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11 Animals That Feast Together

Mealtime is a profoundly social activity, and humans aren’t the only species that come together to satiate their nutritional needs. As we prepare to give thanks around heaping tables of festive cooking, let’s consider our friends in the animal kingdom that can also appreciate a meal together.

Lions | 11 Animals That Feast Together

A king may lead a pride of lions, but it’s the females that bring home the actual bacon (aka food). Their smaller and lighter physique makes lionesses more agile and faster when it comes to catching prey. Dinner typically comes at dusk and dawn, after the group takes down and sometimes relocates their meal to a safe spot for feasting.

Zebra | 11 Animals That Feast Together

Herd animals, like zebras, mow the fields together as a group, in part because herd immunity makes larger groups of prey harder to attack. Since zebras are grazing and grinding food for hours each day, their teeth have adapted to grow throughout their lifetime.

Meerkat | 11 Animals That Feast Together

Meerkat mobs understand the value in numbers. Even though individuals typically find their own food, meerkats sometimes share the task of capturing and enjoying larger prey, such as lizards. Let’s be honest—humans typically don’t gather their extended family together for every meal (could you imagine?), but special seasonal moments unite our gang in a similar fashion.

Dholes | Animals That Feast Together

Like other dogs, dholes form super packs that hunt together. Packs range from 5 to 12 members, but sometimes groups will join forces to hunt and share prey before separating into their original smaller packs. This is similar to those distant relatives who come home once or twice a year, if only to score a huge holiday meal.

Gorillas | 11 Animals That Feast Together

In contrast, gorilla troops travel, sleep, and eat together on a regular basis. A gorilla’s diet is made up of primarily plant material, so luckily for them, the forest they call home is like a huge restaurant buffet. Habitat destruction is a major threat facing species like gorillas, so we must work together to preserve the forests these primates and many others feast on.

Orangutan | 11 Animals That Feast Together

Orangutans tend to be more solitary and relaxed than other great ape species, like Thanksgiving dinner party on chill mode. Troop members would rather feed together peacefully, keeping an eye on the youngsters, than swing from tree to tree in search of fruit.

Elephants | 11 Animals That Feast Together

Like gorillas, elephants live in close social groups and graze for browse together to satisfy their healthy appetites. Unlike other mammals, elephants grow throughout their lifetime, so you can imagine how large their habitat needs to be. And like gorilla habitats, we have to do a better job at protecting these areas.

Spotted hyenas | 11 Animals That Feast Together

Spotted hyenas do more than just scavenge for meals together. The bigger the clan, the larger its prey—including young rhinos, wildebeests, zebras, and cape buffalo. After they bag a meal, hyenas bring new meaning to the phrase “lick the plate clean” and eat practically every part of the animal, including the skin, hooves, bone, and teeth. Yum!

Vultures | 11 Animals That Feast Together

Vultures tend to look at any meal as a Thanksgiving meal, because they never know when or where the next one will take place. Once carrion is located, the information is relayed quickly and quietly to surrounding birds, and masses land to join the feast. For nature’s cleanup crew, you don’t want to be the last to the table.

Flamingos | 11 Animals That Feast Together

Flamingos may be pretty in pink, but large swaths of birds, sometimes referred to as a flamboyance, share the same shallow muck during mealtimes. In other words, every bird double dips. Their eating habits involve a lot of backwash, but their bills are specifically designed to filter out mud and trap tiny morsels, including algae, diatoms, and small aquatic crustaceans.

Przewalski's horse | 11 Animals That Feast Together

Mongolian wild horses, aka Przewalski’s horses, live in distinct social groups that spend large amounts of time grooming one another. When they aren’t reinforcing social bonds and keeping each other clean and tidy, members all graze and rest together, too.

 

Join the conversation: Which animals would you add to this list of social eaters?

 

Jenn Beening is the social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous post, 14 Adorable Baby Animal Facts.

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Fifty-Eight and Looking Great: San Diego Zoo Safari Park Celebrates Birthday of Matriarch Gorilla

The matriarch of the western lowland gorilla troop at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park snacks on an ice cupcake this morning, during a celebration to mark her 58th birthday. The Safari Park’s Nutrition Services department made an elaborate ice cake, but Vila (pronounced VEE-la) was more interested in the tiny treats of frozen fruit frosted with pureed banana and sweet potatoes. Vila is one of the world’s oldest-known gorillas, believed to have been born in October of 1957 in the Congo. She is the matriarch of five generations, and she has served as a surrogate mother for several hand-raised western lowland gorillas during her lifetime. Despite her advancing age, she is in excellent health and continues to thrive at the Safari Park. A crowd of guests and volunteers watched while Vila and the other seven gorillas at the Safari Park foraged for treats throughout their entire habitat, which included cardboard tubes made to look like ears of corn filled with broccoli, special plant cuttings, gift boxes and messages written in peanut butter on a mirror hung in a tree. Keepers also wrote birthday messages and drew festive pictures in chalk, on the rock walls of the habitat.

Vila snacked on an ice cupcake during a celebration to mark her 58th birthday.

One of the world’s oldest known gorillas celebrated her 58th birthday this morning at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Vila (pronounced VEE-la) is believed to have been born in October of 1957 in the Congo. After arriving in the United States, Vila was hand-raised at the San Diego Zoo and then moved to the Safari Park, where she has lived since 1975. Vila is the matriarch of five generations, and she has served as a surrogate mother for several hand-raised western lowland gorillas during her lifetime.

The celebration for Vila and the seven other gorillas in her troop was big—the exhibit was filled with enrichment items ranging from a cardboard zebra to messages written in peanut butter, streamers and the Nutritional Services department’s signature ice cake. However, it was the smaller ice cupcakes that caught Vila’s eye upon entering the exhibit, and she stood on her legs and reached up to the top of a rock to get two of the tiny treats of frozen fruit, frosted with pureed banana and sweet potatoes. Another favorite food is popcorn and Vila worked to get every last piece from a narrow-necked bottle filled with the air-popped treat.

The enrichment items, which included several cardboard tubes made to look like ears of corn, were created by volunteers at the Safari Park and placed around the entire exhibit. The Nutritional Services department created the frozen treats and the Horticulture department provided special cuttings from plants for the party. Keeper staff was tasked with placing everything on exhibit and setting out the gorilla troop’s usual daily food. Keepers also wrote birthday messages and drew festive pictures in chalk, on the rock walls of the habitat.

Vila, despite being one of the oldest-known gorillas, is in excellent health and continues to thrive at the Safari Park. Keepers say that while she is slower than she used to be, she still plays with the young male gorillas, Frank and Monroe. She has had no recent health issues and is given a daily vitamin, medicine for arthritis and a baby aspirin, for preventive measure.

There are three other western lowland gorillas that are close in age to Vila. One lives at the Columbus Zoo in Ohio (born at the Columbus Zoo in December 1956), one at the Little Rock Zoo in Arkansas (estimated to have been born in 1957, and arrived in the US in June 1958) and one at the Berlin Zoo in Germany (estimated to have been born in 1957, and arrived at the Berlin Zoo in May 1959).

The Safari Park cares for eight western lowland gorillas—an adult male silverback, four adult females, two young males and one young female, who made international news when she was delivered via caesarean section in 2014.

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 30, 2015 by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Safari Park

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

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Gorilla Bachelors: A Day in the Life

Maka is the leader of the Zoo's gorilla bachelor troop.

Maka is the leader of the Zoo’s gorilla bachelor troop.

A typical day in the life of the San Diego Zoo’s bachelor brothers, 20-year-old Maka, 13-year-old Mandazzi, and 9-year-old Ekuba includes both some outdoor exhibit time and indoor bedroom time. On this sample day, they are scheduled to go outside in the morning, and our breeding troop will go out in the afternoon. After an early morning wake up to check on how everyone is feeling, a heart-healthy breakfast of low-starch biscuits and their favorite banana leaf browse, it’s time for keepers to head out to clean and set up the exhibit for the day. Keeping the boys active and engaged is a top priority; it’s one of the highlights of my day and most certainly theirs, too!

We have a wonderful and creative team of enrichment volunteers that keep our gorillas well-stocked with fun items like painted gourds, boxes, papier-maché and burlap bags, perfume-scented pine cones, bamboo cups for gelatin or peanut butter, palm husk baskets and comfy hay beds to sleep on (they even take special requests for birthday parties or upcoming holiday themes!)In addition to the enrichment, we also set out plenty of fresh cut browse. The boys get a total of 12 branches of a variety of browse delivered daily by our hard-working forage team. Willow, mulberry, and rusty-leaf fig are always a huge hit!  After we top off the exhibit with a liberal sprinkling of cereal to increase foraging, it’s time for the boys to head outside.

As is the case with all of our primates, the gorillas are part of an extensive training program that allows us to give them excellent medical care. On their way outside, each one of the boys stop in a chute and are asked for a variety of behaviors that allow us to get a good look at them one-on-one and address any issues. For example, we might notice Mandazzi has a hang nail and dry heels, so we file the nail and apply lotion to his feet; Ekuba needs a quick tooth brushing; and Maka has a minor cut on his arm that we will irrigate to promote faster healing. These are a just a few of the over 20 behaviors the gorillas know. This individual time keeps them in top form and develops an invaluable relationship of trust between gorilla and keeper. And it doesn’t hurt that they get yummy fruit and nut pieces hand fed to them during these daily check-ups!

Once outside, the boys enjoy their enrichment and foraging time, check in with a few devoted friends on the other side of the glass (our guests!) and settle in for a mid-morning nap next to the rushing sound of the waterfalls. Like all primates, gorillas like to eat throughout the day, so every couple of hours more food and treats are distributed by a keeper from the roof of the building. The boys each have their favorite “spot” to be in while the food is delivered. Maka usually prefers to hang back either on the “point” or along the side near the waterfalls to keep an eye on things. Ekuba takes the requisite spot between his big brothers, and Mandazzi, ever the foodie, likes to be front and center catching all of his food like a pro center fielder. In addition to fresh produce like yams, broccoli, snap peas, jicama. and green peppers, the boys get treats like peanut butter covered pine cones or Crystal Light-flavored ice treats. This enrichment requires a lot of time to enjoy, so they are occupied until their early afternoon naptime rolls around.

Keepers describe Mandazzi as a "foodie".

Keepers describe Mandazzi as a “foodie”; he’s also usually the first one into the bedrooms at the end of the day.

By mid-afternoon, when the bedrooms have been cleaned and the bedding re-fluffed, it’s time for the boys to come in so that our other troop can head outside. Mandazzi is almost always the first one in. His eager attitude has made him our star patient in training for voluntary cardiac ultrasounds. He has an appointment this afternoon and our veterinarian is already staging the scene. Heart disease is a major concern for adult male gorillas. To help with early identification and treatment of this disease, all four adult male gorillas at the Zoo are trained to allow us to “see” how their hearts are functioning.

Mandazzi comes up to the front of his room where the veterinarian and keeper are set up, positions himself with his chest flush against the mesh separating his space from ours, and an ultrasound probe is placed against his chest to capture images while a keeper gives him treats. Depending on the position and length of time we need him to hold the position, keepers offer the gorilla juice from a squirt bottle, applesauce from a spoon, or hand feed pieces of fruit and nuts. Mandazzi did great and three different angles of his heart were recorded today. He gets a few more treats from a happy veterinarian and then it’s time for second lunch and more fun enrichment!

While inside, the gorillas often get very messy enrichment. There are piles of shredded paper or pine shaving with raisins to dig through. Magazines are sprinkled with seeds and spices and ready to be torn up. Often, their produce and hay is fed out in puzzle feeders that take time to manipulate. With a nature DVD playing on their wall-mounted flat screen TVs and a pile of cardboard boxes to dig through, the boys are busy right up until late afternoon nap time. After a power nap, the boys get another round of browse to strip and eat while the day keeper finishes her/his tasks and updates the evening keeper that takes over the area. As the sun sets, the boys get ready for their evening routine— and more food!

Peaceable, laid-back Ekuba has the ability to enter his brothers' bedrooms at night.

Peaceable, laid-back Ekuba has the ability to enter his brothers’ bedrooms at night.

Each of the boys has their own room at night. They are fed in their separate rooms to make sure everyone gets their fair share. Afterwards, the doors between rooms are opened wide enough for little, peacekeeping Ekuba to mingle. This allows for some socializing but still gives both of the big boys a peaceful night’s sleep without worrying about the other sneaking into “their” room while they are relaxing. Maka is the troop leader, being the oldest brother, but Mandazzi already outweighs him and we are always aware of the possibility of a coup. No such drama tonight, however. All is quiet as bedding is adjusted and sleepy boys are ready to settle in for the night. After all, tomorrow starts with an early morning keeper wake up call, and big bowl of heart healthy biscuits.

Nerissa Foland is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous blog, Oh, joy—It’s a Boy!

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11 Incredibly Awesome Animal Moms

While baby business in the natural world differs across species, one thing for certain is the fact that moms are awesome. So today, we’re celebrating some of the best mothers we’ve recently observed at the Zoo and Safari Park.

Imani

The heartwarming bond between Imani and Joanne is a wonderful sight, especially given this little gorilla’s story.

Nindiri

7-year-old Nindiri gave birth to her third cub on March 12, 2015. The healthy cub still needs a name, vote for your favorite here.

Funani

Funani is very protective of her latest baby and has kept her calf so close that animal keepers have not been able to determine yet if the calf is male or female.

Pigs

This little piggy went to the market… these little red river piglets were born at the Safari Park last month.

chick-and-Satash

Sisquoc and Shatash’s new condor chick hatched on April 11 is very valuable to the condor population.

Jessica

When baby Denny arrived in December 2014, first-time mother Jessica naturally rose to the occasion of raising her youngster.

Onshe gave birth to her first curious kitten last October. Kamari’s cuteness can be seen in the Zoo’s Kopje area.

Oshana

Oshana the African lioness has had her paws full taking care of a cute quartet of cubs.

addison

First-time mother Addison also welcomed a cute quartet of spots last summer. Keepers describe Addison as an excellent mom, calm, confident and extremely protective.

Petunia

Petunia, born on August 1, 2014 to mother Tayana, was the 67th greater one-horned rhino to be born at the Park since 1975.

Luke

A rare white ellipsen waterbuck calf named Luke stood out among his her, but his mother kept a close watch on her youngster.

 

Jenn Beening is the social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous post, 24 Rhino Facts You Should Know.

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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…

Photo by Cheryl Thiele

Photo by Cheryl Thiele

and this meer belly…

Photo by Helene Hoffman

Photo by Helene Hoffman

and this Andean bear belly…

Photo by Craig Chaddock

Photo by Craig Chaddock

and this polar pot belly…

and this panda paunch.

Aisha’s little red tummy is just asking for a good rub.

Photo by Paul E.M.

Photo by Paul E.M.

Jaguar cub Maderas (born at the Zoo in 2012) had perhaps the most rub-able belly of all.

Photo by Penny Hyde

Photo by Penny Hyde

But Nindiri’s latest cub definitely gives Maderas a run for her money in the belly department.

Photo by Penny Hyde

Photo by Penny Hyde

When Mr. Wu was a cub had the cutest panda pot belly ever.

And he still does.

Photo by Paul E.M.

Photo by Paul E.M.

Joanne’s fuzzy little tummy is just screaming “rub me!”

Just look at it.

Photo by Angie Bell

Photo by Angie Bell

Lion cubs Ken & Dixie were not lacking in the cute belly department.

See?

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.

Photo by Penny Hyde

Photo by Penny Hyde

Yep, definitely a tie.

Photo by Penny Hyde

Photo by Penny Hyde

 

Matt Steele is senior social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read his previous post, 7 Animals That Look Like Star Wars Characters.

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Best of Vine: Safari Park

Nothing says cute like 6-second animal clips! Follow the Safari Park on Vine for more adorable fun.

Jenn Beening is the social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. See her previous post, DIY Succulent Centerpiece.

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A Very Happy First Birthday

Joanne's first birthday is, well, the icing on the cake in her amazing story.

Joanne’s first birthday was, well, the icing on the cake in her amazing story.

March 12 was a big day at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Baby gorilla Joanne turned one year old, and the staff threw her an epic birthday party! Joanne’s first few weeks in this world required a giant team effort. Unable to deliver Joanne on her own, mom Imani had to undergo a C-section. Subsequently, due to minor health complications, Joanne needed around-the-clock care from a team of veterinary staff, keeper staff from both the Safari Park and the Zoo, and human neonatal specialists.

Fittingly, one year later, a second team of enthusiastic people assembled to help celebrate this joyful milestone. Safari Park volunteers and staff from the forage, horticulture, and mammal departments worked hard to transform the gorilla exhibit into a lively birthday bash. Decorations included ice cakes and cupcakes, fresh browse branches, streamers, papier-mâché balloons, colorful chalk drawings, cardboard box gifts and animals, and even an over-sized dollhouse large enough for Joanne and the other two youngsters in the group, six-year-old Frank and three-year-old Monroe, to climb on!

The entire troop partied all morning long, spreading out and claiming different areas of the exhibit and clusters of decorations to explore and enjoy. A lively and vibrant one-year-old, Joanne was able to partake in the festivities right alongside the rest of her family. Her favorite treat items seemed to be the flowering browse branches and the ice cakes, but she was also greatly entertained simply by bouncing around investigating all the colorful décor.

These days we see Joanne becoming a more active member of her gorilla troop. She interacts more often with other individuals besides her mom—including play sessions with Frank and Monroe. She has also shown brave interest in Winston, her rather stoic dad who is not often seen breaking character to fool around with the kids. When not playing with others, Joanne easily entertains herself. You can often see her using Imani as a jungle gym, or climbing up and sliding down ropes and smooth rocks around the exhibit. To a one-year-old gorilla, the world is your playground!

Jami Pawlowski is a keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read her previous post, Baby Joanne’s Growing Diet.

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Best of Vine: Zoo

Do you follow the San Diego Zoo on Vine? If not, you’re missing out on a ridiculous amount of cute. Enjoy this recap of the Zoo’s best Vines ever.

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Matt Steele is senior social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read his previous post, 17 Real Life Angry Birds.

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San Diego Zoo Safari Park Celebrates Gorilla’s First Birthday

Joanne, a western lowland gorilla, digs out the frozen treats inside her first birthday cake Thursday morning at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Joanne, a western lowland gorilla, digs out the frozen treats inside her first birthday cake Thursday morning at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Guests were lined up along the entire gorilla-viewing area this morning at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park to watch the troop’s reaction to the gifts and decorations for Joanne’s first birthday.

The birthday girl rode out on her mother’s back and stayed there while her mother, Imani, swiped up an ice cupcake–made with pureed yams–and hopped down when mom stopped to lick a mirrored toy smeared with peanut butter. The rest of the troop scattered throughout the exhibit to try to find their favorite snacks.

There were two cakes–a large one for the troop—and a smaller, Joanne-sized cake, both colored orange using oranges, orange juice and pureed yams and sweet potatoes. A Safari Park volunteer even made a cardboard doll house for Joanne with the house number “1” on the front.

Animal care staff had drawn “Happy Birthday Joanne” with chalk on the rock walls at the back of the gorilla habitat and filled the grassy yard with gift boxes filled with treats including sunflower seeds, peanuts, fruit slices and vegetables, encouraging the gorillas to forage for their food, which is a natural behavior for this species.

While the entire troop helped to open the boxes placed around the exhibit, Joanne was happy to dig out the fruit and vegetables that were frozen into her cake. She ventured away from Mom and foraged on her own, and could be seen eating flowers from plant trimmings given to the gorillas by Park horticulture staff.

“This is an extra-special first birthday because Joanne did have a very difficult start coming into the world,” said Peggy Sexton, animal care manager at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “She had to be born via C-section, and had some medical problems. But those were all resolved in about 10 days and she was re-introduced to the troop and now she’s just as normal as can be.”

Joanne was born on March 12, 2014, at the Paul Harter Veterinary Hospital via a rare emergency C-section, which was needed due to complications during first-time mother Imani’s labor. After spending 11 days in the hospital, Joanne was strong and healthy enough to travel to the gorilla house to be reunited with her mother and meet the rest of the gorilla troop.

Now a year old, Joanne is very active and can be seen running around the grassy habitat in Gorilla Forest and playing with other members of the troop including youngsters, 3-year-old Monroe and 6-year-old Frank. Keepers say that the young males are eager to interact with Joanne and even though Imani is very protective of her baby, she sometimes lets Frank briefly hold her. Younger male, Monroe, often will play a more mischievous role, poking and peering at Joanne before quickly running away.

While her primary source of nutrition is still from nursing, the growing gorilla is curious of any food items that her mother is eating and will watch as Imani forages, mimicking those behaviors by picking up fruits and veggies on her own.

Joanne was named in honor of Joanne Warren, the first chairwoman of the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.

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 March 12, 2015 by Tammy Spratt, San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291
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13 Animals Grumpier Than Grumpy Cat

Because Tardar Sauce isn’t the only one with grouchy facial expressions…

This mountain lion is ready to pick a fight.

Cougar

photo: Darrell Ybarrondo

And this tiger wants your kid to stop tapping on the glass.

Tiger

photo: Ion Moe

Benzy the honey badger just doesn’t care.

Honeybadger

And guess what? This lemur is not impressed with your fancy camera lens.

Lemur

photo: Ion Moe

Did they seriously just call me a bear? Ugh.

Koala

Don’t these hairless primates know it’s rude to point and stare? Lettuce eat.

Gorillas

photo: Helene Hoffman

This vulture chick doesn’t care about Internet stardom.

Rueppell's vulture chick

And Nindiri has the grumpy cat look down.

Jaguar

photo: Mollie Rivera

But this white-faced saki owns it.

White-faced saki

No feline is more upset than Oshana trying to raise four cubs.

Lion

photo: Bob Worthington

Except maybe this cougar.

Cougar

photo: Craig Chaddock

This is a capuchin’s “happy face.”

Capuchin monkey

And this lion-tailed macaque is smiling for the camera… j/k.

Lion-tailed macaque

Jenn Beening is the social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous post, 9 Exotic Mating Rituals of the Animal Kingdom.