Standing up to 18 feet tall and weighing upwards of 3,000 pounds, the giraffe lives on the African savanna where trees flourish. Giraffes browse on acacia trees (those are the umbrella like trees of the African savanna) and mimosa and apricot trees. The giraffe’s heart is huge. It is 2 feet long and weighs 25 lbs. It has to be large enough to pump blood up that long neck. Due to shrinking habitat from farming, roads and communities the giraffe population is shrinking as well. Alarmingly, it is also hunted. I photographed these pictures at Busch Gardens and the Lowery Park Zoo in Tampa.
Standing at 6 feet tall and weighing upwards of 7,000 lbs., the White Rhinoceros is a large mammal of the African plains. It is a grazer that eats mostly grasses on the savanna. There are about 20,000 white rhinos in existence, but their population is threatened by the trafficking of their horns in Asian markets where the horns are ground up for unproven medical purposes. One of the most horrific events happened at a French zoo earlier this year (2017) where poachers entered the zoo at night to kill and saw off the horns of a white rhinoceros. Over 1,000 rhinos are slaughtered annually for their horns. Wildlife organizations are working to protect these gentle creatures through anti-poaching efforts and increasing international law enforcement to prevent the distribution of rhino horns around the world.
African elephants stand 11 tall at the shoulders and weight upwards of 13,000 lbs. Their large ears help to radiate heat under the hot sun and flapping their ears is a form of communication of fear and joy with other elephants. Tusks (which are modified teeth) grow on both males and females. Like humans who lose their baby teeth, baby elephants lose their tusks when a year old and grow adult ones. Another elephant species include the Asian elephant of Southeast Asia. You don’t really appreciate how large these creatures are until you see them up close. (These pictures were photographed at Tampa’s Lowery Park Zoo.)
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.
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.
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.