Public Relations

Public Relations

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Rare Baby Aye-aye Gets Her Weight Checked at the San Diego Zoo

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A rare baby aye-aye made for an adorable handful when it was weighed at the San Diego Zoo.

Keepers at the San Diego Zoo checked the weight of a one-month-old female aye-aye today (Oct. 15), under the watchful eye of her mother. After distracting mom for a short time with a treat of honey, keepers were able to locate the baby in the nest box, reach in and scoop her up, so they could check her weight. This is an important procedure that is done frequently when the baby is young, to ensure that she is healthy and growing properly. The baby weighed 3.6 ounces at birth and weighed in at 9.03 ounces today. The weight gain is a sign that the mother aye-aye is doing a great job of caring for her adorable baby. The young aye-aye’s name is Fady (pronounced FAW DEE), which means taboo in Malagasy.

“Aye-ayes are extremely rare in zoological settings; only a handful of zoos in the U.S. house these animals,” said Mindy Settles, primate keeper at the San Diego Zoo. “Fady’s birth on September 8 marks the first aye-aye baby born at the San Diego Zoo. Counting this infant, there are only 27 aye-ayes in North America.” Fady was born to a first-time mother, Styx, and father, Nirina. Nirina (which means hope in Malagasy) is an important founder in the aye-aye Species Survival Plan program, developed through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to help ensure the survival of species that may be endangered or threatened in the wild, providing genetic diversity to the species.

Aye-ayes live only on the island of Madagascar. They are the largest of the nocturnal primates and are the most specialized. Aye-ayes spend their lives in rain forest trees. They are dark brown or black in color, and are distinguished by a bushy tail that is larger than their body. Aye-ayes use a unique foraging method called “percussive foraging.” The aye-aye uses its most distinguishing feature—a thin, elongated and versatile middle finger on its hand—to tap on tree trunks and branches, while listening with its large rounded ears for hollows in dead or decaying wood. They search the hollows for their prey—grubs—and use their large teeth to rip open the bark until they find one. Then, the aye-aye uses its long finger to reach in and extract the grub.

Today aye-ayes are protected by law in Madagascar, however many people native to the island consider the aye-aye an omen of bad luck and will often kill one on sight. This, along with habitat destruction, has put the aye-aye on the endangered list.

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, 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 October 15, 2015 by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo

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

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San Diego Zoo Safari Park Is Hand-raising African Steenbok Calves in Effort to Increase, Diversify Population

Lissa McCaffree, lead mammal keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, bottle-feeds one of two steenbok calves at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s nursery.

Lissa McCaffree, lead mammal keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, bottle-feeds one of two steenbok calves at the  Park’s nursery.

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is bottle-feeding two African steenbok in its nursery, in an effort to increase the population of this antelope species. The Safari Park is home to six of just 16 steenbok in North America. The steenbok calves were born at the Safari Park during summer and have the same father. The calves are fed a bottle of formula several times a day, but these feedings will decrease as they age. They are also offered hay and trimmings from plants that will be part of their diets as they mature.

The Species Survival Plan program for steenbok suggests that animal care staff hand-raise these fragile calves to increase their survival rate, as well as help make them calmer animals. Very little is known about this genus of antelope, which herd in pairs, rather than the large groups that are typical of other antelope species. Steenbok also have a running gait that is more similar to a rabbit’s “hop” than the run of other antelope species; and they have very large ears, in comparison to their body size. The Safari Park hopes to increase the size of the steenbok herd and to learn more about this genus of antelope.

Steenbok are historically found throughout Africa, occupying drier savannas, grasslands and scrublands. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the steenbok population as stable in the wild, but recognizes that they are no longer found in some of their native habitat, including Uganda. Their habitat ranges are becoming widely separated geographically due to habitat changes. The IUCN also notes that population surveys of this species are not reliable.

Guests visiting the San Diego Zoo Safari Park can see the two calves in the nursery, near the village area of the Park. The other steenbok are in an exhibit across from the African Tram Safari station.

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, 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 Oct. 8, 2015, by Tammy Spratt, San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

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

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Iguana Workout: Rare Iguana Participates in Training Session at the San Diego Zoo

 An Anegada ground iguana named Gus participates in a “target training” session with reptile keeper, Joey Brown, at the San Diego Zoo.


An Anegada ground iguana named Gus participates in a “target training” session with reptile keeper, Joey Brown, at the San Diego Zoo.

An Anegada ground iguana named Gus participated in a “target training” session with a reptile keeper earlier this morning (Oct. 6) at the San Diego Zoo. During these sessions, a keeper asks the 31-year-old Gus to walk to a spot where a target is placed. Once Gus successfully completes the behavior, the keeper hits a clicker, letting the iguana know he did what was asked of him, and then the keeper rewards him with a special treat of sweet potato to positively reinforce the behavior.

“Target training is extremely beneficial for Gus’ well-being,” stated Joey Brown, reptile keeper, San Diego Zoo. “The training provides exercise and mental stimulation for the animal, and allows him to exhibit natural behaviors like foraging and climbing on rocks. It also allows us to train him to move from one location to another on his own initiative. With this training, we can target him to move into his warm cave on cold nights or to walk into a crate in the event we need to take him to the veterinary hospital for blood draws or medical procedures.”

Keepers report Gus was a good “student,” learning to hit his target in a series of short sessions in just over a month. Training sessions are held for approximately 10 minutes, two to three times a week—and Gus always seems eager to participate.

The Anegada ground iguana, native to Anegada Island in the British Virgin Islands, is a critically endangered species with an estimated population of just 200 individuals remaining in the wild. These iguanas have to compete with free-ranging livestock for vegetation, and avoid feral dogs and cats that prey on them.

The San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research has been working with iguanas in the Caribbean for the past 18 years and has a headstarting program on Anegada island. Iguana eggs are protected and hatchlings are taken into a captive setting when they are very young so they won’t be predated by feral cats. The iguanas are then released back into the wild at around two years of age. To date, the reintroduced headstarted iguanas are exhibiting a remarkable 87 percent survival rate. There also is a captive breeding program of Anegada iguanas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Visitors to the San Diego Zoo can see Gus in his outdoor habitat on the Klauber-Shaw Reptile Walk.

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, 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 Oct. 6, 2015 by Tammy Spratt, San Diego Zoo

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

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San Diego Zoo Celebrates 30 Years of Kids Free!

A ribbon cutting marked the first weekend of Kids Free revelry at the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

A ribbon cutting marked the first weekend of Kids Free revelry at the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Zoo and Safari Park Officially Kick Off Weekend Festivities, Month of Free Admission for Kids, Presented by Mission Fed

Cheers erupted early last Saturday morning at the San Diego Zoo, as Zoo staff officially kicked off the first weekend of October Kids Free revelry. Early Zoo guests were treated to a special animal presentation and a ribbon cutting that opened the zoo to children and their families. Now in its 30th year, Kids Free presented by Mission Fed allows children ages 11 and younger to get free admission to both the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park throughout October. In addition, every weekend will feature special interactive activities and experiences to help kids connect with wildlife in fun and exciting ways.

On Saturdays and Sundays at the Zoo, kids and their families will be able to watch as more than two dozen different animals receive special enrichment items, giving kids an opportunity to marvel at their intelligence, strength, and beauty—while discovering one of the ways zoo staff helps the animals thrive. At the Koalafornia Boardwalk, Dr. Zoolittle will thrill audiences with a wild and hilarious new show on how to use the same positive reinforcement techniques trainers utilize for Zoo animals to get kids—and maybe even adults—to wash dishes, do the laundry, clean the house, and more! And every day at 1 p.m., Zoo guests are invited to the Wegeforth Bowl at Discovery Outpost to watch trainers work with the Zoo’s animal stars, as they get used to the newly renovated amphitheater and prepare for an exciting new show.

During weekends at the Safari Park, Kids Free festivities will also be in full swing, as a lucky child will be chosen to help out during each Frequent Flyer bird show and Cheetah Run demonstration. Kids will get the opportunity to have up-close encounters with animals, and let their creativity go “wild” while experimenting with nature craft materials—letting them discover that having fun doesn’t have to involve a machine. A ride on the Africa Tram and a turn on the Conservation Carousel will add to the fun, broadening smiles and creating memories.

During Kids Free, the Zoo is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and the Safari Park is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day in October. All children under the age of 15 must be accompanied by a paid adult during their visit to the Zoo and the Safari Park. For more information on Kids Free presented by Mission Fed, show times and activity schedules, visit sandiegozoo.org/kidsfree and sdzsafaripark.org/kidsfree

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, 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 Oct. 3, 2015 by Tammy Spratt, San Diego Zoo

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

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Rare Lady’s Slipper Orchid Blooms at the San Diego Zoo for First Time in 14 Years

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These stunning blooms were the key to the plant’s identity.

An extremely rare orchid has been identified by San Diego Zoo staff after the plant bloomed for the first time in almost 14 years. The rare flower is a Paphiopedilum stonei, (pronounced paff-ee-oh-PED-ih-lum stoney-eye). The endangered plant was confiscated at the border after being illegally transported into the US, and was placed with the Zoo—a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-designated Plant Rescue Center—where it has been safeguarded and cared for ever since. Plant care staff first identified the orchid as a Paphiopedilum when it arrived at the zoo back in 2001, but it wasn’t until the orchid’s recent bloom that they realized it was a species called Paphiopedilum stonei.

The Paphiopedilum stonei’s peculiar and distinctive pouch-shaped petal gives the orchid species its popular name: lady’s slipper. The species grows on steep limestone cliffs and ledges of western Sarawak, on the island of Borneo. It was first discovered and introduced to private collections in 1862, and today it is critically endangered due to overcollection by orchid poachers. This orchid is one of over 60 different species of lady’s slippers that are part of the San Diego Zoo’s diverse orchid collection.

San Diego Zoo guests can view this orchid—one of over 3,000 orchid plants at the Zoo—during Orchid Odyssey at the Zoo’s Orchid House, on the third Friday of each month from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. However, this flower is expected to be past bloom by then.

Photo taken on Sept. 30, 2015 by Tammy Spratt, San Diego Zoo

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

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West African Crowned Crane Pair Fosters Endangered East African Crowned Crane Chicks at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Two endangered East African crowned crane chicks, recently hatched at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, are now being fostered by a pair of West African crowned cranes.

A crowned crane mother feeds her young foster chick during early morning breakfast at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

A crowned crane mother feeds her young foster chick during early morning breakfast at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

The eggs were laid by inexperienced first-time parents on one of the islands in the Safari Park’s African Outpost. To safeguard and ensure that the eggs had the best possible chance of surviving, keepers moved the eggs to an incubator at the chick rearing facility.

A few days before the eggs were due to hatch, keepers placed them in the nest of a mated pair of West African crowned cranes with parenting experience, to complete the hatching process. Both eggs successfully hatched—one on Sept.17 and the other on Sept. 19. Today, the chicks are healthy and thriving under the watchful eyes of their foster parents.

“These East African crowned crane chicks are here in this exhibit because we feel it’s the best place at the Safari Park for them to grow and flourish, since they are an endangered species,” said Marci Rimlinger, lead keeper in the Bird department at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

East African crowned cranes get their name from the tall, stiff golden feathers that cover their head. Their long legs and neck, and excellent peripheral vision help these birds spot predators above the tall savanna grasses where they hunt for worms, insects, lizards and small mammals. They live near rivers and wetlands in Africa, where their habitats are being threatened due to habitat drainage, overgrazing and pesticide pollution.

Guests at the Safari Park can see the chicks at the crowned crane exhibit, located just past the main entrance to the park on the right side of the wooden walkway.

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, 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 Sept. 30, 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 Global Researchers Tackle Reproductive Challenges in Southern White Rhinos

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Two  female southern white rhinos enjoy a new grass-based pellet as part of their morning meal at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

The reproductive physiology team at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research has been working for seven years to determine why southern white rhino females born in zoos tend not to bear offspring as often as their wild relatives. It was recently discovered that the animals may be sensitive to compounds called phytoestrogens found in soy and alfalfa, which are a component of the animals’ diets in zoos.

“During their 16-month gestation, female calves could be exposed to the compounds through their mother’s diet, resulting in permanent infertility issues later in their life,” explained Christopher Tubbs, Ph.D., a scientist in the Reproductive Physiology Division of the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. “Through our studies, we have found these plant-based phytoestrogens activate receptors that regulate estrogen function.”

Only about one-third of southern white rhinos in zoos successfully reproduce in their lifetime, making a sustainable population a challenge. This problem is not found in other species of rhinos living in zoos. To find a solution to this complex reproductive problem, Tubbs and his colleagues have spent extensive time in the lab, testing the diets of southern white rhino females at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, as well as those of female southern white rhinos from eight other zoological facilities in the U.S. Many of these diets were found to be high in phytoestrogens.

On the basis of Tubbs’ findings, Michael Schlegel, Ph.D., director of Nutritional Services at San Diego Zoo Global, recently developed a grass-based pellet for rhinos that is low in phytoestrogens. “Besides formulating the pellets that are low in phytoestrogens, we also are ensuring the pellets are supplying concentrations of nutrients that will support reproduction,” stated Schlegel. The pellets are currently being fed to the southern white rhinos at the Safari Park, with the hope that the lower phytoestrogen content will help solve this reproductive issue. Further diet studies will continue, including research on how phytoestrogens are metabolized in the rhino gut. While the reproduction of white rhinos in zoos is still uncertain, the development and implementation of new science-based efforts could be beneficial to the conservation of white rhinos in the future.

The project has reached a real point of urgency, due to the increase in poaching in recent years that has dramatically affected rhino populations in the wild. “When I started this project in 2007, 13 rhinos were poached (that year),” stated Tubbs. “Last year, more than 1,200 southern white rhinos were poached in South Africa—one every eight hours. More than ever, we need a self-sustaining population of white rhinos established outside of Africa.”

Rhinos are poached for their horn, which is made of keratin—the same material that forms human fingernails. Rhino horn has been erroneously thought to have medicinal value and is used in traditional remedies in some Asian cultures. In addition, objects made of rhino horn have more recently become a “status symbol,” purchased to display someone’s success and wealth, because the rhino is now so rare and endangered.

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, 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 Sept. 29, 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 Global Receives Top Honors for Tull Family Tiger Trail, Volunteer Engagement and International Conservation from Association of Zoos and Aquariums

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The San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s new Tull Family Tiger Trail provides Sumatran tigers a rich sensory environment and offers guests an impactful experience.

San Diego Zoo Global has been recognized by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) with top honors for the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Tull Family Tiger Trail experience, San Diego Zoo Global’s volunteer engagement and San Diego Zoo Global’s collaborative work on the Sahara Conservation Fund. The awards were presented at the AZA Annual Conference, Sept. 17-21 in Salt Lake City, hosted by Utah’s Hogle Zoo.

“San Diego Zoo Global is extremely proud of receiving these honors from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums,” stated Douglas G. Myers, president and CEO, San Diego Zoo Global. “For almost 100 years, our organization has committed itself to saving species from extinction. These awards provide national recognition for the dedication and passion for wildlife exhibited by our staff and volunteers on a daily basis.”

Top Honors: Exhibit Design

The Tull Family Tiger Trail received Top Honors for Exhibit Design, an award that recognizes excellence by an AZA-accredited institution (US or international) or related facility member in the areas of exhibit design and providing visitors with the opportunity to engage in observing and learning about animals.

“This award recognizes the staff of San Diego Zoo Global for their planning, design, execution and opening of the Tull Family Tiger Trail,” said AZA President and CEO Jim Maddy. “Both animals and visitors benefit from the exhibit’s stunning backdrops and multi viewing opportunities, and the exhibit’s conservation messaging is powerful and action-driven to make an impactful experience.”

Tull Family Tiger Trail is a 5.2-acre Sumatran tiger habitat that simulates a Sumatran rain forest. The exhibit—named in honor of Thomas and Alba Tull, who donated $9 million for the project—offers up-close views of Sumatran tigers and highlights conservation efforts for this endangered species. Tiger Trail, which cost $19.5 million to create, includes three separate yards for the tigers, with rocks for climbing, ponds for swimming, deadwood trees to use as scratching posts and long grasses for catnaps. It also features a birthing den with an outdoor space.

“We are extremely proud to receive recognition for the Tull Family Tiger Trail experience at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park,” said Bob McClure, director, San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “For more than two decades, San Diego Zoo Global has been working to conserve the Sumatran tiger. This exhibit allows us to provide an exceptional venue to educate our guests about these beautiful animals, their plight in the wild and efforts to preserve tigers for generations to come.”

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is home to seven Sumatran tigers. There are fewer than 350 Sumatran tigers in the wild, and that number continues to drop. Scientists estimate that this species could be extinct in its native Sumatra by 2020, unless measures are taken to protect and preserve it. Tigers face many challenges in the wild, from loss of habitats to conflict with humans, but the biggest threat continues to be poaching.

Top Honors: Volunteer Engagement

San Diego Zoo Global’s volunteer program received the Volunteer Engagement Award Top Honors, for outstanding achievement in program development and for engaging volunteers in the overall mission and operation of the organization. This is the first year this award has been presented.

“AZA and its accredited aquariums and zoos appreciate the dedication and passion of tens of thousands of volunteers, who work hard every year to help us accomplish our conservation and education mission,” said Maddy. “This award provides well-deserved recognition to San Diego Zoo Global for its innovative Volunteer Engagement program, through which the community is engaged in all facets of the San Diego Zoo’s, San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research’s operations.”

“Since its inception, volunteer engagement throughout San Diego Zoo Global has increased our organization’s ability to interact with audiences involved with our efforts,” said Tammy Rach, senior volunteer manager, San Diego Zoo Global. “Volunteer opportunities allow us to engage the community in important mission-driven work that is meaningful and relevant to both the volunteers and the organization.”

For almost 100 years, volunteers have played a crucial role in the organization’s success, taking it to a whole new level in 2009. With volunteers spread throughout many departments and over multiple campuses, it was decided to create one centralized hub for all volunteers through San Diego Zoo Global, as well as expand volunteer opportunities to include interpretive volunteers sharing key messages about conservation at both parks. Within the first five years of the organization’s new volunteer engagement strategy, the organization expanded to more than 100 different volunteer assignments, engaging over 2,000 volunteers each year. The service these volunteers contribute each year is now valued at over $4.1 million, according to Independent Sector, a coalition of nonprofits, foundations and corporate giving programs. San Diego Zoo Global’s volunteers are provided with training that speaks to all learning styles, are integrated into the organizational culture, and are valued, appreciated and recognized for their service.

Top Honors: International Conservation

San Diego Zoo Global also received the International Conservation Award Top Honors for AZA Zoos Giving Voice to the Sahara: Sahara Conservation Fund, as a model for a zoo-driven conservation movement. This annual award recognizes exceptional efforts toward regional habitat preservation, species restoration and support of biodiversity in the wild.

“Conservation is a high priority for all AZA-accredited aquariums and zoos,” said Maddy. “Sahara Conservation Fund serves as a model for how AZA-accredited institutions working together can launch a conservation movement—and it is receiving this award for the direct, positive impact it is making on the future of the world’s wildlife.”

Sahara Conservation Fund today is recognized as an authority on conservation in the Sahara. It works in some of the poorest nations on the planet, under harsh environmental conditions, in a region of the world that is no stranger to political instability and social unrest. Yet, it has been able to thrive and engender the first real hope for a future for the Sahara’s wildlife, because of 52 AZA-accredited zoos and other partners rising to the challenge.

In just a few short years of collaboration, there is now a reserve—the largest in Africa—where the last significant population of addax, one of the most critically endangered antelope, has a better chance for survival. The Saharan race of the red-necked ostrich is now breeding in a conservation breeding center in Niger, and there is hope for its reintroduction into the wild in coming years. Plans are also underway to restore the scimitar-horned oryx—which became extinct in the wild more than 25 years ago— to Chad.

“San Diego Zoo Global, with focus on the Saharan red-necked ostrich, is honored to be a part of the Sahara Conservation Fund collaborative project,” stated Michael Mace, curator of birds, San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “Through a commitment to make a difference, AZA-accredited zoos have played a leadership role in creating the Sahara Conservation Fund and driving its mission. This program is a perfect example of what AZA-accredited zoos can do to become a conservation force on the planet.

Additional collaborative partners on the Sahara Conservation Fund project include: Abilene Zoo Audubon Nature Institute, Blank Park Zoo, Brevard Zoo, Bronx Zoo/Wildlife Conservation Society, Buffalo Zoo, Busch Gardens Tampa, Calgary Zoo, Chicago Zoological Society-Brookfield Zoo, Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Dickerson Park Zoo, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Erie Zoo, Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, Fresno Chaffee Zoo, John Ball Zoo, Houston Zoo, Kansas City Zoo, Lee Richardson Zoo, Lehigh Valley Zoo, Los Angeles Zoo, Milwaukee County Zoo, Minnesota Zoo, Nashville Zoo, North Carolina Zoological Park, Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo, Oregon Zoo, Philadelphia Zoo, Phoenix Zoo, Potawatomi Zoo, Rolling Hills Zoo, Sacramento Zoo, Safari West, Saint Louis Zoo, San Antonio Zoo, San Francisco Zoo, Sedgwick County Zoo, Smithsonian National Zoological Park & Conservation Biology Institute, The Living Desert, The Wilds, Toledo Zoo, Tulsa Zoo, Utah’s Hogle Zoo, White Oak Conservation Center, Woodland Park Zoo, Zoo Atlanta, Zoo Boise, Zoo Miami and Zoo New England.

Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, animal welfare, education, science and recreation. AZA is the accrediting body for the top zoos and aquariums in the United States and seven other countries. Look for the AZA accreditation logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium, as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you and a better future for all living things. The AZA is a leader in saving species and your link to helping animals all over the world. To learn more, visit aza.org.

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, 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.

Photo by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Global

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291
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Partnership Preparing to Release Rare ‘Alalā Back into the Wild

Global_logo_color webAnimal care staff with the Hawai‘i Endangered Bird Conservation Program are getting ready for an important breeding season—the season that will see hatching of ‘alalā, or Hawaiian crow, chicks that will be released into the wild. The ‘alalā has been extinct in the wild since 2002, preserved only in the program run by San Diego Zoo Global at its bird centers in Hawai‘i.

“In collaboration with our partners, we have been working for many years to build up a large enough—and genetically diverse enough—population to allow us to begin putting the ‘alalā back in the wild,” said Bryce Masuda, conservation program manager of San Diego Zoo Global’s Hawai’i Endangered Bird Conservation Program. “We have achieved our goal and are now preparing to release ‘alalā into the wild in 2016.”

The program’s goal has been to increase the ‘alalā flock to 75 or more individuals before conducting a trial release of birds into their native forests on the island of Hawai‘i. The ‘alalā is a member of the crow family that was brought to brink of extinction by loss of habitat, introduced predators and diseases. The entire population today stands at 115 birds. A group of dedicated conservationists have been working in partnership to prepare habitat that they hope will support the species in the wild.

“‘Alalā will be released in the far and remote portions of the Pu‘u Maka‘ala Natural Area Reserve, building upon many years of groundwork laid by many passionate individuals to protect and restore this significant forest,” said John Vetter, wildlife biologist with the State of Hawai’i Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry and Wildlife.

“Together, the agencies continue to collaborate with a wide variety of public and private partners as they work toward a better future for ‘alalā,” said Michelle Bogardus, team leader, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “These partnerships are integral to the successful reintroduction of this ecologically and culturally important species back into the wild.”

Returning ‘alalā to the wild is a significant step in the recovery of a number of native species on the Hawaiian Islands. Landscape-wide restoration has helped create healthy native forest that not only benefits ‘alalā, but many other native Hawaiian forest birds as well. Healthy native forests also provide many ecosystem services that benefit the people of Hawai’i, as well as cultural resources that ensure the continuation of countless traditions and unique ways of life.

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, 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.

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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Bringing Devils Back into the Tasmanian Wild: San Diego Zoo Partners in Program to Fight Extinction of This Unique Species

PrintThe fight to save the Tasmanian devil from extinction took an important step Sept. 26, with the release of 20 individuals into the wild at Narawntapu National Park in Northern Tasmania. The release was part of a collaborative effort by the Wild Devil Recovery Project and the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program. Each of the animals has been vaccinated against Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD), which has brought this unique species to the brink of extinction.

The vaccination program is a new one, and its effectiveness will be evaluated as part of this reintroduction program. Re-wilding through insurance population animals is an important part of the conservation program, as it assists in increasing the genetic diversity of suppressed wild populations, as well as directly increasing numbers. The animals released in Narawntapu National Park will join existing devils already living in the Park.

Save the Tasmanian Devil Program staff will be monitoring the devil population over time to evaluate the success of this initiative. The 20 devils (11 males and 9 females) come from an insurance population housed in free-range enclosures at Bicheno and Launceston, Tasmania.

“This field trial is a tangible step in the journey to bring the devil back into the Tasmanian wild,” said Bob Wiese, Ph.D., chief life sciences officer for San Diego Zoo Global. “The next milestone will be to see them start breeding in the wild and thus further ensuring their chances of survival into the future.”

The Wild Devil Recovery Project places emphasis on population monitoring, field research, and testing of possible vaccines and immunization techniques to manage wild devil populations.

The Wild Devil Recovery Project is a joint initiative between the Menzies Institute for Medical Research and the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program, and is supported through funding from the Tasmanian Government.

The San Diego Zoo is a proud partner of the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program, based in Tasmania. The program collaborates with research institutes and zoos from around the world to save the endangered Tasmanian devil. For more information on the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program, go to tassiedevil.com.au.

The Save the Tasmanian Devil Program is a government initiative established in 2003 in response to the threat of Devil Facial Tumour Disease. Its mission is to combat the epidemic, to ensure the survival of the Tasmanian devil and achieve the endangered species’ recovery in the wild as an ecologically functioning entity.

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, 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