Warning: this post contains vertebrates.
I am fortunate enough to have been to and seen lots of amazing places in my life. And as a result I have seen quite a few really interesting animals. This list will countdown my personal top-ten Zoological* encounters**.
- Giraffe/Elephant/Lion/Zebra/Hippo etc…
Ah, yes the classic safari animals in Tanzania, allowing endless stream of the charismatic megafauna. As impressive as it is see all these big animals up close, they are on the whole quite boring. Sitting in groups. Standing in groups. Sitting alone. Standing alone. If they weren’t big they’d be really boring. The fact that seeing all of them counts as one encounter says a lot. Coincidently this was the first time I had seen Tsetse flies in the wild too; but luckily I didn’t get bitten – but either way they were a distraction.
- Swarming Dragonflies
This is a very new addition, only about 3-4 weeks old. I was at the experimental hut site in Cove, Benin and just as the Sun started to come up (at around 5:30-6am) and the air warmed up there was a gradual increase in the number of dragonflies flying overhead. Until at last the air above our heads was swarming with numerous species of dragonflies. Annoying they were flying t fast to take any photos of. Considering the number of dragonfly adults, I’m amazed there are any mosquitoes to evaluate products in the experimental hut sites. As dragonflies feed on mosquitoes when both are in their aquatic and adult stages. Additionally this may have been an even more spectacular event if I wasn’t still half asleep from the 4:30am start!
- Stag Beetles
Seeing Stag Beetles is always a great, yet annoyingly infrequent. Those massive pinchers (for the males at least – show offs!) are just incredible. Unfortunately they are rare in the UK, but that makes seeing them more of an event.
In at number seven, despite probably only being a seven second glimpse in the leatherback turtle I saw in Tobago. First it was there, and then it just drifted deeper down, and as I only had a snorkel I wasn’t exactly in the best position to try and go and look for it.
- Elephant Seals
This encounter should probably be higher than it is really. It whole beach of elephant seals. I just wish I remember it better, but unfortunately it is little more than a distant memory – but is a good excuse to go back to California.
Once upon a time there was a Tarantula in a swimming pool. So I captured it in a net and released it. And we all lived happily ever after. The end. Yes, it is not an insect (two too many legs), but at least it is a invertebrate. I think entomologists need to show solidarity with the Arachnologists out there.
3-4. Fin Whale and Grey Whale
Two separate events, of equal putting. The grey whale was on the West coast of the USA, and the Fin whale off the west coast. Both were big, very very big. And yet could vanish and reappear and vanish again with ease. How can something so big just vanish! I did mention I wanted to be a marine zoologist at one point right!?
- Black Bear
Another fleeting glimpse event. But probably nearer twenty seconds. It was big, but luckily far away, although not far enough away to not want a fence in the way! Luckily it was scared off by some of the locals who seemed to know what they were doing as I stood terrified behind my dad (I was only very young at the time).
- Great White Shark
Okay, so this one is cheating a bit, as it was in captivity. But I don’t care. It was at Monterey Bay Aquarium (the best place in the world – fact), and it was only quite small. There were tuna in the tank that were bigger than it. But even still, it had the attitude that it was the boss of the tank. When I went to Monterey Bay Aquarium I wasn’t going there with the intent on seeing a great white shark, my family and I just got very lucky, and this perhaps partially explains my initial bias for wanting to be a marine zoologist.
*The term Zoological allows me to select both animals I’ve seen in the wild and those in captivity.
**I can’t really include that time I got bitten by Aedes aegypti, Anopheles arabiensis/gambiae because ideally those would have been encounters I’d rather not have had.