The next best thing?

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If you aren't planning a trip to see the Olympics in Beijing, but are still interested to learn about that part of the world, you might want to stop by Wildlife World Zoo. Sorry, we don't have pandas, but we do have several animals unique to China.

One of the most obvious is a deer known as the Chinese water deer. Unlike most deer, this shy animal does not grow antlers. Instead, male water deer grow tusks. They are used for defense and sparring with competitors during breeding season. These animals prefer the cover provided by forests, so you may have to look carefully to spot one on exhibit.

If birds are more your style, we have the demoiselle and white napped cranes. These graceful 3-4 feet tall birds make their summer homes in China and throughout central Asia. Many then make a long journey crossing the Himalayan Mountains to their winter home in India. Like all varieties of cranes, these species are facing serious threat to their survival due to habitat loss and hunting.

Finally, as we mentioned several weeks ago, we have a newborn white-handed gibbon. These primates are tree dwelling specialists. Their long limbs and fingers enable them to climb and swing on tree branches so well, even a gold medal gymnast would be jealous. Unfortunately, while some species of gibbon can still be found in isolated rain forest regions of Southern China, white-handed gibbons are now considered extinct there.

As for the Olypmics: USA! USA!

Grey Stafford, Ph.D. is the Director of Conservation and Communications at the Wildlife World Zoo and author of the new pet-training book, " ". He appears frequently on 3TV with some of the zoo's fascinating animals.

Wildlife World Zoo, which is located at 16501 W. Northern Ave., Litchfield Park, is open 365 days a year, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Daytime admission is $16.99 (plus tax) for adults and $8.99 (plus tax) for children 3 to 12; children 2 and younger get in free. For more information, call 623-935-WILD (9453) or visit .