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

This month, our Zooworks winners have drawn some fantastic camels! Each of these drawings shows a lot of talent and creativity—do you have a favorite?

Schwimmender-Pinguin

Penguins always look dapper, with their tuxedo-patterned coats. Even though they might look like they have fur, penguins, like all other birds, have feathers. Their feathers are very thick and are coated with oil to help keep them warm and let them sleekly swim through icy water. Even the colors of their feathers help them to survive by making them harder for predators to see while they’re swimming. Their black back feathers help them blend in with the deep, dark water when viewed from above, and their white tummies blend in with the bright sunlight that streams through the ocean, making them harder to see from below. Can you think of any other animals whose fur or feathers are specially adapted to live in certain climates?

 

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

 

Camel_seitlich_trabendHappy Hump Day! To reward yourself for getting halfway through the week, take a break and check out the Alaska Zoo’s website. They’ve got all kinds of fun facts about animals, including the ones featured in the most recent Zoobooks: camels!
If you think of camels as animals that live in the hot desert, you might feel bad for the camels living up in Alaska—but don’t worry! In their natural habitats, Bactian camels survive temperatures of -40° F, so the Alaska Zoo is just fine by them. And that’s not the only thing these tough animals can withstand— Bactrian camels can drink spring water with a higher salt content than seawater, something that no other animal can do. They even withstood decades of nuclear testing in their native home, the Gobi Desert in China.
But even though wild camels are extremely tough, they’re in trouble. With only 1,000 camels left in the wild, they’re critically endangered. You can help the camels by visiting The Wild Camel Protection Foundation. Find out what you can do to ensure that these amazing animals are around for years to come!

 

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

 

2011_Trampeltier_1528With the January weather, you might find yourself wishing you lived someplace warm, like the hot deserts where camels make their homes. But even though camels live in deserts, that doesn’t mean that they never have to face the cold. Bactrian camels (the ones with two humps) live in mountainous regions of Asia where it gets to be 122°F in the summer, but -20° on winter nights. Camels are tough, though—in addition to thriving in extreme temperatures, they’re also famously able to go for long periods without water. When it’s hot out, they can go a week without a drink—and when it’s cooler, they can last up to six months without water. They don’t even get much moisture from their food—their diet includes dry sticks, salty plants, and thorns. (By the way, they don’t store water in their humps—those are full of fat!)
Thanks to their hardiness, camels have been valued by people all over the world for thousands of years. You’re probably familiar with domesticated camels in Asia and Africa, but there are other camels closer to home that you might not have thought about. Some humpless wild camels in South America have been domesticated, creating two animals that you might know: alpacas and llamas.

 

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Lion_cub_with_motherOne way that children learn about animals is by seeing how they’re like us humans. The latest issue of Zoobies focuses on baby animals in ways that will engage our youngest readers. Photographs of baby seals, flamingos, wallabies, and more show kids the ways that baby animals eat, sleep, and play—and show the ways that we’re alike. When you read this with your child, see if you can find similarities and differences between humans and animals!

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

This month, our Zooworks winners brought dinosaurs back to life with their brilliant drawings! Do you have a favorite?

King_Penguin_on_Saunders_Island_(5586832804)With the cold weather we’ve been having, you might find yourself daydreaming about warm places. Like beaches with soft sand, bright sun, and…penguins? While we normally think of penguins as creatures of the icy Antarctic, they’re actually found in coastal areas throughout the Southern Hemisphere, including places like South Africa. But you won’t find them up in the North Pole—the furthest north you’ll find penguins is the Galapagos Islands near the Equator.
But even the penguins that live in cold places have ways of keeping nice and warm. Their thick layer of blubber keeps them warm in icy water, and their double-layer of feathers helps to insulate them too. And penguins rely on each other to keep warm by huddling up in large groups. What do you to keep warm? What do you do that’s similar to what penguins do, and what’s different?

 

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Every month, we highlight a zoo that’s home to the current Zoobooks animal. But the current issue of Zoobooks is about dinosaurs—we couldn’t possibly find a zoo with those, right? Wrong! But don’t worry—there’s no Jurassic Park out there with live dinosaurs (for better or for worse). Instead, the Tulsa Zoo has a version that’s just as fun, but with less risk of getting eaten. Their Zoorasic Park exhibit features life-size statues of eleven dinosaurs from 9-foot Citipati, a feathered, bird-like dinosaur, to giants like long-necked Brachiosaurus and ferocious T. rex. And even if you can’t make it to the Tulsa Zoo to visit the dinosaurs in person, you can find fun facts and photos of them on the zoo’s website. What dinosaur would your kids most love to meet?

T_Rex_castIf your family has seen the new Night at the Museum movie that came out last week or the trailer for the new Jurassic Park movie (or even if you didn’t), you might know some kids who are excited about dinosaurs. But while dinosaurs are certainly very popular with kids (and adults), there might be some things that you don’t know about them. For instance, when you think of a dinosaur, you probably think of a huge, lizard-like creature. However, even though the word “dinosaur” means “terrible lizard,” dinosaurs weren’t lizards—in fact, they’re more closely related to birds. From looking at blood vessels in dinosaur fossils, some scientists even believe that dinosaurs were warm-blooded like birds and mammals today. Dinosaurs aren’t all big, too—while some were huge, others were as small as a chicken. What’s more, the dinosaur that your kids might be most familiar with—Tyrannosaurus rex—wasn’t the biggest one by a long shot. Long-necked sauropods, like brachiosaurus (formerly called brontosaurus), are the biggest animals to ever live on land. Let us know what your family learns from Zoobooks Dinosaurs!

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

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