Meet the San Diego Zoo’s lineup of animals

Four Hawkeyes interacted personally with some of the San Diego Zoo’s animals.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa players meet Zena, a Two-Toed Sloth, at the San Diego Zoo in San Diego on Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2019.

Anna Kayser, Sports Editor

Four Hawkeyes had the chance to interact up close with animals from the San Diego Zoo on Dec. 25.

The Paulsen twins, Landan and Levi, Nick Niemann, and Cedrick Lattimore met three very different animals from around the world. Here are their stories.

Jambo — African Pygmy Falcon

Shivansh Ahuja
Handlers show a Pygmy Falcon at the San Diego Zoo in San Diego on Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2019.

The first animal to greet the Iowa players was Jambo, an African pygmy falcon. Despite her small size — small enough to fit in two hands — her beak and talons make her a predator in Africa. The females of the species have rust-color on their backs, separating them from their all-gray male counterparts.

In the wild, African pygmy falcons eat small rodents and reptiles, but in the zoo, their diets are regulated. As for nesting, instead of building their own, the falcons like to take over the nests of other animals in exchange for protection over the rest of the nests in the habitat.

Shakira — Legless Lizard

Shivansh Ahuja
Handlers show a legless lizard at the San Diego Zoo in San Diego on Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2019.

Despite this animal’s similar appearance to a snake, Shakira is actually a legless lizard. She is nonvenomous and burrows into the ground using her hips. The lizards have lines running down their bodies that signify the difference between lizards and snakes.

Shakira recently came to the San Diego Zoo from SeaWorld. She gets fed every other day and eats insects and baby mice, as well as vitamins and minerals.

Zena — Sloth

Zena, a two-toed sloth, sticks out her tongue during Iowa’s tour of the San Diego Zoo on Wednesday, December 25, 2019. The Hawkeyes met a few animals and then toured the exhibits.

The final animal brought out to the players was Zena, a sloth that they were able to pet. She was born and raised in the San Diego Zoo, and from being hand-fed for the beginning of her life, doesn’t know how to hold her own food. Sloths hang upside down from a branch and eat from a dish or a skewer, so they don’t usually use their hands.

Contrary to popular belief, sloths can move quickly but have a very slow digestive system. They eat food that is hard to break down and moves slowly through their four-chambered stomachs. Sloths eat only plant matter.

Zena has a child who lives in the zoo. Baby sloths are very independent and only rely on their mothers and their milk for about 10 days. Sloths are messy eaters, so when crumbs fall down from their mouths, the babies are there to snarf them.

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