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"My sister, my mother, and I are going to Amsterdam to see the tulips in bloom. The trip is in honor of my sister's birthday, but the three of us love to travel together and do so whenever we can. We always have such a blast." –Angela Lootens, Houston, Tex.
Using our powers for the good of the people
Since tulips are the favorite flower of Houstonians Angela Lootens; her mother, Virginia Lootens; and her sister, Alison Putman, a spring trip to the Netherlands was an ideal way to celebrate Alison's birthday. After a stroll through the Keukenhof gardens, next on the women's agenda was a canal tour through Amsterdam—so we chartered them an antique boat for a private sunset cruise. "It was so nice to sit back, relax, and chat with Captain Joost about what it's like to live in Amsterdam," says Angela. ("And what a good-looking guy!" adds Virginia.) As an extra treat, we arranged for a private tour of Gassan Diamonds, where the women got to try on exquisite jewelry from the company's collection. "I went straight for the biggest rock on the tray," says Angela. "It was a diamond ring worth fifty thousand euros!" The tour ended with champagne, and at the bottom of each flute was what appeared to be a diamond. An expert was called in to examine the stones: Two were cubic zirconias, but the third was real. "I was the lucky one!" says Angela. "And it wasn't just a speck of a diamond, either!"
Many thanks to...
The Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions (holland.com), Classic Canal Charters (classiccanalcharters.com), and Gassan Diamonds (gassandiamonds.com).
What's your best travel tip? Send us your tips, and if we publish one, you'll get a one-year subscription (or a renewal) to Budget Travel. You can e-mail them to us at Tips@BudgetTravel.com. Best Tips Ever The cleverest tips we've ever run are in The Smart Traveler's Passport, a handy book available at Amazon.com and select bookstores. Send us a tip: If yours is one that we illustrate, we'll send you a free book (and a year's subscription to the magazine). 1. Dog trick My Chihuahua, Maq, hates getting into his dog carrier, but he loves peanut butter. So I smear a little peanut butter on the back wall of the carrier, and when Maq goes halfway in to lick it, I nudge his bottom in and quickly close the door. Sandra Traub, Tamarac, Fla. 2. Scents sensibly Fragrance beads are a safe alternative to incense or scented candles when you want to cover up odors in hotel rooms or cruise-ship cabins. Just pack them in a sealed container and open the lid when you get to your room. Julie Nyhus, Eugene, Ore. 3. Suit yourself Scuba divers know how difficult putting on a wet suit can be. My wife and I figured out a solution: Place a Ziploc bag on your hand or foot before you slide it into the suit's sleeve or leg. The smooth surface of the bag helps you slip the wet suit on easily. Eugene L. Dubay, Pigeon Forge, Tenn. 4. Neighborhood watch When my wife and I did a house swap, we asked for lots of photos—not just of the interior and exterior of the place, but also of the area around the house and the front and back yards. We even used Google Earth to check out the neighborhood. Russ Phillips, Ottawa, Ont. 5. Pay as you go Anytime I travel to a country that has an exit tax, I put the cash in an envelope labeled "exit money" and keep it in my carry-on bag. This saves me from having to go to an ATM at the last minute, and it ensures that I have the exact amount necessary to leave. Jason M. Evans, Washington, D.C. 6. Don't fly without wings For lumbar support on a long flight, use a pair of kids' inflatable water wings. They're only $1 per pair at Wal-Mart, and they don't take up much room in your carry-on. Colleen Rule, Wrenshall, Minn. 7. Charge car If you'll be driving in Europe, you don't have to bring a converter to charge your cell phone and camera batteries. Before you leave the States, buy an inexpensive inverter that you can plug into the rental car's power outlet. It'll convert the 12-volt DC car power into the 120-volt AC you need for charging. Jeff Keller, Bend, Ore. 8. Pass the power I've discovered that battery-powered devices can vary greatly in their need for fully charged batteries. For example, even though my camera identifies a pair of AA batteries as dead, they still have enough power for my flashlight. Then, when the flashlight gets too dim, my travel clock will run on the batteries for months. David Johnson, Kingston Springs, Tenn. 9. BT for everyone! Most people know by now that you can keep your frequent-flier account active by ordering a magazine subscription through the airline's program. If you don't need any more magazines, you might consider sending a subscription to someone in the military who's based overseas. Soldiers are always thrilled to get current reading material from home. Michelle Buchecker, Chicago, Ill. 10. DIY room service My mom and I were exhausted after a long day of sightseeing in New York City. Our hotel offered free Wi-Fi and I had my laptop with me, so instead of trekking out again for dinner, I went to menupages.com and looked up the menus of nearby restaurants. You can search the site by neighborhood and sort by the restaurants that will deliver. Jessica Bishop, Tuscaloosa, Ala. 11. Alarming situation If you want to use your cell phone as an alarm clock on vacation but don't plan to make calls, turn off the wireless capabilities. I had to pay roaming fees in Spain because my phone was accessing the net­work. Bonnie Schuenemann, Brookfield, Ill. 12. Island style When vacationing in Maui, save money on aloha shirts and dresses by shopping at Ross Dress for Less near the airport (200 E. Kamehameha Ave., Kahului, 808/877-5483). We got a shirt for $12 and a dress for $15. Marc Smith, Austin, Tex. 13. Go your own way We were going to take Royal Caribbean up on the offer to transport our family of four from Houston to the Port of Galves­ton in Texas before our cruise, but the fee it quoted us was expensive. I searched car-rental company websites and booked a car for a reasonable rate. I then found prepaid parking at the Port of Galves­ton. Even after paying for a car rental and a week of parking, we saved more than $120. Jeanette Boyd, Richland, Mo. 14. Sippy pup When you're traveling with your dog and you don't have a bowl with you, fill a quart-size Ziploc bag with water and hold it open on the ground to make the water easy to drink. Anabel Nogueiras, Miramar, Fla. 15. Lost at sea? Every time we go on a cruise, my wife blows up a red balloon and tapes it to the door of our stateroom. That way we never have any trouble finding our room in the ship's long hallways. Eli Rose, Tampa, Fla. 16. Top tip While I was on vacation in the Caribbean, the plastic hook on the back of my bandeau bikini top broke. Most of my friends throw their bathing suits away when this happens, but I didn't want to give up so quickly. Instead, I threaded a key ring through the loops to hold the top together. It turned out to be a great quick fix, and I was able to mend the top as soon as I returned home. Kaye Powell, Washington, D.C. 17. The money tree My husband and I decorate our Christmas tree with foreign currency. We select the most colorful bills from our trips abroad, date and laminate each one, punch a hole at one end, and loop a ribbon through to hang it on a branch. The notes always bring back memories while we're trimming the tree, and they're easier to pack away than regular ornaments. Joyce Vognild, East Wenatchee, Wash. 18. Stuck with a bill Be sure to ask about any extra charges before you book a service on a cruise. I decided to try acupuncture when I was on a Caribbean cruise, and I saw on my receipt that I had been charged a 15 percent gratuity. Since when do acupuncturists get tips? Gary Hines, Louisville, Ky. 19. Greatest hits When my wife and I travel overseas, we always keep our hotel television on MTV or another music station so we can listen to the local favorites. We make a list of the songs we like throughout the trip and buy them from iTunes when we get home. We use the songs as a soundtrack for our travel photos or burn them onto a CD as a reminder of our trip. Creating our own collection of music is much more personal—and cheaper—than most souvenirs. Charles Price, Edmond, Okla. 20. Valuable advice My boyfriend recently bought a GPS navigator. He doesn't like to leave it exposed while his car is parked, but he doesn't want to carry it around everywhere, either. Now he hides the navigator in the first-aid kit that he always keeps in his car. The kit is a great hiding spot, since no one would ever suspect there's anything more valuable than Band-Aids in there! Lucy Wojnicki, Schaumburg, Ill.
New prize! August's prize is an eight-night road trip across Tasmania, Australia, including airfare, courtesy of Tourism Tasmania and Goway Travel. How to enter E-mail us at TrueStories@BudgetTravel.com or mail us at True Stories, Budget Travel, 530 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10018. For a complete rundown of the contest guidelines, please see BudgetTravel.com/truestories. The winner of April's contest is Lyn Simonton of Cody, Wyo. Her prize is a seven-night trip to Greenland, courtesy of Air Greenland. After a long winter, my husband, my best friend, and I warmed up in Key West, Fla. Our B&B, a beautiful old mansion, hosted nightly cocktails by the pool. The first evening, we were shocked to be the only people wearing clothes. (I had never even heard the term "clothing optional" before.) We did our best to make friendly conversation with the other guests. But we were even more shocked when, the night we returned home to Wyoming, we switched on C-Span and saw the gentleman whom we'd nicknamed Naked Bill addressing Congress. He was a U.S. congressman! May's winner is Cindi Noyes (pictured third from left) of Millbury, Mass. Her prize: a five-night trip to Panama from Tara Tours. My grandfather was from Italy, so when I saw a town with my maiden name, Tricarico, while researching a trip, I e-mailed the town's website asking for help locating lost relatives. A woman offered assistance, so I gave her my grandfather's name. She replied with a list of five family members still living in Italy, including some in Prato, near Florence. A few days later, I got a call from the daughter of my father's second cousin. When my husband and I got to our hotel near Prato, the family met us and took us over to their home. My father's cousin brought out a stack of old photographs. As soon as I looked at the first one, I started to cry: It was of my mother, my father, my sister, my brother, and me on Christmas, 34 years earlier, with my grandmother's writing (in Italian) on the back. We'll return to Italy soon to spend more time with our new family. So that's where Yahoo Serious has been hiding My family, my best friend Katie, and I wanted to see flowing lava on a visit to Hawaii's Big Island. But when we got to Volcanoes National Park, we learned that we'd have to hike several miles. Instead, we drove around Kilauea caldera, hoping to snap a photo of a "real" volcano to show Katie's 10-year-old son back home. Braving the gusts of wind and rain, Katie ran over to the caldera's edge. The volcano didn't do much, but we did get an eruption of another kind. Kim Stickler, Reno, Nev. World's cutest zombies Our group was under strict orders not to come within 15 feet of any wildlife while at a penguin rookery in Antarctica. I was looking at the birds through a tele­scope when a little Adélie penguin came up out of the water and started waddling his way toward me. I lay down on the ground and took out my camera. Before I knew it, five more birds were scampering in my direction. "Scott, you're all right!" the expedition leader called out. "Everyone else, step back!" A moment later, I found myself surrounded by six penguins, flapping their little wings to keep balance. I just clicked away. Scott D. Churchill, Irving, Tex. Speaking of Swift: He would have found this amusing I was totally enchanted with Ireland while hitchhiking around the country for two months. All the wonderful things I'd heard about it were true. As I bent to kiss the famous Blarney Stone, however, I was struck by how stained and odorous it was. Not being able to resist the gift of gab, I kissed it anyway. Later, back at the youth hostel, I picked up a book of short stories someone had left behind. One of the stories describes the local tradition of peeing on the stone after the tourists have left for the day. The application of soap to my lips was swift. Jeff Drake, Galveston, Tex. Or maybe he has a brain the size of a macadamia nut The chickens of Oviedo, Fla., have been roaming freely around the downtown area for years. Returning from breakfast one morning, I spotted this guy hanging out at a Popeyes fried-chicken restaurant. He had nestled into the dirt just under the drive-through menu. He was either very brave or a very fast runner. Liz Cummins, Terrytown, La. Now you know why God invented Photoshop While on a trip in Aruba, I was excited to start taking pictures of all the flowers, birds, and iguanas with my new digital camera. I was amazed at how the colorful iguanas were everywhere and would come right up to people. So when I saw this rather colorful, large iguana on a pole, I inched as close as I could without getting too scared and snapped away. Later, as I was bragging to my husband about the photo shoot, I was surprised to see the iguana hadn't moved an inch. My husband began laughing hysterically. The iguana was fake! I was even more embarrassed when I printed the photograph and saw that the screw in its foot was clearly visible. Cindy Sturtevant, Woodstock, Ga. And yours is Blushing Bride I thought I had dreamed up pretty good outfits for my now-fiancé and me to wear to the costume party on our senior singles cruise. (I called his the Reluctant Fiancé.) While the ship's photographer was taking this photo, however, I learned it was a masquerade party, not a costume party. The people throwing the party offered us both masks, but we quickly went back to our rooms to change, giving fits of giggles to the folks we passed on the way. Darla Coyle, Salem, S.C. Mrs. Moneybags, I presume? When I complained about the exchange rate at my hotel in Djibouti, the concierge confided that the best rate is on the street, where women sit with bags of cash waiting for customers. I figured he was messing with me. The next day, en route to Lake Assal, I told the guide I needed to exchange some dollars. "No problem," he said. He drove a couple blocks and stopped by two women on the side of the road, one of whom had a large sack. He signaled, and they came to the window. Not only did I get the best rate yet, but it came with drive-through service. Berti Pozo, Key Biscayne, Fla. It was all a distraction, and your gang is chilling in Amalfi with Clooney and Pitt In Petrópolis, Brazil, my friends and I went to the Museu Imperial to see the crown jewels. We had to put booties over our shoes so as not to scuff the floors. We scooted along until we reached the crown. Wanting a better look, my friend Anita kept getting closer and closer. Then her feet slipped out from under her, and her head banged into the glass. The alarms blared, and a giant cage descended over us. Men with automatic weapons filled the room. I don't speak Portuguese, so I tried to explain by reenacting Anita's fall, but that angered the men more. After a tense half hour, we were escorted off the premises and told never to come back. Kemuel DeMoville, Honolulu, Hawaii There were others? In Baja California, I saw a lot of whales—but I really wanted to stroke one. Our guide suggested singing to the animals, so in my best soprano, I sang, "You are my baby whale, my only baby whale, you make me happy when skies are gray." A mother and her baby loved it! I even got the award for Best Whale Singer. Diane Shneer, Palos Verdes Estates, Calif. Well, isn't she cheeky! An older gentleman and I were sitting on a bench in Oslo, waiting for a bus, when an elegant, elderly woman approached. She walked with a limp. After the man and I stood up, the woman said something in beautiful, lilting Norwegian. Neither of us understood the language, though. She promptly switched to perfect English and said, "My bum's not so wide that the three of us can't fit on this bench." Dean Aulick, Silver Spring, Md. Perhaps you can parlay them into a 100 Grand bar We got a luxurious suite when my boyfriend's band performed at Atlantis in the Bahamas. The welcome basket was filled with wine, fruit, and even five $100 casino chips. Later, at the casino, I asked a change girl for some $5 tokens in exchange for the chips. She gave me a funny look and directed me to the main cage. I placed my chips on the counter, asked for change, and got another funny look. The cashier called for her supervisor. I was starting to get annoyed. "Madam," the supervisor replied, "these chips are chocolate." Joanne Pompeo, Escondido, Calif. And something blue... I was at a small beach in Positano, Italy, when a couple showed up, accompanied by a two-man camera crew. The man was slim, trim, and wearing a soccer jersey, so I thought he might be on the national team. When filming began, the couple lay on the sand and tried out several compromising positions, gradually removing their clothing. They worked their way into the water, kissing frantically. I asked the photographer if he was shooting a TV show or a movie. "Oh no," he replied. "They are engaged, and this will be shown at their wedding next month." Janet Kroupa, Santee, Calif. Proving that smoke clouds can have a silver lining, too We were settling in on the beach at our resort in Mozambique when we heard a crackling sound. The resort was in flames! We ran back, rescued our belongings, and joined guests and employees on the side of the road and watched the fire spread. There were no other available rooms in the area, and it was a two-hour drive to the next town. A young South African who'd been watching cricket in the hotel bar offered to let us sleep "in a tent in my yard." The "yard" ended up being a fish camp with tents and trailers. Over plenty of grilled meat and beer, our new friend told us all about life in southern Africa. It was the highlight of our entire trip. Molly Darragh, Oakland, Calif. The top one is a stickler for the union's no-smiling-without-compensation rule My husband and I wanted to have lunch at our favorite Italian place, Venezia, on our final day in New Orleans. By that point, however, our daughters were tired and whiny—at least until the party next to us sat down. It was a group of clowns who had just finished a gig. They posed for pictures and pulled candy and balls from behind my kids' ears. I didn't hear a peep out of the girls for the rest of the meal. Sheri Hammond, Bella Vista, Ark.
Adorable Babies at the Zoo Atlanta
Grant Park, 800 Cherokee Ave., SE, Atlanta, Ga., 404/624-5600, zooatlanta.org, $18, ages 3-11 $13, children under 3 free. 2008 LEMURS: Born Apr. 16, 2008 Two black-and-white ruffed lemurs were born in nests made high in the Living Treehouse, the zoo's open-air aviary. Apart from zoos, these lemurs are found only on Madagascar, an island off the southeast coast of Africa, where they're threatened by deforestation. Who Knew? Lemur moms carry infants in their mouths during their first few weeks, which is rare behavior among primates. Aww... See the photo WARTHOG: Born Apr. 16, 2008 The special warthog habitat, which opened in 2007 in the African Plains section, recently welcomed a piglet that has yet to be named. As the baby grows, she will develop tusks that can be up to six inches long. Who Knew? Warthogs do more than grunt and squeal. They often resort to body language (head angles, tail flicks) to communicate—rather like we do. Aww... See the photo ORANGUTAN: Born Oct. 22, 2006; adopted June 20, 2007 Dumadi, whose mother died shortly after his birth, was reared by humans at Indiana's Fort Wayne Children's Zoo for months until Zoo Atlanta stepped in. Now Dumadi lives with his surrogate mom, Madu, and stepbrother, Bernas, in a habitat that mimics the forests of Indonesia. Who Knew? It was key that Dumadi and Madu bond quickly, as orangutans can only learn natural behaviors by observing and copying their moms. And they stay dependent on their moms up until they're 8 or even 10 years old, the longest childhood of any animal except for humans. Aww... See the photo Last Year's Babies: Where Are They Now? PANDA: Giant panda cub Mei Lan was fully weaned from her mother, Lun Lun, in March and has clearly been eating her bamboo—she's up to 110 pounds. The zoo posts frequent panda updates. Keeper Heather Baker Roberts wrote on May 9: "This morning when I tossed some extra bamboo into the habitat for Mei Lan, she stood up on her 'knees' and reached out her forepaws seemingly to catch the bamboo. She was not tall enough, of course, and could not reach it, but it was still very cute." WATERBUCK: Obi is no longer the littlest waterbuck calling the African Plains exhibit home. He has a younger sister, Binti, who was born in summer 2007. GORILLA TWINS: Kali and Kazi, who will turn 3 on Halloween, are a rare example of twin western lowland gorillas. Mom Kuchi has her hands full trying to keep an eye on the two as they scamper around the exhibit. A tomboy, Kazi often winds up pinning her brother to the ground. GIRAFFE: Abu, now 3, got two new playmates when Glenda and Mona recently arrived from Disney. The 2-year-old girls have helped brighten the mood after the death of Masai giraffe Betunia, 23, in August. 2007 PANDA CUB: September 6, 2006 Mei Lan was the only giant panda born in the U.S. in 2006, and she's one of 11 in the country. (There are fewer than 3,000 giant pandas in existence worldwide.) Mei Lan began life about the size of a human hand; at seven months, she's already weighing in at 30 pounds. Zookeepers post updates about Mei Lan and her mother, Lun Lun, on the website, which also hosts a panda cam. Note that the zoo offers 15-minute Panda Habitat Tours. Tickets are free with admission, but you can bypass the often-lengthy lines by making an online reservation at $5 per person for nonmembers. Who Knew? The zoo studied the development of cubs raised in different ways and concluded that those that were mother reared for at least 12 months were much more active than those mother reared for four to five months and then placed with other cubs of their age. Curator Rebecca Snyder wrote on the zoo's blog that she suspects "one of the reasons for this difference is that mothers initiate and stimulate more play behavior." WATERBUCK: Born August 16, 2006 Obi, whose name means "heart" in Swahili, lives in the mixed-species African Plains exhibit alongside zebras, gazelles, and giraffes. In the wild, waterbuck call the grassland savannahs of Africa home. Who Knew? Waterbuck are dimorphic, meaning that the males and females look different. The males have curved horns, with ridges along the bottom. GORILLA TWINS: Born October 31, 2005 Kali and his sister Kazi are the only pair of Western lowland gorilla twins to be reared entirely by their mother (Kuchi) while in captivity. The two made big news because just six cases of twin gorilla births at North American zoos have been recorded since 1966. You can read posts about the twins' antics—and their older siblings—here. Who Knew? While lowland gorillas can look tough and occasionally beat their chests, they're mild and bright animals who live in social groups led by a dominant male. GIRAFFE: Born September 23, 2005 Abu, a reticulated giraffe whose name means "firstborn son" in Swahili, is already about 10 feet tall; the average adult height is 15 feet. While he was born at the Buffalo Zoo, he now lives with Betunia, a female 23-year-old Masai giraffe, in Zoo Atlanta's African Plains habitat. Who Knew? The reticulated and Masai giraffe subspecies are both from East Africa and are differentiated by the color markings on their fur. EXPECTING KANGAROO: Uluru, a red kangaroo who gave birth to a joey last spring, has another joey currently in her pouch. It has already been spotted sticking its head out.
Adorable Babies at the San Diego Zoo
Balboa Park, 2920 Zoo Dr., San Diego, Calif., sandiegozoo.org, 619/231-1515, $34, ages 3-11 $24, children under 3 free. Note that the Wild Animal Park is located off-site in the San Pasqual Valley near Escondido, Calif. A two-park ticket is $60 for adults and $43 for children. 2008 GIRAFFE: Born Feb. 28, 2008 Basel has just made his public debut alongside mother Peggy at the Wild Animal Park. While Basel likes to jump and run around with four other giraffe youngsters (not to mention a white rhino and an African buffalo), he still makes time to nuzzle with mom. Who Knew? Different subspecies of giraffes have different spots. Basel is a reticulated giraffe—most common in Somalia—and has large caramel-brown spots and cream-colored lines. Aww... See the photo MEERKATS: Born Feb. 21, 2008 After spending their first few weeks in the den with their protective mother, Ngami, these four adorable pups can be spotted darting around with their tails up and barking. Who Knew? Life's rough for the zoo's 12 meerkats, who love to spend the morning lying out in the sun and snuggling. If you notice any odd bald spots, not to worry—senior keeper Laura Weiner trims the pups' hair to help tell them apart. Aww... See the photo TURTLES: Hatched Jan. 4-Apr. 17, 2008 This new batch of aquatic matamata turtles represents the first time the species has successfully reproduced at the zoo. Their diet includes a special treat the keepers refer to as Jell-O wigglers: a gelatin ball that has pellets with vitamins and minerals. Who Knew? Matamatas come from Brazil, Guyana, and Trinidad, and the name means "I kill, I kill" in Spanish. The turtle doesn't bite, but it does have a highly effective method of feeding: It waits for a fish to come by and then suddenly opens its mouth and expands its throat, sucking in the fish. Aww... See the photo LION: Born Nov. 2, 2007 African lion cub Tamu has plenty of playmates at the Wild Animal Park: Three siblings were born the same day to mom Oshana, and a litter of three cubs was born to lioness Mina on Nov. 6. Who Knew? Lions are the only cats to live in close-knit, female-led prides—groups of anywhere from three to 30. Yawning, grooming, and roaring tend to be contagious. Aww... See the photo LIZARDS: Hatched Oct. 18, 2007 The arrival of two large Caiman lizards in San Diego marks only the third such hatching in the U.S. They have bright blue and green skins—which put them at risk during hunts in the wild—and can look fearsome. Insects and snails are their main prey. Who Knew? At home in the Amazon Basin in Peru and Brazil, these lizards grow to four feet long and six pounds. Aww... See the photo KANGAROO: Born Sept. 11, 2007 Here's something you don't see everyday—a baby Buerger's tree kangaroo peeking his head out of his mom's pouch. These kangaroos like the tropical rain forests of Papua New Guinea. Who Knew? The kangaroo's family name, Macropodidae, means "big feet." When a kangaroo senses danger, it puts those feet to use by thumping them on the ground as a warning to other 'roos. Aww... See the photo BONOBO: Born Sept. 4, 2007 Mali, whose name means "something valuable" in Swahili, was in critical condition after her mom went through a very difficult delivery. But both pulled through, and Mali is growing stronger and healthier—thanks partially to her regimen of seven daily bottle feedings. Who Knew? Bonobos are slightly smaller than chimpanzees and have dark pigmentation on their feet, hands, and faces. They live under threat in the conflict-ridden forests and lowlands of the Democratic Republic of Congo and in a handful of U.S. zoos. Aww... See the photo PANDA: Born Aug. 3, 2007 Bai Yun's giant panda cub, Zhen Zhen, already weighs 31 pounds and is learning to climb. She has an independent streak, according to zookeepers, but is also learning to get along with older sister Su Lin. You can get an up close look at the whole family—including dad Gao Gao—thanks to the zoo's panda cam. Who Knew? The San Diego Zoo, which has the country's largest collection of giant pandas, harvests 10.5 tons of bamboo annually to keep them fed. Aww... See the photo Last Year's Babies: Where Are They Now? SUN BEAR: Make time for a San Diego visit soon if you want to catch Bornean sun bear cub Bulan. She's gotten so big—almost 86 pounds—that she won't be there much longer. Public relations representative Andrew Circo warned us there are plans in the works to transfer Bulan to another zoo in agreement with the Species Survival Plan, which promotes maximum genetic diversity in a breeding population. ELEPHANT: Litsemba's African elephant calf is now named Punga, a nickname for Impunga ("experienced advisor" in SiSwati). He whiles away the time with best friend and half sister Khosi, who's just six months older, and baby Kamile, whose mom, Umoya, was pregnant at press time last year. OKAPI: Akin Ali, a calf with zebra-like legs and a velvety dark brown upper body, is temporarily on loan to the Los Angeles Zoo. RED RIVER HOGS: Triplets Oboi, Okang, and Mosi have undergone dramatic changes in the past year—and not necessarily for the better. They're as big as any healthy adult hog now and have traded their cute stripes and perkiness for a lumbering, heavyset look. 2007 RED RIVER HOGS: Born March 27, 2007 These yet-to-be-named newborn triplets are nursing and keeping their first-time mother very busy. Red river hogs are native to the forests of western and central Africa and, like most swine, they have a keen sense of smell and use their snouts to dig for roots and tubers. These piglets have another use for snouts; they butt them together when wrestling each other. Who Knew? Also called bush pigs, the animals are primarily active at night and tend to hide in bushes by day—their stripes help them blend in with the surroundings. ELEPHANT: Born March 11, 2007 African elephant Litsemba, which means "the timid one" in SiSwati, gave birth to a male calf in the zoo's Wild Animal Park. Litsemba is one of seven African elephants rescued in August 2003. She was living in a national park in Swaziland, where limited space and droughts threatened the elephants' survival. The zoo hosts elephant shows daily at 1 P.M. and 3 P.M., and has an elephant webcam. Who Knew? African elephants are much bigger than their Asian cousins, and Litsemba's baby can be expected to reach an adult weight of 7 to 8 tons. SUN BEAR: Born September 23, 2006 Bulan is one of just two Bornean sun bears born in the U.S. (both at the San Diego Zoo). The littlest of the eight bear species, sun bears have distinctive yellowish marks—suggesting a glowing sun—on their chests. Who Knew? In Malay, the tree-dwelling bears are called basindo nan tenggil ("he who likes to sit high"). The zoo has more fun facts and a video clip on its website. OKAPI: Born September 21, 2006 Rarely seen in zoos, okapis have striped zebra-like legs yet velvety brown upper bodies. They're native only to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where they're threatened by deforestation, fighting, and hunting. More than 30 okapis, including this newcomer named Akin Ali, have been delivered at San Diego's Wild Animal Park, which boasts the highest birth rate outside of Africa. Who Knew? Okapis have long tongues like giraffes, their relatives, and use them to clean their eyes and ears. EXPECTING ELEPHANTS: Two African elephants, Umoya and Lungile, are pregnant. The typical gestation term is about 21 months, and the zoo expects them give birth later this year (one in May or June and the other at the end of 2007).
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