Zoo VIPs

Charles’s mom, Carol, who works at the National Zoo, arranged a special behind-the-scenes tour of the Small Mammal House for us. We felt like VIPs getting to go back into the exhibits to meet the animals. Kenton was an excellent tour guide and taught us a lot.

Zoo VIPs

The first animal we got to meet was this Small Madagascar Hedgehog Tenrec named Sansa. She may look like a small hedgehog, but she’s actually a tenrec and not related to a hedgehog at all. It just looks like it due to convergent evolution.

Small Madagascar Hedgehog Tenrec

Molly was happy to pet the tenrec, though it would have been a bad idea if it was scared and had its sharp spines up. Leah was not up for petting anything with spines.

Petting a tenrec

The next animal we met was Bonnie the three-banded armadillo. She was just waking up, so still curved into her defensive ball.

Bonnie the armadillo

Leah did pet Bonnie the armadillo, but she was so quick in doing it that I didn't hit the shutter on my camera fast enough.

Quick pet

Molly of course pet Bonnie the armadillo as well.

Molly too

After we pet her, Bonnie was allowed to run around a bit. She seemed happy to stretch her legs.

Running around

Molly was really enjoying the tour and eager to see what was next.

Having fun

Next we met Clark the prehensile-tailed porcupine, who was very happy to see us as it meant he got a tasty snack. He started with some corn on the cob.

Clark the porcupine

Here's Clark patiently waiting for his next snack after finishing some papaya.

Hi Clark

Here's Jen feeding Clark his favorite treat - bananas. In fact, when he was first born he almost died, but bananas helped save his life. Scroll down to Porcupine Problems there for his story.

Feeding Clark

We then went to a different section of the small mammal house to meet a couple of naked mole-rats. These are some seriously weird animals, but Leah had no problems getting up close to them (without touching, though).

Naked mole-rat

Naked mole-rats have no fat under their skin and no hair on it, which means their skin is fairly translucent.


Kenton then opened up the exhibit to let us see the three naked mole-rat colonies and ask questions. This meant that everyone could see us as if we were part of the exhibit. I think this was Molly's favorite part, both because she liked seeing the animals and because she liked feeling special.

Us on exhibit

After our behind-the-scenes tour, we walked around the public parts of the Small Mammal House. Of course, the meerkats were a highlight. Leah and this meerkat had a staring contest.

Staring contest

There was not much more than a big piece of plexiglass separating Leah from this meerkat.

Up close

Molly knew that meerkats eat insects, so she decided to try to attract the meerkat by showing off the ladybug on her shirt. It was not fooled.


Leah thought she'd follow Molly's lead and show off the giraffe on her shirt to attract the meerkat. I think she's a bit confused about what might interest a meerkat.

Giraffe shirt

After the Small Mammal House, we wandered most of the zoo. As always, otters are very entertaining. Here's Molly (in the reflection) and Leah off to the side checking out an otter swimming around in front of them.


Molly and Leah are squinting without their glasses, but these otters sure do look cool.

Cool otters

This panda was chowing down on some bamboo.

Panda snack

Not only did Carol get us behind the scenes at the Small Mammal House, she also got us a bunch of tickets to ride the carousel. The girls were very excited to get to ride it twice. If you ever ride it, you can see the cuttlefish is dedicated to Charles's mom and sister.


Checking out the turtles, as we have done before.


Hello, Mr. Lion. We're happy to see you, even if we are exhausted having been at the zoo for more than six hours.

Hello lion

It was by far the longest trip to the zoo we've ever had, but the girls were troopers and did very well. To my surprise, they even stayed awake as we drove home through traffic.

The finale to the day's adventure was eating dinner at Chick-fil-A for the first time since they closed for renovations. The girls have been ready for their favorite restaurant to reopen for some time, and they were happy to see how fancy it is now.


  1. emk says:

    Man– why didn’t we use Kenton as our son’s name? 😉

    Looks like an awesome behind-the-scenes adventure!

  2. G'mom says:

    Great time and superb photos! What a wonderful tour!

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