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.
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.
April 12- 18 is National Volunteer Appreciation Week, and in the spirit of the celebration, we want to shout out to the world how truly invaluable and inspiring San Diego Zoo Global’s volunteers are. At the current time, we have over 1200 active volunteers in our system, but over the course of the year that often swells to over 2,000. The ebb and flow comes as extra help is requested for an event or fieldwork—and we always have eager hands ready to help. These amazing people give freely of their energy, expertise, and time—we recently hit one million hours of recorded service!
Our gifted volunteers support all of the staff, from keepers to educators to researchers and beyond! They make enrichment items for the animals, strip the bamboo used to make giant panda bread for Gao Gao, answer “Dear San Diego Zoo” letters from children around the world, help guests find their way at the Zoo and the Park (and give them information that makes their visit even more enjoyable), and more. And if you are one of the 16 million viewers that love our live animal cams, you have volunteers to thank for finding and zooming in on the special moments you can’t see anywhere else.
Through their dedication, energy, and commitment, San Diego Zoo Global volunteers are both invaluable and inspirational. They are truly heroes for wildlife!
To learn more about becoming a San Diego Zoo Global Volunteer, click here.
Wendy Perkins is a staff writer and blog monitor for San Diego Zoo Global.
Four African crested guineafowl gave San Diego Zoo Safari Park guests an unexpected surprise earlier today as they paraded through the Park’s Nairobi Village and delighted onlookers of all ages. The winged animal ambassadors walked at a fast pace along the pathway, checking out their surroundings and boldly approaching guests as their trainers answered questions about the cute and curious birds.
“Our guests really seem to enjoy the guineafowl walking by and many of the visitors join the parade, taking photos and laughing along the way,” said Janet Rose-Hinostroza, animal training supervisor at the Safari Park. “It is so much fun to provide an enriching experience for the guineafowl while also providing our guests with an up-close opportunity to learn about and meet these beautiful and social birds.”
The guineafowl parade is not only enriching for the birds and fun for Safari Park guests to witness, it also gives trainers a chance to demonstrate flocking behavior in birds, a behavior that can be a critical component in the conservation of social bird species.
At the end of the parade, the birds and their trainers stop to allow guests to interact with the foursome. The male birds, named Dasher, Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, were hatched at the Safari Park and are just under a year old. Their sisters, the Spice Girls, are part of the daily Frequent Flyers Bird Show at the Park. Trainers hope to increase the number of birds in the guineafowl parade later this year with, you guessed it, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen and even a “different” species to join the group as Rudolph.
The crested guineafowl is a plentiful species found in sub-Saharan Africa that has been domesticated for years. The guineafowl’s plumage is dark gray to black with whitish spots, and its most recognizable feature is the mop-like crest of black feathers on its head.
Visitors to the Safari Park can see the guineafowl parade daily around 1 p.m. during Butterfly Jungle, now through April 12. At Butterfly Jungle, visitors will be enchanted as thousands of butterflies flutter around them in the Hidden Jungle walk-through aviary, which is also home to lush greenery and exotic birds. The more than 30 species of butterflies highlighted during this year’s Butterfly Jungle hail from Africa, Asia, Indonesia, and Central, South and North America.
The Dalmatian pelican chicks are part of the first North American breeding program for this vulnerable species. Since the breeding program was started in 2006, 34 chicks have been hatched. Because of the success, the Safari Park has sent some of the birds to the Phoenix Zoo, where a second breeding colony is being established.
Dalmatian pelicans are one of the rarest pelican species in the world and the largest of the pelican species. When they fledge at approximately six to seven months, the birds could measure five to six feet in length and have a wingspan of nine to 11 feet. Dalmatian pelicans live and nest in freshwater wetlands and rivers throughout Europe and Asia and have gone extinct in some of their native regions. The loss of numbers is due to damage of the delicate wetland habitats that they rely on for breeding and raising chicks.
Fish is the primary diet for the Dalmatian pelican, and they often must compete for food with fishing enterprises. In certain areas, they are hunted as a food source and for their bills, which herders use to comb horses.
Guests at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park can see Dalmatian pelicans in the middle of the large pond in the South African exhibit when they take the African Tram Safari.
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 17, 2015 by Tammy Spratt, San Diego Zoo
The flock of small parrots living in the Lorikeet Landing habitat of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park are back in their aviary and ready to greet guests beginning on Sunday, February 22. The aviary was closed and the group of nectar-feeding birds has been residing in a behind-the-scenes enclosure as animal care staff undertook thorough medical exams and an upgrade to the habitat.
Twenty out of the flock of 60 birds received both an oral and injectable vaccine at the hospital over the last couple of days. The remainder will be vaccinated soon. The newly developed vaccine, technically an autogenous bacterin, was administered with the hopes that it will help protect the birds from future effects of salmonella infections.
“We recently lost some birds to salmonella.” Said Bruce Rideout, DVM, Ph.D, Director of the wildlife disease laboratories for San Diego Zoo Global. “Although unfortunate, we were able to use this loss to take biological samples necessary for isolating the bacteria. These samples became the basis for the vaccine.”
To develop the vaccine Safari Park veterinarians collaborated with scientists at the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine Infectious Disease Lab. Bacteria isolated from infected birds at the Safari Park were inactivated and provided the basis for vaccine development. Vaccinations are an important part of the effort to conserve species both in zoos and in the wild and are a tool that becomes particularly important when facing the threat of an emerging disease or a disease (like West Nile Virus) that has newly arrived in a location.
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.
Nola, a 40-year-old northern white rhino, underwent a veterinary exam earlier this morning at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, allowing associate veterinarian Meredith Clancy to swab her nostrils to collect mucus samples as keepers Kim Millspaugh and Mike Veale assisted.
The elderly Nola was placed under veterinary care on Saturday after her keepers noticed she had reduced appetite and activity levels and had a thick nasal discharge. The Safari Park’s veterinary team is providing Nola with the optimal care to thrive by giving her an injection of antibiotics to ward off any possible infection and is awaiting results from blood work and today’s nasal samples to determine if further medical treatment is needed.
Nola, who is already being treated for age-related arthritis, has been moved to a heated enclosure inside her Asian Plains field exhibit to provide her comfort from the chilly weather and allow the animal care team to keep close watch over her.
Nola is one of just five northern white rhinos left in the world. Recently, Angalifu, a 44-year-old male northern white rhino who also lived at the Safari Park, died of age-related causes. 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 of an advanced age and have not been able to reproduce. Poaching for its horn has brought the northern white rhino to the brink of extinction.
Photo taken on Dec. 29, 2014, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
This year, the Safari Park baby boom provided over 650 tiny new additions to our animal family, some of which were released into the wild. From cute chicks to courageous calves and cubs, here are some of the noteworthy births we saw in 2014:
The birth of our first Uganda giraffe calf on January 8 was a marvelous way to kick off the New Year. However, shortly after Shani’s calf arrived, keepers noticed the youngster was exhibiting signs of weakness and not eating well. At two weeks old, Leroy was sent to the Safari Park’s Harter Veterinary Medical Center, where he spent 39 days in treatment for a severe bacterial infection. Nursing was impossible, so his human keepers filled in as surrogate parents, bottle-feeding the young calf three to five times a day. After extensive care, Leroy made a full recovery and was welcomed back into his herd with kisses and nose rubs in April.
The endangered Grevy’s zebra population saw a tiny black-and-white boost when Bakavu gave birth to her fifth foal, Tanu, on January 3. Tanu was able to tell his mother apart from other zebras in the herd and knew to stay close to her by memorizing Bakavu’s unique stripe pattern.
Parvesh, which means lord of celebration in Hindi, was born on February 25 to mother Alta and father Bophu. When he was nine weeks old, the greater one-horned rhino calf moved into the Asian Plains habitat and started making his own rules. Parvesh’s charming personality demands the attention of our guests.
When Imani had her first baby on March 12, the 18-year-old mother had to be sedated and whisked to the Harter Veterinary Medical Center for an emergency C-section. The fragile infant, named Joanne, stayed at the veterinary hospital for round-the-clock care. Due to the long labor, Joanne was having trouble breathing, and it turned out that she had a collapsed lung and pneumonia. Twelve days later, the baby was laid down in a nest of soft hay in the gorilla bedroom, and Imani was let in. The moment Joanne was reunited with her mother will forever live in our hearts. This gorilla’s story was (and still is) incredible.
Ruuxa and Raina became an overnight sensation. The six-week-old cheetah cub and seven-week-old Rhodesian ridgeback were the youngest animal ambassador pairing since the program began. Shortly after their introduction, Ruuxa underwent surgery to repair a growth abnormality in his limbs. Raina, whose name means guardian, stayed by the cheetah cub’s side throughout the procedure and continues to be an attentive and loyal friend.
Gestation for okapis can last from 14 to 16 months, so the birth of Jackson in July was a highly anticipated event. The curious calf stayed close to his mother but kicked his way into our hearts as well.
Our very first wattled crane chick shuffled its way into our hearts this summer. Wattled cranes are the rarest crane species found in Africa, so this chick was (and still is) a treasure.
We have a total of 134 Ugandan giraffes and 23 reticulated giraffes, but the births of Gowon and Kamau in July marked the first time Masai giraffes have been born at the Safari Park. While Masai giraffes are the most populous of the subspecies, all wild populations have decreased significantly since the late 1990s, due to habitat loss and competition with livestock for resources. Both are aptly named in the Masai language: Gowon (pronounced Go-wan) means maker of rain and Kamau (pronounced Kam-mao) means little warrior.
Four little rascals debuted at Lion Camp this fall and almost doubled the size of our pride. Cubs Ernest, Evelyn, Marion, and Miss Ellen were born on June 22 but spent several months bonding with their mother, Oshana, behind the scenes. The cubs now spend their days pouncing, climbing, and testing the patience of their big cat parents.
Ayanna and Bahati received around-the-clock care at our Animal Care Center for the past few months. The cubs were born at the Safari Park’s Cheetah Breeding Center to Allie, but animal care staff decided to hand-rear the females because their mother has been unsuccessful with previous litters. Now, the female cubs have advanced in their training and have moved to different areas of the Park, awaiting their puppy companions.
Luke has been turning heads since his arrival in September. For decades, we’ve successfully bred over 20,000 rare and endangered animals, including 278 ellipsen waterbuck, but Luke is the first-ever animal born at the Park with a condition that causes him to have reduced pigmentation. He’s a stand-out guy and receives a lot of attention from guests taking a ride on the Africa Tram.
Our 67th greater one-horned rhino, named Petunia, debuted in the Asian Plains exhibit after one month of close care. The calf weighed only 128 pounds (58 kilograms) at birth, which is small for her species, so animal care staff kept a 24-hour watch on the newborn until she was ready to leave her protected yard in September. Petunia and her mother, Tanaya, have been blooming and exploring their 40-acre (16 hectares) home since.
Did you hear? Our satellite herd at the Reid Park Zoo in Tuscon, Arizona, got an adorable little boost with big ears this year. The African elephant calf named Nandi is doing well and enjoying time with her herd at the Click Family Elephant Care Center.
Four adorable cheetah cubs were born to first-time mother Addison in July at our off-site breeding center. Wgasa, Reu, Pumzika, Mahala, and their mother moved into the Okvango Outpost (and our hearts) last month. It’s certainly wonderful to see so many spots and to watch a cheetah mother raising her cubs.
Jenn Beening is the social media specialist for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous post, 10 Festive Reindeer Facts.
An African lion’s life is typically all about sleeping, napping and resting… but that isn’t necessarily true for the Safari Park’s Lion Camp rock stars. Ken and Dixie managed to start a secret Bite Club in their spare time. Keep reading for the official rules.
The 1st rule of Bite Club is, you don’t talk about Bite Club.
Photo by Ion Moe
The 2nd rule is, you DO NOT talk about Bite Club.
A few practice chomps or chews are permitted before the bite begins.
Photo by Bob Worthington
Stalking your bite is optional.
Photo by Angie Bell
If a cub taps out or keepers call for lunch, the bite is over.
Two cubs to a bite.
No paws, no cheap shots.
Bites will go on as long as they have to.
No enrichment or outside items.
If this is your first time at Bite Club, you have to bite.
Photo by Nathan Rupert
For more lion cub fun, watch the video below.
*Jenn Beening is the social media specialist for San Diego Zoo Global.