Day off at Opel Zoo: red feathers thanks to red pepper powder

aBright colors can also be camouflaged. No one would think that about a red panda, at least at first glance. The two animals lie in the noon sun and form a red-and-green textbook that contrasts with the spring green of the birch trees in which they feel comfortable. However, it should be an art theory textbook. The books that Katja Vollert Hagendorf, a zoo teacher, studied were all about biology. Therefore, a zoo guide can tell the small group in the panda enclosure that the color is the best camouflage where the animals actually live: in the Himalayas in China and Nepal, from the foot of the mountains to an altitude of 4000 meters. As is often the case in Asia, many tree species there have reddish bark and reddish foliage.

Only three children and two mothers came to the Opel Zoo tour on Wednesday, and unusually few on the free daily holiday offer. The zoo is crowded. A little after 10:30, children and adults line up along the entire parking lot to get into one of the cash registers. Many of them are then drawn straight to African goats, which still show an astonishing amount of interest in the islands two hours after opening. Follert-Hagendorff also heads to the goat barn first. Not because of the food, but to explain something fundamental about the colors of the fur: the original form of the young goat species is black. This hides them at dusk. But since domestic animals belong to humans, breeding also plays a role, thus goat types also come in white, brown and piebald.

Males who are well fed admire

Then the zoo teacher wants to go to the quieter places in the zoo, but he’s not really quiet anywhere on that day off. The guide is called “Bright Colors or Do You Prefer Camouflage?” Flamingos prefer to shine – and unlike red pandas, their colors are not used for camouflage, but to attract attention. At least in the case of specific species, because during the mating season, as now in the spring, the males get red feathers on the wings of pale pink feathers. The reason is a combination of hormones and food, as Fullert Hagendorf explains: Well-nourished males impress them.

The red color is created in Africa by feeding shrimp, crabs, and prawns. The tour guide joked, however, that this range of food would make the Opel Zoo poor in the long run. That’s why the animals in Kronberg get red pepper powder mixed into their feed. This seems to serve its purpose, too. In any case, birds build nests regularly in the indoor enclosure before they are permanently outside. They did not need the breeding grounds that the zoo had prepared for them there this year.

Next is the Bukhara deer. This endangered species from Asia is in the process of changing from its beige-brown winter plumage, which fits perfectly in the beige-brown winter soils in its habitat, to lighter summer plumage. The Madagascar bird circles the stripes – the ring-tailed lemur grabs its curly tails while running so that family members can better see it. Sea turtles have red or yellow spots on the cheeks – so you know the specific species belongs to whom. Participants also learned a lot about the fur of Blackbacks and leopards before the tour ended in the shimmering metallic green of the Northern Bald Ibis.

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