From atop the Andean Mountains, where the air is cold and crisp and the skies a clear blue, to the warmth of the lower marshlands, Turtle Back Zoo presents an amazing sampling of South American animals.
South America takes pride in one of the planet’s most sizeable birds, the flightless Rhea! Instead of scavenging for carrion, this Ostrich look-alike enjoys everything from seeds and plants to insects and small vertebrates. Such delicate fare for a bird that can weigh over 60 pounds!
In the upper mountain ranges, at about 8-13,000 ft, you would find what looks like flat-backed camels in wooly coats! Herds of Llama, unlike their Egyptian cousins, sport thick fleece coats for the extremely cold temperatures. Llamas also have smaller toe pads, designed for ease in climbing the hard rocky trails of the Andes, not the desert’s soft shifting sands.
Further south you will find Capybaras. These amiable rodents resemble guinea pigs, but outweigh them by 100 lbs. or so. These grass grazers are never found far from water. But, hair covered herbivores that have webbed-feet? Not an unusual trait for this group of animals whose scientific name means “water pig.”
Another marshlands neighbor is the beautiful and elegant Black-Necked Swan. This striking water-lover, whose webbed-feet make it clumsy on land, can take to the skies and reach speeds of up to 50 miles an hour! Very impressive for the smallest of the world’s eight Swan species.
Our newest residents are our giant tortoises. Both Galapagos and Aldabra tortoises can be seen in the South America exhibit. Only the Galapagos tortoises are from South America. Aldabra tortoises are found on islands off of the coast of Africa. Tortoises will be out on exhibit mid spring through mid fall.