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.

RaccooneatingNormally when you go to a zoo, you make a beeline for the animals that you can’t see every day, like lions and bears. But many zoos also feature exhibits of animals that live more locally. These animals are often rescues that can’t live in the wild. For instance, at the Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary, you can see Crash, a raccoon who got his name after he was rescued after being hit by a car. When animals are injured, even if they’re nursed back to health, they don’t always have the ability to make it on their own—a damaged wing might make it impossible for a hawk to hunt for prey, or blindness might make a skunk more vulnerable to predators. Zoos, nature centers, and wildlife sanctuaries can provide these animals with a new lease on life. And they’re exciting for you to visit, too—even though foxes, possums, raccoons, and squirrels might live near you, you can get a much closer look at them at the zoo!

 

Photo by the Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary.

raccoon Waschbaer_auf_dem_Dach

We normally think that if you want to see some animals, you have to go out to the forest or countryside. However, there are lots of animals that thrive in our neighborhoods and cities, too! For thousands of years, animals have adapted to living near humans and taking advantage of our buildings for shelter and our garbage for food. But the raccoons, possums, squirrels, and rabbits that live in most American cities aren’t the only animals that can be found near people. Peregrine falcons make their nests on the tops of skyscrapers (in less urban areas, they live up on rocky cliffs). In Miami, you can sometimes spot alligators near the roadside, and in Churchill, Manitoba, you can see migrating polar bears.

For animals that have adapted to living near humans—like the raccoons and possums that you see going through your trash—the spread of our cities is nothing to worry about. The more humans there are, the more garbage there is to eat! For animals that live on the edges of cities, like bobcats and bears, humans spreading into their space can spell trouble. You can learn more about how we can better share our planet with our animal friends in Zoobooks and at your local zoo or nature center!

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons contributor Carsten Volkwein.

2977317822_cb9b3f8d57_o (1)You know dolphins. They’re gray, and the live in the ocean. Right? Not always! If you’ve read the latest issue of Zootles, you’ve probably learned quite a few fun new facts about dolphins. And one of the greatest things about reading is that once you get curious about a subject, you can’t help but want to learn more. For example, did you know that freshwater Amazon river dolphins are pink? It’s true!
And once you’re done reading (or rereading) Zootles, there are plenty of other places you can look for more information about dolphins. Take a trip to your local library (if it’s nice out, you can even walk there!) and check out some books on your favorite animals—the librarians there can help you find both stories and nonfiction books about them. Your favorite zoo or aquarium can be a great resource too. Even if you’re not able to make it out there in person, most zoos have websites with photos and fun facts about their animals—some even have videos, games, and crafts for you to try!

 

Photo credit: Flickr user rruiz3960

Breeding_Ostrich_BerlinWhether you’re dyeing eggs this weekend or not, you’ll love the fun facts about ostriches and their eggs on the San Diego Zoo’s website! Ostriches have the largest eggs in the world—the liquid inside one of them is equal to about 24 chicken eggs. And while it shouldn’t be surprising that these huge eggs hatch into huge birds, but we’re still amazed every time we remember that ostriches can be up to 9 feet tall! Their long legs enable them to run up to 43 miles per hour, and they even use their legs as defense. When threatened, they can kick predators with their strong legs and clawed feet—a swift kick from an ostrich can kill a lion!

 

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

TeTuatahianuiOur most recent issue of Zoobooks, Ostriches and Other Ratites, covers the biggest birds in the world—and some little ones, too. Kiwis are about the size of chickens, but what these birds lack in size, they make up for in quirkiness.
These shy birds from New Zealand have thick, soft feathers that look almost like fur—in fact, fuzzy brown kiwi fruits got their names because they look like these birds! Kiwis are the only birds in the world with nostrils right at the end of their bills. This helps them sniff out the insects and grubs that they eat. They’re one of the only birds in the world with a good sense of smell. Of all the birds, kiwis lay the largest eggs compared to their size. A five-pound kiwi can lay a one-pound egg—that would be like a human woman giving birth to a baby that weighed about thirty pounds!

 

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

This month, our amazing readers created these pictures of some of the world’s biggest birds. Which picture is your favorite?

 

 

Atlantic_spotted_dolphin_(Stenella_frontalis)_NOAADolphins are both very similar to humans and very different. We have long regarded dolphins as some of the most intelligent animals, and they’re highly social. They live in family groups, like humans do, and they even communicate with each other through a series of clicks and squeals that make up their own “language.” Some scientists even specialize in trying to learn what dolphins are “saying” to each other.
Even though we have a lot in common with dolphins, there are some big differences. For instance, while dolphins are mammals like us, their aquatic lifestyle means that they do a lot of things differently, including breathing and sleeping. When they sleep, dolphins float on one side and keep one eye open. And to breathe, dolphins take in air through their blowholes when they surface, and then seal up their blowholes when they’re swimming—like how we hold our noses when we go underwater! What other similarities and differences can you and your family find between humans and dolphins?

 

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Ostrich-racing-at-canterbury-parkWhat’s your favorite way to get around? Car? Bike? …Ostrich? It’s true– two thousand years ago, the Egyptian queen Arsinoe rode an ostrich with a special saddle. And while you probably wouldn’t try to get to the grocery store by ostrich, people still ride ostriches for fun in races today.

Ostriches have been important to humans for thousands of years. These easily domesticated birds have been used as everything from cart-pullers to sheep herders to food sources– a single ostrich egg weighs almost four pounds and can feed up to ten people. However, ostriches nearly went extinct due to humans killing them for their feathers. Ostriches are now thriving, though, so with further care, these enormous birds will be around for years to come!

 

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

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