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Birthday Celebration at San Diego Zoo: Giant Panda Xiao Liwu Turns Two!

Xiao Liwu's 2nd birthdayXiao Liwu (pronounced sshyaoww lee woo), a male giant panda at the San Diego Zoo, turned two years old today and received a birthday party, complete with cake and presents. The young panda, whose name means little gift, came out of his den this morning to find a festive, four-foot-tall ice cake, topped with a big ice “2″ and filled with some of his favorite treats: apple, carrot and yam slices.

The birthday bear, called Mr. Wu by his keepers and panda fans, went directly to the two-tiered cake and began eating the slices of fruits and vegetables layering the top tier of the icy treat. When he ate all the slices, he patiently waited for the ice to melt so he could eat the fruit frozen into the tiers. He later climbed on top of the cake and chewed on the bamboo stalks frozen inside the decorative elements before venturing off to check out his gifts, boxes filled with hay, alfalfa and pine shavings and scented with cinnamon.

Xiao Liwu’s cake, weighing 100 pounds, was made by the Zoo’s nutritional services team and took weeks to complete. It was made of water colored with food coloring and frozen into layers, with bamboo stalks used to support the tiers. The ice cake was decorated with sliced fruits and vegetables, bamboo, colored pieces of ice cut into star shapes and pureed yam frosting applied with traditional frosting tubes and tips. The cake and gifts are a form of enrichment, which is important to the panda, as it keeps him stimulated and active, allowing him to show natural behaviors.

Keepers describe Mr. Wu as an extremely smart and precocious cub. He enjoys playing in a long, plastic tray filled with ice cubes, but once the cubes melt, he comes out. He also enjoys rolling in different scents and his favorites are ginseng root, wintergreen and cinnamon. He is very laid back and relaxed and loves his bamboo, eating 15 to 20 pounds of it a day. He weighs 88 pounds and when full grown can weigh as much as 250 pounds. Visitors can see Mr. Wu at Panda Trek at the San Diego Zoo or watch him on the Zoo’s Panda cam at zoo.sandiegozoo.org/cams/panda-cam.

The San Diego Zoo is home to three giant pandas: Xiao Liwu, his mother, Bai Yun and father, Gao Gao. Giant pandas are on loan to the San Diego Zoo from the People’s Republic of China for conservation studies of this endangered species. To help San Diego Zoo Global lead the fight against extinction and to celebrate Xiao Liwu’s birthday, please consider becoming a Hero for Wildlife by making a monthly donation to San Diego Zoo Global’s Wildlife Conservancy at www.endextinction.org.

Photo taken on July 29, 2014, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo.

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291

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Rare Night Lizards Form Satellite Population at San Diego Zoo

island night lizardA recently recovered endangered species, the island night lizard, has been added to the list of reptile species at the San Diego Zoo. Five night lizards arrived at the Zoo on July 25, 2014, brought by the U.S. Navy to be available for guest viewing. The species was removed from the endangered species list by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on May 1, 2014.

“It is one of the few species that visitors to the Zoo will see that was recovered under the Endangered Species Act, and the only one estimated to occur in the millions on U.S. Navy Lands,” said Dr. Robert Lovich, senior natural resource specialist at Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) SW, Desert Integrated Product Team.

The island night lizard Xantusia riversiana is native to three federally owned Channel Islands (San Clemente, San Nicolas, and Santa Barbara) located off the Southern California coast, and a small islet (Sutil Island) located just southwest of Santa Barbara Island. San Clemente and San Nicolas islands, used by the U.S. Navy as training lands, are also home to several unique and endangered species that the naval command works to preserve.

“San Clemente Island is critical to the Navy’s ability to train and prepare sailors to fight in realistic situations. By adaptively managing wildlife like the island night lizard, we can conduct our mission requirements and remain great stewards of our natural resources. We’re pleased the San Diego Zoo has an opportunity to share this interesting creature with the public,” said Capt. Christopher E. Sund, commanding officer of Naval Base Coronado.

The island night lizard was placed on the endangered species list in 1977 because its habitat was threatened by feral goats, pigs and predators that had been introduced to the island. In 1992, the Navy removed the last of the feral goats and pigs from San Clemente Island and has an ongoing program to trap and remove feral cats and rats. In conjunction with these efforts, nonnative species of plants were removed from the island as well, greatly improving the habitat of the night lizards and promoting their recovery.

“Now that the species is recovered, it is important to ensure its ongoing survival by creating a satellite population away from its island home,” said Kim Lovich, curator of reptiles for the San Diego Zoo. “This satellite population provides insurance that the species will survive even in the event of a sudden natural disaster to its island home.”

The lizards will soon be available for viewing at the Zoo’s reptile house.

Photo taken on July 25, 2014, by Tammy Spratt, San Diego Zoo Global.

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291

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San Diego Zoo Global Receives Neighborhood Grant for Field Notebooks

field notebooks grant presentationThis morning Supervisor Dave Roberts presented a check for $7,000 from the County of San Diego Neighborhood Reinvestment Fund to San Diego Zoo Global Chairman Rick Gulley. The check was awarded to the nonprofit organization in a brief ceremony under the curious eyes of a spectacled owl.

The funds will help create a digital field notebook titled “Life in a Biodiversity Hotspot” for use in the Eddy Family Outdoor Learning Lab, located next to the Beckman Center for Conservation Research at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The digital field notebook will introduce students and teachers from disadvantaged Title I schools in San Diego County to local wildlife found throughout the region.

Photo taken on July 25, 2014, by Tammy Spratt, San Diego Zoo Global.

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291

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Rare Visayan Warty Pigs Born at San Diego Zoo

Visayan Warty PigsTwo energetic, four-week-old Visayan warty pigs showed off their running, jumping and climbing skills earlier today at the San Diego Zoo. The piglets, born on June 26, are still nursing from their mother but are beginning to eat solid foods of fruits and vegetables and particularly seem to enjoy lettuce. Keepers describe the piglets, whose genders are yet to be determined, as extremely curious and playful.

“These piglets are full of energy, running almost immediately after they are born,” said Bob Cisneros, animal care supervisor. “They are continually learning new behaviors and spend most of their day engaging in play behaviors, though like any newborn, they sometimes take the time to nap in their beds of hay.”

Despite its common name, Visayan warty pigs have only small facial warts. They have prominent snouts ending in a disk-like nose and tusks that are upturned lower canines. As adults, males generally have larger tusks and warts than females and are much larger in size. Both sexes sport a tuft of dark reddish-brown or black hairs on the crown of the head. During mating season, the spiky head tuft on the male grows into a long mane.

Visayan warty pigs, endemic to the Visayan Islands in the central Philippines, are a critically endangered species due to loss of habitat, illegal hunting and hybridization. In 1992, the San Diego Zoo partnered with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in the Philippines to create the Visayan Warty Pig Conservation Programme. Eighty piglets have been born at the San Diego Zoo since a founder group arrived in 2002.

Visitors to the Zoo can see the piglets with their sounder, or pig family, consisting of their parents and two other adult females, in their habitat in the Zoo’s Panda Canyon.

To honor those who devote their lives to animal care and conservation, the San Diego Zoo and the 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 24, 2014, by Tammy Spratt, San Diego Zoo

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291

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Study Indicates Large Raptors in Africa used for Bushmeat

crowned eagleBushmeat, the use of native animal species for food or commercial food sale, has been heavily documented to be a significant factor in the decline of many species of primates and other mammals. However, a new study indicates that more than half of the species being consumed are birds, particularly large birds like raptors and hornbills.

“By surveying not only the meat made available for sale but the meat that is being eaten inside the forest by hunters and brought to villages for consumption, we noted a significant percentage attributed to bird species,” said Bethan Morgan, head of the Central African Program for the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. “The significant use of large birds like eagles, vultures and hornbills as bushmeat poses a new side to this conservation challenge.”

The study indicates that more than half of meat surveyed was of avian origin, with the larger species like birds of prey forming a significant portion of the whole. Documenting the effects of bushmeat use and trade on endangered species in Africa is part of the work being done in the proposed Ebo Forest National Park under the auspices of San Diego Zoo Global. The bushmeat trade is not only a conservation challenge, as species are eradicated through consumption, but has also been highlighted as a significant human health concern linked to several zoonotic disease outbreaks globally.

The new study, funded jointly by San Diego Zoo Global and The Peregrine Fund, is presented in the July issue of the academic journal “Oryx.”

The study can be downloaded at http://journals.cambridge.org/orx/largebirds

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291

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Four Reasons to Roar: African Lion Cubs Born at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

4 lion cubsFour month-old African lion cubs peer out of the maternity den at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The young cubs, one male and three females, were born on June 22, 2014, to mother Oshana, who has been caring for the little felines in her den, out of public view. Animal care staff report Oshana is a very good mother and the cubs appear healthy. They are nursing, moving and vocalizing well.

The cubs will continue to bond with their mother behind the scenes over the next few weeks. When they are older and stronger, they will be able to explore a larger area of their habitat and gradually be introduced to their father, Izu, and the Safari Park’s other adult female before going on public view at the Safari Park’s Lion Camp.

Photo taken on July 21, 2014, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291

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Keepers Care for Baby Okapi at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Okapis Ayana and JacksonA two-week-old okapi calf is walking and getting comfortable exploring his barn at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The male calf, named Jackson, was born on July 6. He is staying close to his mother, Ayana, and has even begun to mimic some of her behaviors. While the young calf’s primary source of nutrition is from nursing, Jackson is curious about plant browse and has been mimicking Ayana and mouthing at browse as she forages.

Animal care staff monitors the young calf’s weight daily on a large scale that Jackson walks onto with guidance from a keeper. This part of his training will help ensure he has a strong, trusting bond with animal care staff. Weighing 57 pounds at birth, Jackson is now 80 pounds, a sign that he is getting enough nutrition from his mother.

While Jackson spends most of his day nursing and exploring the okapi barn with his mother, he has bursts of excitement that animal care staff says is common for a young calf.

The okapi is an elusive animal and scientists did not know of the species until the early 20th century. They live in the dense, tropical mountain forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Though they look similar to a zebra, they are the closest living relative to the giraffe. A noticeable okapi characteristic is their large ears, which allow them to hear low-frequency sounds below the audible range for humans.

To honor those who devote their lives to animal care and conservation, the San Diego Zoo and the 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 22, 2014, by Tammy Spratt, San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291

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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.

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291

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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.

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291

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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.

CONTACT:
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