E very day as I walk around the Zoo, guests stop me to ask, “Where are the … [fill in the blank]” – most often, it is lions, giraffes, elephants, or penguins.

As the guests walk away, I find myself confused as well. Why doesn’t anyone ask, “How do I get to the…” tailless whip scorpion, Indian roller, or dwarf caiman?

I think it’s simply because they don’t know about these animals, or that we have them at our Zoo.

Why don’t they know? I think it’s a matter of size.

We tend to be impressed with the extremes: the biggest bird, longest snake, or heaviest mammal. But there is plenty to be impressed about the littler things in life.

Of the Zoo’s over 500 animals, more than 75% of them are smaller than your average house cat. These smaller creatures are often easier to care for and move around. Many of them can be brought out into public areas to meet our guests, face to face. That’s not something we do with our gorillas!

Eeeww! is where almost all of our smallest creatures are displayed, including the tailless whip scorpion mentioned earlier. This unique-looking arachnid is related to spiders and true scorpions. The front-most pair of legs are elongated into antennae (feelers). It camouflages exceptionally well, so you have to look closely if you expect to see it!

We tend to be impressed with the extremes: the biggest bird, longest snake, or heaviest mammal. But there is plenty to be impressed about the littler things in life.

The Wings of Asia walkthrough aviary also houses some little, colorful creatures. You may even catch a glimpse of the dramatic flight display of our Indian roller. This small, vibrant bird, related to kingfishers and hornbills, shows off its bright blue wings as it flaps, glides, and dives.

In Rainforest Passage, there are colorful dart frogs, elusive amphibians, and the “grinning” dwarf caiman. The smallest member of the alligator and crocodile family, the dwarf caiman has heavily-armored skin that protects it from larger predators. The upturns at the corners of its mouth make it look like it has a permanent smile. How cool is that?

So, I’m not saying penguins and elephants aren’t interesting, but great things also come in small packages… and are waiting to be discovered.

Rachel Ritchason

About Rachel Ritchason

Rachel is the Curator of Birds and Records at the Santa Barbara Zoo.

SANTA BARBARA ZOO
500 Ninos Drive, Santa Barbara, CA 93103