Bongo update

It was a beautiful sunny day as I arrived at the Bioparc and took up my usual spot in the cafeteria. As usual I tried out a few test shots to make sure all the camera settings were ok and I took this to show the fabulous clear blue sky.


As I entered the parc I encountered building works in the savannah where the Zebras, Rhinos and Ostriches are kept. I wasn’t able to find out what was happening here or where the animals were being kept, (I don’t think the Rhinos were still there!) so I will keep a look out next time to see what has changed.

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I took a different route this time and visited the primates first, obviously the sun and unusually warm weather was having an effect on them as they were all sitting, laying or sleeping. Nothing that would make an interesting photograph although I did notice that one of the gorillas had a red, raw looking, gash on its leg. I was unable to capture this clearly on camera but she must have been involved in a squabble recently. Further round the chimpanzees were also relaxing in the sun. The youngest chimp had found a novel place for a nap, whilst the rest of the family sat in a huddle grooming or resting.

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I was given another chance to view the recently born Eastern Bongo enjoying the sun with its mother looking on. The baby was born on 14th November last year and is doing well, as these pictures show. The Bongo is a large species of antelope that is found inhabiting the jungles and forests of Eastern, Western and Central Africa. They are the largest forest-dwelling antelope species and one of the most distinctive, with a chestnut coloured coat and long horns that spiral as high as 90cm in males. There are two recognised sub-species of Bongo which are the Mountain Bongo (also known as the Eastern Bongo) and the Lowland Bongo (also known as the Western Bongo), which is primarily found in the forests of Central Africa. In the last few decades, a rapid decline in the numbers of wild mountain bongo has occurred due to poaching and human pressure on their habitat, with local extinctions reported in Cherangani and the Chepalungu hills, Kenya. The western/lowland bongo faces an ongoing population decline as habitat destruction and hunting pressures increase with the relentless expansion of human settlement. Its long-term survival will only be assured in areas which receive active protection and management. At present, such areas comprise about 30,000 km2, and several are in countries where political stability is fragile. So, a realistic possibility exists whereby its status could decline to Threatened in the near future.

The birth of a new baby at Valencia is a positive step to preserving this species, but as usual it would take a massive change in human nature to reverse the damage inflicted by his relentless pursuit of profit. I can only hope that more protected areas will be developed to ensure the survival of this and all the other endangered species.

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An animal I don’t often mention is the spotted necked otter of which there are three at the Bioparc. It has become a pleasant habit of these creatures to come running across to greet me as I walk past. I wasn’t disappointed today, although I was a little slow in getting the camera ready to take a few pictures, hence just the one. Perhaps I’ll get some more next time.


The wind began to pick up as the day went on and it became quite cold. The bird display was cut short as some the vultures were having difficulty, and most of the animals had headed for shelter so after another coffee and view of the Giraffes it was time to head home. More news in a couple of weeks.


The Best Cafeteria

I have often said that the cafeteria at the Bioparc is the best place to have a coffee so today I thought I would try to illustrate the point. Virtually all the photos in today’s blog were taken from my table in the cafeteria and I could quite happily sit there for several hours just watching the animals. Not only does it have the best views but it also serves a very nice cup of coffee and probably the best croissants in Valencia, all at very reasonable prices. There is also a restaurant attached with equally good views across the “Savannah”,  but I have never eaten there so cannot comment more on this.

The giraffes are always the first things to be noticed when sitting in the cafeteria because of their size, and I am fascinated by the way they evolved into such unusual animals. This group of giraffes is the largest in Spain and consists of seven animals, one adult male,  two younger males, and the rest females of various ages. Four giraffes have been born at the Bioparc since it opened five years ago, two of them pure bread male Baringo Giraffes, the latest being born this time last year.

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The Baringo giraffe, also called Rothschild’s giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi), is one of the most endangered subspecies of giraffe so it is important that the breeding programme continues to succeed. Rothschild’s giraffe is easily distinguishable from other subspecies. The most obvious sign is in the colouring of the coat, or pelt. Where the reticulated giraffe has very clearly defined dark patches with bright-whitish channels between them, Rothschild’s giraffe more closely resembles the Masai giraffe. However, when compared to the Masai giraffe, Rothschild’s subspecies is paler, the orange-brown patches are less jagged and sharp in shape, and the connective channel is of a creamier hue compared to that seen on the reticulated giraffe. In addition, Rothschild’s giraffe displays no markings on the lower leg, giving it the impression of wearing white stockings.

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The lake between the cafeteria and the Savannah is teaming with wildlife. Several fish were introduced into the lake when the parc first opened and they have now grown to an enormous half metre in length, (unfortunately I do not know the species). Despite notices these are often fed with unsuitable food by visitors to the cafeteria, whilst this doesn’t seem to have caused them any harm, I wish people would respect the signs which are there for a good reason.

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Other creatures present in abundance are the various ducks, I’m not sure if all of these were introduced or if some appeared naturally but they are certainly flourishing despite the constant “arguments” that break out between them. Several nesting sites can be seen around the lake in spring and the sight of baby ducks swimming behind their mother is delightful.

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With other creatures visiting the lake regularly to drink or to bathe, there is a constant source of interesting things to watch and every time I visit there is always something new to see. Even the sparrows are interesting as they scrabble for bits of food dropped from the tables, I´ve even had one take some crumbs from my hand. Often its the natural wildlife coming to the lake which catch the eye, in the summer they are numerous dragonfly dipping in and out of the water, unusual birds too. Today I was treated to my first ever sighting of a Red-whiskered Bulbul, from India, it must have escape from captivity and is now frequenting the Bioparc. I didn’t get a decent photograph of it but I will keep a look out in future visits.

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Another treat today from one of the inhabitants, was a Grey Crowned Crane who decided it was time for a bath and hair wash. This is the first time I had seen one doing this and it certainly wasn´t hot  so it wasn’t trying to cool down. Whatever the reason it made a comical sight as its head popped up drenched in water and several shots were fired off to try and capture the perfect moment.

As I’ve already stated, I would have happily stayed at the cafetria all day but I wanted to see how the other animals were getting on and eventually set off around the parc. Today the gorillas were venturing further away from their corner spot and made for some interesting viewing which I will try to capture on my next visit. The bird display seemed very short today but it was windy and this may have affected some of the birds. Another good day was had at the Bioparc and I’m already looking forward to my next visit.

NB: If you click on the photos you can view them in full frame.

Lonely Rhinoceros

Other commitments have prevented me from visiting the Bioparc since Christmas, so it was nice to visit again on Saturday. The day was grey and overcast and a little cold which meant that the parc was fairly quiet. After the usual coffee and croissants looking out at the giraffes I set off to see what photo opportunities presented themselves.

The meerkats were obviously feeling the cold too as they huddles together in a group and fought over who would get the middle spot.

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Further round I came across one of the Rhinos and was reminded  of its poor start in life. These are Southern White Rhinos. This species were almost completely wiped out in the late 19th century but thanks to a huge conservation effort they are now the only Rhino in the world that is not on the endangered list..

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This particular Rhinoceros(shown above) was at the old zoo, a terrible place with tiny cramped cages for a few dishevelled animals. The enclosure for the Rhino was not much bigger than an average double garage and the only exercise it could get was to walk round in small circles. Happily it was transferred to the Bioparc as soon as it opened. You would think that when it arrived at the wide open spaces here it would run around like a mad thing. Unfortunately it had become so accustomed to walking around in circles that it continued to do so, in addition it was so used to being alone that it had to be kept separate from the other Rhinos for its own, and the others safety. This situation continued for several years despite the painstaking work of the keepers. Numerous attempts were made to encourage him to mix with the others but to no avail and he is still on his own, he has however, learned to explore the surroundings and seems comfortable walking around all of his new, large, enclosure.

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Thankfully places like the old zoo are become rare and the modern zoos in most countries are far more animal friendly, in fact without the work that goes on in zoos many animals could soon be totally extinct. My own view is that any zoo, even the Bioparc, is not as good as the wild. However mans relentless pursuit of self interest and profit, means that more and more habitat is being destroyed. It is a sad fact that, unless drastic changes are made, soon the “wild” may not be there for many animals. With this in mind I cannot believe this, Dallas Safari Club is planning to shoot a Western Black Rhino, Prevent Dallas Safari Club from Importing Rhino Trophies Please help prevent this by signing the petition.

One exhibit which I haven’t mentioned before are the Flamingos, these can be seen in the wild in Spain but still attract many viewers and are always colourful. Today they were making a huge amount of noise. On arriving it seems they were going about their mating ritual of squawking loudly, turning their heads backwards and forwards, fluffing their feathers, and attacking each other. Despite being lovely looking birds from a distance I have never been able to get any really good shot of them but here’s a sample.

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A nice end to the day was to visit the bird show, of course, no photos today as I just enjoyed the spectacle. It seems likely that my visits will be restricted to fortnightly at the moment but I will continue to post as often as I can, if you enjoy these please keep looking and any comments would be most welcome.

Christmas at the Bioparc

Christmas was organised, presents bought, so what better way to spend Christmas Eve than at the Bioparc relaxing with my wife. We arrived at 11.00am and as usual headed straight for the cafeteria to have coffee and croissants overlooking the savannah area. This is not just to relax and enjoy the view but it also gives me time to attach the lens to my camera, check over the settings and ensure I am ready for some good shooting. As we sat down the giraffes were just being let out and filed under the raised bridge before the younger ones galloped onto the grass.

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After coffee we had time for a wander round before the bird display. We were treated to a second look at the recently born baby Bongo. Standing for a while on its own, it then joined the mother to give us a lovely display of affection. Licking her face and snuggling up close. As I have posted before, these are an endangered species because of mans destruction of their natural habitat. I would hate to think that these magnificent creatures could become extinct in the wild at some time in the future.

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As the sun tried to break through the clouds more of the animals became active. The Leopard prowling around before settling on a rock to soak up the sun, the chimpanzees sitting as a family against the caves and for probably the first time that I have seen the Silverback Gorilla also came out from its corner to get some sunshine.

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The bird show was as good as usual with plenty of flying displays and small animals to entertain the crowd. This week I sat close to the perch where I knew the Owl would fly to at the start of the show. Although I was still unable to get a clear shot of it in flight, thanks largely to the positioning of people in front of me, I was able to view the Owl up close as it settled just a few feet away.

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The next treat for this day was to arrive at the elephant enclosure just in time for them to be fed. Only Kibo, the large male elephant was separated from the group so I was able to follow all six of the younger ones. I have been trying to get detailed shots of them all to help identification for a fellow enthusiast in Germany My plan was to take a full length shot of one individual and then get several close ups of the same animal to make it easier. Unfortunately as soon as they smelled the food all of them came running out together and it was impossible to keep up with which ones I had taken. However here is a sample of what was a very interesting half hour, despite being pushed and shoved by other members of the public trying to get closer!

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After walking round for a while longer we were to get a further treat just as we were leaving the parc. At the Equatorial Forest enclosure that contains the Sitatunga, Pigmy hippopotamus, Drills Pelicans and Guenons a wild Heron had dropped in to try to catch some of the fish in the lake. Amazingly this wild bird stood contentedly whilst I walked up to the edge of the viewing area, not more than 10 feet away, and took several shots if him. I have never got that close to a wild Heron before, perhaps he realised I couldn’t get past the lake or perhaps he had visited many times before and was used to humans. Whatever it was I got some great close up shots.

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Another great day at the Bioparc, the last for 2013. I’m looking forward to many more visits next year, each one with something new and exciting to see and to write about.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all who read this.

Bioparc Layout

This week I decided to try to show the size and layout of the Bioparc, although I have mentioned features of it in previous writings this time I will try to show the whole thing. The parc itself covers an area of 100,000 square metres, however this figure is fairly meaningless to most people, even if I said that is about the size of 14 football pitches, it is still hard to visualize. What makes it even more impressive though is the design which features no physical barriers and plenty of open space, mimicking the animals real habitat.

The following map gives a good starting point.

A map of the Bioparc

A map of the Bioparc

The grey areas are the footpaths and access points for the public, the beige area represents the open plains of the savannah, the green area the forests and the orange area is the Lemur enclosure. The whole thing is centred around the two separate “savannahs”, one housing the Waterbuck, Impalas, Blesbok, Gazelles and the Giraffes as well as several birds, Ibis, Crowned Cranes, Storks and Ducks.

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The thatched building behind the friendly giraffes is the cafeteria and restaurant, with the cafeteria terrace being directly above the giraffes head. It is truly wonderful to be able to relax in the sun, drinking coffee (or beer) looking out over the lake as a small herd of giraffes saunter past. In the first photograph you can also see the Lion enclosure in the background, which for obvious reasons is separated from the savannah. The other large area of savannah is also separated by an artificial rocky terrace and this houses the Zebras, Ostriches and Rhinoceros´.

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Walking round in a clockwise direction past the Rhinos come the Hyenas, which have a reasonable sized area, separated from the public by a small ditch, which I never feel is big enough! Whilst on the left are Warthogs and a cave area with  Aardvarks and many different types of rodents. Further round is a separate Rhinoceros (a subject for future blogs) and a walk through aviary before arriving at the lion enclosure.

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Its not the hundreds of square kilometres a Lion is used to in the wild but big enough, and interesting enough to be adequate I feel. By now we are directly opposite the restaurant and come to a small area for the camels, this does not seem big enough but they have been moved out of their original home to accommodate the bull elephant and his two companions with whom they hope he will breed. This is separate from the main elephant enclosure which is one of the biggest areas but much is hidden by rocks and fake baobab trees.


Past the exhibition arena, we then come the forest area, which actually does not contain that many trees. disappointing for the Chimpanzees and Gorillas but not for the public who, otherwise, would not be able to see them. The two sets of Gorillas each have a fairly large area but, as I have said, it is fairly open and the silverbacks choose to stay near the corner by their caves. The Chimpanzee group also have a large but open area. There is quite a bit of water around the primates and I have seen one of the Gorillas dipping into the water to cool down. Worryingly this is all that separates them from the public so hopefully they will not get too adventurous.

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At this point I must include some photos of the two Panthers which were relaxing in the sun together and show just how similar the black and spotted panthers are. They are in fact the same species just with different colour pigmentation.

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This part of the parc has several water features  with Red Buffalo, Sitatunga, Drill, Pigmy Hippos, Bongos and Red River Hogs in various enclosures. Finally is the area called Madagascar which is home to the Lemurs and where there is a small dense forest area and a more open space. The Lemurs are free to go where ever they want, including on the public footpaths, which makes for an exciting spectacle as they scamper across the path directly in front of you.

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Hopefully this has given you an idea of how the parc looks. Most of the animals seem happy here and the breeding programme is going well, which must mean something. Over the Christmas period the timing of these blogs will inevitably become erratic but I will try to go a few times and will then resume my regular Wednesday slot after the Three Kings celebrations in January.

Have a very enjoyable festive season, and I hope the animals do too.

A visit with friends

My schedule was thrown out this week by a two-day spell in hospital so I was not able to write my usual Wednesday blog.  Happily all is OK now and I was able to visit the parc yesterday, with the added bonus of being able to show some friends from England around. We met just after midday and headed straight to the bird display which started at its normal time of 1.00pm.  As usual the Eagle Owl started the proceedings as it flew in to the arena and for once I was able to get a reasonable shot of it in flight. Closer inspection reveals that the focus isn’t pin sharp but it’s close.

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The rest of the display went ahead as usual and I was able to prewarn my friends as to what was about to happen. Very handy as he is a keen photographer too. A few of my shots were particularly pleasing with success at last in capturing pin sharp photos of birds in flight. The Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus) is close to perfect as even when zoomed right in, the image is still sharp. The other two vulture shots are quite pleasing too.

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On the ground these vultures are not the prettiest birds around however  when flying, with outstretched wings and head tucked in they look quite magnificent, particularly as they soar just a few feet overhead. It is sad to note that the White Backed Vulture (Gyps africanus), third shot, is on the endangered list and the White Headed Vulture (Trigonoceps occipitalis), middle shot, is classed as vulnerable. All because of mans relentless destruction of natural habitats for these creatures.

After coffee, overlooking the savannah with the many varieties of deer, antelopes and the giraffes, we walked around the perimeter. The male Lion was roaring away and getting playful with one of the females, but there was no sign of the cubs today. Similarly there was no sign of the female elephants, although Kibo was there, proving that the Bioparc is always changing and no two days are the same. We stopped for a while to look at the Meerkats, always a popular creature made even more so by the famous advertising campaign being run in the UK.

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This group has produced several babies, some of whom can be seen in these photos. Watching these for a while, at times it was hard to tell if they were play-fighting or going at it for real. Several Meerkats seemed to be viciously attacking one of them for some time but then returned to normal before turning their attentions to a different victim. None appeared to suffer lasting damage, so I can only assume that this was normal behaviour. Meerkats (also called suricates) work together in numbers. A few will typically serve as lookouts, watching the skies for birds of prey, such as hawks and eagles, that can snatch them from the ground. Even at the Bioparc, whenever a large bird flies overhead they immediately jump up looking skyward and start chattering away to each other. The ground in their enclosure is littered with holes and tunnels which serve as shelter, both from predators and from the heat of the midday sun.

continuing on our journey we came across the Panthers (Leopards) who were lazing in the sun as were the chimps and gorillas. As it was now mid afternoon many of the animals were taking a “siesta”, but still provided plenty of opportunity for us to take more photos. As is often the way, the young were still full of energy whilst their parents were quite happy to sit and rest…given the chance!

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I’m glad to report that my friends enjoyed their day at the Bioparc and were impressed with the layout and the animals. Hopefully they benefitted from my ‘limited’ knowledge, who knows maybe I could get a job as a guide one day.

Another New Baby

I arrived early at the Bioparc today and was surprised to find that many of the animals were kept indoors until around midday. There was no sign of the chimpanzees, gorillas, elephants and giraffes and I can only put this down to the weather being quite cold by Valencian standards, around 8ºC. I was, however treated to a glimpse of the new baby to arrive, that of the Eastern Bongo (Tragelaphus eurycerus isaaci). I have to admit to bypassing this animal on most of my visits, largely due to the fact that it is next to the Panthers who always grab my attention.

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The Eastern Bongo, also called Mountain Bongo, is quite a magnificent animal with amazing horns and an intriguing stripped coat. It is only found in the wild in one remote region of central Kenya. The baby is only 2 weeks old, having been born on the 14th November, but as you can see from the photograph, is already quite large and walking confidently. At this stage I am not sure whether it is male or female. Sadly the Eastern Bongo  is on the critically endangered list so this arrival makes welcome news. It is estimated that more Eastern  Bongo live in captivity than in the wild, and in 2013 reports suggest that there are possibly only 100 Eastern Mountain Bongos left in the wild due to logging and poaching. The baby came out for a short while just after I arrived but soon went back inside and despite me staying for some considerable time, and returning later, it never reappeared.

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Following this I went to visit some other Bioparc babies, the Lion cubs. The whole pride was out enjoying the sunshine, albeit still very cold. Mother and one of the babies came up to the lake directly in front of me for a drink and I was able to take several decent shots of them.

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I had been asked to get some photos of the elephants to support a mammoth project detailing all the elephants in captivity, . This I was more than happy to do and I spent some time photographing the two groups who were all devouring the grass and straw that had been provided for them. Unfortunately this meant most of the time they were not facing the camera but a few of my efforts were successful.

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The Elephants are separated into two groups. In one pen are Kibo, the male with the big tusks (actually one and a half tusks) and two females Miri and Metzi. In the other pen are the remaining five females who often stand with their trunks over the door that separates the two groups.

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Finally I would like to say a big thank you for everyone who continues to read my blog. This has now received over 200 views from people in 21 countries. If you have enjoyed reading it, please pass on the link to others who you think may also enjoy it. I do this solely for pleasure and it is nice to know that others are looking.