Thursday, October 13, 2016

Bristol Zoo Part II: Reptile House

The reptile house is one of the Bristol Zoo's highlights. Not far outside it is the AmphiPod, not an exhibit for amphipod crustaceans, but a breeding facility for amphibians.

A rhinoceros iguana.

In the reptile house proper, an emerald tree monitor.

I was particularly taken with their collection of rare geckos. Here is a Standing's day gecko.

A much smaller and more colorful yellow-headed day gecko.

Not to be outdone, a male turquoise dwarf gecko displays its own vivid coloration. This view doesn't quite show off his blue, however.

A juvenile common chameleon.

A large frog, infamously known as the mountain chicken.

A Cuban boa.

An amethystine python.

A critically endangered Annam leaf turtle trying to climb a ledge.

It was unsuccessful. (Not to worry, it was able to right itself.)

The leaf turtle habitat was quite nice and also inhabited by frogs, fish, and even snails.

A blue tree monitor.

More critically endangered testudinians, some Egyptian tortoises.

Above the tortoises, an adult common chameleon.

A blue spiny lizard.

An immature African dwarf crocodile. It and its same-aged siblings have been temporarily separated from the main dwarf crocodile exhibit, as their mother had a new clutch of young and started behaving aggressively towards them.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Bristol Zoo Part I: Entrance and Twilight World

One might think it would be easier and more convenient for me to visit the Bristol Museum, which is correct. However, I have only skimmed the museum galleries thus far and lack good photos from there, so I'm covering the Bristol Zoo first.

The Bristol Zoo is fairly small; one can tour the whole place in around two hours at a clip. Some have given it grief for devoting so much of its already limited space to play areas for children. In terms of species selection and overall aesthetics, however, I found a lot to like about it.

The zoo has an impressive primate collection. Take these drills, for instance.

Another feature of the Bristol Zoo is its many walkthrough exhibits. One near the entrance contains several species of shorebirds and waterbirds, including these pied avocets, common redshanks, and marbled teal.

These greater flamingos likely get most of the spotlight.

Some little egrets in a tree.

The lions here are Asiatic, not African. (They are not in a walkthrough exhibit, if that weren't clear...)

Further along past the lions is the entrance to Twilight World, the zoo's nocturnal house. The images I captured here are subpar, so bear with me. (Insert usual spiel about difficulties of taking pictures in the dark.) The first exhibit in the building is of a diurnal species though, this yellow mongoose.

I was unable to get even a marginally satisfactory photo of the Turkish spiny mice, but they are the rarest mammals at the zoo. The last line on this sign even says that hardly anything is known about the species (though they have successfully bred in captivity). These claims may or may not hold up. I tend to enjoy small rodents in any case, so I won't complain.

I was impressed by the large number of marsupials at the zoo that weren't koalas or macropods. Here is a kowari, a small predatory marsupial.

A ground cuscus, so called because it sleeps in burrows rather than in the trees like a typical possum. This one is not sleeping.

The last non-macropod marsupial at the zoo, which I was unable to get a picture of, was the eastern quoll, a medium-sized predatory marsupial.

That's only three species, I know. It still beats most non-Australian zoos that I know about.

Spot the Malagasy jumping rat. I've spent ages trying to get good photos of this species at the National Zoo, to no avail. They are monogamous and also really cute.

Worthy of mention was that there were some rare primates housed in Twilight World (lorises, mouse lemurs, and aye-ayes), though I do not have photos.

Right outside the exit is a walkthrough exhibit for Livingstone's fruit bats. Visitors are advised not to stand directly underneath them.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

TetZooCon 2016

One of the (many) perks of coming over to study in the UK is the opportunity to attend TetZooCon. Though I am a resident of the Tet Zoo Empire, there had always been considerable geographic distance separating me from the physical headquarters of Tetrapod Zoology until now. Naturally, I had no intention of missing such an opportunity, even if I had to catch a train at 5:30 in the morning to get there.

It was as grand as I'd imagined. Darren Naish himself has already ably summarized the main events of the day, so I won't attempt to do the same. My personal favorite presentations were John Hutchinson's fascinating exhibition of recent advances in kneecap research and Dave Unwin's charismatic talk on pterosaur reproductive biology, but all of the speakers were excellent.

Seeing Bob Nicholls's Psittacosaurus model in the flesh was a treat, and trying to make our own Psittacosaurus out of plasticine was great fun. One of my favorite results from that exercise was that someone had decided to make a model of the original fossil specimen instead of the living animal! (Unfortunately, I do not have a picture of that model and am unaware of who was responsible for its creation.*)

*Edit: Alexander Lovegrove has identified himself as the creator of the plasticine fossil, but also lacks a photo of it.

Nicholls's model (left) and mine (right). Obvious spitting images of each other.
I had some time remaining after I completed my Psittacosaurus, so I quickly put together a Repenomamus nemesis for it. However, at some point during the convention someone decided to rearrange to two to be side by side, evidently suggesting that they should be friends instead.

Per TetZooCon convention (heh heh), the official events of the day ended with a quiz. Though notoriously challenging in past years, I had a feeling while taking it that Darren had made it easier this time around, which he later confirmed. Nonetheless, to my surprise I earned second place in high scores (tied with Kai Casper) and the honor of picking from a selection of prizes. (I ended up walking away with a print of John's All Yesterdays Parasaurolophus.)

Following suit from last year's SVP, I included "Albertonykus" as part of my name tag to make myself more identifiable to others, but it turned out that at this gathering introducing myself as the co-creator of TetZoo Time earned even more recognition! In addition to finally meeting Darren Naish and John Conway in person, I had the pleasure of running into others who I'd previously only known online, including Juan Yu See, Jack Wood, Alexander Lovegrove, Niroot Puttapipat, Richard Nicklin ("Yodelling Cyclist"), and more. It's too bad none of the TetZoo Time crew could meet up this year, but here's hoping I'll still be in the area for next TetZooCon.

One regret I have is not bringing my copy of Tetrapod Zoology: Book One to the convention for Darren to sign. (I even have the "limited edition" in which the title is misspelled "Tetrapood Zoology" on the spine!) However, that wasn't something I'd thought ahead about while packing for grad school.

A few words should be said about the venue itself, the London Wetland Centre. Understandably, we didn't have much time to explore the place ourselves, but from what little I saw it was a wonderful haven for captive and wild animals alike, particularly waterfowl, excellently showcasing local avifauna such as rose-ringed parakeets and Egyptian geese. (For real though, there was plenty of native wildlife to see!) I did not have my good camera with me and thus don't have any pictures to share, but if I ever make a dedicated trip to the wetland centre (and I intend to) I will make certain to report back.