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Penguins in Africa?

Penguins conjure up visions of the frozen Antarctic with icy cliffs and subzero bitter weather. There is a species of penguin that lives along the southwest rocky coast of the African continent simply called the African Penguin. Like its Antarctic cousins, the African penguin nests in colonies numbering thousands of birds where it nests in the shelter of burrows and crevices. These small penguins feast on anchovies, sardines and squid in the cold waters off the African coast. These are one of the most endangered penguins having lost 60% of their population in the last 30 years.

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Angolan Colobus of Africa

These black and white monkeys live in dense rain forests of African Congo River Basin and in eastern Africa in the coastal forests in Kenya and Tanzania. This species eats primarily leaves (and some fruit and flowers). Unlike other monkeys, this species does not have thumbs, an adaptation that enables them to be more efficient at climbing tree branches in the forest canopy. As with other species of wildlife, Colobus monkeys are threatened by habitat destruction and hunting.

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Guenon – Arboreal Dwelling Monkeys of African Forests

The name Guenon includes 26 species of medium-sized monkeys of African forests and wetlands. Many have brightly colored patterns which helps identify the species. These monkeys eat plants, fruit and insects. These monkeys were photographed in Tampa’s Lowery Park Zoo.

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Gorillas at the Myombe Preserve, Busch Gardens Tampa

Tropical vegetation, picturesque waterfalls and misty jungles transport you to Africa where silverback gorillas roam freely in a realistic habitat area. Gorillas seem to feel at home here eating plants and interacting with each other. These primates are large and powerful yet there is a human-like quality that connects us to them. These gorillas are critically endangered. Civil wars in the areas these gorillas live, habitat destruction and poaching decimate their populations. Hopefully, efforts to save these gorillas will work before we lose another species on this planet we call home.

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The Serengeti Plain in Florida

Several species of zebras roam the open scrublands graze on wild grasses. Giraffes, some 15 feet tall saunter into the shade of taller trees. Rhinos browse the wild plants of the plain as antelope wander from across the grasslands. It is not Africa, but it is a similar habitat within Busch Gardens, Tampa. Except for the roller coasters in the distance, palm trees throughout and the large herds of animals, this area is a taste of what the African Serengeti Plain is like. It is well worth the visit.

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Exotic Butterflies in Maryland

Tropical rainforest butterflies float over flowerbeds seeking the sweet nectar the blossoms produce. Morpho butterflies, iridescent sky blue above and brownish below land on a tray with rotting fruit to sip the salts and nutrients from soft bananas, pears and watermelon. Owl butterflies with large eye spots to scare predators also enjoy the produce.

Zebra long-wings flutter in the vegetation while autumn leaf butterflies cling to the stems of plants looking like dead leaves. Rice paper and Isabella butterflies mingle with monarch and giant swallowtails.

No, global warming has yet to change the Maryland deciduous forests into rainforests; we are in the Wings of Fancy Butterfly Exhibit at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland. Dozens upon dozens of subtropical and tropical butterflies have free roam inside the butterfly house.

My two-year-old grandson was not so sure about these colorful creatures. At first, he had apprehension about them, but after alighting on his shoes and his shirt without biting (of course butterflies do not have mouth and cannot bite), he warmed up to them. It was a learning experience for him and an opportunity to foster stewardship of God’s creatures. If you are in the Baltimore, Maryland area, this is a place worth the visit, not only for the butterfly house, but to enjoy Brookside’s 50 acres of gardens.

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Ghost Plants of American Forests

A peculiar wild flower grows in many forest throughout North America. It is a strange plant because it has no chlorophyll, the substance that gives plants their green color and is critical in the production of food for the plant through photosynthesis. It is totally white – stems scale-like leaves and flowers. It depends on insects for pollination and produces seeds just like any other wildflower.

How can such a wild flower survive without chlorophyll? The Indian Pipe is a parasitic plant. Its short roots contain a specific fungus that spreads through the leafy matter of the forest floor where it attaches to the roots of the trees the plant grows under. Sugars produced by the tree is absorbed by the fungus and carried to the roots of the Indian Pipe.

Due to is lack of color, the Indian Pipe has been called the ghost plant and corpse plant. As you can imagine, there is much native American folklore about this plant and poets have written about it, but I leave that up to you to explore this further on the internet.

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