It’s all happening at the zoo. . . . part 1

A month ago, I drove to Wichita, Kansas, to present a session at the annual conference of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC). My session was for people who are keeping rare-breed sheep on how to market their wool to spinners and other fiber folks. This is a part of the conservation equation that I've been envisioning for many years and we finally had an opportunity to put it together. Wow, is it fun to share ideas with people who either have, or intend to soon acquire, rare-breed sheep. I've done that before, with one flock at a time, but we had a bunch of folks together all at once. It was truly delightful.

The daytime events for the conference were held at the Sedgwick County Zoo, which is extremely active in the conservation not only of wild species but also of domesticated breeds of animals.

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All participants in the conference were granted access to the zoo itself throughout the event, so during times when all the available sessions were about meat production (not my forte), I walked out the back door of the conference center and looked around.

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Domesticated animals

There are three "farm" areas where the livestock conservancy activities are centered: the American farm, the Asian farm, and the African farm. They're called the "Children's Farms," but don't let that mislead you. There's serious business going on here. The format just makes the animals really accessible, so kids (human) can get acquainted with them. (The animals throughout the zoo have access to privacy, and in the case of the farm animals spend their "off hours" in a different set of spaces that are less structured. Not all animals are out where the public can see them.)

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In that picture, those are Jacob (spotted) and Navajo-Churro sheep, in the American farm area. What an amazing opportunity for the rare sheep to get to know people, and vice versa!

Signage talks about the ALBC and the breeds' history and status.

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There are something like 38 rare livestock breeds in these three farm areas. In addition to the Navajo-Churros (shown pretty clearly in the photo above), there are the American Jacobs, with a better photo here. . . .

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. . . and Karakuls, in the Asian farm. . . .

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. . . and American Tunis, located in the African farm area. I suspect the location decision occurred because, although the breed is 100% American, its roots began in north Africa. . . .

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I also spotted this little goat in the African farm. I don't know what kind it is, other than exceptionally cute. I'll bet it's also mischievous. Goats are, in general, and then there's that extremely innocent look on this one's face. . . .

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There are other fiber animals in the farms, including camels (although these are dromedaries, not the Bactrian camels that produce most camel down and hair):

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. . . and yaks, over in Asia.

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I don't have a fancy camera. Throughout this zoo, I found I had an amazing ability to get close enough for decent snapshots. The reconciliation of visitors' access and residents' privacy needs was masterfully accomplished through the design of the spaces.

Here are a few other ALBC-listed residents of the farm areas.

Poitou donkey, outside, and what I'm thinking is an American Mammoth Jackstock, mostly inside. . . .

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On the other side of the fence are American Cream horses, which are large draft horses. Yes, the equine population involves a lot of very large animals (also miniature donkeys, although I didn't get their picture taken).

There are also a number of types of cattle, including the Ancient White Park, which is horned (the American White Park, genetically quite different, is polled, or hornless).

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I think this is a Japanese silkie chicken:

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I don't think it's rare, but it is fun to see.

These photos just hint at who's hanging out in the farm areas. The zebus were astonishing.

I did wander off to see some of the "regular" zoo areas as well. I'll start another post for that section.

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6 Responses

  1. Boy that looks like a fun place to visit. One of the County fairs here in Vermont has a really nice rare breeds exhibit every year…just animals that lived here in VT in the past. Love it!

  2. Susan, I would love to visit that county fair!

  3. fascinating, your setting up a marketing system for rare breed fleece. i am thinking about the “new economy” and this kind of thing seems to be at the top of the list — new age commodity broker? it’s a good thing, keep us posted.

  4. Jeannette, that’s an intriguing observation. While I have no interest in being a commodity broker, I do have a tremendous interest in helping individuals who have fiber connect with those who want to use it.

  5. Silkies were some of my favourite chickens. I had white, brown & black hens. They couldn’t exactly fly, but when the henhouse rabbit decided to have some fun chasing them they would flutter their skirts and jump in the air, shrieking like girls (!). Every year one hen would “set” and the others would lay their eggs in the nest with her. She got to keep the chicks when they hatched.

  6. Neat, Shelagh! I love the personalities of both breeds and individuals within the breeds. Thanks for the stories!

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