In my travels, I always try to stop by the zoo in whichever city I’m in, whenever I can. I’ve been to six different zoos so far.
In this article, I’ll start with where I live and show you around the Houston Zoo & Reptile House.
We’ll start off with Lions, Tigers & Bears.
The lion is the second largest cat. The tiger is slightly bigger.
The male lion has a big mane to protect his neck when fending off challengers.
Lions are very sociable and live in groups called ‘prides’. Prides can be up to 30 members. When food and water are scarce, the pride is smaller.
The male lion protects the pride and guards their territory and the females are the primary hunters for the group.
Lions usually hunt at night. Their prey includes antelopes, buffaloes, zebras, young elephants, rhinos, hippos, wild hogs, crocodiles and giraffes. But they also sometimes eat smaller prey like mice, birds, hares, lizards, and tortoises.
They are not above stealing kills from other carnivores, like hyenas, wild dogs, cheetahs, and leopards, or scavenging spoiled meat.
Lions sleep or rest 16 – 20 hours a day. They are the laziest of the big cats.
I guess you can afford to just chill all day when you’re ‘The King of the Jungle.’
Tigers are the largest cats in the world.
They can weigh as much as 800 pounds. That’s ten 10 year old kids.
Tigers are carnivores, eating only meat. They mainly feed on large mammals such as deer, wild pigs, antelope and buffalo.
Tigers are solitary hunters, and generally search for food alone at night. They quietly stalk their prey until they are close enough to pounce – then they kill their victim with a bite to the neck or back of the head.
They may be big and heavy, but tigers are by no means slow movers. In fact, at full speed they can reach up to 40 miles per hour.
Unlike most members of the cat family, tigers like water. They are good swimmers and often cool off in pools or streams.
Today, there are five subspecies of tiger: Bengal, South China, Indochinese, Sumatran and Siberian. Sadly, three subspecies of tiger have become extinct – Caspian, Bali and Javan.
These fierce felines have walked the earth for a long time. Fossil remains of tigers found in parts of China are believed to be 2 million years old.
Every tiger in the world is unique – no two tigers have the same pattern of stripes.
Tigers are known to pounce from behind on their prey. People that live and work near tigers will wear masks on the back of their heads so the tigers think they are looking at a person’s front. This stops the tigers from jumping them from behind.
Grizzly bears are extremely dangerous in the wild.
They are omnivores, and their diet can vary widely. They may eat seeds, berries, roots, grasses, fungi, deer, elk, fish, dead animals and insects.
I’d hate to be attacked by one. They say if attacked to play dead. I always wondered, but what if the bear starts eating you? What do you do then?
The black bear’s fur is usually a uniform color except for a brown muzzle and light markings that sometimes appear on their chests.
American black bears are omnivorous: plants, fruits, nuts, insects, honey, salmon, small mammals and carrion. In northern regions, they eat spawning salmon.
Black bears will also occasionally kill young deer or moose calves.
At an average height of around 16-18 ft., the giraffe is the tallest land animal in the world.
Characterized by its long legs, long neck, and distinctive spotted pattern, many people first believed the giraffe was a cross between a leopard and a camel, which is reflected in its scientific name, Giraffa camelopardalis.
Baby elephants are fun to watch.
There are two types of Elephants, Asian and African.
Elephants are the largest land mammal in the world.
African elephants are larger than Asian elephants and have larger ears.
Elephants are around 200 pounds when they are born.
A baby elephant is called a calf. A female elephant is called a cow and a male elephant is called a bull.
Adult elephants weigh between 5,000 and 14,000 pounds.
Elephants are herbivores meaning they only eat plants and vegetables, no meat. They eat grass, leaves, shrubs, branches, fruit and spend 16 hours a day eating.
Adult elephants eat 300-600 pounds of food everyday and drink 40-50 gallons of water everyday.
Elephants sleep about 2 hours per day.
There are five different species of rhinoceros. Three are from southern Asia and two are from Africa. They are the Black Rhinoceros, White Rhinoceros, Indian Rhinoceros, Javan Rhinoceros and Sumatran Rhinoceros.
The name rhinoceros means ‘nose horn’ and is often shortened to rhino. It comes from the Greek words rhino (nose) and ceros (horn).
Every zebra has a unique pattern of black and white stripes.
Zebras stand up while sleeping and they eat mostly grass.
Monkeys are probably my favorite animal at the zoo. I laugh every time I watch them for a while.
If you haven’t ever seen one ‘Spank the Monkey’, you haven’t laughed that hard.
Growing up, I wanted a pet monkey, but now I realize how hard they can be to keep under control in your house.
The Houston Zoo is always nice and clean for your visit. They do a really good job of keeping it up.
Here’s the flamingo area. When I visited the San Antonio Zoo, it was the worst smelling place in the entire zoo.
Flamingos eat algae and tiny shellfish that are rich in carotenoids, which is why these birds are pink or orange.
If they ate a different diet, they would lose their brilliant color.
Flamingos prefer to stand on one foot and although they look big, they weigh only 5 to 6 pounds.
Flamingos can live 30 to 50 years.
The Okapi is a zebra, giraffe, horse mix. Strange looking animal.
Warthogs got their names from the bumps on their faces that look like warts. This is one ugly animal.
I think everybody loves the seal.
The Houston Zoo has a trained seal show and it’s fun to watch the seals in action.
Many people don’t know this, but Hippos kill more people each year than lions, elephants, leopards, buffaloes and rhinos combined. They are very territorial.
I also love otters. Here’s one lying upside down out of his log. These are cute, funny animals. I wish I had one for a pet.
Another good thing about the Houston Zoo is that they have a Petting Zoo for the kids.
These cute little goats are there for the kids and the kids love them.
Miniature goats are cute, but I wouldn’t want one of these for a pet.
The Pygmy Goat is able to leap very high, so you have to keep that in mind when they are in captivity.
Offering them elements that they can climb on is a good idea, as it helps them to stay entertained and reduce aggression.
They are very social, so they must be with others.
The zoo has an outdoor pond where the turtles live.
Here they are sunning themselves on a beautiful day in Houston.
At this pond, you will also see a very large alligator sunning himself as well.
Alligators are killers, so never go near them, or in the water where they are rumored to be.
Since I showed you the turtles and alligators, I’ll show you the rest of the reptiles in the Reptile House.
This is one of my favorite places at the zoo.
Lizards are in the class called Reptilia (reptiles) and in the order Squamata – which also includes snakes.
There are over 3,000 lizard species throughout the world and they are found all over the world except for polar regions.
Most lizards live in trees or on the ground; only a few live in the water.
This must be ‘Lizard Style’ instead of ‘Doggie Style’, lol.
The upper and lower eyelids of chameleons are joined, leaving just a small hole for them to see through. They can move their eyes independently however, allowing them to look in two different directions at the same time.
This was a very large frog. Frogs are not reptiles like turtles, lizards and snakes. They are amphibians.
Now, I’ll show you the snakes.
These first few snakes are the constrictors. Meaning they squeeze their prey to death then swallow it whole.
Boa Constrictors are one of the largest snakes in the world, along with the Reticulated Python and Anaconda.
They use their flicking tongue to pick up the scent of prey.
Just as their name suggests, they will coil their bodies around the prey and with each breath of the prey they will constrict, or squeeze, their coils just a little tighter until the animal can no longer breath.
Their prey consists of birds, lizards, frogs and small mammals. Larger Boas will even eat monkeys, pigs or deer.
Almost every zoo that I’ve been to has a very large snake like this on display. I think people expect to see this sized snake when they come to the zoo.
Snakes are found on every continent of the world except Antarctica.
There are around 3000 different species of snake.
You can tell a poisonous snake by the width of their jaws, and how the head is triangular shaped, like the snake below.
They will also coil up on the ground like this one. It’s also a very beautiful snake, even though it’s deadly.
This is a King Cobra and very deadly.
Here’s another one that is coiled up. They are always ready to strike.
Snakes shed their skin a number of times a year in a process that usually lasts a few days.
Notice the wide jaws and triangular shape of the head… poisonous.
Here’s another very beautiful snake. It’s colored to be very hard to see in nature.
Snakes smell with their tongue.
These next two photos are of a very fat snake.
It’s colored to be hard to see in nature as well.
Next, we see a species of crocodile.
Houston has a rare albino alligator.
It usually stays on the heating pad to warm its’ blood, like a true cold blooded reptile.
It’s a very beautiful alligator. I’ve never seen one like this before.
I saved one of my favorite reptiles for last.
The Komodo dragon is the largest type of lizard, growing up to 10 feet in length.
Komodo dragons kill using a one-two punch of sharp teeth and a venomous bite, scientists have confirmed for the first time.
Komodo dragons are carnivores (meat eaters) and can be very aggressive.
An animal that escapes a Komodo’s initial attack soon weakens and dies. The fierce carnivore tracks the wounded creature and dines at its’ leisure once the prey collapses.
Researchers studied the biochemistry of Komodo venom after they had the rare opportunity to examine two dragons from zoos that both had to be put down due to terminal illnesses.
The team found that the dragon’s venom rapidly decreases blood pressure, expedites blood loss, and sends a victim into shock, rendering it too weak to fight.
Basically, if you get bit by one of these things, you had better climb a high tree. You’re still gonna die, but at least the dragon can’t track you down and eat you.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip to the Houston Zoo & Reptile House. I have several more zoos to show you.
I have over 25,000 photos on my website, as well as my videos, for your viewing pleasure.
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