Monday, November 13, 2006

Sleeping with the manatees...

This past Saturday night, we had the fun chance to go spend the night at the zoo. Our particular sleeping trip was with the manatees. They have several you can choose from and our brownie troop chose this one. I have to admit that I was very excited because I love the manatees. Every time I go to the zoo, I just want to sit and watch them. I attended as the co-leader chaperon on this trip. We arrived and checked in. Next we dropped all our sleeping stuff at the manatee exhibit. Then it was off to feed the stingrays. This is always so much fun to do. I tried to get some good pictures, but it was a little crazy with all the excitement. After this, we gathered in a show area where they brought out a baby alligator, opossum, porcupine and a kinkajou. We had never seen a kinkajou before. She is this cute little fury thing that sorta looks like a monkey, but isn't. It is actually related to a raccoon. The kids got to touch the alligator and the kinkajou. Next we got our snack and headed for the chow hall. After the kids ate, they got to do two manatee crafts. They were pretty cute and simple to make. Then we went back to the manatee exhibit. They turned off the lights so we could see into the tanks better. During this time, our guide shared all sorts of interesting information about the manatees. For instance, Lowry Park Zoo is the only non-profit manatee rehabilitation facility in the world. All the manatees they have were in danger in one way or another. Some were hit by boats, some had red tide illness, and some came from other zoos because they weren't eating enough. I always thought they just had the same manatees there, but actually they are always moving them out when they get better. They even have a month old baby manatee that they are bottle feeding every three hours! I really wanted to see that, but we couldn't. I really enjoyed this part because it was quiet and we got to just sit and watch the manatees and fish. Very relaxing. Then we were up again and toured the holding pools where they put some of the sick manatees. After this we went to the food building. We got to see some of the things they prepare for the 1800 animals that live there. We learned that there is only ONE person that coordinates all the diets and ordering of food. Of course, many more people actually get the food ready. Our girls got treated to a monkey biscuit that was basically a very dry all grain cookie. Yuck! They got to see some frozen mice and chick popsicles. Yummy, yummy! Finally, we learned that it is just over $400,000 a month to feed all 1800 animals. Manatees are the most expensive to feed because they eat so much and the price of Romaine lettuce varies greatly. We left there and got to make a detour to where some bats live. Our guide told us that we can only see them fly on these night time trips, so we had to make a stop. There was only one to see, though. Shhh... I was happy about that, but the girls were not! After what was a very full and fun evening, we made it back to the manatee exhibit to set up our beds. It was midnight! We got the girls set up in front of the glass window and they got to lay down watching the manatees until about 12:45. Then it was off to dreamland - for them at least... I am a really light sleeper. If you ever get a chance to do something like this, I highly recommend it... it was so much fun!

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