Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Global Wildlife Center!

Skippy the human-reared baby red roo gives me a kiss!
Copyright (c) 2009 Doug Markle/Wendee Holtcamp

Finally I got around to putting up more photos from our cross-country road trip! After Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains, we headed to the Northshore of Louisiana. Today I'll post photos from the Global Wildlife Center because it was such an awesome part of the trip! In a day or two, I'll post pics of the other parts of Louisiana's Northshore including an awesome swamp eco-tour where we saw gators!

The idea for my visit to this area started because Renee Kientz from the St. Tammany Parish Tourism Commission emailed me about a story idea she had for my Animal Planet blog. It was about a woman raising a baby kangaroo on her own, which had been abandoned by its mom - and has since been covered by the Today Show, the Washington Post and others. (And you can watch an endearing slideshow of his life so far here).

I thought it was a great idea, and she invited me to come visit the Global Wildlife Center and meet Skippy the baby kangaroo firsthand. It took me a few months to get there, but it was well worth it! The Center is a 900-acre wildlife preserve with around 4,000 animals, run by a nonprofit. They offer tours on either single-vehicle Pinzgauers - a Swiss Army vehicle (which we took) - or these other multiple-vehicle train-like things. Either way, you get up close and personal with the animals, and they're awesome! I've been to Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Glen Rose, Texas but that was a self guided auto tour and you don't really get to touch and interact with the animals like you can at Global. I highly recommend this especially if you love animals or have kids! So on to the photos!

Before we went on the tour, we got to meet the star of the show at the moment - Skippy! I have a blog post coming out about him tomorrow so be sure to visit my Animal Planet blog! He's 10.5 months now. He loves to give kisses!

Doug got to hold him.

He gave me kisses too. What a sweetheart!

Our tour starts and I started taking photos. We saw some zebras first. All the animals are together, pretty much. The lady who raised Skippy as his mom, Christina Cooper (who is the Education and Development Director), said that during Hurricane Katrina they were worried to death about the animals but when they looked out of doors, they saw the animals had all huddled together in one giant circle and everyone survived. Amazing. I have always thought zebras are so beautiful!

Look at those big brown eyes! The first big animals we came across were these Bactrian camels. They have two humps and are very furry-faced. There are wild Bactrian camels living in the Gobi desert which are genetically and behaviorally distinct from the many domesticated Bactrian camels. I wrote about them for the Planet Earth animal guide profiles I wrote - so you can read more about the species there (under the Desert episode).
They are gentle giants! Love this pic.
They would just reach their faces right into the Pinzgauer and munch away on the corn right out of the big bin as well as the buckets we fed them from. They kept bumping their heads on the top of the vehicle. LOL!

Next we came across the giraffes, which just loved the corn and us! They were so cool. We could pet their heads and faces and shoulders. They have the coolest lips! And though a few times they bumped their heads, they were very aware of where their heads and horns were, and would bend their heads when they took them out of the vehicle, more so than the camels.

You can see the big bin of corn inside the Pinzagauer (vehicle) which we fed them from in this shot.
I love this photo! Look at that face! One of these is a young un.
Such beautiful animals!
Another gorgeous shot of the giraffes.
I'm not 100% sure but I think these are the Pere David deer, a highly endangered species that bred very well here on the reserve.
Where are all the animals running to?
It's feeding time! Just before dusk, when the temperature starts cooling off, the staff start supplemental feeding of the animals. They put all the corn in a big spiral and pretty much everyone comes together to chow down!
The preserve has a few Watusi and longhorn cattle and they would come over, stick out their grossly long tongue and open their mouth wide. They practically inhaled the corn!

On my Facebook profile status, while there, I wrote that I was being chased by a wild beefalo! This was the crazy beefalo that was chasing me (well tecnically chasing after the vehicle with the corn in it...). A beefalo, so I learned, is a cross between a cow and a bison. The cross-breeding occurred naturally at the center.

Here it is again, in the back, and it wouldn't leave us alone once we fed it. We had to drive off to the llamas, to learn about the "llama drama" to get away from it (not that driver Christina minded but it was seriously starting to freka me out, especially when the ginormous longhorns and beefalo were all surrounding us! The bison were pretty tame in comparison.
Aww... the baby llama!
Another shot of the baby llama.
Polka dotted llama
I love this photo too. The baby looks exactly like a llama male that isn't the head of the herd - this guy - so Christina thinks maybe the jealous herd leader took mom and baby away to stop the gossip. The three of them have been hanging together separate from the herd. Hence the staff call it, hilariously, the "llama drama." :)

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