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Animals of the South Pacific

The Martha Stewart Show, May 2008

Aquatica is the newest Anheuser-Busch theme park, joining Sea World, Busch Gardens, and Discovery Cove, with water rides and animal-education programs. Julie Scardina has brought five animals you might see at Aquatica, all native to the South Seas.

Cuscus
Cuscus, a nocturnal marsupial from New Guinea, has soft gray fur; a furless prehensile, or grasping, tail; and very nimble feet with five digits, which allow them to walk deliberately and climb very well. Sometimes mistaken for monkeys because of their round heads, prehensile tails, and five digits, cuscus spend a lot of time in trees; but this particular species, however, also spends time on the ground and in burrows. It is known as a ground cuscus, even though it has an arboreal lifestyle.

Tawny Frogmouth
This bird, often mistaken for an owl, is native to Australia and New Guinea. It has detailed patterns on its feathers to help it blend into its surroundings, often resembling a tree trunk. The inside of the bird's sharply hooked bill is bright yellow-green; this unique coloration attracts insects for food. The frogmouth, which does its hunting at night, spends a lot of time in trees; it will snuggle right up to the trunk or a fork in the branches and remain motionless, completely camouflaging it.

Kookaburra
This New Guinea native is famous for its unusual vocalization. Some think it's a territorial call, usually sung both in the morning and at night. The Aboriginal people of Australia have a folklore tale that when the sun first rose, the kookaburra sang to wake people up to the amazing view. The bird's call has been used for many jungle venues and movies.

The kookaburra has beautiful brown and white feathers, with a few light-blue feathers on the wings, and a large bill comparative to the bird's overall height of about a foot. It is not endangered, and is bold bird known for stealing prey from hawks and snakes. The kookaburra specialize in eating snakes and lizards, which it often smashes against a tree branch to stun or kill. It also eats small mammals and birds.

Asian Small-Clawed Otters
Native to water habitats in Southeast Asia,  this animal is a small species of otter with waterproof fur and curious personalities. The small-clawed otter is very active, and cannot be held; it uses its sensitive, webbed paws to forage for frogs, crayfish, small fish, insects, eggs, and anything else it can find and catch in or near shallow water. The otter, which is seriously threatened by rapid habitat destruction, hunting, and pollution, prefers shallow water where its feet won't leave the ground, although it can swim very well.

Special Thanks
Special thanks Aquatica and SeaWorld for giving everyone in our studio audience a pair of tickets to both theme parks.