Thursday, March 13, 2014

Ghosts of the Desert

To me, nothing is more relaxing than spending time around animals. So sometimes we head to the LA Zoo in the afternoon when we need a break. I occasionally write for their magazine Zoo View so it's almost like working...

The last time we went the peninsular pronghorns were very energetic, play fighting and carousing.

I'm really proud of our zoo's involvement with the Peninsular Pronghorn Recovery Project in Mexico, so it's a treat to see these guys up close. Only about 250 members of this subspecies survive in the wild, down from the thousands that used to roam the deserts. That means the breeding herd at LAZ comprises a significant percentage of all individuals alive today. It's really a shame they're endangered, since they're quite unusual. Not only are they the fastest hoofed mammals on Earth, but pronghorns are also the only extant member of their entire family (Antilocapridae). They're weird too, falling somewhere between goats and deer, with odd branching horns instead of antlers, unlike any other creature alive today.

In their home range the peninsular subspecies is called los fantasmas del desierto, the ghosts of the desert, because of their cryptic coloration and great speed that allows them to disappear from view with almost supernatural quickness. Indeed, they can cruise at nearly 60 mph, tongues hanging out and mouths agape to admit copious amounts of air, for an hour at a time. That's one thing you won't see in a zoo though, since these pronghorns are far too relaxed to consider fleeing. Like me, after an afternoon spent watching them.

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