A Wild Photo Session

Hiding in the tall grass of the Serengeti, trying to get a glimpse of nature’s “King”. Possibly crawling through the thick forest vegetation of Central Africa, hoping for a sighting of a magnificent creature, a fellow primate.

That would be an amazing opportunity. An opportunity that I hope, someday, will be a reality. It might take 25 years, but I’m willing to wait it out.

Chicago is quite a distance from Africa, but there is a little bit of wild right in our own backyard. The Lincoln Park Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in the nation, having been founded in 1868. What’s more astonishing than the zoo’s longevity, is the fact that it has remained free to all visitors.

Now, I have my mixed emotions on zoos. I find myself debating both sides, education vs. captivity. I won’t get into a discussion of what is right and wrong with zoos. This particular post is really about the animals and how I consider myself very fortunate to have the chance to photograph wildlife, I might otherwise never come in contact with.

I thought it would be fun to showcase this particular visit, made last Friday, as a photo session with a few residents of the zoo. I honestly can not tell you how many times I have been to Lincoln Park Zoo, but I can say I am never at a loss of things to photograph. Each visit brings new opportunities and new situations.

Here are a few photos from the “photo session”.

Our first stop was to see this playful lion. It’s always a treat to see one of these guys awake. Seeing that lions (actually all cats) sleep around 20 hours a day, the chance of seeing one moving, is always slim. Even though it was evident that a new play ball was needed, it didn’t stop this cat from having fun.

I do missing seeing Adelor, the senior male of the pride. He was an amazing animal and I loved photographing him. At the end of this post, there is a picture of him. I would love to say he was letting out a loud roar, but that wasn’t the case, it was a rather large yawn.

“Lincoln Park Zoo is saddened to report on Feb. 1, 2012, that animal care staff made the difficult decision to euthanize Adelor, a geriatric male African lion due to progressively deteriorating health and quality of life. Adelor was 18 years old and lived at the zoo since 1995. Over the years he fathered five cubs. Guests of the zoo often remarked that seeing him was a highlight of their visit.”

It was then on to the Reptile House. I can probably count on one hand how many times I have been in the Reptile House. It’s not that I don’t like reptiles, I actually find them quite interesting, I just always seem to pass by without thinking to drop in. I was able to catch this Green Tree Python with its tongue out. I couldn’t pass up snapping a shot of this Dwarf Crocodile. The reflection is what caught my attention, not to mention that eyeball was pretty cool.

After a little walk through some other exhibits, it was on to the Regenstein Center for African Apes. Honestly, I could spend all day here. I don’t know what it is about these animals that intrigue me so much. Maybe it’s because they are one of our closest relatives in the animal world. It might just be the fact that they are so extremely smart, I find myself wondering what they are thinking, and what they think of us.

Watching how these Western Lowland Gorillas interact with each other is truly an amazing thing to experience. It is sad to see them behind the glass, but I remind myself that they are cared for and are safe. All you have to do is watch the movie Gorillas in the Mist (the story of Dian Fossey), to really understand the dangers these animals face in the wild. However, the biggest threat is most likely loss of habitat. Unfortunately, this is the stark reality for most of our wildlife.

So as I depart this untamed country in my Land Rover, safari edition, (actually mini-van, Caravan edition), I am thankful to these ambassadors of the wild. Even though they did not choose a life of captivity or to represent their species for the world to see. I greatly appreciate their sacrifice. They are a constant reminder that we are just a very small part in an amazing and extraordinary world.
A few pictures from past visits.

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