Let's start off with some of the animals that you might not be able to see at most other zoos. As regular readers know, I am a pretty big fan of cats, and The Living Desert definitely had its fair share! For example, the "Near Threatened" sand cat (Felis margarita), the only cat that is found primarily in the desert. One of my favorite small wild cats, the sand cat is found in the deserts of Africa and the Middle East.
Besides the sand cat, The Living Desert also has a few other small cats, including the Arabian wild cat, one of the many sub species of the wild cat, Felis silvestris. Unfortunately, this little guy was asleep so I didn't get any pictures, but I did get pictures of two of the other smaller felines: the serval, and the bobcat, each of which we have done an Animal Spotlight on. The serval is native to Africa, while the bobcat lives all over North America, in both forests and deserts.
|Bobcat on the prowl|
Another very interesting thing about the zoo is the vegetation. Many people simply pass over it: but if you do stop to take a look at it, you might notice something interesting: a whole bunch of the plants, both in and out of the exhibits, are very prickly! This is because the people at The Living Desert have done their best to make the vegetation in their exhibits as accurate as possible. Pay special attention to the trees once you reach the large exhibit with both giraffes and kudu, a type of African antelope. These incredibly spiky trees are called acacia trees, and these trees are one of the reasons why the giraffe has such an incredibly long tongue. I've been able to see this tongue first hand on numerous occasion at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, including the last time I went with my friend Masaki Kleinkopf, as you can see in this incredible video. The giraffe has been forced to evolve its incredibly long, prehensile in order to circumnavigate through and around these spiny branches in order to reach the leaves.
|Look at those spikes on those acacia trees!|
|A picture of myself feeding the giraffes at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo|
|Mounted giant ground sloth skeleton|
A full skeleton of the eight-foot-tall giant ground sloth. The relationship between extinct South American ground sloths and the extant tree sloths was one of the most important things that influenced Charles Darwin into his Theory of Evolution, more so than the case of the Galápagos finches that most textbooks cite. During the Great American Interchange, at a time when many South American species were going extinct due to competition from animals coming down the Isthmus of Panama from North America (like Thylacosmilus), the giant ground sloths were actually able to move the other way, with remains being found even as far north as Alaska.
|The skull of Panthera atrox, the North American lion|
A skull of the North American lion (Panthera atrox), as well as a skull from Smilodon, colloquially known as the "saber-toothed cat."
|The skull of Smilodon|
Skulls of Camelops (a type of camel); a dire wolf (Canis dirus), a significantly larger relative of the extant gray wolf; and the Teratorn, one of the members of the family Teratornithidae, a group of birds of prey that lived in North and South America, and includes the largest flying bird known, Argentavis. Finally, there was a life-sized picture of a mammoth on the wall with a fossil tusk sticking out which was pretty cool as well!
|The skull of Camelops|
|The skull of the dire wolf|
|The skull of the Teratorn|
|A size comparison of a mammoth and a human, myself|
|The "Critically Endangered" addax (Addax nasomaculatus), native to the Sahara Desert|
|The "Endangered" African wild dog (Lycaon pictus), native to (you guessed it) Africa|
|Sleeping fennec fox|
|Another sleeping fennec fox|
|Giant tortoises eating|
|Another Mexican wolf. Despite the fact that this wolf looks like it is snarling, it actually wasn't! I don't actually know what was going on!|
|A Mexican wolf running|
|There were also tons of lizards running around all over the place!|
|Incredibly detailed: the Monticello vineyards!|
|Incredibly detailed: Mount Rushmore!|