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San Diego Zoo Set to Celebrate its Youngest Orangutan

Orangutans Indah and AishaThis morning, primate keepers at the San Diego Zoo finished the final preparations to celebrate the youngest ape at the Zoo. Sumatran orangutan Aisha (pronounced EYE-sha) turns one year old on Saturday, October 25, and the orangutan exhibit will be filled with enrichment items to mark the occasion.

Volunteers at the Zoo have been preparing for the big day by painting birthday boxes for Aisha and the other four orangutans in the troop. Keepers will fill the decorated boxes, and some gourds, with some of the animals’ favorite treats including air-popped popcorn, raisins and peanuts.

The party will start at 9 a.m. when the orangutans are released onto exhibit and will continue until all the treats are gone. Aisha and her mother, Indah, will return to their off-exhibit bedroom at 1 p.m. Those not able to attend the event can watch the festivities on the Zoo’s Ape Cam at www.sandiegozoo.org/apecam.

In her early months, it was common to see Aisha gripping tightly onto Indah’s orange hair as her mother moved around the habitat and foraged for food. However, in the last several weeks the young female orangutan has been choosing to venture farther from her mother and explore other areas of the exhibit and climbing structures away from her mother.

Over the last year, keepers and guests have watched as Aisha has grown from an estimated 3 to 4 pounds at birth to an estimated 10 pounds today. Because she is always with her mother, animal care staff have never weighed Aisha. She has also sprouted 12 teeth and has started eating solid foods, but most of her nutrition still comes from nursing.

Orangutan babies grow slowly and are considered babies until they’re four years old. They typically stay with their mother until they’re about seven years old, the longest childhood of the great apes.

Orangutans live in tropical and swamp forests on the Southeast Asian islands of Borneo and Sumatra. The Sumatran orangutan is considered critically endangered, with an estimate of less than 7,000 remaining in the wild. Their populations have declined drastically in recent years as a result of over-harvesting of timber, human encroachment and habitat conversion to palm oil plantations. Humans can help to protect endangered orangutans by carefully checking ingredient labels and only purchasing products that contain sustainably produced palm oil.



Rare Kiwi Chick Hatches at San Diego Zoo

kiwi chickAfter undergoing a 78-day incubation, one of the longest of all birds, a rare kiwi chick hatched this morning at the San Diego Zoo’s Avian Propagation Center. Animal care staff made the decision to intervene with the hatching of this newest chick when it didn’t proceed as it should.

Unlike most birds, it is the father kiwi that incubates the enormous egg. The female is nearby and will sometimes lay a second egg a few weeks later. When hatching, a kiwi chick typically pokes a ring at the top of the egg with its beak, allowing it to emerge from the top of the egg. This chick accidentally poked its legs through the bottom of the egg, making it difficult to emerge. Staff monitoring the chick carefully taped the bottom of the egg to give the chick the opportunity to hatch on its own, but after the chick was still unsuccessful, keepers peeled back part of the shell to assist with the hatching.

Animal care staff will continue to monitor the chick, measuring its weight and observing the young bird in a brooder over the next few weeks.

“Kiwis are very unusual. When they hatch, they just sleep for several days,” said Dave Rimlinger, curator of birds for the San Diego Zoo. “They don’t eat, we don’t feed them, and the reason is they have a lot of the yolk still inside their body and they absorb that for several days. We will just monitor the chick to make sure the temperature and humidity is right (in the brooder) and in several days we will start feeding the chick.”

This is the first kiwi hatch at the San Diego Zoo in 10 years, making this hatch extremely significant. The San Diego Zoo is one of just six zoos in the United States working with these endangered birds. Currently, there are four brown kiwis at the Zoo, all living in off-exhibit areas.



San Diego Zoo Global and San Diego County Water Authority Join Forces to Combat Drought

Global_logo_color copySan Diego Zoo Global and the San Diego County Water Authority today announced new outreach efforts at the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park to encourage water conservation as statewide drought conditions become more severe. Three consecutive dry years and record-setting heat in 2014 have stretched California’s water supplies thin, forcing water agencies to draw down reservoirs and enact mandatory water conservation measures to save as much as possible for 2015.

The partnership is part of the regional campaign “When in Drought: Save every day, every way.” It will include: updated signs at the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park that emphasize water-smart practices; water conservation reminders during guided bus and tram tours; and social media posts that highlight California’s water-supply challenges while encouraging Zoo and Safari Park guests to conserve water. The messages include real-world examples of water conservation efforts such as the Safari Park gardens that feature native species and low-water-use plants.

“The Zoo’s leadership is remarkable on two fronts,” said Mark Weston, chair of the Water Authority’s board of directors. “The first is its commitment to conserve and recycle water at its facilities long before the current drought began. The second is its willingness to use its considerable influence to inspire the rest of us to conserve wherever we can. That’s the kind of leadership and engagement it will take across our region and state to weather this drought while preserving the economy and quality of life that we value in San Diego County.”

San Diego Zoo Global’s two local parks attract more than 4.5 million visitors a year and promote worldwide initiatives to bring species back from the brink of extinction. Those efforts include on-site conservation of plants and animals at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as field programs on six continents. That critical conservation and science work is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.

“As a conservation organization, San Diego Zoo Global has always looked at ways to ensure that it is conserving natural resources like water in its daily operations,” said Doug Myers, president and CEO of San Diego Zoo Global. “Although we use water for cleaning and as an integral part of our animal habitats, we also recycle water and reduce water use wherever possible.”

For instance, San Diego Zoo Global recycles more than 16 million gallons of water annually and uses that water to support its horticultural collection at the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. In addition, the Zoo uses water-saving technologies such as low-flow toilets, rainwater reclamation gutters and direct site drip-lines for irrigation.

The Water Authority is a public agency serving the San Diego region as a wholesale supplier of water from the Colorado River and Northern California. It works through its 24 member agencies to provide a safe, reliable water supply to support the region’s $206 billion economy and the quality of life of 3.1 million residents.

The Water Authority also plays an important role in coordinating regional drought response actions. The current Drought Alert condition calls for local water agencies to implement mandatory water-use restrictions if they have not already done so. The When in Drought web page, whenindrought.org, includes links to member agency websites with details about water-use restrictions in communities across the region along with resources such as rebate offers to improve water conservation at home and at work.

The Water Authority is not anticipating reductions to its imported water supplies this year that would trigger mandatory supply cutbacks to its member agencies. Allocations could happen in 2015 if conditions don’t improve this winter, but two decades of regional investments in water supply reliability such as independent Colorado River water transfers and the Carlsbad Desalination Project will help reduce the impacts of any reductions in imported water supplies.



San Diego Zoo Safari Park Home to 2 of 6 Remaining Northern White Rhinoceroses

Nola, northern white rhinoSan Diego Zoo Global was notified this weekend that Suni, a 34-year-old northern white rhinoceros at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, had died. While the cause of death hasn’t been determined, it is not believed to be an incident of poaching. The death of this male northern white rhino adds another challenge in the fight to prevent this critically endangered species from going extinct.

There are now just six northern white rhinos left on Earth. Three remain in the care of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, one lives at Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic and two are in the African plains exhibit at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, a male named Angalifu and a female named Nola (pictured).

“This is a big loss, but we’ve been very successful with species in similar situations and we are hopeful that with a lot of the work we’re doing here, we can turn the situation around,” said Andy Blue, associate curator of mammals at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “Arabian oryx were down to very few animals in the late 1960s and have since been bred back up at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. We have had over 400 of them born here and have reintroduced them back into the wild.”

San Diego Zoo Global has also had great success with breeding the California condor. When the organization first began its breeding program, there were only 22 California condors left in the world. Today, there are more than 400, 232 of which fly free in California, Arizona and Baja California, Mexico. Many of the now-wild condors were hatched in breeding facilities and then introduced into their native range habitats, but some have been hatched to those introduced condors and have lived their entire lives in the wild, which is good news for their ecosystem.

The loss of one animal in a species as rare as the northern white rhino can have a significant impact on the ability to save it from extinction. Despite this challenge, the animal care staff at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and researchers and scientists at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research remain hopeful and continue to work toward saving the northern white rhino through ongoing research of the reproductive system of this species, collecting and saving genetic material from animals that have died and looking into alternate breeding methods for this species.

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park has the most successful captive breeding program for rhinoceroses in the world. There have been 92 southern white rhinos, 67 greater one-horned rhinos and 13 black rhinos born at the Safari Park since it opened 42 years ago. While the northern white rhinos at the Safari Park were never able to successfully breed, this was most likely due to their age when they arrived at the facility. Guests at the Safari Park can see the two northern white rhinos when they take the African Tram tour, which is included with admission to the Park.

Photo taken on October 21, 2014, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo



San Diego Zoo Global Elephant Calf Doing Well in Arizona

Elephant NandiNandi, the new baby elephant at the Reid Park Zoo in Tucson, Arizona, is doing well and enjoying time with her herd at the Click Family Elephant Care Center. The family group is a satellite African elephant herd that originated at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and is managed jointly by animal care staff at both zoos. The baby was born on August 20 and now weighs more than 400 pounds.



San Diego Zoo Begins Construction on Asian Leopard Exhibit, $3 Million Dollar Project to Debut Summer of 2015

Snow leopard The San Diego Zoo broke ground for its newest habitat area for critically endangered Asian leopards Wednesday night during a small, after-hours ceremony for donors who contributed major gifts to the project. Adjacent to Panda Trek, the new habitat will be home to Amur leopards and snow leopards. Opening on Memorial Day Weekend 2015, the new habitat will allow the Zoo to increase its participation in the breeding programs for these big cats.

“One of the exciting aspects of this Asian leopard exhibit is that it puts us in a position to be in breeding programs for all five of the big cat species,” said Stacey Johnson, director of collections for San Diego Zoo Global. “We’re breeding lions and tigers at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and we’ll be set up to have jaguars, Amur leopards, and snow leopards in breeding groups here at the San Diego Zoo.”

The 16,500-square-foot habitat will include 5,500 square feet of multilevel living space with rock outcroppings, slopes with felled trees and shrubs, and other features to encourage natural behaviors. The habitat can be sectioned off into four separate exhibits, depending on animal-care needs. Mesh passageways will span the visitor walkway and allow the leopards to cross from one exhibit to another with ease. With plans to breed both Amur and snow leopards, one of the four exhibits in the new habitat can be used as a nursery for a mother and her cubs, with a glass viewing area for guests.

The Amur leopards and snow leopards will live separately but will have opportunities to trade living areas as part of their enrichment. More than 1,000 donors contributed the $3 million dollars needed to build the habitat designed specifically for large cats. This is one of the first steps in moving animals out of aging exhibits that have gone through several upgrades over the years.

The San Diego Zoo’s new Asian leopard habitat will also include a scent distribution system that will allow staff to pump various scents into the exhibit for enrichment and could be used as a training tool for the animals. Rather than verbal cues from keepers, scents may be put out to cue animal behaviors.  Climbing structures are being designed that can be easily changed and moved by animal care staff to create new paths and routes for the cats to explore.

The Amur leopard is believed to have just 40 individuals left in its native habitat of southern Russia and northern China. There are only 300 Amur leopards in zoos around the world, making it the most critically endangered big cat on the planet. The home range of snow leopards is the cold, rugged mountains of central Asia. It is estimated that just 7,000 snow leopards exist in the wild.

The San Diego Zoo has two male Amur leopards and two female snow leopards. Additional animals will be brought to the Zoo to create breeding pairs for both big cats when the exhibit opens.



Special Enrichment Delights Monkeys and Otters at San Diego Zoo

spotted-necked otter MugoPumpkins with peanut butter and hollowed-out gourds with fish inside were given to the animals in Lost Forest this morning at the San Diego Zoo as a special enrichment surprise. The animals live in a mixed-species exhibit that houses Allen’s swamp monkeys, Schmidt’s red-tailed monkeys, African spotted-necked otters, red river hogs, and a forest buffalo. These unique animals are all species native to Africa and pair well together.

The otters and the monkeys were particularly interested in the enrichment and spent the morning chasing rolling pumpkins, swimming around floating gourds, and picking out pumpkin seeds. Keepers had carved some of the pumpkins to make it easier for the animals to reach in and dig for seeds but left a few pumpkins solid so the animals would need to work to break them open. Some of the swamp monkeys kept busy trying to roll the pumpkins around and push them off ledges in hopes of cracking them open. Enrichment items such as these give animals the opportunity to exercise control of their actions and chose which items they want to play with.

“Enrichment is really important to encourage species-specific behaviors,” said Leslie Steele, keeper at the San Diego Zoo. “It’s great to give the animals something that’s out of the blue that’s a fun puzzle to figure out, and it’s fun for people to watch, too.”

Special enrichment will be given to animals at the San Diego Zoo on weekends during the month of October for Kids Free presented by Mission Fed. Guests visiting the Zoo for Kids Free can look for “Beast Treat” signs around the Zoo at certain animal exhibits, which indicate that special enrichment items will be given. Free admission for children 11 years and younger is offered during the month of October for Kids Free. For more information about Kids Free, visit http://www.sandiegozoo.org/kidsfree/.

Photo taken on October 8, 2014, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo.



San Diego Zoo Breeds Rare Vipers for First Time

baby Ethiopian mountain viperA baby Ethiopian mountain viper coiled up this morning at the San Diego Zoo’s Reptile House. This venomous viper youngster is one of seven that was born at the Zoo just over a week ago. There are only four zoos in North America to have this species and the San Diego Zoo is the first to have bred them.

Ethiopian mountain vipers live in the southwest region of Ethiopia. Very little is known about their natural history since they are believed to have a very small range and are found only in high altitudes (6,500 to 9,800 feet) of the Rift Valley in Ethiopia.

The San Diego Zoo is home to three female and two male Ethiopian mountain vipers. Guests visiting the Zoo can see two of the females on exhibit at the Reptile House. Free admission for children 11 years and younger is offered during October’s Kids Free presented by Mission Fed. For more information about Kids Free visit http://www.sandiegozoo.org/kidsfree/.

Photo taken on October 3, 2014, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo.



Lion Cubs Share Exhibit with Father for 1st Time at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Lions Evelyn, IzuFour African lion cubs played with their father for the first time this morning in Lion Camp at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The almost four-month-old lions have been spending time at Lion Camp with their mother, Oshana, with only visual access to their father, Izu. Keeping the pride together is expected to help the cubs thrive.

“Lions are the only social cat. They live in a pride,” said Tony Franceschiello, senior keeper. “It is always our ultimate goal that we get them out here together as a group, as a pride. It pretty much replicates what would happen in the wild. She (Oshana) would go off and have her cubs on her own, and when they’re old enough she brings them back to the pride and introduces them, and everyone is together.”

The cubs, Ernest, Evelyn, Marion and Miss Ellen, eagerly ran outside this morning into the grassy habitat with Oshana. Izu came outside next and was patient as his four cubs interacted with him for the first time. The youngsters took turns with Izu, pouncing, climbing and sniffing, and even playfully swiped at his tail.

Oshana has been bonding with and caring for her babies since they were born on June 22. Animal care staff began visual introductions with Izu and the cubs to get them used to seeing each other. After a month of visual introductions, physical introductions through a protective barrier provided Izu with the opportunity to smell and lick his newest offspring.

The cubs are named 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 by animal care staff as being active, vocal, curious and feisty, each with its own distinct personality. When full grown at around three years of age, female lions can weigh 270 to 400 pounds and male lions can weigh 330 to 570 pounds.

Visitors to the Safari Park’s Lion Camp may see Oshana, Izu and their cubs daily, 9 to 11:30 a.m. Free admission for children 11 years and younger is offered during Octobers Kids Free presented by Mission Fed. For more information about Kids Free visit http://www.sandiegozoo.org/kidsfree/.

Photo taken on Oct. 2, 2014, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Safari Park.



San Diego Zoo Global Receives National Award for Excellence in Marketing

Koalafornia logoThe Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) announced that San Diego Zoo Global received Top Honors in marketing for budgets over $175,000 for its Welcome to Koalafornia: The New Australian Outback campaign. The AZA Marketing Award recognizes excellence in marketing campaigns developed and executed by its AZA member institutions.

“This award provides well-deserved national recognition for the creativity of the staff and marketing savvy of San Diego Zoo Global in utilizing their resources and expertise to their highest potential,” said AZA president and CEO Jim Maddy.

The Australian Outback offers habitats for the Zoo’s Queensland koalas, parma wallabies, Tasmanian devils, two wombat species and 23 species of Australian birds. The “Koalifornia” campaign used to communicate about the launch of this exhibit reached across the United States to bring attention to the plight of koalas. A highlight of the campaign, which included media visits and social media outreach, was whimsical advertising placing the koala in key California scenes.

“San Diego Zoo Global has a history of working to conserve koalas and is home to the largest population of koalas in the United States,” said Ted Molter, chief marketing officer for San Diego Zoo Global. “The Koalifornia campaign was created to inspire interest in this unique species while also celebrating the California population of this Aussie animal.”

The Zoo started plans to expand and diversify the koala area in 2009 and spent $7.4 million to create the new habitat for Australian animals. The exhibit debuted with a traditional smoke ceremony of the Yugambeh-language people of the Gold Coast.

“For the past couple of decades San Diego Zoo Global has been working with the Australian government to learn about and conserve the unique species native to that area of the world,” said Doug Myers, chief executive officer for San Diego Zoo Global. “This new exhibit allows us both to provide a better venue to educate Americans about this species and has afforded us the ability to reach across the ocean once again to solidify our diplomatic relationships.”

Collaborative partners for the exhibit include: Government of Australia; the Yugambeh-language people of Australia’s Gold Coast; and DreamWorld Wildlife Foundation in Australia. Partners in advertising assistance include: M & C Saatchi Los Angeles and Orci Media.