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San Diego Zoo. World-famous zoo with over 4,000 inhabitants. Has the most significant collection of vertebrate animals in the world.
The Wild Animal Park is the better part of the zoo. Originally the hatching base for the zoo, it has been expanded into an attraction for observing wild animals in an environment similar to their natural habitats. In an open environment, wild animals are free to move around and mingle without worrying about the threat of predators, while at the same time still enjoy the food supply and healthcare of a zoo. Good deal eh?
For up close and personal encounter with wild animal, I would recommend the photo caravan tour. It's a bit expensive for two graduate students ($130/person as of summer 2004), but it's worth every penny. There're six areas, but I'll just divide the pictures into two parts: Africa and Eurasian.
Animals in Africa:
Personally I think giraffe is the most beautiful animal in the world. If you ever look into their huge beautiful eyes, you'll know what I mean. In the tour we fed these graceful 18-feet-tall fellows several times along the way.
It's hard to imagine the ferocious-looking Southern White Rhinoceros are actually gentle herbivores. They do have avery poor eyesight, being able to see only 30 feet ahead. Therefore, it's a very bad idea to stand in their way when they are running, which could be up to a speed of 30 mph. In such a hot summer day, life is slow. Some enjoy a mud bath. The mud acts as a protective coating against UV and flies.
Here comes the biggest bird in the world, the Ostrich. They can reach up to 9 feet and 350 lbs. Not very smart though, their brain is the same size of their eyes. How silly can they get? One of them started a mating dance towards our truck... who did he think we were?
Other residences of the African region. 1st row in order: Cape Buffalo, beautiful Fringe-eared Oryx (2 pix), Roosevelt's Gazelle (named after Teddy for his lifelong work in conservation), and a herd of Jimela Topi. 2nd row: Eastern White-bearded Gnu (look like cows, but they are actually large antelopes), Thomson's Gazelle (favorite prey of cheetah), South African Sable Antelope (the herd is forming a watching circle, covering every directions for potential danger from predators), and a sleepy Zebra.
The above scenes inspired our trip to Africa in the summer of 2006, where we saw many of the beasts above in their real home, and much more. Check out the first 4 countries in our photo album.
Altai Wapiti from northern China, Mongolia, and Russia. Like most deer, their elaborated antlers are mostly for attracting females and will fall off every year.
Of course antlers are not just ornaments. These two Pere David's Deer, who were fighting over a group of ladies... wives, demonstrated how functional their antlers can be in a fierce battle that last over 20 minutes. A group of anxious ladies were watching in the water. Winner takes all! Loser was expelled to the other side of the pond. These deer were originally from China and brought into the Western world by Pere David, a minister, early last century.
The Indian Rhinoceros is an endangered species because it is hunted by many Asian who believe their horns have magical power. Here in the park, you got to feed these lovely fellows with apples.
Other residence in the Eurasian area. From left to right: Indian Gaur (2 pix), Turkomen Markhor (From southern Russia and northern Afghanistan. Impressive corkscrew horns aren't they?), two Indian Sarus Crane (2 pix. They are symbol of marital fidelity because of their lifelong relationship), and a white-lipped deer share the pond with a herd of Lowland Wisent (relative of American Bison that we saw in Yellowstone).
The Elephant show. The largest land animals have amazingly deft noses.
Scary little creatures in the jungle. The tiny little guy in the last picture might not be very impressive in size, but it has a huge name: the black widow. The most feared spider got its name from eating the male after mating.
The walking tour.
The zoo. The animals in the zoo is not as lively as those in the wild animal park. However, at least you'll be able to watch the predators such as that tiger in a close distance. In the wild, it'll be sleeping most of the day (over 22 hours!) and spend most of the wake time hunting.
San Diego Sea World.
The Shamu (killer whale) show and the Dolphin show are not to be missed. A lot of stunning moves by the killer whale. The dolphins are very smart.
The sea water and fresh water aquariums.
Creatures living in a freezing world: white whales, polar bears, and penguins. That huge "Moby Dick" was quite awe-inspiring.
The Miramar air Show (courtesy of Danny the brother). Miramar has been a military base since 1917. Now it is occupied by the Marine Corp. The Miramar air show is one of San Diego's most well-known annual public event.
The famous B-1B "Lancer" bomber and F-117 "Night hawk" stealth fighter (both are stars in the air strikes of Gulf War II); the latest F-35 "joint strike fighter;" and the AV-8B "Harrier," which can take off vertically like a helicopter (because its engine has four vectored thrusts, which can turn down ward).
Some military circus show: fueling helicopter and jet fighter in the air by a fuel tanker; rescue with a helicopter; the last one is the hulk C-130 "Hercules."
All kinds of fancy moves. Of course the climax is a show from the best of the best: the Blue Angles of the Marine Corp. Watch those F/A-18 "Hornets" strike the sky! (note: the last picture was grabbed from the web)
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