Photos from the National Zoo; Pandas, Wolves, Gharials, and More!

15 04 2007

Looking back, Saturday seems like a dream. I’m sure part of that is due to the fact that I only slept 2 and 1/2 hours before getting up at 2 AM to drive to the National Zoo in Washington D.C. and spend the day with my wife and her parents. Lack of sleep aside, never have I been to a zoo with such wide species diversity, and while I still consider the Bronx Zoo to be the best I’ve ever been to, I was absolutely amazed by many of the residents of the National Zoo.

My wife and I arrived at 6:30 AM, hoping to see most of the animals in the zoo while they were still active. Unfortunately, most of the animals don’t make an appearance until later in the morning and the various houses didn’t open until 8:30 and 10:00 AM, so other than the occassional jogger there wasn’t much to see. Up in a tree, however, were two Red Pandas sleeping in, and here’s one of them in the early-morning light;

Red Pandas

A Mara, in contrast to the sleeping Red Pandas, was up and about;


Around the time that my in-laws arrived more of the animals were out on display, although before proceeding my wife wanted a picture of us together next to a statue of a sloth bear. Here it is, both of us looking rather unsettled because the sun was in our eyes and we were trying to communicate how to work my camera;


One of my most favorite animals from the zoo was the Maned Wolf, although unfortunately their enclosure didn’t allow me to photograph them without a doghouse or chain fence in the background;

Maned Wolf

The miniscule Tammar Wallabies were also a highlight. Despite my appreciation for wildlife, every time I see them something in my head goes “Aww, whosanitsybitsy then?”

Tammar Wallaby

We also saw a rather old Spectacled Bear, and for some reason this particular one reminded me of Jeremy Irons. In any case, I have never seen one with an overall blond face (normally they have blond lines/patches that make them appear “spectacled”);

Spectacled Bear

I also finally got to see a Caracal in the flesh, although this was one angry cat. Frustrated that it couldn’t visit it’s other enclosure or get the birds on the outside, it wasn’t too happy when I stooped down to take its picture;


Several cheetahs were also on display, a male desperately seeking the affection of this young female (although they were separated by a fence);


I also got to see two 10-month old Bengal Tigers at the zoo, although their enclosure wasn’t exactly condusive to good photography. Here’s one of them after making an attempt to snag a bird that entered the enclosure;

Young Tiger

Speaking of young animals, two young sea lions were playing “king of the rock” in their enclosure;

Sea Lions

Two young otter brothers were also a bit scrappy, chasing each other about their enclosure and taking dirt/pine needle baths;


Other small mammals were also active during our visit, including a Banded Mongoose and some Meerkats;



Some of the local fauna proved to be just as interesting as the exotics; we spotted two white-tailed deer in the zoo as well as this small bird that had collected a flamingo feather for its nest;


I also finally obtained a photograph of one of my favorite animals, the Giant Elephant Shrew;

Elephant Shrew

While I am absolutely enthralled by mammals, I was also overjoyed to see a male and female Gharial up close in the Reptile House. Here’s the female, just before slipping into the water to join the male;


The Great Ape House also provided for some good photographic opportunities, especially some young gorillas and an oranguatan that used some cardboard as a sun hat. In fact, many of the orangs at the zoo seemed to like cardboard as a hat, blanket, etc., which I had never seen before.



Speaking of primates, this small tree shrew in the Small Mammal House slowed down long enough for me to get a good picture of it. Just seeing how it handled its food and used its hands left no doubt in my mind that primates are derived from such creatures;

Tree Shrew

I also encountered an animal I had never heard of before; the African Pygmy Falcon.

Pygmy Falcon

A Mouse Deer also made a brief appearance during our visit;

Mouse Deer

But what about the Giant Pandas? Well I was able to shoulder my way through the crowd of photographers and snag plenty of pictures of the young panda residing at the zoo;

Panda Sit

Panda Log

Panda Tree


While the young panda was certainly cute and very entertaining (i.e. watching a panda scale a tree for a good scratch), my most favorite moment from Saturday involved a female Mexican Wolf (a subspecies of Grey Wolf). When I arrived at the enclosure the three females were pacing back and forth near the back of their enclosure, stopping every now and then to look at my wife and I. There was no way I was going to get a good picture, but I discovered the cage was connected to another one the wolves could access, and after waiting a moment one of them came over to the front for a drink. After lapping up some water she took a long look at me and rejoined her pack, and here’s my favorite picture that resulted from my stroke of luck;


While the 4 hour drive each way wasn’t very fun, I did highly enjoy myself at the zoo and hope to return soon. Even so, I would love to see these animals in the wild someday. While I certainly have some ok pictures, there’s not much of a story to them; “I walked by the enclosure and the wolf looked at me,” isn’t an experience that’s earned. Granted, in the wild I would get nowhere near as close to these animals nor be able to get them to “pose” for me, but I would much rather catch a fleeting glimpse of a wolf or jaguar than know they only exist in zoos and memories.



11 responses

15 04 2007
Chris Harrison

Awesome shots Brian.
You may not consider your pictures to be “earned experiences”, but us free-loaders out here in cyberland do appreciate your pictures.

16 04 2007

Thanks Chris, and I’m glad you (and others) appreciate my photographs. If I coldn’t share them taking so many pictures would be little more than stamp collecting.

16 04 2007

Amazing amazing pictures, what kind of camera do you use? I’m sure most of it is skill, but just curious!
Thank you for including the maned wolf! For my undergraduate honors thesis I am doing a behavioral study on them at the Montgomery Zoo, the comments I hear while I’m observing them are funny/frustrating sometimes, so many people have never heard of them before! (“What is it, a skinny hyena?”…”Looks like a fox on stilts!”)

16 04 2007

Thanks Anne-Marie! I shoot with an Olympus E-300 and a 40-150mm autofocus lens (hopefully I’ll be able to get something a little more powerful in the near future lens-wise). I actually got it for about 300 dollars on eBay around this time last year and it’s given me some great shots; pictures of big cats now line the living room.

And I was happy to include the maned wolf; I had always wanted to see one (and I love canids in general) so I wasn’t leaving the zoo without a handful of pictures of them. It’s funny that you mentioned the “fox on stilts” comment; the description of the animals at the National Zoo included that in their comments on the animal.

I heard some interesting comments when I was there as well, like when one mother brought her children to the enclosure she was saying “Look, look at the scary wolf.” If she knew anything at all about wolves, she’d realize how lucky anyone would be to actually see them in the wild, but wolves still have a bad public image.

In any case, thank you for your comments and good luck on your thesis!

16 04 2007

Great photos! Every time I visit here I get the urge to rush out and expose some film (yo, old-skool here!). I think the 80-200 mm zoom I’ve been thinking about for years may need to be purchased soon.

17 04 2007

Ha, the terrifying maned wolf, whose diet consists of 70% plant material… =D

15 06 2007
Janet Vandenburgh

Can you call a photo ‘thoughtful’? If so, yours are them. Thank you so much for posting them & your wonderful stories for each one.
DITTOS for all the preceding comments.
Thanks 🙂 Janet

15 06 2007

Thank you very much Janet! I’m glad that my photos seem to have a little something extra to them (I try to capture different behaviors and close-to-eye-level shots when I can). If you haven’t already, click the “photography” tag on the right side of the blog; there’s plenty of pictures there, too!

27 01 2008

hi, Thanks for so wonderful pictures!(I’m not American so forgive me my bad English!)
I loved every one, I love animals very much, but I wished I could see some Koala’s they are my favorite.
If you could come to visit Japan you would be surprised how cheap and powerful the cameras are.I also like to take pictures with an Olympus.
Thanks for sharing these precious moments with us.

12 03 2008

AMAZING photographs. No idea if you still update here and I know this entry is quite dated, but I wanted to comment how I recognised the wolf from your picture! I have a few quite similiar on my own site (or… Flickr, as it were).

I aspire to your greatness! These are wonderful.

23 07 2009

a great find for panda fanatic!
my roomate LOVE this Morn Creations Bag.

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