The class Mammalia is composed of Earth's mammals. All mammals share at least three characteristics not found in other animals: hair, three middle ear bones, and milk production. The zoo houses and cares for a variety of mammals including carnivores (such as large cats: Lions, Leopards, Tigers, etc.), omnivores (such as Bears), herbivores (mainly hoofed animals), and primates. Mammals make up a very important part of our planet's wildlife. In fact, the mammal class includes the tallest land animal (the Giraffe), the "king of beasts" (the African Lion), and the smartest animal (the Human). Mammals can be found on all continents and in all oceans. Some estimates suggest that there as many as 5,000 mammal species in the world!
This one is for the birds: the class Aves. Some birds can fly while others cannot; in fact, the largest bird, the Ostrich (of Africa), cannot fly - much like its Australian cousin, the Emu. The largest bird of flight happens to be the Sarus Crane. The Umbrella Cockatoo isn't such a "bird brain" after all - some experts suggest that this bird is the fourth smartest animal on Earth! The zoo has all of these species and so many more! Birds reproduce by laying eggs, from which the chicks hatch. Some species lay numerous eggs but some, like the Caribbean Flamingo, lay just one egg a year. Dwarfing the number of mammal species on Earth, birds could possibly number is excess of 10,000 species - now that is something to squawk about!
Reptilia consists, of course, of reptiles. Reptiles include snakes, turtles, lizards, monitors, and crocodilians (like alligators) and the zoo has some of each! Reptiles are cold-blooded, which means they cannot regulate their own body temperature. This could explain why reptiles generally are not found in cold areas or during cold seasons. Reptiles have lungs for respiration and have a three or four chambered heart. Most, but not all, like birds, lay eggs. Reptiles are very interesting especially in that they were the first to evolve the ability to pick themselves up off of the ground to move - as with crocodilians. There are probably 9,000 reptile species slithering and crawling around the planet!
Amphibians belong to the class Amphibia. This class includes frogs, toads, salamanders, and newts. Amphibians represent the transition between life in water and life on land. They first evolved the amniotic egg - which is protected by fluids and membranes - that can be laid on land, though most of the time it still needs to be a very wet environment. Amphibians are currently not on exhibit at the zoo because a special and unique habitat complex is being designed for them. It is estimated that there are a little over 6,000 species of amphibians on Earth though the changing climate is severly threatening their numbers. Check back soon for more extensive information on this subject.
The class listed above contains a favorite among frequent zoo visitors: Japanese Koi Fish. The world underwater is even more complex and varied than the world we know so well above water. There are countless species, diverse ecosystems, and so much that we don't even know. In addition to the amphibians that will soon join the zoo's family, we will have a few more fishes join us as well.
Tarantulas fall into the Arachnida class. These eight legged invertebrates represent a very important part of our global ecosystem. In addition to the amphibians and fishes, tarantulas will soon be making their way to the zoo, so check back!
Not only the animals but the plants, too, help to make the zoo home to a very diverse family of species! The grounds are stocked with native and exotic plants to help the animals feel as "at home" as possible.