An armadillo, a skunk, and a naked mole rat walk into a bar…

There’s no punchline. This tamarin finds the notion hilarious in general.


The National Zoo’s small mammal house just might have DC’s most eclectic collection of wacky hairstyles and odd visages.  Some of its exhibits even feature several species all living together, sort of like the Star Wars cantina. (But with less violence and more fur).

Previously on this blog, I’ve mentioned the terrific perks of joining the Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ) and the FONZ Photo Club.  (For example, FONZ members get to meet panda cub Bei Bei before his public debut!) On a recent Saturday, the Photo Club was invited to shoot at the small mammal house before it opened. The staff even took some critters out of their exhibits so we could meet them face to face, making sure we could all get clear shots. Below are photos from this event.


Among the amazing facts we learned that day: naked mole rats don’t get cancer and have remarkably long lives for rodents (upwards of thirty years). Oncologists and other medical researchers are studying them diligently.


Who knew skunks were so cuddly? (Don’t try this yourself).


Manny the southern tamandua.


Lulu and breakfast. Sand cats are nocturnal, so it can be hard to catch them awake. Because the photo club event was early in the morning, we got to witness feeding time. Yum.


Lulu, looking more innocent this time. Big ears help sand cats hear prey moving under the sand at night.


Small mammal house staff offered us some life advice: Always cook your roadkill thoroughly. Some humans have caught leprosy by eating undercooked armadillo roadkill. Yes some armadillos carry leprosy.


Fennec foxes live in the Sahara. Their big ears help keep them cool.


The degu’s morning workout.


Red-ruffed lemurs’ morning yoga class. The third guy prefers pilates.


As mentioned earlier, sometimes several species share the same exhibit. I didn’t snap this during the photo club event, but last year I watched this golden lion tamarin hitch a ride on a Wookiee! (Kidding. It’s a sloth).

All images by angela n.

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