Animals site sub feature

Animals site sub feature

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.

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.

3

11 Animals Who Realized They Left The Stove On

Let’s be real. We’ve all done it and we all know the feeling. It’s a bit like…

On no…

No…

Seriously?

Wait, did I? Let me back track…

I did. Gah!

I can’t believe it.

 

How COULD I?!

Again!?

When am I going to learn?

I’m starting to panic.

Wait, it’s going to be ok. No need to freak out. But I’m still a little mad at myself.

Matt Steele is senior social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read his previous post, “Ugly” Animals Need Love Too.

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“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.