21st January 2018: Zoology at the Zoo (Guadalajara, Spain)

This was just a stroll down the Zoológico Municipal de Guadalajara, the local town zoo. I just thought I could look up some of the animals I came across and see if I learn any interesting facts. It was not as easy as I thought!

Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra): it is a semiaquatic mamal that is fortunately not threatened. It lives near rivers and coasts in Europe and Asia. It mainly eats fish. They are pretty smart and playful, but they are also very territorial, so they usually live alone. They have webbed claws for swimming and catching fish. Mother otters teach the kits to fish by a game of “catch and release” the fish.

Peafowl (Pavo cristatus ): technically “peacock” is the male (colourful) and “peahen” is the female (brown). The male has long tail feathers that he displays when he wants to impress a female or another male. In India, it was used as ‘guardian animal’ as it screams when tigers approach and it can eat young cobra snakes. Now, that’s pretty cool, and here I thought he was just a pretty tail!

Fallow deer (Dama dama): Fallow deer are native to Europe, and have been introduced to many other places. The bucks (males) are very aggressive and competitive during mating season, and they use their horns to fight. The does (females) do not have horns.

Iberian red deer (Cervus elaphus): The imagery of the red deer has been so powerful in the human psyche that some it can be found in paintings dating 40,000 years back. Normally the males and the young create big family groups. Males create smaller groups that cooperate.

Barbary sheep (Ammotragus lervia). Also called arrui, it is an African mountain goat which lives in arid mountains and canyons and graze grass, bushes and lichens. They were artificially introduced in Southern Europe and became a bit of an invasive species. However, the truth is that they look super chill and zen.

European mouflon (Ovis orientalis musimon): It was originally a mountain creature but it moved to the forest when humans started bothering them. They thrive in rocky areas, though. They tend to live in herds with a lead female.

Wild boar (Sus scrofa): This is the omnivore animal by its own right. It can and will eat anything – from fruit to berries to even baby deer (O_O)!. Many old Indo-European cultures considered the boar a symbol of warrior virtues. In Greek mythology, the hero Herakles had to capture a boar as one of his Labours. In the east, it is considered a symbol of determination and even recklessness.

Iberian wolf (Canis lupus signatus): Unfortunately, the Iberian wolf is a vulnerable species and culling is still legal in Spain (•̀ω•́ ). The Iberian wolf is brown-grey and had a characteristic white area around its mouth. They also have black vertical lines along the front legs, and other dark marks on the leg and the tail. They are predators and prefer hunting big animals, especially deer. Wolves are social creatures, they live and hunt in groups.

Something really cool about wolves in general is that when they run, they place their hind legs on the footprint created by the front paw. Talk about coordination. Wolves have a very bad reputation in Spain, but there have not been confirmed attacks on cattle, much less on people, in recent years. Pictograms of the Iberian wolf have been found in archaeological artefacts from the tribes that lived in Spain before the Romans.

Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae): Yay for another non-threatened animal. Emu originated in Australia, and are the second-biggest bird in existence after the ostrich. They are flightless, and they eat plants, grasses, insect and arthropods, depending the seasonal availability. Because females can lay several clutches of egg in one season after mating with different males, the male takes care of the incubation, and the chick-rearing. According the mythology of some aboriginal tribes of what now is called New South Wales, the sun had been created by throwing an emu egg into the sky.

Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx): Native of Europe and Asia, it is widely distributed, which lowers its conservation concerns. The Eurasian lynx is mainly a nocturnal predator, and tends to live solitarily as an adult, although hunting areas may overlap for several individuals. They can hunt small animals, but they are known to prefer bigger prey, such as roe deer and common deer. Conversely, they may be hunted by wolves.

Red fox (Vulpes vulpes): The red fox is one of the animals with the widest habitat range in the whole world. It can be found almost everywhere in the northern Hemisphere, including many cities in Europe. It is an invasive species in Australia, where it was introduced in the 19th century. In European mythology it’s considered symbol of deceit. In Asian mythology it has two-faces, some of them are messengers of the gods, some are tricksters and dangerous. Arab folklore considers the fox cowardly and weak. Native American mythology considers it a crafty creature that steals the coyote’s food – in all cultures however, it seems to be intellingent and able to trick other animals or people. Interesting.

Griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus): A scavenger bird of prey, it feeds mostly off the carcasses of dead animals. It tends to live in flocks or colonies and makes nests on rocky walls. Even if they have a bad rep, they are very cool animals.

White stork (Ciconia ciconia): Credited with bringing babies from Paris, storks used to be long-distance migrants, which lived in North Africa in winter and returned to Europe in summer to breed. For the last twenty years or so, the storks have stayed, at least in Spain. They are also famous for making nests on belfries and other man-made structures, and because they are considered a good omen they have rarely been chased away – until the weight of the nest has made belltowers collapse!

Common kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), I think. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. The best thing about the small zoo is the work they carry out recovering injured birds of prey. The birds are nursed back to health and if everything works out they are released into the wild. I really hope this little guy can leave soon! ⋛⋋( ‘◇’)⋌⋚