You can be a hero for wildlife by visiting the Zoo or Safari Park, or by joining the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy, which supports our tiger project in Way Kambas National Park in Sumatra, Indonesia.
Having one offspring of a legendary pair is special. Having THREE is something else altogether. Mek and Paka, a breeding pair of Malayan tigers, are heroes in the fight against extinction. The latest in their long line of offspring, Cinta and Berani, are a pair of 18 month old sub-adult males that just sauntered into the Lost Forest at the San Diego Zoo. Cinta and Berani, aka “the Boys,” were born January 4th 2014 in a four-cub litter that also included two girls.
The addition of the youthful teenagers has been both joyful and a bit nerve-wracking! One particularly heart pounding moment came in the first few weeks of the boys exploring the recently renovated exhibit. At the end of May, Cinta and Berani were wading in the large pool in the lower exhibit when one decided to try to jump up the wall. Easily clearing 10 feet in a single bound, he gently fell back on his feet in the pool and wandered off to explore something else. Even though there was never a chance he could get out of the exhibit, it was still surprising to see how easily he leapt up a sheer wall. This was a true testament to how athletic and powerful these majestic creatures really are.
The exhibit was not the biggest adjustment the boys had to make. Their brother Conner, twice their age and a quarter larger in size, is an imposing and dominant male. Connor made it his mission to scent mark the entire exhibit thoroughly. This marking can last for a month. While the boys are never in the same exhibit as Connor, they know he is around and they had to adjust to seeing and smelling a much larger male. This certainly put the boys in a nervous state, leading to some funny interactions and behaviors early on. Both Berani and Cinta were on high alert the first day they and Connor were out on their exhibits for the first time. They could see Connor through the double fence and never once turned their backs on him the entire day. All the while, Connor just sat on his rock, welcoming the new kids to the block.
Once things settled down and all the tigers were getting comfortable with their surroundings, we all moved on to the next phase, exhibit swapping. Both Connor and the boys have now had time in each of the two sections of the redesigned tiger exhibit and they are noticeably calmer as a result. Connor, still a relatively young male himself, continues to show his youthful attitude and exuberance for life. On the first night of Nighttime Zoo, Connor decided to put on a show. He managed to create his own version of The Bellagio water show by ripping up a water line to his drinker. Water sprayed everywhere and one happy tiger got to play in it. The repairs were made the next day and after a short test, Cinta and Berani were swapped into the previously flooded exhibit. They decided to team up and proceeded to tear the water line out of the drinker, just after it got repaired! I guess the boys think imitation is the best form of flattery.
Connor has reclaimed his renovated digs on Tiger Trail in the Lost Forest. #caturday (Pic by Mike Wilson) A photo posted by San Diego Zoo (@sandiegozoo) on
Just two months in with our rambunctious family of brothers, Connor, Cinta and Berani are all adjusting. The family fun and adventure shall continue!
Aimee Goldcamp is a keeper at the San Diego Zoo.
Summer is in full swing and you know what that means–pool parties! And not just for us; many animals also enjoy the life aquatic. Enjoy this roundup of animals who take to water like moths to flame.
Hippos are water fiends. They’re actually adapted for life in the water and are found living in slow-moving rivers and lakes in Africa. With their eyes, ears, and nostrils on the top of the head, hippos can hear, see, and breathe while most of their body is underwater.
Our behemoth pachyderm friends also don’t hate water. Elephants often spray themselves with water or roll in the mud or dust for protection from the sun and biting insects. They can also use their trunks as periscopes to breathe underwater, which is quite possibly one of the coolest adaptations ever.
Polar bears practically live a perpetual pool party. The taxonomic name for polar bears is Ursus maritimus, which means sea bear, a fitting name for these champion swimmers. They have been known to swim more than 60 miles without rest in search of food, using their broad front feet for paddling and their back legs like rudders to steer.
Jaguars would show you up at any pool party with their swimming prowess, helped along by super muscular limbs and large paws to paddle with. In fact, they typically live near water and have a taste for aquatic creatures. Jaguars have even been observed sitting quietly at the water’s edge, occasionally tapping the surface with their tail to attract fish.
Otters are the only species in the weasel family that enjoys constant pool parties. They spend most of their lives in water, and they’re built for it. Their streamlined bodies are perfect for diving and swimming. They also have webbed feet and can close off their ears and nose as they swim underwater. Otters can also see just as well underwater as they can above, and can stay submerged for five to eight minutes.
Most birds are masters of the skies, but penguins prefer the sea. Penguins are fast swimmers allowing them to catch a variety of prey including sardines and anchovies, as well as squid and crustaceans.
Much like jaguars, tigers don’t shy away from a good dip in the water. Excellent and powerful swimmers, tigers are often found during the day relaxing or waiting to ambush prey in ponds, streams, and rivers.
Gharials, like all crocodilians, are born knowing how to swim. As they grow older they become incredibly agile swimmers, moving through the water with ease by using their powerful, oar-like tails and strongly-webbed hind feet.
Can you think of any other animals who love water? Let us know in the comments.
Matt Steele is senior social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read his previous post, Myths About Rhino Horn That Need To Go Away.
Ever wonder what the day of a tiger keeper is like? Here at the Safari Park, our day starts early – at 6 a.m.! When we arrive, our first order of business is to bring all of the cats that spent the night outside on exhibit into the eight bedrooms inside the tiger house.
People often think it might be difficult to convince them to come in from their beautiful and spacious exhibits, but the truth is, they usually come running. That’s because they know that once they’re inside, it’s time for breakfast! All of the cats get between 4.5 to 6 lbs. of ground meat daily, and we typically like to divide their diet up into two to three feedings throughout the day. This allows us more opportunity to work with the cats, and it also helps to make their day a bit more interesting. We’ll often use their breakfast to work on some of their trained behaviors, or as a reward for simple desensitization, such as for blood draws, temperatures, or even just for sitting comfortably inside their transport crate. During that first meal of the day, we also take the opportunity to visually inspect them, and make sure all is well.
Once everyone is satiated, we head out to inspect the exhibits. First, we of course make sure they’re clean and safe for the cats, and then it’s time to add enrichment! Enrichment refers to anything we can incorporate into the tigers’ day to make their lives more fun, interesting, or challenging. On exhibit, that can involve anything from scattering some treats to encourage foraging behavior, to simply spraying various scents on logs, rocks, or substrates. Sometimes we’ll even use products from other animals, such as ocelot bedding, rhino dung, or hair that’s been shed by our camels. This way, their exhibits always offer them something new to explore.
When the exhibits are ready, it’s time to send some of the cats outside. As another way to keep things interesting, the cats are all rotated daily, between the three exhibits and the eight bedrooms inside. That way, no one is in the same place for two days in a row! The cats that stay inside for the day also have their bedrooms cleaned and well-stocked with enrichment, ranging from heavy-duty tiger toys, to scented paper bags or cardboard boxes. Coming up with novel ways to present these items is always very enriching for us as keepers too! As a keeper, it’s a highlight to watch Delta rolling happily on her rosemary bedding, or one of the boys tackling their favorite “weebil” toy.
Once the rest of our work is done, it’s time for record keeping. Not only do our tigers have twelve different keepers taking care of them, but veterinarians, nutritionists, researchers, and reproductive physiologists also keep tabs on the cats. For that reason, keeping detailed notes is a very important part of our job. We have record books, training and enrichment logs, and daily reports that help everyone track and monitor necessary information. Throughout the day, the keepers also do various training demonstrations with the tigers on exhibit. This allows our guests to view some of the cats’ husbandry behaviors and have a better understanding of how we interact with them, but it also provides our tigers with the best possible care.
If you’re interested in tiger training, enrichment, or even general husbandry, be sure to come and visit us on Wednesday, July 29th for Global Tiger Day. There will be keeper talks, training demonstrations, and enrichment releases for everyone to enjoy… especially the cats! We hope to see you there.
Lori Hieber is senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s curator of mammals, Randy Rieches, has had a fruitful career breeding, protecting, and conserving wildlife here at home as well as in the wild. His latest project to help establish a tiger field conservation project led him all the way to Indonesia, where the situation for tigers is grim. I was able to ask Randy a few questions about his adventure and quickly learned that it was no walk in the park, proving once again that wildlife conservation, while incredibly important, isn’t always glamorous work.
1. What was the purpose of your trip?
I was sent to attend a meeting with Sumatran tiger and rhino conservationists working in Indonesia to find out who we could best partner with in Sumatra on our Sumatran tiger conservation work, which includes setting camera traps to monitor the tiger and rhino populations and studying behavior to better understand where to focus our efforts.
2. What kind of wildlife did you encounter on your trip?
Most of the trip was in the city, however, when we flew to Sumatra we went out to SRS and saw the Sumatran rhinos at the center, which was incredible. In the mornings as we walked on the edge of the forest we were serenaded by primates watching us from the tree tops and even had a very spooky encounter with a Sumatran tiger. As we walked down a path at 6:30 in the morning, we heard a low, guttural growl, which stopped all three of us in our tracks. We listened for a little while when we heard it again right off of the path in the forest. We started backing away very slowly all the while listening to see if it was following us. Luckily, it was not, and we moved off quite quickly. Most likely it was a female with cubs that was telling us not to come any closer, otherwise I am sure we would have had a worse encounter.
3. What kind of challenges did you face in the wild of Sumatra?
It is quite hot and humid and when it rains in Sumatra, it’s like someone turned a garden hose on you. However, I still think the leeches were the most challenging part of the trip.
4. What was the most memorable moment of the trip?
Seeing the Sumatran rhinos at SRS was incredible, but I will never forget the encounter with the tiger on our morning walk.
5. What did the trip accomplish, or what do you hope it will accomplish in the future?
We met some dedicated conservationists working in the field that we will be working with us to set camera traps to look at the number of Sumatran tigers, the prey base that they feed on, and also get a count on rhinos as well. Overall, the best accomplishment was meeting tiger people and building relationships with them which will streamline our efforts in the region.
Matt Steele is senior social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read his previous blog, Myths About Rhino Horn That Need to Go Away.
There’s no doubt that domestic cats are cute and cuddly, but when it comes to their wild brothers and sisters, we strongly advise keeping your hands to yourself.
With two- to three-inch long canine teeth, Connor would rather chow down than cuddle with you.
We suggest you steer clear of Nindiri, or suffer the same fate as this poor rabbit.
Kamari might look cute, but servals are perhaps the best hunters in the cat world. They make a kill in about half of all tries, which means you probably wouldn’t survive a snuggle session.
The legendary snow leopard is rarely seen by humans. Cuddling with one? Don’t kid yourself.
One look at Teddy and you know he isn’t in the mood for some TLC.
With the ability to reach speeds of up to 70 miles per hour, you don’t want to be on the receiving end of this cheetah’s gaze.
If you’re thinking “Aw, this looks just like my fluffy Felix,” think again—fishing cats can be very aggressive.
Izu barely has enough patience for his cubs, so he probably isn’t interested in your warm embrace either.
The same is true for Oshana.
Mountain lion, puma, cougar, panther—this cat is known by more names than just about any other mammal—”cuddle buddy” isn’t one of them.
Jenn Beening is the social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous post, 11 Incredibly Awesome Animal Moms.
It’s no secret that the demand for rhino horn is responsible for the current poaching crisis, but where does the demand come from? Sadly, a few misguided myths about rhino horn are responsible for the systematic destruction of this majestic creature, and it’s about time they go away for good.
Rhino Horn Is Medicine
Perhaps the most pervasive, destructive myth about rhino horn is that it has medicinal qualities. Rhino horn is made of keratin, which is the same material as our fingernails. Despite having no proven medicinal value, rhino horn concoctions have been prescribed in traditional Asian medicine for about 2,000 years, but until the late 1800s, the effect on the species was manageable. By the early 1900s, however, extensive trophy hunting had been added to the mix, decimating rhino populations. Furthermore, in 2008, the perfect storm to annihilate rhinos was unleashed. According to an article in The Atlantic magazine, a rumor swept across Vietnam that imbibing crushed rhino horn cured a politician’s cancer.
Rhino Horn is an Aphrodisiac
Not too dissimilar from the belief in the curative abilities of rhino horn, some cultures believe that rhino horn can serve as an aphrodisiac. Multiple scientific studies have proven that this belief couldn’t be further from the truth.
Rhino Horn is a Party Drug
Some insist that the demand for rhino horn has an even more nefarious purpose: ground into a powder, the horn is considered a party drug in Asia, much like cocaine, except without the pharmaceutical effects (imagine grinding your fingernails into a powder). Some mix the powder with alcohol (one Vietnamese news site called the luxury potion “the drink of millionaires”), others even snort the powder like snuff.
Rhino Horn Makes Nice Trinkets
Another cause for the senseless slaughter of rhinos is the desire to fashion horns into all kinds of trinkets, from cups and dagger handles to figurines. Despite the ready availability of better alternatives, many cultures continue to exalt rhino horn trinkets as symbols of class.
Please help us debunk these myths once and for all and stop the senseless slaughter of rhinos. Write “Stop Killing Rhinos” on your hand and post a photo on Instagram or Twitter with the #rally4rhinos hashtag. See your photo in the gallery, and visit rally4rhinos.org for more info about the plight of rhinos and ways you can help. Thanks for joining the fight!
Matt Steele is senior social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read his previous post, 11 Bellies You Really Need to Rub.
It’s time to stop the merciless killing of rhinos. Join us on Endangered Species Day, May 15, 2015, as we #Rally4Rhinos the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
It’s estimated that a rhino is poached every 8 hours. At this rate, rhinos could become extinct in 15 years.
In total, there are less than 30,000 rhinos remaining on Earth.
A group of rhinos is sometimes called a “crash.”
All rhinos are herbivores.
Rhino gestation lasts 15 to 16 months. The only animal with a longer pregnancy is the elephant.
Newborn calves are able to stand on their feet and start to nurse two to three hours after birth.
Because rhinos are very nearsighted, they often charge when startled; in the wild, rhinos have been observed charging at boulders or trees.
The biggest threat to rhinos is humans; civil war in their native lands and poaching for their horns has decimated wild populations.
Rhino horn is made of keratin, the same material as our fingernails.
The demand for rhino horn has gone from subsistence hunting by locals to highly organized international crime rings.
In 2014, the toll from poaching was the worst yet: a horrifying 1,215 rhinos were killed in South Africa.
Close to 100 known rhino species have existed. Today, only five continue the line: two native to Africa (black and white) and three native to Asia (Greater one-horned, Javan and Sumatran).
The rhino’s ancestors walked the Earth 55 million years ago.
Black, white and Sumatran rhinos have two horns; Javan and greater one-horned rhinos have one.
Despite their name, black rhinos and white rhinos are the same color – brownish gray.
Black rhinos can reach speeds of up to 40 miles per hour (64 kilometers per hour).
Standing at up to 6 feet (1.8 meters) at the shoulder, white rhinos are the largest rhino species and the second largest land mammal.
White rhino males can be persistent, with courtship lasting 5 to 20 days.
There are only five northern white rhinos remaining on the planet. One of them, an elderly female named Nola, lives at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
The three Asian rhinos use enlarged incisors or tusks, rather than their horns, when fighting or defending territory.
All three Asian rhino species are excellent swimmers.
Sumatran rhinos are the smallest of the five rhino species and the only type covered with a coat of shaggy hair.
Through collaborative, science-based, multidisciplinary conservation efforts at the Safari Park, we have successfully added the births of 93 southern white rhinos, 66 greater one-horned rhinos, and 13 black rhinos to the worldwide population.
Lend a hand to save rhinos. Write “STOP KILLING RHINOS” on your hand and post your photo to Instagram or Twitter with the #Rally4Rhinos hashtag. Participants are automatically entered to win two beautiful rhino paintings by Jeremy Donovan Rohr. Learn more HERE.
Jenn Beening is the social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. See her previous post, Best of Vine: Safari Park.
The male jaguar cub at the San Diego Zoo is getting a lot of attention for his off-the-charts cute ratings, but this little boy needs a name. Animal care staff have worked together to come up with a list of possibilities and now we want to hear what you think. Vote here.
The jaguars at the Zoo are just three of the jaguars that San Diego Zoo Global is working with. Scientist Mathias Tobler, Ph.D, has spent more than 10 years working in the Peruvian Amazon. He is using radiotelemetry, GPS collars, and camera traps to study jaguars and other keystone species’ role in the Amazonian ecosystem. Tobler is using this technology to learn about how undisturbed populations of jaguars use their habitat, their movement patterns, home-range size, density, and their foraging ecology to create a baseline to evaluate future impacts on this species caused by human development. This data will help to inform conservation decisions and recommend ways to mitigate impacts to wildlife during the planning stages of development projects near the most pristine and bio-diverse terrestrial ecosystem on Earth.
At San Diego Zoo Global we’re working to understand jaguars, as well as pumas, peccary and tapirs, and have seen improvements in the techniques of capturing, tracking and observing animals. It has also been noticed by the Peruvian government and the research team has been asked to advise Peruvian officials on monitoring systems for animals in this area.
Studying jaguars in the Peruvian Amazon is just one example of how San Diego Zoo Global is working to #endextinction for endangered species. To find out more about this project and others please visit these resources:
Matt Steele is senior social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read his previous post, 11 Bellies You Really Need to Rub.
Disclaimer: These are wild animals, and must be treated as such. That doesn’t mean we can’t pretend.
You know you really want to rub this little spotted belly…
and this meer belly…
and this Andean bear belly…
and this polar pot belly…
and this panda paunch.
Aisha’s little red tummy is just asking for a good rub.
Jaguar cub Maderas (born at the Zoo in 2012) had perhaps the most rub-able belly of all.
But Nindiri’s latest cub definitely gives Maderas a run for her money in the belly department.
When Mr. Wu was a cub had the cutest panda pot belly ever.
And he still does.
Joanne’s fuzzy little tummy is just screaming “rub me!”
Just look at it.
Lion cubs Ken & Dixie were not lacking in the cute belly department.
Izu seems to disagree.
But seriously, Mr. Wu just might be the winner of cutest belly ever.
Case in point.
Actually, maybe it’s a tie.
Yep, definitely a tie.
Matt Steele is senior social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read his previous post, 7 Animals That Look Like Star Wars Characters.