Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Shinagawa Aquarium

The final destination of interest during my Tokyo trip was the Shinagawa Aquarium. The first series of tanks here featured recreations of several Japanese aquatic environments. Here are a few Japanese catfish.

A Japanese eel.

A spot-billed duck and (non-native) red-eared sliders.

Off to the side were a number of smaller tanks. One had this red gurnard and some schooling fish I can't identify.

A flatfish exhibit with a similar setup to one I saw at the Vancouver Aquarium.

A common octopus. Several individuals lived in this complex of tanks, connected with transparent tubing (part of one is visible in the background). Besides the tubing, other enrichment items such as seashells, jars, and flowerpots were also present.

Outside the main building, there was a dolphin tank that looked too small for the number of dolphins present.

There was also a display for Magellanic penguins, again much smaller than the one at the Sumida Aquarium.

A spotted seal lounging at an artificial breathing hole.

From here, one can overlook Shinagawa Park (which the aquarium is situated in). Some wild birds were out and about, such as the pair of spot-billed ducks and the white wagtail in this picture.

The spotted seal exhibit is one of the highlights of this aquarium. Here's the same seal at the breathing hole viewed from underwater. At some points the tank surrounds you on four sides and you can see seals pass overhead and beneath your feet.

Elsewhere on the lower floor, there's a large tank with one of those underwater tunnels that are so common at aquariums. Here's a large sea turtle.

A moray eel and a school of sea bass. One inhabitant of this tank that I don't remember seeing before but didn't get a picture of was a barracuda.

From a smaller tank just beyond, a bamboo shark or a catshark, I can't remember which.

Some upside-down jellyfish.

A number of archerfish. Across from them was a fairly standard coral reef setup.

Some axolotls. Across from them was a much larger tank that housed giant freshwater fish from varying locales.

Continuing onward, there were many displays on unusual adaptations. This is a South American leaffish.

A school of Indian glassfish and glass catfish.

An electric eel, really a big knifefish rather than an eel. Its tank was much more bare-bones than many other exhibits I've seen of this species.

A goby guarding a burrow entrance, probably that of its symbiotic partner, a pistol shrimp. However, the shrimp chose not to show itself that day.

A number of shark exhibits, including this model of a goblin shark, paved the way for a sand tiger shark tank near the aquarium exit. The tank itself looked a little small for such large fish, but on the whole the aquarium appeared to be well maintained despite its shortcomings.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Ueno Zoo Part VII: Other West Garden Exhibits

The majority of the remaining exhibits in the West Garden of the Ueno Zoo were displays of African animals. Many were species I'd frequently seen in other zoos, and as the zoo's closing time was swiftly approaching, I decided to omit most of those exhibits from my trip. However, there were a few exceptions.

The translation here is rather garbled, but it gets the point across.

This shoebill, however, was staying behind the glass-fronted part of its enclosure, beyond the reach of head- and hand-standing visitors.

In general, the zoo does a good job of providing its inhabitants with shelter while still allowing visitor viewing and many of the animals had both outdoor and indoor viewing areas. As it happened, most of them opted for their indoor accommodations on my visit. Here's an okapi, a species I haven't seen since my first trip to the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Wild Animal Park (long before I started this blog).

An exception from the African theme was this giant anteater, pacing around its exhibit. Other South American species, including maned wolves and two-toed sloths, were kept nearby.

Other neighbors were its African ecological counterparts, these aardvarks.

Japan really likes penguins. Everyone does, but it was particularly noticeable in that every zoological institution I visited on my trip had a penguin exhibit. After the giant tank at the Sumida Aquarium though, almost any other penguin display looked like a let-down.

Next up will be the final report from my Tokyo trip!

Ueno Zoo Part VI: Small Mammal House

A cotton-top tamarin.

This zoo might have a larger collection of small rodents than any other that I've been to. This is a Japanese grass vole.

A large Japanese field mouse. (Does that mean there's also a small Japanese field mouse? The answer is yes. In fact, there was a display for some next to this one, but I was unable to get satisfactory pictures of it.) You might notice the PhyloPic t-shirt I'd been wearing reflected by the glass in this photo.

Some Cairo spiny mice.

A Pallas's cat, a somewhat peculiar-looking wild cat from the Central Asian steppes.

Some Ryukyu flying foxes.

Up to this point, many of the other species here had overlapped with the roster I regularly see at the National Zoo. But my visit wasn't quite over yet...

The pathway detoured outdoors and sloped downwards toward the lower floor of the Small Mammal House, where the nocturnal exhibits were kept. Along the way there was a pen for a North American porcupine.

The sloping walkway was decorated with photographs of juvenile animals that had been born here at the small mammal house, in case the adult inhabitants weren't already cute enough to induce diabetes.

A kinkajou, an arboreal frugivore closely related to raccoons.

A short-beaked echidna. (A moment of silence for Victor the echidna, the oldest resident mammal of the San Diego Zoo at the time of his death. I'm glad I got to see him one last time before he passed.)

A Japanese giant flying squirrel. Several individuals lived in a fairly large exhibit, which they shared with a Japanese hare. (Is there also a Japanese dwarf flying squirrel? The answer is yes, and they are famously adorable. As a matter of fact, there were some in a nearby display, but the viewing area was cluttered with the bodies of unprepared visitors suffering from heart attacks. I may have lied about that last part.)

A brush-tailed bettong. The one at the National Zoo is frequently a no-show (despite being kept in a dimly-lit habitat), but this one was quite active.

Some Seba's short-tailed bats.

Some common dormice. Although I didn't get pictures of any others, this zoo almost certainly has the biggest collection of dormice species I'm aware of. Dormice are more closely related to squirrels than to mice.

Also worthy of mention were the harvest mice (which are true mice), which I spent a long time unsuccessfully trying to take photos of.

A group of lesser bushbabies.

They lived alongside yet another rodent, but one significantly larger than them, a springhare.

One of the best species (in my opinion) was saved for last: the spectral tarsier! Tarsiers are the only primates that are entirely carnivorous and are very rare in North American zoos.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Ueno Zoo Part V: Vivarium

Japanese giant salamanders were an appropriate entrance exhibit for the Ueno Zoo's vivarium, though my photo of one turned out less than stellar due to reflective glass.

Easily the best-decorated giant salamander exhibit I've ever seen (at least aesthetically)!

There were a number of smaller displays nearby (mostly highlighting reptile and amphibian species with unusual adaptations), but there was substantial crowding in front of them so I didn't stick around for long.

The main display area here is set in a greenhouse with open- or mesh-topped habitats for the larger inhabitants and more traditional glass displays for smaller animals. The path was comparatively narrow as far as zoo trails go, so I found myself funneled along with little time to spend at each viewing area. As a result, I probably took fewer photos than I otherwise would have. The original Japanese name of the vivarium is the "amphibian and reptile house", but this may be a strange case of the translated name being more fitting, as there were also a few species of fish exhibited here. These are Australian lungfish.

An African dwarf crocodile.

A quince monitor. A new species for me, with some nice colors to boot!

A tomistoma or false gharial. It used to be that I never saw this species in zoos, but I've been to at least three zoos in recent years where they've been housed. While no longer as rare a sight as I remember it once being, its unusual morphology and striking color pattern retain their appeal.

A male leaf-nosed snake. While I'm not confident that this is a first for me, I only remember seeing this species in one of my children's books.

This picture I took to demonstrate what the general environment inside the greenhouse was like. There were some small free-flying birds around, as suggested by the presence of the birdhouse.

Unexpectedly, the end of the path was decorated with models of various fossil specimens! This one was the most recognizable among them (and most pertinent to this blog).

Outside the greenhouse, a room off to the side exhibited native Japanese reptiles and amphibians. I found this Chinese soft-shelled turtle with its head submerged underwater. I thought it was a somewhat humorous sight because, in a sense, it's the reverse of how one often sees soft-shelled turtles: submerged with their head reaching up towards the surface to snorkel. I suspect what it may have been doing though was quasi-urinating through its mouth!