Seals! I photographed these at the Reykjavík zoo, although they are native to Iceland. Those of you who know me, which assume is all of you (all three of you) will know that I love wildlife and therefore really enjoy visiting zoos. So when I heard that I was moving to a town with a zoo, I was excited.
Due to its isolation from the rest of the world, Iceland has very few native animals. Seals are among them. These in the photo are harbor seals (or common seals, if you’re from Britain) and are common here in Iceland, but the grey seals are fairly common here too. I’ve heard that more northerly species like ringed seals, bearded seals, and harp seals occasionally visit from the Arctic. The Settlement museum also indicated that walrus used to be common here but were hunted out during the Middle Ages.
Yes, those are cows. Apart from the seals and an arctic fox, the Reykjavík zoo is home to primarily to farm animals. I guess you can’t expect a whole lot of really exotic species to do too well in a zoo here once Icelandic winter strikes.
Here is an Icelandic horse. A few days before this, Dad and I went horse-back riding. These little horses are pretty unique. We rode across part of a lava field, and I’m fairly certain it would have been much more difficult on foot. It’s really impressive to see what sorts of terrain these horses can handle. I did not manage to get the horse I was riding into the famous five-point gait (called a tölt), but I am assured that the horse was capable of it.
I won’t bore y’all with excessive pictures of livestock. Needless to say, this zoo was not as exciting as I had hoped, but for what it is, it’s a nice zoo.
Last, but not least, is the reindeer. These are not native to Iceland, but were introduced in the 18th century (if I remember correctly). I’m told there’s a pretty big herd of them roaming about eastern Iceland now.
This exhibit gives me an idea for what Reykjavík could do should it ever decide to build a more zoo-like zoo (or just expand the current zoo). Have you ever visited or heard of the Highland Wildlife Park in Kingussie, Scotland? It’s well worth a trip, if you’re in the area. It’s run by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (i.e. Edinburgh Zoo), and its goal is to showcase animals that come from colder climates that are similar to the Scottish Highlands. So there are no lions, elephants, or other African staples of other successful zoos. Instead there are European bison, Moose (Elk, to you Europeans), Mishmi Takins, Bactrian camels, Siberian tigers, and all manner of beasts native to Northern Europe, Siberia, the Himalayas, and other cold and craggy regions. It’s a really great zoo.
Reykjavík’s zoo could host a selection of animals from the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions, animals that would deal with the cold in their natural habitats. Iceland is, of course, surprisingly temperate for being as far north as it is, but these would still be more at home here than giraffes or orangutans. If Reykjavík were to miraculously gain a huge grant for building a zoo (not likely in this economy), they could add a few exhibits for animals like muskoxen, polar bears, and walrus. You know, you just don’t see many walrus in zoos. It’s just a thought.
Until next time,