Posts Tagged ‘wildlife’

Video: Hollywood Auditions: Calling All Bugs!

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

We see them in movies all the time, and we all tend to squirm. Like in Indiana Jones, when Kate Capshaw is covered in creepy crawly bugs which would give most of us the heebie jeebies. Yet, there are professionals that love working with bugs, spiders and all of those other little critters that have more legs than we do. Entomologists study bugs while learning their behavior, habits, and how they work as a community.

The Smithsonian has studied some of the most common bugs in our backyards, including the everyday household ant. We may think they are simple little insects, but they actually create complex underground homes that include several spiraling caves into well-planned chambers. They communicate in a variety of ways, vibrating their bodies to let others know of food or danger. But there really is nothing like seeing the more exotic leaf-cutter ant in its own habitat, which you can do in Costa Rica. These ants create their nests by crawling up trees, carving out leaves, and then taking them back home. The leaves are then used to create compost to help feed the colony.

Paula, from our family show called SciQ on the Smithsonian Channel, was incredibly brave to complete this segment with a very special Hollywood actress named Rosie. If you are as brave as Paula, we’ve provided an opportunity for you to feed a tarantula at our O. Orkin Insect Zoo at the National Museum of Natural History.

Take your future bug scientist on our Costa Rica Family tour this summer!

Which is your favorite bug you love to hate?

How to Impress Your Kids

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010
Amani, the National Zoo's two year old Cheetah, can change direction in midair while chasing prey. Photo Credit: Mehgan Murphy/Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Amani, the National Zoo's two year old Cheetah, can change direction in midair while chasing prey. Photo Credit: Mehgan Murphy/Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Every family vacation is an opportunity for parents to show off how much they really know about the world to their kids. We all remember dozing off in the back of the station wagon to our own parents’ teaching moments. This year, we’re introducing the Destination Smithsonian program, where families have the opportunity to experience the Smithsonian in a unique way. On our Destination Smithsonian: Multi-Media Photojournaling  package, kids ages 9-12 will be able to participate in photography workshops using their own digital cameras in the mornings and then share their knowledge with their parents on family excursions, like to the National Zoo, in the afternoon.

Which makes a parent wonder, “What kernels of knowledge will I have to share with my kid?”

To make sure you are prepared to impress, here are some crazy facts you can whip out while exploring the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park.

1. Bats can eat up to 3000 insects in one night! They are also the only mammal that can truly fly.

2. A large python can grow up to 20 feet long and can eat a goat whole. Plus, the females are usually bigger than the males.

3. There are some species of frogs that can glide up to 50 feet through the air. Other frogs, like the Poison Dart Frog, have toxins in their skins that can kill it’s predators, including small mammals and even humans.

4.  It is difficult to distinguish a tiger from a lion without it’s fur,  but the tiger is the only cat with striped fur.

5. Some hummingbirds are so tiny, they weigh less than a penny.

If you have a child that loves photography, check out Destination Smithsonian: Multi-Media Photojournaling in Washington, D.C.

What’s your favorite quirky animal fact? Share Below.

Cute Alert! Two Baby Clouded Leopards Born on Valentine's Day

Thursday, February 25th, 2010
The National Zoo's Front Royal Campus welcomed clouded leopard cubs on Valentines Day- Feb. 14, 2010. Photo credit: Mehgan Murphy, Smithsonian's National Zoo
The National Zoo’s Front Royal Campus welcomed clouded leopard cubs on Valentines Day- Feb. 14, 2010. Photo credit: Mehgan Murphy, Smithsonian’s National Zoo

The National Zoo is proud to announce the birth of not one, but two adorable baby boy clouded leopards born to Mom Jao Chu and Dad Hannibal! The babies were born at the Zoo’s conservation campus in Front Royal, VA, 16 minutes apart on Valentine’s Day. Each weighed little more than a half pound at birth. They join siblings Sa Ming(“brave warrior”) and Ta Moon (“mischievous child”).

Their parents, Jao Chu and Hannibal, are native to Thailand, but due to deforestation in the region their species was listed as “vulnerable to extinction.”  The family is currently hoping to upgrade their home due to their growing family. The facility they currently reside in was built in 1911, so the National Zoo has launched a campaign to raise $2 million for a new facility. The updated habitats for each breeding pair will include a climate-controlled and quiet indoor area attached to two 20-foot-tall climbing towers to simulate their natural forest environment. The current facility has done an outstanding job with 76 clouded leopard cubs being born in Front Royal since 1978.

You can visit family friends Tai and Mook on the Asia Trail at the National Zoo and learn more about clouded leopards from the Smithsonian Channel’s Ghost Cat: Saving the Clouded Leopard.

Vist the homeland of the clouded leopard in Thailand! Book by February 28th and save $500 on our Treasures of Angkor Wat and Vietnam tour.

What is your favorite baby animal? Monkeys? Pandas? Seal pups?

Video: Iditarod – Where the Dogs are Braver than the People

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

The Iditarod is considered to be “The Last Great Race on Earth”, but the rock stars of the event aren’t the people, they are the dogs. The most well-known breeds are the Siberian Husky and the Alaskan Malamute, but during the Gold Rush era, there were teams of Foxhounds and Staghounds. Most recently, the Alaskan Husky breed has been the most popular to be used competitively. Smithsonian Journeys Program Manager Alyssa Bobst had the opportunity to see the best of the best up close and personal while volunteering as a dog handler. You can read about her experience here.

How amazing are these dogs? Sled dogs have been known to travel more than 90 miles in a 24 hour period while pulling 85 pounds each. They can burn as much as 14,000 calories per day during the race. Mushers must put their total trust and faith in the world-class athletes of the dog world. But are their mushers a little nervous as they face 1049 miles in the freezing Alaskan weather? According to this well seasoned expert, they shouldn’t be nervous – they should be scared.

Would you compete in the Iditarod?

Sing The Iditarod Trail Song with Hobo Jim while getting up close and personal as a volunteer dog handler on our tour: The Iditarod: Alaska’s Race Extraordinaire

Photo: The Blue-Footed What?

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

Male blue-footed boobies are monogamous and have been known to whistle at passing females.

The poor blue-footed booby truly has an unfortunate name. The name “booby” originated from the Spanish term bobo, which means “stupid” or “foolish” like a clown. Although the bird may fly gracefully, he tends to be a bit clumsy on land.

He dances to impress the ladies, showing off his blue feet and flapping his wings.  As with most courtship displays, the majority of female birds in the vicinity of such a show just find it mildly amusing, until one takes pity on him and agrees to mate. The birds are monogamous, with partners taking turns to incubate the eggs.

You can see this little guy and his friends on The Galapagos for Families tour.

Which animal makes you laugh? Share Below.