Posted in animals on October 17th, 2010 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

(This is a continuation of my previous post of the same title which can be found here in case you missed it.)

(This is us with Jack Hanna!  In case you don’t know who he is,  I included a brief description of him in my previous blog post about the show!)

Before we went into the theater to see Jack Hanna’s live stage show, we were just standing there gawking at Jack Hanna signing autographs.  Suddenly, a group of young people came up to him, and he was so thrilled to see them that he quickly grabbed his cell phone and called his wife backstage, telling her that their ‘special friends’ would be coming backstage to see her.  The friends are then ushered away, and Jack announced during the show that they are the Von Trapp Children, a singing quartet of descendants from the family who inspired the infamous memoir, stage musical, and movie The Sound of Music.  Apparently they had been in the Chicago area to tape an episode of Oprah (which will air on October 29), and they’re family friends of Jack’s and stopped by his show to surprise him.

(Me waiting patiently while Jack signs just one of my many books that I brought!!)

Back to the show…  we are seated in the Paramount, and Jack Hanna comes out!!  The show itself was a mix of live animals being brought out on the stage and video clips shown on a large screen, all narrated by Jack with his trademark anecdotes and sense of humor.  In fact, at one point near the beginning of show, Jack Hanna began to tell a story, and all of a sudden he stops and looks off to the wings of the stage.  “Do I have time to tell this story?”  He asked  (presumably the producer backstage), but then he didn’t wait for an answer and replied to himself: “Of course I have time to tell it – it’s my show!”  It was not said in an arrogant fashion, but rather it seemed as if he were almost reminding himself that he is in charge.  It was glimpses of genuineness like this that made his show so special.  Jack Hanna is very real and down-to-earth (when it comes to being a celebrity anyway – often he is dreaming about ways to help animals with his head on  the clouds!), and these traits take precedent in his live appearances.

So the story he told was hilarious!  It was about his appearance on “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader”, and…  well, you can listen to it if you’d like:

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So between video clips of a few animal causes that are near and dear to Jack Hanna’s heart (Rolling Dog Ranch and  Mountain Gorilla Conservation, among others), the following live animals were brought out on the stage for Jack to tell us about: a Red-Ruffed Lemur, blind Barn Owl, Flamingo, 2-Toed Sloth (did you know that there is a bed and breakfast in South America where you get to take care of a baby sloth in your room overnight?  I just might get over this fear of flying thing quicker than I thought I would!!), 3-Banded Armadillo, Siberian Lynx, baby Coatamundi, baby Bennet’s Wallaby (got to meet him earlier at the Jamboree Lunch), Grey fox, Fennec Fox (got to meet him at lunch also), Lesser Anteater, an albino Python, and the finale – a full grown Cheetah!  Seeing the animals was great of course, and hearing live ‘Jack facts’ about them was even better.  But I think my favorite part of the show was the end – we watched a blooper reel of Jack getting licked, bitten, squirted, tossed around, etc. by animals, and one clip was of Jack Hanna making an appearance on David Letterman’s show in the ’80s.  Jack is showing Dave how to milk a goat, and as usual, Dave is cracking jokes.  Jack Hanna (the live version) cuts in, saying, “I didn’t even mean to do this!” and the video clip shows him accidentally squirting Letterman with a spray of milk from the goat’s udder!  There is only one more thing that can make watching Jack Hanna on Letterman even  more entertaining, and that is watching Jack Hanna on Letterman WITH Jack Hanna while he narrates it!!

We laughed (plenty of laughs when Jack and animals are involved!), we cried (that video clip of the Rolling Dog ranch was so heartwarming – the ranch takes dogs who are seriously ill, and many of them have extreme physical ailments), and then it was time to go.  But not before we got to hear Jack’s bear spray story again, and he even called on one of his assistants to act it out.  He told this story during his previous appearance on Letterman, and it was hilarious then as it was hearing it and seeing it live.  Funny, that is, until we found out during the live show what really happened during that previous Letterman appearance.  Apparently it wasn’t demonstration-style bear spray, but the real thing, and Jack got sprayed in the face, causing loss of vision for over 10 minutes and some minor facial burns.  Jack warned us (and David Letterman!) that he is planning revenge for his next appearance on the show in December, so stay tuned!!!

A sloth relaxing at a sloth sanctuary in Costa Rica.  While we were on the subject of sloths, this picture was too cute to pass up!!

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things…

Posted in animals on December 10th, 2008 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

animals.  Animals are my favorite things.  If I’m bored – yeah, right, with 4 kids, when does that happen?  Ok, if I were ever bored, my activity of choice would be to visit a zoo, wildlife park, pet store, or anyplace I could see animals.  Without leaving the house, I can also research animals on the internet.  One of my favorite animal sites is the University of Michigan’s Animal Diversity Web.  It’s amazing how much they’ve changed the taxonomy (classification of animals) from when I first started doing research on the subject not more than 10 years ago, but it’s true – this field is one that’s ever-changing.

Every now and then, I think I’ll choose an animal to share on my blog.  Today’s animal is the pangolin.  What is a pangolin, you ask?  Well, it’s a mammal, and it’s not a marsupial, a group which contains some of the lesser known species.  See, in the classification of mammals, you begin by separating them into placental mammals (live birth) and marsupials (young live in the mother’s pouch – all but one type live in Australia).  Of course, there is also a third category – egg-laying mammals, but we won’t go there because I don’t want to lose people’s interest by getting too complicated.

So anyway, the pangolin is a placental mammal, yet it’s scaly.  The scales are actually made of a hair-like material, thereby preserving its status as mammal.  Check this out – does this thing look prehistoric or what?

But they’re not prehistoric; they still exist today – I wonder how come I’ve never seen one at a zoo?  I guess it’s because some animals do better in captivity than others, and I applaud the zoo community for recognizing this.

Interesting tidbits about pangolins, as stated on the Animal Diversity Web:

Pangolins are a small group (seven living species placed in one genus and one family, Manidae) of mammals that feed mostly on ants. They are found in the tropical regions of Africa and Asia.  Pangolins are conspicuous and remarkable because their backs are covered with large, overlapping scales made up of agglutinated hairs. But they are strange in other ways as well. Their tongue is extraordinarily long and muscular, arising from the pelvis and the last pair of ribs deep in the animal’s chest. As a result, the tongue and associated muscles are longer than the animal’s head and body, allowing the tongue to be extruded to an astonishing degree. Pangolins lack teeth. Instead, the the pyloric part of their stomach is thickened and muscular, with odd keratinous spines projecting into its interior. It usually contains pebbles and seems to be used for “chewing” in much the same way as a bird’s gizzard. Pangolins have the ability to close their ears and nostrils as well as eyes, presumably to keep ants out.

In short, pangolins are fascinating animals that are closer to you and me on the taxonomy tree than most people would guess – they are mammals, after all.  Yet they are a mammal that most people have not heard of, and surprisingly, there are more than a few mammalian species that have this in common – I will try to share little known facts about little known mammals in my blog.

And oh yeah, since there was a complaint in the comments of another tangents.org blog about this – the song I quoted in my title is “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music.