Events at the Zoo

Events at the Zoo

1

Warty Pig Party!

A warty pig mother keeps busy with her piglets.

A warty pig mother keeps busy with her piglets.

If you have been though the San Diego Zoo’s Panda Canyon recently, you have probably seen our adorable Visayan warty pig family rolling in mud wallows or taking a nap in a big, fluffy hay bed. No, those aren’t warthogs you are looking at—these are one of the most critically endangered pigs in the world!

Visayan warty pigs used to be found on 6 of the Visayan Islands of the Philippines, but due to the loss of about 95 percent of their habitat, they can only be found on 3 of the islands: the western mountains of Panay, isolated areas of forest on Negros, and possibly a small population on Masbate. In 1992, the San Diego Zoo partnered with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in the Philippines to create the Visayan Warty Pig Conservation Programme to try to save this species from extinction. The pigs we house here at the Zoo are an important part of these conservation efforts.

Our sounder, or pig family, is made up of four members. First is the male, Spartacus (as he was named at his previous institution), the largest in the exhibit. He has more prominent “warts” on his face, and his tusks are more apparent. Spartacus is still a pretty young guy, so those warts and tusks will get bigger as he gets older. He is also starting to sport a pretty impressive hairdo. Male Visayan warty pigs seasonally grow large manes that start at the top of their head and travel partially down their back and grow up to 9 inches (23 centimeters) long! The mama of the group is Kurit (the name that accompanied her). She is very valuable to the collection in the US because she is what we call a founder: she came from the Philippines, and her genes were not represented in the North American population. She is also the mom to the two piglets running around the exhibit. Alibangbang and Hinigugma (meaning butterfly and sweetheart, respectively, in Visayan) were born in our shipping pens area on December 6, 2012, and they have quickly become two of my absolute favorite charges.

One neat fact about pigs is that their gestation period is three months, three weeks, and three days. That’s easy to remember, right? Before she lived with Spartacus, we introduced Kurit to another male, based on the warty pig Species Survival Plan coordinator’s recommendation to improve the genetic diversity in the North American population. The introduction was a success, so all we had to do was wait and count, which, truth be told, was a lot harder than it sounds for an impatient keeper!

About a week before she gave birth, we started seeing Kurit doing a nesting behavior. We had given her several places in her enclosure where she could go to feel safe. She chose one den in particular and started moving all the hay we could give her to this den. It was awfully cute to watch her taking mouthfuls of hay and arranging them just perfectly in her den, even if the hay trails left behind weren’t as much fun to clean up. Then about mid-morning on December 6, 2012, we saw that Kurit had two very small, wriggling bodies with her in the house. We couldn’t have been more excited! Who doesn’t love a piglet? And we had two!

Over the days we watched as Kurit took great care of her little ones, keeping the other pigs, and excited keepers, away from her precious little ones. We brought food to her so she wouldn’t have to leave them unattended to eat, but she always let us know if we were getting too close! After the piglets were a few months old, we decided it was time to do their checkup and to find out if they were male or female. The vet techs gave our little girls a clean bill of health! A few months after that, we moved Mom and piglets to their current exhibit and introduced them to Spartacus.

They have been doing very well in their new-ish home, and it has been a real joy and privilege to watch these girls grow into beautiful young lady pigs. In fact, the weekend of their birthday, beginning with the actual day, December 6, we will be celebrating their one-year milestone with a special cake, special enrichment items, and treats for the whole family! So if you find yourself at the Zoo this weekend, make a special trip to visit the girls and wish them a happy birthday!

Ashley Roberts is a keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Catering to Animals in the “Back 40.”

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Win a Spot for Jungle Bells Tweet-up

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*ALL SPOTS HAVE BEEN FILLED. FOLLOW US ON TWITTER AND STAY TUNED FOR THE NEXT TWEET-UP.*

*Zoo admission required for nonmembers*

The San Diego Zoo’s annual Jungle Bells event is back, and we’re hooking it up yet again for our loyal Twitter followers. We’ll be meeting near the Backstage Pass gate in the Urban Jungle area of the Zoo on Sunday, December 15, at 9 a.m., for another close encounter with some of our more charismatic animal ambassadors, including Kenai the Arctic wolf. We’ll howl along with him to celebrate the spirit of winter.

Want in on this exclusive VIP experience? All you have to do is Tweet these exact words starting Friday, November 22 , 2013:

Hey @sandiegozoo, I want to go to the #junglebells tweet-up on December 15th!

The first users to tweet the exact words above (one tweet per user) will win spots for the tweet-up. *By tweeting the above, you confirm that you agree to the terms and conditions below.* Please only enter if you are available to attend the event on the morning of Sunday, December 15, 2013, at 9:00 a.m. The winners will receive a tweet or direct message from @sandiegozoo with more information on how to claim the prize. Space is limited for this event, so act fast!

 *Terms and Conditions

1. NO PURCHASE IS NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase will not increase your chances of winning. Participation constitutes entrant’s full and unconditional agreement to and acceptance of these Official Rules. The San Diego Zoo Jungle Bells tweet-up Contest (“Contest”) will be held online from 12:00 a.m. Pacific Time (“PT”), November 22, 2013 (“Sweepstakes Start Date”), to 5:00 p.m. PT, December 6, 2013 (“Contest Period”). Contest is sponsored by the Zoological Society of San Diego DBA San Diego Zoo Global (the “Sponsor”) who is solely responsible for all aspects of this Contest.

2. ELIGIBILITY. The Contest is open to legal residents of the United States of America who are 18 years of age or older as of “Contest Start Date.” Sponsor’s employees and their immediate families are not eligible to participate or claim a prize. Void where prohibited or restricted by law. All federal, state and local laws, rules and regulations apply. By participating, entrants agree to abide by all terms of these Official Rules and to the decisions of the judge, and waive any right to claim ambiguity in the Contest or these Official Rules.

3. HOW TO ENTER. 1.) As of 12:00 a.m. PT, November 22, 2013, the entrant must:

a. Have a Twitter® account: If you are not a member, you may sign-up here: http://twitter.com

b. Tweet the specified text by 5pm on December 6, 2013: Hey @sandiegozoo, I want to go to the #junglebells tweet-up on December 15th!

No mechanically reproduced entries will be accepted.

4. INTERNET LIMITATIONS OF LIABILITY. If for any reason this Contest is not capable of running as planned due to infection by computer virus, bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical failures, or any other causes beyond the control of the Sponsor which corrupt or affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity or proper conduct of this Contest, the Sponsor reserves the right at its sole discretion, to disqualify any individual who tampers with the entry process, and to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the Contest in whole or in part, at any time, without notice and award the prizes using all non-suspect eligible entries received as of this termination date. The Sponsor assumes no responsibility for any error, omission, interruption, deletion, defect, delay in operation or transmission, communications line failure, theft or destruction or unauthorized access to, or alteration of, entries. The Sponsor is not responsible for any problems or technical malfunction of any telephone network or telephone lines, computer on-line systems, servers, or providers, computer equipment, software, failure of any e-mail or entry to be received by the Sponsor on account of technical problems, human error or traffic congestion on the Internet or at any Website, or any combination thereof, including any injury or damage to participant’s or any other person’s computer relating to or resulting from participation in this Contest or downloading any materials in this Contest. CAUTION: ANY ATTEMPT TO DELIBERATELY DAMAGE ANY WEBSITE OR UNDERMINE THE LEGITIMATE OPERATION OF THE CONTEST IS A VIOLATION OF CRIMINAL AND CIVIL LAWS AND SHOULD SUCH AN ATTEMPT BE MADE, THE SPONSOR RESERVES THE RIGHT TO SEEK DAMAGES OR OTHER REMEDIES FROM ANY SUCH PERSON (S) RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ATTEMPT TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW. In the event of a dispute as to the identity of a winner based on a Twitter account, the winning entry will be declared made by the authorized account holder of the Twitter account submitted at time of entry. “Authorized account holder” is defined as the natural person who is assigned to a Twitter account by Twitter Inc.

5. SELECTIONS AND NOTIFICATION OF WINNERS. Winners will be determined on or after December 6, 2013, by chronological order of entries (first come first serve); the first users to enter earn priority spots. Winners will be notified by Twitter direct message or tweet on or after December 6, 2013 and need not be present to win. Only one winner per household. Winners will be required to execute and return an Affidavit of Eligibility/Release of Liability/Publicity Release and completed IRS W-9 form within 30 days of issuance. Winners are solely responsible for all travel costs that might be required to visit the San Diego Zoo. The winner will be disqualified and an alternate winner will be selected if a selected winner fails to comply with these rules, cannot be contacted, is ineligible, fails to claim a prize, or fails to return the completed and executed Affidavit and Releases in the stated time period as required, or if the prize notification or prize is returned as undeliverable. Acceptance of a prize constitutes permission to use the winners’ names, likenesses, and statements for promotional and publicity purposes without additional compensation or limitation unless prohibited by law. All decisions of the Sponsor regarding the selection of winners, notification and substitution of winners in accordance with these Official Rules shall be binding and final.

6. PRIZES AVAILABLE. Winners will receive a TBD amount of spots to the Jungle Bells tweet-up on December 15, 2013. The prize is not transferable, assignable, or redeemable for cash and if not used will be forfeited.

7. INDEMNIFICATION AND RELEASE. By entering the Contest and participating in any promotions relating thereto, each entrant agrees to release and hold Sponsor, its respective affiliates, subsidiaries, parent companies, officers, directors, shareholders, employees, agents, participating retailers, and any other companies participating in the design, administration, or fulfillment of this sweepstakes and their respective officers, directors, employees, and agents, harmless from any and all losses, rights, claims, injuries, damages, expenses, costs, or actions of any kind resulting in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, from participation in this sweepstakes or any sweepstakes-related activity, or acceptance, possession, use or misuse of the prize or parts thereof, including without limitation personal injuries, death, and property damage and claims based on publicity rights, defamation, or invasion of privacy.

8. TAX INFORMATION. All applicable Federal, state and local tax liabilities and any other incidental expenses, fees or costs associated with the receipt or use of any prize are the sole responsibility of the winner.

9. WINNERS LIST. For an Official Winners List (available after December 6, 2013, and through December 31, 2013) or a copy of these Official Rules (PLEASE SPECIFY WHICH), send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to: San Diego Zoo Global, P.O. Box 120551, San Diego, CA 92112-0551.

10. SPONSOR. San Diego Zoo Global: P.O. Box 120551 San Diego, CA 92112-0551

Matt Steele is the social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global.

 

 

0

Win Tickets, Be 1st to See 4-D Film

Rio_4DExperience_Logo_Lockup_sm*UPDATE 9/17/13: All spots have been taken. Thanks to everyone for participating, stay tuned for the next tweet-up.

Do you follow us on Twitter? Then we want you and your family to join us on Friday, September 27, 2013, at 9:30 a.m. for the grand opening of our new Rio Rainforest Adventure Area and 4-D Film. Want to be among the first people to enjoy this cool new experience—for FREE? We have 50 spots (1 to 2 children per adult) for the event, and here’s how you can enter to win…

Tweet these exact words by 5p.m.on Friday, September 13, 2013 to enter:

Hey @sandiegozoo, my family wants to be 1st to experience your new Rio Adventure Area & 4D Film! #SDZooRocks

The first users to tweet the exact words above (one tweet per user) will win spots for the tweet-up. *By tweeting the above, you confirm that you agree to the terms and conditions below. Please only tweet the above if your family is available to attend the event on the morning of Friday, September 27, 2013, at 9:30 a.m. The winners will receive a tweet or direct message from @sandiegozoo with more information on how to claim the prize. Hurry and get tweeting!

 

*Terms and Conditions

1. NO PURCHASE IS NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase will not increase your chances of winning. Participation constitutes entrant’s full and unconditional agreement to and acceptance of these Official Rules. The San Diego Zoo Rio Rainforest Adventure Area and 4D Film Twitter Contest (“Contest”) will be held online from 12:00 a.m. Pacific Time (“PT”), September 13, 2013 (“Sweepstakes Start Date”), to 5:00 p.m. PT, September 13, 2013 (“Contest Period”). Contest is sponsored by the Zoological Society of San Diego DBA San Diego Zoo Global (the “Sponsor”) who is solely responsible for all aspects of this Sweepstakes.

2. ELIGIBILITY. The Contest is open to legal residents of the United States of America who are 18 years of age or older as of “Contest Start Date.” Sponsor’s employees and their immediate families are not eligible to participate or claim a prize. Void where prohibited or restricted by law. All federal, state and local laws, rules and regulations apply. By participating, entrants agree to abide by all terms of these Official Rules and to the decisions of the judge, and waive any right to claim ambiguity in the Contest or these Official Rules.

3. HOW TO ENTER. 1.) As of 12:00 a.m. PT, September 13, 2013, the entrant must:

a. Have a Twitter® account: If you are not a member, you may sign-up here: http://twitter.com

b. Tweet the specified text by 5pm on September 13, 2013: Hey @sandiegozoo, my family wants to be 1st to experience your new Rio Adventure Area & 4D Film! #SDZooRocks

No mechanically reproduced entries will be accepted.

4. INTERNET LIMITATIONS OF LIABILITY. If for any reason this Contest is not capable of running as planned due to infection by computer virus, bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical failures, or any other causes beyond the control of the Sponsor which corrupt or affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity or proper conduct of this Contest, the Sponsor reserves the right at its sole discretion, to disqualify any individual who tampers with the entry process, and to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the Contest in whole or in part, at any time, without notice and award the prizes using all non-suspect eligible entries received as of this termination date. The Sponsor assumes no responsibility for any error, omission, interruption, deletion, defect, delay in operation or transmission, communications line failure, theft or destruction or unauthorized access to, or alteration of, entries. The Sponsor is not responsible for any problems or technical malfunction of any telephone network or telephone lines, computer on-line systems, servers, or providers, computer equipment, software, failure of any e-mail or entry to be received by the Sponsor on account of technical problems, human error or traffic congestion on the Internet or at any Website, or any combination thereof, including any injury or damage to participant’s or any other person’s computer relating to or resulting from participation in this Contest or downloading any materials in this Contest. CAUTION: ANY ATTEMPT TO DELIBERATELY DAMAGE ANY WEBSITE OR UNDERMINE THE LEGITIMATE OPERATION OF THE CONTEST IS A VIOLATION OF CRIMINAL AND CIVIL LAWS AND SHOULD SUCH AN ATTEMPT BE MADE, THE SPONSOR RESERVES THE RIGHT TO SEEK DAMAGES OR OTHER REMEDIES FROM ANY SUCH PERSON (S) RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ATTEMPT TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW. In the event of a dispute as to the identity of a winner based on a Twitter account, the winning entry will be declared made by the authorized account holder of the Twitter account submitted at time of entry. “Authorized account holder” is defined as the natural person who is assigned to a Twitter account by Twitter Inc.

5. SELECTIONS AND NOTIFICATION OF WINNERS. Winners will be determined on or after September 13, 2013, by chronological order of entries (first come first serve); the first users to enter earn priority spots. Winners will be notified by Twitter direct message or tweet on or after September 13, 2013 and need not be present to win. Only one winner per household. Winners will be required to execute and return an Affidavit of Eligibility/Release of Liability/Publicity Release and completed IRS W-9 form within 30 days of issuance. Winners are solely responsible for all travel costs that might be required to visit the San Diego Zoo. The winner will be disqualified and an alternate winner will be selected if a selected winner fails to comply with these rules, cannot be contacted, is ineligible, fails to claim a prize, or fails to return the completed and executed Affidavit and Releases in the stated time period as required, or if the prize notification or prize is returned as undeliverable. Acceptance of a prize constitutes permission to use the winners’ names, likenesses, and statements for promotional and publicity purposes without additional compensation or limitation unless prohibited by law. All decisions of the Sponsor regarding the selection of winners, notification and substitution of winners in accordance with these Official Rules shall be binding and final.

6. PRIZES AVAILABLE. Winners will receive a TBD amount of tickets to the grand opening of the new Rio Rainforest Adventure Area and 4D Film. All prizes must be redeemed on September 27, 2013. The prize is not transferable, assignable, or redeemable for cash and if not used will be forfeited.

7. INDEMNIFICATION AND RELEASE. By entering the Contest and participating in any promotions relating thereto, each entrant agrees to release and hold Sponsor, its respective affiliates, subsidiaries, parent companies, officers, directors, shareholders, employees, agents, participating retailers, and any other companies participating in the design, administration, or fulfillment of this sweepstakes and their respective officers, directors, employees, and agents, harmless from any and all losses, rights, claims, injuries, damages, expenses, costs, or actions of any kind resulting in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, from participation in this sweepstakes or any sweepstakes-related activity, or acceptance, possession, use or misuse of the prize or parts thereof, including without limitation personal injuries, death, and property damage and claims based on publicity rights, defamation, or invasion of privacy.

8. TAX INFORMATION. All applicable Federal, state and local tax liabilities and any other incidental expenses, fees or costs associated with the receipt or use of any prize are the sole responsibility of the winner.

9. WINNERS LIST. For an Official Winners List (available after September 13, 2013, and through December 31, 2013) or a copy of these Official Rules (PLEASE SPECIFY WHICH), send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to: San Diego Zoo Global, P.O. Box 120551, San Diego, CA 92112-0551.

10. SPONSOR. San Diego Zoo Global: P.O. Box 120551 San Diego, CA 92112-0551

 

Matt Steele is the social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global.

192

Birthday Plans for Yun Zi

Yun Zi over the years

Yun Zi over the years

Xiao Liwu’s first birthday on July 29 has come and gone (see Panda Party: Wu Hoo!), and now it’s Yun Zi’s turn to celebrate! His fourth birthday is on Monday, August 5. At 210 pounds (95 kilograms), Yun Zi has turned into quite a handsome bear with plenty of personality. He still enjoys climbing and redecorating his exhibit when we least expect it and is always challenging us to come up with better and more creative enrichment for him.

Yun Zi excels at all his training on the different husbandry behaviors we’d like him to know and already has a long list of them mastered. Currently, he is working on presenting his arm through a metal sleeve so we can draw a blood sample from him. He is doing extremely well, and we are working on the “patience” part where he leaves his arm in the sleeve for longer periods of time.

Yun Zi enjoys his cake at his third birthday party last summer.

Yun Zi enjoys his cake at his third birthday party last summer.

We are kicking off his birthday party a little early this year. Our Black & White Overnight campers will be creating different, colorful cardboard gift boxes filled with goodies to present to him on Sunday, August 4. After the gifts have been set out in the exhibit for him, campers will gather in front of his exhibit to watch him enjoy opening them. We hope to have our Panda Cam catch them waving to panda fans everywhere between 8:35 and 8:45 a.m.

On Monday, August 5, the Birthday Boy will be receiving more gifts and a world-famous ice cake from our wonderful Forage Department “pastry chefs” to enjoy when he is let out into his exhibit at 9 a.m. I can’t wait to see what it will look like!

When Yun Zi breaks off that number “4” on the top of his cake, he will most likely be making his birthday wish. And what does this bear want for his birthday? A higher swing, a hammock, more back scratches, more bamboo…. I am sure he has a long list, and we are working on all of these presents for him. If you’d like to help, be sure to visit this month’s Animal Care Wish List.

Yun Zi when he was a wee cub

Yun Zi when he was a wee cub

Jennifer Becerra is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Birthday Plans for Xiao Liwu.

429

Birthday Plans for Xiao Liwu

Will Xiao Liwu come down from the tree for his birthday cake? Stay tuned!

Will Xiao Liwu come down from the tree for his birthday cake? Stay tuned!

It’s that time of the year again to order the birthday cake, wrap the presents, and celebrate with the San Diego Zoo—Mr. Wu’s first birthday is on Monday, July 29! This is a milestone for the Zoo, and we are the fortunate ones to celebrate our sixth panda first birthday with this “little gift.”

I placed the order for Mr. Wu’s birthday cake on July 1, as it takes our Forage Team around a month to plan and create their world-famous ice cakes. Our Forage Team folks always have amazing ideas and are very creative with their cakes. I continue to be amazed at what they can do with ice, and so are the bears! I am always tempted to take an early look at the cake, but I never do, as I like to keep it a surprise. The cake is always bigger and better than the year before.

Make sure you join us for Xiao Liwu’s special day and wear your favorite panda-themed clothes or something black, white, and red (we panda keepers will be in red for the occasion). Mr. Wu will have his cake presentation around 8:45 a.m. for special donors and the media, and the Zoo opens at 9 a.m. Make sure you are getting your cameras ready and/or watching Panda Cam!

There will not be snow in the forecast for his birthday, because he is not shifting off exhibit consistently yet, and we do not want to frighten him with the loud snow-blowing machines. There will be snow in the next month or so—we will let you know the exact date once that’s been determined. But be prepared that Mr. Wu might be enjoying his birthday festivities from high in the trees if anything makes him a little nervous. He has also made a Wish List for his birthday that will be posted on July 29. We’ll provide the link at that time.

By the way, Mr. Wu weighs 40 pounds (18 kilograms) now.

Jennifer Becerra is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Comparing Panda Brothers.

5

It’s (Almost) Black Tuesday for Bees

The damaging effects commercially managed bees experience from pesticides are also suffered by native bees.

The damaging effects commercially managed bees experience from pesticides are also suffered by native bees.

Yes, I mean the catastrophic crash of the stock market in 1929 and the economic Great Depression that followed. As I listened to today’s stock market gains and losses on PBS’s “Marketplace,” I was struck by how closely our society follows this information. We pay attention because it affects our lives directly. The situation with pollinator decline is no less critical yet is barely on the radar of most. Since we have not hit bottom yet, it seems like a problem for another day—and there is no index to tell us how close we are.

Still, the warning bells are ringing. Pollinators like bees, butterflies, beetles, and flies are in crisis worldwide, suffering from pesticide exposure, habitat loss, and disease. Pollinators make fertilization possible for many plants; without them, food as we know it would simply not exist: no fruits, veggies, peanut butter, or chocolate—and that’s just a start.

If this suddenly sounds like the same old story you hear about humans and nature, stay with me a little longer. It’s more than another wildlife-in-crisis story, and I can guarantee that it will affect you personally—and definitely financially—if we keep the current course.

So, in the spirit of “Marketplace,” let’s do the numbers!

Visit the San Diego Zoo’s Pollinator Garden.

30% of the food we eat results from insect pollination.
This includes everything from cucumbers to squash, coffee to basil, strawberries to cantaloupes, cashews, and everything in between. It doesn’t include the insect-pollinated foods like alfalfa and clover that we feed to our livestock (where we get milk, eggs, and meat), so the percentage is likely much higher.

There is a 59% decline in overwintering monarch butterflies in the Central Mexican butterfly preserves since 2012.
75% of the Earth’s flowering plants depend on insect pollination to set seed or produce fruit.
The value of insect-pollinated crops in the US is $27 billion.

US beekeepers experienced a 30% decline of managed honeybee colony winter losses in the 2012-2013 year.
This number is far greater than the acceptable range of losses and only represents winter loss, not total loss. There are only about 2.5 million commercial honeybee colonies in the US. For perspective, it takes 1.6 million colonies to pollinate the annual almond crop alone.

THREATS TO POLLINATORS
Pesticides
All insects are affected by contact with insecticides. In particular, a newer class of systemic insecticides called neonicotinoids has been shown to severely affect bee health. In agriculture, this type of insecticide is most often applied as a seed coating, and the insect nerve poison is subsequently expressed in every tissue as the plant grows; leaf, stem, pollen, and nectar.

As a result, though the insecticide is targeted at “pest” insects, there can be serious consequences for any insect that visits the plant for nectar or pollen. Some need only be present when the planting occurs, as some of the chemical seed coating is released in a crop “dust” in agricultural plantings. The effects of these pesticide exposures include immediate death by contact, but some are sub-lethal, meaning that the animal does not die right away but experiences disorientation, loss of navigational ability, paralysis, and even memory loss as the result of contact.

Though there are federal regulations governing the concentrations of these poisons in agriculture, there are none for home use. Many products containing this type of insecticide can be found in local home improvement stores for landscaping use. Consumers often do not follow the instructions for application, and the concentrations can be many times higher than federal regulations allow. This means more of the poison will find its way to bees and other insect pollinators through gardens and runoff from irrigation.

It is important to note that the majority of research on pesticide effects in pollinators has been conducted in honeybees, because they are managed commercially and are thus more accessible and measurable. Since their biology is very similar to that of native bees, it is safe to assume that the damaging effects they experience from pesticides (and other sources) are also suffered by native bees.

Habitat loss
As human populations grow, less space remains for native pollinators. Overgrown spaces with wildflowers, weeds, and nesting sites are disappearing, making way for manicured lawns that eliminate key nectar and pollen sources like dandelions and encourage pesticide use. Agricultural practices claim land that was once suitable pollinator habitat with a diversity of nectar and pollen sources and replace it with insecticide and herbicide-laden monocultures.

Genetically modified (GM) crops
Two types of GM crops are routinely used in agriculture. One is an insect-resistant type, where a bacterium that is lethal to certain insects is incorporated into the genome of the plant, and the target insect species are killed upon feeding on the plant.

The second is an herbicide-resistant variety and is definitely of concern for pollinators, especially butterflies and bees. In herbicide-resistant GM crops, the plants are engineered to be resistant to applications of certain herbicides. As a result, the crop can withstand repeated applications of herbicide, which in turn kills all the flowering weeds surrounding the planted area.

This is of particular concern for monarch butterflies, whose larval host plant is milkweed, which thrives in disturbed habitats and has historically been found adjacent to crops. Most people are familiar with the epic migration of the monarch butterfly to the oyamel fir forests of Central Mexico. This year, the count of overwintering monarchs in the protected reserves revealed a catastrophic drop—down an incredible 59 percent from that of 2012 and standing at an all-time historical low since the migration was discovered in the 1970s. Lack of available host plants due to GM-related herbicide application has been identified as a significant contributor to this staggering decline.

Diseases
There are a great many parasites and pathogens that burden pollinators such as bees, and the ones causing the most damage are introduced species. Native bumblebees suffer from a nonnative fungal disease, while honeybees struggle with introduced ectoparasites such as Varroa mites and fungal infestations from Nosema spores.

A combination of all these and probably other factors has created the phenomenon Colony Collapse Disorder, which is decimating honeybee colonies in the US. The precise cause is unknown, because the bees simply disappear, thus taking the evidence with them. But one thing is clear—life is hard for commercial honeybees these days.

Pollinator gard_1

A native bee house for mason and leafcutter bees in the Pollinator Garden provides holes to make nests.

WE ARE HERE FOR THEM
At the San Diego Zoo, we are committed to helping pollinators recover:

Providing a safe haven
We have a pollinator “way station” at the Pollinator Garden, located at the entrance to Elephant Odyssey. This space is dedicated to helping sustain pollinators by providing a steady supply of pesticide-free nectar and host plants, as well as suitable living spaces for native bees. We have a large section of milkweed available for monarch butterflies to lay eggs on from spring through fall, helping to boost the West Coast population.

Educating our guests
Our Education Department is working with Zoo Corps kids to help raise native milkweed for monarch butterflies in our Pollinator Garden. Staff have also incorporated the garden as a teaching tool for various curricula.

Live and let live
Where possible on Zoo grounds, we allow honeybee swarms to move on in their own time and only actively remove established hives when either human or collection animal health is clearly at risk.
National Pollinator Week awareness
The Entomology Department participates every year in National Pollinator Week, with the help of many departments. During the entire week, the insect keepers are giving daily presentations on bees and other pollinators at the honeybee display in the Insect House at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 pm.

HOW ABOUT YOU?
A steady wave of small choices can help turn the tide. Here are a few ways you can help:

Buy organic
If you don’t currently buy any organic foods or clothing, think about picking even one item the next time you visit the store. For one, you could potentially lower the demand for crops produced using pesticides and reduce the overall application (over one MILLION pounds yearly) of these chemicals in the US. This alone will help pollinators.

Secondly, even if you don’t care about whether or not you eat GM crops, buying crops that are genetically modified supports the practice of widespread herbicide application in agriculture and the decimation of pollinator habitat that results. Organic items cannot intentionally include GM crops; those labeled “No GMO” have been positively determined not to contain them. One item in your basket is a small step in the right direction for pollinators.

Build your own way station
Plant some milkweed! Create a habitat in your yard, garden, or flowerbox that invites pollinators. Some great planting information can be found at www.xerces.org, along with more details on the status of pollinators and insect conservation in general.

Avoid pesticide use at home
If you really, truly must use pesticides, read the manufacturer’s instructions on recommended concentration, and only use it at or below that level.

Let part of your lawn go wild for pollinators
Long, overgrown grasses create a perfect habitat for nesting and overwintering native bees, and flowering weeds are a staple nectar and pollen source for bees and butterflies alike. Keep in mind that most native bees are solitary and do not sting readily. They are good, safe neighbors—especially if you have a garden.

Tell your friends
Most people have no idea that the sustainability of food as we know it is so tightly linked with the health of pollinators. Share what you know!

UNDERWRITE THE FUTURE FOR POLLINATORS
This week, June 17 through 23, is National Pollinator Week. It is the perfect time to visit the Zoo’s Pollinator Garden and spend some time watching monarch butterflies laying eggs, and bees and hummingbirds finding a nectar or pollen meal in a beautiful flower.

But it is an even better time to act. If we can all make one small change in our habits this week, we could make a big difference for pollinators. To bring it back to our financial analogy, it has been said that if more people knew the current status of pollinator decline, they would be more concerned with that than with the ups and downs of the NASDAQ or S&P 500.

So now you know the stakes—and you are definitely a stakeholder. Will you invest in the solution?

Paige Howorth is an animal care manager at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, The Queen Will Not Be Denied!

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News about Zhen Zhen

Zhen

Zhen Zhen relaxes after her 3rd birthday festivities in 2010.

Back in February, we reported with excitement that panda Zhen Zhen had bred for the first time and was the first female at the Bi Feng Xia center in China to do so in 2013 (see post Panda Zhen Zhen). For newer panda fans, Zhen Zhen is Bai Yun and Gao Gao’s youngest daughter and moved to China in September 2010. Well, it is with some sadness that we share the latest news on Zhen Zhen: On May 6, Zhen Zhen gave birth to a single cub; however, the cub died soon after birth.

Of course, we know that Zhen Zhen, who will be six years old this August, will have many more opportunities to breed and have cubs in the future, and there is no reason to doubt that she will be successful down the road. An early May birth is very unusual for pandas, with most of the births being recorded between July and September, after a variable period of diapause and a 50-day period of gestation.

Megan Owen is a conservation program manager for the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. Read her previous post, Our Pandas in China.

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New Koala Exhibit Now Open

Female koala Tonahleah and her 10-month-old male joey, Gummy, settle into their new digs at the all-new Conrad Prebys Australian Outback exhibit at the San Diego Zoo.

Female koala Tonahleah and her 10-month-old male joey, Gummy, settle into their new digs at the all-new Conrad Prebys Australian Outback exhibit at the San Diego Zoo.

It was a glorious morning today as we celebrated the official opening of the San Diego Zoo’s brand-new exhibit, the Conrad Prebys Australian Outback. At last, our koalas have more space to do what they do best: look adorable even while sound asleep! In the koalas’ former exhibit, the animals had to take turns being outside, as there wasn’t enough exhibit space to allow them all (21 of ‘em!) out at once. But now there’s room for all, including 3 joeys ranging in age from 8 to 10 months.

This dancer's depictions of Australian birds were spot on and fun to watch.

This dancer’s depictions of Australian birds were spot on and fun to watch.

The opening ceremony included remarks from San Diego Zoo Global’s chairman, Rick Gulley, representatives of the Yugambeh-language people of Australia’s Gold Coast, supported by Dreamworld, and Australia Consulate General Karen Lanyon, who declared the new exhibit “fantastic—a piece of Australia!” We were treated to a traditional welcome song and intricate dances depicting various birds as part of the opening.

Australian Outback is a 3-acre area home to our famous koalas as well as wallabies, wombats, and 23 species of Australian birds. But for me this morning, it was all about the koalas and their new care facility. Designed to look like a Queenslander-style house, it features large viewing windows so guests can see the copious amounts of eucalyptus housed in a giant walk-in cooler and watch koala keepers prepare that eucalyptus for their charges to nibble on at their leisure. Wrapped around three quarters of the “house” are the koala enclosures: 10 individual enclosures for the male koalas, who apparently prefer a life of quiet solitude, and 2 bigger enclosures for the females, who don’t mind company. It is the larger of these enclosures that is now featured on Koala Cam. Basically, there are now LOTS of opportunities to view koalas as you make your way around the house.

The koala care center can be seen in the background. Koala enclosures wrap around it on three sides.

The koala care center can be seen in the background. Koala enclosures wrap around it on three sides.

The keepers I talked to this morning had big grins as they shared how nice this new facility is for the koalas. Sometimes koalas can be unpredictable with changes, but Chris Hamlin Andrus, the animal care manager for the area, said that all of the koalas are doing remarkably well so far in their new home. She is so grateful to Conrad Prebys, other donors, and their love for animals for donating the funds to make it all possible. Zoo Veterinarian Geoff Pye is glad the koalas all have a chance to be in the fresh air and sunshine, which will reduce possible vitamin D deficiency, as our koalas have been prone to hip dysplasia in the past.

I chatted with Zoo guests to get some of their impressions as they strolled around. “Loved it!” and “Awesome” were expressions I heard often. One guest declared that the lighting is so much better in the new exhibit—better for photographers! I hope our koala fans will make plans to visit soon. Be sure to bring your camera!

Debbie Andreen is an associate editor for San Diego Zoo Global.

2

Bowling for Rhinos

A southern white rhino calf trots next to Mom at the Safari Park.

A southern white rhino calf trots next to Mom at the Safari Park.

In 1967, several keepers in San Diego got together to form what is now a nationwide nonprofit organization called the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK). AAZK has over 2,500 members throughout the US and Canada and includes animal care professionals and people interested in conservation and improving animal care. The San Diego chapter of AAZK (SDAAZK) has over 80 members and supporters who work at several of the local animal facilities like the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, SeaWorld, California Wolf Center, Project Wildlife, and Lions Tigers & Bears. It is a great organization that is very active in furthering education for those who work directly with animals and bringing awareness and funding to conservation organizations throughout the world.

The main method of providing funding for conservation organizations is through hosting fundraising events, which we do a lot. I always joke with our members and friends that we mainly raise money to give it away. We know that there are so many worthy causes that need help, and with a membership that is passionate about wildlife conservation, fundraising is a big part of what we do.

So it should be no surprise that SDAAZK has been participating in the biggest AAZK fundraiser since it began in 1990 called Bowling For Rhinos (BFR). The event has raised over $4 million to assist 3 very important conservation organizations: the Lewa Conservancy in Africa, the International Rhino Foundation in Asia, and Cheetahs in Action in Africa. These three organizations have been fundamental in the protection of rhinos and cheetahs and their habitats.

SDAAZK has hosted Bowling For Rhinos every year, and this, our 23rd year, is no different. It will take place on May 18 at Kearny Mesa Bowl in San Diego. Our goal is to raise $20,000 or more for rhino conservation! The event consists of a bowl-a-thon in which participants raise sponsorship money that goes directly to rhino conservation. There is also a silent auction, drawings, best-dressed team contest, a bake sale, live music, and much more.

One of the beauties of the event is that all monies raised go directly to rhino conservation because SDAAZK members and others volunteer their time. We are also lucky in that many businesses from the community have become involved and donate items for the auction and raffle.

Historically, Bowling For Rhinos has been one of our biggest fundraisers, and this year looks like it will be no different. The event is over a week away, and we have already almost sold out the 40 bowling lanes! With each team consisting of 5 players and each player raising a minimum sponsorship of $30 each, our goal of $20,000 is looking good. Plus, we have great prizes for the top fundraisers of the evening. If you are wondering why we set a goal of $20,000, the reason is easy: we want to beat last year’s total of over $16,000.

We would love for you to join us at this year’s Bowling For Rhinos! You can participate even if you don’t bowl; between the auction, drawings, and contests there will be a lot to do. Moral support and cheering is also appreciated. It really is a fun event for a great cause! To learn more about SDAAZK and Bowling For Rhinos, visit our website at www.sdaazk.org! You might be interested to know just what keepers do with their “spare” time.

Yvette Kemp is a senior hospital keeper at the San Diego Zoo and president of the San Diego Chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers. Read her previous post, Quarantine for New Animals.

0

Win a free kindertots class

Hey parents with  an 18 month-old to 3-year-old, want to win a free Saturday morning KinderTots class for the family (admission required for non-members)? Send a photo of your 18-month-old to 3-year-old with some kind of animal to sdzoocontests@gmail.com for a chance to win. One grand prize winner will score a free KinderTots class for the family.

*Read the terms and conditions below.

*By submitting your photo(s), you represent that you own the copyright to the photo(s) and that you have all necessary rights to grant a license to the Zoological Society of San Diego (DBA San Diego Zoo Global) to publish and to re-use such photo(s) for any purpose without compensation and that you hereby grant such license together with the right to use your name. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER. Odds of winning will depend on number of eligible entries. Winners will be determined by San Diego Zoo Global staff from among all eligible entries. Winners will be notified by e-mail and need not be present to win. Only one winner per household. Prize includes a KinderTots class for four ($48 value). Admission required for non-members. Contest void where prohibited by law. Must be 18 years of age and older to enter and claim a prize. San Diego Zoo Global employees and their immediate families are not eligible. Some restrictions apply.