To coincide with a recent video interview for the San Diego Zoo’s Web site, I was asked to write an update on what’s been going on with my “string” (what we call the area/animals in our charge).
Red River Hogs:
Everyone is doing well (see One Pig, Happy Family). Jabari is now nearly nine months old and continues to flourish. He hardly resembles the tiny, striped little creature that could barely crawl into my lap. Our construction team is currently working tirelessly on building a permanent pool for the hogs to enjoy wallowing in during the hot summer months.
Baby Sekele, now seven months old, is doing very well, weighing in at a respectable 350 pounds or 159 kilograms (see New Okapi: Shh…It’s a Secret). His training is coming along slowly but surely. Sekele is already way ahead of the bar set by his older sister, Sukari. She has a big trip coming up; she will be moving to San Antonio in early February. The okapis’ exhibit-mates, duikers Luke and Mae, are doing very well.
Funani and Otis continue to get along famously (see Hippos: Big Love). Ever since their reintroduction, they have been inseparable. We have witnessed them breeding many times, but so far they have not been successful in conceiving. We will continue to monitor Funani’s fecal hormone levels so that we can be certain if and when Funani does get pregnant.
Julong is easy to miss—he lives right across the road from his more popular cousins, the giant pandas (see Little Red Panda). He spends most of the day sleeping, and is often hard to spot. If you happen to catch him during a moment of activity, it is well worth it. He is absolutely adorable, and if you see his face, it’s easy to tell that he is actually more closely related to the raccoon than to the giant panda. Julong is getting on in years. The average lifespan for red pandas in zoos is roughly 14 years (8 to 10 years in the wild), and Julong is about 11 years old. He has had some health problems, but we continue to watch him closely and adapt his enclosure to his changing needs. Most recently, in response to Julong’s poor eyesight and difficulty balancing, we put up some flat wooden planks (as opposed to rounded tree branches) to help him get from platform to platform.
The most recent addition to the area I work in is Chantek, a 26-year-old Malayan tapir (see Tapir Tales). She wasn’t getting along with her cohabitants in Tiger River, so she is currently residing in the hippo barn until a more suitable enclosure can be constructed for her. Chantek is doing very well and pays little heed to her large, boisterous neighbors. Otis, however, is rather intrigued by his new neighbor.
Well, that’s all the news for now. As you can tell, things at the San Diego Zoo are always changing, and the life of a keeper is never dull!
Nate Schierman is a keeper at the San Diego Zoo.
Watch Nate’s video…