Public Relations

Public Relations


Two Koala Joeys Weigh In for Weekly Check-Up at San Diego Zoo

Koala Joey_BurraTwo Queensland koala joeys were examined by keepers this morning at the San Diego Zoo as part of their regular weekly check-up. The 8-and-a-half-month male joeys, Coedie and Burra, and their mothers were brought down from the perching structure in their exhibit and placed onto a scale by animal care staff for their weigh-in.

Keepers first weighed mother Cambee with her joey, Coedie, to get their combined weight, and then Cambee was weighed separately to calculate the joey’s weight. The same process was repeated with Burra and his mother, Tonahleah, to calculate their weights. Keepers held the young joeys while the mothers were being weighed so the youngsters weren’t stressed during the brief separation.

Keepers reported that both joeys are right on track with their development. Coedie (meaning boy in the Aboriginal language) weighed 2 pounds and Burra (meaning big fella) weighed 2.49 pounds.

“We weigh all of our koalas weekly, not just Mom and joeys,” senior keeper Katie Tomlinson said. “It’s just to make sure they’re healthy, they’re growing like they should, and it’s a good opportunity for us to get a nice up-close look at them,” Tomlinson said.

The San Diego Zoo has the largest breeding colony of Queensland koalas and the most successful koala breeding program outside of Australia. Researchers at the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research are studying koala populations both at the Zoo and in the wild to better understand the species’ complex ecology, mating behaviors and health. The information gleaned from this work will help further develop conservation strategies for koalas. San Diego Zoo Global is also partnering with the Dreamworld Wildlife Foundation in Australia to educate people about the threats facing native koala populations.



Giraffe Herd Welcomes Calf at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Giraffe calf LeroyThree-Month-Old Ugandan Giraffe Released into the East Africa Exhibit after Lengthy Hospitalization

There was a lot of sniffing, nose-rubbing and some playful behavior this morning as a 3-month-old Ugandan giraffe was reintroduced to his mother and herd at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Animal care staff were elated to release the giraffe calf into the East Africa exhibit after weeks of hospitalization.

The calf, named Leroy, was born on Jan. 8, 2014, to mother Shani. At 2 weeks of age, keepers noticed the young giraffe was exhibiting signs of weakness and not eating well. He was immediately transferred to the Safari Park’s veterinary hospital, where it was determined he had a severe bacterial infection and his chances of recovery were slim. Leroy was treated for almost a month with antibiotics for the infection and IV fluids to keep him hydrated. He was bottle-fed three to five times a day and monitored around the clock by the Safari Park’s animal care team.

Due to the intensive care he received, the young giraffe made a full recovery and was discharged after 39 days in the hospital to a restricted area of the field exhibit, where keepers continued to bottle-feed him and started the process necessary for the successful reintroduction that took place today.

Of the nine giraffe subspecies, the Ugandan giraffe is the only one that is endangered. It is believed that fewer than 700 of this subspecies remain in only a few small, isolated populations in Kenya and Uganda. The Safari Park is home to 13 Ugandan giraffes: five males and eight females.



Orangutan Acrobatics at San Diego Zoo

Orangutan AishaThe 5-month-old Sumatran orangutan at the San Diego Zoo practiced her new climbing skills with mother, Indah, keeping a watchful eye nearby. Baby Aisha is now starting to move around independently from Indah and can be seen exploring the climbing structure in the orangutan habitat, which has swings, ropes and hammocks to climb and play on.

Indah and Aisha are always in close contact, with baby Aisha gripping tightly onto Indah’s orange hair as she swings around the habitat and forages for food. Now that Aisha is getting bigger, guests may see Indah give the youngster a gentle push up onto the ropes to practice her climbing skills.

“Mom is always staying close by but she’s definitely letting Aisha go out on her own more,” Amanda Jurasek, keeper at the San Diego Zoo, said. “She’s pushing her to start climbing and teaching her those vital skills she’ll need as she gets older,” Jurasek said.

While Aisha is still nursing, she is becoming more curious about tasting solid foods and has been observed mouthing at lettuce, grapes, and even sampling some peanuts and sunflower seeds. So far, though, Indah hasn’t been willing to share too much of her vegetarian diet with her youngster.

Even though Aisha is gaining independence, she won’t go too far away from Indah. Orangutan youngsters typically stay with their mothers until they’re about eight years old, the longest childhood of the great apes.
Visitors may see Indah and her curious youngster in their habitat on the Orangutan Trail at the San Diego Zoo from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every day. They also may be watched on the Zoo’s Ape Cam at

Orangutans live in tropical and swamp forests on the Southeast Asian islands of Borneo and Sumatra. The Sumatran orangutan is considered critically endangered, with an estimate of less than 7,000 remaining in the wild. Their populations have declined drastically in recent years as a result of over-harvesting of timber, human encroachment and habitat conversion to palm oil plantations. Humans can help to protect endangered orangutans by carefully checking ingredient labels and only purchasing products that contain sustainably produced palm oil.



San Diego Zoo Global Begins Second Captive Breeding Season for Endangered Southern California Mammal

Pacific Pocket Mouse The second captive breeding season for the Pacific pocket mouse started in March, and San Diego Zoo Global scientists welcomed the first litter on April 1, 2014. The four pink, hairless pups are being kept safe in the back of a densely packed nest inside the pocket mouse breeding facility at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The mother of this litter was the first Pacific pocket mouse born in the captive breeding program, which began in 2013 and is managed by staff at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The inaugural breeding season for this critically endangered species, native to California, yielded 16 pups between May and August 2013. Now that the breeding program is in place, scientists expect the second breeding season to yield even more pups; pocket mice remain active for breeding from spring into fall. The gestation period for a Pacific pocket mouse is 23 days and the species can reach sexual maturity in less than two weeks. Because of this, it is expected that pocket mice born during this breeding season might also reproduce this season.

The Pacific pocket mouse breeding facility is in an off-exhibit area at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park but uses air conditioning and humidifiers to mimic the coastal temperatures and humidity the mouse requires. The facility is also equipped with large skylights to make sure these nocturnal animals are attuned to the rising and setting of the sun, which cues their activities. The animals’ nocturnal nature also requires researchers to observe them at night without disturbing them by using red light, which is not visually perceived by the animals.

In 2012, fewer than 30 adult Pacific pocket mice were taken from three remaining wild populations to form the breeding colony at the Safari Park.

The Pacific pocket mouse, thought to be extinct in the 1980s, was rediscovered in 1993 and today exists at just three sites along Southern California’s coast: Dana Point, Santa Margarita and South San Mateo. Scientists working on the breeding program for the Pacific pocket mouse expect to increase the overall population and also maintain genetic diversity in the species. In the wild, the three Pacific pocket mouse habitats are divided by human development, so there is no chance for interbreeding.



Lead Continues to Be Serious Threat to California Condor Populations

California condor in BajaThe California condor was one of the first species to be placed on the federal endangered list in 1966 when the population was reduced to a handful of birds. Through a massive, collaborative effort that included work in the field and breeding in zoos, the condor population has grown to more than 400 birds, more than half of which are now free flying in the wild. Unfortunately, there is overwhelming evidence that lead poisoning from accidental ingestion of spent ammunition is the leading cause of death in the wild population, and this may prevent the establishment of self-sustaining populations.

“After reviewing nearly 20 years of our mortality data on the free-ranging birds, it became clear that lead poisoning is the primary problem for the birds in the wild. And this is not just a problem for California condors. We can view them as an indicator species, warning us about the hazards of widespread lead contamination in the environment,” said Bruce Rideout, D.V.M., Ph.D., Dipl. ACVP, director of the wildlife disease laboratories for San Diego Zoo Global.

San Diego Zoo Global collaborators at the Wildlife Health Center at the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, recently published a review of the impact of lead in ammunition on scavenging birds and what it means for the health of our shared environment. The review article can be found in the January edition of the journal “EcoHealth.”



Close Encounters of the Butterfly Kind: San Diego Zoo Safari Park Opens Butterfly Jungle April 5, 2014

Butterfly Jungle Andrew Camacho, age 7, of Santa Ana, Calif., investigates a blue morpho butterfly that landed on his hand this morning during a preview of Butterfly Jungle at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The annual event opens at 8 a.m. on Saturday, April 5, 2014, and offers Safari Park guests the chance to see thousands of butterflies as they walk through an aviary filled with 30 different species from Africa, Asia and Central and South America.

Guests can see thousands of butterflies as they walk through an aviary filled with the flying creatures during Butterfly Jungle. The butterfly species highlighted this year include the zebra longwing, orange-barred tiger and Grecian shoemaker. Old favorites such as the monarch, giant swallowtail and blue morpho will be fluttering about as well.

There are 15 bird species that co-exist with the butterflies in the Safari Park’s Hidden Jungle aviary, where the event takes place, including two new birds this year: red-crested turacos and sunbirds.

During Butterfly Jungle, April 5 – 27, 2014, the Safari Park offers extended hours, opening early at 8 a.m. and closing at 7 p.m. Because of the popularity of Butterfly Jungle, the Safari Park is offering free timed tickets at the booth near Hidden Jungle, where the event takes place. These tickets allow guests to arrive at a specific reserved time. Timed tickets are required during the peak hours between 10 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. These time slots run out quickly! Open viewing is 8 to 10 a.m. and 3 to 6 p.m.

CONTACT: San Diego Zoo Global Public Relations, 619-685-3291


Sobering Update on Jamaica’s Largest Vertebrate

Jamaican iguana femaleIn 1990, the Jamaican iguana was removed from the list of extinct species when a small population was re-discovered on the island. Unfortunately, the species continues to be critically endangered, with only a single location left for the recovering population, now greater than 200 individuals, in a protected area called the Hellshire Hills, part of the Portland Bight Protected Area. A recent proposal by Jamaican government officials to allow extensive development in this area is causing concern among conservationists who have been working to save this species and the wealth of biodiversity in the area.

“We have been working for more than 20 years to save this species and have been delighted as each new generation is ‘headstarted’ and released into the wild,” said Tandora Grant, research scientist with the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. “It is heartbreaking to think that all of this effort and the support of our donors will have been for nothing if this area is opened for substantial development.”

The species update, including information about the move by foreign investors to develop within the protected area, is the subject of a science note in the April 2014 edition of Oryx, an international conservation journal.



Let’s Play! San Diego Zoo Celebrates Play Days

Orangutans Indah, AishaThree-week Event Features Animals Climbing, Prowling and Plunging Skills March 29 – April 20, 2014

Sumatran orangutan Indah and her baby, Aisha, were perched in their climbing structure this morning at the San Diego Zoo. Orangutans are an arboreal ape species and are considered the largest tree-dwelling mammal. In the wild, they make their nightly nests in trees and rarely need to come to the ground. Orangutans are just one of the species featured during this year’s Play Days at the Zoo. During the 3-week event, the Zoo will have 10 different keeper talks each day at various locations, including a 9:30 a.m. talk at the orangutan exhibit during “climbing” week, March 29 – April 6, 2014.

During “prowling” week (April 7-13), keeper talks will change and guests can observe animals that prowl, such as the Komodo dragons stalking after prey at the Reptile House. During “plunging” week (April 14 – 20), expect to see the jaguars splash into their pond for fish at Elephant Odyssey.

Zoo guests will also be able to have up-close encounters with the Zoo’s animal ambassadors on the Front Street Stage and at Wegeforth Bowl. Dr. Zoolittle, the Zoo’s costumed characters and the Sand Band will be performing at the Koalafornia Boardwalk. Guests can even meet the Easter Bunny for commemorative photos inside a larger-than-life basket near the Children’s Zoo. All Play Days activities are included with admission. For more information about Play Days

Contact: San Diego Zoo Global Public Relations, 619-685-3291


Butterflies Prepare to Take Flight at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Butterfly pupaeMarci Rimlinger, a lead keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, checked on some blue morpho butterfly pupae that are getting ready to emerge as butterflies this morning at the Safari Park. Shipments of butterfly pupae (also known as chrysalides) have been arriving at the Safari Park over the past few weeks, each carrying between 500 and 700 pupae of various butterfly species. The delicate pupae will be cared for by animal care staff until ready to emerge as butterflies and be released in the Hidden Jungle aviary for the Butterfly Jungle event.

After the butterfly pupae shipments arrive, animal care staff sorts and counts every pupae before carefully placing each chrysalis into a secure space in the butterfly facility. The chrysalides will stay in that position until the butterflies are ready to emerge, at which point they will be let out from a special release box into an aviary filled with tropical plants and trees.
“Not only do you see these magnificent butterfly species from tropical areas around the world, we also have bird species from Africa such as various finches and turacos that co-exist very well with the butterflies,” animal care manager Don Sterner said.
Each year, guests at the Safari Park can see thousands of butterflies as they walk through an aviary filled with the flying creatures during Butterfly Jungle. The 30 butterfly species highlighted this year hail from Africa, Asia and Central and South America and include the zebra longwing, orange-barred tiger and Grecian shoemaker. Old favorites such as the monarch, giant swallowtail and blue morpho will be there as well. There are 15 bird species that co-exist with the butterflies in the Hidden Jungle aviary. Guests can be on the lookout for some new bird species in the aviary this year: red-crested turacos and sunbirds.



San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Baby Gorilla and Mother Venture Outside for First Time

Gorilla Imani, BabyA new mother gorilla at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park ventured outdoors this morning, March 25, 2014, for the first time with her 13-day-old baby girl. The mother, Imani, and baby were only physically introduced to each other 24 hours earlier, and this was the first time the other gorillas in the troop were able to be in close proximity with the mother and baby.

The animal care team offered Imani access to the outdoor exhibit, with the remainder of the gorilla troop coming outside shortly afterward. Imani walked into the exhibit, cradling her baby, and began foraging and eating some greens. She then found a warm alcove and nursed her baby. The other gorillas – an adult male, three adult females, and two young males – appeared remotely curious about the baby, with Monroe, the troop’s 2-year-old male, showing the most interest.

The baby was born at the Safari Park on March 12 after an emergency C-section was needed. Since the physical introduction occurred, Imani has been extremely attached to her baby, holding and constantly carrying her.