Musky-ratThe kangaroos that you’ve probably seen in movies and zoos are big, like gray kangaroos, which can stand over six feet tall. However, there are dozens of animals in the kangaroo family, ranging from the lanky red kangaroos of Australia’s plains to the fuzzy tree kangaroos of Australia’s… trees. The smallest member of the kangaroo family is the musky rat-kangaroo. They weigh less than a pound, and they’re only about a foot long including their long rat-like tails. Their diet consists of fruit, seeds, and bugs. They might look like a mix between rats and rabbits, but these tiny kangaroos are actually believed to be related to primitive marsupial ancestors. They live only in the rainforests of northeast Australia, which means that we have to be careful to make sure their habitats can support them for years to come.

 

Photo credit: Wikimedia  Commons contributor PanBK

Moka_with_baby_gorilla_at_Pittsburgh_Zoo_12,_2012-02-17In Zoobies Apes, families can see some animals that look and act a lot like us. When you read Zoobies Apes together, see if you can find some ways that we’re alike. From their fingers to their faces, apes have a lot of features in common with us. And they don’t just look like us— apes are highly intelligent and social, and many form close family groups similar to ours. Try acting out the pictures in the book and imagining what life would be like as an ape! What would be different? What would stay the same?

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons contributor Sage Ross

 

 

DSC_0640-2All animals have their own special quirks that set them apart and make them unique, but kangaroos have a special place in our hearts. They look like deer, but they hop like rabbits, and they carry their babies in pouches. As marsupials, they give birth to young that are far less developed than the babies of other animals—baby kangaroos are about the size of a bumblebee! The tiny babies settle into their mothers’ pouches to grow until they’re strong enough to face the world on their own. They stay in for six months, and they don’t leave their moms’ pouches for good until they’re eight to ten months old.
Their pouches aren’t the only reason kangaroos are special. They hop on their powerful back legs, and they can also swim if they’re trying to escape predators. But water’s not always around for drinking, let alone swimming. Kangaroos live in Australia’s dry plains, so they have to find ways to survive on very little water. Some species can go for weeks or even months without water. Instead, they get the fluids they need from the plants they eat.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

AudubonCarolinaParakeet2We normally think of parrots as tropical birds that can only be found in the U.S. when they’re somebody’s pet. However, until recently, a parrot species called the Carolina Parakeet lived all over the eastern half of the United States, as far north as Wisconsin. Overhunting led to these birds going extinct about a hundred years ago. Parrot species in the tropics are facing hard times, too. Loss of habitats and the pet trade have caused many species to become endangered.
Zootles gives young readers a closer look at these amazing animals—some of the smartest in the animal kingdom. In learning more about parrots (and other animals), we can become more invested in them and more engaged with trying to help endangered species.

 

Image credit: John James Audubon, via Wikimedia Commons

Kangaroos are great at using their tails as a “third leg” to propel themselves forward, but they’re one of the only animals that aren’t able to easily move backwards. Their “forward-thinking” attitudes are part of what landed kangaroos a role as Australia’s national animal, but there are lots of other reasons to love them too, like their curious, friendly natures. You can get to know some of the kangaroos at the Australia Zoo on their website.
The Australia Zoo is home to several species of kangaroo, from tiny wallabies to giant red kangaroos. On their website, they have photos and profiles with fun facts about their animals. For example, Pebbles the red kangaroo likes to sneak up behind her mob-mates, pull their tails, and run away! Which of their kangaroos is your favorite?

This month’s Zooworks winners have created some amazing poems about their favorite city animals! Do you have a favorite?

640px-Man_of_the_woodsSometimes it’s hard to see how we can have an impact on the lives of wild animals half a world away. Even if we want to help endangered species, it can be difficult to see the connections between their lives and ours. Take orangutans. These Zootles Great Apes live on the island of Borneo in the Pacific Ocean, and they’re endangered. But even though they’re far away, the threats that they face are close to home—in fact, you can probably find one of those threats in your home: peanut butter.
How can peanut butter endanger orangutans? Are they allergic? No—the Bornean forests where they live are being destroyed so people can plant palm trees, which are used to create palm oil. Palm oil is used in many products that we use every day, including peanut butter. Avoiding products that contain palm oil is one (tiny) way to help orangutans (don’t worry, you don’t have to give up your PB&Js—just look for a brand that doesn’t use palm oil). For other ideas about how to help the animals that we all love, keep reading Zoobooks!

 

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons contributor Dave59

MEETANIMALS-HERO-LONGHORNSA trip to the Austin Zoo wouldn’t be complete without a chance to pet a Texas Longhorn! The Austin Zoo’s domestic animal exhibit gives you a chance to see animals that don’t live far from home but that you don’t often get a chance to see up close, including Longhorn bulls. For instance, while llamas’ wild cousins, camels and alpacas, live all over the world, there are llama farms right here in the U.S. You can not only see a llama at the Austin Zoo, but also pet and (for $2.50) feed one. These kinds of close encounters with animals are both fun and educational. And even if you can’t make it out to Austin, see if a zoo near you has a petting zoo for your family to engage with!

 

Photo credit: Austin Zoo

12977357524_2aeb09c2c0_oIn City Animals, you can learn all about the different animals that we share our urban environments with. It’s interesting to think about the profound impact that humans have had upon the planet—no other species has made as many changes to the earth or affected as many other species as we have. Many animal species’ habitats and habits have changed based upon their interactions with people. For instance, squirrels used to live only in forests, but when people began farming, squirrels moved closer to them to snag some corn and grains. Now, squirrels are common in just about every city in the country.
Can you think of any other animals that are different because of their relationships with humans?

Photo by Flickr user Henry Hemming

A_Bonobo_at_the_San_Diego_Zoo_-fishing-_for_termitesIt’s not every day that you get to see your close relatives in Zootles! Our latest issue, Great Apes, is all about the group that contains gorillas, chimps, and orangutans. Great apes are primates, just like monkeys, but they don’t have tails, and they don’t exclusively live in trees.
Great apes are extremely intelligent animals. Koko the gorilla (Remember her? At 43, she’s old for a gorilla, but she’s hanging in there!) gained fame for learning an adapted form of sign language; it’s reported that she can sign 1,000 words and understands 2,000 words of spoken English. Chimpanzees make tools out of sticks to fish termites out of their nests (yum!). And the smallest great apes, bonobos, can recognize themselves in a mirror, something few animals (including some other apes) are able to do. Makes you feel proud to be related to apes, doesn’t it?

 

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons contributor Mike R.

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