Los Angeles Zoo
Los Angeles, California
A couple of years ago our Board of Trustees and our Zoo Association staff asked–couldn’t we as docents doing outreach programs do something with even more emphasis on conservation than we already of course do with our other programs? So we opted to go “local,” to emphasize how a student could participate as a way of everyday life–in other words to become good California Caretakers.
We are presenting here a 20-minute slide show, which is part of a 45-minute to one-hour classroom presentation, geared for fourth-grade students in California. You will see all our slides, but the text has been shortened to serve our purposes here at AZAD.
It’s all California of course, but keep your own state in mind. We are here to get ideas and after all, WE got the idea from Colorado’s Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s presentation at AZAD a few years ago. Without further ado, we present the Los Angeles Zoo’s Docent Slide Program.
One of the world’s tallest trees. The Coastal Redwoods of the Northern coast.
California has the world’s biggest trees, the Sequoias near Fresno.
Big Bear Pines
They tower over California’s 17 species of pines . . .
That drip pitch. The pines and firs have been susceptible to fire over the centuries . . .
But the Redwoods, lacking the pitch . . .
Have aged to be as old as 2200 years.
These are the old-growth trees that we as California Caretakers are trying to protect. A young lady even lived in one of the trees from November 1997 to November 1999 to save it from loggers. She is a California Caretaker.
The small cones produce millions of seeds, but only 1 in a million actually survives to become a tree.
The evergreen . . . lacy leaves distinguish it from the needles of the pine.
The shallow root system intertwines with its neighbors, making the trees susceptible to wind, causing the domino effect when they fall.
The bark is thick and moist and lacks pitch and resin; that adaptation makes them resistant to fire.
The stumps and fallen trees decompose . . .
With the help of fungi . . .
And lichen. The forest floor thus becomes fed with nutrients.
But the ever-present danger to all old growth trees is logging. Lumber from the old Redwood trees means money–big money. California Caretakers must be ever vigilant.
Twelve species of fern are at home in California on the forest floor, called the duff.
It is moist and springy there . . . a perfect place for . . .
The 15 species of salamanders. Here the 10-inch Giant Salamander eats a 6-inch Banana Slug, slime and all.
And the snails devour the plant life and aid in decomposition.
10 species of Oak trees sprout from acorns in the open meadows, called balds . . .
Providing food for the animals.
The flowering plants . . .
And the wild flowers in the forest . . .
Are a part of the system where plants AND animals live and die and decompose.
California is no longer home to Grizzly Bears except on the State flag, of course. Black Bears still live here. Some are brown . . . some cinnamon.
All are being seriously poached for their gallbladders for folk medicine. California Caretakers have formed anti-poaching units to try to help.
California’s largest cat, the Mountain Lion, is not endangered.
Nor is this ferocious little carnivore, the Bobcat.
Red Foxes are predators and carnivores in the forest.
Alert, with keen senses . . . adaptable and widespread.
Our masked friend, the Raccoon, finds food in the streams and ponds with his very sensitive hands.
The Porcupine continues to carefully live in the California sunshine.
Squirrels eat and store acorns from the Oak trees. Their ever-growing front teeth help them munch and crunch.
The smaller Spotted Skunk is just as smelly as the striped version, but more gymnastic as he stands on his front feet to warn his enemies of what’s to come if they don’t back off.
The largest mammal of the California forest is the Roosevelt Elk.
His antlers are used for determining dominance among the males in competition for the females.
We leave the forest and go to the desert biome.
Whew! Our habitat has changed! Little water and sometimes very hot weather make the plants and animals of the dry desert different from those of the forest.
This spot is Badwater, Death Valley, after a rare rainstorm. It is the lowest place not only in the USA but in the whole Western Hemisphere, at 282 feet below sea level. It looks up at Telescope Peak, 11,500 feet.
On a nearby range, Mount Whitney towers at about 14,500 feet, the highest point in California.
Back in Death Valley, Scotty built a castle down on the desert floor, where there was a spring. He lived there quite comfortably, with a waterfall in his house, even when the days reached 120+ degrees.
Joshua Tree National Park is abundant with these trees that are 1530 feet tall and grow at elevations of 20006000 feet.
The desert flowers bloom when there are big rains.
But the plants have adapted well to very little rain.
Often with one deep, or many shallow, roots.
Spines and tough skin protect them . . .
And they all have properties that the Native Americans used . . .
For food and shelter . . .
And of course you know that everything in the National Parks is protected, the plants, animals and terrain.
Animal life in the desert gets much of its moisture from eating its prey. Scorpions are no exception.
Reptiles are especially adapted to the harsh, dry environment of the desert, but the Desert Tortoise, California’s State Reptile, is seriously endangered, not from lack of water, but from poaching . . . from being run over by off-road vehicles . . . from disease . . . and from predation by the “Way Too Many” ravens.
Tortoise & Raven
Do they need our protection? You bet!
Rattlesnakes are a part of the desert, using their labial pits to sense their prey . . .
Using their rattles to warn away their enemies.
The mostly terrestrial Roadrunner zips along at 15 miles or more per hour.
Only 9 inches tall, the Burrowing Owl makes use of old deserted burrows of the ground squirrels.
California’s State Bird is the beautiful Quail who lives in groups called covies.
While overhead the noisy Cactus Wren builds her nest within the cactus bush.
And the scavenging Raven is helping clean up in our own bird show, but it’s a different story out in the desert where they “clean up” on the baby tortoises.
Another one of nature’s garbage disposals is the Turkey Vulture, a bird who possesses good eyesight and a keen senseof smell.
Adaptable and everywhere, the Coyote is especially “heard” out in the clean desert air, yipping and howling to each other . . . communicating with their voices.
They eat Jackrabbits and almost anything else, and do well around humans . . . who leave lots of garbage around, dog food out, and who don’t bring their little pets in at night. A good California Caretaker follows a few simple rules of protection for pets, and doesn’t feed wild animals.
Big Horn Sheep
Recently declared endangered, the Big Horn Sheep inhabits rocky areas. Their massive horns are used in loud crashing battles for mates.
Mule Deer wander in and out of the desert, a tactic for survival. Their huge ears resemble those of mules and they are ever alert to their enemies, the Mountain Lion and the Human with a gun.
PAUSE A MOMENT
We are changing habitats again. The California Caretaker Program continues in this format. We discuss the coastal mammals, the Monarch Butterfly migration and their 6-month layover in California, the very old Bristlecone Pine trees, and our State and National Parks, always pointing out how to be a California Caretaker.
We hope our listeners will gain confidence and become participants in caring for California.