Max Weakley's Blog » Max Weakley Photography

Central Florida Zoo

I recently went to the Central Florida Zoo in Sanford, FL. I was pleasantly surprised in how nice it was. There were many exotic animals that I did not expect to see such as an Amur Leopard, Cape Porcupines, Cheetah, Crocodile Monitor and dozens others. They had very large enclosures for the animals and they were easy to see for visitors.

This is a Day Gecko, they live in Madagascar. The reason it got its name is because Day Geckos come out during the day, unlike most other gecko species. Geckos are well known for being able to climb on almost any surface, including glass. That is because of little feather-like hairs that are on the bottoms of their feet, called setae. They have microscopic ends that are frayed, which allows it to stick to the surface.

This is the eye of a Crocodile Monitor. These lizards are close to four feet long and have dagger like claws that allow them clim trees, tear flesh, and hold down prey. Much like snakes they have a forked tongue and a Jacobson’s Organ in the top of their mouth to “taste” the air, it is a very advanced way to smell their prey. All monitor lizards have bacteria in their saliva that act like a venom when they bite into their prey, the best known monitor is actually the Komodo Dragon who is known for its venom like saliva!

This is an albino Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake. You can see its heat sensing organ right below the nostril, that is why these snakes are called Pit Vipers, they use that “pit” the sense the body heat of an animal. They use this for two reasons: the first is that they do not have very good eyesight, so they rely on their “heat vision” to see and catch their prey; the second reason is that most rattle snakes dwell in the desert, where most animals come out at night, so they use their pits to seek out their prey in the dark.

They also had a Cheetah enclosure that held three cheetahs. They were very active and were constantly moving in their enclosures, unlike others that I have see in larger zoos. There was a large plexiglass wall that showed the enclosure, which was very nice for me as a photographer, because I did not have to contend with shooting through a fence.

This was my all time favorite animal of the day, the Amur Leopard! It is the most endangered species of animal on the planet, there are nearly forty of these animals left in the wild! These cats live in Russia and they are hunted for their fur and other parts that are used for traditional medicine. It is a shame that these beautiful animals are on the brink of extinction.

This was my favorite shot of the whole day, the eye of one of the Amur Leopards.

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