City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
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Archive for the ‘Animals’ Category

Access Points 28: Georgia Aquarium’s coral reef

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Did you recognize this week's Access Point? You might if you spend a lot of time around the coral reef inside Georgia Aquarium. AJC photos by Jamie Gumbrecht

There were dozens of guesses at this week’s Access Point, and no, it’s not an up-close shot of human skin. (The camera and lenses I dug out of AJC storage just aren’t that powerful.) It is, though, a living creature inside the Georgia Aquarium’s Tropical Diver exhibition — coral, an animal (not a plant!) related to sea anemones and jellies.

This one, in fact, is a leather coral, sarcophyton sp., that came to the Aquarium as a donation from a home hobbyist in North Carolina. Like all the other donated, purchased, shared or rescued coral there, it went through a quarantine period before it was planted inside the tank.

Atlanta’s is the second-largest coral exhibit in the United States, and there’s more to come. (Here’s a detailed article about it from a few years ago in Reefkeeping Magazine.) This is an example of a barrier …

Continue reading Access Points 28: Georgia Aquarium’s coral reef »

Panda Mei Lan to exit quarantine, celebrate Earth Hour

For the first time tomorrow, Mei Lan, the Atlanta-born panda who recently moved to Chengdu, China, will be released from quarantine to greet the public in her new home.

Tai Shan, the National Zoo panda that Mei Lan plane-pooled with to China, left quarantine today.


Mei Lan at Zoo Atlanta. AJC file photo

Meanwhile, she has also been chosen as an ambassador for Earth Hour 2010, the one-hour window starting 8:30 p.m. March 27 when people and organizations worldwide turn out the lights. (Earth Hour is a program of the World Wildlife Fund, whose logo is a panda.) Lanterns will be lit March 10, too, on each of the seven continents as a countdown to lights-out. In Asia, the lantern launch will be at Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, Mei Lan’s new home. Here’s a Q&A the AJC recently did with Heather Roberts, the keeper who made the journey to China with Mei Lan.

As for the pandas still at Zoo Atlanta, Mei Lan’s little brother, Xi Lan, has been weaned from his mama, and …

Continue reading Panda Mei Lan to exit quarantine, celebrate Earth Hour »

Last weekend to see Zoo Atlanta lion cubs; more baby news


Remember these kids, Small, Medium and Large? (OK, they were later dubbed Christos, Mikalos and Athanaisi.) Zoo Atlanta's lion cubs will soon move to Africam Safari, a zoo in Mexico. They're not the only zoo babies making news lately, though. AJC file photos

One more sign of spring: there’s a lot of baby news coming out of Zoo Atlanta these days. Most pressing is that this is the last weekend to see Zoo Atlanta’s lion cubs before they move to their new home at Africam Safari in Puebla, Mexico.

They’re not as tiny as they were in the above photo from 2008, but they’re Atlanta babies none the less.

In other baby news:


There could be another baby orangutan, like little Dumadi, shown here in 2007. Zoo Atlanta has a pregnant mama.

  • Xi Lan, the panda cub, is a big boy, all weaned from his mom and living alone. (Mei Lan, Zoo Atlanta’s first panda cub, is already back in China. Here’s a great Q&A with the keeper who traveled there with her.) The AJC reported this week Zoo Atlanta …

Continue reading Last weekend to see Zoo Atlanta lion cubs; more baby news »

Access Points 26: African penguin at Georgia Aquarium

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Did you recognize this week's Access Point? It's an African penguin at Georgia Aquarium — just a little easier to see when it slows down. AJC photos by Jamie Gumbrecht

This is an African penguin, one of 19 that lives at Georgia Aquarium. Commenter Lora was right about the place in this week’s Access Points photo game, but it’s quite a bit smaller than a whale — most African penguins weigh 6 to 7 pounds. (Mallory was the first to guess correctly! Woohoo!)

One of these birds was the star of a recent film, “Love Lost and Found: A Penguin Odyssey.”

It’s so cute, you may have seen me squealing about it on Twitter.

Here it is:

Dodo, a 5-year-old penguin who came to the aquarium from Portugal, is the star. He was young when he arrived in Atlanta — still mostly gray, instead of his mature black-and-white — and a nervous little bird. Over many “enrichment sessions” with “environmental enrichment objects” — husbandry speak for “playtime with toys” — aquarium staffer came to learn this …

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Georgia Aquarium belugas might be on display today

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Beethoven (front) and Maris, swimming inside Georgia Aquarium's Cold Water Quest exhibit this week. Returning is Maris, a 15-year-old female, and newcomer Beethoven, an 18-year-old male. They've been at Sea World San Antonio while renovations were done on their habitat in Atlanta. AJC/John Spink

Belugas are back!

Atlanta hasn’t seen them since last October, when female Maris, her mother, Natasha, and Nico, a male, were moved from Georgia Aquarium to Sea World San Antonio while construction was going on in their habitat. Nico died in San Antonio — the cause remains unspecified –  and Natasha will remain there because of a potential mate. Maris and her new pal, Beethoven, are back in Atlanta. Eleven-foot-long, 900-pound Maris and 13-foot, 1,740-pound Beethoven could, indeed, be a mating pair. Here are more photos of the beluga pair at Georgia Aquarium.

There are only 36 belugas on in captivity in North America. If Georgia Aquarium’s pair are responding well to their space, …

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Four harbor seal pups coming to Georgia Aquarium


Some of Georgia Aquarium's new harbor seals.

UPDATE 2/13: OMG HARBOR SEAL BABIES. There are now photos.


Four harbor seal pups will move into Georgia Aquarium’s Cold Water Quest exhibition on Saturday. Look at that face! Look at that! Now you know why I can’t stop using exclamation points!

From a story by AJCer Howard Pousner:

The downtown attraction is expecting to put four harbor seal pups on view Saturday in the Cold Water Quest Gallery, assuming their truck journey from SeaWorld Orlando goes smoothly Friday.

Born there last year, the four pups are between 3.5 to 4 feet long and weigh 86 to 114 pounds. Known for their prominent facial whiskers, they range in color from silver-gray to black to dark brown.

Here’s hoping they have a smooth transition to Atlanta and many happy years of play ahead.

Want to go? Georgia Aquarium, 225 Baker St. N.W. Atlanta. $26-$35. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday-Friday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday.  404-581-4000,

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POLL: Should elephants be a part of the circus?

UPDATE 2/19: A zebra from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus got free in downtown Atlanta this afternoon and was eventually caught between lanes of traffic on the Downtown Connector. Here’s the story: “Circus zebra leads police on wild chase.” PETA has asked for an investigation into the zebra escape.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus elephants dined on fruits and bread in Centennial Olympic Park in 2006. Every time the circus comes to town, it renews the animal welfare discussion. AJC file photo

Two animal rights groups contacted Mayor Kasim Reed this week to ask him to keep elephants away from Atlanta when Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus opens its show at Philips Arena today.

From the AJC story:

Captive Animals Rescue and Enforcement wrote a letter to Reed dated Wednesday with the request. They say the elephant ran amok during a pre-show last week in Columbia, S.C. and endangered about 100 spectators. The organization wrote it “strongly suspect …

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Q&A: Alex Ramon, ringmaster, magician, star of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Atlanta Feb. 12-21

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Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus ringmaster for "Zing, Zang Zoom" show is, for the first time in the circus' history, a magician: 24-year-old Alex Ramon.

Alex Ramon has been practicing magic since he was 13, has performed for family and neighbors, in libraries and homes around Richmond, Cali., where he grew up. He developed his talents enough to be a teen magic champion, then to tour the world with Disney Live! Mickey’s Magic Show, including a stop at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta.

And then came the phone call from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. It was still years away, but they were developing a show with a magic theme. Could he be their ringmaster?

At 23, Ramon became the second-youngest ringmaster in Ringling history, and the first magician to hold the title. On stage, he manages to make an elephant disappear and “gives kids what they’ve always wanted: control over the parents,” by making the adults levitate. (Here’s another profile of Ramon from the San …

Continue reading Q&A: Alex Ramon, ringmaster, magician, star of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Atlanta Feb. 12-21 »

Another zoo farewell: Sumatran orangutan J.T. died


Jantan, or JT, a Sumatran orangutan who lived at Zoo Atlanta since 1991, died yesterday. Photo by Zoo Atlanta

After last week’s sad good-bye to panda cub Mei Lan as she moved to China, there’s another farewell at Zoo Atlanta.

Sumatran orangutan J.T., a 20-year-old with long-term respiratory illness, died Monday evening.

Here’s the full press release sent out by the zoo:

Officials at Zoo Atlanta announced today that Jantan (J.T.), a 20-year-old male Sumatran orangutan, passed away early yesterday evening. The Animal Management and Veterinary Teams had been actively treating the great ape for health complications caused by a long-term respiratory illness.

“The Zoo Atlanta family is deeply saddened by the loss of J.T., both as an individual and as an ambassador for a critically endangered species,” said Dr. Dwight Lawson, Senior Vice President of Collections, Education and Conservation. “Our animal management and veterinary teams demonstrated exceptional commitment …

Continue reading Another zoo farewell: Sumatran orangutan J.T. died »

VIDEO: Panda Mei Lan’s last day at Zoo Atlanta


A Mei Lan moment at Zoo Atlanta on Jan. 30, 2010. AJC/Phil Skinner

UPDATE 2/5: Mei Lan and Tai Shan have arrived in China, to “live TV coverage and a passionate crowd.”

If you thought that Mei Lan’s departure for China meant the end of our panda stories, welllllllll, well, you were wrong. We can do this forever.

  • First, the video. I wish this were an actual story, but instead, it’s a string of clips patched together in a a few minutes on iMovie. If you just can’t get enough panda, here she is, being cute on her last day at Zoo Atlanta! (Or, for fancier video, here’s WSB’s report from the airport.)
  • Second, I’ll update when I get confirmation that Mei Lan has arrived safely in Chengdu. Till then, here’s an interesting story from the Washington Post, which, of course, has people over in China to write about the arrival of Tai Shan, the National Zoo’s panda who shared a plane with Mei Lan.

Continue reading VIDEO: Panda Mei Lan’s last day at Zoo Atlanta »