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Odds & Ends Around the Valley : Feeling Quite Ducky

July 06, 1989| Compiled by Marci Slade

The ducks at Los Encinos State Historic Park in Encino are a little more chipper these days now that their eating disorder has been diagnosed and treated. The problem: The public was feeding them too much bread and popcorn.

"Ducks don't know when to stop eating, and after eating all these dry goods, they'd drink a lot of water. The result was we had bloated ducks. The bread would expand in their stomachs and some of them couldn't even walk. They'd just sit there for a couple of days," explained state Park Ranger Russell Kimura.

After taking a few ducks to the veterinarian, a change in diet was ordered. The public is now encouraged to feed the birds a mixture of alfalfa pellets and cracked corn, which comes in 25-cent bags on sale at the park.

The 5-acre facility is home to about 125 ducks. Mostly they hover around the small spring-fed reservoir that was built in the shape of a Spanish guitar more than 100 years ago. Catfish and mosquito fish keep them company.

"This is a great children's park. Our No. 1 clientele is mothers with kids," Kimura said. "And we've never yet had a duck bite a kid!"

Just leave the bread at home.

Kids in Shades

You may debate the trickle-down theory of economics, but the trickle-down theory of fashion is fact. Consider the newest fans of designer sunglasses.

"Last year I didn't carry any sunglasses for kids, but this year I have about a dozen styles," says Gary Fiebig, dispensing optician at Gary's Custom Optic in Reseda. "Kids from 5 years old and up are starting to wear them."

Medical opinion is divided on the fad.

"Kids' eyes are more resilient than adults'. You rarely see kids squinting in the sun. Their irises clamp down very quickly in bright light," said Dr. Steven Stiles, a Tarzana ophthalmologist. "People who chronically wear dark glasses get to a point where they can't go without them because their eyes become too light-sensitive."

On the other hand, pediatric ophthalmologist Roger D. Friedman of Tarzana believes that sunglasses won't interfere with the development of a young eye for one simple reason. "The time they wear the lenses isn't all that long, because kids are too active."

One thing everyone agrees on: Parents should make sure the sunglasses have UV-filtration, which helps protect eyes from ultraviolet rays.

Gorilla Gardens

Most of us enjoy a leisurely weekend brunch, and the primates at the Los Angeles Zoo are no exception. Every Sunday, gorillas, monkeys, apes and orangutans are treated to novelty foods--sunflowers, nasturtiums, bean and pea vines, daisies and petunias--grown by 10 volunteers at the Sepulveda Garden Center, which is run by the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks.

"Animals in the wild spend a lot of time searching for food, then stripping and eating it. This activity keeps them busy," noted Thaya deBois, the zoo's assistant director of research.

"But animals in captivity suffer from boredom, so these flower plants and vines are given to them more for behavioral than dietary reasons. For example, they spend a lot of time picking apart a stalk of corn, and the stalk is as important as the ear of corn. It's as close to foraging as we can get."

The San Fernando Valley Rose Society also donates pesticide-free roses to the zoo. "Roses are probably their favorite treat," duBois said.

The primates have enjoyed these culinary treats so much that zoo officials are planning to increase the scope of the project next year: The volunteers will tend new plots located on zoo property that will be called, appropriately, the Zoo Farm.

Overheard At...

"Doesn't a '10-grain roll' sound like an event in a gymnastics competition? Like it should have a difficulty factor of 5?"

--Customer at the bakery counter of The Good Earth restaurant in Northridge.

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