Rats, bats, & black cats have long been the animal symbols associated with Halloween. Creepy-crawly spiders, snakes, and bugs are a ghoulish given; and no one avoids the chill that comes with an owl’s call in the night. But, aside from the Hitchcock classic, what’s so scary about crows & ravens?
If you ask Busch Gardens’ Horticulture staff, they’ll tell you EXACTLY why Jambo Junction’s newest animal ambassador, a White-Necked Raven named Zuri, gives them the chills. While they work in the pre-dawn hours, an indefinable small voice calls out to them in the dark: “Helloooooo?”
Once the keepers of Jambo Junction explained the (seemingly paranormal) occurrence to the Horticulture staff, they were able to resume planting in peace: Ravens are capable of mimicking the calls of other animals and even human speech. (And you thought YOU had to be careful with what you said around YOUR kids!)
The White-Necked Raven (corvus albicollis) is native to the savannas of southern and eastern Africa. Zuri, whose name means “beautiful” in Swahili, has quickly found a place in everyone’s hearts right here at Busch Gardens Tampa. She is almost seven months old and is taking on her role as animal ambassador with pride. Her appearances in Busch Gardens’ education programming, guest sidewalks, and television spots have been a huge hit!
But, being a young raven, Zuri is smart & therefore mischievous. She has her favorites amongst the staff, treating each one a little differently (despite the consistency of their training methods.) As they clean Zuri’s habitat, they uncover her hiding spots; places where she’s secured such treasures as (apparently special) rocks, mulch, branches, and leaves! So, why does such an endearingly idiosyncratic animal have such a creepy reputation?
Throughout history, these noted members of the family Corvidae are featured as symbols of good and evil. Crows and ravens appear in ancient mythology, folklore, and the works of classical authors such as William Shakespeare and Edgar Allen Poe (whose body of work inspired one of this year’s most loved haunted houses at Howl-O-Scream, Nevermore.)
While the house is truly terrifying, Zuri is quite the opposite, we’re sure you’ll agree. Maybe a revision is in order…
“Quoth the Raven “Helloooooo?”