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Rocky Mountain High: Boreal toads going to a place they’ve never been before

boreal toad

boreal toad

From the window of a fancy trailer I can see the small town of Alamosa, Colorado, and laying just behind it the base of the Rocky Mountains. A gateway to all the many outdoor splendors that the Colorado wilderness has to offer, this small town bustles with the comings and goings of natives as well as passers through. However, Alamosa hides another interesting little secret. The Native Aquatic Species Restoration Facility, known as NASRF, is part of the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife dedicated to the restoration of 10 species of fish native to Colorado. Additionally (and perhaps more importantly for me), NASRF holds one of the largest collections of a single toad species in the US.

The southern Rocky Mountain population (SRMP) of boreal toad (Anaxyrus boreas boreas) is a geographically isolated population of the boreal toad (Anaxyrus boreas). Although the boreal toad is commonly found in the western part of the US, the SRMP is unique due to its limited geographical distribution, which restricts it to high elevations of montane wetland Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and southeastern Wyoming. As part of a comprehensive plan to restore and manage the SRMP, a specialized group known as the Boreal Toad Recovery Team (BTRT) was established in 1995, and a captive population has been housed at NASRF since 2001. Over 600 hundred individual toads from different localities in the wild are held and bred as a genetic assurance colony from which tadpoles are re-introduced annually.

Alaomosa

Alaomosa, Colorado

Amphibians are a curious group of animals. The diversity of physiological adaptations and environmental requirements makes breeding them in captivity difficult. Such is the case with the Boreal toads at NASRF.

One of the most interesting adaptations of the boreal toad is its ability to hibernate. Because they are found at high altitudes and latitudes they have evolved this behavior to cope with long, harsh winters. However, hibernation in amphibians is not exactly the same as in mammals. In fact, the proper term for this behavior in amphibians is brumation. Like hibernating mammals, temperate amphibians lower their metabolic rates in response to falling temperatures in fall and winter. They stop eating and reduce their activity but, unlike mammals, they do not become dormant. At the beginning of spring, as temperatures rise, boreal toads come out of hibernation and immediately begin to breed.

Although temperature appears to be a key factor influencing reproduction in the Boreal toad, we are not sure how important other factors such as light and nutrition affect adult health and reproduction. At NASRF we provide special UV lighting to emulate natural day and night cycles, a diverse diet, controlled water temperature and artificial hibernation during the winter months. In short, we do what we can to replicate the outdoors, indoors.

Sancho

Sancho

In May of 2014 I made the long 1,000 mile drive from San Diego to Alamosa to join the staff at NASRF in preparation for boreal toad breeding season. That’s not me in the photograph, that’s my trusty partner, Sancho. Seventeen hours later we arrived at our new and very swanky home where we would reside for the next 4.5 months. Now I guess I should explain why I told you all about the boreal toad in the beginning, and more importantly, where I fit into the picture. As I mentioned, during the winter months, boreal toads hibernate in the wild. To emulate this at NASRF we use giant refrigerators (the kind you find in restaurants). We box the little toads up with soft, moist sand and peat moss and put them to bed for 5 to 6 months. Odd as this may seem, this period of cold is exactly what these toads need to get them in the mood for love and romance. Emerging from hibernation is like traveling to a sunny beach destination with your partner for a romantic holiday after surviving a long winter.

So where do I come in? I am a reproductive physiologist working for the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research. About 4 years ago I moved to the US to work on amphibians as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Mississippi. During my post-doc I concentrated on the application of assisted reproductive technologies to promote reproduction in captive amphibians. When natural matings occur in boreal toads we expect to see certain reproductive behaviors such as males amplexing females. This clasping behavior may persist for days while the male stimulates the female to deposit her eggs. When breeding does not occur or a female fails to release eggs naturally, I inject females with hormone treatments designed to elicit egg deposition. I also use the same hormones to induce sperm production in males.

Boreals amplexing

Boreals amplexing

Like in humans, ultrasound helps us monitor female toad reproductive cycles by visualizing the ovary and determining the presence and size of eggs. This helps us know if a female that has not bred is ready to deposit eggs. If so, I would inject her with hormones. Once eggs have been deposited, we count the number of eggs that have been fertilized and are cleaving (dividing). Embryonic development is recorded by looking at embryos every day and cataloging different developmental stages.

We raise tadpoles in captivity until they reach a certain size and have developed back legs before transporting them to the Rocky Mountain National Park for release into the wild. This final stage of the adventure is managed and monitored by the dedicated staff at NASRF and the National Park. Saving the SRMP boreal toad is a collaborative project with the ultimate goal restoring these animals in their natural habitat.

(I’d like to thank all the staff at the Native Aquatic Species Restoration Facility for their help).

Natalie Calatayud is a research associate at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research.

 

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Party Time: Leroy the Giraffe Turns One!

Safari Park keepers created a special celebration for a special giraffe.

Safari Park keepers threw a party for a special giraffe.

January 8, 2015 was a day for celebration at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. After a long bout of illness and recovery, giraffe calf Leroy turned one year old! To celebrate the thriving “Birthday Boy,” we threw him a little party, complete with banana-apple-carrot cupcakes for him and chocolate cupcakes for the staff.

It’s hard to believe it’s already been a year since this very special giraffe calf was born to female Shani. Every one of our giraffes special to us, but this birthday milestone is cause for celebration because while he had a bit of a rough start, he’s doing great today! Although he spent the first few months of his life in and out of our Harter Veterinary Hospital receiving care for multiple health concerns, Leroy remains one of the most cheerful and easy-going giraffe I’ve ever met. He continues to receive excellent follow up care from our veterinary and keeper staff, which is helping him thrive.

After our little party, Leroy spent the rest of the afternoon doing what he loves most—eating acacia leaves from the hands of guests on the back of caravan safari trucks, cruising the exhibit with the rest of the giraffe nursery group, and getting special attention from the keepers who have been there with him every step of the way.

Party Prep: Giraffe treats on the left, keeper treats on the right

Party Prep: Giraffe treats on the left, keeper treats on the right

And in case you’re wondering, the other giraffes let Leroy have all the glory during the party, but were quick to clean up afterwards. Chuku, Leroy’s 20-year-old “auntie”, scarfed down what was left of the “cupcakes” shortly after the festivities ended!

Cheers to Leroy! We wish him a many more years of good health, great fun, and delicious leafy browse!

Amanda Lussier is a keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read her previous blog Giraffes: A Creche Full of Cuties!

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Gorilla Mother Shows Off New Hold on Baby at San Diego Zoo

Gorilla Mother Shows Off New Hold on Baby at San Diego ZooA three-week-old Western lowland gorilla observed his surroundings as he was held by his mother this morning at the San Diego Zoo. The infant is quickly growing and already reaching milestones at his young age. Animal care staff noted that experienced mother Jessica has now begun holding her infant in different positions. Jessica can be seen holding her baby facing him outward instead of always keeping him pressed into her chest.

Jessica also occasionally will let go of her grip on the baby as she forages, and keepers say the baby can already support his own body weight. The baby, who weighs just a few pounds, will grasp tightly to his mother’s hair and hold on by himself when Jessica lets go to look for food. Keepers at the San Diego Zoo place food items in different areas throughout the exhibit to encourage the animals to search for food (or forage) in a way that mimics what they’d do in the wild, providing them with an opportunity to express species-specific behavior.

This infant, born on Dec. 26, is part of a troop that includes silverback leader Paul Donn, 26, mother Jessica, 34, and another female, Ndjia, who is 20 years old. Since the new baby has been born, Paul Donn has been showing extra affection with Jessica and will sleep next to her and the baby. The troop is expected to have access to the outdoor exhibit as long as weather permits.

Photo taken on Jan. 14, 2015, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo.

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291
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One Day in Suzhou for the Yangtze Giant Softshell Turtle

With great skill, the author carefully opens a turtle egg to remove a sample for examination under the microscope.

To uncover clues to the mystery of the lack of Rafetus hatchings, the author removes a sample from an egg to view under a microscope. Photo: Gerald Kuchling

With the last remaining breeding pair in captivity, the Yangtze giant softshell turtle Rafetus swinhoei is one of the world’s most critically endangered species. Housed together at China’s Suzhou Zoo, the pair’s breeding success is crucial to the survival of their species.

Although the female has laid hundreds of eggs since 2008, none of her eggs have hatched and the lack of Rafetus hatchlings over the last several years has raised more questions than answers. My involvement in the Rafetus breeding program at the Suzhou Zoo began this past summer with the trip of a lifetime to help save the Yangtze giant softshell turtle from extinction.

As part of my Master’s degree, I am working in the Reproductive Physiology Division at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, developing a technique for oocyte membrane-bound sperm detection (OMSD) for use in the management of endangered turtles and tortoises. OMSD tests for the presence of sperm in eggs that fail to develop an embryo. This information, in combination with behavioral observations, reproductive history, and veterinary examination, can be used to make educated decisions about breeding pairs to increase the chance for future offspring. For example, an egg containing sperm indicates that the male is producing functional sperm capable of progressing up the female’s oviduct to the oocyte. Sperm absence, on the other hand, can point toward a reproductive problem.

Although the female giant softshell turtle has laid numerous eggs, non have been fertile.

Although the female giant softshell turtle has laid numerous eggs, none have been fertile.

With the help of the Turtle Conservancy’s Behler Chelonian Center, we tested OMSD on a variety of turtle and tortoise eggs. This exciting innovation led to a whirlwind trip, organized by the Turtle Survival Alliance and the Wildlife Conservation Society, to fly me to the Suzhou Zoo so I could examine eggs of the critically endangered Rafetus. Within days of the female Rafetus nesting, I was on my way to Shanghai. After almost 36 hours of planes, trains, and automobiles, I was greeted in Suzhou by turtle conservationist and my personal hero, Dr. Gerald Kuchling. We went straight to work, as I only had one full day in China before I needed to take a flight back to San Diego. We picked up the eggs at the Suzhou Zoo, where I got a quick glimpse of the female Rafetus, then drove straight to Suzhou University and I spent the afternoon examining as many Rafetus eggs as possible. After several hours hunched over a microscope, I made the disheartening announcement that I was unable to confirm the presence of sperm.

So what is happening between the pair of Yangtze giant softshell turtles? My results indicate that the male Rafetus is either not capable of successful copulation and insemination of the female, not producing sperm, or that he is making low quality sperm that cannot fertilize the female’s oocytes. Although discouraging, this new piece of information provides valuable insight into the potential cause of past reproductive failure. What’s next for the Rafetus pair in Suzhou? First and foremost, a comprehensive reproductive exam is needed to evaluate the fertility status of the male Rafetus. If the male is producing viable sperm, but is not capable of breeding with the female, collection of his sperm followed by artificial insemination could be used to circumvent the problem. In the event that the male Rafetus is deemed infertile, the female will require a new breeding partner.

At this point, it appears that the greatest chance of bringing another male Rafetus to the Suzhou Zoo lies in the hands of Dr. Kuchling, who has been working with the Kunming Institute of Zoology to locate other Yangtze giant softshell turtles in the wild. In the meantime, we continue to hold our breath as we wait for the results of the male’s reproductive exam. Although the odds seem stacked against the Rafetus, only time will tell whether this species can be saved.

Kaitlin Croyle is a research assistant with the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. Read her previous blog, When an Egg Won’t Hatch.

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Sweet, Juicy Papaya‚—for the Birds!

What's on the menu? Egg, commercial diet, and juicy, sweet papaya!

What’s on the menu? Scrambled egg, commercial diet, and juicy, sweet papaya!

As people recover from their holiday feasting, now is a nice time to reflect on feeding Hawaiian birds in a captive breeding program.

One of the biggest challenges of managing a captive propagation center for Hawaiian birds is providing a nutritionally balanced diet replicating foods the birds would eat in the wild. Ideally, a captive diet is composed of the exact same natural fruits, nectars, and animal and insect proteins birds forage on while wandering in native Hawaiian forests. But collecting the exact food items these birds eat in the wild is impossible!

Although wild diets cannot be perfectly recreated, we strive to fashion a representation offering the same nutritional components. Prior to working with any new bird species, Hawaii Endangered Bird Conservation Program (HEBCP) staff review data on a species’ nutritional requirements and foraging behavior in the wild, to create diets for the birds in captivity. For instance, wild alala historically consumed many native fruits, and supplemented their fruit-heavy diet with invertebrates as well as the occasional egg and nestling of other bird species.

For birds in managed care, we replicate what is contained in wild alala diets by providing apple, melon, mixed veggies, and papaya in place of native fruits. The alala also receive scrambled egg, mealworms, and bird pellets that offer a balance of carbohydrates, fats, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. As you can see, these captive diets heavily feature food items available from commercial retailers.

Unfortunately, even commercially available foods can be difficult or expensive to obtain. This is where we benefit from close relationships with generous local supporters in our communities. For example, Kumu Farms in Wailuku, Maui, regularly donates organic, GMO-free papaya for the birds at the Maui Bird Conservation Center (MBCC). Although the MBCC is a relatively small facility, providing enough papaya for all almost 70 birds (representing 4 species) being bred in captivity is no small feat—but Kumu Farms donates papaya to help make this possible. And all the birds at MBCC eagerly devour Kumu Farm’s sweet, juicy gift!

Joshua Kramer is a research coordinator at the Maui Bird Conservation Center, operated by San Diego Zoo Global. Read his previous post, Maui Bird Conservation Center: Open House 2013.

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Happy Anniversary, Gao Gao!

Celebrating a dozen delightful years with Gao Gao!

January 15, 2015 marks a dozen delightful years with Gao Gao at the Zoo!

Gao Gao’s 12th anniversary (he arrived in San Diego Jan. 15, 2003) is coming up at the San Diego Zoo and what a glorious time it has been. He has been the perfect mate for Bai Yun and has fathered five cubs (Mei Sheng, Su Lin, Zhen Zhen, Yun Zi, and Xiao Liwu). He may be small but he has a huge personality and presence among his keepers. As he always enjoys and demands his daily scratches from us.

This Thursday, Gao Gao will have a quiet anniversary celebration in the Classroom Exhibit with some special enrichment throughout the day that will include his favorite scents: cinnamon spice, ginseng root perfume, and rubbing alcohol!. He does not get an ice cake anymore due to his old teeth, but he will get extra apples and honey, and my favorite part of the day—extra scratches from his keepers.

Lately, Gao Gao has preferred the quiet life of living in the classroom exhibits with access to his bedroom whenever he desires. His exhibit is not open to the public and only gets visits by early morning tours and special behind the scenes events. You can see him on Panda Cam Daily from 6:30a.m. until 2:30p.m. PST.

Jennifer Becerra is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Panda Party for Mr. Wu.

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The Amazon’s—and Cocha Cashu’s—Youngest Ambassadors

The enthusiastic participants of the first-ever Tropical Ecology and Field Techniques course held in 2013—where are they now?

The enthusiastic participants of the first-ever Tropical Ecology and Field Techniques course held in 2013—where are they now?

In his blog A Student’s Day at Cocha Cashu’s Field Ecology Trainning Course, Ron Swaisgood, scientific director of the Cocha Cashu Biological Station, wrote : “Our mission includes the goal of recruiting some of the best and brightest emerging young scientists, and sending them off on a life trajectory better suited and more motivated to tackle the problems of understanding and conserving Amazonian ecosystems.”

In order to assess whether we are on track to achieving this goal, we asked some of the Peruvian students who participated in our first three-month Tropical Ecology and Field Techniques Course in 2013, what they have been up to since their Cocha Cashu experience.

Cindy Hurtado, a Biology student at San Marcos University, Lima, carried out a camera trap study at Cocha Cashu, looking into the use of clay licks by large mammals. She tells us that after completing our course she traveled to Costa Rica to work as a teaching assistant on the Tropical Biology Field Course of the Organization of Tropical Studies (OTS). She is now working toward a Masters at Towson University, Maryland, with Harald Beck (a fervent ‘Cashu nut’) as her mentor, and will be working on peccary reintroductions in Iberá, Argentina.

Maite Aranguena was given the opportunity to work within the Peruvian Institute for Oceanographic Studies (IMARPE). She also participated in the 7th International Otter Congress in Brazil where she presented the results of her study at Cocha Cashu: “Habitat use by the giant otter in Cocha Cashu, Manu National Park, during the dry season (August – September 2013).” Maite is currently beginning her graduation thesis with the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) on the behavior of birds using biologging, and is also conducting environmental education workshops.

Nicole Mitidieri enrolled in the Center for International Forestry Research, within the Sustainable Wetlands Adaptation and Mitigation Program; she is studying the effect of the degradation of tropical tubers in the lower Peruvian Amazon (Loreto) on emissions of greenhouse gases at the soil level. She is simultaneously preparing to start her Masters research next year, financed by CIFOR. In September 2014, Nicole returned to Cocha Cashu as a teaching assistant for this year’s field course. She hopes to find funds to carry out a long-term study into the impact of gold mining on ecosystem services provided by wetlands, using Manu National Park as her control site.

Jorge Cabellero is currently working on no fewer than three research projects, including his thesis, entitled “Evaluation of deforestation and carbon emission resulting from land use changes from primary forests to oil palm plantations in the northern Peruvian Amazon.”

Adrian Torres has also been very busy. Not only was he a teaching assistant for this year’s field course at Cocha Cashu (during which he developed the pilot stage of a personal research project looking into the ecology of the Triplaris – Pseudomyrmex system), he was also field assistant in Kirstie Hazelwood’s and Harald Beck’s project on seedling ecology, led by Timothy Paine, another ‘Cashu nut’. He says that acting as T.A. in our course has furthered his interest in bioacoustics and landscape ecology, and he may be hatching a plan on this subject for next year.

Viviana Ramos is a park guard in the Alto Purus National Park and tells us that our course has helped to orientate her ideas towards addressing the problems of biodiversity conservation and management in tropical ecosystems. She is currently working on her thesis project, entitled “Density of mammals hunted by the Amahuaca and Sharanahua ethnic groups, Alto Purus watershed.”

Last but not least, David Chang also returned to Cocha Cashu this year as a teaching assistant, and is now finishing his thesis on stress markers in wild bird populations in Lomas de Lachay, while looking forward to starting a Ph.D. in Ecology.

So, let’s, for a moment, break our mission down into its components. Did we recruit some of the brightest and the best? Most certainly. And are they motivated to continue on a path of exploring, understanding and conserving Amazonian ecosystems? We believe so, judging by their dedication to their ongoing research and the fact that no fewer than three of the course graduates returned to Cocha Cashu in 2014 as teaching assistants. We are proud of our new generation of ‘Cashu nuts’ and will continue to follow their careers with interest.

Jessica Groenendijk is the education and outreach coordinator at San Diego Zoo Global’s Cocha Cashu Biological Station in Manu National Park, Peru. Read her previous post, Welcoming Students to Cocha Cashu.

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Facebook Caturday Caption Contest

We’re running a Caturday caption contest for the Safari Park’s Facebook followers. By entering, you agree to these terms and conditions. Good luck!

#Caturday Caption Contest

1. NO PURCHASE IS NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase will not increase your chances of winning. Participation constitutes entrant’s full and unconditional agreement to and acceptance of these Official Rules. The Facebook Caturday Caption (“Contest”) will be held online from 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time (“PT”), January 10, 2015 (“Contest Start Date”), to 5:00 p.m. PT, January 11, 2015 (“Contest Period”). Contest is sponsored by the Zoological Society of San Diego DBA San Diego Zoo Global (the “Sponsor”) who is solely responsible for all aspects of this Contest.

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

3. HOW TO ENTER.

1.) As of 10:00 a.m. PT, January 10, 2015, the entrant must:

a. Have a Facebook® account: If you are not a member, you may sign-up at www.facebook.com

b. Follow the prompt on the Facebook post found here: https://www.facebook.com/sdzsafaripark/photos/p.1107267509289924/1107267509289924/?l=11980e9cf7

No mechanically reproduced entries will be accepted.

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

5. SELECTIONS AND NOTIFICATION OF WINNERS. Winners will be determined on or after January 11, 2015 by Sponsor’s staff from among all eligible entries. Winners will be notified on or after January 11, 2015 via Facebook and need not be present to win. Only one winner per household. The winner will be disqualified and an alternate winner will be selected if a selected winner fails to comply with these rules, cannot be contacted, is ineligible, fails to claim a prize, or if the prize notification or prize is returned as undeliverable. Acceptance of a prize constitutes permission to use the winners’ names, likenesses, and statements for promotional and publicity purposes without additional compensation or limitation unless prohibited by law. All decisions of the Sponsor regarding the selection of winners, notification and substitution of winners in accordance with these Official Rules shall be binding and final.

6. PRIZES AVAILABLE. One (1) winner will receive one (1) one-day pass to the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Substitutions of similar value will be made at the sole discretion of the Sponsor if offers are no longer available. The prize is not transferable, assignable or redeemable for cash and if not used will be forfeited.

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

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

9. WINNERS LIST. For an Official Winners List (available after January 11, 2015 and through December 31, 2015) or a copy of these Official Rules (PLEASE SPECIFY WHICH), send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to: San Diego Zoo Global, P.O. Box 120551, San Diego, CA 92112-0551.

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

1

Rhino Wet Willy: Rhino Calf Introduced to Ankole Calf at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

RHINO WET WILLY: RHINO CALF INTRODUCED TO ANKOLE CALF AT SAN DIEGO ZOO SAFARI PARK A 6-week-old greater one-horned rhino calf appears to stick his tongue in the ear of his new playmate, an 8-month-old Ankole calf, at the Ione and Paul Harter Animal CareA 6-week-old greater one-horned rhino calf appears to stick his tongue in the ear of his new playmate, an 8-month-old Ankole calf, at the Ione and Paul Harter Animal Care Center at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park earlier today. The pair, introduced three days ago, is still getting to know each other but animal care staff at the Safari Park hope they will become longtime companions.

The male rhino calf, named Chutti, was born on Nov. 27, to a first-time mother in the Safari Park’s Asian Plains exhibit. The mother nursed and cared for her newborn for almost two weeks, but keepers realized he wasn’t gaining weight as he should. To provide the calf with the optimal care to thrive, he was brought to the Safari Park’s animal care center where he is being hand-raised.

 Since the rhino is being raised in a nursery setting, it is important for him to get daily exercise and have companionship. The female Ankole calf, affectionately named Moo Moo Kitty by keepers, was born on May 23 and also was born to a first-time mother that couldn’t properly care for her calf. Keepers hand-raised and recently weaned the Ankole, and they felt she would make the perfect companion for the little rhino since both are social animals. If Chutti and Moo Moo Kitty bond, they could be companions until the little rhino is weaned in 14 to 15 months.
 Visitors to the Safari Park may see these unlikely playmates at the animal care center nursery corral between 1 p.m. and 1:45 p.m. daily, weather permitting, and possibly other times throughout the day.

Photo taken on Jan. 9, by Dustin Trayer, San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

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

 

5

Happy Birthday, Zoo Elephants!

Shaba celebrated her birthday with a specially made "cake."

Shaba celebrated her birthday with a specially made “cake” stuffed with treats.

The beginning of every year is a time for celebration at the Elephant Care Center at the San Diego Zoo—it’s when we mark all of our elephants’ “birthdays.” Because we do not know the exact days that any of the elephants were born on, it makes it easy for us to keep track of their ages by having everyone “roll over” at the same time.

Shaba demonstrates that one CAN have her cake and eat it, too!

Shaba demonstrates that one CAN have her cake and eat it, too!

This year we are celebrating a milestone with Shaba, our youngest elephant who just turned 35 years old! Shaba is a female African elephant that has lived at the San Diego Zoo for more than three years. For her birthday, a dedicated group of Zoo volunteers crafted a giant cake out of cardboard and tasty produce for Shaba to consume on her own, and it didn’t take long for her to break apart the cake to reach the goodies inside. A group of more than 200 volunteers, guests, and zoo staff sang ‘Happy Birthday’ while she enjoyed her special treat. Before too long, we let elephants Mary and Mila join Shaba at the buffet, and it was completely devoured by the end of the day!

The Conrad Prebys Elephant Care Center was designed to care for aging elephants. All seven elephants in our herd are past reproductive age and will live out the rest of their lives with us at the Zoo. Mary, our most dominant female elephant, turned 51 this year, while Sumithi, the second-most dominant, turned 48. Here’s how old the rest of the “girls” are now: Tembo is 44, Mila is 42, and Devi just turned 38. Our bull elephant Ranchipur is now 49 years old, making him the fifth-oldest male elephant in North America.

An elephant-size thank you to the Zoo volunteers and keepers that created Shaba's marvelous cake!

An elephant-size thank you to the Zoo volunteers and keepers that created Shaba’s marvelous cake!

We want to especially thank the Zoo volunteers who took the time to create the cake for Shaba this year. It is always fun not only for the elephants, but for the keepers as well to enjoy these special moments. We appreciate all of the time and dedication you give the Zoo each and every day of each and every year.

Robbie Clark is keeper at the San Diego Zoo. REad his previous blog, Elephants Mila and Mary Meet.