2020 “HANGING OUT WITH ANIMALS” Calendar – January Story

01 Puzzle January

A precocious little cutie, this one is

00 Nneka and Charlie Cover

The 2020 Cover Shot

Happy New Year! Happy New Decade!! And what a 10-year-span it’s been. From my personal point of view, I’ve lived through a decade of race riots and a moon landing; a decade of Presidential malfeasance (déjà vu, anyone?) and my own high school graduation; a decade of homelessness and meeting my first child; a decade of marriage dissolution and a return to school; and a decade of chronic unemployment, a free trip to Vienna, and the beginning of the most important relationship of my life. But the 2010s, even up against all of that, has been the wildest ride I have ever endured, and here, at the end of it, I don’t believe there will ever be a way to appropriately sum it up – and in my reading of “the room,” I can see there are a great many of you in the same state of mind. So let’s not sum it up here; rather, let’s plough bravely on into the third decade of the 21st century and see how that works out for us. As an opening thought for this first post of the new decade: I have been thinking that the cover photo for my calendars is virtually wasted as the year progresses, because it doesn’t appear on any single month. It hasn’t really been a big deal before now, but in looking at the shot here of Nneka and Charlie it occurs to me that it was a great photo to try to hook people with its charm, but once the calendar goes up on the wall it will not be seen again. So I’ll probably ask for some opinions later in 2020 as it comes closer to the time to get the 2021 edition prepared. So have those opinions ready!

At the Toronto Zoo, whose animals I have celebrated on most of my calendar pages over the years, it has also been quite a decade. They took a loving look back on their YouTube channel earlier today. Hope you enjoy this!





Puzzle 04 calendar

A very curious young girl

Now on to the matter at hand: this month’s Calendar Girl, Puzzle, the Matschie’s tree kangaroo. When I chose my featured subjects for 2020’s calendar, I tried to work in as many animals as I could whom I had never written about before. With a few days left before my self-imposed deadline to compose and print the calendars, Puzzle made her debut on exhibit in the Australasia Pavilion, and immediately began to steal the hearts of everyone who visited her. She has been frequently active, has demonstrated great curiosity (especially towards the guests who have come to see her), and even began to draw Collins out of his shell. No matter which of the two ‘roos was on exhibit, they made it clear they had more than a passing interest in their potential mate, who was situated somewhere behind the wooden door at the north end. For the first time in a long time, it really began to appear as if we might greet the new decade with a tree joey and excitement started to rise! Naturally, it made perfect sense that I would feature Puzzle as early as possible in the 2020 calendar, as there would still be a possibility that many of you who have visited that pavilion this fall would not yet have caught a glimpse of this adorable marsupial.




Collins 02 calendar

Collins, a late cut for 2019 calendar

But suddenly, tragedy struck. On November 28, the extremely difficult decision had to be made by Toronto Zoo staff to euthanize Collins after a CT scan showed severe lung deterioration. It was news that stunned all of us who knew and loved the young lad and it meant that, once again, we would have to wait for our opportunity to inject new blood into the tree kangaroo line. Collins, who was only five when he passed, was the grandson of a previous TZ resident, Harrington, and was genetically quite important to the SSP program. On top of that, as I mentioned in the previous paragraph, he really seemed to have taken a shine to his new mate, having really not had any success to speak of when he had been introduced to his previous potential mate, Nokopo.

Here is how the Zoo announced the sad news on their Facebook site on December 4, 2019:


“We are saddened to announce that Collins, our 5-year old male Matschie’s Tree Kangaroo, was euthanized on Thursday, November 28. Collins, who lived in the Australasia Pavilion, had been undergoing treatment for a chronic respiratory issue. In order to evaluate his condition, our veterinary staff took Collins to Toronto Veterinary Emergency Hospital for a CT scan. Unfortunately, the tests revealed that his lung condition had significantly deteriorated, and the difficult decision was made to humanely euthanize him.

Collins lived at the Toronto Zoo for the past three years and was a valuable member of the Matschie’s Tree Kangaroo Species Survival Plan. We recently received a female tree kangaroo, Puzzle, from the Kansas City Zoo and were planning on introducing the pair for breeding. As the Matchie’s Tree Kangaroo is an endangered species we were hopeful that Collins and Puzzle would produce a joey in the near future and we are saddened to have lost this opportunity.

Collins was well-loved by staff and will be missed by all who worked with him. Share your memories of Collins below 💕”



Puzzle 2

Puzzle loves her grass

If there is any “bright side” to the sad news of Collins’ passing, it is that Puzzle had already become comfortable on exhibit and would be able to be on display daily so the area, a key spot in the Australasia Pavilion, would not have to be empty to early-winter visitors. She arrived in Toronto on June 20 and was in quarantine and the health centre for a while before settling in in the tree kangaroo house and getting acquainted with the exhibit in short bursts. In looking back through my photos for this post, it stands out to me that I may already have taken more shots of Puzzle at this point than I had ever taken of Collins since he arrived three years ago. I imagine the major reason for this would be their circadian rhythms: Matschie’s tree kangaroos tend to sleep for about 15 hours a day and spend much of their time in trees; while not expressly nocturnal they do tend to be more active during cooler periods of the day and Puzzle has only been on exhibit since early fall.





Checking out her fans

There are 10 species of tree kangaroos in the world and all reside in the rainforests of Australia, West Papua, and Papua New Guinea, with the majority living in the latter area. The Matschie’s tree kangaroo is endemic to the Huon Peninsula in Papua New Guinea and currently listed as “Threatened” by the IUCN. They are much smaller than their ground-dwelling relatives with longer front legs, strong hands and claws for climbing, and a long tail common to most arboreal mammals which is used to aid in balance while moving about in trees. From my own personal observations, they make a few different sounds which are every bit as adorable as one might expect from an animal so very cute and endearing. I have watched them generally move about on all four limbs whether in a tree or on the ground, but every so often I have witnessed Puzzle make a couple of bounds that look for all the world like she is imitating a lemur!





Lookin’ for trouble

It is estimated that there are only about 2,500 Matschie’s tree kangaroos left in the wild, which makes the loss of Collins even more disappointing as a breeding facility. Hopefully, there will be another potential boyfriend for this cutie coming to Toronto soon. For now, I will just have to content myself with visiting this precocious bundle of energy whenever I drop in at the Australasia Pavilion, which I do rather frequently during the colder months here. By the way, I neglected to bring this up earlier, but do you think you can work out how Puzzle got her name? The photo of her I posted right after the TZ Decade in Review will probably offer the best opportunity to make a guess, other than the one in the actual calendar! The white outline on her face looks very much like a jigsaw puzzle piece when you can see it straight on and once we noticed that ourselves here, we certainly didn’t need to ask anyone for confirmation (but, of course, we did anyhow).

Here’s one last “sassy” shot for the road:




Up close and personal with her guests



Well, we’re off and running for the ’20s! Next month: an adorable family photo and a story which became a lot more interesting after the calendar was printed! See you then!


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