This article was originally published on July 19, 2022 on The Restless Viking website.
These two-toed creatures reminded me of baby T-Rex dinosaurs.
I sat captivated by these ten, two-toed tiny creatures who would soon grow to be six to nine feet tall within a short span of three-four years. Hearing that the clutch of ostrich eggs had hatched at Alto’s zoo, Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park, I was drawn like a magnet to see them. Nature is dazzling! There’s so much to learn! This 80 acre zoo continues to grow and display curious specimens from all over our globe. What a magical moment it was for me to see ostrich fledglings in person! Later, I casually ran into Josh Baker, an enthusiastic and dedicated zoo keeper of the Boulder Ridge menagerie. Josh explained fascinating aspects of being a caregiver to a vast variety of wild animals.
The overcast skies made for a cool, summer afternoon. The animals were all moving about their spacious habitats. I made my way over to the new walkway where I’d find the ostrich pen.
I was spotted right away by two of the ladies.
At most zoos ostrich eggs are hatched with human help by using an incubator,
but these birds did all the work themselves.
I sat down alongside the double fence to observe these enormous, flightless birds who were gathered at the back of the enclosure. The youngsters were assembled in a group. A preschooler grasping the bar next to me stated, “They look like they’re at Bible School!” A silent smile curved my lips. As the mother ostriches separated from the brood, it appeared that the specific offspring followed their own mom. Fascinating! “Now they’re all going home.” the toddler surmised in narration.
As the fledglings explored closer to the front of the pen, where I sat, two mothers stood guard nearby and puffed up their feathers. A talkative band of spectators approached and stopped at the barrier. These ostrich moms gave stern, evil-eyed looks to the chattering faction. As the people moved on the ostriches relaxed their stance. Well, except for the father. . .
Each female had laid 7-10, three pound eggs which had been fertilized by the singular male of the group.
This team had taken turns keeping the eggs warm through the 39-59 days of incubation.
Now the three females and the male work together to watch over their brood.
The father, noticing that I hadn’t moved on down the path, marched right up to the edge and glared in my direction as his children from three different mothers trapesed along and pecked the ground. Ostriches live in herds with one dominant male leader. It’s mainly for protection. Boy, this guy was intimidating and did his job well!
The father gave me a stern side-eyed stare.
Suddenly there was a ruckus of squawking and bustling feathers. A few fledglings peeped right along with their parents. I looked toward their gaze and saw a rabbit scrambling back through the wired fence. I believe “Peter Rabbit” has learned a lesson about the residents of this estate.
The parental ostriches fluffed their feathers and squawked.
From my perspective the father’s plume reminded me of a burlesque show. “Nice legs, Sir”
I clicked a few more photos then quietly took my leave. I walked about the park dazzled by the beautiful vistas, well manicured spaces and the unusual animals. The new walkway provided a fascinating stroll. A distant bell rang from a small train ride which was echoed by children’s voices raised in excitement.
As I passed under a giraffe being mindful to avoid his dripping drool, I saw a man with a “Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park” shirt. So, I commented on how amazing it was to see the infant ostriches. “I counted ten babies. Is that right?” I asked. He nodded. “That’s all I’ve seen, but someone said there were twelve.”
Josh Baker bubbled with enthusiasm as he talked about caring for the animals.
“I haven’t seen the other two, because nobody can get too close or go in the cage from April – October.” Josh Baker explained, “The females are alright, but the male will even come at big machinery.” I shared how the father ostrich puffed up his feathers and gave me a glare as I observed his brood.
I mentioned how I admired the work it must take to care for the variety of animals. “We have two vets; a large animal and a small animal vet.” Josh said. “After the vet visits, we always have more to do.” He explained how the giraffes were prescribed some medicine. Unlike the camels, who will easily take their dosage, the giraffes are more fussy. So, Josh had to order a liquid version and mix it in with their food. However, the giraffes were aware of a change in their feed and wouldn’t eat the grain. (They do get a lot of carrots and lettuce from patrons.) Now, the medication is added to their water, which they do drink. We agreed that animals are very smart and prefer their routine, not liking any changes.
“Most of the animals are from domestic breeders.” Josh shared when I asked about obtaining such a vast collection. “The owners here are real hands-on. They have a landscape business and do most of the work and plantings themselves.” Josh gestured to the flowers and woodchips. (Dave and Dawn Hoekstra own Hoekstra Excavating.)
“Is an engineer hired to design the various exhibits?” I inquired. “I love how the prairie dogs can watch the people!” Josh smiled, “Nope. It’s all the owners. They came up with the idea for the prairie dog’s pen. It has a deep foundation so they (prairie dogs) can’t dig through.” Josh went on, “They (Dave and Dawn Hoekstra) visit other zoos to get ideas. They were in San Diego recently.”
Now, who’s on display at the zoo? The People!
“So how long have you been working here?” I inquired. “Seven years.” Josh answered. “It’s a family business and I married their daughter.” A large grin escaped from Josh, revealing joy. Josh, who looked familiar, had attended Cherry Creek Elementary starting in fifth grade. I had taught second grade, so our paths hadn’t crossed. But when he listed his younger siblings, I nodded recognizing their names.
BABY ANIMAL DAYS!
I thanked Josh for graciously taking time out of his schedule to answer my questions. He said on Wednesday, July 20 – Sunday July 24 would be “Baby Animal Days.”
“There’s a new baby, even more rare than the ostriches, that will be revealed during the upcoming Baby Animal Days.” Josh raised his brow with anticipation. After returning home, I took my curiosity to the internet. On July 16th Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park’s Facebook page announced the birth of a baby tapir, a rainforest mammal.
Tippy and her baby, Tumble, will be featured
during select times at Baby Animal Days.
Photo Credit: Boulder Ridge’s Facebook Page
Many of the enclosures have a plaque of sponsorship from an array of businesses. Josh said over 100,000 people visit their zoo each year. Business sponsorships are a win-win for the business and Boulder Ridge alike. Sponsorships vary in price depending on the size of the enclosure. Currently there are opportunities for plaques along the brand new walkway.
There’s So Much To See At Boulder Ridge
The zoo continues to expand. It’s exciting each time I visit. The animals are active and content. They don’t pace in their cages as they have plenty of space and activities. A true testament is the fact that the ostriches felt comfortable to successfully nurture their own brood of fledglings without human intervention.
After purchasing a bag of treasure-laced gravel, one can “placer mine”
by using this sluice to separate the gravel from gold and other minerals.
The three giraffes enjoyed delicious carrots and lettuce from patrons, who dodged the tall mammals’ drool.
“Most animals have come through domestic breeders.” Josh Baker explained outside the giraffe enclosure. “Some of our animals have come from other zoos. Ginger,” Josh gestured to the smaller female giraffe, “is 13 and came to us from a zoo.”
The Lemurs (left) had a heated ‘discussion’ about who can pick at the grass in that particular spot.
The DeBrazza monkey (right) from central Africa communicates with booming sounds and shaking trees.
He also poses in a most regal form.
“We don’t want to be better, we want to be different.” Josh stated with a smile. I am looking forward to my return to Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park! Hopefully I’ll see YOU during the Baby Animal Days from Wednesday, July 20 – Sunday, July 24!
Chuck and Martha Hayden, aka The Viking and Poppins, enjoy going on adventures off the beaten path. They also like to share their explorations with others. The Viking is a retired expedition leader while Poppins is a retired teacher. The two offer independent views of their journeys showcasing places, people, and cultures as they explore the world. Visit and follow them on their website and social media accounts. Website | Facebook | Instagram |YouTube