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About Author: Janet Hawes

Posts by Janet Hawes

4

Clouded Leopards: Best of Luck!

Riki stars in a new video for kids (see below)!

Riki stars in a new video for kids!

Be sure to read Janet’s previous post, Clouded Leopards: Settling In and Getting Wild.

Quarantine was over, and it was time for the nursery staff to say good luck to clouded leopard brothers Haui and Rikki. On January 12, 2013, the boys made the final move forward and graduated into their new life at the San Diego Zoo’s Backstage Pass program. Although we will have a chance to visit them in the main Zoo, we knew our special time of care here in the nursery was over. From the beginning, we knew that Haui and Rikki would be staying with us only for a short while, but it was still sad to see them go. We knew we would miss them even before they left! These boys brought a lot of life and fun into our unit, and the place would seem empty without them.

On the last day the leopards were with us, we took a minute to look back. When Haui arrived in the Neonatal Assisted Care Unit on December 1, he weighed a little over 10 pounds (4.7 kilograms) and Rikki weighed around 13 pounds (5.8 kilograms). When they left us their weights were 19 and 21 pounds (8.6 and 9.5 kilograms) respectively. When we looked back on a video taken upon their arrival, they looked so small!

Since that day, Haui and Rikki have been kept very busy at Backstage Pass. The boys have met lots of people as part of their training to keep them friendly and active. Additionally, the two are now part of the Backstage Pass presentations, are doing well on their collars and leashes, and have even been on TV.

The role of ambassador animals in our collection is to spread the word about conservation and to show the public how important, beautiful, and worthy animals are. It would be hard to find two animals more able to get that point across. These days, a look at the boys just about takes your breath away. They are quite simply gorgeous.

The trainers tell us that the boys are faring well. Rikki is still calm and relaxed and will study a new situation before jumping in. Mr. Howard (Haui) is still active and adventurous, willing to investigate and welcome new experiences. The trainers are pleased and proud of the progress the boys have made.
Caring for these two special animals was a rare treat for our staff. We will always remember our time with the boys, and we feel lucky to have been a small part of their introduction to our collection at San Diego Zoo Global. Who knows the impact these two beautiful guys will make on conservation? Haui and Rikki will spread bread on the water; who knows what will come back!

Janet Hawes is a lead keeper at the San Diego Zoo.

The boys recently participated in a video for our San Diego Zoo Kids website. They did great!

9

Clouded Leopards: Settling In and Getting Wild

leopard-cubHaui and Rikki have settled in and spread themselves out here in the NACU. Their day centers on food, nap and wild fun at playtime.

Somehow along the way, we gave Rikki a nickname which has stuck. This frequently happens here in the nursery. Rikki‘s second name is now Rolli (named after the slightly pudgy and always hungry puppy in the movie 101 Dalmatians). We’re having a lot of fun with these boys and trying to stay ahead of them by providing fun things to do.

We house the two boys in a large room which they have full run of. In the center of the room is a climbing structure for play. This elevated perching affords repeated attempts at dropping on and surprising your brother – a move that is held in high regard. The room also has a cozy box enclosure which the boys love to relax and sleep on top of. Lately though the two have learned to scale the countertop and from there, they climb all the way to the top of the refrigerator where they survey the landscape or nap in a comical, relaxed heap.

Several times each day it is time for playtime. We move Rikki and Haui to a much larger room (and here we have to keep a vigilant eye on them because there are all kinds of things they can get into) where we provide a variety of fun toys and furniture items. Here, the boys have even more opportunities to really “get down” and play in earnest. Anyone who has watched the scene through the nursery window will agree that things get crazy! There are dramatic leaps, pounces, chases and some rough landings. They love large branches and toys that we drag about so they can practice and perfect their leaps and pounces. The boys love big cardboard boxes too – they make a satisfying noise and enjoyable slide when landed upon. Another big favorite is our office chair which rolls crazily across the floor if one of the guys lands just right.

Haui remains nimble and quick. He constantly hounds his brother by launching carefully planned attacks. When the two wrestle they can be rough, but no one really gets seriously hurt. These battles are fantastic to watch because they attest to the strength, balance, agility and speed of these remarkable cats. Clouded leopards do not purr, but they do make an adorable vocalization called a chuff, which is reserved for a greeting.

On December 19th both boys received their quarantine exams. These exams took place at our Jennings Center for Zoological Medicine. The two were held off food and water in the morning as per our protocol, and then transferred by airline crate to the hospital. Our capable and talented veterinary, wildlife disease, and tech staffs thoroughly examined them. They conducted a number of medical diagnostic tests to make sure both were in perfect health. The boys did very well during the exam, recovered quickly, and passed with flying colors. They returned home to the NACU and we were glad to see that they were playing quietly together early that same afternoon.

To the staff here in the NACU, the quarantine examination signals that the boys will soon be leaving our facility. They will enter the collection at Backstage Pass and begin their training. As we look ahead to the time of their departure, we know that we will miss them.

Janet Hawes is a lead keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Clouded Leopards: Getting to Know the Boys.

9

Clouded Leopards: Getting to Know the Boys

Haui-san is not afraid of our photographer!

See previous post, Clouded Leopards: Beautiful Boys Arrive.

In the first days following their arrival in the San Diego Zoo’s nursery, we began to find out a little bit about the individual personality of each of these two clouded leopard cubs. The boys are distinct and different from one another, apparent right from the start. Each boy has a distinct personality all his own, and the two are unmistakable as individuals.

Haui-san, the smaller of the two cubs, is nimble, agile, and steady. He is wonderfully calm in novel situations, accepting new keepers, new toys, and new experiences. Even loud noises and distractions are no problem for Haui. Ever unflappable and reasonable, Haui’s even temper and playful nature won us all over immediately.

Rikki-san, the larger of the two cubs, is noticeably handsome; with rich and beautiful black dots and swirls, his “clouds” are unbelievably complex and gorgeous. Rikki is impressively powerful and strong. Despite his size, Rikki is a little bit more nervous when he encounters new things. Rikki tends to retreat to a corner or take cover when he is unsure. He also is a bit tubby, so he is slower than his brother at play. Handsome Riki is easy to love as he relaxes or plays, very happy to watch his more nimble brother when he is too tired to participate.

Before the boys arrived in the nursery, we selected some toys for them from our enrichment toy box. We realized very soon, however, that most of our choices wouldn’t do for these boys. Many of the toys quickly fell by the wayside as they were chewed up. Little enrichment toys were replaced with larger, more durable ones. A favorite activity is attacking a lure toy, a squeaky toy tied at the end of a strong leash and dragged around. This toy produces some hilarious recreational sessions as each cub fiendishly plots against his brother for possession of the squeaky toy. The cubs jump all over the room, from chairs, cat trees, and boxes, to lunge at the lure. These cubs just love new experiences for play, and our challenge is to keep them busy and engaged and to provide them with plenty of healthy exercise.

Here’s more info about clouded leopards…

Janet Hawes is a lead keeper at the San Diego Zoo.

16

Clouded Leopards: Beautiful Boys Arrive

Clouded leopard cub Riki-san

I sat waiting in the dark, searching the various doors on the gigantic FedEx plane for signs that Nicki Boyd, behavior husbandry manager, was about to emerge. Nicki had safely landed in San Diego on this cargo-only flight from Tennessee, bringing very precious cargo from the Nashville Zoo’s clouded leopard breeding program. Suddenly, one of the security guards approached my vehicle, knocked on the window, and said, “Here they come.” Nicki and a FedEx employee carried a large airline crate across the tarmac. Inside were two beautiful clouded leopard brothers, only 14 weeks old. They were hand raised at the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere and were coming to the San Diego Zoo as ambassadors for our Backstage Pass program.

All new animals to our collection must undergo a period of quarantine, necessary to ensure that they not have any infectious disease. So, before the boys could join the gang at Backstage Pass, we had to keep them segregated while our veterinarians cleared them for a variety of infectious agents. Since the boys were young and needed TLC, we decided to quarantine them inside our Neonatal Assisted Care Unit (NACU), known as the nursery by many, facility rather than at our Jennings Center for Zoological Medicine as we usually do.

For the NACU keepers, this was something new and exciting! We hadn’t had a chance to work with clouded leopard cubs since 1990, and these cats had always been a favorite species of ours. We prepared everything in advance: our unit was clean and ready for the boys’ arrival.

The two cubs were surprisingly calm in the transfer crate, curious about their surroundings and greeting me with a shrill chirp. They cried just a few times on the drive to the Zoo but were calm and patient. We carried the crate to the nursery area and opened the crate door. As each cub was released, we weighed him and held him awhile for reassurance, then released him into his new, temporary home. We had constructed a climbing structure for the cubs to play on and placed soft towels, rugs, cat trees, toys, and other enrichment items around the nursery. The cubs sniffed around tentatively at first but were playing with each other and exploring their new climbing structure and toys almost immediately.

NACU keeper Mary Dural prepared their evening diet as directed; she weighed out a portion of raw meat-based zoo carnivore food. Nicki brought some of the meat with her from Nashville, since our zoo does not use the same product. Our Nutritional Services department will change the diet for the cubs, transitioning them from the product they are currently on to our zoo carnivore diet. Since all diet changes are made gradually, we will make the transition slowly, increasing the new diet a little bit on each successive day.

That night each cub ate heartily and drank fresh water. We watched as they played, explored, and attacked each other until they began to tire and flopped themselves down on the floor. It was time to turn out the light and put the cubs to bed. They had arrived safe and sound, but it had been a long day for them.


Janet Hawes is a lead keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, No Babies? What Do Nursery Keepers Do?

28

No Babies? What Do Nursery Keepers Do?

Janet took this photo of Xiao Liwu in his den from a bedroom perspective.

The San Diego Zoo’s neonatal assisted care unit (NACU) provides care for baby animals that are not being cared for by their natural mothers. There are five of us nursery keepers, and we provide assistance for youngsters until they are weaned, stable, and are living with their families. Things change at a moment’s notice for nursery keepers—this is the nature of our work. We never know what baby we may be caring for next or at what time of the day or night a new baby will arrive. Even with a large and diverse animal collection like we have at the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park, there are times when there are no babies that need our specialized help. This is good news, because it means that all the neonates are with their natural mothers, and that is where they should be.

But what do we nursery keepers do during the slow times?

Janet and her fellow nursery keepers usually tend to baby animals such as this kudu.

We have recently experienced one of our slow times, so we have been working in various areas around the Zoo with the adult animals. Some of our latest stints have been with hoofed animals, giant pandas, gorillas, bonobos, primates, and the animals that are part of our shows and special programs. We have also had the privilege of standing in as keepers at the Zoo’s hospital, the Jennings Center for Zoological Medicine.

The experiences we have gained from working alongside keepers have been terrific. There are many interesting and endearing animals in our collection requiring specialized, dedicated care. We even get a chance to see some of our “nursery graduates” all grown up and living with their families. Being a keeper in a new area is fun and exciting, but it is also like being the new kid on the block. We are learning the ropes in so many new places that we’re on a learning curve every day! We return from our shifts in the Zoo with a dirty uniform and some great stories and experiences.

Nursery keeper Joanne tests her “wings” with a pelican.

The awesome keeper staff shows us how food and enrichment items are presented and how often and how each indoor bedroom and exhibit area is maintained. As time goes on, we get acquainted with some of the individual personalities of the animals and pick up other useful tidbits, such as where does the poop usually land?!

Caring for adult animals is important for us as NACU keepers. We can understand more about how our baby animals will be cared for when they graduate from the nursery. We can know more about the family and herd dynamics of our collection animals and understand more about how the babies we help to care for will live as adults. We can get to know the keepers who will care for our babies after they pass from our care and what the facilities they will be living in are like. This will help us to be better caregivers and broaden our perspective of animal science and husbandry.

Janet Hawes is a lead keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Visit the Mob.

4

Visit the Mob

Tinka the parma wallaby graduated from nursery care on February 1, 2012 (see Wallaby Tinka Hops Away). Her introduction to the parma wallaby mob of five adult females has been a resounding success!

Now the mob has taken up residence in an exhibit across from the Zoo’s new 4-D theatre, between Elephant Odyssey and the west end of our popular Skyfari aerial tram. Senior Keeper Elisa Evans says that Tinka is the first wallaby to greet her on the morning check. She is still friendly and super sweet. Although Tinka has grown a lot, you can still pick her out of the crowd, or mob, as a group of marsupials is called. Tinka’s fuzzy coat is grayer in color, and she is still a bit smaller than the rest of the girls.

Please stop by and visit Tinka. She will be just one of the gang, as it should be, sunbathing, feeding, or simply hopping around in the tall grass. We are so proud of her!

Janet Hawes is a lead keeper at the San Diego Zoo.

11

Wallaby Tinka Hops Away

Tinka bonds with an adult female parma wallaby.

Be sure to read Janet’s previous post, Wallaby Baby Catches Up.

New Year 2012 brought big, bold changes for our little parma wallaby, Tinka. She made the transition from living in the nursery to staying in the main Zoo with no problems. Now it was time for us to finish preparing Tinka for life with the adult parma wallabys. First, we paired Tinka with a female we call #104. Starting with just one gentle animal was a good way to ease Tinka into a larger social setting. This furry and friendly adult was a good match. We were pleased when the two seemed to bond right away, so we let the pair spend 24 hours a day together.

Next, it was necessary to make several adjustments to Tinka’s diet. On January 11, Tinka received her last bottle feeding; now she would have to rely solely on solid food. Often, when we are transitioning an animal from a liquid diet of formula to solid food we offer various temporary, transitional diet items just like you would a human toddler. Transitional foods help the animal accept solids more readily, and for Tinka these included fresh, leafy greens like lettuce, kale, and spinach along with browse and herbivore pellets soaked in water. Next, we had to gradually delete treats and offer Tinka only the adult diet: dry pellets. True to form, Tinka adjusted without incident. Her weight continued upward as she consumed her new, abbreviated menu.

Our final step—this was the big one—was to permanently wean Tinka of access to her beloved and comfy artificial pouch. There was no doubt that Tinka was ready for this step; judging by her size, there was simply no way she would fit into a female’s pouch, as her weight had climbed to 3.5 pounds (1.5 kilograms)! Still, life without the pouch she grew up in would clearly represent a big change.

Tinka spent her first night without an artificial pouch on January 28. We stationed a heater, called a pig blanket, under a cozy shelter in the pen to keep her warm. Pig blankets are special heated mats used for livestock. Electric coils inside the sturdy, plastic mat keep the substrate warm. We placed one of her familiar blankets nearby on the first night for added comfort. Once again, Tinka did not disappoint us and quickly adjusted beautifully.

Tinka, now a soft, fuzzy, and friendly wallaby, was ready for her final graduation: living with the rest of the “ladies” in the wallaby group. By this time, construction on the Zoo’s new Australian Outback area had begun in earnest. The old enclosures were being removed to make way for beautiful new ones. There was to be lots of noise, dust, and commotion, three things that the shy wallabies don’t appreciate. Therefore, the wallaby group was moved to a temporary pen to make them more comfortable during construction. Tinka joined them on the morning of February 1, 2012.

We packed Tinka into a transfer crate and drove her over to the new quarters. Her companion, #104, was crated, and keepers followed close behind. The new area consists of a large, flat outdoor pen with an attached, covered barn structure. Keeper Joann Haddad moved the parma group outside into the pen and closed the barn door in preparation for Tinka’s arrival. When we arrived, the barn was clean and empty for Tinka to explore alone. I sat with her inside the barn to get her settled as the adults waited on the other side of the barn door in the sunny yard. Tinka came out of the crate calmly and sniffed around. She was alert and curious about the new digs. After a few minutes, we placed #104 in the barn area with us. Things were going well, so we continued the introduction. Keeper Joann slowly slid the barn door open. Light streamed across the floor as Tinka hopped from the shade into the sunshine outside. Female #104 stayed close to Tinka as the others stopped by to check Tinka out.

We are proud that Tinka took this last step with as much courage as she had all the previous ones. That small, hairless, and fragile joey that depended on our very best care is now grown up. Our time with Tinka has ended, but her adventures are just beginning. Thank you, Tinka. It’s been a real pleasure, and we wish you well.

Janet Hawes is a lead keeper at the San Diego Zoo.

10

Wallaby Baby Catches Up

Tinka peeks out of her larger pouch.

Be sure to read Janet’s previous post, Wallaby Baby: New Coat, New Adventures.

We knew that Tinka, a parma wallaby, was small for her age since her arrival in the San Diego Zoo’s Neonatal Assisted Care Unit. All along, one of our main focuses was to encourage her to eat and gain weight. We surmised that since her mom had been so ill, either the quantity or quality (or both) of Mom’s milk wasn’t enough for the baby to attain a normal size. We weighed Tinka every morning before her first bottle, and we found that she gained weight nearly every day. Though her weight climbed, it was never enough to compensate, and she remained 30 to 50 percent of normal size range. The statistics we had on normal baby parma growth ended at around 200 days. Now we were in uncharted territory, unable to determine exactly how Tinka was doing.

We noticed that Tinka’s muscular tail and legs were looking more substantial. She developed an endearing little pad of fat under her chin, characteristic of the species. We decided to check with some other zoos to see if there was any weight data available on joeys Tinka’s age. Cooperation between zoos in sharing information like this is vital. There aren’t many zoos that have an organized hand-rearing program. Fewer have experience with marsupials, and even fewer still have had experience with parma wallabies. We were lucky to find that the Cleveland Zoo had raised a parma wallaby recently, had kept excellent records, and were willing to share them with us.

Tinka and Janet enjoy some play time in the nursery.

When we compared Tinka’s weight to the animal from Cleveland, we were surprised with what we found: our little girl was now 80 percent normal size! Tinka had been experiencing what is known as compensatory growth, which occurs when a small animal “catches up” to normal weight. We were delighted with this finding.

By now, Tinka was consuming solids well, jumping out of her pouch as soon as a fresh food pan was placed in her enclosure. Her favorite food was freshly chopped greens. She had become so wide (especially across the backside) that she was having trouble wiggling into her small pouch. Her fore end made it through the opening easily, but the back end was a struggle! We provided her with a larger, roomier model made from the same design. Tinka, our once-fragile neonate was now a healthy parma youngster. It was time for her to graduate from the nursery.

Tinka hops out of her nursery bedroom.

One of the most common questions I am asked as a nursery keeper is, “Don’t you miss them when they are gone? Aren’t you sad when they leave the nursery?” My answer is always the same. When an animal is ready to move on, it means that we have fulfilled our role. The aim from the start was not to make the animal into our pet, and the focus was never about the relationship between the animal and the keeper. Instead, the focus is on graduating a healthy, well-adjusted animal that will go on to lead a productive life. It is impossible not to look back on rearing an animal without some sense of letting go. But that was the plan all along, and now it was Tinka’s time.

The koala keepers prepared a nice temporary space for Tinka in an off-exhibit area. We outfitted it with some logs and hay and hung a heater above one of her pouches. Though she was used to visiting with the adults and spending time in a pen by herself every day, she returned to the nursery for overnight stays. On December 26, Tinka left the nursery for the last time. That evening, nursery keepers went out to visit Tinka in the early evening to check on her, and she seemed fine. Tinka was settled and stress free the following morning, having spent a comfortable night tucked in her heated pouch.
Tinka continues her socialization. A gentle adult female was selected to serve as a companion, and Tinka spends her days in a warm and sunny pen behind the Zoo’s parma wallaby enclosure. Soon, Tinka will be introduced to all the “girls” in the group. We have decreased her feedings to just one abbreviated bottle in the morning, and her weight continues to climb.

Janet Hawes is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo.

11

Wallaby Baby: New Coat, New Adventures

Tinka enjoys a special milk formula from the safety of her manmade pouch.

Be sure to read Janet’s previous post, Parma Wallaby Baby: Life in the Pouch.

We had been keeping Tinka’s environment quiet, comforting, and secure to simulate the environment of her mother’s pouch. Now the emergence of Tinka’s new coat meant that it was time for her to begin stepping out in the world. It was also time for us to change some of our care techniques.

The first step was to change her milk formula. Finding just the right milk formula at the proper time is one of many complex responsibilities of our Nutritional Services Division. Just imagine creating a healthy diet for hundreds of species of exotic birds, mammals, and reptiles, both here at the San Diego Zoo and at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park! It is a tall order but is probably most complicated when dealing with exotic neonates like Tinka. We are inordinately lucky to have a staff of on-site nutritionists at our disposal, and ours are the best in the world.

Biolac is the name of the product that we use to bottle-feed pouched mammals like Tinka. This dry powder is specially formulated and balanced to provide all essential nutrients needed for growth and good health. Biolac comes in three formulations to match stages of development, much like some products for human babies.

Since her arrival in the nursery, we had been feeding Tinka powdered Biolac M100. The powder is carefully measured and mixed with water. The first-stage powder is intended for joeys in the most unformed, hairless state. Now that fur had developed it was time for the switch to the next formulation, called M150. It is important not to make drastic diet changes quickly, so our Zoo nutritionists helped us design a plan for switching Tinka over slowly. We added only 25 percent of the new powder every four days to ease the transition until it was complete. Tinka did fine, and her weight continued to climb.

Tinka’s teeth were coming in, a signal that it was also time to introduce solid foods and begin the weaning process. To wean an animal, we gradually decrease the number of bottle feedings given per day and offer solid foods to replace them. The natural diet of the parma wallaby includes leaves and grasses, which are high in plant fiber. Wallabys rely on bacterial fermentation to help them digest their food. If Tinka were being reared by her mom in the natural situation, she would be exposed to bacteria every day. To simulate this natural process, we do a series of transfaunations. We take a tiny amount of fresh poop from the adult group and feed it to the baby. This process inoculates the joey’s gut with the beneficial bacterial that is necessary for proper digestion. Once the transfaunations were complete, we began offering Tinka some solid foods. The adult diet is composed mainly of a pellet made for wild herbivores. We were surprised that Tinka liked her pellets from the beginning, sometime preferring the softer soaked ones, and other times munching on the hard, crunchy dry ones.

Tinka enjoys the outdoors.

Along with the solid food, social time was added to her daily routine. Each day we brought Tinka out to a nice roomy pen behind the adult parma wallaby enclosure. This off-exhibit area was perfect because it was big and sunny with trees and dirt, all new to Tinka. The best part was that after Tinka was used to the pen area, we could open a small partition and allow her to socialize with an adult female parma wallaby.

From the beginning, Tinka loved her excursions outside the nursery. She stretched out in the warm sun and enjoyed the freedom of hopping around and exploring. We could not believe how fast she could move around and how coordinated she was. Tinka’s brief nose-to-nose encounters with the adult female parma wallaby were brief but positive. When the two animals spotted each other, they did a rapid headshake movement, complete with a hilarious ear vibration. This traditional greeting, performed when parmas meet, was all new to Tinka, but she displayed it perfectly on her own without ever having seen it before.

Gone were the days of the incubator environment. Tinka was living in a cozy box pen in the nursery with only a heat disk necessary to keep her pouch warm. Tinka’s new coat made it possible for her to explore a new exciting world and to form new relationships.

Janet Hawes is a lead keeper at the San Diego Zoo.

5

Parma Wallaby Baby: Life in the Pouch

Tinka peeks out of her surrogate pouch at six months of age.

Read Janet’s previous post, A Pocketful of Fun: Parma Wallaby Baby.

We use developmental markers rather than birth dates to determine gestational age in marsupials.  Some of these markers include eyes open or closed; ears pinned or erect; and the presence, location, and amount of body fur. When she arrived in the San Diego Zoo’s Neonatal Assisted Care Unit, Tinka’s eyes were opened, but her ears were still pinned to her head, and she had thin, pink skin with no body fur whatsoever. These markers told us that Tinka was very young and vulnerable. We were careful not to be too confident about her survival.

Janet attends to Tinka in her pouch.

We were grateful to gain the valuable experience of caring for a marsupial this young and unformed. In those first few weeks, we said each day “I can’t believe she is still with us!” Tinka gained weight very slowly and slept soundly in her pouch between feedings. We kept things in the back room where she was housed very quiet and peaceful for her to simulate the environment inside her mom’s pouch. We carefully bathed her sensitive skin, monitored the environment, and kept our voices low and her bottle feedings on time as we patiently waited for signs of development.

Peek-a-boo, Tinka!

The first subtle sign of change came in mid-July, when we noticed her right ear standing up a bit better. Her left one stubbornly lagged behind and remained pinned, giving her a comical, lopsided look for a while. Next came a few downy-soft whiskers above her eyes and around her muzzle. By the end of July, there was a subtle darkening of the skin along her back, on her muzzle, and top of her head. Then, a miracle of sorts: Tinka began to sprout fine peach fuzz in the darkened areas. We were delighted with these developments but remained downright superstitious about naming Tinka. She was still so tiny and helpless; we had a long way to go.

A bottle with a special nipple is used to feed tiny Tinka.

Tinka became somewhat of a princess, resting in her cozy pouch just waiting for the next bottle and more attention to arrive. She used her tiny hands to push away an unwanted bottle or kicked and hissed when grooming went on a little long. We offered Tinka water by a syringe to prevent dehydration, which she alternatively loved and gratefully accepted or utterly rejected by a lofty turn of the head. We discovered that she had many interesting ways of communicating her likes and dislikes (the latter category being larger than the former!) with her caretakers. She had us all willingly stepping and fetching.

By mid-September, Tinka’s peach fuzz had become fur. We looked back on those early photos of her when she was pink and totally naked and couldn’t believe she ever looked like the strange pterodactyl-like creature.

Janet and Tinka have a bonding moment.

Now Tinka could stand and hop around a little on her own. She began using the small vertical slit in the pouch to enter and exit as she pleased, although her first attempts were upsetting because getting out was easier than getting back in. We helped her a few times, and she soon got the hang of it.

Our Tinka was growing up, and now it was time to switch gears. Life in the pouch was about to change…

Janet Hawes is a lead keeper at the San Diego Zoo.