Sunday, September 16, 2012

Taipei Zoo Part II: Nocturnal House

The exhibits at the Taipei Zoo's nocturnal house haven't aged well over the years. Most of them are rather small, drab concrete enclosures with a few branches and other enrichment items here and there, not terribly exciting or naturalistic. Perhaps the zoo has realized this, because I hear that they have/will shut down the nocturnal house this month, to be replaced by a tropical rainforest building in the future. It's still a bit of a shame though, because I did enjoy the interesting variety of animals they kept in there, some of which I'd never seen at any other zoo.

For some reason or another the glass viewing windows didn't appear to be particularly conducive to photography, so most of these photos are rather grainy.

Here's a tytonid owl, though I forget which species exactly.

Some owl monkeys or douroucoulis, the only group of nocturnal monkeys in the world. (Once upon a time I would've said the only species of nocturnal monkey, but it is now generally thought that said taxon was overlumped and there are really many distinct species.)

A binturong, a large Asian civet that reportedly smells like popcorn.

A white-faced flying squirrel, one of the giant Asian flying squirrels. It is a local Formosan species, found at fairly high altitudes in the mountains.

A Eurasian eagle owl, one of the largest and most powerful of all owls. It commonly preys on other birds of prey, including the likes of goshawks, peregrine falcons, and buzzards.

A slow loris. It was unusually active that day, ambling and clambering around its exhibit much quicker than you'd expect for something called a slow loris. Speaking of which, it just happens to be Loris Awareness Week!

A kinkajou, one of the only two carnivorans with a prehensile tail. (The other being the aforementioned binturong.) I snapped its photo while it was grooming itself, hence the blurriness.

Nearby was a fairly close relative (maybe), one much more familiar to North Americans, the common raccoon.

A jungle cat.

A red giant flying squirrel, another species of large flying squirrel that lives in the wild here, though at lower altitudes.

Up on the second floor, there was a series of rodent exhibits that were holdovers from a special exhibition the zoo did for the Year of the Rat (2008). Most of these exhibited rodents were muroids (rats, mice, and kin), but these guinea pigs were not, being part of the same group that includes porcupines and the capybara.

A Norway rat, an albino specimen as is commonly used in laboratories and in the pet trade.

Some hamsters.

This murid was adorable, but I don't remember its name.

A black-capped night heron.

A species of hedgehog.

A Siberian weasel (the Formosan subspecies, to be exact). For a real life example of the Killer Rabbit trope, you need look no further.

A Chinese ferret badger. Unlike most other mustelids known as badgers, ferret badgers can climb trees, though considering that badgers are not a monophyletic group that probably doesn't mean anything.

An Old World porcupine from Asia. I remember it being a Malayan porcupine, so I'll go with that for now. Porcupines are also non-monophyletic, with New World and Old World taxa evolving their quilled defense convergently.

Strangely, the nocturnal house includes a number of freshwater fish exhibits, even though not all of these fish are nocturnal. These are Candidia barbata, a species endemic to Taiwan.

Paradisefish, relatives of bettas. Like bettas, they can be rather aggressive towards other fish, including their own kind.

Most of the larger fish in the nocturnal house, such as this red arowana, were kept in tanks that were clearly far too small for them, another mark of the subpar exhibit quality there.

A silver arowana. This species is well-known for their ability to jump out of the water to snatch prey from overhanging branches. It is even known to eat birds and bats.

A freshwater stingray. It lived in the same tank as the silver arowana, making the already small tank doubly crowded. I kept getting the impression that it would whip its barbed tail up to spear the arowana every time the latter brushed past it, but that didn't happen.

A bichir, part of an unusual group of air-breathing fish. They are obligate air-breathers, meaning they'd drown if denied access to air!

A freshwater butterfly fish, a surface-dwelling predatory fish with very large pectoral fins. They are good at jumping and are sometimes said to be able to glide for a short distance, though this is debated.

Some gars.

Some black ghost knifefish. Having kept a few of these for a short period of time they are among my favorite fish. The reason they are so blurry in the photo is that two of them were fighting back forth across the (really small) tank.

And if that weren't enough there was a third specimen in the exhibit.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Taipei Zoo Part I: Formosan Animals and Insect House

One of the few zoos I've been to outside of North America is the Taipei Zoo. It's probably the largest zoo on the island of Taiwan. (Its Wikipedia page makes the claim that it's the largest zoo in Asia, but I'm less certain about that and the citation link for it is broken.) Overall it's a pretty decent zoo; not quite on par with the top American zoos I've been to, but it has a good variety of animals and most of the exhibits are of acceptable quality (a number, however, visibly suffer from overcrowding).

As is common for many zoos, the first exhibit one sees upon entering is a pond with several species of flamingos.

A nearby section of the zoo features native Formosan (=Taiwanese) wildlife. Here's a sika deer, the Formosan subspecies of which is endemic to the island. Historically these were common all over the place, but in the wild are now restricted to a population of around a thousand individuals in southern Taiwan.

Blurry and poorly-taken photo of some wild boar. Having eaten wild boar on various occasions I can say they're delicious.

A leopard cat.

A crested serpent eagle. As one can guess, this species preys mainly on snakes. Right next to its exhibit was a clouded leopard enclosure, though I didn't see the clouded leopard during my visit this summer. I bring it up only to mention that the Formosan clouded leopard is thought to be extinct, and so the individual exhibited isn't actually from the island.

A Formosan black bear, another endemic subspecies, this time of the Asiatic black bear.

Formosan macaques, which are an actual endemic species to Taiwan. Wild ones can be commonly seen in some of the mountains there.

A brown wood owl.

A long-nosed squirrel. It was jumping and scurrying around the exhibit, as squirrels tend to do, so this was the best photo I got of it.

A male Swinhoe's pheasant, an endemic bird species.

Taipei Zoo is the only zoo I've ever been to that exhibits pangolins, so I was very excited to see one out and about this time. So excited that I couldn't get a good picture of it!

There's an insect house near the Formosan animals area. I went through it rather quickly so these photos aren't really representative of the place. Here's a stick insect of the genus Megacrania.

A Lan-Hsu giant katydid.

There was an area with various free-flying butterflies, all local species.

I got a nice photo of a leaf butterfly there.

There was a small area that exhibited nocturnal insects, including this one, which what I think is some sort of stag beetle. I mostly learned my lesson from past zoo trips and remembered to photograph signs of animal species I didn't think I'd remember afterward. This time though there was the small snag that some of the photos I took of the signs turned out too blurry to read easily.

Some king mealworms.

A whirligig beetle.