calgary zoo- prehistoric park amendment

a big thanks to Blackie Lagoon and Cameron D. for pointing this out to me...

turns out when i said the calgary zoo's prehistoric park was closing in february of next year i was wrong!

rather then shutting down the old place, they are upgrading it with a bunch of new dinosaurs! as you can see from this photo of a nice new sauropod being helicoptered into position (photo borrowed from here). ironic given my last post touched on the many generations the prehistoric park has gone through.


i'd made the assumption the park was closing due to hearing the prehistoric park was losing popularity in the post jurassic park and royal tyrrell museum world (the museum is very close to calgary after all, and is world famous). they have also been talking about building a new arctic exhibit at the zoo, and so i thought this explained why the park was closing. they were going to use the space to build the new arctic centre...
in my defense, the only official line from the zoo on their website is "[The] Prehistoric Park will be closed until February 2010 to prepare for something BIG!!We apologize for any inconvenience."
the morale of the story is don't announce guess work as fact... though to be fair the zoo could have given a few more hints then "BIG"... cause a new arctic centre would have been big.

not that i'm overly upset i'm wrong! cause this means not only is my childhood favourite still going to be around... but it'll have some new dinosaurs for me to check out!!!


fossil of the weekend! #52... one year of them!

who knew that after a year i'd have stuck with this whole posting a picture (nearly) every weekend successfully?!? not me... of the many weekly features I tried to kick off a year ago this is the only one i've managed to stick with the whole time (though i'm getting pretty good with my featured avian cousin of the week these days).

though i know you've seen them before, i went with my big discovery (well okay tony's) of francis slate's albertosaurus bonebed for the one year highlight. these two teeth were the most important and cool fossils i saw or encountered this year, and as of such they are the only ones that came to mind for this post...

so despite them being familiar to many of you, enjoy them again, and relive my excitement at finding them through the backlinks provided.


not where you'd expect a vivus to be...

so there i was enjoying a leisurely visit to the calgary zoo, when my trip was suddenly interupted.

turning around from one of the exhibits (the tigers, if you must know) i was confronted by the most unexpected sight at a zoo... a full grown bull ceratopsian!!!

now you'd think we living vivus-dinosaurs (vivus being the fancy scientific term for we non-extinct extinct critters) would be in high demand by zoos and similar places. no such luck for us sadly. for whatever reason these sorts of institutions typically insist on only modern animals as a rule... though this centrosaur would seem to be quite the extreme example of an exception to this otherwise standard rule...

it (a he actually, i could tell based on the bright colours... female ceratopsians are dull and drab in comparison) angrily addressed me by name "traumador the tyrannosaur," the centrosaur paused dramatically before continuing. "you've got a lot of nerve, showing up at my zoo unannounced!!!"

normally i'd have been intimidated. first off this guy was a lot bigger than me, had me corned at, and more to the "point" (pun intended) was adapted at hurting things like me for a living.

so you might ask why i replied like so... "i'd have called ahead to let you know i was coming, only i was worried that your inferior herbivore brain won't have processed more than my hello."

the centrosaur was quite taken aback. "my brain the inferior one?" it stated unimpressed. "you have taken a look in the mirror right?"

"yeah this morning. or at least i hope it was this morning, cause if i'm looking into one right now i'm really ugly," i countered. "what with those horns, frill, beak, and... and, uh." i stalled out on the insult... oh man! i hate it when i do that. i had it up until the "and". if i'd just thought to put in with the beak i'd have been fine...

the centrosaur just shook its head in a very human fashion. "same old traumador," it said disappointed. "you never could get an insult right."

we stood there for a minute coldly staring at each other...

till finally the happiness within me snapped the fake hostile charade, and i sprinted up to the horned ornithischian and sprang a full on hug at his snout. "NORMAN!" i happily screamed.

"how you been pea brain?" norman a. centrosaur greeted me back.

i couldn't believe my good luck... i'd been meaning to track down all my friends in calgary, but the only ones i'd been able to organize things were my human friends.

not that i didn't want to see norman. i just hadn't been able to track him down. which i explained to him.

i'd known he'd been sent to the zoo a few years ago, but when i called them from drumheller the zoo people had no idea who or what i was talking about.

"yeah, there not as vivus aware down here in the big city," norman dismissed the zoo. "none of them understand, that alone speak, any saurian languages, so we're not what you might call close. not a single person who works here even knows my name is norman!"

when i asked what they do call him. "most of them just refer to me as 'dinosaur'. a few of the sharper ones have figured out i'm like a 'triceratops', and the three who pay attention have caught on that i'm a centrosaurus just like the one in the prehistoric park."

"it doesn't really surprise me the people answering the phones wouldn't know it was me you were talking about," norman off handily acknowledged. "thanks for trying though," he paused. "it really is good to see you again traumador!"

i asked norman how he'd been since the last time i saw him... which was a long time ago.

"there's not much to relate," norman reflected. "i was in drumheller, and then i was sent here."

i looked at him waiting for more information. he just stared at me like i was silly. "what? that's what happened. what more can i say?"

well norman, you could have mentioned why you got axed from the tyrrell and sent here to a zoo... a place that really isn't that cut out for a horned dinosaur as cool as you... but i didn't say that out loud.

instead i explained how i'd come to be fired, and how the pack of the primordial feather had been behind it. in their effort to get to lillian.

"ah i see," norman replied understanding the type of gossip i was looking for. "well the herd was, and still to this day, getting more and more annoyed at me as i make more friends outside our 'oh so sacred' kind."

"the herd" was the unofficial (yet official) title for all the vivus-ceratopsians living in canada. ceratopsians were pretty social animals back in the cretaceous, and so the instinct to form into a herd is still pretty strong in them to this day.

however as there is so few of them alive today every last one of them, regardless of their genus or species, hangout together in one big group. this is not like the good old days millions of years ago! back then they'd have stuck to their own kinds literally, but one has to make due in tough times i guess.

there was rumours that "the herd" was bigger then the alberta region, and that it had branches so to speak anywhere ceratopsian fossils are found (well at least vivus-fossils!). in fact thinking about it all they sound a lot like the pack of the primordial feather! only just a lot less carnivorous, more pointy, and a whole lot tastier!

norman carried on. "anyways, so the museum approached the herd about a member who would like to volunteer to be sent down here. as the whole lot of them would melt if any single one of them were to be left on their own, none jumped at the 'opportunity'. so instead, the bulls decided to volunteer the least popular horner [saurian slang for ceratopsian]. which happened to be me."

"wow," i let out in response to this harsh treatment of my friend. "sorry you had to go through all that on account of me."

"don't go giving yourself all the credit!" norman laughed. "leave it to a tyrannosaur to think he is the king of the problems! no, they didn't like the fact i was friends with anyone or anything that wasn't a fellow horner. though i guess to be fair you and zendin were at the top of their hate list." norman winked... a very human thing he'd picked up ages ago. no normal ceratopsian would be caught dead showing this much emotion. that alone a big tough bull.

"so yeah i ended up here at the zoo. supposedly as a walking billboard for the tyrrell," norman stated. "only no one bothered to work out exactly how that was going to work beyond me living and working here..."

norman didn't speak any english (there are few dinosaurs who can... i'm the only theropod i know of who can... mind you, he like MOST dinos can understand human speak, he just can't answer verbally), and the museum didn't see it fit to expend someone to stay with norman and translate. meaning he and the zoo's staff couldn't really communicate beyond anything nods and gestures would convey.

not that norman minded all that much. it meant there were no big expectations of him in this job. he just got to wander around interacting with people all day.

"i love the job itself," norman concluded. "i just get lonely sometimes is all. not that the staff aren't great to me. i just never have anyone i can actually talk too."

"in fact this is the first time i've talked to anyone who could understand me all year!" he stated excitedly realizing this depressing fact.

norman then turned to me and demanded. "enough with my sob story. what is your deal. from the few tendrils of the grape vine i have left, you left the museum just after i did. where have you been managing to hide that no one has heard or seen you in all that time?!?"

where to begin? i have this whole blog worth of adventures since then... so i told me for the better part of 3 hours my various stories and tales... though he didn't much believe me on the museum quest part.

"so you finally got fired of all things over that whole crush thing of yours on lillian," norman fathomed after my whole blog-era life story. that is weird, after all i told him, norman went back to the beginning of it all. i guess out of it all, it was the only part of the story he had any real context with.

i nodded. he then asked. "well has there been anyone to replace her, as the sole reason for your existence?" he made fun of my younger obsessive feelings towards the albertosaur goddess.

right, i hadn't mentioned my melbourne trip... i'd mostly focused on my new life in new zealand, not the vacation i'd been on, for what seems like years... ;P

"funny you should ask," i braced norman before telling him all about my recent dealings with lillian, and my financing her and my talent agent peter bond's current trip around the world.

"you my friend take teenage crushes to a whole new level!" norman marvelled. "after only one kiss... man, if i won't lose what little face i have with the world, i might consider laying one on you to get a trip around the world too!"

norman interupted our random wandering around the zoo, we must have done the whole thing 3 or 4 times... "want to go to my favourite spot in this whole place?" he asked.

"totally!" i answered.

norman led me into a section of the african rainforest building. "this is it," he declared stopping us in the middle of a neat but devoid of animals or displays area.

"okay," i said kind of disappointed. "and this place is so special why?"

"it reminds me of the good old days," norman said with a hint of genuine sadness. "back when the world was just you, me, and zendin. when the only thing that mattered was having fun... which seemed to follow you guys around."

i looked around unable to see it. "how does this remind you of us?"

norman too looked around, though clearly knowing what he was looking for. "wait for it," he urged. a minute later he finally answered, well sort of. "it reminds me of you, and the only thing you did well at the tyrrell."

"what was that?" i probed keen on the setup for a compliment.

i was of course talking to norman, i should have known better. "standing in a bunch of plants getting soaked!" just then the sprinkler system shot into action...

i suddenly followed norman's line of logic, as the tropical garden was misted. it was just like my old home in the tyrrell, the cretaceous garden. which of course had been an odd time for me. much like norman, i'd loved hanging with him and zendin, but i'd found work very unchallenging and depressing. my job was to stand in the garden and pretend to be a statue, and thus get soaked everyday during the dozen similar mistings of the garden...

norman started to chuckle when my expression betrayed my annoyance at this flashback. "what you don't miss this?"

like i had to answer.

norman then hit me with the most painful question of the day (for both of us) by accident. "so mr. international man of mystery, after tracking down the wayward girl of your dreams, you must have figured out where old zendin disappeared too?"

the look on my face must have betrayed the answer. "no huh," norman sounded like they'd cancelled x-mas. neither of us said anything for a while... what could you add really.

the third crucial member of our old gang, and he was missing. after a bit i added how i was pretty sure it was the primordial feathers who no doubt had made him vanish. yet it was of little comfort. the day in the olden days zendin went missing was the day both me and norman's childhoods ended... even if i'd had found him, it won't have changed that. just not knowing for sure what had happened to him added a sting to that memory.

we once again started walking the zoo, passing the "backgate" section once more. only this time i decided to stop and check out the sign display about the calgary zoo's long ago prehistoric park.

this first set of dinosaur statues dated back to years and years before the current version of prehistoric park, just after the great canadian dinosaur rush had ended...

despite the fact alberta's many great and numerous dinosaurs were enjoying fame elsewhere in the world at that time, you won't have known they existed living here. there were no museums or monuments to mark my kinds presence here millions of years ago, that alone that one of the greatest graveyards of our kind was to be found in the area. so a bunch of locals banded together and raised the funds to build a "fleshed out" park in the zoo.

sadly, none (well none but one) remain today, but man those old skool dinosaurs would have been worth seeing!

looking over the plaque they put up to commemorate this first long gone park, i noticed a very familiar name! the legendary fossil hunter and palaeontologist charlie m. sternberg, son of the great charles, more to the point the discoverer of my mother, was one of the main forces behind this first park!!! (his is the third name from the top... if you can't open it to see the big version). now i really wish more of this first park was here for me to see...

at least there was one last remnant of this park still standing. dinny the "brontosaurus", one of calgary's most famous landmarks. mind you he was installed later in this old park's history (well after charlie's involvement), but by the zoo's (and calgary's for that matter) standards dinny was one old trooper.

so to finish off my day with norman, i handed my camera off to a nice lady, and had this photo of the two of us snapped to remember the day... though the lady was very confused by two dinosaurs asking for their picture to be taken by another dinosaur. at least she took it in the end, even if she was very confused the whole time.

norman walked me up to the entrance at closing time, and we said our farewells... for the day.

we made it clear that no matter what, before i left town me and norman would meet up again. so i was hardly unhappy to leave...

minus missing half the zoo for my review, but i hope you'll take my excuse as a good reason to miss out on the rest...

next: one last surprise at the zoo...


my cousin of the week #26

a pūkeko and her chick, in new zealand. pūkeko is the māori name for what can also be called a purple swamphen or a Porphyrio porphyrio.


fossil of the weekend! #51

oops! just caught that i owe you one fossil of the weekend from last week... sorry about that.

here is a rather nice head on shot of styracosaurus (dug up by barnum brown during the great canadian dinosaur rush, from alberta) from the american museum of natural history. (photo kindly provided by my talent agent peter bond and lillian the albertosaur).


fossil of the weekend! #50... a centrosaur whammy!

in celebration of my meeting up with my old childhood friend norman a. centrosaur, i'm hitting you with a centrosaurtastic fossil of the weekend.

this also times rather well with my 50th installment of this feature on the blog (though i know i should really be making a bigger deal out of the 52nd, and it represents the one year mark...), but it also because i have used some of the pics before elsewhere on the blog. so it feels like cheating to claim they are the fossil of the weekend...

of course the real joke about centrosaur fossils in alberta, is that despite their insane abundance in dinosaur provincial park, they are very hard to find on display!

the tyrrell has this one and...

this one here. of course both are representing dead animals in this display. not exactly lending to the festive feeling i'm aiming for... especially since i really like norman!

sadly due to the renovations, the tyrrell removed a couple free standing centrosaur skulls they had on display. though i know of another spot in alberta you can see them...

as for this particular i state for the record i think it is a cast of the last centrosaur in this post, but i haven't been able to confirm it. take a close look and let me know what you think...

there are (or at least were... come to think of it) a couple free standing centrosaur skulls at the university of alberta in edmonton when i was younger (and of course didn't own a camera). however i suspect the skull of a centrosaur on display at the melbourne museum in australia is a cast of one of these skulls.

the only photo of a complete (undead, uh no wait, undead undead centrosaur) centrosaur i have is this one from the american museum of natural history (photo kindly provided by my talent agent peter bond and lillian the albertosaur).

calgary zoo- various exhibits

this is the last of my tour posts about the calgary zoo. not that i've done a good job covering the whole place mind you. in fact, i'm embarrassed to say, this is the worst review i've done (and i've covered a lot of museums, aquariums, and museums here before!)...

though i have a good excuse as you'll see at the end of the post. i had a very unexpected distraction during my visit, which caused me to not visit everywhere. the most noteworthy section i missed was the canadian wilds, which is an excellent gathering of canada's diverse (but mammal dominated) wildlife.

i did make it through a lot of the eurasia section...

one of the hold overs from my hatchlinghood was the flamingo pond. these guys always crack me up... even if these ones aren't made of plastic and on a lawn! if i ever get a house i need to get some. real or otherwise...

the calgary zoo has always made a big deal of its elephant enclosure, which had been upgraded and renovated since the last time i'd been. it is now elephant crossing. i have to say for the elephants the change in home was a real plus! they have way more space to do stuff in... or it might just be that we the public can now see it all...
in any case i was pretty impressed.

it also has a healthy dose of cute, in the form of a baby elephant. the calgary zoo has a pretty successful elephant breeding track record, as i can think of at least 2 other babies in my lifetime!

sadly it was not all happiness in elephant crossing. a new tank had been put in for these rays, only there'd been a lot more of them in it when it first opened!
out of 48 rays put in the public petting tank, shortly after being settled in all but two of them died! total bummer!!!
making even more sad, due to the tragedy the public was no longer allowed anywhere near the tank. i had to take this shot on extreme digital zoom (hence the fuzziness... sorry, best i could do).

outside elephant crossing you hit a lot of outdoor enclosures. many of these are open year round, as the animals contained within are pretty hardy and adapted to the cold.
i felt dumb going in, as i had a starring contest with this owl. why i felt dumb...
1. owls don't blink anywhere near as often as i have to!
2. i always think of owls as really smart, and looking at one for a while makes me feel like someone more intelligent then me is looking at me scoldingly for my tiny brain...
moving on, there is also a small herd of the incredibly rare przewalski’s horse from mongolia. these guys are on the brink of extinction, mostly due to interbreeding with domestic horses :(
turning around from the horses i was confronted with this swarm of sparrows.
sure sparrows, the introduced pest they are here in canada (and most other places of the world!), are not typically associated as zoo animals. to be fair these ones weren't on display, or part of the official zoo tour. yet there were just SO many of them i had to include a photo of the mega flock... so there is a record of why i didn't make it out of the zoo alive!
there was also the largest of goats, the markhor. which like, sadly, so many other creatures at the zoo are on the brink of extinction. you humans really need to smarten up. please?...
next came the tiger enclosure. another classic zoo area.
as i passed through this public viewing area, i caught a funny yet familiar scent. with my t-rex nose i can pick up all sorts of things. sadly as i haven't been out in the "wild" so to speak, i've learned to properly separate conflicting smells. the zoo with so MANY different types of animals in such a small area represents quite an overload for me, and i just don't know how to pick them all apart.
yet there was a trace scent here in this spot that lingered with me.

rather then let this smell ruin my trip i went to watch the tigers. lucky for me they were in the middle of eating!
it was neat to watch one of the modern apex mammalian predators do its thing. way different from how i eat. these guys are all forelimb based manipulation. me i'm lucky if i can scratch my eye with my arms most of the time!
suddenly there was a shift in the air, and the scent that had bothered me earlier was much stronger... whatever was the source of said smell, was obviously getting much closer!

even the tiger reacted, and looked up alertly to check what was coming.

i knew that smell!

as i turned around from behind me came a powerful bellow... followed by a gruff angry voice. "traumador the tyrannosaur," the intruder addressed me by name! "you've got a lot of nerve, showing up at my zoo unannounced!!!"

turning around i let out, what i'm sure was a very loud audible, eep. towering over the public viewing area, was now the bulk of a massive bull ceratopsian... which instinctively had me slightly panicked! as the horned dinosaurs can be a titch on the reactive side. especially when facing down their ancestral predator...

however i remained calm. in fact i was suddenly overwhelmed with joy!

no i wasn't going crazy or craving an early death... as again with any other ceratopsian i'd have been concerned at the situation, me pinned between it and a tiger proof fence...

this wasn't just any ceratopsian though... this was norman a centrosaurus, and boy did the two of us have a lot of catching up to do!

to be continued with an odd old friend...


calgary zoo- australia

i won't be covering the whole zoo. due to distracting circumstances (next post) i only visited and took photos of about half the zoo. though this saddens me a little, i at least had seen all the missed sections before.

however i do one more section of the zoo i have good photo coverage of. that is the australian house. though this is a misleading name. in addition to having many critters from down under proper, for whatever reason the calgary zoo has lumped in several animals from south america as well...

in good news this building hasn't changed much since i was a hatchling. including my favourite the kangaroo pit.

which of course has a number of kangaroos wandering around within it! red kangaroos to be precise, as there are quite a few different types to potentially choose from.
the kangaroos aren't alone down there though. their kept company by my favourite flightless bird, emus.
their cheeky fluff balls. they are constantly scouting the enclosure perimeter for shoe lace or toes to peck at. as again this outdoor enclosure is a pit, and thus we looking at the animals are high above them. putting your shoes at emu height. so when here watch out when they are close... :P

inside they have the reputed (but unconfirmed or deserving) "most dangerous modern bird", the crested cassowary. i think it is sad they have earned this reputation.
though they have a very sharp claw on their foot (much like a raptor dinosaur) that they do use for kicking threats, they don't seek out things to attack. more to the point the australian cassowary is the one under constant threat, and is on the brink of extinction...
i also liked this cute little blue tongued skink!

i'm embarrassed to say i took the photo of this guy, thinking how cool his pose was. however now coming to the blog post i can't for the life of me, remember what he (or she) was! i have trouble keeping mammals apart at times!

the little cavy was unbelievably cute, but hard to photograph... seriously out of the 10 photos i took of it this was the only one that turned out! at least i got it...

finishing off the whole building was the cool nighttime/nocturnal house, in which they simulate night conditions for a variety of animals that prefer the darker times. of course my camera wouldn't really work in here, so you'll just have to enjoy this attempt at an arty shot of a silhouetted frog.


calgary zoo- african rainforest

wrapping up the calgary zoo's african complex, we hit the transalta rain forest centre.

right away in the front entrance they have some cool reptile displays.

such as this rather fancy chameleon. i'd look as smug as him if my skin could change colour like his!

there was one case though, i couldn't spot anything at all in... oh well.

i favourite of the reptile greeters (who admittedly were further into the building) were my distant ancestors the crocodiles. these were west african dwarf crocodiles to be precise.
still kind of neat to think my kind came from something similar to one of those guys millions of year ago!

here's a better picture of them here.

moving right along was a very pretty tank of african river fish. this being a zoo's aquarium, had me totally onboard with this section of the zoo! if there is nothing i like more than an aquarium, i haven't found it yet!!!

next you enter an indoor aviary. sadly as it is indoors, it doesn't quite live up to melbourne zoo's or even the one in invercargill's botanic garden's aviary. though many of the birds here were cool...
i especially liked the african spoonbill. i have a weakness of spoonbills, which may not be my favourite type of cousin, they are still high on the list. i have to say this african genus looks a lot more dignified then their australasian cousins the royal spoonbill!

this building of the zoo also housed the gorillas... oh how i hate gorillas! (if you're wondering why just watch any [good] version of king kong, and you should be able to figure it out ;P)
even the cute little baby gorilla wasn't enough for me to pass this spot by quick...
the last thing i'm covering on the blog (as you really should just visit the zoo if you can) is the wild african hunting dogs. these guys are super cool, one of the only wild forms of dog in the world, and i've never seen them at a zoo before (mind you i haven't been to as many zoos as i'd have liked).