Public Relations

Public Relations

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Two Species on the Brink of Extinction Being Brought Into Safety from Threats in the Wild

Six tiny nestlings at San Diego Zoo Global’s facilities in Hawai‘i are being closely watched by conservation biologists. These six chicks represent hope for a small Hawaiian bird species known as the ‘akikiki. The species is being brought into captivity to start a breeding population through a collaborative effort by the Kaua‘i Forest Bird Recovery Project (KFBRP), State of Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources’ (DLNR) Division of Forestry and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office (USFWS-PIFWO) and San Diego Zoo Global. Eggs from ‘akikiki and ‘akeke‘e nests were collected from the wild recently as part of an effort to preserve these two bird species from extinction.

“Both the ‘akikiki and ‘akeke‘e have shown steep declines over the past 10 to 15 years, and now number fewer than 1,000 birds each,” said John Vetter, forest bird recovery coordinator of the DLNR’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife. “A panel of experts in Hawaiian forest bird conservation convened to identify steps needed to preserve these species and ranked the initiation of captive breeding populations as one of the highest priorities for both species.”

The ‘akikiki and ‘akeke‘e are two species of Hawaiian honeycreeper found only on the island of Kaua‘i. These two small bird species have been severely affected by introduced diseases such as avian malaria, loss of native forest habitat, hurricanes, and the introduction of non-native predator species in the wild. Very little is known about them and they have not been raised in a zoological setting before. Conservationists with the HEBCP have worked successfully with a number of other similar native Hawaiian birds and are using these techniques to ensure both species will thrive.

“By bringing ‘akikiki and ‘akeke‘e into captivity for breeding purposes, we will prevent their extinction and support their future recovery by releasing captive-reared offspring into the wild in the future,” said Bryce Masuda, conservation program manager, San Diego Zoo Global.

“Since early March, KFBRP team members have spent hundreds of hours searching the dense rain forests of Kauai’s ‘Alaka’i Wilderness Preserve for the cryptic nests of these two rare species,” said Dr. Lisa “Cali” Crampton, KFBRP project leader.  “Both nest on tiny branches at the top of the canopy, about 30 to 40 feet high, and camouflage their nests as clumps of moss. To reach the nests, KFBRP devised a suspension system for a 40-foot extension ladder.”

Eggs from the two species were removed from the nests and a team of bird experts hiked and helicoptered them to a facility for artificial incubation. Six ‘akikiki chicks have hatched so far and appear to be doing well under the care of San Diego Zoo Global staff. Conservationists will continue their efforts for the remainder of the breeding season. The USFWS-PIFWO provided the majority of the funding for the project and a grant from the Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund has also been instrumental in this effort.

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

KFBRP is a collaboration between the Pacific Studies Cooperative Unit of the University of Hawai’i and the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife. KFBRP’s mission is to promote knowledge, conservation of Kauai’s native forest birds, with a particular focus on the three endangered species: puaiohi, ‘akikiki and ‘akeke‘e. For more information, please visit kauiforestbirds.org. The mission of the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry and Wildlife is to responsibly manage and protect watersheds, native ecosystems, and cultural resources and provide outdoor recreation and sustainable forest products opportunities, while facilitating partnerships, community involvement and education.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The mission of the Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office is to conserve and restore native biodiversity and ecological integrity of Pacific Island ecosystems for the benefit of present and future generations through leadership, science-based management, and collaborative partnerships.

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Pelican Chick Growing

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One of two Dalmatian pelican chicks being hand-reared by San Diego Zoo Global gets its weight checked.

A one-month-old Dalmatian pelican is thriving under human care at the San Diego Zoo. The young bird weighs about 12 pounds and is beginning to grow feathers over its downy fluff. The youngster was brought to the Zoo to be hand-reared after the chick’s father passed away at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Animal care staff at the Zoo’s off-exhibit Avian Propagation Center will hand raise the birds for approximately 50 to 60 days, until they are strong enough to return to their flock at the Safari Park.

“He started off a little bit slow and didn’t have very good weight gain for the first 10 days,” said Beau Parks, senior bird keeper at the San Diego Zoo. “But since then he is doing very well and we have to monitor how much he eats so he does not grow too fast.”

The youngster is one of two pelican chicks being hand-reared at the Zoo’s Avian Propagation Center.  In the wild, only one nestling is reared by the parents at a time and sibling competition and aggression have been documented. To ensure the well being of both chicks, the youngsters are being raised separately by animal care staff.

The Dalmatian pelican chicks are part of the first North American breeding program for this vulnerable species. Since the breeding program was started in 2006, 32 chicks have been hatched. Because of the success, the Safari Park has sent some of the birds to the Phoenix Zoo, where a second breeding colony is being established.

Dalmatian pelicans are one of the rarest pelican species in the world and the largest of the pelican species. When they fledge at approximately six to seven months, the birds could measure five to six feet in length and have a wingspan of nine to 11 feet. Dalmatian pelicans live and nest in freshwater wetlands and rivers throughout Europe and Asia, but have gone extinct in some of their native regions. The loss of numbers is due to damage of the delicate wetland habitats that the birds rely on for breeding and raising chicks.

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

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291

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Oh, Boy! Male Jaguar Cub at San Diego Zoo Gaining a Pound a Week

The Zoo's newest jaguar cub tips the scales in terms of cuteness!

No tipping the scales for this male jaguar cub—the bowl keeps  him stable for the weigh-in.

During a routine veterinary exam this morning at the San Diego Zoo, a jaguar cub was placed on a scale and weighed in at 4.8 pounds. It was also determined that the cub is a boy.

The cub and his mother, Nindiri, have access to two off-exhibit bedrooms at all times and are given access to a third cave bedroom, which is visible to the public, from approximately 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. However, there is no guarantee that Zoo guests will be able to see the cub, as Nindiri chooses which bedroom she would like to spend time in.

This is the third cub for 7-year-old Nindiri, who gave birth to a pair of cubs in 2012, a male named Tikal and a female, Maderas.

Photo taken on March 31, 2015, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291
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Jaguar Cub at the San Diego Zoo Prepares for Debut During “Play Days”

Nindiri, an 7-year-old jaguar at the San Diego Zoo, is a mother for the third time. She gave birth to a single cub on March 12, 2015. Mom and cub have been spending most of their time off exhibit while the cub’s eyes open and it starts to become steadier on its paws. The sex of the cub is not yet known.

The 15-day-old jaguar cub and its mother were given access to the cave bedroom this morning before the San Diego Zoo was open to the public. Animal care staff have been giving the mother access to this third area so the cub has a chance to explore different terrain, an important step in its development – the keepers have filled the cave area with hay and there is a rock for the cub to investigate.

Guests at the San Diego Zoo may spot the mother and cub in the cave viewing area during Play Days, which starts Saturday. This year, the event focuses on plants and animals with spots. The spotted markings on a jaguar are called rosettes.

During Play Days, animal keepers, horticulturists and Zoo staff will help connect the dots about spots and share information about the importance of these markings for camouflage or as diversions from predators, and how sometimes the spots serve as a warning to other creatures.

Dr. Zoolittle will debut his new show exploring spots and dots, and the Zoo’s costume characters will be at the Koalafornia Boardwalk for meet-and-greets with guests. And new this year, The Sand Band will keep toes tapping with their musical fun.

Say carrots! The Easter Bunny will also be returning to the San Diego Zoo, March 21 through April 5, 2015, and guests can hop on the lap of Peter and Paula Cottontail, who will trade off taking photos in the basket-shaped photo booth in front of Skyfari East.

While guests are visiting during Play Days, they’re encouraged to interact with the Zoo on social media by taking their photo at designated “selfie spots” located around the Zoo and tagging the photos with the hashtags #sdzselfiespot and #sandiegozoo. Or visitors can enter the Spotted Photo Challenge by submitting their best photos of the Zoo’s spotted animals on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #sdzspots.

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

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Guineafowl Strut Their Stuff to the Delight of Visitors at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Four African crested guineafowl gave San Diego Zoo Safari Park guests an unexpected surprise earlier today as they paraded through the Park’s Nairobi Village and delighted onlookers of all ages. The winged animal ambassadors walked at a fast pace along the pathway, checking out their surroundings and boldly approaching guests as their trainers answered questions about the cute and curious birds.

“Our guests really seem to enjoy the guineafowl walking by and many of the visitors join the parade, taking photos and laughing along the way,” said Janet Rose-Hinostroza, animal training supervisor at the Safari Park. “It is so much fun to provide an enriching experience for the guineafowl while also providing our guests with an up-close opportunity to learn about and meet these beautiful and social birds.”

The guineafowl parade is not only enriching for the birds and fun for Safari Park guests to witness, it also gives trainers a chance to demonstrate flocking behavior in birds, a behavior that can be a critical component in the conservation of social bird species.

At the end of the parade, the birds and their trainers stop to allow guests to interact with the foursome. The male birds, named Dasher, Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, were hatched at the Safari Park and are just under a year old. Their sisters, the Spice Girls, are part of the daily Frequent Flyers Bird Show at the Park. Trainers hope to increase the number of birds in the guineafowl parade later this year with, you guessed it, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen and even a “different” species to join the group as Rudolph.

The crested guineafowl is a plentiful species found in sub-Saharan Africa that has been domesticated for years. The guineafowl’s plumage is dark gray to black with whitish spots, and its most recognizable feature is the mop-like crest of black feathers on its head.

Visitors to the Safari Park can see the guineafowl parade daily around 1 p.m. during Butterfly Jungle, now through April 12. At Butterfly Jungle, visitors will be enchanted as thousands of butterflies flutter around them in the Hidden Jungle walk-through aviary, which is also home to lush greenery and exotic birds. The more than 30 species of butterflies highlighted during this year’s Butterfly Jungle hail from Africa, Asia, Indonesia, and Central, South and North America.

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Hip, Hip, Hooray for Hippopotamus Born at San Diego Zoo

The newest river hippopotamus at the San Diego Zoo is just a few days old and already has an online following. The calf was born on Monday, March 23 at 6:30 a.m. with animal care staff observing. Mother Funani has had the main hippo exhibit to herself the last two weeks in anticipation of the calf’s birth.
     Mom and baby are doing fine and animal care staff witnessed the calf nursing on several occasions. Funani, who is 30 years old, has raised four other hippos at the San Diego Zoo – three females and most recently a male, named Adhama, born January 26, 2011. The sex of the newest calf has not yet been determined, as keepers and vets have not been able to get a close enough look at the animal.
     Hippo calves are estimated to weigh about 50 pounds at birth and they typically nurse for about eight months. The baby will likely stay very close to Funani during the first several weeks.
     The hippopotamus is listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, known as the IUCN. The primary threats to hippos are illegal and unregulated hunting, for meat and the ivory found in the canine teeth, and habitat loss. Hippos can still be found in a number of countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
     “If people come out to view the baby, patience will be rewarded,” said John Michel, senior animal keeper at the San Diego Zoo. “Guests may have to wait sometimes as long as half an hour, but the calf will wake up and start moving to deeper water, and mom will start to push it back up to shallow water.”
     Guests interested in seeing the hippo calf should also check out the activities happening during the Zoo’s annual Play Days celebration. Starting Saturday, March 28, the event, themed “Be Spotted,” will highlight the Zoo’s plants and animals with spots of all sorts,including the jaguars in Elephant Odyssey, the serval near the African rock kopje, and spot-necked otters and spot-nosed guenons in the lower Ituri forest area. Animal keepers, horticulturists and zoo staff will help connect the dots about spots and share information about the importance of these markings for camouflage or as diversions from predators, and how sometimes the spots serve as a warning to other creatures.
     Dr. Zoolittle will debut his new show exploring spots and dots, and the Zoo’s costume characters will be at the Koalafornia Boardwalk for meet-and-greets with guests. And new this year, The Sand Band will keep toes tapping with their musical fun.
     Say carrots! The Easter Bunny will also be returning to the San Diego Zoo, March 21 through April 5, 2015, and guests can hop on the lap of Peter and Paula Cottontail, who will trade off taking photos in the basket-shaped photo booth in front of Skyfari East.
     While guests are visiting during Play Days, they’re encouraged to interact with the Zoo on social media by taking their photo at designated selfie spots located around the Zoo and tagging them with the hashtags #sdzselfiespot and #sandiegozoo. Or visitors can enter the Spotted Photo Challenge by submitting their best photos of the Zoo’s spotted animals on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #sdzspots.
     Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes on-site wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is made accessible to children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.
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Transparency Leads to High Rating for San Diego Zoo Global Fiscal Management

Global_logo_color webFor the third year in a row San Diego Zoo Global has earned a four-star rating from Charity Navigator for its fiscal management and commitment to accountability. A three-year, four-star rating is achieved by only 12 percent of the 8,000 organizations surveyed. The rating system serves as a guide offering information for philanthropy.

“We are proud to be a trusted destination for conservation philanthropy,” said Douglas G. Myers, president and CEO of San Diego Zoo Global. “We work hard to ensure that money raised for our mission goes immediately into the important work saving species from extinction.”

Over the last three years San Diego Zoo Global has committed more than $500 million for animal care, exhibits, education programs and conservation initiatives. Significant programs include its ongoing work to recover the California condor, head-starting and reintroduction programs for Caribbean iguanas, contribution to knowledge about giant pandas and support for fieldwork on six continents.

Charity Navigator works to help charitable givers make intelligent giving decisions by providing information on more than 8,000 charities nationwide and by evaluating their financial health. It calculates each charity’s score based upon several broad criteria, including how much is spent per dollar raised, what percentage of funds goes to programs vs. administrative and fund-raising expenses, and the organization’s long-term financial health. It then assigns a rating from one to four, with four being the best rating. San Diego Zoo Global has received a four-star rating through this system seven times in the last eight years.

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

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291
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“Hoo” Is That on My Shoulder: Butterfly Jungle Opens at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

A giant owl butterfly sits on the shoulder of amused Gabrielle Ortiz, age 12, of Carlsbad, this morning during a preview of Butterfly Jungle at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

A giant owl butterfly sits on the shoulder of amused Gabrielle Ortiz, age 12, of Carlsbad, this morning during a preview of Butterfly Jungle at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Thousands of butterflies floated and fluttered around the Hidden Jungle Aviary at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park this morning as children and adults alike marveled at the beautiful winged insects.  The attendees were treated to a sneak peek of the Safari Park’s annual springtime event, Butterfly Jungle, which opens Saturday, March 14 and runs through April 12.

At Butterfly Jungle, the walk-through Hidden Jungle aviary has been transformed into a temporary home for more than 30 species of butterflies. In the aviary, the delicate and colorful creatures surround guests, fluttering lightly through the warm air to find flowers to feed upon. The aviary is also home to lush greenery and exotic birds including finches, colorful turacos and sunbirds, as well as many others.

“Butterfly Jungle heralds the start of spring at the Safari Park,” said Michael Mace, the Safari Park’s curator of birds. “It’s one of the most popular events we hold all year.”

The beautiful butterflies not only enchant guests but make ecological sense. They come to the Safari Park in the pupae stage from Asia, Africa, and Central, South and North America. “If they weren’t harvesting butterflies, many of these farmers would clear cut their land and plant crops or raise cattle,” Mace said. “Instead, when they harvest butterflies, they leave the land in its pristine state.”

The more than 30 species of butterflies highlighted during this year’s Butterfly Jungle include the zebra longwing, orange-barred tiger, Grecian shoemaker, monarch, giant swallowtail and blue morpho. In addition, the butterflies include the threatened birdwing species from Indonesia. The Safari Park was able to offer sanctuary to these rare insects after they were confiscated by U.S. Fish & Wildlife officials from an illegal shipment sent to the United States earlier this month.

Guests to Butterfly Jungle are encouraged to wear bright colors and move slowly to increase the chances of butterflies landing on their clothes or hats. When the insects do land, guests should enjoy the close encounter, but don’t touch, because it could harm the butterfly. Guests also are encouraged to document their Butterfly Jungle experience this year by posting photos to Instagram using #butterflyjungle. The Safari Park will be looking at guest photos and selecting an Instagram grand-prize winner at the end of the four-week event. Butterfly Jungle runs March 14 to April 12, with extended Park hours from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. The ever-popular event is included with admission to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

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

Photo taken on March 13, 2015 by Tammy Spratt, San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291

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San Diego Zoo Safari Park Celebrates Gorilla’s First Birthday

Joanne, a western lowland gorilla, digs out the frozen treats inside her first birthday cake Thursday morning at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Joanne, a western lowland gorilla, digs out the frozen treats inside her first birthday cake Thursday morning at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Guests were lined up along the entire gorilla-viewing area this morning at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park to watch the troop’s reaction to the gifts and decorations for Joanne’s first birthday.

The birthday girl rode out on her mother’s back and stayed there while her mother, Imani, swiped up an ice cupcake–made with pureed yams–and hopped down when mom stopped to lick a mirrored toy smeared with peanut butter. The rest of the troop scattered throughout the exhibit to try to find their favorite snacks.

There were two cakes–a large one for the troop—and a smaller, Joanne-sized cake, both colored orange using oranges, orange juice and pureed yams and sweet potatoes. A Safari Park volunteer even made a cardboard doll house for Joanne with the house number “1” on the front.

Animal care staff had drawn “Happy Birthday Joanne” with chalk on the rock walls at the back of the gorilla habitat and filled the grassy yard with gift boxes filled with treats including sunflower seeds, peanuts, fruit slices and vegetables, encouraging the gorillas to forage for their food, which is a natural behavior for this species.

While the entire troop helped to open the boxes placed around the exhibit, Joanne was happy to dig out the fruit and vegetables that were frozen into her cake. She ventured away from Mom and foraged on her own, and could be seen eating flowers from plant trimmings given to the gorillas by Park horticulture staff.

“This is an extra-special first birthday because Joanne did have a very difficult start coming into the world,” said Peggy Sexton, animal care manager at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “She had to be born via C-section, and had some medical problems. But those were all resolved in about 10 days and she was re-introduced to the troop and now she’s just as normal as can be.”

Joanne was born on March 12, 2014, at the Paul Harter Veterinary Hospital via a rare emergency C-section, which was needed due to complications during first-time mother Imani’s labor. After spending 11 days in the hospital, Joanne was strong and healthy enough to travel to the gorilla house to be reunited with her mother and meet the rest of the gorilla troop.

Now a year old, Joanne is very active and can be seen running around the grassy habitat in Gorilla Forest and playing with other members of the troop including youngsters, 3-year-old Monroe and 6-year-old Frank. Keepers say that the young males are eager to interact with Joanne and even though Imani is very protective of her baby, she sometimes lets Frank briefly hold her. Younger male, Monroe, often will play a more mischievous role, poking and peering at Joanne before quickly running away.

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 will watch as Imani forages, mimicking those behaviors by picking up fruits and veggies on her own.

Joanne was named in honor of Joanne Warren, the first chairwoman of the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.

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

Photo taken on March 12, 2015 by Tammy Spratt, San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291
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Giant Panda Undergoes Artificial Insemination Procedure at the San Diego Zoo

Bai Yun has given birth and raised six cubs at the San Diego Zoo's Giant Panda Research Station.

Bai Yun has raised six cubs at the San Diego Zoo’s Giant Panda Research Station.

Veterinarians, reproductive physiologists, and animal care staff filled an exam room at the San Diego Zoo’s animal hospital this morning. Everyone with a role to fulfill gathered for the artificial insemination procedure of Bai Yun, a 23-year-old giant panda.

Following two 30-minute natural breeding sessions on Tuesday that didn’t appear to animal care staff to be successful, as well as hormone testing that showed that Bai Yun had already ovulated, the animal care team knew they had a very short window of time to take advantage of her estrous cycle.

It was decided that sperm from the Frozen Zoo® would be thawed and used for an artificial insemination procedure on Wednesday morning. The sperm used is from giant panda, Shi Shi, who was the first breeding partner for Bai Yun. His sperm was used during an artificial insemination procedure with Bai Yun in 1999. That procedure produced the first cub born at the San Diego Zoo, a female named Hua Mei. In 2003 Shi Shi returned to China for his retirement years, and he died in 2008.

Scientists at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research will run daily tests on Bai Yun’s urine following today’s artificial insemination and expect to know within a month if the panda has conceived. It could take up to three months to determine if a fertilized egg had implanted—thermal imaging will be used to determine implantation.

A panda’s fertilized egg remains suspended until a trigger in the environment indicates it is time to implant. The trigger is still not fully understood by scientists. Giant pandas routinely delay the implantation of the fetus as long as four months. After implantation, the fertilized egg begins to develop. Impending birth is predicted on the basis of behavioral, hormonal and anatomical changes documented by the Zoo’s scientists and researchers.

Female giant pandas only experience estrus once a year and it only lasts for 48 to 72 hours. The San Diego Zoo has a record of success with six cubs being born in San Diego since 1999. Giant pandas are considered to be endangered in the wild.

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

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291