Feb 132012

Following the demise of Nadja the old maid cat, the house remained felineless for a few short weeks.

Her successors are Jansson and Laku, both strays taken from Hesy.

Both are spayed males and have taken to the new surroundings with interest and gusto.

JanssonJansson is the older of the two, a four year old tom. His favorite place is, as shown in the photo, the backrest of the livingroom sofa. With or without any humans on the sofa.

Laku is seven months old. An almost entirely black kitten. He was very shy initially, but has gotten tame enough to seek out laps.

Thus far the cats have had a mild effect on accommodations – one totalled felt bunny and a couple of relocated houseplants.

Dec 302011

Nadja the Watchcat

One of the reasons why the blog had its silent period was the short and terminal illness of the household electronics use prevention officer, Nadja the cat. Who liked to sit on laptops, irrespective of whether they were closed or not, and especially if somebody was using them already.

The inherited elderly cat was a constant bundle of joy, and I still miss her seriously.

Jun 062011

The recently published WWF report on Madagascar is a testament to the biodiversity of the island.

In a decade there have been more than 600 new species discovered (including no less than 41 mammals), but the island habitat is seriously threatened by development. The forests disappear at an alarming rate, probably dooming hundreds of other animals and plants to become extinct before they are described.

Thus, it is time for two resolutions – one easy, the other less so:

  • Madagascar needs to be visited, and visited properly, so that the jungles and critters get more than a tired once over in the Tananarive zoo.
  • I so need to pick up BBC Earth’s new series on the island on disc soonest.

(And yeah, the report itself is referred to in scores of pages, but is a bit hard to locate. The Norwegian instance of the organization provides the most easily accessed copy).

May 102011

Giant pandaReturned to the National Zoo after half a decade’s absence. Visited the park in 2006 and was very impressed (and not only on account of the first panda sighting).

The method of entry was the same: metro, and even the station where said underground train was boarded was the same: McPherson Square. Not much had changed in the station, but the environment brought back a huge flashback to Fallout 3, where the stations and tunnels are the only method to access certain areas in ruined DC.

During the walk to the zoo it became apparent that I’d taken off with too light a load, forgot my umbrella in the hotel. By the time we’d reached the first exhibits, the skies opened and had to retreat to a roofed area to avoid being drenched. The rain passed by quickly, and as a positive effect woke up both of the pandas that had previously slept – now they were actively munching on bamboo.

The zoo is undergoing a huge renovation – the area near the already well-equipped elephant enclosure gets significantly improved in the next few years. The big pachyderms were out and about as well, one of them playing with a huge undescribable red object, the others posing for photos some hundreds of meters away.

Had a first proper view of a clouded leopard, previously had only seen them in the Night Safari in Singapore. This semi-large cat was on the sleepy side, but the impressively colored fur was nicely visible.

The park was very full. Even without the field trip season in full swing yet, it was packed with families and small groups. Decided against a couple of indoor exhibits with long lines – based on the catalogue of inhabitants, the small mammals were not worth queuing for fifteen minutes.

Komodo DragonThe huge walk-through cage of birds contained roaming fowl of various kinds, the most impressive display was put on either by a flamboyant male peacock who barely stayed up a tree, or an unrecognized species of pearly pheasant that jumped nervously on the ground.

Kiwi bird eluded me five years ago, and the same happened this time as well. The dark enclosure gave the well-camouflaged flightless birds ample room to hide in, and that’s exactly what they did. Too bad, this was actually one of the animals I was really looking forward to see.

Another critter that escaped without being seen last time were the Komodo Dragons. This time one of them was lying in a big pool of water, visible to the world.

The main attraction for a lot of visitors was the pride of lions, with no less than seven cubs born some eight months ago. The entire extended family was proudly on display, with some of the youngsters putting up a good show playing with each other or with their inconvenienced mother. The tigers on the other side of the hill were far lazier – choosing to address the day in an appropriately lazy fashion. Same happened with the cheetahs, the world’s fastest mammals were not moving at all around noon.


FrogHad the worst meal of the trip thus far at the Mane restaurant. Without any meaningful competition the service was almost atrocious in its indifference and the prices of some items hiked up to eyebrow-raising levels.

The Amazonia house, which impressed me greatly on the last visit, had not changed much. Some of the scientific exhibits on display were still the same (such as the aquarium filled with coral-red pencilfish), but there had been evolution nonetheless. Arapaimas were gone from the jungle tanks, and the exhibit on preserving amphibians had grown to an impressive size.

Mar 242011

Slow Loris have quietly evolved into youtube darlings, even I fell for the big-eyed prosimians back in 2009.

However, as the truth about the trade in these fascinating creatures emerges, they hopefully will be left to roam the jungle canopies rather than poached, cruelly doctored and basically left to die in the hands of wannabe ticklers.

[ via Boing Boing who have an awesome image to accompany the article. ]

Aug 092010

VasaDropped by two museums on the way to Skansen.

Vasamuseum holds the sole remaining 17th century warship. Vasa infamously sank on its maiden voyage in 1628. The ship is a familiar sight, and I only wanted to pick up a book on the salvaging of the ship. The courteous tickets officer let us in for ten minutes. Enough to purchase the book from the giftshop and to snap a couple of quick photos of the ship.

Aquaria“Watermuseum” Aquaria is a new entry in Djurgården. It is a smallish aquarium, which does pack a few interesting displays. Some of them are pretty much commonplace – after all, in public aquaria coral reefs and South American rainforests are dime a dozen. A swedish river and a mangrove swamp, on the other hand are far more interesting. The latter packed a big school of foureyes – finally managed to photograph the anatomically odd fish. The show was rounded off with an outdoors tank with a swedish catfish. The occupant was initially hard to spot, due to the fish being more than a meter long and sitting quietly on the muddy bottom of the aquarium.

Foureye fish (Anableps sp.)

Alllsång på Skansen

The entry to Skansen proper was surprisingly packed, and the reason presented itself on a schedule. The day was a day for Allsång på Skansen – a huge singalong festival with more than 15000 participants around the Soliden stage. The songs sung ranged from utterly swedish to covers rendered in unexpected fashion (my personal highlight was the opera bass taking on Britney’s Oops I did it again). According to the wikipedia article, the artists on stage included Salem Al Fakir, Gunhild Carling, Drängarna, The Real Group, Thomas Di Leva and Oskar Linnros.

Ring-tailed lemurHad to split miday through the festivities to be able to visit Skansen’s Akvariet before it closed at eight. Akvariet, like the tunnelbana, was one of the things I vividly recall from 1981. As far as I can remember the akvariet hosted the very first coral tank I ever saw. The akvariet had changed in the intervening thirty years. The biggest apparent change is the addition of a walk-through cage of ring-tailed lemurs. The funky primates were taking it easy in the cage. Despite visitors the animals did not seem to be bothered at all, but kept a safe distance. In some cases the distance was just a couple of centimeters when the lemurs bounded through the multi-level cage.

The Skansen aquarium was smaller than I remembered. And the truly awe-inspiring dark hall had been repurposed. The coral reefs were pretty, the crocodiles uncomfortably large and toothy. The snakes were more numerous than the last time (including this spectacular horned adder). The zoo offered a possibility to stroke a boa or a tarantula. The latter got far less interest than the big snake. The special exhibit on large spiders got only a fraction of viewers of the rest of the displays. The bird eating saucer-sized arachnids seemed docile enough, but panic would have ensued if one of the tiny terrariums would have been dropped on the floor.

Horned adder

Cheese platter in GubbhyllanHad a late dinner at Gubbhyllan, a very traditional restaurant located next to the aquarium. Chose an appropriately traditional dish: fried herring. The three medium-sized fish, plentiful potatoes and a surprise addition of lingonberries were just the thing pick off nagging hunger. The dessert – consisting of a trio of swedish cheeses, malt bread and gooseberry jam was a taste explosion on top.

May 102010

TigerPlanned to have a lazy morning in Ueno Park, but ended up spending a good chunk of the day there.

The breakfast at the hotel was rather lame, especially when compared to the gourmet offering provided by the ryokan in Kyoto. The dishes ranged from miso soup to scrambled eggs – both japanese and western sides thus covered.

Rode the Yamanote to the Ueno station, the scenery passing by in the windows gives a good view into what one of the largest cities in the world looks like.

The park (like all the others) was covered with blooming cherries, the sense of wonder had started to wane a little bit already.

Ueno zoo was a surprise discovery, and on account of cheap tickets figured that a quick stroll through it would be a good way to build up appetite for an early lunch.

The zoo was actually far more interesting than the advertisements promised, and the lunch was thus quite a bit delayed.

Ueno zoo had lost its biggest attraction, a giant panda, a couple of years back. The enclosures varied a lot. Quite a few of the big critters was stuck into plain concrete (especially the hippopotami seemed rather cramped), but for some the environment had been impressively built. The gorillas had a big forested piece of land to them, as did a lone tiger.

Ringtailed lemur

The stars of the show were quite a bit smaller animals. Ueno zoo has a good selection of prosimians. A family of ring-tailed lemurs had an island to themselves, and a nearby area housed a lot of their relatives. Including the very first aye-aye I’ve ever seen. The long-fingered malagasy primates were not very photogenic, their glass-walled terrarium being almost pitch-dark. The woodpecker-equivalent mammals obviously like their surroundings, having procreated multiple times.

Ruffed lemurOther animals worth a mention are a pair of bears having a morning fight, a mugging tapir, a huge lonely tortoise from Galapagos, and an anteater having a quiet conversation with the sloth housed in the neighboring cage.

Stuffed moleratFollowing a quick and cheap lunch in the cafeteria (the first outdoor one of the year) it was time to browse the selection of stuffed animals before exiting. The mascots were indeed plentiful – and amongst them the funky prosimians, mole rats and poison arrow frogs. Quite a positive change from the usual lions and seal cubs.

The neighboring buddhist temple was packed with afternoon visitors. Incense, sacred water and thrown coins dominated the area. The bridge to the temple was full of food carts, their contents far more varied and lucrative from the finnish equivalents – smoked octopus, satay skewers, fresh food and plenty more.