The male orangutan can be as heavy as 300 pounds and up to five feet tall; females are often less than 150 pounds and are shorter. There are four orangutans at the Virginia Zoo. Their body types suit them as they swing between branches – a movement called brachiating. Orangutans love to eat insects, bark, fruit and early shoots.
Orangutans are today seen on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. Sumatran orangutans are fragmented into nine separate populations. Bornean orangutans are much more widely distributed.
Red pandas are endangered, owing largely to the loss of their habitat. There are less than 2,500 adults in the world. Oscar became a zoo resident in 2008 and Missy arrived in 2011. Bernadette came on the scene in April 2012. Oscar and Bernadette produced two male cubs in 2013, and in 2014 they had two female cubs.
The siamang is the largest member of the gibbon family. The zoo has four siamangs. They are graceful, as they leap across substantial gaps between ropes or branches in both their outdoor habitat and indoor play area.
Siamangs are endangered as humans invade their habitat – sometime destroying the mother siamang to get at the young because of the market for them as pets.
The zoo’s male and female weigh about two pounds each, and love to dig. In fact, visitors will recognize their exhibit by the significant tunneling. When they’re not lounging in the sun, they are eating one of their favorites – meal worms.
In the wild, guests would find meerkats in the South Africa’s Kalahari Desert. They are territorial creatures and are known to protect their turf against other gangs of meerkats, or mobs. Since security is uppermost, they stand guard and make emergency calls to one another.
In their natural habitat, squirrel monkeys congregate in large groups because they find safety in these large numbers. Being in big groups prevents larger monkeys from chasing them from their trees. Mothers carry the babies around on their backs. Their home range is east of the Andes from Columbia and northern Peru to northeastern Brazil.
This squirrel monkey population at the zoo is a curious lot and loves to swing from their vines. They weigh less than two pounds each and are partial to bananas and marigolds.
White-cheeked gibbons are considered Critically Endangered, owing to habitat and hunting losses, but the zoo is fortunate to have one male and one female who, incidentally, look completely different from one another. Females have white fur, with a tiny patch of black on top of their heads. Males are completely black save for patches of white on their cheeks. Babies have fur as white as their mom’s – think camouflage – but they turn all black by one year of age. Yet, when they reach young adulthood, the males remain black, while their counterparts become white once more.
Alfred, the zoo’s white rhino, was born in 1968 – making him one of the oldest residents. He’s not the lightest, though; Alfred weighs in at 4,200 pounds and really digs mud. The white rhino is listed as highly endangered; there are less than 3,000 living in the wild.
More vacation ideas: Chicago, Tucson, Tulsa, Savannah, Southwest vacations, Sacramento and Orlando. Photo: The Virginia Zoo
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