Animal Stories

Animal Stories

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Get Your Zoo News from ZOONOOZ

As Yun Zi discovered in 2010, a new location can deliver better views!

As Yun Zi discovered in 2010, a new location can deliver better views!

We’re excited to announce a new home for stories and updates about the animals and conservation work of San Diego Zoo Global: the ZOONOOZ website!  For the first time, the amazing stories, photos, and videos that have only been available via our printed magazine and app will be available to just about everyone. Anyone with a web browser—on any device—can enjoy the fun, interesting, and informative tales we share.

Blogs published in 2015 have been re-homed at the new location, and this site will continue to exist as an archive of past years’ stories and information.

The search function on the new site will help you find stories about the species you particularly enjoy reading about, but we encourage everyone to explore and scroll through the topic headings—you’re sure to discover some new favorites!

18

A Tribute To Nola

We lost an icon on Sunday, November 22: Nola, one of only four northern white rhinos left in the world. Here is part of her story.

For over 26 years, Nola called the San Diego Zoo Safari Park home. As most of us know, she arrived here from the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic in 1989, with her coalition partner, Nadi. Neither female had reproduced; both were entering their late teens, a time when most rhino females have already had several calves. Nola and Nadi took quickly to the large open exhibits of the Safari Park. They learned to enjoy the California sun and the large expansive pond in the exhibit. Unfortunately, they never fulfilled the dreams that researchers, curators and keepers had for them. Neither female showed consistent interest in the male northern white rhinos—Dinka, Saut, and Angalifu—they shared their exhibit with. Very little mating behavior took place, and as a result, the northern white rhino is one of the very few animals we have not bred successfully at the Safari Park.

Jane2

While Nola never had a calf, she always had a following. At first it was her keeper staff who had the opportunity to know her intimately. Nola arrived with a hoof problem that required regular hands-on care. Nola’s nails curved upward, so they did not wear down normally. As a result, keepers had to perform nail trims on her so she could walk less flat-footed—something that, had she been left in the wild, might have led to her early demise. Nola received pedicures throughout her entire life, at the hands of her keepers. Nola learned early on to trust the humans around her—they always looked out for her well-being.

Because Nola was so tractable, she became an artist! A few years ago, she started “painting” by rubbing her horn on canvases with children’s nontoxic paints. Keepers learned that not all children’s paints are the same! She actually had preferences for one brand over another, based on the smell. Rhinos have very good noses, and she made her preferences known. As most of us know, she went on to paint pictures for auctions and rhino fund-raising campaigns. She also painted a piece for the state capitol, which was presented to Toni Atkins, speaker of the California State Assembly.

Jane3

The last group of northern white rhinos in the wild was wiped out by poachers around 2008. But it has been the deaths of three northern white rhinos in zoos that have spurred many people into action. In October 2014, 34-year-old Suni died in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, leaving six northern white rhinos in the world. Then in December 2014, our beloved Angalifu (Angi to his keepers) died here at the Safari Park, leaving five. In July 2015, we lost female Nabire at the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic. She was one of only four northern white rhinos ever born in captivity. And now with the loss of Nola, we are down to three northern white rhinos in existence on the planet, all at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

Where you and I come in is with San Diego Zoo Global’s Rhino Rescue Center. If technology continues down the exponential path it has taken of late, there is hope for the northern white rhino. We already have the DNA of 12 northern white rhinos in our Frozen Zoo®. What we need to do next is develop assisted reproduction techniques, like those we use in humans and other animals. Also, if the northern white rhino is to make a comeback, it is because a southern white rhino helps. The Rhino Rescue Center is home to six southern white rhinos. One of these southern white rhinos could be the surrogate mother for a northern white rhino, carrying the calf for their cousin, and then rearing that calf. It is possible that someday the northern white rhino could make a comeback, right in our own backyard. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

Jane4

Even though Nola has passed, she gives us something to believe in. She gives us hope and love, but most of all she gives us courage. She’s been so strong for the last few months battling her illness. It’s her “I’m not giving up” attitude that has inspired her keepers to keep on. She wasn’t just passing the time: Nola had been living. Yes, she slept in every morning, and we brought her food to her, and we were there to trim her nails. But Nola enjoyed life. She even had a rhino companion: the 46-year-old southern white rhino bull named Chuck. Their relationship was special, and friendly. Nola and Chuck were two very old rhinos that had found a connection at the end of their days. That’s why we worked so hard to keep them happy—they deserved it. Chuck will continue to live in our South Africa exhibit, and you can visit him by taking the Africa Tram Safari or a Caravan Safari.

Here’s my final thought about my friend Nola. I believe God wants us to do what’s right for all species, not just the northern white rhinoceros. Thank you for being part of the team that knows the right thing to do. And thank YOU, world, for caring. What we do does make a difference.

 

Jane Kennedy is lead keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read her previous post, What’s It Like to Work With the Rarest Rhino in the World?

8

CRITICALLY ENDANGERED NORTHERN WHITE RHINOCEROS, NOLA, DIES AT SAN DIEGO ZOO SAFARI PARK

It is with great sadness, San Diego Zoo Global announces Nola, a critically endangered 41-year-old northern white rhino died today at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Nola, who has resided at the Safari Park since 1989, had been under veterinary care for a bacterial infection, as well as age-related health issues. The source of Nola’s infection was recently identified as a large abscess deep in her pelvic region. On Nov. 13, veterinarians performed a minor surgical procedure on Nola to drain the abscess. The procedure was successful in removing ninety percent of the infected material.

Keepers had been watching Nola around-the-clock since earlier this week when they noticed she began showing signs of a reduced appetite and activity level.  In the last 24 hours Nola’s condition worsened significantly and the animal care team at the Safari Park were maintaining her on intensified treatment efforts.  Early this morning, the team made the difficult decision to euthanize her.

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Nola was an iconic animal, not only at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, but worldwide. She was one of only four northern white rhinoceros on the planet. Through the years, millions of people learned about Nola and the plight of rhinos in the wild through visits to the Safari Park, numerous media stories and social media posts. Nola leaves a legacy that her keepers and animal care staff hope will continue to help rhino conservation for years to come.

Nola b&w

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes onsite wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents.  The work of these entities is made accessible to children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network, reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide.  The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.

This is a devastating loss. Please share your condolences in the comments below, and please join us in the fight against extinction.

4

Moving Day for Antiki

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Antiki has moved into the socialization pen. She’s wearing a white wing tag number 77.

October can be a busy month at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Condor Breeding Facility. This is the time of the year when we start to prepare for the next breeding season: clean nests, conduct routine health exams, and provide maintenance to flight pens that were previously off-limits to keepers because of the presence of our young chicks slated for release to the wild. But before we can start anything, we need to move the recently-fledged chicks to their new home— our socialization pen.

Our remote socialization pen is approximately one mile from the main part of the Safari Park. There, this year’s Condor Cam chick, Antiki, is isolated from any human activity and socialized with other fledglings her age. In the wild, condor chicks stay with or around their parents for up to 18 months. We don’t let them stay that long here at the Park. If we did, the next breeding season would probably be compromised; the presence of the fledgling may prevent the parents from breeding the next year, or the parents may turn aggressive to the chick if they try to nest again.

Before her move, we affixed a wing tag to Antiki’s right wing for identification purposes. She is now wearing wing tag White 77. She is now sharing this large pen with five other condors:

  • Xananan (ha-NA-nan): Female, 11 years old, wearing tag Blue 21 (left wing).
  • Sunan (SOO-nahn): Female, 1 ½ years old, wearing tag Blue 49 (right wing).
  • Eeuukey (ee-YOO-kee): Male, 6 months old, wearing tag Blue 84 (right wing).
  • Pali (PAH-lee): Male, 6 months old, wearing tag Yellow 96 (right wing).
  • Uqushtay (oo-KOOSH-tay): Female, 6 months old, wearing tag Red 97 (right wing).

Antiki, Eeuukey, Pali, and Uqushtay have been getting to know each other in an adjacent pen. On October 22, we opened the gate into the large pen where they were able to meet the older birds, Xananan and Sunan.

California condors that are expected to be released to the wild are called “release candidates.” We raise all of our condor chicks as if they are release candidates until we hear otherwise from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which oversees the California Condor Recovery Program. We have yet to hear if and/or where any of this year’s fledglings will be released. Release candidates are isolated from humans. We offer their food through a chute in the wall. The pools are drained and rinsed from the outside of the pen. The only time the birds see us is during a medical procedure: affixing wing tags, pre-shipment examinations, or West Nile Virus inoculations. These generally are not enjoyable experiences for the young condors, and that is what we want them to learn from us before they are shipped to the wild. We don’t want them to associate humans with anything beneficial. We are hoping to foster behaviors that wild condors would have: avoiding human activity and hazardous, artificial situations. Survival rates for condors that become accustomed to humans and human activity are very low.

One of Antiki’s new pen-mates has a very important role. Xananan, the adult, is acting as the young birds’ new “mentor.” The mentor’s job is to facilitate the socialization of the fledglings. Condors are very social and, like us, need to learn the rules of how to interact in a group. The parent condors started this process when the chicks hatched, and continued it as the youngsters eventually fledged. Now that they are no longer living with their parents, the chicks’ “education” will be furthered by Xananan. She will be the dominant bird in the pen, often displacing the fledglings from perches or roost sites or pushing them from the food until she has eaten first. The dominant birds at a site are usually the biggest ones, and often the most experienced. The young condors need to learn how to interact with these dominant and pushy birds in order to be successful in the wild.

Viewers of last year’s Condor Cam will probably remember Sunan. She was raised on camera by her foster parents, Towich (TOE-witch) and Sulu (SOO-loo). Sunan seemed to be a little smaller than her pen-mates and more subordinate. It was decided, as a precaution, to keep her here at the Safari Park for one more year before releasing her to the wild in order to give her more time and experience with different birds. So, the good news is that her fans get more Sunan-viewing time!

The socialization pen is very large with lots of space to fly around and exercise wings. There are several large oak snags on which to perch or roost. Also, there are two pools from which to drink or bathe. There are several ground level perches and boulders to hop around on, as well. It is interesting to see the social development of each bird. They can choose to perch next to whichever bird they wish, so they really get to know each other well. We have learned that young condors that aren’t well-socialized tend not to be successful once they are released to the wild.

So far, Antiki is integrating well into the group. She has been seen eating near the older birds; she seems to be a very confident girl! She flies very well in the pen and interacts appropriately with her new pen-mates. Her parents, Sisquoc and Shatash, have done a great job preparing her for the big, wide world! As time passes, we should see the whole group settling in, perching, and feeding together. Feel free to post any comments or questions, and we’ll try to get them answered as soon as we can. Enjoy!

Ron Webb is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read his previous blog, Fledged!

16

Aisha Turns Two

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Aisha is becoming more independent, agile, and bold!

Two years have flown by and our little girl had another birthday (October 25)! Recently, we have a seen a lot of milestones in Aisha’s behavior. She is becoming more independent and Indah is more comfortable letting her explore on her own. In just the last two months, we have seen Aisha follow her mom to the front glass, increase her amount of play with her “aunties,” and even come down to the ground on her own.

Indah has started to leave Aisha and is letting her decide if she wants to follow. Most of the time, Aisha decides to join her. But the first few times Aisha walked on the ground, she was very hesitant; she particularly did not like the sand at the front of the exhibit and called for her mom to get her, so she did not have to touch it. She now crawls across it with little hesitation.

We have even seen her come to the ground without anyone being near. At first she came to the ground because Indah or another orangutan was there.  But recently she came and pulled grass to eat and play with when no one else was around. All of this behavior is mimicking what she has seen from her mom.
In just the past week, we have seen an increase in the length of play between Aisha and Janey and Karen (the latter in particular). Karen clambers up into the climbing structure near Aisha and waits for the youngster to initiate play. (Aisha will leave if Karen is too pushy and tries to touch her first.)  They play and wrestle on the ropes and in the hammocks. Sometimes it looks quite rough, but it is all play behavior. When Janey wants to play with Aisha, she goes to a spot on the ground that she knows the little one can reach from a rope or tree and waits for her to come to her. Once Aisha is more comfortable on the ground, I suspect we will see a lot more play between her and Janey.

The bond between Aisha and Indah continues to be incredibly strong. Aisha still goes to mom whenever she is anxious, and we have not ever separated Aisha from Indah. We are starting to work with them to be comfortable separating from one another. We want to be able to get frequent weights on Aisha—this is important for the species database on what is the normal range for a parent-raised infant. We also want to start her operant training so we can monitor her health as she grows and becomes an adult.

Tanya Howard is senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous blog, Siamangs Play Nice with Baby Orangutan Aisha.

6

14 Adorable Baby Animal Facts

Because we can all use a daily dose of cute…

1. A newborn koala joey is only about the size of a large jelly bean, and it can’t even see or hear.

A newborn koala joey is only about the size of a large jelly bean, and it can't even see or hear. | 14 Cute Baby Animal Facts

2. Some monkey species give birth to babies that are a completely different color. For example, langur babies are orange while their parents are black.

Some monkey species give birth to babies that are a completely different color. For example, langur babies are orange while their parents are black. | 14 Cute Baby Animal Facts

3. Female lions living in a pride often give birth around the same time, which makes for lots of playmates.

Female lions living in a pride often give birth around the same time, which makes for lots of playmates. | 14 Cute Baby Animal Facts

4. Orangutan youngsters stay with their mothers until they’re seven or eight years old and fully weaned, the longest childhood of the great apes.

Orangutan youngsters stay with their mothers until they’re seven or eight years old and fully weaned, the longest childhood of the great apes. | 14 Cute Baby Animal Facts

5. At hatching, a flamingo chick has gray down feathers and is the size of a tennis ball.

At hatching, a flamingo chick has gray down feathers and is the size of a tennis ball. | 14 Cute Baby Animal Facts

6. Meerkats form “babysitter clubs” and share the duty of raising pups—and teaching them how to hide, hunt, clean, and defend all that is theirs.

Meerkats form "babysitter clubs" and share the duty of raising pups and teaching them how to hide, hunt, clean, and defend all that is theirs. | 14 Cute Baby Animal Facts

7. A giraffe calf can stand up and walk within an hour of its birth.

A giraffe calf can stand up and walk within an hour of its birth. | 14 Cute Baby Animal Facts

8. Bonobos use touch to give reassurance and comfort to each other. They form close relationships with other members of the troop, even after they are grown.

Bonobos use touch to give reassurance and comfort to each other. They form close relationships with other members of the troop, even after they are grown. | 14 Cute Baby Animal Facts

9. Okapi calves triple their size by the end of their second month, but do not reach full adult size until three years of age.

Okapi calves triple their size by the end of their second month but do not reach full adult size until three years of age. | 14 Cute Baby Animal Facts

10. Male jaguar cubs grow more quickly than females—and by about two years old, males are about 50 percent heavier.

Male jaguar cubs grow more quickly than females and by about two years old are about 50% heavier. | 14 Cute Baby Animal Facts

11. Elephant calves spend their days practicing making all four legs go in the same direction at the same time, perfecting their ear flaring, and mastering trunk control.

Elephant calves spend their days practicing making all four legs go in the same direction at the same time, perfecting their ear flaring, and mastering trunk control. | 14 Cute Baby Animal Facts

12. Young Panamanian golden frogs are much more secretive than the fully toxic adult, hiding until they can protect themselves with their skin secretions.

Young Panamanian golden frogs are much more secretive than the fully toxic adult, hiding until they can protect themselves with their skin secretions. | 14 Cute Baby Animal Facts

13. Rhino calves start growing their iconic horns when they are four to five months old.

Rhino calves start growing their iconic horns when they reach 4-5 months. | 14 Cute Baby Animal Facts

14. Giant pandas are only about the size of a stick of butter at birth, and they’re hairless and helpless.

Giant pandas are only about the size of a stick of butter at birth, and they're hairless and helpless. | 14 Cute Baby Animal Facts

Which baby animal are you? Take the QUIZ and automatically be entered to win a family excursion to the San Diego Zoo or Safari Park.

 

Jenn Beening is the social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous post, How to Grow a Water-Smart Landscape.

8

13 Animals Celebrating Pumpkin Season

Who needs a pumpkin spice latte when you can have the whole pumpkin…

This tiger is ready to pounce on seasonal prey.

Animals Celebrating Pumpkin Season

An otter isn’t sure why people are so obsessed with these things.

Animals Celebrating Pumpkin Season

Pro-tip: Always inspect your jack-o-lantern.

Animals Celebrating Pumpkin Season

This pumpkin was no match for our meerkat mob.

Animals Celebrating Pumpkin Season

A Galapagos tortoise has no time for napkins.

Animals Celebrating Pumpkin Season

Om nom nom nom.

Animals Celebrating Pumpkin Season Animals Celebrating Pumpkin Season

Lion paws on the prize.

Animals Celebrating Pumpkin SeasonAnimals Celebrating Pumpkin Season

Sniffing out the scents of the season.

Animals Celebrating Pumpkin Season

If you can’t carve it, roll it off a cliff.

Animals Celebrating Pumpkin Season

No pumpkin is safe from this extraordinary nose.

Animals Celebrating Pumpkin Season

I’ll look inside, you stand guard!

Animals Celebrating Pumpkin Season

On behalf of everyone at the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park, we hope you have a fantastic fall season!

 

Jenn Beening is the social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous post, How to Grow a Water-Smart Landscape.

141

In Peaceful Panda Canyon

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Bai Yun is back on exhibit and delighting guests.

As we enter fall at the San Diego Zoo, things start to slow down in the Panda Canyon. Bai Yun did not have a cub this year and she is enjoying her alone time.  She is back on exhibit, so everyone can visit her in person or through Panda Cam. She’s doing well and is good at reminding her keepers that she is the Queen B (as in Bear). If she doesn’t get her way, she knows how to get her keepers attention by climbing the small elm tree in her exhibit.

Gao Gao has now moved off exhibit but you may sometimes see him on Panda Cam relaxing on his shelf.  He is also enjoying his air-conditioned bedrooms and his daily back scratches from his keepers. As Gao Gao ages, we are watching him and monitoring his health more closely. An example of this is his participation of presenting his arm for blood pressure readings once a week.  We get important information, and he gets to enjoy his favorite treat of honey water during these training sessions.

Xiao Liwu continues to excel with all his training. He, too, gets his blood pressure read once a week as a comparison to Gao Gao’s readings. He has not had to learn any new behaviors lately, but he has learned to train his keepers. Mr. Wu now asks for several back scratches, just like his dad! He is now considered a subadult and has been having several highly energetic bouts playing with his enrichment toys and destroying plants. He has been testing several tree branches in his exhibit—we find them the next morning.  He has turned into a mighty little bear at 157 pounds (71 kilograms) and is almost bigger than his dad, who weighs 169 pounds (77 kilograms).

I hope all of his fans heard that Mr. Wu won the “snowball fight” (a friendly fundraising effort) against the polar bears. We are looking forward to a snow day once the weather gets cooler in San Diego. The date is tentatively set for November 14, but we will keep everyone updated if that day changes.

Jennifer Becerra is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Ahoy! Let’s Celebrate Xiao Liwu’s Birthday!

34

Vus’musi’s Big Adventure, Part 3

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Vus’musi got busy checking out the sights, smells, sounds, and snacks of his new home.

Vus’musi, the first-born calf of the Safari Park’s herd, recently moved to the Fresno Chaffee Zoo. Affectionately known as “Moose” or “’Musi,” he holds a special place in the hearts of many members, blog readers, and Elephant Cam viewers, so we wanted to share the inside story of his “big adventure.” Click to read Part 1 and Part 2.

Since Fresno’s climate is similar to San Diego’s and they’re just up the road, so to speak, having ’Musi go there on loan was a logical choice, especially if we’d like to have him return someday. (Can you picture Umngani’s reaction if that were to happen? Noooooooooo!)

Waiting for our arrival was the entire elephant care staff of the Fresno Chaffee Zoo. We all stood back to watch the unloading of his crate, letting the professionals do their thing. As soon as the crate was where we wanted it, we had ’Musi present his front feet for us inside the crate so we could remove his tethers. Then we let him back himself out into his new digs. He cautiously walked down a long outside corridor, into the barn, and finally into a large stall where he could hear, smell, and see his new herd-mates two stalls away.

’Musi seemed quite excited that there were other elephants around. His attitude and behavior towards Mindy and I confirmed that he was a very well-trained elephant, able to adapt to change, and just awesome overall. Their staff couldn’t believe how calm and sweet ’Musi seemed after such a journey.

Mindy and I stayed with ’Musi and the Fresno Chaffee Zoo staff for five more days, getting him accustomed to his side of the barn and adjoining outside yard. We worked closely with their Elephant Lead, Ashley, and their Elephant Manager, Vernon, to show them ’Musi’s behavioral repertoire, his verbal and visual hand signals, and point out some of the subtle nuances of his personality. All of his major sessions were filmed and many discussions took place to make sure we were all on the same page, allowing for a smooth transition for ’Musi and his new keepers.

One of the fun things to watch was seeing ’Musi getting used to the new sounds and sights of his outside environment. The zoo sits fairly close to railroad tracks, and watching his eyes and expressions whenever a choo-choo rolled by was priceless. It reminded me of Mabu and Lungile in Tucson, the first few times a jet fighter flew over the skies above them. Eventually, they all habituate to their surroundings and then they don’t react at all, unless it’s something completely new, and even that goes away in a short time.

Many blog readers who read the news about the move wondered whether ’Musi misses his family or herd mates, or if Ndlula misses her son, etc. What you’ll find in the animal world—whether through observation or personally working with them—is that animals live in the “now.” They take a situation that they find themselves in, deal with it, and move on. If you think about it, in the wild, an animal that’s “reminiscing” or “daydreaming” would be easy prey. I’m sure that ’Musi would remember any of his herd mates if they were to cross paths once again, but I’m certain he’s not thinking “I wonder what Mom and my brother are up to?” or “I wonder who Msholo is sparring with now that I’m gone?” Likewise, Ndlula and the others may have “rumbled” to communicate with or locate ’Musi, but after not receiving a response, quickly focused their attention back to the present situation of eating and watching out for Swazi.

The most up-to-date news on ’Musi is that he’s no longer under quarantine, and will be going out into one of the main exhibits soon. Within a few weeks, he will be formally introduced to the girls out in the main exhibit. I’ll be heading up to Fresno to witness the introductions and will blog about it when I get back.

All of our elephants (any of our animals for that matter) that have moved away “on-loan” are still “our” elephants (San Diego Zoo Global). Rest assured that our ’Musi-boy is in good hands with the Fresno staff. He’ll win them over like he did with us on that first day on February 23, 2004. He’s all grown up now and it’s his time to carry on what his name means: Vus’musi, “To build a family.”

5

Sumatran Tiger Cub Born at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

San Diego Zoo Safari Park animal care staff bottle feeds week-old tiger cub. A single male Sumatran tiger cub was born at 1:54 a.m. Sept. 14 at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Tull Family Tiger Trail, to first-time tiger parents Teddy and Joanne. Although Joanne cared for the cub the first few days, keepers noticed he was losing weight, and felt he wasn’t receiving the proper care he needed to thrive. The Safari Park’s animal care team then made the difficult decision to hand-rear the cub. He was moved to the Ione and Paul Harter Animal Care Center at the Safari Park, where he is now being cared for around the clock.  	The cub is the 26th endangered Sumatran tiger to be born at the Safari Park, and he is the first cub to be hand-reared at the park since 1984. At the care center, he’s being bottle fed seven times a day—with a formula made especially for carnivores that is easy to digest, made from goats’ milk. Guests will be able to see the cub in the near future at the Ione and Paul Harter Animal Care Center at the Safari Park during his bottle feeding times, which will be posted daily in front of the viewing window.

Endangered Cat Being Hand-reared at Park’s Animal Care Center

A single male Sumatran tiger cub was born at 1:54 a.m. Sept. 14 at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Tull Family Tiger Trail, to first-time tiger parents Teddy and Joanne. Although Joanne cared for the cub the first few days, keepers noticed he was losing weight, and felt he wasn’t receiving the proper care he needed to thrive. The Safari Park’s animal care team then made the difficult decision to hand-rear the cub. He was moved to the Ione and Paul Harter Animal Care Center at the Safari Park, where he is now being cared for around the clock.

The cub is the 26th endangered Sumatran tiger to be born at the Safari Park, and he is the first cub to be hand-reared at the park since 1984. At the care center, he’s being bottle fed seven times a day—with a formula made especially for carnivores that is easy to digest, made from goats’ milk.

“We’re very happy with our little cub’s progress; he took to the bottle and started nursing right away,” said Lissa McCaffree, lead keeper, Mammal department. “He’s been gaining weight very consistently each day, and last night he reached a milestone—he opened his eyes for the first time.”

The cub now weighs 3.36 pounds and is gaining strength in his legs, walking around his nursery enclosure. He’s also learning to make tiger vocalizations, such as meows, grunts, and low chuffing sounds. Chuffing is a vocalization tigers make as a way to express excitement, or as a greeting.

Guests will be able to see the cub in the near future at the Ione and Paul Harter Animal Care Center at the Safari Park during his bottle feeding times, which will be posted daily in front of the viewing window.

With the addition of this tiny cub, the Safari Park is now home to seven Sumatran tigers. There are fewer than 350 Sumatran tigers in the wild, and that number continues to drop. Scientists estimate that this species could be extinct in its native Sumatra by 2020, unless measures are taken to protect and preserve it.

Tigers face many challenges in the wild, from loss of habitat to conflicts with humans, but the biggest threat continues to be poaching. Tigers are killed by poachers who illegally sell tiger body parts, mostly for folk remedies. People can help protect wild tigers by avoiding products made with non-sustainable palm oil, an industry that harms tiger habitat; and by refusing to purchase items made from endangered wildlife.

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes on-site wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is inspiring children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network, reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.