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San Diego Zoo Safari Park

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A Tribute To Nola

We lost an icon on Sunday, November 22: Nola, one of only four northern white rhinos left in the world. Here is part of her story.

For over 26 years, Nola called the San Diego Zoo Safari Park home. As most of us know, she arrived here from the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic in 1989, with her coalition partner, Nadi. Neither female had reproduced; both were entering their late teens, a time when most rhino females have already had several calves. Nola and Nadi took quickly to the large open exhibits of the Safari Park. They learned to enjoy the California sun and the large expansive pond in the exhibit. Unfortunately, they never fulfilled the dreams that researchers, curators and keepers had for them. Neither female showed consistent interest in the male northern white rhinos—Dinka, Saut, and Angalifu—they shared their exhibit with. Very little mating behavior took place, and as a result, the northern white rhino is one of the very few animals we have not bred successfully at the Safari Park.

Jane2

While Nola never had a calf, she always had a following. At first it was her keeper staff who had the opportunity to know her intimately. Nola arrived with a hoof problem that required regular hands-on care. Nola’s nails curved upward, so they did not wear down normally. As a result, keepers had to perform nail trims on her so she could walk less flat-footed—something that, had she been left in the wild, might have led to her early demise. Nola received pedicures throughout her entire life, at the hands of her keepers. Nola learned early on to trust the humans around her—they always looked out for her well-being.

Because Nola was so tractable, she became an artist! A few years ago, she started “painting” by rubbing her horn on canvases with children’s nontoxic paints. Keepers learned that not all children’s paints are the same! She actually had preferences for one brand over another, based on the smell. Rhinos have very good noses, and she made her preferences known. As most of us know, she went on to paint pictures for auctions and rhino fund-raising campaigns. She also painted a piece for the state capitol, which was presented to Toni Atkins, speaker of the California State Assembly.

Jane3

The last group of northern white rhinos in the wild was wiped out by poachers around 2008. But it has been the deaths of three northern white rhinos in zoos that have spurred many people into action. In October 2014, 34-year-old Suni died in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, leaving six northern white rhinos in the world. Then in December 2014, our beloved Angalifu (Angi to his keepers) died here at the Safari Park, leaving five. In July 2015, we lost female Nabire at the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic. She was one of only four northern white rhinos ever born in captivity. And now with the loss of Nola, we are down to three northern white rhinos in existence on the planet, all at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

Where you and I come in is with San Diego Zoo Global’s Rhino Rescue Center. If technology continues down the exponential path it has taken of late, there is hope for the northern white rhino. We already have the DNA of 12 northern white rhinos in our Frozen Zoo®. What we need to do next is develop assisted reproduction techniques, like those we use in humans and other animals. Also, if the northern white rhino is to make a comeback, it is because a southern white rhino helps. The Rhino Rescue Center is home to six southern white rhinos. One of these southern white rhinos could be the surrogate mother for a northern white rhino, carrying the calf for their cousin, and then rearing that calf. It is possible that someday the northern white rhino could make a comeback, right in our own backyard. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

Jane4

Even though Nola has passed, she gives us something to believe in. She gives us hope and love, but most of all she gives us courage. She’s been so strong for the last few months battling her illness. It’s her “I’m not giving up” attitude that has inspired her keepers to keep on. She wasn’t just passing the time: Nola had been living. Yes, she slept in every morning, and we brought her food to her, and we were there to trim her nails. But Nola enjoyed life. She even had a rhino companion: the 46-year-old southern white rhino bull named Chuck. Their relationship was special, and friendly. Nola and Chuck were two very old rhinos that had found a connection at the end of their days. That’s why we worked so hard to keep them happy—they deserved it. Chuck will continue to live in our South Africa exhibit, and you can visit him by taking the Africa Tram Safari or a Caravan Safari.

Here’s my final thought about my friend Nola. I believe God wants us to do what’s right for all species, not just the northern white rhinoceros. Thank you for being part of the team that knows the right thing to do. And thank YOU, world, for caring. What we do does make a difference.

 

Jane Kennedy is lead keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read her previous post, What’s It Like to Work With the Rarest Rhino in the World?

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Northern White Rhino at San Diego Zoo Safari Park Undergoes Procedure for Chronic Infection

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Nola’s procedure went well and she is eating and walking normally.

Nola, a critically endangered 41-year-old northern white rhinoceros who has been under medical care since early September, underwent a surgical procedure earlier today at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Veterinarians caring for the elderly Nola had performed multiple procedures and diagnostic tests over the past few months to pinpoint the source of a chronic draining tract near her right hip. A perirectal abscess—a large accumulation of infectious material in the tissues around the rectum—was identified deep to the animal’s pelvis using ultrasound, and was surgically drained earlier this morning.

“Using local anesthesia and a mild sedative, we were able to access the area of infection and establish drainage,” said Nadine Lamberski, associate director of veterinary services, San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “We hope this procedure will resolve the infection Nola has had for many months now, and she certainly should feel better in the days to come.”

To perform the procedure, Nola was walked into a protective chute inside a boma (corral) in her African Plains habitat. The protective chute allowed the veterinary team to perform the surgical procedure without having any unprotected contact with the gentle, but powerful 4,500-pound rhino, were she to move suddenly or try to walk away during the procedure. She was given mild sedation, allowing her to remain awake and standing for the procedure. Her primary keepers stayed with Nola the entire time, keeping her calm by rubbing her back, head and ears.

Immediately after the procedure, Nola was able to walk out of the chute into the boma, where she will remain for the next few weeks. Keepers will monitor her closely and attempt to keep the incision site clean. Nola appears to be feeling well, and she is eating and walking normally.

Nola is one of just four northern white rhinos remaining in the world. Three other northern white rhinos are under human care in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. Northern white rhinos are at the brink of extinction due to poaching for their horn. San Diego Zoo Global is working to save the genome of this rhino subspecies through the collection of genetic material preserved in the Frozen Zoo® at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, where researchers also are working to develop and implement assisted reproductive technologies to save the northern white rhino.

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 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.

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Big Arrivals at San Diego Zoo Safari Park: Six Southern White Rhinos Arrive from South Africa as Part of Rhino Conservation Initiative

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Six female rhinos that arrived in San Diego will live at the Safari Park’s Rhino Rescue Center.

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park welcomed some big arrivals Thursday evening (Nov. 5): Six southern white rhinos arrived via a chartered MD-11 flight from South Africa. The female rhinos, between four and seven years of age, were relocated to the Safari Park from private reserves in South Africa as part of a collaborative conservation effort to save the critically endangered northern white rhino—and all rhino species—from extinction.

A member of the Safari Park animal care staff flew to South Africa earlier this week to accompany the rhinos, along with a veterinarian from South Africa, on the 22-hour flight from Johannesburg to San Diego. The rhinos were transported in individual crates specially designed for the transport. Upon arrival in San Diego, the crates were loaded onto two flatbed trucks and driven to the Safari Park’s new Rhino Rescue Center, built specifically for the new arrivals. Once at the Park, a team of veterinarians and keepers unloaded the animals into fenced yards, where they will remain under a mandatory quarantine for at least 30 days.

“We are beyond thrilled to welcome these southern white rhinos to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and our new Rhino Rescue Center,” said Steve Metzler, interim associate curator of mammals, who accompanied the animals from South Africa to San Diego. “The animals did extremely well during the flight, eating normally and sleeping a good portion of the long trip. Our priority now is to ensure the rhinos are comfortable and acclimating to their new surroundings.”
San Diego Zoo Global has been working for decades, along with other accredited zoos, to keep a sustainable population of rhinos safe under human care while working to protect them in sanctuaries in the wild. To further this commitment, the Rhino Rescue Center was recently built to house the new southern white rhinos, establishing the Safari Park as a sanctuary to protect these rhinos—at a time when an average of three rhinos are killed each day in the wild by poachers.

Poaching of all rhino species has reached critically high numbers in recent years. A rhino is poached every eight hours in South Africa. Rhinos are poached for their horns, which are made of keratin, the same material as human fingernails. At the current rate of poaching, rhinos could become extinct in 15 years.

The northern white rhino is the most critically endangered rhino, with only four individuals remaining in the world. The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is home to Nola, a 41-year-old female northern white rhino. Three other northern white rhinos (one male and two females) are in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.

The six female southern white rhinos will be a part of San Diego Zoo Global’s science-based rhino conservation efforts to save the northern white rhino. Researchers at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, along with collaborators, are developing reproductive techniques to develop northern white rhino embryos (from cells stored in the institute’s Frozen Zoo®) to be implanted in the southern white rhinos, which will serve as surrogate mothers. There are many challenges ahead, but researchers are optimistic a northern white rhino calf could be born from these processes within 10 to 15 years. These technologies may also be applied to other rhino species, including the critically endangered Sumatran and Javan rhinos.

San Diego Zoo Global has one of the most successful rhino breeding programs in the world. To date, a total of 94 southern white rhinos, 68 greater one-horned rhinos and 14 black rhinos have been born at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

For more information on San Diego Zoo Global’s rhino conservation efforts, visit sandiegozoo.org/rhinos.

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 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 November 5, 2015 by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Global

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

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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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Moving Day for Antiki

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Antiki has moved into the socialization pen. She’s wearing a white wing tag number 77.

October can be a busy month at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Condor Breeding Facility. This is the time of the year when we start to prepare for the next breeding season: clean nests, conduct routine health exams, and provide maintenance to flight pens that were previously off-limits to keepers because of the presence of our young chicks slated for release to the wild. But before we can start anything, we need to move the recently-fledged chicks to their new home— our socialization pen.

Our remote socialization pen is approximately one mile from the main part of the Safari Park. There, this year’s Condor Cam chick, Antiki, is isolated from any human activity and socialized with other fledglings her age. In the wild, condor chicks stay with or around their parents for up to 18 months. We don’t let them stay that long here at the Park. If we did, the next breeding season would probably be compromised; the presence of the fledgling may prevent the parents from breeding the next year, or the parents may turn aggressive to the chick if they try to nest again.

Before her move, we affixed a wing tag to Antiki’s right wing for identification purposes. She is now wearing wing tag White 77. She is now sharing this large pen with five other condors:

  • Xananan (ha-NA-nan): Female, 11 years old, wearing tag Blue 21 (left wing).
  • Sunan (SOO-nahn): Female, 1 ½ years old, wearing tag Blue 49 (right wing).
  • Eeuukey (ee-YOO-kee): Male, 6 months old, wearing tag Blue 84 (right wing).
  • Pali (PAH-lee): Male, 6 months old, wearing tag Yellow 96 (right wing).
  • Uqushtay (oo-KOOSH-tay): Female, 6 months old, wearing tag Red 97 (right wing).

Antiki, Eeuukey, Pali, and Uqushtay have been getting to know each other in an adjacent pen. On October 22, we opened the gate into the large pen where they were able to meet the older birds, Xananan and Sunan.

California condors that are expected to be released to the wild are called “release candidates.” We raise all of our condor chicks as if they are release candidates until we hear otherwise from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which oversees the California Condor Recovery Program. We have yet to hear if and/or where any of this year’s fledglings will be released. Release candidates are isolated from humans. We offer their food through a chute in the wall. The pools are drained and rinsed from the outside of the pen. The only time the birds see us is during a medical procedure: affixing wing tags, pre-shipment examinations, or West Nile Virus inoculations. These generally are not enjoyable experiences for the young condors, and that is what we want them to learn from us before they are shipped to the wild. We don’t want them to associate humans with anything beneficial. We are hoping to foster behaviors that wild condors would have: avoiding human activity and hazardous, artificial situations. Survival rates for condors that become accustomed to humans and human activity are very low.

One of Antiki’s new pen-mates has a very important role. Xananan, the adult, is acting as the young birds’ new “mentor.” The mentor’s job is to facilitate the socialization of the fledglings. Condors are very social and, like us, need to learn the rules of how to interact in a group. The parent condors started this process when the chicks hatched, and continued it as the youngsters eventually fledged. Now that they are no longer living with their parents, the chicks’ “education” will be furthered by Xananan. She will be the dominant bird in the pen, often displacing the fledglings from perches or roost sites or pushing them from the food until she has eaten first. The dominant birds at a site are usually the biggest ones, and often the most experienced. The young condors need to learn how to interact with these dominant and pushy birds in order to be successful in the wild.

Viewers of last year’s Condor Cam will probably remember Sunan. She was raised on camera by her foster parents, Towich (TOE-witch) and Sulu (SOO-loo). Sunan seemed to be a little smaller than her pen-mates and more subordinate. It was decided, as a precaution, to keep her here at the Safari Park for one more year before releasing her to the wild in order to give her more time and experience with different birds. So, the good news is that her fans get more Sunan-viewing time!

The socialization pen is very large with lots of space to fly around and exercise wings. There are several large oak snags on which to perch or roost. Also, there are two pools from which to drink or bathe. There are several ground level perches and boulders to hop around on, as well. It is interesting to see the social development of each bird. They can choose to perch next to whichever bird they wish, so they really get to know each other well. We have learned that young condors that aren’t well-socialized tend not to be successful once they are released to the wild.

So far, Antiki is integrating well into the group. She has been seen eating near the older birds; she seems to be a very confident girl! She flies very well in the pen and interacts appropriately with her new pen-mates. Her parents, Sisquoc and Shatash, have done a great job preparing her for the big, wide world! As time passes, we should see the whole group settling in, perching, and feeding together. Feel free to post any comments or questions, and we’ll try to get them answered as soon as we can. Enjoy!

Ron Webb is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read his previous blog, Fledged!

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San Diego Zoo Safari Park Rhino Expert Visits Three of Earth’s Four Remaining Northern White Rhinos in Kenya

SafariParkBlogA team from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park visited three northern white rhinos living in Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya last month. These three rhinos, a male and two females, along with a single elderly female living at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, are the last remaining northern white rhinos on the planet.

Although two of the rhinos at Ol Pejeta Conservancy are elderly, they appear to be in good condition. The encounter with the critically endangered rhinos was bittersweet for Randy Rieches, curator of mammals for the Safari Park and a board member of the International Rhino Foundation, who last saw these rhinos in the Czech Republic when a population of the species still existed in the wild.

“I was at the Dvur Kralove Zoo a week after the youngest, Fatu, was born,” said Rieches. “At the time, the population of northern white rhinos in the wild had stabilized, and Fatu’s birth seemed to be a hopeful sign.”

Northern white rhinos became extinct in the wild in 2008, due to intensified poaching. The team from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park visited the Kenya rhinos as part of an effort to begin collaborative efforts with the Ol Pejeta Conservancy to recover the species. Rieches spent time with each of the rhinos and their caretakers before meeting with the Conservancy’s chief executive officer, Richard Vigne, to discuss the possibility of future collaborations.

“Whilst the predicament of northern white rhinos is calamitous, we are excited to forge close ties with San Diego to try and save the species. San Diego (Zoo Global) has a rich and successful history in endangered species management and, between us and other collaborators, we hope that we can deploy cutting-edge science that will benefit not only the northern whites, but other species in the future,” said Richard Vigne.

Of the four northern white rhinos left in the world, one, Nola, lives at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Unfortunately, three of the remaining four rhinos are at an advanced age and no longer reproductive. However, genetic material from 12 northern white rhinos has been preserved in the Frozen Zoo® at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, for future reproductive opportunities.

Ol Pejeta Conservancy occupies approximately 139 square miles (360 square kilometers) of African savannah within the Laikipia District of Kenya and incorporates the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary. Laikipia carries large and growing wildlife populations and is home to almost 50 percent of Kenya’s black rhino population. Ol Pejeta Conservancy works to conserve wildlife, provide a sanctuary for great apes and generate income through wildlife tourism and complementary enterprise for reinvestment in conservation and community development.

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.

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

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Cute and Curious: Three-Day-Old Southern White Rhino Explores Habitat at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

A three-day-old female southern white rhino calf bravely went horn-to-nub with her “auntie,” an adult female rhino named Utamu (pronounced O-ta-moo), earlier today at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

A three-day-old female southern white rhino calf bravely went horn-to-nub with her “auntie,” an adult female rhino named Utamu (pronounced O-ta-moo), earlier today at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

A female southern white rhino calf, born three days ago at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, bravely went nose-to-nose with an adult female rhino, scared off a curious Nile lechwe and explored her 60-acre East Africa habitat earlier today—all under the watchful eye of her protective mother.

The calf, named Kianga (pronounced Key-AN-ga), which means sunshine in Swahili, was born Oct. 13 to mom, Kacy, and father, Maoto (pronounced May-O-toe). This is the pair’s second calf. The first, a two-and-a-half year-old male named Kayode (pronounced Kay-O-dee), shares the habitat with his parents and baby sister—but mom isn’t letting brother, father, or any of the other rhinos in the crash too near her new offspring.

“Kacy is a very attentive and protective mother,” stated Tina Hunter, senior keeper, San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “She is fairly tolerant of the other rhinos being curious about the baby, but she is definitely keeping them at a distance. She is going to have her work cut out for her, as Kianga is rambunctious, has lots of energy and is a very curious little calf.”

Estimated to weigh around 120 pounds, the little ungulate with big feet will nurse from her mother for up to 12 months; she is expected to gain about 100 pounds a month for the first year. When full grown, at around three years of age, she could weigh between 4,000 to 5,000 pounds.

There are an estimated 18,000 southern white rhinos remaining in the wild. The southern white rhino is classified as “near threatened,” due to poaching threats and illegal use of rhino horn. Currently, a rhino dies every eight hours in South Africa due to poaching. Rhinos are poached for their horn, which is made of keratin—the same material that forms human fingernails. Rhino horn has been erroneously thought to have medicinal value and is used in traditional remedies in some Asian cultures. In addition, objects made of rhino horn have more recently become a “status symbol,” purchased to display someone’s success and wealth, because the rhino is now so rare.

Kianga is the 94th southern white rhino calf born at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

The rhino calf and mom can best be seen roaming their habitat from the Park’s Africa Tram Safari or a Caravan 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 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 Oct. 16 , 2016, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291
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San Diego Zoo Safari Park Is Hand-raising African Steenbok Calves in Effort to Increase, Diversify Population

Lissa McCaffree, lead mammal keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, bottle-feeds one of two steenbok calves at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s nursery.

Lissa McCaffree, lead mammal keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, bottle-feeds one of two steenbok calves at the  Park’s nursery.

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is bottle-feeding two African steenbok in its nursery, in an effort to increase the population of this antelope species. The Safari Park is home to six of just 16 steenbok in North America. The steenbok calves were born at the Safari Park during summer and have the same father. The calves are fed a bottle of formula several times a day, but these feedings will decrease as they age. They are also offered hay and trimmings from plants that will be part of their diets as they mature.

The Species Survival Plan program for steenbok suggests that animal care staff hand-raise these fragile calves to increase their survival rate, as well as help make them calmer animals. Very little is known about this genus of antelope, which herd in pairs, rather than the large groups that are typical of other antelope species. Steenbok also have a running gait that is more similar to a rabbit’s “hop” than the run of other antelope species; and they have very large ears, in comparison to their body size. The Safari Park hopes to increase the size of the steenbok herd and to learn more about this genus of antelope.

Steenbok are historically found throughout Africa, occupying drier savannas, grasslands and scrublands. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the steenbok population as stable in the wild, but recognizes that they are no longer found in some of their native habitat, including Uganda. Their habitat ranges are becoming widely separated geographically due to habitat changes. The IUCN also notes that population surveys of this species are not reliable.

Guests visiting the San Diego Zoo Safari Park can see the two calves in the nursery, near the village area of the Park. The other steenbok are in an exhibit across from the African Tram Safari station.

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 Oct. 8, 2015, by Tammy Spratt, San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

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

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Vus’musi’s Big Adventure, Part 3

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Vus’musi got busy checking out the sights, smells, sounds, and snacks of his new home.

Vus’musi, the first-born calf of the Safari Park’s herd, recently moved to the Fresno Chaffee Zoo. Affectionately known as “Moose” or “’Musi,” he holds a special place in the hearts of many members, blog readers, and Elephant Cam viewers, so we wanted to share the inside story of his “big adventure.” Click to read Part 1 and Part 2.

Since Fresno’s climate is similar to San Diego’s and they’re just up the road, so to speak, having ’Musi go there on loan was a logical choice, especially if we’d like to have him return someday. (Can you picture Umngani’s reaction if that were to happen? Noooooooooo!)

Waiting for our arrival was the entire elephant care staff of the Fresno Chaffee Zoo. We all stood back to watch the unloading of his crate, letting the professionals do their thing. As soon as the crate was where we wanted it, we had ’Musi present his front feet for us inside the crate so we could remove his tethers. Then we let him back himself out into his new digs. He cautiously walked down a long outside corridor, into the barn, and finally into a large stall where he could hear, smell, and see his new herd-mates two stalls away.

’Musi seemed quite excited that there were other elephants around. His attitude and behavior towards Mindy and I confirmed that he was a very well-trained elephant, able to adapt to change, and just awesome overall. Their staff couldn’t believe how calm and sweet ’Musi seemed after such a journey.

Mindy and I stayed with ’Musi and the Fresno Chaffee Zoo staff for five more days, getting him accustomed to his side of the barn and adjoining outside yard. We worked closely with their Elephant Lead, Ashley, and their Elephant Manager, Vernon, to show them ’Musi’s behavioral repertoire, his verbal and visual hand signals, and point out some of the subtle nuances of his personality. All of his major sessions were filmed and many discussions took place to make sure we were all on the same page, allowing for a smooth transition for ’Musi and his new keepers.

One of the fun things to watch was seeing ’Musi getting used to the new sounds and sights of his outside environment. The zoo sits fairly close to railroad tracks, and watching his eyes and expressions whenever a choo-choo rolled by was priceless. It reminded me of Mabu and Lungile in Tucson, the first few times a jet fighter flew over the skies above them. Eventually, they all habituate to their surroundings and then they don’t react at all, unless it’s something completely new, and even that goes away in a short time.

Many blog readers who read the news about the move wondered whether ’Musi misses his family or herd mates, or if Ndlula misses her son, etc. What you’ll find in the animal world—whether through observation or personally working with them—is that animals live in the “now.” They take a situation that they find themselves in, deal with it, and move on. If you think about it, in the wild, an animal that’s “reminiscing” or “daydreaming” would be easy prey. I’m sure that ’Musi would remember any of his herd mates if they were to cross paths once again, but I’m certain he’s not thinking “I wonder what Mom and my brother are up to?” or “I wonder who Msholo is sparring with now that I’m gone?” Likewise, Ndlula and the others may have “rumbled” to communicate with or locate ’Musi, but after not receiving a response, quickly focused their attention back to the present situation of eating and watching out for Swazi.

The most up-to-date news on ’Musi is that he’s no longer under quarantine, and will be going out into one of the main exhibits soon. Within a few weeks, he will be formally introduced to the girls out in the main exhibit. I’ll be heading up to Fresno to witness the introductions and will blog about it when I get back.

All of our elephants (any of our animals for that matter) that have moved away “on-loan” are still “our” elephants (San Diego Zoo Global). Rest assured that our ’Musi-boy is in good hands with the Fresno staff. He’ll win them over like he did with us on that first day on February 23, 2004. He’s all grown up now and it’s his time to carry on what his name means: Vus’musi, “To build a family.”

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West African Crowned Crane Pair Fosters Endangered East African Crowned Crane Chicks at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Two endangered East African crowned crane chicks, recently hatched at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, are now being fostered by a pair of West African crowned cranes.

A crowned crane mother feeds her young foster chick during early morning breakfast at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

A crowned crane mother feeds her young foster chick during early morning breakfast at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

The eggs were laid by inexperienced first-time parents on one of the islands in the Safari Park’s African Outpost. To safeguard and ensure that the eggs had the best possible chance of surviving, keepers moved the eggs to an incubator at the chick rearing facility.

A few days before the eggs were due to hatch, keepers placed them in the nest of a mated pair of West African crowned cranes with parenting experience, to complete the hatching process. Both eggs successfully hatched—one on Sept.17 and the other on Sept. 19. Today, the chicks are healthy and thriving under the watchful eyes of their foster parents.

“These East African crowned crane chicks are here in this exhibit because we feel it’s the best place at the Safari Park for them to grow and flourish, since they are an endangered species,” said Marci Rimlinger, lead keeper in the Bird department at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

East African crowned cranes get their name from the tall, stiff golden feathers that cover their head. Their long legs and neck, and excellent peripheral vision help these birds spot predators above the tall savanna grasses where they hunt for worms, insects, lizards and small mammals. They live near rivers and wetlands in Africa, where their habitats are being threatened due to habitat drainage, overgrazing and pesticide pollution.

Guests at the Safari Park can see the chicks at the crowned crane exhibit, located just past the main entrance to the park on the right side of the wooden walkway.

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 Sept. 30, 2015, by Tammy Spratt, San Diego Zoo Safari Park

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