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Critically Endangered Rhino Calf Born at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Black Rhino calfA 6-day-old black rhino stayed close to his mother this morning at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park while running around and exploring the exhibit. The male calf, born on Saturday July 12, 2014, marks a significant birth, since black rhinos are a critically endangered species with approximately 5,000 left in the wild.

“Poaching is the main reason why the numbers of black rhinos are on the decline,” said Julie Anderson, a keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “Any birth here at the Park is an important birth, and we have been very fortunate to have a newborn baby here at the Safari Park.”

Mother Lembe is very protective of her young calf and runs around her exhibit with her tail pointed up, a cue that lets her calf know she is on alert and watching over him. The young calf trots closely behind, sometimes fumbling over his footing, as he is still getting comfortable keeping up with his mother.

This is the 15th black rhino born at the Safari Park and fifth calf to Lembe and father Jambia. Both mother and calf are visible to guests taking the Safari Park’s Africa Tram tour.

To honor those who devote their lives to animal care and conservation, the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park, along with zoos nationwide, are celebrating National Zoo Keeper Week July 20 through 26. There are more than 6,000 zoo keepers across the U.S. who care for animals in fields that involve medical care, training, research, enrichment and education. San Diego Zoo Global salutes the animal care professionals who contribute to wildlife care and help increase public awareness about the need to preserve habitats and the creatures that inhabit them.

Photo taken on July 18, 2014, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Safari Park.



Exercise is for the Birds: Crowned Crane Chicks Take a Walk at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Crowned crane chicksTwo East African crowned crane chicks at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park took a walk with Tiana Skrivseth, senior keeper, earlier today as part of their daily exercise routine. The young female chicks, hatched 26 and 28 days ago, need daily exercise to strengthen their feet and long legs and to gain balance before they can join the adult birds in the Safari Park’s African Plains habitat.

East African crowned cranes get their name from the tall, stiff, golden feathers that cover their head when full grown. The young birds currently are light brown but as they mature, they will turn slate gray with dark gray to black primary and secondary feathers with chestnut markings. Their cheek patches will be white and red and they will stand approximately four feet tall.

East African crowned cranes are listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The numbers and range of these birds have been reduced significantly over the past 20 years due to the loss, transformation and degradation of its habitat. These two crane chicks represent the 62nd and 63rd hatchings of this species at the Safari Park.

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



3-D Technology Used to Help California Condors and Other Endangered Species

Condor 218A team including researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research has developed a novel methodology that, for the first time, combines 3-D and advanced range estimator technologies to provide highly detailed data on the range and movements of terrestrial, aquatic, and avian wildlife species. One aspect of the study focused on learning more about the range and movements of the California condor using miniaturized GPS biotelemetry units attached to every condor released into the wild.

“We have been calculating home ranges for the tracked condors in three dimensions for the first time using this GPS location data, and our novel density estimator was used to incorporate the vertical component of animal movements into projections of space-use,” said James Sheppard, Ph.D., a postdoctoral associate at the Institute for Conservation Research.

While its population now stands at approximately 400 birds, up from only 22 in the mid-1980s, conservation efforts to reintroduce the California condor to its former habitat in the mountains of California and Mexico have been hampered by a lack of understanding about condor movement patterns and habitat use.

“This data will be used as a predictive management tool to inform conservation efforts to restore condor populations, particularly with regard to emerging threats such as climate change and wind energy impacts,” added Sheppard.

The team created highly detailed data sets and visualizations relying on expertise from researchers at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at the University of California, San Diego, after they tracked three highly iconic but threatened species: California condors, giant pandas, and dugongs, a large, marine animal somewhat similar to the manatee.

“We were able to speed up their software by several orders of magnitude,” said Robert Sinkovits, SDSC’s director of the Scientific Applications Group, which helps researchers make optimal use of SDSC’s larger supercomputers. “In this case, calculations that had formerly taken four days to complete were finished in less than half an hour.”

A paper detailing the project, called “Movement-based Estimation and Visualization of Space Use in 3-D for Wildlife Ecology and Conservation,” was published July 1 in the PLoS-ONE online science journal. A video of the project can be viewed on SeedMe at https://www.seedme.org/condor_vis.

In addition to Tracy and Sheppard, researchers for the study included Jun Zhu (University of Wisconsin, Madison); Fuwen Wei (Chinese Academy of Science, Beijing); Ronald Swaisgood (San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research); and Robert Fisher (USGS, San Diego). The California condor tracking part of the study was funded or supported by San Diego Zoo Global, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Sempra Energy and Mexico-based organizations including Instituto Nacional de Ecologia, Comision Nacional Para El Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad, Secretaria de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales, Wildcoast/Costasalvaje. The giant panda research was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, Wildlife Experimental Platform of Chinese Academy of Sciences, and San Diego Zoo Global. Funding and support for the dugong research was provided by CRC Reef, Australian Research Council LIEF Scheme, and James Cook University.

Christina Simmons, San Diego Zoo Global, 619-685-3291
Jan Zverina, SDSC Communications, 858-534-5111
Warren R. Froelich, SDSC Communications, 858-822-3622
Ben Landis, U.S. Geological Survey Communications, 916-278-9495


Condor Cam Chick Needs Name

Name the Condor ChickHatched on April 29, a small condor chick emerged into the world observed closely by animal care staff at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Adding to the more than 180 condors hatched at the Safari Park since the breeding program began in 1982, the little chick was placed with adult condors Sulu and Towich so they could raise it to adulthood. Its growth has been watched by thousands of people through a live Condor Cam placed in the nest box. Now animal care staff are asking these interested watchers to help choose a name for the young female bird.

Viewers can go online at http://bit.ly/condorname to vote for one of five suggested names. In keeping with the tradition of the condor program, the names have been selected from the Kumeyaay language. The name receiving the most votes will be used for the chick for the rest of its life. Voting closes at end of day on July 20.

“California condors are an important native species in the western United States and hold a special place not only in the ecosystem but in the culture of the people native to this area,” said Michael Mace, curator of birds at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “By giving condors names from the Kumeyaay language, we hope to honor the role of condors in human culture throughout history.”

At more than 2 months of age, the condor chick is covered with fluffy, gray feathers and is still closely cared for by its foster parents. The young bird will continue to grow and mature over the next couple of months until its flight feathers grow in and it is ready to leave the nest. Animal care staff at the Safari Park hope that the chick will be able to take its place among the wild populations that have been released in California, Arizona and Mexico.



Orangutan Baby Playing, Trying Out New Teeth

Orangutan AishaAn orangutan youngster at the San Diego Zoo is now a little more than 8 months old and has begun to switch to solid foods. The playful youngster, named Aisha, was born at the Zoo October 25, 2013. Although continuing to nurse, Aisha’s emerging teeth are leading her to experiment with solid foods like apples, mangos and bananas.

In addition to her nine new teeth, Aisha is continuing to grow and develop. The little orangutan climbs and plays in the outdoor habitat, never venturing more than 10 feet from her mother. Animal care staff at the Zoo indicates that Aisha is taking advantage of the opportunities provided her to learn and grow as a young orangutan would in the wild.

Photo taken on July 7, 2014, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo.

CONTACT: San Diego Zoo Global Public Relations, 619-685-3291


San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Baby Gorilla Is Movin’ and Groovin’

Gorillas Imani and JoanneThe Safari Park’s youngest gorilla, named Joanne in honor of Joanne Warren, the first chairwoman of the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global, is beginning to explore on her own and gain some independence. While the mother, Imani, and her young baby are usually inseparable, Imani has recently been letting Joanne sit and explore on her own. Keepers report that Joanne, now three months old, has mastered rolling over onto her stomach and has gotten comfortable propping herself up on all fours and scooting forward. Imani is still keeping a watchful eye over her youngster and will observe as her baby starts to venture off on her own.

The young gorilla is now confident riding on her mother’s back and grips onto her hair while Imani forages and moves around the exhibit. Keepers report that around three months is when gorilla babies start to display that behavior, so Joanne is right on track with her development.

Other milestones for the young gorilla include getting her first teeth. While she’s not yet eating solid foods, the young gorilla has been chewing and mouthing at items in her reach, such as acacia browse and other greens like lettuce and kale, which helps with the teething process.

“While Imani is eating browse, we’ve seen Joanne grab a handful and mouth it,” Jami Pawlowski, keeper at the Safari Park, said. “She’s got about six teeth now, so it’s not quite enough to chew browse, but she definitely mouths and will suck on it; anything big and attractive that her mom is holding, Joanne will try to investigate.”

Joanne was born at the Safari Park on March 12, 2014, after a rare emergency C-section was needed. This is the first baby for Imani and the 17th gorilla to be born at the Safari Park. The Safari Park is home to eight gorillas, including the youngest gorilla, Joanne.

Photo taken on July 3, 2014, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Safari Park.



Wolf Pup Is Newest Ambassador at San Diego Zoo

Gray wolf ShadowA playful, two-month-old gray wolf pup is spending time in the Children’s Zoo nursery at the San Diego Zoo. The 23-pound pup, named Shadow, is in the process of completing a 30-day quarantine, after which he will live at Wegeforth Bowl and serve as an ambassador for his species.

Animal care staff members are introducing Shadow to various smells and sights, which will help prepare him for his new role as an animal ambassador. Keepers working with Shadow give him items such as ficus browse to smell and chew, ice cubes to chase around or cardboard boxes to climb on. The young wolf can also see guests visiting him at the nursery, which keepers say is also beneficial.

“He sees people in the window when they come by to visit; these things are all new and interesting to him. You’ll see him key in on something and really get in tune with it,” said Kim Weibel, senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo. “That’s a neat thing with wolves, the way they tune into things; they are very intelligent.”

Guests visiting the Zoo can see Shadow in the Children’s Zoo nursery in the Zoo’s Discovery Outpost. The Children’s Zoo currently has extended hours and is open until 8:30 p.m. for Nighttime Zoo, the annual summertime event during which the Zoo is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. through Sept. 1.

Photo taken on July 1, 2014, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo.

CONTACT: San Diego Zoo Global Public Relations, 619-685-3291


Breakfast with Tigers Now Offered at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Tiger_JoAnneA new dining experience at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park provides the opportunity to have breakfast with the Safari Park’s Sumatran tigers. Breakfast with Tigers is held on Saturdays from June 28 through August 16, 2014. The event includes an open buffet, featuring a traditional American hot breakfast, in the Tull Family Tiger Trail’s Sambutan Longhouse between 8 and 9 a.m., before the Safari Park opens to the public.

The new dining experience is also an opportunity to view the tigers in their yards and speak with a tiger keeper, who will be on hand during the breakfast to share stories about the large cats. The keeper will invite one of the Safari Park’s six tigers over to the interactive wall to demonstrate a training session during the breakfast.

After the breakfast, guests can explore Tiger Trail and the rest of the Safari Park at their leisure. Tickets are $45 for Breakfast with Tigers; Park admission is sold separately.

The recently opened Tiger Trail is a 5.2-acre forested habitat. It offers up-close views of the Safari Park’s Sumatran tigers and highlights conservation efforts for the species. Tiger Trail features three separate yards for the tigers, with rocks for climbing and lounging, ponds for swimming, deadwood trees to use as scratching posts and long grasses for catnaps.



New Mountain Lion Exhibit and Evening Entertainment for San Diego Zoo’s Nighttime Zoo

Mountain lion KoyaThe Australian Outback meets the California shore for this year’s “Koalafornia” theme as Nighttime Zoo at the San Diego Zoo returns. The annual summertime event begins on June 28 and continues through Sept. 1, 2014, when the Zoo will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. While guests typically visit the Zoo during the day, Nighttime Zoo offers a chance to see the animals and plants from a different perspective and gives guests a good look at some of the Zoo’s nocturnal animals.

Guests visiting for Nighttime Zoo will be able to see the new mountain lion exhibit, which is opening in time for the summertime event. The new exhibit replicates a mountainous California habitat with pine trees, a rock outcropping and wood structures for the mountain lions to climb on. The habitat also features a state-of-the-art scent distribution system that allows animal care staff to pump various scents into the exhibit to keep the mountain lions active and intrigued.

“As we build new exhibits, we are always developing creative ways to insure the spaces are dynamic and provide our animals with opportunities to express species-specific behaviors,” Greg Vicino, associate curator, said. “Mountain lions often use smell to detect prey or other cats, and this new scent distribution system allows us to pair specific scents with specific behavioral responses in a very adaptively relevant way.”

Guests can experience new shows during Nighttime Zoo such as “Australiana II, Return to the Outback,” as well as a bouncing trampoline act, “Kangaroo Crossing.” Other entertainment includes “Dr. Zoolitle Explores Australia” and on the Front Street Stage there will be animal encounters by day and a variety of performances by night. The Boardwalk Brass band will feature musical entertainment on the Zoo’s front plaza, and guests can end the night with “The Walkabout,” a procession along Front Street featuring Nighttime Zoo performers.



San Diego Zoo Spokesperson becomes Frequent Flyer on Alaska Airlines-sponsored Skyfari

SkyfariRecently returned from a trip across the United States, San Diego Zoo Global’s national spokesperson, Rick Schwartz, took a different kind of flight today as he worked to set a record for the longest ride on the San Diego Zoo’s iconic Skyfari aerial tram. Documenting his voyage on social media, Rick spent more than 2 hours on a continuous ride through the Zoo’s skies.

“This is an aerial ride over some of the most interesting areas of the Zoo, and it usually only takes a few minutes,” said Schwartz. “Spending this much time up here, I was really able to enjoy the beauty of the view and observe a lot of interesting animal behavior, particularly with the gorillas and pandas.”

The Zoo’s Skyfari ride opened in 1969 and rises up to 170 feet. The aerial tram has carried millions of guests and is a well-known feature of the park. Alaska Airlines just announced its sponsorship of the tram and is working with San Diego Zoo Global to promote the conservation of species and resources.

“The San Diego Zoo has a reputation for being one of the world’s best,” said Mark Bocchi, Alaska Airlines’ managing director of sales and community marketing. “San Diego Zoo Global’s conservation efforts are a natural fit with our commitment to sustainability, and we’re excited to help our customers explore more with this wonderful organization.”

With efforts that have reduced its carbon footprint by 30 percent over the past decade, such as significant recycling initiatives and using satellite-based navigation to fly more efficiently, Alaska Airlines’ environmental initiatives made the airline a partner of choice for the San Diego-based conservation organization. Learn more at http://blog.alaskaair.com/2014/06/10/recycling-sort/.

CONTACT: San Diego Zoo Global Public Relations, 619-685-3291