The Oasis: A Place of Transition Part II Animal Kingdom
by Deb Wills, Editor-in-Chief
This article appeared in the
December 7, 2004, Issue #272 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
With its colorful lush vegetation, rays of sunshine filtering through the trees, and the sound of water running down rocks, the Oasis is a peaceful transition into Animal Kingdom. The winding paths intersect, but also go off in their own directions, so be sure to explore this area carefully. I find this to be one of the most beautiful and peaceful areas in the park and have spent well over an hour on each of my last several visits to Animal Kingdom exploring the paths and viewing areas.
If the above sounds familiar, it's because a few weeks ago (ALL EARS®, Issue #266) I wrote about the beauty of Animal Kingdom's Oasis — that area of the park that most folks tend to rush through, excited to see the Tree of Life and reach their first attraction. This week, I continue my exploration of the Oasis.
A Tour of the Oasis – Part II
On a recent visit, I found along one of the paths on the right side of the Oasis a number of animals I hadn't seen before, such as the Reeve's Muntjac. This small member of the deer family lives mainly in Eastern Asia (Taiwan and China). Their height when full-grown is around three feet and they weigh 20 to 30 pounds. They are mostly nocturnal and eat in the early morning or during the night. Their diet consists of grasses, tender leaves, and shoots. The males have antlers (the females don't) as well as a black V pattern on their forehead. The pattern on the females is a diamond shape. The unique thing about the Reeve's Muntjac is that when they are alarmed, they can emit a deep barking noise, which you might mistake for a large dog. This has given them the nickname of "barking deer."
Photo Tip: Besides being nocturnal, the Reeve's Muntjac is very timid and shy. Patience is the key to getting a photo that isn't blurry.
Next is the Indonesian Babirusa, which means "pig deer." Babirusa have antler-like tusks that remind me of Pumbaa (the Lion King's warthog). They also sport very large canine teeth. In fact, the canines can grow up to 12 inches long. This quick runner and swimmer prefers to eat in the morning. Not surprisingly, given their name's translation, they also love to wallow in the mud. They eat fruits and vegetables, as well as birds and small animals and tend to be shy, living either alone or in a small family group. Some believe the babirusa are related to the hippopotamus. The Babirusa's lifespan is approximately 24 years, but their existence is threatened, mainly due to poaching. Males may fight each other standing on their back legs in a "boxing" stance. A male and a female Babirusa can be found in the Oasis.
Photo Tip: The best time to photograph the Babirusa seems to be in the morning; otherwise, you will often find them sleeping.
In part I of this series, I talked about the Military Macaw. But did you know that macaws are really just the largest type of parrot? Although we think of parrots as mimicking our voices, macaws actually do very little of that. Instead, their sounds tend to be loud shrieks and squawks. Along with the Military Macaw found in the Oasis, you will also find a pair of brightly colored Hyacinth Macaws, the largest of all the macaws. Both macaws are on the endangered species list. Their home is the tropical rainforests of Brazil. They dine on seeds, palm fruits and nuts. An interesting fact is that although they appear blue, there is no blue pigment in the feathers! According to the Animal Kingdom field guide, it is the structure of the feather that produces the blue cast.
Photo Tip: The trick here is to get both of the macaws "still" at the same time when you snap your photo of them!
The Yellow-bellied Sliders can often be found sunning themselves on a log in the water. You might miss them if you don't look carefully, as they can blend into the landscape. The Sliders are native to the wetlands of the southeastern United States. They are about 10 inches long when fully grown.
Photo Tip: The Sliders are often stationary as they rest on the logs, making photographs relatively easy.
A Black Neck Swan can be found swimming in the Oasis or Discovery Island Trails. One spring, the Swan was partially obscured by heavy foliage, as she was nesting and awaiting the birth of her young. She hissed as I stood there (quietly, I thought) watching her. The Black Neck Swan is very striking with her white body, black neck and head, and large red knob at the base of her bill. This is one of the smallest swans. Native along the coastline of South America, the Black Neck Swan feeds on algae, aquatic insects and pondweeds. There is no distinction in color between the male and female, but the female is smaller. The young cygnets have no knob on their bill.
Photo Tip: I have only seen the swan the one time when she was nesting in May.
Bahama Pintail, Hooded Merganser, Ringed Teal, Indian Spotbill — these ducks are fun to watch as they move quickly, bobbing in and out of the water, cleaning and preening themselves. The Bahama Pintail is brown in color with white cheeks. They are native to the West Indies, the Galapagos and central South America. The Bahama Pintail nests on the ground, hiding amidst the thick vegetation and tree roots. The Hooded Merganser is a striking duck that likes quiet shallow water. The males have black heads and the female's head is almost cinnamon in color. The Merganser is a premier diver and they can see fairly well underwater as they forage for food. The Hooded Merganser is unique in that it stays in North America year-round. Its diet consists of small fish, tadpoles and other aquatic life.
The Ringed Teal is from South America. They love to fly and can be found perched on trees just as easily as in the water. They, too, spend their time diving into the water for their food. Their head and neck go underwater and their tail is in the air. They paddle their feet to keep themselves in this position. The Indian Spotbill has a bright-colored orange patch at the base of the bill that becomes larger and more vibrant during mating season. They feed on worms, water snails and aquatic insects.
Photo Tip: These ducks move about quickly as they dive in and out of the water, so be sure to have a quick shutter speed (or high speed film) to capture them.
Say the word "wallaby" and immediately thoughts go to kangaroos and Australia, the Land Down Under. A wallaby is actually a small-sized kangaroo and there are 50 species. The Oasis is home to a Swamp Wallaby. Males weigh about 13 pounds and the females about 10. They have extremely strong hind legs and a tail that provides great muscles for jumping. The tail sometimes acts as a third leg, sometimes used for balancing. The wallaby is nocturnal and very solitary. You may only find wallabies in groups when they are feeding on the grasses and herbs in their habitat. As it moves about, the wallaby keeps its arms tucked close to its body to protect them. The numbers of wallabies are dwindling as the wetlands disappear.
Photo Tip: The wallaby is difficult to photograph since it tends to hide in the brush. My optical zoom just wouldn't get a close enough photo, and using the digital zoom blurred the picture some. Lots of patience is needed for a photo of the wallaby.
As I said before when talking about the Oasis, you need to be mindful of the fact that animal- and bird-watching require patience and quiet. If you're looking for a place to "stop and smell the roses" — or even if you're not — take the time to slow down and soak in the peaceful atmosphere and the beauty of the flora and fauna that make up Animal Kingdom's Oasis.
This article appeared in the December 7, 2004, Issue #272 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753); it was last updated March 2009.