Ravens in the Tower of London
The Tower of London is known for many things, such as a jail, a place where royal jewelry is kept, and finally and most importantly, a home for special ravens. In case you didn’t know, you are reading this to find out about the ravens that live in the tower. These ravens are lucky. Yeoman warders also live in the Tower of London, but to do that you must first serve your country, which is in this case, Great Britan. You may be wondering, “How come the ravens don’t have to serve their country?” The answer is that they do. There is a legend that states that they keep the monarchy in power if at least six of them guard the tower. Once a fox killed two of them recently, so the queen had better be careful!
Lunch Time for Dogs in Cheverny
Every once in a while, you can hear a bark. From far away you can only see their tails swishing side to side. These dogs are a mix of English Foxhound and French Poitevin. As dogs go, this type is big, and once they were used for hunting. The reason we came on a Wednesday morning was to see the feeding of these dogs. (Click the 8-second video above to listen to the dogs as they realize lunchtime is near.) First, a man takes the dogs into another area of the pen. He separates the dogs that are on a diet or have health problems. Then, he cleans the pen and sets the food out. The dogs look at it greedily. When he is done, he checks his watch to make sure it is time. When his watch says it’s time, he opens the gate and uses the whip to line the dogs up. When the dogs are perfectly lined up, he lets them eat. There are about 100 dogs here, each of them is very hungry. Some of them climbed on top of each other to get to the food.
After most of the food was eaten, the dogs were either
c: eating what remained
d: eating or drinking and taking a potty break
When they didn’t have their heads on the floor eating, they laid down or wandered over to the bars where tourists would pet them or admire them. Sometimes tourists said they smelled bad (agreed). We put our hands through the bars to pet them. They bark and swish their tails. Their cute bodies get tired and needed rest. No surprise there!
Big Bad Wolf
Let’s say you’re at a restaurant, and your waiter is a scary looking creature with fur all over and sharp teeth. The menu has goats, beavers, mice (we did eat rat’s tails, after all–see Nati’s blog), hares (but not the type that grows on your head), and other mammals that sound delicious. And lizards and fruits. (I’d order fruits.) And a moose. Not chocolate mousse. Moose. That would be on the menu at a wolf’s pen in a zoo. And a deer for dessert? I’m pretty sure I don’t want a bird that’s not even cooked. I’d much prefer the menu for humans (including schnitzel, curry wurst, etc.), but wolves enjoy tearing the raw meat apart.
Do you have a pet dog? Is it really a wolf? Does it hunt at night while you’re asleep? Does it howl at the moon and wake you up at two in the morning? Doubt it. First reason I doubt that is because wolves don’t really howl at the moon. Do you howl at the moon? I didn’t think so. Anyway, the wolf is a type of canine, and so is your dog–that is, if you have one. Back to wolves: a pack of wolves is 7-10 wolves. They hunt in packs. All the wolves in the pack care for the baby wolves, which are helpless and blind when they are born. Baby wolves are called pups. Another fact about wolves is that they each have distinct howls. Wolves don’t only howl, they also bark and whine.
At the zoo in Sababurg, Germany, we saw a mad wolf snapping its teeth together, like a true, vicious, big bad wolf. The others just roamed the pen, but the big bad vicious one was looking for trouble. In stories, they usually have a bad reputation, because of their sharp teeth and scary appearance. They also eat livestock–another reason for disliking them. We have seen wolves on the fairytale route, thanks to stories like “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Three Little Pigs,” “Old Sultan,” “The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids,” “The Wolf and the Man,” “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” and “The Wolf and the Fox.” Now I have to stop writing, because a wolf is huffing and puffing outside my window. Uh Oh…
Roamers in Rome
“This”, I said, looking around, “is the cat place?” “Looks like it,” my mom said. It did not look a place inhabited by cats at all. Just the opposite. We were standing in front of ruins, ancient Roman ruins, not, by any standards, a cat sanctuary. Until my sister spotted one. Then we saw another. Two. “Let’s go around,” suggested my dad. “Maybe we’ll see more from a different angle.” So we circled the ruins. We saw more cats. On the side of the ruin there were stairs going down. Cats were resting on the stairs. We looked, and then we climbed down. There were more cats downstairs.
Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary is a cat rescue place. A woman welcomed us and gave us a brochure. We were inside a room with a few cats wandering about inside. The woman explained “We have workers that bring in disabled or old cats. The cats here are all rescued from the street. You can help by donating money, or you adopt a cat from abroad.” I wanted to adopt a cat. Which cat should we adopt? One peed on Mama’s foot. Not that cat. One was old but still playful. Many were blind or had three legs.
We “adopted” a cat named Tichero. “Tichero is old,” the worker said, “Thank you for making this adoption. Would you like to have Tichero for 3 months or 6 months?” My dad replied, “Three.” After my dad paid, and I filled the form.
Barbary Apes on Gibraltar
On March 23, we went on a not-so-expected trip to Gibraltar, a big rock which is a territory of Great Britain. One reason why we went were Natalie’s favorite animal, although I think we have already seen a bit too many. Monkeys come in all shapes and sizes. We saw Barbary macaques. We learned not to feed them when we arrive and not to show them food. We were not supposed to touch them either, although they were aloud to touch us.
When we arrived we saw why everyone said not to feed them. A macaque thought we had food and climbed right onto the van. A few climbed the windshield and others decided to see what was in the windows. See the photo below of a macaque on the rocks? It is missing something most monkeys have, giving it the name ‘Barbary ape.’ Some monkeys have prehensile tails, meaning that they can use them to swing or hang off branches, and others don’t have prehensile tails but use them for balance only. These monkeys are tail-less monkeys, which is why they are known as the Barbary ape.
When we go out of the car, we see a monkey eating a woman’s Doritos right out of the bag. So much for the no-feeding-the-monkeys rule! Other monkeys are hanging out in the rocks. Some groom each other for salt. One family of monkeys was snuggled together in the cold. Others were eating in a feeding station, and a few found more cars to look around in. There are about thirty macaques, and they were all cute. However, some were known to bite and be a bit more aggressive, making them pests.
Soon it was time for us to go on. A few monkeys hopped on the van, but left when we started moving. There was more to see. We all think the experience was fun, and I asked my family what they think of the monkeys. Mama said, “I absolutely love the monkeys.” Papa said it was fascinating how social they are, and Natalie said, “They look cute eating Doritos.” I just think, “How funny and cute they were!”
Deer on Miyajima Island, Hiroshima
On a walking tour of Japan, we went to Miyajima, an island off of Hiroshima. This island was special because it has some Japanese deer. We saw them on our way to make the momiji manju, a traditional cakes (press here if you haven’t seen Natalie’s page on momiji manju cakes), but we had our real encounter afterwards at a small park close to the ferries. Our guide, Yasuko, told my dad to put the cakes in his backpack because the deer have a keen sense of smell and would do anything for food. Later, she was proven right. Deer were standing on their hind legs for noodles a man was feeding them.
The deer were quite nice. They walked over to wherever the smelled food. Fortunately, chocolate maple-leaf-shaped cakes just didn’t smell that appetizing from inside my dad’s backpack. They did come and sniff around, mostly in pockets and backpacks. They came so close we were able to touch them. The Japanese deer didn’t mind if we did. They didn’t feel as soft as they looked, though. As soon as they finished snooping around they went to other people and sniffed their belongings. I wonder what it is like to have such a great sense of smell. What do you think their favorite foods are?
Deer have roamed the island for about 6,000 years. Because they are the Shinto (a Japanese religion) messengers to the gods, people fed them, which is why they are tame. Like American deer, the males (bucks) are the only deer with antlers. Most deer we saw did not have antlers, but on our way to a temple there was a really big one. This deer did not look like a quiet deer from the park. It looked aggressive. We left that one without touching it. Other than that, I liked our experience with the deer. I think it was very fun.
Cormorant fishing in China
We were sailing slowly and peacefully at night in Yangshuo, China. We were going somewhere to see Cormorants fish. We could see lights… But where were we going? The bamboo raft slowly went along, passing lights we thought were our destination. We heard the sound of the water hitting the raft over the sound of the engine. It wasn’t that loud. We started getting impatient. It grew colder. Finally, a raft without the seats joined us. A man stood up to paddle it, like a stand-up paddle board. And you could hear something… Could it be the cormorants?
Cormorants are birds that were used for fishing, but not anymore. They are mostly used for tourism. Some fishermen can work with many birds, while others work with only two or three. The fishermen tie them to the raft so that they stay on, and when it’s time for fishing, they turn on a light and untie them. After that, the fishermen place them in the water. Since fish are attracted to the light there is a light on the front of the boat. The birds swim around the light because fish swim there. Since they are birds not fish, they come up to breath. Sometimes they have a large fish in their mouths.
“Squawk,” said one bird to another. The definition of “Squawk” is “I hear voices. It sounds like that fisherman guy will put us in the water again.” “Squawk,” agreed another cormorant. “Squawk, squawk, squawk,” another cormorant added. In this case the definition of “squawk, squawk, squawk” meant I’m very hungry. Then the fisherman placed a cormorant in the water. It followed a small fish and ate it. Then it dove for a small fish. And another. And another. It came up to breathe every once in a while. Then it dove again. And again. And again. It was fun to look at, but what do you get out of it?
When cormorant fishing, you have to tie the necks a little bit so that the birds can only swallow small fish. If a cormorant comes up with a big fish, then the fisherman forces it to spit it out. When the sun comes out, the fishermen sell the fish that the cormorants spit out.
Our fisherman had five cormorants, and they each dove for little fish. Sometimes they swam up to our boat. One even hopped on our bamboo raft. Either way, they were a funny sight to see. We kept moving along the river. Slowly. And of course, the birds kept diving into the water and coming up to breathe. The fisherman was pushing off of the bottom with a long piece of bamboo. The mountains of the Li River were surrounding us. It was beautiful. We came to land. The fisherman tied four cormorants to his boat. We carried the fifth cormorant. It was soft and wet. After that, we had to leave. Here is a poem I wrote about the Li River.
Turning like a snake
Mountains climbing their way up to heaven
Fishermen with their boats
Waiting for fish
Ducks bobbing their heads in the water
Shaking their wet feathers
Trees are growing
Emerald beauty of the river
The Lijiang River
Pandas in China
In China we went to a research and conservation center to see pandas. There were two different types of pandas: The red panda and the giant panda. We saw both. They were both really cute. The red panda was small and raccoon like. It demonstrated its climbing skills for us. The giant panda was a lot bigger than the red panda, and it demonstrated its bamboo eating skills and its sleeping skills. They don’t mind the cold weather at all. In fact, they like it.
The panda is a mammal. It has a fur coat, and it loves bamboo. It sleeps in trees or caves. Even though it has all these features, the panda is not a bear. The red panda is closer related to the raccoon. The red panda also looks like a raccoon (see photo).
Unfortunately, pandas are endangered. There are only 1,800 in the wild, and 300 in zoos or breeding centers. Their enemies are the golden cat and the leopard. Giant pandas are very territorial. They live alone in their own territory, and fight if other pandas enter. A baby will live with its mother until it is 1 1/2 years old. When a baby is first born, it is blind and looks like a rat. If the panda has twins, it will only take care of the strongest one. In breeding centers, workers let the mother take care of both babies by switching the babies every so often.
Giant pandas really enjoy eating and sleeping. Did you know that pandas eat about 44 pounds of bamboo a day? They eat only 30 species of bamboo. In the wild pandas may eat bamboo rats. In the breeding center pandas also eat nutrition cakes.
At the end we were lucky enough to hug a panda. It was soft and cuddly. Whenever it ran out of food it would sniff our faces. A worker had to run in and feed it a banana. Other than that, it was really cute. I wish I could take one back to Miami with me.
Jellyfish in Thailand
Macaques in Thailand
In Phuket, we took a boat tour on the Andaman Sea. Our boat parked very close to an island, silently looking for macaques. All of a sudden a few monkeys climbed down a rock. One monkey looked especially big and fat. He came right up to the boat. I threw him some fruit. It didn’t take long for the other macaques to join him, and soon we were feeding a restaurant of starving monkeys.
Macaques are omnivores, like us. This means that they eat both meat and plants. We fed crab-eating macaques, so as the name suggests, they eat crabs. Another name would be the long-tailed macaques. Long-tailed macaques have tails from 50-60 cm. Their body height is 40-47 cm without the tail. Their tails are longer than their body!
Even though they are crab-eating macaques, we gave them a variety of fruit, including watermelon, pineapple, bananas, oranges, and grapes. The tour guide even gave him a sugary punch. The monkey opened the bottle and drank it! It was fun feeding the monkeys. Once the monkeys had their fill, they left, and soon we ran out of food to feed them, and we left, too. One fact I learned is that, unlike the gibbons, monkeys do not mind the water. I had fun with the macaques. I think they are cute and funny. Do you?
Gibbons in Chiang Mai
“One gibbon! Two gibbons! Three gibbons!” I exclaimed. We were ziplining in the forest of Chiang Mai (to see the article on ziplining press here). The guide pointed out a white one. “She’s a female,” he said. The female was white, except for her face and the bottom of her feet. There was rustling in the treetops, and we all looked up. A dark brown gibbon was moving above us. Wow! It moved like an acrobat on a tightrope, carefully moving one foot in front of the other. Its hands were holding another branch above. Then the female got up and did something like the the brown gibbon. It was splendid!
Have you ever seen a gibbon? Gibbons are animals that look like monkeys, but in reality they are apes. Apes don’t have tails, so gibbons balance only on their feet and sometimes their hands. Another difference between monkeys and gibbons is that gibbons do not make nests. Gibbons are primates, like monkeys and lemurs. Primates are a group of animal that have have thumbs and large complex brains. Humans are primates.
Here are some more facts about gibbons. Lar gibbons, the type we saw, have a white circle around their faces. Their hair can be many shades, from a white to dark brown or even black. Gibbons see in full color, like us.
Gibbons eat plants and animals, making them omnivores. They eat leaves, roots, bark, flowers, seeds, spiders, small birds, and insects. Another fact is that gibbons swing 35 miles per hour. The fastest human can run 28 miles per hour, so gibbons can swing faster than we can run. Gibbons do not come to the ground often, which means they’re arboreal, so they don’t run. Gibbons cannot swim, either. They only dip their hands in when they need a drink.
“Whoop, whoop, whoop,” one of the gibbons asked. “Whoop, whoop, whoop,” another gibbon replied. “Whoop,” the other one agreed. Up in the branches a few of the gibbons whooped and swung for branch to branch just like acrobats on tightropes, faster than I can run. Soon it was time for me to swing on the next zipline.
Guest animal post from Natalie:
At 8 am, we went to feed rainbow lorikeets. Rainbow lorikeets eat sweet porridge. A man came with sweet porridge and gave us some. We cupped our hands so it would not fall out. Rainbow lorikeets have green wings and a very colorful body. They are very small birds. Rainbow lorikeets can chirp very loudly. After feeding the rainbow lorikeets we went to a water park.
Here is an animal that was not on the < 3: Taronga Zoo (click here if you haven’t seen it.) It is a wombat. If you don’t know what a wombat is, don’t worry. The Europeans had no idea the creature existed for 10 years. The wombat is a large burrowing animal. It can make burrows up to 30 meters deep. That is deeper than I can dig! The wombat eats grasses and roots. Dingos, foxes, and Tasmanian devils eat adult wombats, and eagles, owls, and Tasmanian wolves (which are now extinct). The wombat is a marsupial (an mammal with a pouch), and it is nocturnal. There are two main types of wombats. They are the bare-nosed wombat and the hairy-nosed wombat. Also, don’t forget to celebrate wombat day. It is on October 22. I love wombats. I think that they are cute. (Look at the photo.)