Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Oasis

The entrance to Disney's Animal Kingdom is a treasure onto it's own. Many Guests simply rush though on their way to Kilimanjaro Safari or Expedition Everest, but if you take the time to explore, I'm sure you'll be fascinated with the creatures you can find here. Don't forget, if you have any questions while reading my blog about the animals or any other topic, feel free to ask away in the comments below! If I don't know the answer I'd be more than happy to find out for you.

For example, usually early in the morning, right after the park opens and the mad rush of early morning goers flood into the park, several presenters venture out with "bug boxes." The invertebrates tend to vary, but could include several species of tarantulas and spiders, millipedes, an African bull frog, and even cockroaches and scorpions. They may all sound like creepy-crawlies, but all of them play a critical roll in the environment, and are actually quite useful. You may be surprised what you learn if you stick around to speak with one of the presenters.

If you head further up either trail, you'll come across some quite amazing creatures. One of the most unusual, is the babirousa, which means "pig deer."
This is our female. The males will actually have two sets of tusks. One set is lower and straight, used for protection and foraging. The second set is curly and resembles the ornamentation of deer antlers, hence the name "pig deer." These tusks, or modified teeth, are believed to be used to protect the babirusa's face from brush and maybe even to attract a girlfriend. Females can have a much smaller version of these tusks, or, as seen with our female, none at all. (If you'd like to see a picture of the male's tusks, you can check out this website: Babirusa)
The Babirusa is native to Southeast Asia on Sulawesi, Togian, and Sula Islands, as well as Buru Island. Surprisingly, it's actually a very good swimmer, which make these islands their ideal habitat. They have no natural predators, however, due to over-hunting and habitat destruction, the Babirusa is a threatened species.

As one of the smallest deer in the world, the Reeves Muntjac are a slightly more cuddly animal. Many are somewhat shocked to learn that Muntjac are actually fully grown. Male Muntjac also have elongated teeth, or tusks that are used for defense, as well as small antlers that they shed every season.
They are commonly called the "barking deer," because of the noise they make to identify each other and to alert predators that they have been detected. The Muntjac was originally only found in the woodlands of South China and Taiwan, but they have also been introduced to England and France.

For those reptile lovers out there, we also have a Rhinoceros Iguana, which gets its name from the male's rhinoceros horn-looking structures on its nose.
These guys are native to Haiti and some of the nearby islands, and prefer the savannas and dry rocky areas. Due to the impact of humans on their environment, the Rhinoceros Iguana is now protected, as their numbers have greatly decreased.

I was surprised to learn that we also have a Swamp Wallaby! They're related to a kangaroo and are similarly raised, fed, and nurtured in their mother's pouch.
Native to Eastern Australia, these guys are among the largest of the wallabies, and their populations are decreasing due to disappearing wetlands.

One of my favorite animals in the Oasis is the Giant Anteater. We have two of them currently, a male and a female. The male is about 130 lbs. and the female weighs about 120 lbs. The average anteater can eat about 30,000 ants or termites in one day, which is quite amazing! At Animal Kingdom, they're fed a diet of insects and fruit, which they gobble up by using their long tongue. Their tongue can be about 2 feet long, and they have no teeth, but instead use their saliva to wet their tongues, slurping up the insects.
The Giant Anteater is native to the area from southern Belize to northern Argentina, and their populations have become threatened, mainly due to humans impact on habitat disturbance and hunting. 
If you look at the anteaters hands, they have long powerful front claws, that are really great for pawing out all those tasty insects. They have a great sense of smell and are excellent swimmers, but they have really poor eyesight.

On to the birds...

The Oasis is home to several species of our feathered friends. When you first walk straight into the park, you come to a bamboo fence surrounding an enclosure for African and Roseate Spoonbills.

The African Spoonbills are actually nesting at the moment. They use their bills to swoop side to side and scoop fish and other would-be lunch items out of the water. As their name suggests, they're native to several areas in Africa, however, the Roseate Spoonbill can be found as a Florida native. 

They get their pink color from the shrimp they eat, and use a similar sweeping motion to capture their prey. 

We also have a few different species of macaws. First up is the Military Macaw. Making its home in northwestern South America, the Military Macaw may have gotten its name from the military personnel that first imported them to Europe. 

 We also have Scarlet Macaws. They live in Central and South America.

The threats to the Scarlet Macaw include habitat destruction and their capture for wild pet use. Besides researching your pets, its also important to know where your animal comes from. Many wild populations are greatly impacted by the pet trade, but if you purchase from a reputable breeder, you can purchase a pet without hurting them in the wild. As I mentioned earlier, these animals also need lots of enrichment to keep their clever minds entertained. Today, one of our Macaws clearly demonstrated this by munching on one of his enrichment rings. 

Their powerful beaks are well adapted for prying open nuts and climbing, making them perfect for chewing up pretty much anything they want to. He was also somewhat confused for a while by the wild Floridian squirrel that decided to take up residence on his little perch.
Finally, we have a Black-Necked Swan, as well as several species of ducks. 

According to the sign, "These swans carry their chicks on their backs as they swim in the freshwater marshes of South America. Although they are very good swimmers, their short legs and long body make walking difficult."

All in all, you can really spend a lot of time in the Oasis and learning about all the amazing creatures that live there. I had a great time that morning, just checking things out. If you don't see an animal at first, give it a little time. Maybe they've just wandered behind a bush or are relaxing in a corner somewhere. You never know what you'll find!

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