The very first glimpse I got of the babies was actually a fluke. The brand-new Wildlife Health Centre was being prepared to be open to the public on the Canada Day weekend last summer, and before that happened there were preview days – first for Staff and Volunteers, then two days for Members leading into the weekend.
I used to especially love wandering around the Zoo with my camera in the wintertime, either after I had finished a shift or on an “off-day.” Often I would have a meal bar with me for lunch and I would pop into a pavilion to eat it while my camera lens defogged. I discovered quite quickly that the very best place to do this was in the free-flight aviary of the Americas Pavilion, for in those days the plush-crested jay made its home there and would always come and join me while I ate.
I’ve been blessed more than once to have my hands on the head and haunches of both Vishnu and Ashakiran, and I can tell you they feel warm and quite malleable to the touch, especially near the folds.
The drive-through portion of Parc Safari features only herbivores and no meat-eaters of any kind. This made the experience rather like being on a farm, or perhaps an exotic petting zoo.
From the very beginning, Kiko hit it off with Mstari (and Twiga) which is terrific news, because their genes are very important to the North American breeding program (known as the SSP: Species Survival Plan). Any offspring they produce will be very important to the future success of the Masai species in AZA-accredited Zoos.
This is the very first photo I’ve ever featured in one of my calendars that was not shot at the Toronto Zoo. There will be more to come throughout this year for each of the two calendars: “Adult” and “Baby.”
The success of the Toronto Zoo’s breeding program for these adorable but endangered little birds is fantastic and speaks volumes for the incredible work the Keepers do there. As I have mentioned before – and which any of you who have known me longer than just a couple of years already knew – penguins have been my favourite creatures for most of my life and watching the interactions between all of the Keepers who work with them and the tiny denizens of the Zoo’s penguin exhibit is always heart-warming, to say the least.