August 24, 2011
The vibrations from yesterday’s 5.8 earthquake were keenly felt at the National Zoo; all animals, staff, and visitors were safe and no injuries were reported. Zoo buildings were closed to the public and checked by safety personnel for structural damage. Zoo gates were closed to incoming visitors but exits were open for guests to leave at their leisure. The Zoo reopened this morning on time.
Animal care staff recognized changes in animal behavior.
Great Ape House
The earthquake hit the Great Ape House and Think Tank Exhibit during afternoon feeding time.
About five to ten seconds before the quake, many of the apes, including Kyle (an orangutan) and Kojo (a western lowland gorilla), abandoned their food and climbed to the top of the tree-like structure in the exhibit.
About three seconds before the quake, Mandara (a gorilla) let out a shriek and collected her baby, Kibibi, and moved to the top of the tree structure as well.
Iris (an orangutan) began “belch vocalizing”—an unhappy/upset noise normally reserved for extreme irritation—before the quake and continued this vocalization following the quake.
Small Mammal House
The red-ruffed lemurs sounded an alarm call about 15 minutes before the quake and then again just after it occurred.
The howler monkeys sounded an alarm call just after the earthquake.
The black and rufous giant elephant-shrew hid in his habitat and refused to come out for afternoon feeding.
Reptile Discovery Center
All the snakes (including copperheads, cotton mouth, and false water cobra) began writhing during the quake. Normally, they are inactive during the day.
Murphy, the Zoo’s Komodo dragon, sought shelter inside.
One of the volunteers at the Invertebrate Exhibit was feeding the cuttlefish and it was not responsive. The water is normally very calm in the tank, but the earthquake caused the tank to shake and created waves, which distracted the cuttlefish during feeding.
Keepers were feeding the beavers and hooded mergansers (a species of duck) when the earthquake hit. The ducks immediately jumped into the pool. The beavers stopped eating, stood on their hind legs and looked around, then got into the water, too. They all stayed in the water. Within an hour, some of the beavers returned to land to continue eating.
The lion pride was outside. They all stood still and faced the building, which rattled during the quake. All settled down within minutes.
Damai (a female Sumatran tiger) jumped at the start of the earthquake in a startled fashion. Her behavior returned to normal after the quake.
The Zoo has a flock of 64 flamingos. Just before the quake, the birds rushed about and grouped themselves together. They remained huddled during the quake.
During the quake all Eld’s deer and tufted deer immediately ran out of the barns and appeared agitated.
The Przewalski’s horses and scimitar-horned oryx hardly noticed although those that were inside did amble outside eventually.
Immediately after the quake the female Eld’s deer herd began alarm calling (a high staccato barking sound) until they were called by their keeper and subsequently all congregated in the corner of the pasture nearest the keeper for a short time.
According to keepers, the giant pandas did not appear to respond to the earthquake.
My mother considers 3am a time for sleep or prayer. “you have been to every party and seen every friend.” She threatens me and states the obvious. God is obvious. In the intense colors of the sky, the extreme weather, breeze past the trees or breath through a horn. Now more than ever, I am glad I am alive to experience it, and wonder. And wonder about the stars and spirits and their experience of the world, are they in it or do they watch? The way we turn on and off the tv, or radio. Don’t miss the message.
I understand where your coming from. Don’t worry. We all have questions, allow your imagination to wander, that’s the beauty of it. If you feel like its dwelling on the negativity and the ‘what if’s’, check yourself. Be confident.
You ain’t like these other shorties. You’re better than that… And that’s why you have the relationship you have.
Do not let the obvious be invisible. Stay open, but aware.
Caring is sharing. So satisfy my curious mind and inquisitive spirit with answers to all my questions. In addition, volunteer information. A good storyteller elaborates without embellishing. You already know I enjoy your narrative style, so tell me what happened with homegirl. I like to listen just as much as I enjoy talking. I apologize if I ask too many questions, but I treat our conversations as interviews. Each time we chat, I get a clearer picture of you and how you react. Clearly you don’t want to speak on other shorties, but what of the flipside, and all my homeboys? Surely it is plausible I have male friends too.