After Kokkrebellur trip we went back to Mysore. We had our breakfast at nearby McDonald’s outlet on the Bangalore Mysore Highway. It was a contrast from earthly Kokkrebellur to McDonald’s outlet. I did not find anything tasty or interesting other than nice Rio movie memorabilia toys which my daughter liked very much.
Research from the University of Warwick shows a trip to the zoo can boost your child’s science and conservation education more than books or classroom teaching alone. I’m always conflicted when I go to a zoo seeing animals piled up in small enclosures like slaves. It breaks my heart but at the same time, I can’t deny the education those zoos give us, especially children. They create an awareness of how precious, diversified and beautiful life is and we need to take care of it. So our next destination was Mysore zoo. I had taken lot of pictures at the zoo as I had whole day ahead of me there. I present few of them here and the rest in the second part.
Mysore Zoo (also known as Chamarajendra Zoological Garden) was started in 1892 by Chamaraja Wodeyar X, then the king of Mysore. Initially as a private Zoo, and was named as Khas-Bangle. It was also called as Thamasha Bangle. The Zoo which has now spread over an area of 250 acres was initially meant for the exclusive visit of the royal family but public entry started as early as 1920. It is located inside the city unlike many other Zoos in India. The Zoo has around 165 species on display with 1,320 animals and birds. It is also credited with achieving considerable break-through in captive breeding of many animals.
Zoo photography is a great opportunity to photograph animals that we would probably never see otherwise so close in the wild. Before going to the zoo look at a map of the grounds and prioritize which animals you’d like to shoot. Then learn about animal behaviors and sleep patterns as well as scanning through images for more inspiration. Some zoos might also have no-flash or no-tripod policies in certain areas.
The best light is either early in the morning or a few hours before sunset so try to photograph your favorite animals during that time. Keep the indoor shots for mid-day when the sun is high in the sky. If you are lucky to have an cloudy overcast day then enjoy shooting all day without any worries. Take note of special events, like feedings when you can catch some great shots if you plan ahead for those events.
I went to Mysore zoo with my trusty Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM on Canon EOS 7D. I had Canon EF 1.4x III Extenderinitially on that lens. But realized that I needed to go wider to get better view some times. Canon EOS 7D was with crop factor 1.6x yielded a widest view of 112mm on my 70-200mm lens. With 1.4x Extender that become 156mm. So I removed 1.4x Extender and kept back in the pocket. You need a telephoto lens to get in really close and also to remove unwanted backgrounds. It also create nice, soft bokeh. Most zoos will also have a creepy crawly enclosure with reptiles, spiders and butterflies. This is when a fast macro lens comes in handy. I say fast because some of those displays are in darker areas so being able to shoot at f2.8 is almost a necessity. Make sure you keep your lens hood on your camera. Not only will it protect your lens from crowds or fences, it might also prevent sun flares. You don’t always have a choice of where you can shoot and you might have the sun as a back light. Consider bringing a flash. I personally didn’t use flash on most animals since I knew it bothers them and in some cases might even harm them. But I will use it with butterflies or exotic flowers.
It might not always be that easy to think about composition at a zoo but taking a few minutes to survey the animal’s surroundings can make a difference. Observe the animal’s surroundings and see where would be the best spot to add the best habitat so that the animal looks like its in the wild. Get in as close as you can to eliminate background distractions. Think in terms of taking a portrait of a human being. Look for their good side, facial expressions, the right light to flatter their features. Make sure you focus on the eyes. Try getting at eye level with your subject. This will bring a sense of presence and intimacy with your subject. Try unusual and strange angles.
Shooting through fences is most likely unavoidable. To avoid it get as close to the fence as possible to get the least amount of fence in the shot and to have it as far away from your subject relative to your lens. Use your telephoto lens and zoom all the way in. Set your aperture to its widest setting (smallest number) to get shallow depth of field.
The bad thing about glass enclosure is that it reflects all light hitting it so you get glare. The trick here it to simply change you angle of view until most or all glare disappears. If you’re using flash, you’ll really have to be at an angle. You need to use off camera flash holding it in one hand at an angle.
“Zoo: An excellent place to study the habits of human beings.” said, Evan Esar, a very popular American humorist. So don’t miss out on the human who watch these animals. Antiques of the humans sometimes exceeds that of the monkeys inside the enclosure. I was so annoyed by several tourists who had gathered at the zoo trying to harass the gorilla or asking the tiger to roar. Trying photograph in the midst of all the chaos and rush is itself an experience.
As you enter Mysore zoo you will be greeted by three majestic giraffes. This zoo had remarkable success in breading giraffes. One of the Giraffe there called Krishnaraja was born at the same zoo in 1996. Recent entry into this giraffe enclosure from Lucknow zoo was a female giraffe called Kushi who mated with Krishnaraja and had a female calf recently.
The giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) is an African even-toed ungulate mammal, the tallest of all extant land-living animal species, and the largest ruminant. The giraffe is related to other even-toed ungulates, such as deer and cattle, but is placed in a separate family, the Giraffidae, consisting of only the giraffe and its closest relative, the okapi, and their extinct relatives. Its range extends from Chad in Central Africa to South Africa. Giraffes usually inhabit savannas, grasslands, or open woodlands. However, when food is scarce they will venture into areas with denser vegetation.
The giraffe’s fur may serve as a chemical defense, and is full of antibiotics and parasite repellents that gives the animal a characteristic scent. Old males are sometimes nicknamed “stink bulls”. There are at least eleven main aromatic chemicals in the fur, although indole and 3-methylindole are responsible for most of their smell. Because the males have a stronger odor than the females, it is also suspected that it has a sexual function. The giraffe has one of the shortest sleep requirements of any mammal, which averages 4.6 hours per 24 hours. Male giraffes are up to 5.5 metres (18 ft) tall at the horn tips, and weigh between 800 and 1,930 kilograms (1,800 and 4,300 lb). Females are between 4 and 4.5 metres (13 and 14.8 ft) tall and weigh between 550 and 1,180 kilograms (1,200 and 2,600 lb). The coat is made up of brown blotches or patches separated by lighter hair. Each giraffe has a unique coat pattern.
A giraffe’s heart, which can weigh up to 10 kg and measure about 60 cm (2 ft) long, must generate approximately double the normal blood pressure for an average large mammal to maintain blood flow to the brain.In the upper neck, a complex pressure-regulation system called the rete mirabile prevents excess blood flow to the brain when the giraffe lowers its head to drink. The jugular veins also contain several (most commonly seven) valves to minimize blood flowing back into the head and assist it getting to the inferior vena cava and right atrium in the same situation. Conversely, the blood vessels in the lower legs are under great pressure (because of the weight of fluid pressing down on them). In other animals such pressure would force the blood out through the capillary walls; giraffes, however, have a very tight sheath of thick skin over their lower limbs which maintains high extra-vascular pressure in the same way as a pilot’s g-suit.
Other males may worry that losing their hair will make them less appealing. But for Guru the chimpanzee, his baldness has turned him into a star attraction. The 22-year-old chimp is suffering from a skin condition called alopecia universalis and has lost the hair from all over his body. But the mischievous chimp still brings hundreds of visitors flocking to Mysore Zoo despite greeting them by throwing stones. He beats his chest, and claps a lot when children come near his enclosure.
Guru had lost his hair before being rescued from a circus and moved to Vandalur Zoo in Chennai. He lived there for almost a decade, but was transferred to Mysore Zoo seven years ago so that specialist vets could monitor his condition. However, with chimpanzees being so much like humans, factors in Guru’s life such a stress or trauma, which can induce alopecia in humans. Vets at zoo have tried a number of medicines on him, but to date there have been no positive results, and as a last resort they are planning to consult a human skin doctor.
Fortunately, Guru’s baldness doesn’t seem to have affected his popularity among his own species. To stop him getting lonely, zoo officials have allowed a female chimpanzee, Manila, to move into his enclosure. But although Guru plays cheerfully with her, he hasn’t taken things any further – to the surprise of his handlers. He got separated from his parents at a tender age and most probably this could be a reason that he hasn’t learned to mate.
There are three male chimpanzees in the Mysore zoo, Mason, 19, Vali, 15 and Guru, 22. There are also two female chimpanzees Manilla, 18, and Ganga, 42. They are kept in separate enclosures to prevent possiblities of getting into fights. With all the tricks in their trade to rouse the primeval instincts of the three male chimps mate with the two females in zoo having failed miserably so far, the staff are planning to procure some animal sex movies, of chimps mating, hoping to rouse the resident chimps enough for them have a go at the females in the enclosure.
Mysore zoo holds a rare record, that of being the only zoo in the whole country to host a Western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla). But, lady luck has eluded zoo authorities when it comes to breeding gorillas in captivity. The whole country raised its eyebrows when a pair of gorillas were transported to the zoo, way back in 1976.The pair of gorillas named, Sugreeva and Sumathi were at one point, the star attractions of the Mysore zoo. People enjoyed the pranks of the gorillas for hours on end. The zoo authorities built a special enclosure for the pair with the fond hope of their breeding.
Unfortunately, Sugreeva, the male gorilla died within one year. Since then, Sumathi lived solitarily for more than 16 years. The zoo authorities corresponded with the authorities of the world’s leading zoos, seeking a male gorilla. In 1992, Bobo, a male gorilla, was brought to the zoo from Tel Aviv in Israel. However, Bobo became diabetic and its forehand was amputated because of gangrene. Subsequently, it died.
After four years of correspondence, the zoo received Polo, a 1972-born male gorilla as a gift from the Dublin zoo. Breeding was not meant to be and Sumathi who had aged considerably died in October 2001 following a cardiac arrest. Now, Polo has been living a solitary life for over seven years. Meanwhile, a female gorilla was caught in the wild by Kolmardan Zoo but it died before it could be transported to Mysore.
According to IUCN Red List (2008), Gorilla taxa are considered critically endangered. Its population reduction of more than 80% over three generations. The listing is based on exceptionally high levels of hunting and disease-induced mortality (over 90% in some large remote areas, including the second largest protected population at Minkébé), which combined are estimated to have caused its abundance to decline by more than 60% alone over the last 20 to 25 years. Most protected areas have serious poaching problems and almost half of the habitat under protected status has been hard hit by Ebola. Commercial hunting and Ebola induced mortality are both continuing (even accelerating), threats that are not readily mitigated. If the current Ebola epizootic continues at the same rate and trajectory, then the decline in Western Gorilla abundance in all protected areas is projected to be on the order of 45% for the 20-year period spanning 1992 to 2011 (not accounting for other threat factors such as hunting). Furthermore, gorilla reproductive rates are extremely low (maximum intrinsic rate of increase about 3%). Therefore, even an immediate cessation of Ebola mortality and a drastic reduction in the rate of hunting (neither of which seem likely) would not result in rapid population recovery. Rather, under the most optimistic scenarios, population recovery would require on the order of 75 years.
The plains zebra (Equus quagga), also known as the common zebra or Burchell’s zebra, is the most common and geographically widespread species of zebra.It ranges from the south of Ethiopia through East Africa to as far south as Angola and eastern South Africa. The plains zebra remains common in game reserves, but is threatened by human activities such as hunting for its meat and hide, as well as competition with livestock and encroachment by farming on much of its habitat.
They are boldly striped in black and white, and no two individuals look exactly alike. They also have black or dark muzzles. The natal coat of a foal is brown and white. All have vertical stripes on the forepart of the body, which tend towards the horizontal on the hindquarters. An experiment was done at the Knoxville Zoo where a zebra was shaved. The underlying skin was black, not the previously thought white. There have been various mutations of the zebra’s pelage from mostly white to mostly black. Rare albino zebras have been recorded in the forests of Mount Kenya.
The 32-year-old female African white rhinoceros Hidimba died recently at the zoo after it got stuck in the moat of the open enclosure when its male counterpart Bheema attacked it from the back. It had sustained intestinal injuries. Now Bheema the male rhino is alone in that enclosure.
The White Rhinoceros or Square-lipped rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) is one of the five species of rhinoceros that still exist and is one of the few megafaunal species left. It has a wide mouth used for grazing and is the most social of all rhino species. The White Rhino consists of two subspecies: the Southern White Rhino, with an estimated 17,480 wild-living animals at the end of 2007 (IUCN 2008), and the much rarer Northern White Rhino. The northern subspecies may have eight remaining worldwide — all in captivity.
A pair of Asiatic lions arrived at the Mysore zoo from the Sakkarbaug Zoo in Gujarat few weeks back. The zoo will be displaying the pure-breeds after a gap of 21 years. The zoo had Asiatic lions in 1989, but they could not breed and did not survive. Asiatic lions are a highly endangered species, surviving only in the Gir forests of Gujarat. Asiatic lions were smaller in size than their African counterparts, attaining sexual maturity between the ages of two-and-a-half to 3 years. The gestation period was 95 to 105 days. The life expectancy of the lions was about 15 to 20 years, and approximately 350 remained in the wild.
The lions have arrived here under the animal exchange program. The Mysore zoo has given three gaurs, a pair of marmosets, three Lady Amherst’s pheasants, a pair of Khaleej pheasants, a pair of Malabar giant squirrels and a pair of green pheasants under the program. In exchange, the Sakkarbaug Zoo has given the lion pair, a pair of white spoonbills, five ring-necked pheasants, three comb ducks, five Alexandrian parakeets and a pair of blossom-headed parakeets.
I was fortunate to witness the amorous display and mating of the lion pair when I was there. Female was reluctantly sitting next to the male. Lion started caressing lioness and licking her allover. Once she was cooperative he started mounting her. Outside the Sakkarbaug Zoo, no other center is able to breed Asiatic lions. So if Mysore zoo achieves breeding it will be great achievement.