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10 Festive Reindeer Facts

‘Tis the season to be jolly! What could be more merry than Santa’s sleigh? Well, without his dexterous reindeer, Old Saint Nick’s mode of transportation would not get very far. So today, we would like to share a few fun facts about this festive species.

Wild & Fun: 10 Festive Facts About Reindeer

1. Reindeer or caribou?
In Europe, they’re known as reindeer. In North America, the term reindeer is used for Eurasian populations, while the name caribou refers to wild populations found in the country. However, both reindeer and caribou are classified as the same genus and species, rangifer tarandus. So for the purpose of simplicity and sticking with the holiday theme, we’ll call them reindeer for the rest of this blog.

Wild & Fun: 10 Festive Facts About Reindeer

2. Males AND females grow antlers.
Male antlers may grow twice as long as their female counterparts; still, reindeer are the only deer species to practice gender equality when it comes to their most memorable characteristic. Males begin to grow antlers in February and females start in May. Both stop growing around the same time, but a male’s antlers typically drop off in November, while a female’s remain through winter until their calves are born in spring. If you’re following this logic, our good pal Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer was most likely a female, because she was rocking her antlers on Christmas Eve.

Wild & Fun: 10 Festive Facts About Reindeer

3. Hard antlers start out soft and fuzzy.
Since antlers fall off and grow back every year, a reindeer is said to be in “velvet” while the new pair of antlers grow. After the velvet dries up, the reindeer unveils its hard antler cores by rubbing its deciduous horns against a rock or tree. Ta-da!

Wild & Fun: 10 Festive Facts About Reindeer

4. Reindeer calves are quick learners.
Newborns are able to stand one hour after birth, and they can outrun humans when they reach one day old. Calves are also weaned from their mothers as early as one to six months of age.

Wild & Fun: 10 Festive Facts About Reindeer

5. They have hairy feet.
Reindeer are built for subzero temps, so they’re covered in hair from their nose to the bottom of their feet. The hair on their hooves provides an excellent grip when trekking over frozen landscapes. Thus, the hairy hooves of reindeer have adapted into snowshoes for these Arctic animals.

Wild & Fun: 10 Festive Facts About Reindeer

6. Reindeer hooves are anatomically noisy.
“Up On The Housetop” and other holiday jingles often imply that the “click, click, click” we hear upon Santa’s arrival is the result of his herd’s stampeding feet. In fact, many hoofed animals make loud noises when their feet meet hard surfaces, but not reindeer. The metallic sound of reindeer hooves is actually due to tendons slipping over their foot bones as they walk.

Wild & Fun: 10 Festive Facts About Reindeer

7. They love crowds…
… of other reindeer, of course. Since they are social animals, reindeer live in herds of 10 to several hundred. So Santa was somewhat limiting his holiday herd by having only nine reindeer. Imagine the horsepower his sleigh would have if his herd included 100 fancifully named members!

Wild & Fun: 10 Festive Facts About Reindeer

8. Reindeer are good swimmers.
Santa’s exclusive herd might be capable of flying, but the rest of the species is not. However, since reindeer migrate to follow their food supply and avoid harsh conditions, chances are they come into contact with water. Luckily, reindeer use their wide, two-toed hooves like paddles that push water and allow these mammals to swim from four to six miles per hour.

Wild & Fun: 10 Festive Facts About Reindeer

9. Their eyes change color in winter.
To adapt to the varying levels of light in their northern habitat, part of a reindeer’s eye changes color and increases their vision sensitivity. The layer of tissue behind the retina that reflects light (tapetum lucidum) turns blue during winter and allows reindeer to see slightly more of their surroundings, even if what they can see is not that sharp or in focus. This seasonal trade-off has its advantages, especially if it improves a reindeer’s ability to spot predators.

Wild & Fun: 10 Festive Facts About Reindeer

10. Like humans, reindeer “wear” layers.
A reindeer has two coat layers: the undercoat is made of soft, fine wool that grows next to the skin, and the top layer consists of long, hollow guard hairs. Similar to a hollow-fill winter jacket worn by humans, the stiff top layer insulates the animal and keeps it warm against the wind and cold. These hollow hairs also help reindeer float. In other words, reindeer have incredible fashion sense.

Do you have any reindeer facts to add to this list? Share your thoughts in the comments.

 

Jenn Beening is the social media specialist for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous post, What We’re Thankful For.

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What We’re Thankful For

Giving thanks is certainly in season, but our gratitude for the support of our members, donors, sponsors, and partners extends far beyond the holiday. Plus, we thank our dedicated volunteers for their efforts in connecting our visitors to wildlife and conservation. So while we continue to give thanks to all the people and organizations that contribute to our goal of saving species from extinction, there are a few special shout-outs we would like to emphasize this Thanksgiving.

California Condor Recovery Program

They are one of the largest flying birds and one of our greatest continuing success stories. We’ve come a long way since 1985, when California condors were 22 birds away from extinction. Today, more than 400 California condors are alive, with over half flying free in California, Arizona, and Baja California, Mexico. This year we’re especially grateful for our international partners in Baja California, Mexico and at the Chapultepec Zoo in Mexico City. With a renewed cross-border commitment to the California Condor Recovery Program, our mounting achievements will result in even more condors spreading their wings and flying free in the wild.

Southwestern pond turtle headstart to recovery program

Don’t let their tough shells fool you! According to Conservation International, 40 percent of turtle species across the globe are at immediate risk of extinction. In 2013, we gave California’s only native freshwater turtle species, the southwestern pond turtle, a “headstart” toward recovery with the help of the U.S. Geological Survey, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the San Diego Association of Governments. Five more turtles were released into the Sycuan Peak Ecological Reserve this summer, so a special thanks goes to our local conservation partners for the swimming success and enduring research.

The first full breeding season for Hawaii’s native palila was a success at the Maui Bird Conservation Center. Six healthy chicks were produced with the help of the Hawaii Endangered Bird Conservation Program and our local partners. Watch the video to learn about a few other bird species we’ve been working with on the Hawaiian Islands.

African elephants

We are thankful to receive the 2014 Edward H. Bean Award from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) for the African bush elephant program, along with Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo. We’ve also had success with our satellite herd of this species at the Reid Park Zoo in Tucson. The birth of our most recent calf, Nandi, contributed to the population of these gentle giants, and we are pleased to work with animal care staff in Arizona to further this mission.

San Diego Ronald McDonald House Tunes into San Diego Zoo Kids Network

Introducing people to wildlife is crucial for the conservation of all species. In addition to four hospitals across the United States, this year we were able to bring the San Diego Zoo Kids channel to the patients and families at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Furthermore, the educational channel was implemented into Ronald McDonald House Charities of San Diego, where children can enjoy hours of animal stories from the comfort of their own rooms.

Tull Family Tiger Trail

The opening of the Tull Family Tiger Trail was the culmination of years of planning, design, fund-raising, and construction, all made possible through the contributions of our community and the amazing generosity of the Tull Family. This adventure is proof that when we come together, we can accomplish great things for endangered species like the Sumatran tiger.

Highlighting every species and conservation success we’ve shared this year is impossible. However, on behalf of everybody at San Diego Zoo Global, our organization would like to thank all of our members, volunteers, donors, partners, and the overall community for the ongoing support and dedication. Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is our ultimate goal, but we can’t do it without you.

Join the conversation: What are you thankful for this year?

Jenn Beening is the social media specialist for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous post, 9 Culturally Haunting Animals.

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Facebook Tiger Caption Contest

We’re running an impromptu giveaway with the Safari Park’s Facebook followers. By entering, you agree to these terms and conditions. Good luck!

pic by Darrell Ybarrondo

pic by Darrell Ybarrondo

1. NO PURCHASE IS NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase will not increase your chances of winning. Participation constitutes entrant’s full and unconditional agreement to and acceptance of these Official Rules. The Facebook Tiger Caption (“Contest”) will be held online from 11:00 a.m. Pacific Time (“PT”), November 17, 2014 (“Contest Start Date”), to 5:00 p.m. PT, Novemeber 18, 2014 (“Contest Period”). Contest is sponsored by the Zoological Society of San Diego DBA San Diego Zoo Global (the “Sponsor”) who is solely responsible for all aspects of this Contest.

2. ELIGIBILITY. The Contest is open to legal residents of the United States of America who are 18 years of age or older as of “Contest Start Date.” Sponsor’s employees and their immediate families are not eligible to participate or claim a prize. Void where prohibited or restricted by law. All federal, state and local laws, rules and regulations apply. By participating, entrants agree to abide by all terms of these Official Rules and to the decisions of the judge, and waive any right to claim ambiguity in the Contest or these Official Rules.

3. HOW TO ENTER.

1.) As of 11:00 a.m. PT, November 17, 2014, the entrant must:

a. Have a Facebook® account: If you are not a member, you may sign-up at www.facebook.com

b. Follow the prompt on the Facebook post found here: https://www.facebook.com/sdzsafaripark/photos/p.1060689877281021/1060689877281021/?type=1&theater

No mechanically reproduced entries will be accepted.

4. INTERNET LIMITATIONS OF LIABILITY. If for any reason this Contest is not capable of running as planned due to infection by computer virus, bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical failures, or any other causes beyond the control of the Sponsor which corrupt or affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity or proper conduct of this Contest, the Sponsor reserves the right at its sole discretion, to disqualify any individual who tampers with the entry process, and to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the Contest in whole or in part, at any time, without notice and award the prizes using all non-suspect eligible entries received as of this termination date. The Sponsor assumes no responsibility for any error, omission, interruption, deletion, defect, delay in operation or transmission, communications line failure, theft or destruction or unauthorized access to, or alteration of, entries. The Sponsor is not responsible for any problems or technical malfunction of any telephone network or telephone lines, computer on-line systems, servers, or providers, computer equipment, software, failure of any e-mail or entry to be received by the Sponsor on account of technical problems, human error or traffic congestion on the Internet or at any Website, or any combination thereof, including any injury or damage to participant’s or any other person’s computer relating to or resulting from participation in this Contest or downloading any materials in this Contest. CAUTION: ANY ATTEMPT TO DELIBERATELY DAMAGE ANY WEBSITE OR UNDERMINE THE LEGITIMATE OPERATION OF THE CONTEST IS A VIOLATION OF CRIMINAL AND CIVIL LAWS AND SHOULD SUCH AN ATTEMPT BE MADE, THE SPONSOR RESERVES THE RIGHT TO SEEK DAMAGES OR OTHER REMEDIES FROM ANY SUCH PERSON (S) RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ATTEMPT TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW. In the event of a dispute as to the identity of a winner, the winning entry will be declared made by the authorized Facebook account holder of the entry submitted at time of entry. “Authorized account holder” is defined as the natural person who is assigned to a Facebook account by Facebook, Inc.

5. SELECTIONS AND NOTIFICATION OF WINNERS. Winners will be determined on or after November 18, 2014 by Sponsor’s staff from among all eligible entries. Winners will be notified on or after November 18, 2014 via Facebook and need not be present to win. Only one winner per household. The winner will be disqualified and an alternate winner will be selected if a selected winner fails to comply with these rules, cannot be contacted, is ineligible, fails to claim a prize, or if the prize notification or prize is returned as undeliverable. Acceptance of a prize constitutes permission to use the winners’ names, likenesses, and statements for promotional and publicity purposes without additional compensation or limitation unless prohibited by law. All decisions of the Sponsor regarding the selection of winners, notification and substitution of winners in accordance with these Official Rules shall be binding and final.

6. PRIZES AVAILABLE. One (1) winner will receive one (1) one-day pass to the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Substitutions of similar value will be made at the sole discretion of the Sponsor if offers are no longer available. The prize is not transferable, assignable or redeemable for cash and if not used will be forfeited.

7. INDEMNIFICATION AND RELEASE. By entering the contest and participating in any promotions relating thereto, each entrant agrees to release and hold Sponsor and respective affiliates, subsidiaries, parent companies, officers, directors, shareholders, employees, agents, participating retailers, and any other companies participating in the design, administration, or fulfillment of this sweepstakes and their respective officers, directors, employees, and agents, harmless from any and all losses, rights, claims, injuries, damages, expenses, costs, or actions of any kind resulting in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, from participation in this contest or any contest-related activity, or acceptance, possession, use or misuse of the prize or parts thereof, including without limitation personal injuries, death, and property damage and claims based on publicity rights, defamation, or invasion of privacy.

8. TAX INFORMATION. All applicable Federal, state and local tax liabilities and any other incidental expenses, fees or costs associated with the receipt or use of any prize are the sole responsibility of the winner.

9. WINNERS LIST. For an Official Winners List (available after November 18, 2014 and through December 31, 2014) or a copy of these Official Rules (PLEASE SPECIFY WHICH), send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to: San Diego Zoo Global, P.O. Box 120551, San Diego, CA 92112-0551.

10. SPONSOR. San Diego Zoo Global: P.O. Box 120551 San Diego, CA 92112-0551

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9 Culturally Haunting Animals

Since Halloween is around the corner, it’s time to learn about some creepy critters that have been haunting cultures around the globe. It’s also time to separate fact from fiction, the latter being partially responsible for some bad reputations surrounding some incredibly innocent creatures. It’s important to note that just because certain species are portrayed as terrifying monsters in the media or fancy folklore doesn’t mean that said animals are, in fact, flesh-eating freaks of nature. In other words, the expression “don’t believe everything you hear” exists for a reason.

So without further ado, keep reading for some animal-inspired myth busting.

Satanic leaf-tailed gecko

One look at the satanic leaf-tailed gecko and you’ll understand why this demonic reptile made the list. This master of disguise has a body that mimics a dead leaf, which protects the gecko in its native Madagascar. To trick predators, the satanic leaf-tailed gecko can also flatten its body like a pancake and deliberately shed its tail. Despite how scary this tiny reptile appears to be, it’s irrational to denounce the species for its kooky characteristics.

Aye-aye

The Safari Park’s Lemur Walk demonstrates how curiously cute these prosimians can be. Yet the Malagasy people of Madagascar believe that lemurs embody the souls of their ancestors. In fact, the word lemur stems from the Latin word lemures, which translates to “ghosts” or “nocturnal spirits.” In Roman mythology lemures weren’t just spirits—they represented lethal, vengeful spirits, the kind nightmares are made of. This misunderstanding has threatened the lives of one subspecies in particular, the aye-aye, which is often killed on sight because it’s perceived as a bad omen. The only bad omen here is the fact that lemurs status was recently moved from vulnerable to endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species this year.

Tasmanian devil

The Tasmanian devil got its moniker for its dark color and fierce temper. These nocturnal marsupials let out spine-chilling screams while feeding together at a carcass. When they feel threatened or excited, their little ears change to bright red. While their name appears to suit their style, what’s even scarier is the fact that Tasmanian devils are critically endangered. In other words, Loony Tunes’ exaggerated portrayal of Taz as a voracious lunatic may have done more harm than good. Currently, the San Diego Zoo is one of just two facilities in North America to house these little devils.

Snow leopard

As elusive as they are stunning, snow leopards have been creatures of Nepalese myths and Buddhist culture for centuries. Luckily for them, their reputations tend to be more positive than the aforementioned animals. Their shy and mystifying ability to almost disappear in their native habitat has established snow leopards as shape-changing mountain spirits to the local people of Central Asia, who know them as “ghost cats.”

Jaguar

Another mysterious big cat that’s earned a prominent place in local legends is the jaguar. These cool cats are depicted in ruins throughout Central and South America, but instead of symbolizing a spooky species, jaguars represent beauty, strength, and unparalleled intelligence in the New World. In fact, some tales suggest that jaguars move between worlds because they’ve adapted to life in the trees as well as on the ground. Their ability to hunt during the day and night is equally impressive.

Vultures

Most vultures depicted in cartoons, comics, or films reinforce that one-dimensional image we all have: a symbol of impending doom or death. Even though the entertainment industry has deemed this winged species as wickedly horrid, once you get past their harsh appearance, you’ll learn that some cultures actually idolize vultures. Aside from ancient mythology and rituals, vultures are crucial to habitats, as they remove dead carcasses without spreading disease. So instead of fearing vultures, we should thank them for taking care of at least one dirty job.

Crow

Another bird that’s been doomed by ancient legends and modern Hollywood is the crow. Despite the fact that the comic book series and subsequent action movie was based on a brutal story of murder and vengeance, Edgar Allan Poe’s preceding works in the mid-1800s further expanded the crow’s negative connotations. Perhaps its slick, dark plumage is to be blamed for the crow’s lack of love, but in nearly every culture’s mythological past– from Ireland to Islam–this species was associated with war, death, murder, and other terrifying nouns that keep us awake at night.

Gila monster

With a name like Gila monster, it’s no surprise that this species has one of the worst reputations in the reptile world. Native to northern Mexico and our southwestern states, this lizard is feared by humans for a bevy of false reasons. For starters, some people think the Gila monster can spit deadly venom, sting with its tongue, and even kill people with its poisonous breath. While the Gila monster is, in fact, venomous, a bite from one of these scaly creatures rarely causes death…in humans. Nothing to fear here.

Komodo dragon

The Komodo dragon is another victim of bad publicity. While it wins the prize for largest-living lizard in the world, people have feared the dragon because it’s believed that its saliva contains a deadly bacteria. The jury is still out on this one, so stay tuned for another blog that addresses this topic.

Join the Halloween fun! Share your spooky species or animal legends in the comments below.

 

Jenn Beening is the social media specialist for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous post, 7 Animals You Didn’t Learn In School.

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7 Animal Facts You Didn’t Learn In School

You don’t have to be an animal expert to appreciate the natural world. In fact, simple short cuts like the fun facts listed below, can be very conducive to gaining a better understanding of the Animal Kingdom. Enjoy!

Monkeys have tails and apes don't.

1. Monkeys have tails and apes don’t.
Since we have more in common with our great ape cousins than we do with monkeys, a good way to remember this fact is to simply look at your rear end.

There’s no such thing as a poisonous snake.

2. There’s no such thing as a poisonous snake.
Contrary to pop culture and older versions of Encyclopedia Britannica, snakes are venomous, not poisonous. If they were poisonous, touching or licking a serpent would be the more appropriate fear than death by snakebite. And that’s even debatable, since statistics show that out of 7,000 to 8,000 snakebites per year in the U.S., only 5 or 6 are fatal. Call it semantics, but the truth is only 10 percent of the 3,000 species of snake are venomous, meaning they inject toxins into their prey (biting or stinging). The difference is skin deep.

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9 Animals You Never Knew Existed

The precise number of animal species that exists on Earth, both past and present, is unknown. Following this logic, there’s a plethora of animals they didn’t teach you about in school. Sure, lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!) are cool, but if you’re looking to expand your knowledge of the Animal Kingdom or just want to stock up on fun #animalfacts, check out these nine exceptional creatures.

Bonobo

Before you mistakenly categorize this primate as a chimp, take a closer look. The bonobo is one of the most rare and intelligent primates in the world; they’re only found in a small part of the Democratic Republic of Congo and, among other things, their social structure is unique, complex, and largely peaceful.

Agouti

The agouti (ah GOO tee) is a rain forest-dwelling rodent from Central and South America. Given its diet of fallen fruit and nuts, it’s no secret that the agouti loves forest leftovers, but its sharp incisors also play a vital role in the survival of Brazil nut trees (one of the largest in the Amazon). This rodent species is the only mammal that can crack open the indestructible outer shell of a Brazil nut, which is extremely valuable for the country’s remote people.

Fossa

Madagascar is home to some incredible species, and the fossa is the “king” of them. Even though resembling a morphed cat-like dog, a fossa’s closest relative is the mongoose, but the misunderstandings don’t end there. Legends of fossas stealing babies from cribs, licking humans into a deep trance, and making their own pupils disappear are endless, but let’s be honest, we prefer facts over a lengthy list of myths.

Binturong

Imagine a buttery box of theater-style popcorn, and you can almost smell this next exceptional species. Yes, the smell that usually signifies box-office entertainment is the same smell you’ll find emanating from a binturong, aka bear cat. However, that moniker is a bit misleading since binturongs aren’t related to bears or cats but instead have closer ties to fossas mentioned above.

Echidna

There are only two types of egg-laying mammals in the world, and the echidna is one of them. If that’s not enough to spark your interest, this spiny anteater is also one of Earth’s oldest surviving species. While other animals have been busy evolving and adapting to fluctuating environments, the echidna has remained unchanged since prehistoric times.

Tamadua

Speaking of anteaters, the tamandua (aka lesser anteater) is another mammal you probably didn’t know existed. Its relative, the giant anteater, gets most of the attention, but the tamandua has its own way of making its presence known; it can spray a rotten-smelling secretion that’s said to be significantly more powerful than a skunk. Thus, its unforgettable nickname, “stinker of the forest,” is properly attributed.

Tree pangolin

The tree pangolin is a scaly anteater that looks like a pinecone with legs and a long tail. Its scales are made of keratin, like our hair and fingernails, which protect this “pinecone” from predators.

Tuatara

Sure, the tuatara appears to be an average lizard, but this reptile is truly unique. The tuatara is specific to New Zealand and its closest relatives are an extinct group of reptiles that lived during the time of the dinosaurs. It’s no wonder the tuatara is referred to as a “living fossil.”

Caecilian

Caecilians (pronounced seh-SILL-yens) live a mysterious life in a network of underground tunnels. There are over 120 species of caecilians on at least 4 continents, but almost nothing is known of this amphibian’s habits or lifestyle.

Can you think of any uncommon animals to add to this list? Share yours in the comments below.

*Jenn Beening is the social media specialist for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous post, Ken and Dixie’s Bite Club.

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Ken and Dixie’s Bite Club

An African lion’s life is typically all about sleeping, napping and resting… but that isn’t necessarily true for the Safari Park’s Lion Camp rock stars. Ken and Dixie managed to start a secret Bite Club in their spare time. Keep reading for the official rules.

The 1st rule of Bite Club is, you don’t talk about Bite Club.

 

Ken and Dixie's Bite Club
Photo by Ion Moe

The 2nd rule is, you DO NOT talk about Bite Club.

 

Ken and Dixie's Bite Club

A few practice chomps or chews are permitted before the bite begins.

 

Ken and Dixie's Bite Club
Photo by Bob Worthington

Stalking your bite is optional.

 

Ken and Dixie's Bite Club
Photo by Angie Bell

If a cub taps out or keepers call for lunch, the bite is over.

 

Ken and Dixie's Bite Club

Two cubs to a bite.

 

Ken and Dixie's Bite Club

No paws, no cheap shots.

 

Ken and Dixie's Bite Club

Bites will go on as long as they have to.

 

Ken and Dixie's Bite Club

No enrichment or outside items.

 

Ken and Dixie's Bite Club

Seriously…

 

Ken and Dixie's Bite Club

If this is your first time at Bite Club, you have to bite.

 

Ken and Dixie's Bite Club
Photo by Nathan Rupert

For more lion cub fun, watch the video below.

*Jenn Beening is the social media specialist for San Diego Zoo Global.