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A Stand-out Guy: Ellipsen Waterbuck Calf at San Diego Zoo Safari Park is Leucistic

Ellipsen Waterbuck A rare white ellipsen waterbuck calf stood out among his herd as he roamed his exhibit with his mother early this morning at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The Safari Park has successfully bred over 20,000 rare and endangered mammals for decades (278 of those were ellipsen waterbuck), but this is its first-ever animal born with leucism, a condition that causes an animal to have reduced pigmentation. The three-week-old calf, named Luke, was born on Sept. 6 in the Safari Park’s South Africa exhibit.

Ellipsen or common waterbuck are recognizable by the bull’s eye or ellipse-shaped ring on their rump. In Luke’s case, the bull’s eye is a brown ring on a white body, rather than a white ring on a brown body. In the wild, an animal with leucism is an easy target for prey as it stands out, unable to camouflage itself. Since Luke was born at the Safari Park, he has a good chance of survival as animal care staff can keep close watch on him.

Typical of waterbuck, Luke’s mother kept him from harm by tucking him in the rocks in their habitat for his first two weeks while she rejoined the herd, returning to nurse the calf several times a day. Once the calf was strong enough, she allowed him to venture out with her to meet his herd and the 10 other animal species sharing his habitat, including rhinos, wildebeests and eland.

Keepers report the other animals have been curious about the calf, but his mother, father and other members of the waterbuck herd keep a close watch on the youngster.

Ellipsen waterbuck are found from central Kenya to northern Botswana and eastern South Africa. Waterbuck inhabit savannas and woodland areas within reach of permanent water. They are not aquatic but can hide in water from predators, when necessary.

Visitors to the Safari Park may see Luke and his mother on an Africa Tram tour, included with Park admission.

Photo taken on Sept. 26, 2014, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Safari Park.



Komodo Dragon Practices Target Training at San Diego Zoo

Komodo dragon Sunny with camKeepers at the San Diego Zoo worked on training a 14-year-old Komodo dragon this morning, using a target that the dragon is learning to walk over and respond to when shown. After the Komodo dragon, named Sunny, successfully completes the behavior by walking to where the target is placed, keepers reward him with a special treat to positively reinforce the behavior.

This type of target training is extremely beneficial for the animal’s welfare. As Komodo dragons spend most of their time resting in the sun, the training provides and encourages exercise for Sunny throughout the day. Another benefit is that once the behavior is learned, keepers can ask Sunny to move or shift into a different area of the exhibit. This will be helpful if medical attention is needed, since Sunny could voluntarily move without the need for sedation.

Keepers working with Sunny have trained him to wear a harness during these training sessions. They can safely attach a portable action camera to it to film the training from the Komodo dragon’s point of view. This allows staff to review the sessions and it gives insight into how Sunny sees the training.
Komodo dragons are the largest living lizards in the world. They are a type of monitor lizard, an ancient reptile species with ancestors that date back more than 100 million years. Komodo dragons can grow up to 10 feet long and weigh up to 176 pounds.

Photo taken on September 25, 2014, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo.



Cheetah Cubs Snuggle Close at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Cheetah Cub SistersTwo cheetah cubs being hand raised by animal care staff at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park are receiving around-the-clock care and bottle feedings at the Park’s Animal Care Center. The female cubs were born to a cheetah at the Safari Park’s Cheetah Breeding Facility. As the mother, Allie, has been unsuccessful raising her previous litters, animal care staff made the decision to hand rear these littermates, born on Sept. 1.

The nearly three-week-old cubs are growing quickly and now weigh around 3 pounds each. They are becoming increasingly active now that their eyes are open and their vision is becoming clearer. Animal care staff says that these cubs are full of personality, noting that at only a few days old, the youngsters were already swatting and interacting with each other.

“Every baby’s different, but these cheetahs really seem to be developing quickly in our eyes,” said Eileen Neff, lead keeper, San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “They are great eaters, they started playing when they were just three or four days old. They could barely walk at that time, so it was pretty interesting seeing them tumbling around with each other.”

These cubs with be animal ambassadors and each will be paired with a domestic dog for companionship, as are all ambassador cheetahs at the Safari Park and San Diego Zoo. The dog’s body language communicates to the cheetah that there’s nothing to fear in new or public surroundings, which relaxes and calms the cheetah.

Visitors to the Safari Park may see the two cubs at the Animal Care Center from 9 a.m. for a few hours daily.

Photo taken on Sept. 19, 2014, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Safari Park.



San Diego Zoo Global, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo Recognized with Prestigious Bean Award

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) announced that San Diego Zoo Global and Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo have received top honors with the 2014 Edward H. Bean Award for their African bush elephant program. In 2003, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo airlifted 11 elephants from Swaziland, where they were scheduled to be culled (killed) due to park overpopulation. The move brought valuable genetics into the North American African elephant population.

“San Diego Zoo Global and Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo are true leaders in conservation science,” said AZA president and CEO Jim Maddy. “The AZA Bean Award provides well-deserved national recognition for the hard work of these facilities and also showcases the important work zoos and aquariums are doing to save species in their backyard and in the wild.”

The Edward H. Bean Award is a historic award within AZA, established in September 1956, honoring the first director of Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo and one of the founders of AZA. The Edward H. Bean Award recognizes propagation or management programs that contribute to the reproductive success of one or more species and/or subspecies.

“San Diego Zoo Global and Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo ensure the survival of African bush elephants for generations to follow,” said Rick Barongi, executive vice president of conservation at the Houston Zoo and chair of AZA’s Honors and Awards Committee.

The joint effort between the two zoos was part of an effort to ensure that a satellite population of African elephants exists in North American zoos. A decade later, all eight of the female elephants and two of the three males from Swaziland have successfully reproduced, increasing the North American managed population by 14 elephants.

African elephants are vulnerable to extinction in Africa due to ever-increasing pressures from ivory poaching. Current estimates indicate that thousands of elephants are killed each year to provide ivory for the black market. As populations in the wild continue to plummet, the sustainability and genetic diversity of protected populations under human care become more important.

“San Diego Zoo Global has dedicated itself to saving species from extinction,” said Doug Myers, CEO and president of San Diego Zoo Global. “Animal species are under incredible pressure from human activity in the wild, and it can seem that the odds are overwhelmingly against conservation, but we know we can do it by focusing on one species at a time.”

In addition to conservation efforts in North America, both institutions have supported acquiring additional land to increase protected areas for elephants in Africa and anti-poaching programs and public education in Swaziland. Results to date include expansion of the Mkhaya Game Reserve by 10 percent to promote survival of elephants and thousands of other animals protected there.

“The role of Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo as a modern zoo is to provide people unique opportunities to appreciate the variety of life on earth, to get close enough to care, and care enough to act,” said Craig Pugh, Executive Director and CEO of Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo. “No one zoo can do it alone. That’s why partnership with zoos and other conservation organizations regionally, nationally and around the world is so vital. Conservation work aimed at saving animals from extinction truly takes years of hard work and commitment.”



Rady Challenge Match Met in Record Time at San Diego Zoo

The $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.