PAGE THREE

Joe Elbert's Zoo Tales

Video
Old McDonald had a farm and so does the National Zoo. It's the Kids' Farm, a hands-on exhibit where young visitors are encouraged to take an active part in learning the basics of animal care and the origins of some of the foods we eat. Video by Joe Elbert

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Monday, November 17, 2008

In this occasional Page Three feature, photographer Joe Elbert uses a camera to show you inside Washington's National Zoo. You can see his videos at http://washingtonpost.com/zootales.

Old McDonald had a farm, and so does the National Zoo. It's the Kids' Farm, a hands-on exhibit where young visitors are encouraged to take an active part in learning the basics of animal care and the origins of some of the foods we eat.

Although it isn't a traditional petting zoo, children (and adults) can touch Cirrus, Ziggy and Orion, the farm's three alpacas; goats Lucy and Ethel; donkeys George, Pat, Giuseppe and Flash; and Tulip the cow. Ossabaw Island hogs and silver fox rabbits round out the livestock.

At the Caring Corral, children learn how to take care of animals by helping animal keepers and volunteers groom the goats and donkeys. Kids' Farm opened in June 2004 and occupies nearly two acres. The zoo uses a tasty treat -- pizza -- to teach how some foods are grown and how they become part of a favorite meal. In the Pizza Garden, children can see how pizza ingredients -- such as tomatoes, wheat and herbs -- are cultivated. Then they can head off to play on the Giant Pizza Playground.

About the animals:

· Cirrus, who is white; Ziggy, who is brown; and Orion, who is tan, are the farm's three alpacas. These animals normally live at high elevations, so they have thick fiber coats and large hearts and lungs to increase the amount of oxygen they can inhale in the cold, thin mountain air.

· Kids' Farm has six goats representing three unique breeds. Lucy and Ethel are Nigerian dwarfs. The Anglo-Nubian goats are Iris and Lucky, and the San Clemente Island goats are Mortimer and Marla. Anglo-Nubian goats can produce up to 1,500 pounds of milk a year and thrive in warmer climates. The conservation status of San Clemente Island goats is critical because they are native only to the Southern California island for which they are named. Their smaller size is likely a result of insular dwarfism, an adaptation to living on an island with limited resources.

· Four gelded (neutered) male miniature Mediterranean donkeys, named George, Pat, Giuseppe, and Flash, also live at the farm. They are all between 7 and 8 years old. Flash, the gray donkey, is the most dominant of the group. Donkeys can mate with horses and zebras, but their offspring are always sterile or infertile.

· The two female Ossabaw Island hogs at the zoo are named Carolina and Savannah. In the 16th century, Spanish explorers brought hogs to North America. They left a population of hogs on Ossabaw, an island off the Georgia coast, as a food source for future explorers. On Ossabaw Island, food becomes scarcer in the spring, so these hogs have developed a way of metabolizing fat more efficiently, which means they don't have to eat as much.

· The Kids' Farm has four silver fox rabbits, a breed developed in the early 20th century in the United States. The breed has two recognized varieties, blue and black. Baby silver fox rabbits are born blue or black and begin to turn silver at 4 weeks old. At 5 months, the silvering process is complete. Their coat is longer and a bit coarser than that of most other rabbits.


© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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