The Audubon Zoo in New Orleans is ranked as one of the top zoos in the United States. We didn’t know this at all at the time.
In fact we had no idea how amazing it would be when we decided to take a break from Mardi Gras in Nawlins’, which of course, was fantastic fun, and in fact, when T suggested going to the zoo, I almost poo-pooed it. Who wants to go to a zoo when they’re in the middle of a place known for its fantastic music and parades and food? Now I am so glad we went!
The Audubon Park
The Audubon Park was originally a Sugar Plantation owned by Etienne de Bore, the pioneer of granulated sugar. Besides the world-class zoo, it also has a 2 mile track, a golf course, a swimming pool, a tennis court, horse stables, a picnic area and lagoons throughout the park. There is also an Aquarium and an Insectarium.
There are over 1500 animals in the zoo, each in a carefully created natural habitat. A train leaves from the Louisiana Swamp area every 30 minutes and you can also do the Safari Simulator Ride.
The Audubon Zoo felt quite ordinary at first. There were the bright pink-orange flamingos, and birds.
But, oh… there were Asian elephants! We love elephants.
We could get so close to them too.
WHOA! This bronze bear paw would catch anyone’s attention!
But the big bad Sun Bear with the wild hooked claws looked anything but menacing as he was having a teddy-bear snooze in the tree.
WHAT?! OMG! This was an open pond, and we were only a few feet away!
Oh, it’s fake… just a sculpture.
Still… scary as anything.
Snakes and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails
Snakes. Yikes! Not my thing, but T was keen to see this woman play with the snake and talk about it for 20 long minutes… OK, 10 minutes – but 10 minutes too long.
Same thing with the big bird.
There were some funny-looking turtles with lego-bump shells.
This was kind of weird seeing hundreds of birds with other strange animals, Nutria (large swamp rodents), together in the bog.
The Jaguar Brothers
You could come nose to nose with these two jaguars! Honestly. Not kidding. Not exaggerating.
Nothing was between us and those two jaguars except a glass wall, a clear glass wall! We presumed it was super-strong, and in seconds we were entertained beyond our wildest dreams.
So cute, like a big kitten.
OR MAYBE NOT! (Taking two steps back very quickly!)
Then, just like two young brothers, the jaguars began to wrestle.
And snarl… and growl… and bite.
It was some serious stuff they were sorting out! On second thought, they look more like husband and wife!
And then it was over and they were back to kittens again, licking their paws.
The Primates: Monkeys
As they always are, the monkeys were lively and entertaining, and we hung on to our cameras.
This monkey was on a mission. He was going to climb the pole overlooking the pond.
We dubbed this little guy “The Thinker”, as he sat on top of the pole in serious introspection.
And this little monkey, at the bottom of the pole, we labelled “The Crier”. It looked like the turtles, sitting on a log below him, were in sympathy, some were even asking what was wrong.
One Animal – or Two?
This almost looks like one animal, but on second glance it appears to be two, an anteater and we’re not sure what the other animal is. They must have been buddies because it was like they were joined at the hip.
Hurricane Katrina damaged a lot of the Zoo’s trees and foliage. These bamboo branches were left leaning, but newer sprouts grow in straight.
The giraffes are always fun to watch with their gangly legs and long necks. It’s even awkward for them to get up.
A Three-Headed Giraffe?
The Louisiana Swamp
The Louisiana Swamp was totally engrosing with its authentic Bayou setting and all of the alligators. There are rare white alligators in the swamp (which we did not see), and an alligator-feeding time (which we missed).
Can you spot the alligators?
Fooling around with artsy shots… tree shadows against the green slime of the swamp.
Can you imagine living here? A typical house on the swamp. But… what… is… that… in the… water….??? A log…? or…
It’s hard to tell the real alligators from the fake. This one is fake, but the above ones were real!
Oh, a raccoon in a tree. Can they climb trees? I guess I would too, if an alligator was lurking underneath me.
Continuing on in the Louisiana Swamp area, there is a typical old Bayou grocery store.
But what is this behind the store? It is alive. It looks like a Maine Coon Cat, but the orange ears and the funny short tail tells us it is something else. Anyone know?
Back to the regular part of the zoo… zebras, huge rhinos, seals…
Gigantic tree with TWO roots.
Now this is the type of creative posters we’d like to see in all zoos, not just in the Audubon Zoo. Rather than a boring list of facts about an animal, this type of poster draws your attention, gives you a little chuckle, and you will never forget what seals and sea lions eat, now will you!
World of Primates – Gorillas and Orangutan
Our favorite exhibits at the Audubon Zoo were hands-down the Gorillas and the Orangutan.
Many unusual species of monkeys.
But we were completely mesmerized watching the African Gorillas. Their gestures, movements, attitudes and looks were amazingly human-like. We are certain that we have evolved from apes. How could it be otherwise? At first they turned their backs to us, as if to say,
“We don’t like being stared at, you idiot humans!”
Then this guy seemed to be thinking,
“Ah, let them look and stare – I don’t care. I have to clean my toes.”
If looks could kill, we would be dead!
These gorillas were quite aggressive, as most gorillas are, and it seemed clear to us that they simply did not like us watching them and taking photos. When a few more people came to see the gorillas, they displayed attitudes like this! What do you think he is saying to himself?
This was Grumpy Old Gorilla, sitting and contemplating life in a back corner.
When he realized that we were watching him and taking pictures, he grunted as if annoyed, and moved.
Then Grumpy Old Gorilla stopped to give us a dirty look.
As a parting gesture, he turned and farted in our face.
We took the hint and decided to move along before these gorillas decided to take further action.
The Orangutan was much more accommodating, open, and curious. When we first came, he looked very comfortable relaxing in his lower hammock, and maybe a touch bored.
When he saw us, he climbed down from the hammock to check us out. Just look at all that hair!
Then all of a sudden he came ambling toward us. We took a few steps back even though there was a barrier below.
He looked straight at us and reached out palm upwards.
When we didn’t respond with food or a treat of any kind, not even a piece of paper which he seemed to be fond of since it was strewn all over his yard, he seemed to sit back and contemplate the situation. Perhaps he was reflecting on how he might get through to these fools staring at him.
He turned away briefly.
Then he turned back toward us and tried again… hand outstretched. Maybe he was asking for help. Maybe he was inviting us to come in and join him. He was all alone after all.
He stayed that way for a long time, like he thought maybe these dumb people would eventually catch on, but we had no food to give him, nor were we probably supposed to feed any animal at the zoo, and we certainly were not going in to see him though he seemed friendly enough.
So cute! And sad too, to see any animal caged for our benefit.
Finally, he sighed and gave up, and we watched as a furry ball of hair clamor back up into his hammock.
He leaned forward and gave us one final look, as if to say,
“Nice seeing you. Goodbye.”
The Audubon Zoo
It was worth going to the zoo just to see the human-like Grumpy Old Gorilla and the Young Orangutan. I don’t think I will ever forget the contemptuous looks from the gorillas or the begging eyes of the sweet orangutan with his beckoning hand stretched eagerly toward us.
To get there, take the St. Charles Ave Streetcar to the Audubon Zoo, 6500 Magazine St. Prices: about $20 for the zoo or a combination ticket for the zoo, Aquarium, and Insectarium about $35. Open Tuesday to Sunday 10-5. For more information go to: www.auduboninstitute.org.