Back from the Bronx


One of the two snow leopard sisters (Panthera uncia) I first saw two years ago, all grown up. Photographed at the Bronx zoo on July 5th, 2008.

I'm still learning how to use all the functions on my new camera but I have to say that I think I took some of the best photographs I have ever taken on my trip to the Bronx zoo today. Although the fossas were asleep in corners of their enclosure (depriving me of any good photo opportunities) most of the other creatures I visited at the zoo were active and awake. The photographs I took will appear one-by-one each day but you'll definitely see some things here that I have never photographed before.

Also of note is that today, for the first time, I hear a snow leopard make a noise. Many sketches about the great cat are quick to point out that it does not roar, yet this does not mean that it is completely silent. Over the past several years I have never heard a snow leopard make any sort of vocalization, but today when one snow leopard was surprised by something in it's enclosure (I could not exactly see what) it let out a low, hoarse bark not unlike sounds I have heard made by other leopards (Panthera pardus). Such a small event may not hold much significance but I appreciated it, even if only because I had never heard the species make that sound before.

[According to what my Moveable Type menu tells me this is my 1,000th post here at ScienceBlogs.]

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Your photos are A-bloody-mazing. Ever had any published?

By themadlolscien… (not verified) on 05 Jul 2008 #permalink

Happy 1000th post! Congratulations.

Yes, I've heard snow leopards growl and hiss at each other and at me quite a few times at my local zoo; I haven't heard a P.pardus roar or growl so I can't compare but it sounds somewhat intermediate between a big cat and an angry small cat!

Part of taking good pictures in a zoo is, from my experience, down to the quality of the zoo exhibits themselves. By the looks of the shadows on your picture, it looks as if it was fairly dark, and therefore difficult to get a good quality photo without using flash which would glare and/or scare the animal. Snow leopards certainly make very photogenic subjects, if they're in a good mood and not moving too fast!!

By the way, what kinds of "unusual" species do they have at the Bronx? Never been to New York but that zoo has been on my list since I was very ickle when I read about it in National Geographic. By unusual, I mean of course not your everyday species you can see in any zoo.

Mo; I haven't heard P. pardus vocalize in captivity, either, although I know that they certainly can.

As for the habitat for the snow leopards, it is actually fairly open with a few trees and rocks. The one in the photo was hiding under the overhang of a small rock just a few feet away, thus creating the shadows (plus it was overcast yesterday).

In terms of unusual species, many of them are small species in the different "houses" (desert cats, different rodents, ring-tailed mongoose, fossa, etc.). Among the larger animals there are Mongolian wild horses, rhinos from Indonesia, a diversity of Asian deer, gelada baboons, crested gibbons, and a few others. I don't know what you've seen elsewhere but the Bronx zoo definitely houses a wider diversity of animals than I've seen anywhere else.

Michael; I sort of think of my "Photography" tab in the archives as a one-stop place to see everything I've posted here. I suppose I should open up a Flickr account or some such thing, though. I just keep forgetting.

Mad; Thanks! I actually have not had them published anywhere. I've submitted a few to National Geographic's "Your Shot" but none of them have even made it to the daily web picks. I can understand why; I like the photos I've taken but the ones on the NGM site are really superb.

Thanks, that helps a lot... I found it annoying that London Zoo, which I regularly visit, changed its small mammal pavilion to a more interactive, less species diverse exhibit with two or three marmoset/tamarin species, a sloth and a few birds (since when are sunbitterns mammals?), when it used to have bizarre mongooses like the cusimanse (Crossarchus obscurus) and strange things like cloud rats. The "Moonlight World" is still the same, though not as good as I remember it from years ago. At least my local zoo has some interesting cats like Pallas' cats and Geoffroy's cats, as well as the Owston's civets (Chrotogale owstoni). I really need to go on a US zoo tour!