Thursday, June 27, 2013

Asahiyama Zoo

I really need to be better about keeping promises regarding posts I'm going to write... or stop making promises altogether. Have a bit of fresh material for now and maybe one day I'll get around to one of those reviews or months-ago trips I keep talking about.

Earlier this month I got to visit the Asahiyama Zoo, one of the most popular zoos in Japan. It is also the country's northernmost zoo, being situated in Hokkaido. While many of the exhibits were smaller than I'm used to seeing*, its animals looked healthy and were often provided with many sources of enrichment. In fact, the zoo is well known (at least within the country) for its exhibit designs that stimulate natural behaviors in its animals.

*As I once read someone joke, you could fit the entire Asahiyama Zoo into one exhibit at the San Diego Zoo.

Not all of the exhibit signs had English translations, but based on my limited knowledge of Japanese I think this is a black kite. (Thank goodness for my field guide to Japanese birds, which contained the Japanese names of the species it covered.) Black kites are common in Japan and I saw many wild individuals over the course of my vacation (including at the zoo), often mobbed by the even more ubiquitous jungle crows. While we're on the subject, jungle crows are the size of small common ravens and have even thicker bills; imagine those foraging in your neighborhood.

Capybaras lounging around. Capybaras always appear rather chill to me, but it was a hot day when I visited so they were probably trying to be especially so by cooling off in the water. It appears that these rodents are quite popular in Japan, for I saw plushie capybaras at many of the shops I visited.

Up above, spider monkeys clambered about on one of those enrichment structures I hinted at earlier.

Nearby were a series of enclosures for other monkeys (and ring-tailed lemurs). Note the presence of the primate keeper on this dramatis personae.

A eastern black-and-white colobus or mantled guereza.

A pair of De Brazza's monkeys.

A muntjac deer. Though among the smallest deer, the males have formidable-looking canines.

Some gibbons. They were sheltering in the shade when I initially arrived, but I did see them brachiating later on. I regret not taking more pictures of the enrichment structures, because some of them were rather elaborate. The nearby orangutans even had a veritable jungle gym that spanned a large wall as well as a suspended walkway that allowed them to venture beyond their main enclosures (similar to, though much smaller than, the O-Line at the National Zoo).

A wapiti.

A Japanese crane. It's hard to see here, but it'd just pulled a dead fish out of the pond in its exhibit and was adjusting it for ease of swallowing. I would see wild Japanese cranes (though protected by caging) later on during my vacation.

A local Japanese toad species in the reptile and amphibian house.

I don't know why these mice were being exhibited in the reptile house, though my personal suspicions are that they are fed to snakes. Speaking of the snakes, there was a sign at the building entrance warning visitors about snake droppings. Turns out they had a mesh tunnel overhead that allowed snakes to cross from one enclosure to another across the hallway.

An American alligator.

The next part of the zoo I went to exhibited local animals of Hokkaido. I often enjoy this sort of exhibition, for although they may contain species that locals find mundane, said species are often rare in foreign institutions. In this case, there were many owls on display, though the mesh cages made them hard to photograph. Here's an eagle owl.

This is some species of scops owl if I remember right.

A magnificent Steller's sea eagle. Though I said earlier that most of the enclosures at the Asahiyama Zoo were comparatively small, those of the large raptors were larger than what I've seen at many other zoos, which was nice. It's hard not to marvel at wild raptors and remember that captive individuals often have little room to fly even though flight is such a big part of their lifestyles in the wild. (Granted, in some instances the individuals have been rendered permanently flightless by injuries.)

A great spotted woodpecker. One of those species that's probably not too eyecatching to locals, but certainly new for a North American like me.

A Siberian chipmunk, the only chipmunk found outside of North America.

Raccoon dogs, unusual canids strongly featured in Japanese culture. (Yes, I did see statues of well-endowed raccoon dogs in front of Japanese shops on my trip.) How unusual are they? They hibernate and climb trees!

A red fox. Another species I would later see wild individuals of.

Elsewhere in the zoo, the polar bear enclosure, which surrounded a building with multiple viewing windows, including one designed so you can pretend to be a seal popping up from a breathing hole in what is presumably your final moments.

Unexpectedly, there were some fish exhibited in the polar bear building. They didn't come with English signs and my knowledge of fish is sketchy at best, but I think this is a clingfish.

Some lumpsuckers.

Uh... maybe a wolffish?

Some African crested porcupines.

A Blakiston's fish owl, one of Tet Zoo's ten most beautifully interesting birds. Like the sea eagles, it had a generously large exhibit with a small pond presumably for it to fish from.