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Archive for the ‘Animals’ Category

Access Points 23: Willie B. gorilla statue at Zoo Atlanta

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The Willie B. statue at Zoo Atlanta was featured in this week's Access Points photo game. AJC/Jamie Gumbrecht

Did something in this week’s Access Point photo game look familiar? It certainly did to Twitter users @ratpack and @lisaashmore — they were the first to correctly guess that it was the Willie B. statue at Zoo Atlanta.

Since Atlanta said good-bye to its first panda cub, Mei Lan, this week, I thought we should look back on some zoo history, and an animal we’ve bid farewell to before.

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Willie B, shortly after he arrived at Zoo Atlanta.

The most famous, of course, is Willie B., a 400-pound silverback gorilla and undisputed king of Atlanta’s zoo. The gorilla was born in the wild in Africa, came to the Grant Park Zoo as a baby in 1961 and lived for decades in a cage with only a television for entertainment. In the 1980s, Atlanta’s zoo was known as one of the country’s worst, and it lost its accreditation. But with new leadership and a capital campaign, the facilities …

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Zoo Atlanta panda Mei Lan on her way to D.C.,China

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Mei Lan prepares to board her plane, a 209 1/2-foot 777 Freighter, at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta on Feb. 4, 2010. AJC/John Spink

For the first time since her birth inside Zoo Atlanta in 2006, Mei Lan is outside the Grant Park habitat, and up in the air.

Atlanta’s famous panda flies today to Washington, D.C., where she’ll be joined by her cousin, National Zoo panda Tai Shan. They’ll fly to China together on a direct 14-hour FedEx Express flight.

The pandas and their luggage will be the only cargo on board. Here are more photos from Mei Lan’s departure, and still more photos from her farewell party last weekend.

Zoo Atlanta officials said Mei Lan is a calm, laid-back bear they don’t expect to stress much over travel, or even her new surroundings. She had a normal night at Zoo Atlanta on Wednesday, but knew something was up this morning when keepers arrived two hours early. She noshed on a breakfast of bamboo and leafeater treats, then went into her crate …

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Gwinnett groundhog predicts early spring for Georgia

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Gen. Beauregard Lee didn't see his shadow on Tuesday. (He never does.) Hopefully, that means an early spring! AJC/Vino Wong

After floods, snow, ice and frigid stretches that refute my most visceral reasons for moving to Georgia, I’m totally willing to believe a wily groundhog that says we’re in for an early spring.

Gen. Beauregard Lee, the marmot mascot of Lilburn’s Yellow River Game Ranch, did not see his shadow today, and therefore, predicts an early spring for Georgia. (Here are more photos of his Groundhog Day outing. You can see his updates on Twitter, too.)

Of course, Beauregard has never been scared by his shadow, and therefore, has never signaled a longer winter. Alas, he must be fearless to the point of foolishness, because he’s often wrong. (And obviously there’s nothing foolish about humans seeking meteorology advice from a rodent. If snow falls in April, I blame him.)

In fact, Beauregard’s prediction contradicts the news from the more famous member of his species, …

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Zoo Atlanta says good-bye to panda with a party Jan. 30


Mei Lan made her first trip outside in 2007. She came out, went back in, then came out again to explore. Next week, she'll leave Zoo Atlanta and move on to China. AJC file photo

After so many celebrations for namings and birthdays, Mei Lan the panda will have her last great to-do in Atlanta this weekend.

Zoo Atlanta announced today that her farewell party will include refreshments, dancers keeper talks, good-bye card-making and Mei Lan memorabilia. The zoo will sell $25 raffle tickets to witness her last departure from the panda building before heading to Washington, D.C., and then to China. She’ll be aboard a Fedex flight with the National Zoo’s male panda, Tai Shan. (Here’s more info about her 14 1/2 hour flight to Chengdu.)

If you can’t make it out this weekend — or don’t want to battle the panda’s adoring fans — she’ll be on display in Atlanta through Wednesday, and will leave in the pre-dawn hours of Thursday.

Want to go? Zoo Atlanta celebrates panda Mei Lan with a …

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Zoo Atlanta’s panda, Mei Lan, to depart for China Feb. 4

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Mei Lan at Zoo Atlanta in February 2008. She leaves for China on Feb. 4. AJC file photo

We all knew it was coming, but it appears the countdown can start: Zoo Atlanta’s first panda cub is moving back to China next month.

The Washington Post reported today that when the National Zoo’s four-year-old panda, Tai Shan, departs Washington on Feb. 4 to go back to China — with Mei Lan.

Zoo Atlanta has not yet confirmed the last day she will be on view or plans for a farewell celebration. Only the zoo’s MySpace page confirmed the Feb. 4 panda plane-pool. A press release Tuesday afternoon said the zoos plan to make a joint announcement about the panda departures later this week.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Zoo Atlanta spokeswoman Keisha Hines said they’re planning a going-away party for Mei Lan from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday. Details will be announced later this week. Mei Lan will remain on view through the weekend.

Feb. 3 will be the last day to see the National Zoo’s  panda prince on …

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‘Cavalia’ draws 100,000, continues through Jan. 6

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The White Big Top in Atlantic Station is home to "Cavalia." AJC file photo

“Cavalia”, the dreamy horse-and-acrobat show under the White Big Top in Atlantic Station, had its 100,000 attendee in Atlanta today.

Atlanta has been its most successful market outside of Canada, doubling its planned run from five weeks to 10, and selling out for 31 of its 56 shows so far. After it closes in January, it will move on to Miami.

Michael Diamantides, general manager at Atlantic Station, said the show was on track with expectations, but hadn’t drawn audiences as strong as Cirque du Soleil’s — a difference he chalks up to name recognition. He also “Cavalia” will likely return to Atlantic Station in 2010 or 2011, and Cirque will be back, too, with a new show.

Still, the show was a win for some retailers, and especially restaurants, who enjoyed the dinner-and-a-horse-show crowd. Diamantides said word-of-mouth was good for the show, and they still get calls about it every day.

“It’s a great …

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New Fulton County dog parks open — what’s your favorite?


Yara plays in the new dog park at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in November. AJC/Johnny Crawford

If you and your pooch are looking for new place to explore, there are a few new options around Atlanta.

First, an airport dog park opened in November near the new transportation center at Hartsfield-Jackson. It will give four-legged travelers a place to stretch out and play, but unless they’re frequent travelers, I doubt many locals will make this 1,000-square foot park a regular destination. You can see more of it in this video, too.

Another new dog park,  Canine Crossing Dog Park, recently opened behind the South Fulton Government Service Center. It’s five fenced acres split into two sections — one for dogs less than 20 pounds, one for larger dogs — and operated by the Fulton County Parks and Recreation Department. It even has restrooms for humans.

Of course, there are dog parks (and dog-friendly spots) all over metro Atlanta. Here’s a (slightly outdated, but …

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Short on funds, Zoo Atlanta pandas still likely to stay

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Xi Lan: Y'all can press your faces against the glass all you want, I'm not going anywhere. AJC file photo

About $240,000 short of the fund-raising goal in the panda-promoting Give So They Stay campaign, Zoo Atlanta president and CEO Dennis Kelly said it’s unlikely that the zoo’s famous pandas are going anywhere.

The Zoo is making one last push with a fund-raising membership offer of $99 for two adults and up to four children, who don’t have to live in the same household.

From a story reported by AJCer Howard Pousner:

“We think it will add significantly to our total,” Kelly said. “It probably won’t put us over the top, but I think we’re close enough that the board has confidence in us and that we’ll go ahead and … declare victory and keep the pandas.”

In truth, the deck was stacked strongly in the pandas’ favor from the start. Seeking to raise $2.5 million to extend the animals’ stay five years, a deal similar to one that San Diego Zoo had just inked with the Chinese …

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Professional Bull Riders at Gwinnett Arena November 20-22

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Local cowboy Sean Willingham attempts to ride Simpson & Dennis' Tighty Whitey during the first round of the PBR Built Ford Tough World Finals. Photo by Andy Watson.

I knew it was something special when the classiest, best-dressed woman in the newsroom approached and asked, just shy of begging, if she could write something for this blog — about bull riding.

So here it is, rodeo fans, from AJCer Monica Richardson, everything you need to know about the Professional Bull Riders at Gwinnett Arena this weekend:

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It’s the most exciting 8 seconds in sports.

Yeh, that’s right, I said it … sports. Bull riding is indeed a SPORT! I added in the italics and capital letters for extreme emphasis on that point to all you nay-sayers.

Hand wrapped, re-wrapped, gloved and anchored tightly into position with a bull rope, the other hand free to whip the air, a rider gets on the bull hoping to avoid eating dirt for 8 seconds…

Those hold-your-breath moments can seem like hours …

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Meet Jada, one of ‘101 Dalmatians’ starring in Atlanta


If you saw the '101 Dalmations' musical, she's that pretty puppy silhouette you see as the show opens. As if there was any question: yes, she gives kisses. AJC/Jamie Gumbrecht

I just spent an afternoon among tutus and tiaras at a matinee of “The 101 Dalmatians Musical” at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.

As expected, the show was upbeat, cute, clearly a winner among the Disney Princesses in the audience. A coworker who saw it on opening night said her 7-year-old daughter was “glued to the performance, sometimes with mouth wide open.” Field Trips with Sue liked it, too!

As expected, Rachel York was the kind of Cruella De Vil who elicits applause just be stepping on stage. (Because the show was told from the point-of-view of a “dog,” she and the other human characters wear stilts. They earn applause just for staying upright on stage.)

And as expected, nobody is a bigger star than a real dog who pretends to pee on stage in order to make flowers bloom. It doesn’t matter at all …

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