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Rady Challenge Match Met in Record Time at San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo logoThe $10 million Ernest Rady Challenge that is providing funds for a new 8-acre Africa exhibit at the San Diego Zoo has been met. Nearly 3,800 donors contributed $20 million over the past 16 months—9 months before the June 2015 deadline—to meet a $10 million matching gift challenge from businessman and philanthropist Ernest Rady.

“We are grateful to Ernest Rady for his generosity and for inspiring thousands of other people to support an African exhibit complex that will replace 1930s-era cages and grottoes in the Zoo’s Dog and Cat Canyon,” said Douglas G. Myers, San Diego Zoo Global CEO and president.

Ernest Rady’s gift will help create an Africa experience that includes Rady Falls and a Madagascar habitat. The 65-foot-tall Rady Falls will be the largest man-made waterfall in San Diego. The Madagascar habitat will showcase seven species of lemurs, including the endangered red-ruffed lemur and the elusive aye-aye, the largest nocturnal primate on Earth.

“I am pleased that so many people stepped up to help the Zoo create this extraordinary exhibit,” said Ernest Rady. “The Zoo is an integral part of the San Diego community, and the new Africa area will be great for the city’s economy, for tourism and, most of all, for our children.”

Rady Falls and the Madagascar habitat are part of the $60 million Conrad Prebys Africa Rocks exhibit complex that will open in 2017. Thus far, the Zoo has raised $45 million, which includes the $30 million from the Rady Challenge.

From the savanna to the shore, Africa Rocks will have a diversity of habitats and dozens of species. It will highlight some of the Zoo’s most popular animals, such as leopards and zebras, as well as those not seen at the Zoo in more than 35 years: African penguins and Hamadryas baboons. With activities for children, a chance to talk with animal care staff, and educational graphic panels, the exhibit complex will highlight conservation efforts and offer tips for guests to help wildlife.

“When Africa Rocks debuts in 2017, a great follow-up to the Zoo’s centennial celebration in 2016, we will have time to reflect on how the Rady Challenge has transformed a vital part of the Zoo, improving the lives of so many species. The San Diego Zoo sends its heartfelt thanks to Mr. Rady for his gift and extraordinary vision for our community,” said Doug Myers.



Study Indicates Hunting Restrictions for Tapirs May Not Be Enough

Global_logo_color copyA published study indicates that lowland tapir populations may continue to drop in French Guiana, despite recent restrictions on hunting. Researchers from the Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage in French Guiana and San Diego Zoo Global reviewed data retrieved from camera traps in the Nouragues National Reserve over the last four years and compared this data to current harvest rates in the region.

”In 2011, restrictions were placed on hunting tapirs in French Guiana,” said Matthias Tobler, a scientist with the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. “Although these restrictions are an important step, our study indicates that tapir populations in many areas might still be at risk of overhunting.”

The study, which was published in the August issue of Oryx, a conservation journal, suggests that additional hunting restrictions are needed in the region for tapir populations to be protected.

The Amazonian moist forest, which covers most of French Guiana, is one of the core habitats for the lowland tapir. The tapir is the largest herbivore found in the Amazon forest and is considered to be vulnerable to extinction. The range of the lowland tapir covers large parts of South America, including 11 countries and 25 ecoregions in six biomes.

The Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage is the French government agency in charge of wildlife research and management for all of France, including French Guiana. Its main research goals are the improvement of management practices, conservation issues and sustainable use of wildlife.



San Diego Zoo Global Academy Wins Best Certification from Brandon Hall Group

Global_logo_color copyThe San Diego Zoo Global Academy, an online resource for animal care professionals, won a coveted Brandon Hall Group award for excellence in the Certification category. The Academy, which was launched in 2012, is a new way for professionals working at zoological organizations around the world to learn best practices from leaders in the field.

“The efforts of the San Diego Zoo Global Academy enable online animal care training to be available to animal care professionals,” said Jon Prange, director of the San Diego Zoo Global Academy. “Certification is a big part of what the Academy provides and we are delighted to receive this award recognizing our efforts.”

The San Diego Zoo Global Academy takes knowledge that has traditionally been shared through apprentice-style experiential learning and shares it through an Internet portal. Created by San Diego Zoo Global Academy partners (San Diego Zoo Global and CypherWorx), the portal provides users with an interactive, online learning environment offering more than 300 self-directed courses and recorded webinars.

“I’m honored to recognize this group of elite organizations with phenomenal programs. The winners truly exemplified excellence around the critical business dimensions across the award categories, including a high standard of performance in their organization, and demonstrated clear, measurable business results through these innovative programs,” said Rachel Cooke, chief operating officer of the Brandon Hall Group.

The entries were evaluated by a panel of veteran, independent senior industry experts, Brandon Hall Group senior analysts and executive leadership based upon the following criteria: fitting the need, the design of the program, and its functionality, innovation and overall measurable benefits. Samples of the award-winning modules can be seen at sdzglobalacademy.org.



Four African Lion Cubs Debut at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Lion Oshana w/June 2014 cubsFour African lion cubs cautiously followed their mother out of their den onto their new exhibit this morning at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. To the delight of Safari Park visitors, the cubs provided lots of ooh and aah moments, and plenty of photo opportunities, as they approached the viewing windows at Lion Camp and then began exploring the habitat. The cubs mostly followed their mother’s lead while exploring but occasionally ventured off on their own to check out the long grass to play in and logs and rocks to climb.

The young lions, one male and three females, were born on June 22 to mother Oshana, who has been bonding with and caring for the little felines in her den, out of public view. Animal care staff members say Oshana has been extremely protective and attentive to her cubs and only recently began taking them into a behind-the-scenes outdoor area where they could run around and enjoy the sunshine. Today, the cubs were deemed strong enough to explore the larger exhibit at Lion Camp.

The almost three-month-old cubs have been named Ernest, Evelyn, Marion and Miss Ellen, in honor of longtime San Diego Zoo Global supporters Ernest and Evelyn Rady and Marion Wilson, and in memory of Miss Ellen Browning Scripps, the San Diego Zoo’s first benefactor. The cubs are described as being active, vocal, curious and feisty, each with their own distinct personalities. Keepers tell them apart by shaving a small patch of hair in a different place on each animal. Weighing approximately three-and-a-half pounds at birth, the cubs are healthy and growing well and currently weigh 22 pounds each. When full grown around three years of age, female lions can weigh 270 to 400 pounds and male lions can weigh around 330 to 570 pounds.

The Safari Park’s lion pride consists of Oshana and the four new cubs; the cub’s father, Izu; adult female Mina; and two of Oshana’s older offspring, Ken and Dixie. The newest cubs have been visually introduced to their father, Izu, and keepers will introduce them physically in the near future.

Visitors to Lion Camp may see Oshana and her cubs daily from 9 to 11:30 a.m., when keepers will rotate them inside and bring out either Ken and Dixie or Izu and Mina for the remainder of the day.

Photo taken on Sept. 11, 2014, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Safari Park.



Dental Procedure Performed on San Diego Zoo’s Giant Panda

Giant Panda Undergoes Dental Procedure at San Diego ZooVeterinary staff at the San Diego Zoo performed a dental procedure on giant panda Bai Yun this morning at the Zoo’s Jennings Center for Zoological Medicine. Keepers had noticed a chip in one of Bai Yun’s lower canines. After a dental exam was performed and X-rays taken, the Zoo’s veterinary team proceeded to repair the chipped tooth on the anesthetized panda.

A dental composite was used to fill in the damaged tooth, which was then cured with a light to seal the filled part of the tooth. After the tooth was smoothed and cleaned, the veterinary team performed a dental cleaning and took some images of Bai Yun’s teeth.

“The good news is the pulp canal hadn’t been compromised, but it’s very close to breaking into the pulp canal,” said Meg Sutherland-Smith, associate director of veterinary services at the San Diego Zoo. “What we attempted to do was a restorative procedure to cover up the part of the tooth that was chipped to, hopefully, prevent any further chipping or deterioration.”

Since giant pandas use their teeth to chew and break apart bamboo, their teeth can get worn or damaged over time. Giant pandas such as Bai Yun, now 23 years old, can spend up to 12 hours a day eating bamboo, which is the primary source of their nutrition.

The San Diego Zoo’s giant pandas are on a research loan from the People’s Republic of China. As part of this long-term program, the Zoo is also collaborating with the Chinese Academy of Science in studies of behavior, ecology, genetics and conservation of wild pandas living in the Foping Nature Reserve. Only 1,600 giant pandas are believed to exist in the wild, and the species is primarily threatened by habitat loss. San Diego Zoo Global, in conjunction with Chinese panda experts, continues to work on science-based panda conservation programs.

Photo taken on Sept. 10, 2014, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo.



Cheetah Cub at San Diego Zoo Safari Park Doing Well After Surgery with Support of Puppy Companion

Cheetah Ruuxa, RainaRuuxa, a male cheetah cub who recently underwent surgery to repair growth abnormalities in his front limbs, showed great signs of improvement as he took a walk with his trainers and puppy pal, Raina, earlier today at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The young cheetah is on limited activity to allow his limbs to heal but he is showing no signs of slowing down. After the therapeutic walk, Ruuxa and Raina found time to engage in play behavior with some jumping, pouncing and wrestling.

The young cub was diagnosed with a growth abnormality in his forelegs where the growth plate in the ulna stopped growing before the radius, causing a bowing of the limbs. He underwent surgery to correct the abnormality on Sept. 3 at the Safari Park’s Harter Veterinary Medical Center and has been recovering, with Raina, a Rhodesian ridgeback puppy, never far from his side.

Ruuxa and Raina, now just over four months old, were placed together at four and five weeks of age, respectively, to be raised as ambassador animals after the cheetah cub was rejected by his mother and had to be hand raised by keepers. Safari Park ambassador cheetahs are paired with a domestic dog for companionship, and the dog’s body language helps communicate to the cheetah that there is nothing to fear in new or public surroundings, which relaxes and calms the cheetah.

Visitors to the Safari Park may see Ruuxa and Raina on a Behind-the-Scenes Cheetah & Friends Tour, or guests may possibly see them on one of the training sessions around the Park.

Photo taken on Sept. 9, 2014, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Safari Park.



Rhino Birth at San Diego Zoo Safari Park Adds to Greater One-Horned Rhino Breeding Success

greater 1-horned rhinos Petunia and TanayaA 4-week-old greater one-horned rhino calf and her mother explored the Asian Plains exhibit this morning at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The female calf, named Petunia, stayed close to her mother while venturing out and exploring the 40-acre exhibit. Petunia, born on August 1 to mother Tanaya, weighed only 128 pounds (greater one-horned rhino calves usually weigh between 132 and 176 pounds at birth), so animal care staff had to keep a 24-hour watch on the newborn rhino. After growing and gaining some strength, Petunia was ready to leave her protected yard and meet the rest of the rhino family.

The young rhino seemed eager to explore her new habitat and kept up with her mother, following closely behind her as she observed other rhinos and animals living in the Asian Plains habitat.

Once widespread in Southeast Asia, the greater one-horned rhinoceros is now found only in India and Nepal. This species is listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. There are an estimated 3,250 greater one-horned rhinos remaining in the wild. Petunia is the 67th greater one-horned rhino to be born at the Safari Park since 1975, making the Safari Park the foremost breeding facility in the world for this species.

Photo taken on September 8, 2014, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Safari Park.



White Cobra Finds Home at San Diego Zoo

White CobraThe monocled cobra found in Thousand Oaks, California, after an extensive search has been moved to the San Diego Zoo. The snake, which is an all-white form of the usually black-and-white species, arrived at the Zoo about 4 p.m. on September 5. Animal care staff have placed the reptile in a 90-day quarantine. It is not expected to be available for public viewing. Monocled cobras are native to Southeast Asia and are venomous.



Pouncing, Playful Fennec Fox at San Diego Zoo

fennec_fox_pupA 3-month-old fennec fox is full of energy and ready to play in the Children’s Zoo Nursery at the San Diego Zoo. The young male, who weighs just 1.5 pounds, is in quarantine before training to serve as an animal ambassador for his species.

The nocturnal fox pup has spurts of energy, so animal care staff have been giving him lots of toys and food puzzles to help keep him busy. For example, mealworms are hidden in cardboard boxes or in his sand mound, which encourages the fox to use some of his natural searching and digging behaviors. The fox’s favorite toys to play with are small, plush toy mice.

“Fennec foxes are great hunters, and in order to foster those natural behaviors, we will give him some stuffed mice that he’ll toss around and pounce on as if he’s practicing hunting,” said Becky Kier, senior Neonatal Assisted Care Unit keeper at the San Diego Zoo. “In the wild he would normally dig for insects in the sand, so we provide him with something to dig through to encourage that behavior as well.”

The fennec fox weighs about three pounds when full grown, making it the smallest fox in the world. Large, bat-like ears provide extraordinary hearing that can help locate prey underground or up to 1.5 miles away. Another fennec fox adaptation is long, insulated fur (even on their feet) that protects the animal from sun and hot sand, which the fox would encounter in the Sahara Desert.

Guests visiting the Zoo can see the fennec fox in the Children’s Zoo nursery in the Zoo’s Discovery Outpost.



Cheetah Cub at San Diego Zoo Safari Park Recovering from Surgery with Puppy Companion by His Side

Ruuxa recoversAccompanied by his puppy companion, a male cheetah cub at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park underwent surgery to repair growth abnormalities in his limbs on Wednesday, Sept. 3. The Rhodesian ridgeback puppy, named Raina, accompanied him to the veterinary hospital and waited nearby throughout the entire procedure.

The young cub was recently diagnosed with a growth abnormality in his forelegs where the growth plate in the ulna stopped growing before the radius, causing a bowing of the limbs. The surgery was performed at the Safari Park’s Harter Veterinary Medical Center by consulting veterinarian Sean Aiken, of the Veterinary Specialty Hospital. Aiken was assisted by the Safari Park’s Christine Molter, D.V.M., and Jeff Zuba, senior veterinarian.

“This is a condition occasionally seen in domestic dogs and, if not treated, can cause pain and problems with the animal’s ability to walk later in life,” said Zuba. “With the help of Dr. Aiken, who is experienced with this procedure, we were able to correct the deformity.”

After surgery, the puppy, Raina, was given access to the recovering cheetah, Ruuxa, and sat by his side until he came out of his sedation. “Raina appeared very concerned about Ruuxa when she saw he was sleeping and she couldn’t wake him,” said Susie Ekard, animal training manager, Safari Park. “She licked him and nuzzled him, and when he awoke, she lay with him and seemed very content to know her cheetah was okay.”

Ruuxa and Raina have been constant companions since being paired together at four and five weeks of age, respectively. The young cheetah is expected to make a complete recovery and should soon be running and roughhousing again with his puppy pal.