Tag: Bronx Zoo

Big Buddy Goes Face To Face With A Tiger

The big cats at the Bronx Zoo have had a rough 2020 too.

First the zoo was shut down — along with thousands of other gathering places — due to the novel Coronavirus.

Then a tiger at the zoo got sick and tested positive for COVID-19, marking the first positive test for an animal in North America and the first recorded instance of human-to-tiger transmission. Seven other big cats at the zoo caught the virus, including four tigers and three lions.

Thankfully they recovered and everything — or almost everything — looked normal when I visited this week.

One of the awesome things about the zoo’s Tiger Mountain is that it has a trio of viewing ports that provide a prime view of a small pond where the tigers drink, swim and nap.

This tiger lounged in the distance for a few minutes, then got up and gave us a show.

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At one point the tiger came right up to the glass and looked at me:

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Standing three feet from a tiger is an experience, glass or no:

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Not as terrifying as Buddy’s visage, of course, but still something to behold.

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The lions were less welcoming. They were clumped up in the shade of an oak tree, snoozing without so much as a tail flick for motion.

Next was a snow leopard. This guy clearly didn’t deal well with a lot of humans gawking at him, and I could only snap a few shots before he retreated back up a hill in his enclosure, where the angle and brush gave him a measure of cover from human eyes.

I also saw him spinning in a circle repeatedly, a sign of zoochosis. I’m not an animal behaviorist and I’m not qualified to judge the work of the Bronx Zoo’s keepers, who obviously care a great deal for their animals. It’s just a reminder that even the best zoos in the world — with entire teams dedicated to things like enrichment and enclosure design — struggle to keep animals healthy and happy in captivity.

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Even though the name of their species sounds like an Italian dessert and they’re often mistaken for baboons, Gelada are old-world monkeys native to the grasslands of Ethiopia.

Geladas are the only primate species that are grazers: Up to 90 percent of their diet consists of grass and grass seeds. They’re easily recognizable by the hourglass-shaped furless patches on their chests, and they’re the only monkeys to form “herds” instead of troops, with an individual herd’s size swelling to more than 1,000 at a time.

When Geladas aren’t eating they’re grooming each other. Allogrooming, or social grooming, doesn’t just help monkeys keep their fur neat and free of parasitic bugs — it’s also a way of maintaining social bonds and reducing tension.

When I visited, I saw a male Gelada grooming a female. Female “heart patches” are usually more pale than their male counterparts, except when they’re in heat. So it’s probable that this scene is a bit of foreplay during mating season:

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A female on the rocks nearby. The enclosure features a series of cliffs surrounding central grassland, closely mimicking the species’ native habitat:

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This bird got within feet of the path adjacent to its exhibit, and its kind seem to have free reign within the park, as I saw another one hanging out in a wooded area earlier.

I have no idea what kind of bird this is, but he was very vocal and insistent about something:

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A group of zebras. I think they were sleeping. These four didn’t move a muscle, and zebras are one of a handful of species who can sleep while standing upright.

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A brown bear enjoys the warm weather, which topped out at almost 80 degrees. Another bear was nearby, taking a dip in the pool.

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And finally, a friendly reminder to the zoo’s visitors: Wear your masks! The zoo enforces an always-on policy for masks, which I think is a reasonable precaution. While masks may not be strictly necessary while strolling down the wide visitor paths of the zoo, viewing spots at popular exhibits can get crowded, and some of them are partially-enclosed.

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The Bronx Zoo: Winter Wonderland

Every Christmas, the staff at the Bronx Zoo transform the grounds into a “winter wonderland,” an LED-illuminated forest of festive fun that begins at sundown.

The good: Young kids will enjoy themselves. The bad: All the animal exhibits are closed, with the tigers, bears, monkeys and elephants brought into their indoor enclosures before dark to shelter from the frigid New York winter.

On Friday night the only animal on duty was Quincy, a 16-year-old Eurasian eagle owl. The impressively-plumed Quincy gamely hung out and remained calm despite a small crowd of guests pointing cameras at him, occasionally repeating a vocalization that sounded more like Buddy’s high-pitched greeting than a call you’d expect from an owl.

Hooting, which is what most of us associate with the nocturnal birds, is more closely associated with territorial displays and mating calls, Quincy’s handler explained.

Bronx Zoo's Quincy
Quincy, a Eurasian eagle owl, wasn’t phased by crowds as he greeted guests at the Bronx Zoo’s Winter Wonderland. Photo: Pain In The Bud

Bronx Zoo's Quincy
Eurasian eagle owls live up to 20 years in the wild, but typically live twice that long in captivity. Photo: Pain In The Bud

Bronx Zoo Frozen castle
Visitors can watch artists chisel ice sculptures. Photo: Pain In The Bud

Bronx Zoo Winter Wonderland
Under the (very cold) sea. Photo: Pain In The Bud

Bronx Zoo Birds of Paradise
Birds of Paradise. Photo: Pain In The Bud

Bronx Zoo Winter Wonderland
Guests make Smores. Photo: Pain In The Bud

After taking my brother’s kids to Winter Wonderland, we stopped for a look at Roy’s Christmas Land in Harrison, NY. The owner, 61-year-old Roy Aletti, describes himself as a “maniac” when it comes to holiday decorating.

As you can see, his design philosophy can be summed up as “Buy as much shit as you can and cover every inch of your lawn.” The kids love it.

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Roy’s Christmas Land in Harrison, NY. Photo: Pain In The Bud

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Roy’s Christmas Land in Harrison, NY. Photo: Pain In The Bud

Roy's Christmas Land
Roy Aletti, 61, has been decorating his home for decades and his display draws a steady stream of admirers every Christmas season. Photo: Pain In The Bud

 

This Is Why You Shouldn’t Mess With Tigers

Gather round, kids, and listen to another tale of how cats always win.

My cousin has been married to her husband, Rob, for more than 25 years, and on one of their early dates he took her to the Bronx Zoo.

These were the days before the famously large tiger enclosure was remodeled into Tiger Mountain. Nowadays a series of huge fiberglass panels separates the tigers from the visitors, meaning there’s no open air between them.

You can probably thank Rob for that.

Back then only a reinforced fence separated the Earth’s biggest cats from people who’d come to gawk at them, and Rob decided he’d get my cousin to laugh by goofing off in front of a tiger.

He started off making a few faces, and the other visitors — kids, their parents, other couples looking at the tiger — found it funny. (At least according to Rob they did.)

Encouraged, Rob stepped up his act, dancing and waving until one tiger in particular took interest.

“What are you going to do, tiger?” he taunted. “That’s right! Nothing! You can’t do anything!”

The tiger roared, and Rob roared back. The huge cat was clearly not amused by a human dancing like a clown, making stupid faces and taunting it with an insulting approximation of a roar.

So the tiger turned around.

“That’s right!” Rob said, declaring premature victory. “Walk away! You can’t do nothin’!”

Oh, but the tiger could.

The annoyed cat raised its tail, backed up a stride and let loose a projectile — “a wad” is how Rob described it — of thick, gooey urine, hitting Rob square in the face.

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The tiger had impeccable aim.

“It was enough to fill that,” Rob said, pointing to a large soda bottle. “It was all over me. It was in my mouth!”

Rob staggered back and lost his footing, taking one of the young bystanders with him as he fell. The angry mother stared daggers at him as she yanked her kid away, realizing with horror that he’d suffered collateral damage from the gooey salvo.

As for the tiger, it chuffed and, having proved its point, sauntered away.

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Miraculously, my cousin agreed to continue dating Rob. Not that she found the episode flattering.

“That should have been the big warning sign,” she joked.

Today they have two adult daughters. As for Rob, he’s an executive at one of the country’s largest telecommunications companies, but says he has no illusions about his level of maturity.

“The way I was back then is the way I am now,” he told me. “I’m still an idiot.”

He may be an idiot, but he’s not going to mess with any more tigers.

Buddy laughing
. “lol dude I’m chuffed.”:/..