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Call it global warming. Call it natural climate change. Call it sheer good luck. But every year spring seems to arrive a little earlier and so - even though it certainly doesn't feel like it this week - zoo travel season is just around the corner.
It's not just us, either. The London-based Daily Mail published a story this week all about one of the male lions who live in our beloved San Diego Wild Animal Park, which of course was renamed the San Diego Safari Park a few years ago. The video that sparked the story is embedded below - after spending a day flying around social media - and you should make sure that you watch the whole thing. Easily worth a minute of your time.
The Daily Mail description is exactly right: the spectacle is "spine-tingling," but then the lion "got bored and retired for a nap." Because...cat.
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The darling of the internet both this week and last week was, without a doubt, little Pup 681. The Southern Sea Otter was found orphaned and crying on a California beach and, after rehabilitation at Monterey Bay, she now is learning to swim and gaining in health at Chicago's Shedd Aquarium.
In the midst of Otter hyper, media has totally missed the equally adorable story of another orphaned baby animal on his way to a new life. "Blue," a 4-week-old cougar kitten was found in Idaho and, as wildlife officials were unable to reunite him with his mother, he was in need of a new home and transportation to it.
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Apparently USA Today owns something called 10Best. We don't know much about 10Best, except that it seems to publish travel-related Top 10 lists and its Twitter profile goes back to 2008. The division - we suppose it counts as a media division - also just published a list of the U.S.'s top 10 zoos.
That list, which was the result of four weeks of online voting and which we've reproduced below, is in a very precise sense obviously and straightforwardly incorrect.
Washington DC has now had sunshine without rain for almost 24 hours straight, so that's enough for us to declare that winter is over and the unbearable humidity of summer can begin. As always during the summer months - and we actually flag this transition for you every year - that means we're going to stray from travel politics stories and into the occasional zoo travel roundup. Partly it's because nothing happens in Washington during the summer and we need content. But really it's because, by the time May hits, we just can't take these people any more. If you want to mark the precise moment we broke this year, in fact, here's the exact post from last week about the TSA.
Meanwhile the Smithsonian's National Zoo, which is across the street from Jaunted's DC headquarters, is overflowing with baby animals. So let's talk about them instead, shall we? Videos embedded at the bottom.
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Zookeepers at Washington DC's National Zoo, which literally shares a driveway with Jaunted's DC headquarters, have been doing their best to keep the public informed about the pair of baby lions born in late January to mother Nababiep. Medical exams of the cubs have revealed that they are "adorable" - that's an actual quote - and for the first few weeks fans from around the world could track the infants on the zoo's lion cam.
Recently, however, the lion cam feeds have gone dark in anticipation of another impending litter, this time to Nababiep's sister Shera. There's a more robust explanation of where each lioness hangs out, and how that influenced the decision to cut the feeds, here. But the short story is that - for now - the Internet has one less place with baby lions.
Whatever are people to do?
Even if there’s still way too much shopping left it’s fine to take a little holiday break to enjoy the season. Load up on the hot chocolate or one of those red cup beverages from Starbucks and head out to the zoo. It might not seem that seasonal, but when they flip the switch on the lights and decorations it becomes a winter wonderland. Here’s a few zoos doing the Christmas lights thing this holiday season:
Christmas at the Zoo – Indianapolis Zoo, Indiana
At the Indianapolis Zoo they have been having this kind of fun for 45 years, and things continue this year each and ever night—between 5pm and 9pm—through December 30. They actually claim the title for the first zoo in the country to do this kind of thing, so we can only assume they know how to combine animals with the holidays—like the holiday dolphin shows. There’s carolers, LED lights everywhere you look, and even Santa is around to say hello. Offseason admission starts at $10 for adults, and all the seasonal stuff is included with your ticket.
Zoo Lights – Houston Zoo, Texas
This is the best chance to celebrate the holidays at the zoo well into the New Year, as the Houston Zoo does their Zoo Lights thing through January 4—with a couple days off on Christmas and Christmas Eve. Things run between 6pm and 10pm, as the zoo is transformed into a winter wonderland. Stroll through the oak trees that have been covered in colorful LED lights, and then take in their holiday trains, dollhouse village, and enchanted forest. Even some of the critters will be around to check things out as well, as the lights do their thing in and around where the cougars, jaguars, lions, and leopards call home. Admission here is $10 if you order things in advance, but at the gate it’ll be $12.
Usually we save zoo travel posts for the spring and summer, since that's when people go to zoos, and we like to be helpful. But there are exceptions to every rule, and - wouldn't you know it - baby animals count as some of those exceptions.
The Washington DC National Zoo has in recent months been blessed with quite a few baby animals. Lots of the attention has been lavished in particular on the zoo's new baby panda and two new baby tigers. All were born around the same time and all were in the news today.
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As is well known and widely acknowledged, Japan is a land of crazy. The plain assertion doesn't really require any proof, but if it did there are entire websites devoted to the insanity that pervades the Land of the Rising Sun. Even their zoos and aquariums are batshit, allowing you to do everything from shake hands with otters to watch Santa Claus play with dolphins.
Somewhere in between shaking otters hands and Santa Claud on a dolphin, there's this very cute bit of travel advertising from Japan's Sunshine Aquarium. The tourist attraction is kind of a hike from the nearest station, and aquarium officials wanted to make sure people could find it. The solution? An augmented reality app where penguins guide tourists along the right path. Because Japan, of course.
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The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding has been around for a quarter of a century, cares for roughly 30% of the world's panda bears, has facilitated some 125 panda births, and is in China. That last bit has posed a problem for casual and even regular travelers, because it turns out that planning and executing a trip to China is a bit of a thing.
Logically, then, Google just announced that it's adding the grounds to its ever-expanding list of zoos that are on Street View. Also on the list is our beloved San Diego Zoo, as well as a dozen other zoos across the world. There's actually a full list of zoos that have been added over at the Google Maps blog post about the Chengdu addition.
You'll remember Yuan Zai as the adorable panda cub - now just over 40 days old - who became an international star when the Taipei Zoo released video of her being reunited with her mother Yuan Yuan for the first time since birth. Zookeepers had whisked Yuan Zai away because she was injured, both to provide her with around the clock medical care and because panda mothers sometimes kill injured offspring. When Yuan Yuan and Yuan Zai were reunited, the video predictably went viral. Embedded below.
Now that she's a certified Internet celebrity, every move that Yuan Zai makes counts as news. Today's big development: she's opening her eyes! They where half open during her last medical examination, and now the next step is happening. Consider yourselves briefed.
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August is, in many parts of the country, a miserable month. The weather is hot, humid, and - if you're lucky - punctuated by thunderstorms. But it still counts as summer, which means summer travel, which means zoo travel. All of which is a roundabout way of saying here are some U.S. zoos with baby elephants that you can go visit:
· The Fort Worth Zoo's social media people have been having a lot of fun with their new baby elephant, Belle. We've embedded a couple of videos below that showcase the newborn. The first is a news video with footage of Belle playing in a kiddie pool. The footage was produced by the zoo and published by the Associated Press. It quickly went viral, mostly on account of how it's a video of a baby elephant playing in a kiddie pool. The second video is an ad produced by the zoo, and if you watch it through the end you'll see even more baby elephant footage.
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If you’ve ever wanted to get drunk with a skunk now is the time to do it. August seems to be a hit with zoos across the country, as they’re rolling out the beer as well as the animals. Here are a few spots to cool off with a sudsy drink while checking out some critters:
WaZoo – Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo
You’ll need to start planning sooner than later, as this weekend is when the beers and the bears come together at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo during this year’s WaZoo event on August between 7:30 and 10:30pm. This beer festival features plenty of food from local restaurants, live music, and of course all the animals you care to view. Tickets are pricey—$70 per person in advance—but it does include plenty of beer, your tasting cup, as well as some food sampling. Local breweries like Cigar City Brewing are even cooking up something special for the event, so be sure to arrive thirsty.