Animals and Plants

Animals and Plants

7

A Day in the Life of a Registered Veterinary Technician at the San Diego Zoo Hospital

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The RVTs at the Zoo have a diverse patient list that can include animals like this Baird’s tapir.

Many people ask me if I love my job here at the “World Famous” San Diego Zoo. I am one of six clinical registered veterinary technicians (RVT) working alongside the Zoo’s veterinarians to help care for and maintain the health of the animal collection. We are a highly skilled group of professionals that strive to deliver state-of-the-art care for the many unique animals that call the San Diego Zoo home.

We work with a diverse range of animals every day. First thing in the morning, we meet in the treatment room of the hospital to look over the list of the day’s scheduled procedures. We divide the list among ourselves, each taking on a different case or cases that we will help with that day.

On this particular day, we have a sun bear coming to the hospital for an annual exam, which includes blood work, radiographs, dental check, sample collection, and ultrasound. We also have a rattlesnake that needs an eye exam, several birds that need physicals, a yellow-footed rock wallaby that needs radiographs and a Caribbean flamingo that needs a bandage changed as well as laser therapy on one of his legs! Since all of these procedures will take place in the hospital building, each animal has a scheduled appointment time.

We will also visit some animals on grounds today: a Baird’s tapir for blood collection and a Queensland koala for fluid therapy (while he sits in his tree). Also, one of our ambassador dogs will have his ears cleaned, a giant panda will get his blood pressure checked, and we’ll provide laser therapy on a little chick’s swollen foot at the Avian Propagation Center. Whew!

Even though some days at the hospital can be incredibly busy and mentally draining, I feel grateful and honored to be able to work with this amazing array of animals. It’s rewarding to know that my job allows me to help each animal individually, and also contribute to wildlife conservation as a whole.

So, do I love my job? I most certainly do!

Marianne Zeitz is a registered veterinary technician at the San Diego Zoo.

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.

6

“Ugly” Animals Need Love Too

Part of our mission is to educate people that every single organism in an ecosystem is equally important to the health of the ecosystem. A critter’s place on the cute scale doesn’t correlate to actual environmental value. Sadly, it can be difficult to garner support for animals that are not perceived as “cute,” but we’re hoping to change that. These are just a few of the animals that are unfortunate victims of “cute bias” and need more love.

Vultures

Vultures, including the California condor, are nature’s clean-up crew. Their bald heads and permanent “scowls” don’t make people swoon, but the world would be a much dirtier place without them.

California condor

Reptiles

There are more than 6,500 known species of reptiles. They play varied, pivotal roles in their respective environments but are often vilified due to their appearance and unfair reputation. Reptiles are actually pretty awesome. They have been around forever, some have crazy long life spans, and some are fully independent at birth.

Caiman lizard

Caiman lizard

Arthropods

Arthropods is a phylum of animals that includes insects and spiders. Famous biologist Jonas Salk said, “If all insects on Earth disappeared, within 50 years all life on Earth would end. If all human beings disappeared from the Earth, within 50 years all forms of life would flourish.” Still, arthropods don’t get much love. There are more kinds of beetles in the world than any other type of animal, and the weight of ants alone is roughly equal to the weight of all human beings on Earth. It’s time to give arthropods some credit.

Dragon-headed katydid

Naked Mole-rats

The naked mole-rat and the Damaraland mole-rat are the only two mammal species that are eusocial. This means they live in a colony that may have several generations living together and just a few individuals that produce all the offspring for the colony, much the way bees and ants live. We think that’s pretty awesome, but unfortunately, some people just can’t get down with them.

Ungulates

Ungulates are a diverse group of mammals, usually hoofed, that serve as seed-dispersers and food for the many predators that hunt them. While not exactly “ugly,” ungulates are rarely singled out as beautiful or especially worthy of conservation, but they’re just as important as the rest.

Male and Female Nilgai

Bats

Bats are important pollinators and can eat thousands of insects in a single night, but are still feared and reviled by many. If anything, bats deserve respect and admiration. One out of every five mammals in the world is a bat, and some seeds don’t sprout unless they’ve passed through a bat’s digestive system.

Rodrigues fruit bat

Warthogs

Warthogs may not be the most beautiful or graceful creatures in the Animal Kingdom, but they are remarkable for their strength, intelligence, and flexibility. Also, a warthog’s “warts” are not really warts, but just thick growths of skin. What’s not to love?

Did we miss any animals that deserve more love? Let us know in the comments.

Matt Steele is senior social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read his previous post, Summer Pool Party – Animal Style.

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.”

1

Observing Behavior in the Wild

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One of our camera traps caught this deer mouse heading for a burrow.

My favorite part of the fieldwork I do (see: A Night with the Pocket Mouse Field Crew)  is watching the pocket mice, kangaroo rats, and other small mammals in the wild. I love releasing them from a trap and watching them take a sand bath, or dig up a cache of seeds they buried previously, or sometimes dive into the closest burrow and get chased right back out by its owner who was already inside.

While the reward (and often the data!) of an animal behavior study is observing your subject do what it does, figuring out how to make the observation can be one of the biggest challenges. You don’t want your presence to affect what the animal is doing—unless you are observing their response to humans.

With big animals that live in fairly open environments, sometimes you just need to be far enough away. As an undergraduate I worked as a field assistant on a pronghorn project in Montana. We hiked up hillsides and watched for females to get their babies out of hiding to nurse. We used binoculars and spotting scopes so we could see well enough to note ear tag colors, yet distant enough to not make the animals feel threatened by our presence.

With the pocket mice, that are so small, quick and nocturnal, getting far away and sitting quietly doesn’t work very well. I spent a dozen or so nights trying, outfitted with a camp chair and night-vision goggles. I set out some seeds on a tray and hoped the pocket mice would come. With one exception, they did not. Those were some of the longest nights I have ever experienced, sitting in the dark, staring at nothing.

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Andrea Sork, a field assistant, uses night vision goggles to observe a kangaroo rat. On the right is an infrared camcorder.

What ended up working was trapping them first and then putting the tiny rodents inside a clear arena with the seeds, so I could watch them through the sides. While it isn’t perfect—they spend time exploring the walls and digging to get out—it at least allowed me to see them! And most of the animals decided that the seeds inside the arena were worth taking; even though I was sitting 12 feet away, the mice made multiple trips to the seed pile and back to their burrow. It helped that I sat very still and quiet the whole time. But it was exciting watching the animals come and go!

In addition to physically watching the pocket mice, camera traps can be hugely important. You can set multiple cameras at once and leave them for many nights. Later, as you go through the photos and videos, you can see where the mice were and what they were doing—especially if you leave food trays or set them at burrow entrances or some other specific place. The upside is that you can have a lot more “eyes” out at once, and cameras are less intrusive than a person sitting there. The downside, though, is that you can’t be sure cameras are catching everything, and they often have a pretty narrow view.

If you get a chance to see some animals in the wild, take an extra moment to watch them do their thing. Normal activities like sleeping or eating are a feat to witness, and there is so much to learn just by sitting still and watching!

Rachel Chock is a graduate student and volunteer with San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research’s Pacific pocket mouse project. Read her previous post, Protected Habitat in Southern California.

3

Fledged!

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Although she occasionally ducks into the nest box area, Antiki now spends most of her time practicing her flying skills outside.

We have switched the camera view of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Condor Cam. Our faithful viewers have been able to watch our California condor chick, Antiki, hatch and grow in her nest box, but now they can view her out in her flight pen with her parents, father Sisquoc and mother Shatash, because she’s taken the next exciting step in her development—Antiki has fledged!

Fledging is the process in which a young bird leaves the nest. We consider a California condor chick to be fledged when they can fly to the higher perches in the pen—approximately 10 feet off the ground. When condor chicks fledge, they tend to be around 140 or 150 days old. The youngest bird to fledge here at the Safari Park was 123 days old. Antiki flew for the first time at 156 days of age.

Our condor nest boxes are elevated; they’re on the second floor of the condor breeding facility. The nests have one entrance that leads to the roost area. The entrance has an 18-inch barrier at the base to prevent young hatchlings from wandering out of our camera’s view. This barrier also provides exercise for the chick when it is big enough to start jumping up onto the barrier. The roost area is open to the flight pen and has a ledge that is about eight feet off of the ground. There is a five-inch-diameter pole leaning from the ground to the ledge; we call this the “pole ladder.” The condors can walk up or down this pole ladder to get to or from the nest. They can, of course, fly to the nest as well if they desire.

For a few weeks, Antiki was able to walk down the pole ladder to start exploring the flight pen. She would watch Sisquoc and Shatash eat, sometimes begging for them to feed her, sometimes playing tug-of-war trying to take food from them. She also got to drink from the pool for the first time. She would climb up onto an eight-foot-tall stump perch and up into the olive tree in the pen. She started to spend the night out in the pen, perched up in the tree, under the watchful eyes of her parents.

We still had not seen her actually fly to any of the perches, though, until September 13. That morning, after being warmed by the sun, she took a short flight from the olive tree to join Sisquoc on one of the 10-foot-tall perches. After that, she could deftly fly from perch to perch like a pro! Since that morning, Antiki spends the majority of the time out in the pen, sometimes returning to sit in the shade of the roost.

When condor chicks fledge in the wild, it can be a long process as well. They will often walk around the mouth of their nest cave, hopping about, testing their wings. They may hop or climb into nearby shrubs or trees to get a better vantage point. Very seldom do chicks just spring forth from their nest into the wild blue yonder. They usually need to exercise and develop their abilities before embarking on such a dangerous venture. Mom and dad are always present to escort or protect the chicks. Parent condors can be very vigilant and defensive of their chicks. After all, much energy and many resources went into producing just this one chick, so they try very hard to ensure success for their only nestling. One pair of condors in California actually chased a black bear away from their nest!

With this new camera view, you’ll be able to see the roost area, most of the perches in the pen, the feeding area (shift pen), shade areas created by plants, and the pool. The view is wide, so detail is a bit harder to discern. Also, we do minimal maintenance in the pen, so the pen has lots of plant growth and dried food (animal carcasses) in it. We limit our activities in/near chick pens so as not to expose Antiki to humans, thus desensitizing her to our presence. We have found that chicks raised in isolation from humans tend to be more successful once they are released to the wild. The flight pen won’t look as nice as an exhibit you might see at the Safari Park or the Zoo, but Sisquoc and Shatash prefer it that way, if it means we stay away from their precious chick!

If, by chance, you don’t see Antiki out in the pen, she could be resting in the shade of the roost, or she may have hopped back into the nest box. This is completely normal. The adult condors do the same thing. Just give her a little time; she’ll come back out into view later. We have a great volunteer staff that moves the camera for the nest box view, but we keepers move the camera when it is the pen view. We’ll do our best to zoom in to give you a good view of her when we can, but we are not always near the camera controls as we are also taking care of the other condors.

So what’s next for Antiki? She’ll stay in the pen with her parents for a little while longer. She is still learning from them. 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 act aggressively towards the chick if they try to nest again. Sometime in this fall, Antiki will be removed from her parents, so they can prepare for the next breeding season. She will be introduced to other birds her age in a group with an adult bird that acts as a behavioral mentor. In the meantime, it will be decided whether she will be a candidate for release to the wild (and where) or held for the captive breeding program. I’ll keep you informed when this happens. Until then, please continue to keep checking in on our big girl.

Everyone’s interest and enthusiasm over the hatch and growth of Antiki have been wonderful. We really appreciate all of the comments and questions we have received throughout her development. Thanks again for all of your support—we couldn’t do it without you!

Ron Webb is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read his previous blog, One Step Closer to Fledging.

0

World Rhino Day Celebrated at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Almost 200 people—including San Diego Zoo Safari Park rhino keepers, high school conservation club members, San Diego Zoo Global staff members and Safari Park volunteers—celebrated World Rhino Day by taking part in a sky art project. The crowd assembled a 60- by 44-foot image depicting the Safari Park’s beloved Nola, a 41-year-old northern white rhino, who is one of only four remaining in the world.  World Rhino Day is celebrated internationally on Sept. 22 each year, to raise awareness of the five species of rhinos in the world: black, white, greater one-horned, Sumatran and Javan. San Diego Zoo Global has been working for decades to help rhinos, which are facing the worst poaching crisis in history. An average of three rhinos a day are being killed in the wild. Rhinos are poached for their horns, which are made from keratin—the same material that forms human fingernails and hair.  San Diego Zoo Global has one of the most successful rhino breeding programs in the world. To date, there have been 93 southern white rhinos, 68 greater one-horned rhinos and 14 black rhinos born at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

A crowd at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park celebrated World Rhino Day by assembling a 60- by 44-foot image depicting Nola, the Park’s beloved 41-year-old northern white rhino.

Volunteers Create Sky Art Photo of Beloved Northern White Rhino, Nola

In celebration of World Rhino Day, almost 200 people—including San Diego Zoo Safari Park rhino keepers, high school conservation club members, San Diego Zoo Global staff members, and Safari Park volunteers—participated in a sky art project at the Safari Park’s African Plains Overlook earlier today. When the art cards were raised in unison, they formed a 60- by 44-foot drawing of Nola, the Safari Park’s beloved northern white rhino—one of only four of this species remaining on the planet.

World Rhino Day is celebrated internationally on Sept. 22 each year, to raise awareness of the five species of rhinos in the world: black, white, greater one-horned, Sumatran and Javan. World Rhino Day activities at the Safari Park included the Nola sky art; special rhino-themed enrichments for many of the Safari Park’s animals; and a rhino conservation pledge and coloring activity. Guests were also able to meet the rhino keeper team and learn about San Diego Zoo Global’s rhino conservation efforts.

“The plight of rhinos in the wild is reaching a critical stage, with the current poaching crisis, and there is an urgent need to protect this iconic species for future generations,” said Jane Kennedy, lead mammal keeper, San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “Today, our rhino keeper team and Safari Park staff are sharing information about rhinos, with the hope people will gain a greater appreciation for these animals and want to do everything they can to save the species for future generations.”

San Diego Zoo Global has been working for decades to help rhinos, and has one of the most successful rhino breeding programs in the world. To date, a total of 93 southern white rhinos, 68 greater one-horned rhinos and 14 black rhinos have been born at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

To further its commitment to rhino conservation, San Diego Zoo Global is building a Rhino Rescue Center at the Safari Park to house more southern white rhinos, establishing the Safari Park as a sanctuary to protect these rhinos and their offspring—at a time when an average of three rhinos are killed each day in the wild by poachers. Taking a science-based approach, researchers at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, along with collaborators, are also developing reproductive techniques necessary to preserve the genetics of the critically endangered northern white rhino and all rhino species.

For more information on San Diego Zoo Global’s rhino conservation efforts visit endextinction.org/rhinos.

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 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.

Photo taken on Sept. 22, 2015 by Tammy Spratt, San Diego Zoo Safari Park

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.

0

CSI: Coronado

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Feathers from a California least tern mark the scene of the crime. (Photo by Maggie Lee Post, courtesy Naval Base Coronado)

I never expected to gain detective skills on the California least tern and western snowy plover project. As field biologists, our observation skills are critical in assessing nest success, chick survival, and other aspects of population ecology throughout the season. There are times when we walk up to a nest and something is amiss: the eggs are missing, an egg is punctured, or sometimes we find only pieces of broken egg shell in the nest cup. This is when we get to an interesting aspect of our job: ‘crime scene’ investigation! Many predators try to take advantage of the hundreds of eggs in a tern colony and those in plover nests. We partner up with predator biologists to help solve these cases of nest predation and prevent more from happening.

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Can you make out the American crow tracks left at this crime scene? (Photo by Billy Smith, courtesy Naval Base Coronado)

Early in the season this year, when the first nests were being filled in the tern colony, the common raven and American crow (members of the Corvidae family) were the main threats. Clues left at the scene of the crime included tracks, pieces of egg shell, and sometimes even remnants of yolk in and around the nest cup. Once these clever birds figured out that we used small green sticks to mark each well-camouflaged nest, they found several other nests at one site. We quickly changed our marking tactics, and began using sea shells to mark nests.

In the middle of the season, when the tern chicks were reaching that stage when they were just beginning to fly, we saw an increase in predation by raptors. Peregrine falcons and great horned owls were linked to some of the crimes. These skilled hunters make swift kills but leave messy crime scenes containing tracks, feather piles, and sometimes leftover pieces of their prey.

Birds are not the only hunters in the area. Skunks and other small, opportunistic mammals use their keen senses to find and eat tern and plover eggs. Since most of these terrestrial creatures forage around dusk or at night, we are able to detect tracks and other signs during our morning patrol—and we definitely smelled a skunk’s presence at one of the beaches! Skunks are especially problematic because they are capable of digging under the exclosures we place over the plover nests to get to the eggs.

Predator management is no easy task, and the predator biologists do an excellent and professional job. They come up with inventive scare tactics and other methods to alleviate the pressure on our protected birds. Our partnership gives the terns and plovers a chance to incubate their eggs and raise their chicks in peace. This is why I’m out here using my detective skills to help the terns and plovers nest successfully on the beaches of Coronado. Case closed.

Melissa Murillo is a research associate at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research.