About Author: Brent Clohesy

Posts by Brent Clohesy


Time for Reindeer to Shine

G’day everyone!

Now, most of our visitors to San Diego Zoo will be familiar with our polar bears. They are incredible, powerful, and very beautiful animals that are always popular with our guests. (Read blogs about the polar bear trio.) But what you may not have noticed is behind the polar bears, in the San Diego Zoo’s Polar Bear Plunge habitat, in a very cleverly designed exhibit that blends into the background are two Siberian reindeer.

For 11 months of the year, the reindeer are happy to keep a low profile and let the polar bears steal all the attention. But in December, the reindeer are the stars of the show! I haven’t seen any Christmas decorations, or TV specials where polar bears are helping Santa Claus deliver Christmas presents to the kids….

We have two female Siberian reindeer at San Diego Zoo; they have the affectionate names of “Ear-Notch 16” and “Ear-Notch 7” (Most hoofed animals at the Zoo have small notches in their ears to make identification easier.)

Reindeer are amazing animals. They are found throughout the world’s Arctic regions, including, yes, the North Pole. They are the only species of deer in which males AND females have antlers, and like other deer, these antlers are shed each year.

They are perfectly designed for living in freezing temperatures with thick coats, hooves that shrink and tighten depending on the conditions, and a nasal passage that heats the incoming air before it hits their lungs. Amazing!

Reindeer have been incredibly important to the indigenous people of the Arctic regions. They were one of the first animals to be domesticated, and while polar bears are terrorizing communities and reminding us all about global warming, reindeer are providing food, clothing, and transportation to people. And let’s not forget about gift delivery: very handy!

So next time you are at the Zoo admiring the polar bears, be patient, stick around, and have a look at our reindeer. And I’d be happy to hear anyone’s suggestions for some better names that EN-16 and EN-7, but sorry, there’s no way we are calling one Rudolph.

Merry Christmas!

Brent Clohesy is a keeper at the Melbourne Zoo in Australia doing a keeper exchange at the San Diego Zoo. Read his previous blog, An Aussie in San Diego.


An Aussie in San Diego

Brent with a lesser kudu

Brent with a lesser kudu

G’day! My name is Brent, and I am one of the Sumatran tiger keepers from the Melbourne Zoo in Australia. For the next three months I am lucky enough to be working at the San Diego Zoo, participating in a keeper exchange with a great guy named Adam. I’m working in the San Diego Zoo’s hoofed animals team, while he looks after our native animals at the Melbourne Zoo. It has been an outstanding experience so far! (Read Adam’s previous blog, Hopping along the Exchange.)

Now, most of the information I knew about America came from watching Jerry Springer on Australian TV, but so far I have not even seen ONE dwarf fighting with a large security guy. In fact, every single person I have met here at the San Diego Zoo and around San Diego have been absolutely fantastic. Californians seem like very relaxed and friendly people, just like back home in Australia. I think I might stick around and run for mayor.

One of the reasons I came to the San Diego Zoo was to learn more about ungulates (animals with hooves), and there is no better place in the world to do that than here at the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park. Being a tiger keeper, most of my hoofed animal knowledge revolved around how to prepare meat to feed to the tigers…but I needed more.

Adult dik dik

Adult dik dik

The animals that I get to care for are amazing. I’m learning about reindeer, Calamian deer, Sichuan takins, Japanese serow, Soemmering’s gazelles, red-flanked duikers, Cape blue duikers, hairy armadillos, lesser kudu, pronghorn, tufted deer, steenbok, and my favorite: the dik diks. They are amazing little African antelope weighing about six pounds (2.7 kilograms) and their name comes from the alarm call they make when they are startled. Visitors to the Zoo will be lucky enough to see our one-week old baby dik dik near the west end of the Skyfari aerial tram. He could be the cutest animal in history!

Speke's gazelle

Speke's gazelle

Another animal that I look after and I’m really enjoying learning about is the Speke’s gazelle. These guys are another African antelope weighing around 40 pounds (18 kilograms), and they are super quick. But their most unique feature is their nose: they have folds of skin over their nostrils that inflate when they get excited. If I am working in their enclosure and they think I’m getting a bit close, they will stamp their hoof on the ground and their nose inflates like a small tennis ball! Visitors to the Zoo can see the Speke’s gazelle in our large mixed species exhibit just before you get to the polar bears. And you shouldn’t have to wait too long to see a Speke’s gazelle inflate its nose sack, because these guys don’t mind fighting out of their weight division, and you could see them trying to intimidate much larger animals like lesser kudus, and gerenuks, all with the help of an inflatable nose!

So, I hope the great people of San Diego get a chance to come into the Zoo soon, and if you see an Australian going walkabout, then come and say G’day.

Brent Clohesy is a keeper at the Melbourne Zoo.