significant amount of time not moving around much, such as this gray slender loris.

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