Thursday, December 31, 2015

Yuma Conservation Garden, 12/27/2015

The Yuma Conservation Garden is a Sonoran Desert botanical garden and natural habitat located near the Yuma Fairgrounds. The mission of the YCG is: "To provide environmental education encouraging stewardship of our natural resources." We had driven by it on numerous occasions without realizing it was there. If you are interested in visiting, turn into the large fairgrounds parking lot and park at the west end. The entrance can be found there through an opening in the fence that forms the perimeter of the garden.

There is no entrance fee (although we did purchase a Guide to the Gardens for $3 and donated some more). After passing through the entrance, a map of the area is displayed. As noted, the garden is open November through April on Saturdays and Sundays only. 

We followed the trails, marked by stones, through the garden. 

Fishhook barrel cactus. These cacti always face south, so if you are confused about where you are when hiking in the desert, these come in very handy. 

A wide variety of Sonoran Desert plant species can be seen along the trails. Many of these plants are found nowhere else in the world. Some are only found in specific regions of the Sonoran Desert. Having grown up in lush forests of Pennsylvania and North Carolina, I find these desert plants fascinating!

Here are some spiky closeups. 

There are several picnic areas with beautiful large mesquite trees. They provide homes for small animals and birds and the bean pods are a high protein source of food for coyotes, badgers, and early humans, too. The mesquite is four times as stable and twice as strong as oak. Wow!  

This is the habitat for desert tortoises at YCG. Of course, they were hibernating and will not be active until the temperature is consistently around 80 degrees. 

Some of my favorites: Various prickly pear varieties, saguaro, ocotillo, and huge cholla.

Footprints in the sand...

These California fan palm trees are the only palms that are native to Arizona. All other palm trees in the state are transplants (and they can be seen everywhere) The California fan palms are found in the southwestern corner of the state. 

This man-made pond was created to provide a riparian habitat in the garden. It's a lovely oasis in the Sonoran desert terrain. 

We enjoyed pausing at some benches scattered around the pond to enjoy the serenity of the setting and the beauty of the waterfowl.

There is also an extensive antique farm machinery on display in two sections of the garden.

We only saw one other family at the garden when we visited on a Sunday afternoon. For those that enjoy learning about the vegetation in a given region, this place is a fabulous location to learn about the Sonoran Desert. I very much appreciate the efforts of those that have created and now maintain this garden. For additional information, please see their website.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Camel Farm, 12/23/2015

A couple of days before Christmas (yes, I am just now getting around to writing about it!), we visited The Camel Farm. 

We had picked up a brochure about it when we were at the Yuma Visitor Center (at the Quartermaster Depot Historic State Park). Admission is $5/seniors ($6/adults) and a cup of food to feed the animals is $1/per. 

I am not a fan of caged animals and would have liked their pens to be more like a natural habitat for the animals. But, overall, they seemed healthy and were quite friendly. The pens were kept clean and the staff were friendly. 

In addition to camels (we saw 5 of them), there are some other exotic and domestic desert animals. This is advertised as a "Wild World Zoo" and Camel Farm, but it is more like a farm with animals in pens, than a zoo. 

These sheep were so friendly (of course, John, had some food for them). This Jacob (four-horned) Sheep is a primitive breed that dates back to biblical times (Genesis 30:25-43). They have a spotted fleece and can have four to six horns.  

These Painted Desert Sheep are a cross between Mouflon and Barbados sheep (and have been bred with Jacob Sheep, too, in more recent years). They are a hair sheep (do not grow wool) and can have coats with as many as four colors. They are adaptable to climates and very resistant to disease. This ewe and her kids were adorable.

Barbados Sheep originated in the Caribbean where they were raised primarily for meat. They are also hair sheep and are adaptable to both hot or cold climates. Loved the "beards"! Note the horizontal pupils that enable them to see 320 degrees! The next two  photos are of American Blackbelly Sheep.

There are weanling and yearling rams (of Barbados, Jacob, Painted Desert and cross breeds) in this pen. 

Arabian Camels (aka dromedaries) are native to the deserts of the Middle East and Asia. They do not store water in their bodies, but can withstand severe dehydration. Fat is stored in their humps that helps them survive when food is scarce.

And some more camel shots...

This Desert Tortoise really wanted out of his cage. Poor guy...did not see a mate.

Below are photos of two members of the same family as ostriches, a Rhea (native to South America grasslands) and an Emu (native to desert brushland of Australia. Males of both incubate the eggs and care for the chicks. Emus have a powerful kick, can run 50 mph, and can swim. 

Murphy, the wallaroo, is smaller than a kangaroo and larger than a wallabys. Native to Australia, they sleep mostly during the day and are active at night.

This Zeedonk is a hybrid zebra that is a result of crossing a zebra stallion with a female donkey. They are genetically unable to reproduce due to an odd number of chromosomes. Zebras have been bred with other equine breeds since the 19th century (at least). They are strong for their size but can be aggressive due to the zebra lineage.  

These miniature burros were adorable!

Water Buffalos, are traditional work animals in Asia, and have been domesticated for over 5,000 years. They are intelligent and gentle and well adapted for wet, swampy terrain (so what are they doing here??)

Despite my negative impression of this place initially, we honestly did enjoy seeing and feeding the animals. There is also a small gift shop with some animals in small cages in a side room. 

We saw a couple of families here and the children clearly enjoyed the experience. For additional information, check out their website.