About Author: Matt Steele

Posts by Matt Steele


11 Animals Who Realized They Left The Stove On

Let’s be real. We’ve all done it and we all know the feeling. It’s a bit like…

On no…



Wait, did I? Let me back track…

I did. Gah!

I can’t believe it.




When am I going to learn?

I’m starting to panic.

Wait, it’s going to be ok. No need to freak out. But I’m still a little mad at myself.

Matt Steele is senior social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read his previous post, “Ugly” Animals Need Love Too.


“Ugly” Animals Need Love Too

Part of our mission is to educate people that every single organism in an ecosystem is equally important to the health of the ecosystem. A critter’s place on the cute scale doesn’t correlate to actual environmental value. Sadly, it can be difficult to garner support for animals that are not perceived as “cute,” but we’re hoping to change that. These are just a few of the animals that are unfortunate victims of “cute bias” and need more love.


Vultures, including the California condor, are nature’s clean-up crew. Their bald heads and permanent “scowls” don’t make people swoon, but the world would be a much dirtier place without them.

California condor


There are more than 6,500 known species of reptiles. They play varied, pivotal roles in their respective environments but are often vilified due to their appearance and unfair reputation. Reptiles are actually pretty awesome. They have been around forever, some have crazy long life spans, and some are fully independent at birth.

Caiman lizard

Caiman lizard


Arthropods is a phylum of animals that includes insects and spiders. Famous biologist Jonas Salk said, “If all insects on Earth disappeared, within 50 years all life on Earth would end. If all human beings disappeared from the Earth, within 50 years all forms of life would flourish.” Still, arthropods don’t get much love. There are more kinds of beetles in the world than any other type of animal, and the weight of ants alone is roughly equal to the weight of all human beings on Earth. It’s time to give arthropods some credit.

Dragon-headed katydid

Naked Mole-rats

The naked mole-rat and the Damaraland mole-rat are the only two mammal species that are eusocial. This means they live in a colony that may have several generations living together and just a few individuals that produce all the offspring for the colony, much the way bees and ants live. We think that’s pretty awesome, but unfortunately, some people just can’t get down with them.


Ungulates are a diverse group of mammals, usually hoofed, that serve as seed-dispersers and food for the many predators that hunt them. While not exactly “ugly,” ungulates are rarely singled out as beautiful or especially worthy of conservation, but they’re just as important as the rest.

Male and Female Nilgai


Bats are important pollinators and can eat thousands of insects in a single night, but are still feared and reviled by many. If anything, bats deserve respect and admiration. One out of every five mammals in the world is a bat, and some seeds don’t sprout unless they’ve passed through a bat’s digestive system.

Rodrigues fruit bat


Warthogs may not be the most beautiful or graceful creatures in the Animal Kingdom, but they are remarkable for their strength, intelligence, and flexibility. Also, a warthog’s “warts” are not really warts, but just thick growths of skin. What’s not to love?

Did we miss any animals that deserve more love? Let us know in the comments.

Matt Steele is senior social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read his previous post, Summer Pool Party – Animal Style.


Summer Pool Party – Animal Style

Summer is in full swing and you know what that means–pool parties! And not just for us; many animals also enjoy the life aquatic. Enjoy this roundup of animals who take to water like moths to flame.


Hippos are water fiends. They’re actually adapted for life in the water and are found living in slow-moving rivers and lakes in Africa. With their eyes, ears, and nostrils on the top of the head, hippos can hear, see, and breathe while most of their body is underwater.


Our behemoth pachyderm friends also don’t hate water. Elephants often spray themselves with water or roll in the mud or dust for protection from the sun and biting insects. They can also use their trunks as periscopes to breathe underwater, which is quite possibly one of the coolest adaptations ever.

Polar Bears

Polar bears practically live a perpetual pool party. The taxonomic name for polar bears is Ursus maritimus, which means sea bear, a fitting name for these champion swimmers. They have been known to swim more than 60 miles without rest in search of food, using their broad front feet for paddling and their back legs like rudders to steer.

A #polarbear can swim for up to 12 days & up to 426 miles. #regram #animals #nature #sandiegozoo

A photo posted by San Diego Zoo (@sandiegozoo) on


Jaguars would show you up at any pool party with their swimming prowess, helped along by super muscular limbs and large paws to paddle with. In fact, they typically live near water and have a taste for aquatic creatures. Jaguars have even been observed sitting quietly at the water’s edge, occasionally tapping the surface with their tail to attract fish.


Otters are the only species in the weasel family that enjoys constant pool parties. They spend most of their lives in water, and they’re built for it. Their streamlined bodies are perfect for diving and swimming. They also have webbed feet and can close off their ears and nose as they swim underwater. Otters can also see just as well underwater as they can above, and can stay submerged for five to eight minutes.


Most birds are masters of the skies, but penguins prefer the sea. Penguins are fast swimmers allowing them to catch a variety of prey including sardines and anchovies, as well as squid and crustaceans.


Much like jaguars, tigers don’t shy away from a good dip in the water. Excellent and powerful swimmers, tigers are often found during the day relaxing or waiting to ambush prey in ponds, streams, and rivers.


Gharials, like all crocodilians, are born knowing how to swim. As they grow older they become incredibly agile swimmers, moving through the water with ease by using their powerful, oar-like tails and strongly-webbed hind feet.

Photo by Bob Worthington

Photo by Bob Worthington


Can you think of any other animals who love water? Let us know in the comments.


Matt Steele is senior social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read his previous post, Myths About Rhino Horn That Need To Go Away.


Leeches and Wild Tigers: Randy Rieches’s Indonesian Adventure For Tiger Conservation

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s curator of mammals, Randy Rieches, has had a fruitful career breeding, protecting, and conserving wildlife here at home as well as in the wild. His latest project to help establish a tiger field conservation project led him all the way to Indonesia, where the situation for tigers is grim. I was able to ask Randy a few questions about his adventure and quickly learned that it was no walk in the park, proving once again that wildlife conservation, while incredibly important, isn’t always glamorous work.

1. What was the purpose of your trip?

I was sent to attend a meeting with Sumatran tiger and rhino conservationists working in Indonesia to find out who we could best partner with in Sumatra on our Sumatran tiger conservation work, which includes setting camera traps to monitor the tiger and rhino populations and studying behavior to better understand where to focus our efforts.

Camera Trap

Camera traps that we are placing in the forest to monitor the Sumatran tigers and the Sumatran rhinos as well as the prey base for tigers. They have to have the metal framework on them to protect them from elephants.

2. What kind of wildlife did you encounter on your trip?

Most of the trip was in the city, however, when we flew to Sumatra we went out to SRS and saw the Sumatran rhinos at the center, which was incredible. In the mornings as we walked on the edge of the forest we were serenaded by primates watching us from the tree tops and even had a very spooky encounter with a Sumatran tiger. As we walked down a path at 6:30 in the morning, we heard a low, guttural growl, which stopped all three of us in our tracks. We listened for a little while when we heard it again right off of the path in the forest. We started backing away very slowly all the while listening to see if it was following us. Luckily, it was not, and we moved off quite quickly. Most likely it was a female with cubs that was telling us not to come any closer, otherwise I am sure we would have had a worse encounter.

We took a boat on the river to Get out to the sites in the forest where we will be setting camera traps. Unfortunately, it started raining while we were out hiking which brought out all of the leeches. I stopped counting at 30 leeches on me during the hike. Not one of my favorite things on the trip. Fortunately, as they say with leeches it means that it is a healthy forest as the leeches must have wildlife to live on, and I must say the leeches are thriving.
The bird and primate life is doing very well in the forest as well as the deer and reptiles.
Boat trip

Out on the river going to check camera traps with the rangers

3. What kind of challenges did you face in the wild of Sumatra?

It is quite hot and humid and when it rains in Sumatra, it’s like someone turned a garden hose on you. However, I still think the leeches were the most challenging part of the trip.

4. What was the most memorable moment of the trip?

Seeing the Sumatran rhinos at SRS was incredible, but I will never forget the encounter with the tiger on our morning walk.

Sumatran rhino

Sumatran rhino out in wild habitat at SRS (Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Way Kambas)

5. What did the trip accomplish, or what do you hope it will accomplish in the future?

We met some dedicated conservationists working in the field that we will be working with us to set camera traps to look at the number of Sumatran tigers, the prey base that they feed on, and also get a count on rhinos as well. Overall, the best accomplishment was meeting tiger people and building relationships with them which will streamline our efforts in the region.

Randy & friends at SRS

Randy and the staff that are doing the tiger work in Sumatra


Matt Steele is senior social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read his previous blog, Myths About Rhino Horn That Need to Go Away.


Myths About Rhino Horn That Need to Go Away

It’s no secret that the demand for rhino horn is responsible for the current poaching crisis, but where does the demand come from? Sadly, a few misguided myths about rhino horn are responsible for the systematic destruction of this majestic creature, and it’s about time they go away for good.

Rhino horn has no proven medicinal value

Rhino horn has no proven medicinal value.


Rhino Horn Is Medicine

Perhaps the most pervasive, destructive myth about rhino horn is that it has medicinal qualities. Rhino horn is made of keratin, which is the same material as our fingernails. Despite having no proven medicinal value, rhino horn concoctions have been prescribed in traditional Asian medicine for about 2,000 years, but until the late 1800s, the effect on the species was manageable. By the early 1900s, however, extensive trophy hunting had been added to the mix, decimating rhino populations. Furthermore, in 2008, the perfect storm to annihilate rhinos was unleashed. According to an article in The Atlantic magazine, a rumor swept across Vietnam that imbibing crushed rhino horn cured a politician’s cancer.

Rhino horns belong to rhinos!

Rhino horns belong to rhinos!


Rhino Horn is an Aphrodisiac

Not too dissimilar from the belief in the curative abilities of rhino horn, some cultures believe that rhino horn can serve as an aphrodisiac. Multiple scientific studies have proven that this belief couldn’t be further from the truth.

Together we can kill the myths that are responsible for the decline of rhinos.

Together we can kill the myths that are responsible for the decline of rhinos.


Rhino Horn is a Party Drug

Some insist that the demand for rhino horn has an even more nefarious purpose: ground into a powder, the horn is considered a party drug in Asia, much like cocaine, except without the pharmaceutical effects (imagine grinding your fingernails into a powder). Some mix the powder with alcohol (one Vietnamese news site called the luxury potion “the drink of millionaires”), others even snort the powder like snuff.

41-year-old Nola, who lives at the Safari Park, is 1 of 5 remaining Northern white rhinos on the planet.

41-year-old Nola, who lives at the Safari Park, is 1 of 5 remaining northern white rhinos on the planet.


Rhino Horn Makes Nice Trinkets

Another cause for the senseless slaughter of rhinos is the desire to fashion horns into all kinds of trinkets, from cups and dagger handles to figurines. Despite the ready availability of better alternatives, many cultures continue to exalt rhino horn trinkets as symbols of class.

Join the fight by writing "Stop Killing Rhinos" on your hand and posting a photo on Instagram or Twitter with #rally4rhinos.

Join the fight by writing “Stop Killing Rhinos” on your hand and posting a photo on Instagram or Twitter using #rally4rhinos.

Please help us debunk these myths once and for all and stop the senseless slaughter of rhinos. Write “Stop Killing Rhinos” on your hand and post a photo on Instagram or Twitter with the #rally4rhinos hashtag. See your photo in the gallery, and visit rally4rhinos.org for more info about the plight of rhinos and ways you can help. Thanks for joining the fight!


Matt Steele is senior social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read his previous post, 11 Bellies You Really Need to Rub.


11 Bellies You Really Need To Rub

Disclaimer: These are wild animals, and must be treated as such. That doesn’t mean we can’t pretend. :)

You know you really want to rub this little spotted belly…

Photo by Cheryl Thiele

Photo by Cheryl Thiele

and this meer belly…

Photo by Helene Hoffman

Photo by Helene Hoffman

and this Andean bear belly…

Photo by Craig Chaddock

Photo by Craig Chaddock

and this polar pot belly…

and this panda paunch.

Aisha’s little red tummy is just asking for a good rub.

Photo by Paul E.M.

Photo by Paul E.M.

Jaguar cub Maderas (born at the Zoo in 2012) had perhaps the most rub-able belly of all.

Photo by Penny Hyde

Photo by Penny Hyde

But Nindiri’s latest cub definitely gives Maderas a run for her money in the belly department.

Photo by Penny Hyde

Photo by Penny Hyde

When Mr. Wu was a cub had the cutest panda pot belly ever.

And he still does.

Photo by Paul E.M.

Photo by Paul E.M.

Joanne’s fuzzy little tummy is just screaming “rub me!”

Just look at it.

Photo by Angie Bell

Photo by Angie Bell

Lion cubs Ken & Dixie were not lacking in the cute belly department.


Izu seems to disagree.

But seriously, Mr. Wu just might be the winner of cutest belly ever.

Case in point.

Actually, maybe it’s a tie.

Photo by Penny Hyde

Photo by Penny Hyde

Yep, definitely a tie.

Photo by Penny Hyde

Photo by Penny Hyde


Matt Steele is senior social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read his previous post, 7 Animals That Look Like Star Wars Characters.


7 Animals That Look Like Star Wars Characters

Look closer. That’s not Master Yoda, it’s an aye aye. “When nine hundred years old you reach, look as good, you will not, hmmmm?”

Remember the cantina scene in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope? This white-faced saki belongs in it.

Chewie? Is that you? Oh no, it’s just Satu the orangutan. Remember, “It’s not wise to upset a Wookiee.”

This baby pygmy loris looks like its straight from a galaxy far far away.

Your Monday #adorable – baby pygmy loris

A video posted by San Diego Zoo (@sandiegozoo) on

No, these aren’t ewoks from the forest moon of Endor, they’re pygmy marmosets from the forests of South America.

Watch out Han Solo, this African toad is Jabba the Hut’s doppelganger.

Saiga antelope look like they live alongside womprats in the deserts of Tatooine.

Judging by that long snout, Saiga antelope also may have been the inspiration behind the most polarizing Star Wars character, the infamous (gasp) Jar Jar Binks.

Have any animals to add to the list? Let us know in the comments. May the 4th be with you.


Matt Steele is senior social media planner. Read his previous post, Best of Vine: Zoo.


Best of Vine: Zoo

Do you follow the San Diego Zoo on Vine? If not, you’re missing out on a ridiculous amount of cute. Enjoy this recap of the Zoo’s best Vines ever.













Matt Steele is senior social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read his previous post, 17 Real Life Angry Birds.


17 Real Life Angry Birds

While birds don’t feel emotion like we do, it sure seems like they do sometimes. If birds could feel human emotion, these would be the angriest.

This Guinea fowl is really not amused. 10831777_729309523832666_235296020_n

This secretary bird is tired of your lame secretary jokes.



This flamingo is wondering what you’re looking at. 7705008540_0e704f0708_z


This secretary bird needs you to get off his lawn. 8497763573_f11afdfdea_z


This metallic starling is the original goth. All life is black (sigh)…10872535643_7ae2db3ed4_z



This burrowing owl just can’t believe it.



Neither can this burrowing owl. Burrowingowl


This California condor is clearly plotting world domination. Condor2


You’ve got to be kidding this fairy bluebird. fairy bluebird

This kingfisher doesn’t want to have to tell you again.


Photo by Ion Moe


This ornate eagle hawk kind of wants to have you for dinner.

ornate eagle hawk deric wagner

Photo by Deric Wagner


Nothing to see here, carrion. Ruppell's vulture

This scarlet macaw thought he had seen it all.

Scarlet macaw deric wagner

Photo by Deric Wagner


This Steller’s sea eagle is about to lose it. Steller's sea eagle

This secretary bird really, really needs anger management classes.

veronique augois-mann

Photo by Veronique Aubois-Mann


This white-naped crane is the opposite of impressed. Indian sarus crane


This white-necked raven needs you to pipe down, or else…white-necked raven


Matt Steele is senior social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read his previous post, 13 Animal Phobias for Friday the 13th.


13 Animal Phobias for Friday the 13th

What better day than Friday the 13th to talk about animal phobias? While many phobias play an important evolutionary role, some…not so much. With that said, here are 13 of the most common animal phobias.

Zoophobia – Fear of animals

Being Zoo folks, we clearly don’t understand this one. Like, not even a little.

Ailurophobia – Fear of cats

We all know the silly superstitions surrounding black cats, but some people fear all cats. Even Mr. Snookums the house cat.


Apiphobia – Fear of bees

While bees are incredibly important pollinators, it’s important to have a healthy respect for those stingers.

Photo by Savanna Kiefer

Photo by Savanna Kiefer


Arachnaphobia – Fear of spiders

This is perhaps one of the most common phobias. Spiders do occasionally bite (rarely causing serious harm), but are actually good to have around because they help control the insect population.

Chiroptophobia – Fear of bats

Bats are great pest control and rarely bite humans. And how could you fear this face?

Entomophobia – Fear of insects

Sure, insects may seem strange to us mammals, but they’re actually a vital part of our planet. Without them, all life would cease to exist.

Herpetophobia – Fear of reptiles

For the record, reptiles are NOT slimy. Their scales are dry, smooth and gorgeous.

Mottephobia – Fear of butterflies

If you have this, you probably shouldn’t come to the Safari Park’s annual Butterfly Jungle event. Just sayin’.

Ornithophobia – Fear of birds

We think birds are pretty awesome, but clearly some people don’t. Hitchcock didn’t help the cause either.

Selachophobia – Fear of sharks

I blame the movie “Jaws” for this one. You have a much greater chance of being struck by lightning than being attacked by a shark.


Icthyophobia – Fear of fish

Not that many fish can actually harm you, so I’m not sure where this one comes from.

Scoleciphobia – Fear of worms

Worms can seem weird to some of us vertebrates, but you can thank them for healthy soil.


Cynophobia – Fear of dogs

Believe it or not, some sources claim that dogs kill over 180 people every year. However, the overwhelming majority of dogs are total sweethearts.



Matt Steele is senior social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read his previous post, Animals Who Totally Own Winter.