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Tag, You’re It!

The public is invited to help select a name for the Zoo's rambunctious jaguar cub.

The public is invited to help select a name for the Zoo’s rambunctious jaguar cub.

A jaguar cub taps his mother playfully during a morning spent outside at the San Diego Zoo. Animal care staff has been giving the mother, Nindiri, and the wobbly-legged cub access to explore the area beyond the two bedrooms they share.

The public is being asked to help the Zoo select a name for the young cub through voting at www.bit.ly/NameTheCub. Voting will close on Sunday, May 24.

The cub was born at 8:30 p.m. on March 12, 2015, inside the jaguar den at the Harry & Grace Steele Elephant Odyssey exhibit. This is the third cub for 7-year-old Nindiri.

Photo taken on May 22, 2015, by Tammy Spratt, San Diego Zoo

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291
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California Condor Chick: 30 to 45 Days of Age

A Condor Cam screen capture of the fluffy, growing chick.

This Condor Cam screen capture shows the California condor chick to be developing nicely.

At approximately one month of age, our California condor chick should weigh around 4 pounds (2 kilograms). The parents, Sisquoc and Shatash, may start leaving the chick alone overnight, sleeping near the nest instead of in it. If the weather is still cool or it’s raining, the parents may continue to brood overnight until the weather improves. Even though the parents are increasing their time away from the chick, they remain VERY vigilant and protective of their nest and especially their chick. Some field biologists have even seen wild condor parents chasing black bears away from the nest area!

Up until now, the chick has been scooting around the nest on its tarsal joints. We refer to that as a “tarsal crawl.” It’s not uncommon, at this age, to see the chick standing all the way up on its feet, teetering around the nest, holding its wings out for balance. As its legs get sturdier, the chick may even approach the parent, begging for food. The “wing-begging” behavior we’ve been seeing will get more pronounced: lots of wing flapping, head bobbing, and trying to position itself in front of the parent.

It is possible that the parents, who are offering larger quantities of food per feeding session, might be providing a small amount of fur/hair in the chick’s diet. (Part of the adults’ diet includes mammals, like rats and rabbits.) Condors can digest just about every part of the animals they eat, except for fur. This fur accumulates in the digestive tract and is eventually regurgitated as waste. We refer to this as “casting.” A condor’s cast is composed of predominantly fur, whereas a cast from an owl has fur and bones; owls can’t digest bones, but condors can. We have seen condor chicks cast hair pellets as young as three weeks of age. When the chick casts, it throws its head forward several times, mouth open, until the pellet is ejected from its mouth. It can look like the chick is in trouble, but it is perfectly normal, and good for the chick.

At 45 days of age, the chick will get its first health exam. We will obtain a blood sample for the lab to make sure it is healthy and send a portion of this sample to a lab in the Genetics Division of the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, located adjacent to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. From this blood sample, the geneticists can determine if the chick is male or female. Also, during the exam, we will weigh the chick—it should weigh between 7.75 to 8.75 pounds (3.5 – 4 kilograms)—and inject a transponder chip as a form of identification. It’s the same kind of chip you can get for your dog or cat at the veterinarian. Most importantly, this exam allows us to administer a vaccine for West Nile Virus. West Nile Virus is disease that originated in Africa and was accidently introduced to North America by humans. North American wildlife, including condors, usually doesn’t have a natural immune response to West Nile Virus, so we are trying to give the chicks as much of a head start as we can.

This exam will be the first time that the chick will see humans, so it will naturally be disturbing for it. We try to be as quick as we can be (9 to 10 minutes) to minimize the disturbance. Additionally, we will keep the chick covered with a towel to reduce its exposure to humans and to provide it a bit of security. Sisquoc and Shatash are usually away from the nest when we perform the procedure in order to keep them as calm as possible, as well. We have to keep in mind that we don’t want the chick to become accustomed to or feel reassured by our presence; we want it to be a wild condor, uninterested and wary of humans, so that it may someday fly free in California, Arizona, or Mexico.

The chick will look very large at this age compared to how big it was at hatch, but remember that it is still less than half of its adult weight. There is much more growth and fun to come!

Ron Webb is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read his previous blog, Guide to Condor-chick Watching: Ages 1 Week to 1 Month.

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Hippo Mother Nudges Curious Calf at the San Diego Zoo

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Devi gets a gentle, loving nudge from her mother, Funani.

Devi, an 8-week-old hippopotamus is nosed to shallower water by her mother Funani Thursday morning at the San Diego Zoo. The female calf has recently been venturing to the farthest reaches and deepest parts of the 150,000-gallon pool.  But everywhere Devi goes, Funani is just a few feet away. Hippo mothers are known for being very protective.  For the first six weeks of Devi’s life, it was very hard for guests – and keepers – to see the calf because Funani often had her tucked into vegetation near the shore, and kept her body between the calf and the public.

This morning, the curious calf could be seen repeatedly popping up to the glass wall of her 150,000 gallon pool take to take a look at all the guests who were fascinated with her. Hippos have a membrane that protects their eyes and allows them to see underwater, which means that Devi can watch the guests watching her.

Devi was born on Monday, March 23 at 6:30 a.m. with animal care staff observing. Funani and Devi share the exhibit with Devi’s father, Otis. Mother and daughter can be seen on exhibit Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.

The hippopotamus is listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, known as the IUCN. The primary threats to hippos are illegal and unregulated hunting for meat and ivory (found in the canine teeth) and habitat loss. Hippos can still be found in a number of countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

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

Photo taken on May 21, 2015, by Tammy Spratt, San Diego Zoo.

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

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Masai Giraffe Calf Deemed Healthy and Strong after First Medical Exam at San Diego Zoo

Here's looking at you, kid!

Here’s looking at you, kid!

A one-day-old female Masai giraffe at the San Diego Zoo had her first medical exam earlier today. Veterinarians and animal care staff covered the newborn’s eyes with a soft towel to keep her calm while they confirmed her sex, checked her eyes, ears, tongue and throat, drew blood to ensure she is nursing properly, and checked her umbilicus for proper healing. Initial results determined the calf is healthy and strong, even though she is still getting used to her long, wobbly legs. The lanky youngster weighed in at 136 pounds and stands 6 feet tall; she may weigh as much as 500 pounds and stand 7 to 7 ½ feet tall by the time she is 6 months old.

After the exam, the youngster ventured around the maternity yard with her doting mother, Bahati. The curious calf interacted with her father, Silver, and other members of the Zoo’s giraffe herd from the protective fencing set up by keepers to separate the newborn and her mother from the herd until the calf is strong enough to venture into the larger habitat and interact with the others.

Bahati gave birth to the calf in the afternoon of May 19 after a three-hour labor under the watchful eyes of her keepers and to the amazement of Zoo guests. The experienced mother immediately began bonding with her calf, and Bahati helped the calf stand just minutes after her introduction to the world.

Masai giraffes, also known as Kilimanjaro giraffes, are the world’s tallest land animals and are native to Kenya and Tanzania. Masai giraffes are the most populous of the giraffe subspecies, but all giraffe populations have decreased from approximately 140,000 in the late 1990s to less than 80,000 today because of habitat loss and competition with livestock for resources. As a result, the future of giraffes is dependent on the quality of habitat that remains. San Diego Zoo Global supports community conservation efforts in Kenya and Uganda that are finding ways for people and wildlife to live together.

This is the 11th calf born to Bahati. Visitors to the San Diego Zoo can see the giraffe calf, yet to be named, on exhibit in the Urban Jungle.

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

Photo taken on May 20, 2015 by Tammy Spratt, San Diego Zoo.

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291
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#Rally4Rhinos Trending Around the World; San Diego Global Sparks Campaign to Stop Poaching

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Local students got involved in San Diego Zoo Global’s Rally 4 Rhinos event.

Students from San Pasqual Union Elementary School in Escondido were among those who lent a hand to help San Diego Zoo Global raise awareness of the plight of rhinos in the wild and the urgent need to protect these iconic endangered species for future generations.

 As part of San Diego Zoo Global’s Rally 4 Rhinos campaign, the public was asked to celebrate Endangered Species Day, May 15, by spreading the word about rhino poaching, writing a rhino conservation message on their hand, taking a photo, and posting the photo to social media using the hashtag #Rally4Rhinos. The campaign spread like wildfire, reaching around the world, with postings from San Diego, the Eiffel Tower in France, Vietnam, rhino preserves in South Africa, beaches in Brazil and beyond.
There are five species of rhinos – black, white, greater one-horned, Sumatran and Javan. With all species together, there are less than 30,000 rhinos worldwide. Rhinos are facing the worst poaching crisis in history, with an average of three rhinos a day being killed in South Africa. At the current poaching rate, rhinos could become extinct in 15 years. Rhinos are poached for their horns, which are made of keratin, the same thing as human fingernails and hair.
Photo taken on May 15 by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291
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A Not-So-Little Girl: Hippo Calf Born in April at the San Diego Zoo is Female

Keepers have confirmed the seven-week-old hippo calf is a girl.

Keepers have confirmed the seven-week-old hippo calf is a girl.

After nearly two months of waiting, animal care staff at the San Diego Zoo today have determined with 100-percent certainty that the new hippopotamus calf is a girl. The calf, born March 23 to mother, Funani, has been named Devi.

Due to the very protective nature of a hippo mom, the calf was often kept tucked into vegetation growing along the edge of the hippo pool. Funani would also place her body between the baby and the viewing area.

Devi is the fifth calf that Funani has raised at the San Diego Zoo. Hippo calves typically nurse for about eight months. And while she hasn’t been weighed, keepers estimate that Devi weights between 90 and 110 pounds. Funani weighs about 3,500 pounds.

Devi and Funani can be seen in the Zoo’s 150,000-gallon hippo pool on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Devi’s father, Otis, is on exhibit on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

The hippopotamus is listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, known as the IUCN. The primary threats to hippos are illegal and unregulated hunting for meat and ivory (found in the canine teeth) and habitat loss. Hippos can still be found in a number of countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Photo taken on May 12, 2015, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo

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

Brightly colored mouth nodes help a Gouldian finch chick get spotted by its parents.

Brightly colored mouth nodes help a Gouldian finch chick get spotted by its parents.

It’s baby bird season! A lot of our collection birds are sitting on eggs, feeding tiny chicks, and teaching their young fledglings how to make that final leap and learn to fly. As a senior associate in the Wildlife Disease Labs, I examine a lot of different species of baby birds. Some have really cool adaptations to life as a tiny chick in a dark nest!

Gouldian finches win the prize for the most colorful chick beaks. This species nests in the hollows of trees, keeping their chicks safe in the darkness. Pearlescent white and blue nodes on the each side of the chick’s mouth shimmer in the low light of the nest, creating an easy marker for the parents to spot. Gouldian finch chicks tend not to make any noise; they simply open their mouth, turning their head gently side to side, and the glimmer attracts the parents’ attention. They may be tiny, less than an inch tall at hatch, but it’s easy to spot the Gouldian finch chick spots!

 

It would be hard for a coua parent to not spot this plea for food!

It would be hard for a coua parent to not spot this plea for food!

The Northern crested coua has white circles on the inside of its mouth that look like targets to help the parent birds find the chick in the nest. These distinctive marks alert the parents that the chick is hungry and begging for food. Other chicks, like the common waxbill and paradise whydah, have similar black swirls and spots on the inside of their mouths. It turns out paradise whydahs will often lay their eggs in a common waxbill nest (free babysitting!), and when the chicks hatch the waxbill parents are unable to tell the difference between waxbill and whydah chicks. Waxbills will feed all of the chicks in their nest, even if the waxbill female hasn’t laid an egg of its own!

What other spots have you spotted around the Zoo or Safari Park recently?

Rachael Keeler is a Senior Research Associate with the Wildlife Disease Labs at the Institute for Conservation Research. Read her previous blogs, Let’s Hear It for Honking Swans! and Finding a Cure for Scratchy Throats.

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Northern White Rhino Under Veterinary Care at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

SafariParkBlogNola, a critically endangered 41-year-old northern white rhino, is undergoing medical treatment at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Keepers noticed a swelling on Nola’s right hip late last week and began monitoring the area. The swelling continued to grow over a few days, causing concern for the elderly animal.

On Saturday, in an attempt to find out if the affected area was an abscess or something else causing the swelling, the veterinary team lanced the growth. “We found the swelling was consistent with a large abscess, filled with pus,” stated Meredith Clancy, associate veterinarian, San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “We were able to flush the area with sterile saline and will wait on tests results to determine what is going on with Nola.”

The rhino, a favorite of the animal care team and Safari Park guests, doesn’t appear sick outwardly so veterinarians are hoping the swelling is a walled-off abscess that isn’t affecting her systemically, or affecting her entire body. Nola has been put on a course of antibiotics as a precautionary measure. She will be carefully monitored, having the area flushed on a daily basis. Test results from fluid and tissues samples taken on Saturday should be available within a week to two weeks.

Nola is an exceptional rhino in more ways than one. She has a great relationship with her keepers and due to her ongoing, age-related medical needs, they interact with her in ways they might not be able to do with other rhinos. During her examination, she walked slowly through the field with both her keepers and the veterinary team, allowing the veterinarians to aspirate fluid from the abscess site. “Nola is a great patient,” added Clancy.

Nola is one of just five northern white rhinos left in the world. Three other northern white rhinos are in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya and one is in the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic. The five remaining rhinos are all non-reproductive.Poaching for its horn has brought the northern white rhino to such critically low numbers.

Currently, a rhino is poached every eight hours in South Africa. With dramatically low populations of all five rhino species, rhinos could become extinct in 15 years. On Endangered Species Day, May 15, the Safari Park will be holding a “Rally 4 Rhinos” to raise awareness of the plight of rhinos and the urgent need to protect them for future generations. A ceremony will take place at the Safari Park’s African Plains Overlook beginning at 9:30 a.m. and will include guest speakers, special entertainment and a sky art project. For more information, visit www.Rally4Rhinos.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, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is made accessible to children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.

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

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San Diego Zoo Full of Flower Power During Garden Festival 22nd Annual Garden Festival presented by Sparkletts

PrintHorticulturists at the San Diego Zoo are gearing up for the 22nd annual spring Garden Festival presented by Sparkletts. Beautiful Forth Night lilies, sunflowers, orchids, Japanese coral trees, pink hibiscus and yellow daisies are just a few of the flowering plants that guests have the opportunity to see. During the two-day event that takes place on Mother’s Day weekend, Saturday, May 9, and Sunday, May 10, guests can enjoy and learn about the importance of the Zoo’s world-class plant collection. The Zoo’s botanical garden is not only a visual delight of greens, reds, oranges, yellows and blues, its plants and flowers are also the major source for our animal browse.

The Zoo has more than 700,000 plants in its accredited botanical collection including over 900 different types of orchids. To showcase the orchids, the Orchid House, which is only open to guests once a month, will be open both days during Garden Festival.

“There’s a lot of opportunity for guests to learn and gain knowledge they can put to use in their own backyard gardens,” said Dan Simpson, horticulture manager for the San Diego Zoo. “At various spots on Zoo grounds, guests can visit interesting booths and learn about things like what makes up good soil and compost at the ‘Can You Dig It’ booth.”

Guests can also listen to special keeper talks focusing on animals and discover the secret powers of flowers: how they provide primary and supplemental food for our animals. Display booths, open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, will offer visitors the chance to get gardening tips from horticulture experts with advice to grow by; discover an important native plant, the matilija poppy; learn the what, why, and how of each part of a blossom; and test their flower power.

During the Garden Festival, there will be self-guided walking tours, an educational scavenger hunt focused on flowers and fun activities for kids. Guests can chat with a Zoo insect keeper and may meet a researcher from the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research who is working to save plant species around the world and in our own backyards.

Stop by the Koalafornia Boardwalk at 12:30 or 1:30 p.m. both days to take in a fun, interactive show, where the zany Dr. Zoolittle reveals the secret powers of those garden superheroes, flowers!

Garden Festival is included with Zoo admission and membership. For more information and a schedule of activities, visit www.sandiegozoo.org/gardenfestival.

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes onsite wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is 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.

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291
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May 9 Is World Binturong Day!

Binturongs are also known as "bear cats" because they look like a cross between those two animals.

Binturongs are also known as “bear cats” because they look like a cross between those two animals.

A bintur-what? A bintur-right? No, a binturong. Most people have never heard of a binturong let alone seen one in person, which is a good reason zoos everywhere are celebrating the very first World Binturong Day on May 9, 2015.

Binturongs are mammals about the size of a medium-size dog. They are native to the forests of China, India, Indonesia and Southeast Asian forests, including Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Borneo. Something really unusual about them is their scent—they smell like hot buttered popcorn! But more about that later…

Binturongs have delighted guests at the San Diego Zoo for many years. Currently we have three in our collection and they are all animal ambassadors. Phuket (Foo-KET), a young three-and-a-half-year-old male binturong, lives in the Children’s Zoo. Called “Phu”, by his keepers and trainers, he always delights kids during school programs and impresses Zoo visitors with his playful antics during his walks around the Children’s Zoo. Another young male, three-and-a-half-year-old Khi, (Kee), lives in Urban Jungle. He loves early morning walks  through his “neighborhood.” The elder of the Zoo’s binturongs, 14-year-old Bap Rang (“Bop Rong) meets hundreds of guest each month as a regular star of our Backstage Pass experience.

Binturongs are in the Viverridae family. Some of their relatives include civets and genets, even though they don’t look anything like them. Many people think binturongs look like a cross between a bear and cat, which is why they are sometimes called “bear cats.”

Taxonomists have grouped binturongs, civets, and genets together because they have something in common: the perineal gland (located under the tail). This unique gland secretes a thick substance that smells just like hot buttered popcorn—although some people think it smells like over-cooked rice. And here’s where that special scent comes in: the secretion, called civetone or musk, carries hormonal information that allows the male binturongs to find the females in their dense jungle habitat. A binturong’s home range can be hundreds of acres in size, which would make it hard to find one another if it weren’t for civetone. By rubbing the perineal gland against branches and tree trunks, female binturongs leave scent marks in the treetops throughout their territory.

A female binturong’s estrus cycle lasts 80 days. During this time, she is looking for Mr. Bintur-right—and he is very busy looking for her! The estrus cycle is the only time a male binturong is welcome into a female’s foraging area without a fight.

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A binturong’s tail provides balance as it moves along tree branches, but the animal can also hang from it!

An adaption that allows binturongs to live comfortably up in trees is their prehensile tail. Binturongs and kinkajous (from South America) are the only two carnivores with a prehensile tail. A binturong’s tail is strong enough to support the animal’s body as it hangs from a branch—when it needs to dangle to reach ripened fruit or bird eggs. Binturongs are considered carnivores, yet their diet looks more like that of an omnivore because they eat things other than meat. They will dine on just about anything that doesn’t eat them first, including small birds, small reptiles, amphibians, carrion, and seasonally ripened fruits.

A binturong’s  gastrointestinal tract doesn’t completely digest meals—food travels quickly through their system. But that short time is just long enough for the outer layer of a seed to break down, allowing it to germinate quickly when expelled. A binturong’s scat or waste helps more plants to grow!

Now that you know more about binturongs, we hope you’ll celebrate the very first World Binturong Day by helping us preserve their future. All nine subspecies of binturong are listed as “vulnerable with decreasing populations.” Today, the biggest threat to binturongs (and so many other animals) is loss of habitat for the creation of new palm oil plantations.

Palm oil is the number one ingredient in over half of the products in the average American household today. It’s in just about everything you can imagine: crackers, lipstick, detergent, margarine, shampoo, chocolate, and more! Living without palm oil is not a viable option, but buying products made with a sustainable source of palm oil is. Certified sustainable palm oil and certified sustainable palm kernel oil are produced on plantations that comply with globally agreed upon environmental standards.

There are more than 80 different names for palm oil. This fact alone makes it very difficult for consumers to decipher ingredients on labels. But two free apps—available for all types of smart phones—will help you find and purchase products from companies that use sustainable sources of palm oil.

To find these free apps, search “palm oil” in your app store. Once you learn which products are binturong-friendly, it will make shopping easier and you will not only help the binturong but all the other animals—like orangutans and clouded leopards—that share the same habitat. Happy World Binturong Day!

 

Maureen O. Duryee is a senior animal trainer at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous blog, Clouded Leopard Success.