Public Relations

Public Relations


Baby Gorilla at San Diego Zoo Safari Park Crawling and Curious

Gorillas Joanne, ImaniThe San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s baby gorilla, Joanne, is learning to crawl and can be seen confidently sitting and eating by herself. The now five-month-old gorilla usually rides on mother Imani’s back, but when Imani pauses or stops to forage, baby Joanne climbs off and spends time sitting and crawling around the nearby area.

Animal care staff report that Joanne is much more active now that she is a little older. She is taking fewer naps throughout the day and has started sampling solid foods. Joanne is now estimated to have eight teeth, enough to help her chew fruits and veggies such as her favorites, kale and grapes cut in half. While her primary source of nutrition is still from nursing, the growing gorilla is curious of any food items that her mother is eating and she watches as Imani forages, mimicking those behaviors by picking up fruits and veggies on her own.

“We’ve seen Joanne crawl away from Imani a little bit while she’s sitting on exhibit,” Jami Pawlowski, keeper at the Safari Park, said. “Imani always keeps her eye on her but Joanne is testing out her independence and seeing how far she can get.”

The young gorilla shares her habitat with seven other gorillas, two of which are curious youngsters, 3-year-old Monroe and 6-year-old Frank. Keepers say that the young males are eager to interact with the baby and even though the mother is very protective of her baby, she sometimes lets Frank briefly hold her. Monroe plays a more mischievous role, poking and peering at the mother and baby before quickly running away.

Joanne, named in honor of Joanne Warren, the first chairwoman of the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global, was born at the Safari Park on March 12 after a rare emergency C-section was needed.

Photo taken on August 29, 2014, by Tammy Spratt, San Diego Zoo Safari Park.



Galapagos Tortoise Arrives at Toledo Zoo from San Diego

San Diego Zoo logoEmerson, a male tortoise approximately 100 years old and weighing about 400 pounds, arrived at the Toledo Zoo from the San Diego Zoo late on Aug. 27 and is scheduled to be on exhibit at the zoo’s Tiger Terrace area. The species is native to the Galapagos Islands, near Ecuador and off the western coast of South America. Galapagos tortoises can live for 150 or so years, with males measuring up to 6 feet long and weighing as much as 500 pounds (females are smaller).

This species was among the animals that Charles Darwin observed when he traveled to the Galapagos Islands in 1835. The information Darwin gleaned from that trip helped shape his resulting theory of evolution by natural selection, which has become the cornerstone of modern biological science.

While the species is thought to have numbered in the tens of thousands before pirates and whalers started hunting them, four of the Galapagos tortoise’s 14 subspecies have gone extinct. The surviving species face competition for resources from nonnative animals humans have introduced to the islands. Although few animals could kill a full-grown tortoise, many animals eat the tortoises’ eggs, decimating reproduction rates. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the species as vulnerable.



Unique Fundraiser for Rhinos Sets Record

greater one-horned rhino CharleesThe American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK) has announced that it has exceeded its expectations through its unique annual fundraising effort, Bowling For Rhinos. The event, which occurs in bowling alleys throughout the U.S. each spring, has raised more than $5 million since its inception in 1990. The money raised each year contributes to conservation work protecting rhinos in the wild.

“The ongoing success of this fundraising effort shows that people across the country share our concern and caring for rhinos,” said Bob Cisneros, president of AAZK National. “Every day we hear stories about rhinos lost to poaching. This year we have raised money that will make a significant contribution to our effort to protect these unique creatures.”

Each year the AAZK sponsors Bowling For Rhinos. Over 60 AAZK chapters participate throughout the U.S. and Canada with an annual goal of raising $500,000. The San Diego chapter, which includes a large group of animal care staff from San Diego Zoo Global, contributed more than $217,000. Funds raised through this process support the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy (formerly called Ngare Sergoi rhino sanctuary) in Kenya, and the Ujung Kulon National Park, Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park (BBSNP) and Way Kambas in Indonesia.

“The efforts of groups like AAZK do a great deal to assist in our global effort to save species,” said Douglas Myers, CEO for San Diego Zoo Global. “The success of this effort shows the tremendous dedication of our animal care staff, who work every day to conserve these species at the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and then spend their free time in efforts such as this.”

AAZK is an organization devoted to the specialized profession of caring for exotic animal species. The organization was founded at the San Diego Zoo in 1967.



Elephant Born at Reid Park Zoo Part of San Diego Zoo Global’s Satellite Herd

Global_logo_color copySemba, a 24-year old African elephant, successfully delivered a female calf at 10:55 p.m. on Aug. 20, at the Reid Park Zoo in Tucson, Arizona. Both mother and calf appear to be doing well but are spending quiet time in the Click Family Elephant Care Center under the watchful eyes of the elephant team. The herd is a satellite African elephant herd that originated at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and is managed jointly by animal care staff at both zoos.

“This birth, literally the largest in the history of the State of Arizona, represents a significant milestone for the Zoo,” stated Jason Jacobs, Reid Park Zoo administrator. “This birth would not have been possible without the vision and partnership of the City of Tucson, Reid Park Zoo, Reid Park Zoological Society, and San Diego Zoo Global. This calf’s arrival is living testament to the dedication of so many generous donors and supporters who worked together to build Expedition Tanzania, with a shared goal of housing a breeding herd of elephants in Tucson. Our Zoo staff looks forward to keeping the community updated on the progress of the calf and the rest of the herd.”

The first 48 to 72 hours following the birth are the most essential for Semba and her calf to form a strong physical and emotional bond. Absolutely no visitors or nonessential staff members are being admitted to the Elephant Care Center at this time. Once the calf is nursing regularly and following Semba instinctually, additional areas of the holding facility will be opened for them to explore. Keepers will also be watching to make sure Semba is eating, drinking and recovering normally from the physical stresses of labor. As the calf gains strength, she will be introduced to the rest of the herd.



First Breeding Season of Endangered Bird at Maui Bird Conservation Center Produces Six Chicks

Palila-on-MamaneA small songbird of the Hawaiian forest, the critically endangered palila has received a significant boost to its captive breeding population due to a successful breeding season at San Diego Zoo Global’s Maui Bird Conservation Center. With the support and care from conservationists at the Maui Bird Conservation Center, a pair of palila has produced a total of six healthy nestlings in 2014 thus far.

“This is the first full breeding season we have had for this species at the Maui Bird Conservation Center and we are delighted with the success,” said Josh Kramer, research coordinator for San Diego Zoo Global. “These birds are very charismatic and it is very easy to fall in love with them.”

In the wild, palila are only found on the island of Hawaii, in subalpine woodlands of Mauna Kea. At the Maui Bird Conservation Center, animal care staff artificially incubated eggs laid by the pair and hand-reared the offspring to encourage multiple clutches from the breeding adults. Palila are highly dependent on the mamane Sophora chrysophylla tree, from which they consume unripe seeds. Mamane seeds contain high amounts of toxic alkaloids and palila have evolved tolerance to this toxin. Today, palila are found in less than 5% of their historic range, primarily due to the loss of native dryland forest habitat.

The Hawaii Endangered Bird Conservation Program is a field program of the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, in partnership with the State of Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.



Secretary of Interior Announces Additional $1 Million to Fund Urban Engagement Efforts at Southern California Wildlife Refuges

Global_logo_color copySecretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced last week that the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex will receive an additional $1 million in funding to reach new audiences and engage Southern California urban communities and youth in conservation and outdoor recreation. The outreach includes programs from a number of local conservation organizations, including a teacher education program being run by San Diego Zoo Global. The project for the refuge is the first among the nation’s urban national wildlife refuges to receive this new award through a nationwide competition.

“As the second-largest metropolitan area in the United States with 17 million people, Southern California can be a laboratory for the rest of the country to show how to help people who live in a world made of bricks and concrete connect with a world of grass and rivers, fish and wildlife,” said Jewell. “Helping kids feel welcome on public lands at a young age can help create the next generation of conservationists or spark a passion to be good stewards of nature that will last a lifetime.”

Ten exceptional programs have been incorporated into the SoCal Project that will complement and expand current outreach and education programs on the refuges, including:

* Working with the Los Angeles Conservation Corps to develop job skills with inner city, low-income young adults to restore wildlife habitats along the Los Angeles River and to lead outdoor education activities;
* Expanding the partnership with Earth Discovery Institute to build a cadre of young technology-savvy environmental stewards and to expand service opportunities for volunteers and communities to connect with their wild lands;
* Growing the next generation of environmental scientists and developing skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics with the Living Coast Discovery Center; and
* Training teachers and students on the use of cutting-edge science to solve conservation problems with the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research.

“Native species refuges located in the middle of urban areas are faced with the ongoing challenge of balancing human and wildlife needs, which highlights the importance of awareness building through conservation education,” said Douglas Myers, CEO and president of San Diego Zoo Global. “San Diego Zoo Global is proud to be part of this leadership effort to put youth in touch with our environmental heritage.”

The refuge’s winning proposal, the SoCal Urban Wildlife Refuge Project, incorporates outdoor learning, service and stewardship of natural habitats and conservation-based projects for youth and young adults from diverse communities. It encompasses activities not only at the San Diego Refuges but also to the north at the Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge Complex and in Los Angeles under the auspices of the Los Angeles Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership and Friends of the Los Angeles River. The competition was launched in March 2014 to encourage innovative proposals from refuges across the country to engage new and diverse audiences.



Puppy Love for Cheetah Cub at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Cheetah Ruuxa, Dog RainaA cheetah cub, Ruuxa, and his female puppy companion, Raina, wrestled, ran and played as they participated in training sessions earlier today, Aug. 18, at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. As part of their training, the young animal ambassadors, both now over 3 months old, ventured out of their current home at the Safari Park’s animal care center to experience new surroundings and to begin acclimating to their future home behind the scenes at the Park’s Benbough Amphitheater.

“As an ambassador animal, Ruuxa will be experiencing lots of unpredictable environments, so it is vitally important for him to feel confident in his surroundings,” stated Larissa Comb, senior animal trainer, San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “We are taking Ruuxa and Raina outside their comfort zone of the animal care center, doing short training sessions with them several times a day, allowing them to have experiences in a controlled environment. Both animals are doing great, progressing very fast, and Ruuxa’s confidence is incredible for his age.”

The animal pair was placed together at 4 and 5 weeks of age to be raised as ambassador animals after the cheetah cub was rejected by his mother and had to be hand raised by keepers. Safari Park ambassador cheetahs are paired with a domestic dog for companionship, and the dog’s body language helps communicate to the cheetah that there is nothing to fear in new or public surroundings, which relaxes and calms the cheetah.

Visitors to the Safari Park may see Ruuxa and Raina in the Park’s animal care center from 12:15 to 1 p.m. daily until Aug. 21. On Aug. 22, the pair will move to their new home behind the scenes at Benbough Amphitheater, where they can be seen during a Behind-the-Scenes Safari: Cheetah & Friends, or guests may possibly see them on one of the training sessions around the Park.

Photo taken on Aug. 18, 2014, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Safari Park.



Giraffe Herd Welcomes Newest Calf at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Masai Giraffe Calf Gowan, GennyA 16-day-old male Masai giraffe and his mother were released into the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s South Africa exhibit earlier today, August 15. The lanky youngster was cautious when keepers first opened the gate into the field exhibit, but it didn’t take long for him to acclimate to his new surroundings as he followed his mother to meet the rest of the giraffe herd, which includes his 3-week-old half-brother.

The calf, named Gowon (pronounced Go-wan), Masai for maker of rain, was born on July 31 to mother Genny in a protected area, where the two remained until today, when animal care staff felt Gowon was strong enough to venture into the larger space and meet the herd. His older brother, Kamau (pronounced Kam-mao), whose name means little warrior in Masai, was born on July 26 and was released into the field with his mother last week.

Gowon stayed close to his mother at first but quickly engaged in some playful behavior, kicking his strong, long legs and running around with his new playmate, Kamau. The adult giraffes checked out the youngster, greeting him with sniffs, nose-rubbing and nuzzles.

The births of Gowon and Kamau mark the first time Masai giraffes have been born at the Safari Park. Their sire, Hodari, was born at the San Diego Zoo and moved to the Safari Park two years ago to start a Masai giraffe breeding program. The Safari Park has had a total of 134 Ugandan giraffes, 23 reticulated giraffes and two Masai giraffes born; the Zoo has had 31 Masai giraffe births.

Masai giraffes, also known as Kilimanjaro giraffes, are the world’s tallest land animals and are native to Kenya and Tanzania. At birth, giraffe calves stand at least six feet tall and weigh 150 to 200 pounds. When full grown, the Masai giraffe males can be as tall as 19 feet and weigh between 2,000 and 3,000 pounds. Masai giraffes are the most populous of the giraffe subspecies, but all giraffe populations have decreased from approximately 140,000 in the late 1990s to less than 80,000 because of habitat loss and competition with livestock for resources. As a result, the future of giraffes is dependent on the quality of habitat that remains. San Diego Zoo Global supports community conservation efforts in Kenya and Uganda that are finding ways for people and wildlife to live together.

Visitors to the Safari Park may see the two young calves with their herd while taking an Africa Tram tour, included with Park admission. The Safari Park is now home to eight Masai giraffes: five males and three females.

Photo taken on Aug. 15, 2014, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Safari Park.



Alala Breeding Season a Success

alala puppet fedPartially feathered and squawking for meals, `alalā chicks at San Diego Zoo Global’s Keauhou Bird Conservation Center keep animal care staff busy. With nine new chicks this year, the rare bird’s population now numbers 114. `Alalā (also known as Hawaiian crows) are extinct in the wild, and the entire remaining population is managed in captivity through a collaborative effort by the Hawai`i Endangered Bird Conservation Program (HEBCP). Some of the chicks are fed and cared for by animal care staff, which the chicks never see to ensure they do not imprint on humans.

“`Alalā are very intelligent birds and are susceptible to imprinting”, said Bryce Masuda, program manager for San Diego Zoo Global. “We use puppets to hand-rear and feed the birds when they are young to keep them from imprinting onto us, so they will behave naturally as adults.”

The last `alalā were recorded in their Hawaiian forest natural habitat in 2002, where they were threatened by habitat destruction, introduced predators and avian disease. The HEBCP has been working with the species in managed care since 1993, bringing the population from a low of only 20 individuals to 114 today.

The Hawai`i Endangered Bird Conservation Program is a field program of the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, in partnership with the State of Hawai’i Division of Forestry and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Planning and preparation efforts are currently underway to restore `alalā back into its vital niche within the forest ecosystem on the Big Island of Hawai`i. It is hoped that the first reintroduction activities will begin in the near future.



Conservation Medal Awarded to Notable San Diegan

For more than four decades, Charles “Chuck” Bieler, executive director emeritus of San Diego Zoo Global, has been called a mentor, leader, and friend to the global zoo community. San Diego Zoo Global awarded Charles Bieler the Conservation Advocate Medal at a luncheon held on Thursday, August 7, 2014, at the San Diego Sheraton Hotel and Marina. He was recognized in a ceremony attended by many of his friends from the zoo world, along with Joan Embery, San Diego Zoo Global’s conservation ambassador.

Photo taken on August 7, 2014, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Global.