Africa’s Beauty and the Beast at Zoo Atlanta

April 23, 2012 at 7:28 am (Atlanta, Nature, Photography, Wildlife, Zoos) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Well, I guess they’re all beasts, but some are awfully beautiful.  This is part 3 of the critters at Zoo Atlanta.


Orangutans are another endangered large mammal, whose name in Malay, “orangutan hutan” means “person of the forest.”

From an Associated Press article:  There are more than 200 orangutans at 55 zoos across the United States. The animals hail from Sumatra and Borneo in Indonesia, where deforestation and population growth has caused the Sumatran orangutan numbers to plummet to just 4,500.  The article, published in the Huffington Post, describes Zoo Atlanta’s Great Ape Heart Project, which they are expanding to include orangutans.


Giraffes are among the iconic beasts of the African savannah, and always a zoo favorite.  The common reticulated and the more threatened Rothschild giraffes reside at Zoo Atlanta with zebras, ostrich, and other compatible critters.  In the wild, many of these species like to herd with giraffes because they are often first to spot predators, thanks to their height.

Giraffe family, Zoo Atlanta

The Black Rhinoceros is one of the giraffe’s neighbors, and is critically endangered due to poaching.  It is often killed only for its horn, which supposedly has medicinal properties.

Black Rhinoceros

Black Rhinoceros

The warthog is another African beast, but undoubtedly its mother thinks it’s a beauty.  They live south of the Sahara to the southern tip of Africa.  Like other swine, they enjoy a good mud bath on a hot day.

Warthog in mud

Now here’s a real cutie – the meerkat even had its own TV show (Meerkat Manor).  But there is a Jekyll-Hyde personality to meerkats.  Although they live in cooperative family groups, a dominant female can kill the kittens of a subordinate female, or banish her from the group if she is pregnant, to avoid competition.


Hard to believe they can be so cutthroat, huh?  The meerkat lives in southern Africa, and have an interesting group dynamic, which you can read about on Zoo Atlanta’s Meerkat page.

Meerkat on alert

Of course, we can’t leave out two other African icons – the elephant and zebra.  Elephants eat 200 to 300 pounds of food a day and drink 100 gallons of water.  Their trunks are so sensitive they can pick up a single blade of grass, or lift an entire log.  They are considered “vulnerable” in the wild, meaning not quite endangered, but not really safe either.  International laws regulating the sale of ivory have reduced poaching, as elephants were killed solely for their tusks.

African elephant

The prolific zebra is not considered in jeopardy, but its habitat is being lost to agricultural expansion.  Fun fact:  no two zebras have the same pattern of stripes.


The Superb Starling is nothing like the imported European starling that has infested America.  This east African species is absolutely gorgeous, and resides in the aviary at Zoo Atlanta in free-flying bliss.

Superb Starling

Although one of the six flamingo species in the world resides in Africa (lesser flamingo), the ones on display at Zoo Atlanta are Chilean flamingos.  Interesting factoid:  what we think of as the knee is actually the ankle on the flamingo.  Flamingos can live to be 50 years old.

Chilean flamingo

Cindy McIntyre’s website and Zoo photos


  1. Bob Zeller said,

    A superb post and great photos, Cindy. I love zoos. 🙂

  2. phil said,

    Really great photos, i especially like the giraffe photo. You have a real talent.

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