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.
San Diego Zoo Safari Park
Antiki, our California condor chick featured on this year’s San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Condor Cam, is now over 100 days old and starting to get her “big bird” feathers! As many of our regular viewers have noticed, her flight feathers are growing in. Some of the first feathers that start to grow are the wing feathers. It is easy to see the feathers growing through the chick’s down—the down feathers are gray, but the new flight feathers are black. The long feathers that grow from the tip of the wing are called “primary feathers” and the feathers from the wrist to the armpit are “secondary feathers.” Primary and secondary feathers are the giant feathers that make the California condor’s wing so large and impressive; an adult can have a wingspan of up to 9 ½ feet! We are estimating our chick’s wingspan to be around 5 feet right now—between the size of a red-tailed hawk’s and a bald eagle’s. Her tail feathers are also starting to grow. They’re a little harder to see on camera, but you should be able to spot them soon.
After the wing and tail feathers fill in, the feathers on the chick’s back will start to grow, as well as the small feathers on the top of the wing (called “coverts”). Even though many new, black feathers will be covering parts of her body, she will still have lots of gray down showing, making it easy to differentiate her from her parents. Eventually, her light-colored skin will turn dark grey or black and be covered with fine, fuzzy feathers, but this won’t happen until well after she leaves the nest. Her skin will stay dark until she reaches maturity at 6 years and it turns pink-orange, just like her parents’, Sisquoc and Shatash.
The chick had her second health exam on June 25 during which our veterinary staff were able to administer her second, and final, West Nile virus inoculation. A blood sample was obtained and she weighed in at 13 pounds, 7 ounces (6.1 kilograms), over half of her projected adult weight. Even though our little girl is getting big, she still has room to grow!
The adult condors normally are fed four days per week. The other three days of the week, they are fasted. They often will not eat every day in the wild, sometimes fasting for up to two weeks, so our nutritionists recommend not feeding them every day to prevent obesity and food waste. Their diet, depending on the day, can consist of rats, rabbits, trout, beef spleen, or ground meat. We offer two to three pounds of food per bird per feeding day. When the condors are raising a chick, in addition to their normal diet, we offer extra food every day: 1 rat, 1.5 pounds of beef spleen, 1 trout, and half a pound of ground meat. They don’t end up feeding all of this food to the chick, but we want to be sure that they have enough for the growing baby. It’s difficult to calculate exactly how much food the chick is eating each day, but we estimate that she could be eating 1.5-2.5 pounds of food per day.
Many Condor Cam viewers have seen some rough-looking interactions between the chick and her parents. What may have been happening was a form of discipline. As the chick has gotten bigger, her begging displays and efforts have gotten more vigorous. These efforts can sometimes be bothersome or problematic for parents that just want some peace and quiet. The parents have two ways to make sure that the chick does not cause too much trouble while begging. They can leave immediately after providing food, which is what we’ve seen a lot of on Condor Cam; or they can discipline the unruly chick. This discipline can come in the form of the parent sitting or standing on the chick, or the parent may nip or tug at it. Either of these behaviors results in the chick being put in its place by the dominant bird in the nest, thus ending the undesired behavior. Sometimes, this discipline may occur before the chick acts up. Be mindful that this is perfectly normal for condors to do, even though it would be cruel for us to treat our own babies like that! When condors fledge, or leave the nest, they need to know how to interact with dominant birds at a feeding or roost site. This seemingly rough behavior from the parents will benefit the chick later when it encounters a big, unrelated bird that might not be as gentle.
There have been many questions regarding the chick being able to jump up on the nest box barrier. She hasn’t jumped up yet, but she may soon. Stay tuned for our next blog that will discuss this next big milestone!
Ron Webb is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read his previous blog, Say Hello to Antiki!
Wild populations of tigers are at an all-time low, but we haven’t lost hope. Understanding tiger behavior and implementing science-based conservation efforts can save these majestic big cats. Get ready for Global Tiger Day on July 29 with these fascinating facts.
There are six subspecies of tiger living today; Amur or Siberian, Bengal or Indian, Indochinese, Malayan, Sumatran, and South China.
3 tiger subspecies (Bali, Javan, and Caspian) are extinct, and the remaining six are all highly endangered due to poaching and habitat encroachment.
The earliest tiger fossils date back about two million years.
In the last 100 years, we have lost 97 percent of wild tigers.
At the current rate, all wild tigers could be extinct in five years.
Tigers are ambush hunters, with only about 1 in 10 hunts resulting in a meal.
Tigers have the largest canines of any big cat species, reaching 2.5 to 3 inches long.
A tiger’s tongue is covered with small, hard, hooked bumps called papillae—making it a perfect scraper to rasp off fur, feathers, and meat from bones.
They can take down prey five times their own weight.
A tiger can cover a distance of up to 33 feet in one leap.
Tigers are solitary cats, unless a female is raising cubs.
A tiger’s night vision is six times better than that of a human.
Female tigers are about 20-percent smaller and lighter than males.
A tiger’s confrontational roar contains energy in the infrasonic range, below human hearing, which helps the sound carry over long distances.
Each tiger has a unique stripe pattern, most include more than 100 stripes. Researchers observing wild tigers can identify individuals by their particular stripes.
A tiger’s stripes are skin deep.
Tigers have white spots on the backs of their ears, which could serve as “false eyes,” making the tiger look watchful to predators. These spots may also help communicate with other tigers, especially between a mom and her cubs.
Tigers can sniff out hidden messages left by other tigers through scent marks.
Tigers have partially webbed toes and their claws can reach 4 inches long.
A tiger’s front feet have an extra claw called a dewclaw, which is used specifically for climbing and gripping.
While most cats avoid it, tigers seek out water to swim and hunt.
Celebrate Global Tiger Day at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Tiger Trail on July 29, 2015. Festivities include keeper demonstrations, tiger enrichment, conservation displays, and much more.
A two-week-old male Ugandan giraffe slowly followed his mother, Chinde, into the East Africa habitat at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The lanky calf hesitantly left the area where he has lived since he was born on June 22. With his comparatively short legs, the calf had to run to keep up with his mother’s long, slow strides as she led her baby to a watering hole, where the other giraffes in the exhibit came to sniff and lick the new member of the herd.
Keepers named the calf Congo, after the river in Africa. He measures more than six feet tall and weighs approximately 200 pounds. All giraffe numbers are declining, but of the nine giraffe subspecies, the Ugandan giraffe is the only one that is endangered. It is believed that fewer than 700 of this subspecies remain in only a few small, isolated populations in Kenya and Uganda.
San Diego Zoo Global is partnering with the Giraffe Conservation Foundation to help conserve giraffe in East Africa. In 2015, a team of scientists from the Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research have been developing a conservation project that will include Kenyan pastoralists to find ways to collaborate to protect giraffes in the savanna.
Photo taken on July 6, 2015, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
The results are in: Our California condor chick being raised on Condor Cam at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is a female. Her name is “Antiki” (pronounced “an-TEE-kee”), a Chumash word that means “to recover, get well.” She is the seventeenth chick produced by parents Sisquoc and Shatash, and is the seventh that they have raised themselves, including the 2012 and 2013 Condor Cam stars: Saticoy (now flying free in southern California) and Cuyamaca (currently soaring free in Arizona). The pair’s other offspring were raised by keepers using a condor puppet so the chicks wouldn’t imprint on their human caretakers. Overall, Sisquoc and Shatash have proven to be great and reliable parents.
Some viewers have worried about the amount of time that Antiki spends alone in the nest—that she might be getting lonely. Yet, it’s important to look at the situation from a condor “point of view,” using what we know about their natural history.
California condors naturally have a one-egg clutch; in other words, there is never more than one chick in a nest. Although the chicks may appear lonely to us, we need to keep in mind that their social requirements are much different from ours. Of course, a human would be lonely being raised in isolation, but condors thrive in that situation. There is no competition from nest mates (ensuring plenty of food for growth), the single chick receives plenty of attention, preening, and protection from both parents (facilitating the proper social skills for when it’s time to leave the nest) and there is less waste that accumulating in the nest (reducing the possibilities for nest parasite infestation).
Sisquoc and Shatash visit Antiki several times a day for feeding and social interaction, giving her everything that she needs. If she was in distress, it would manifest in improper growth and unusual behaviors. She is in perfect health and showing excellent behaviors for a release candidate of this age, indicating that Sisquoc and Shatash are doing a textbook job!
We do not offer her “toys” or enrichment items, as her parents have provided several items in the nest to explore or play with: feathers, dried food items/bones, or cast hair pellets. We have seen Antiki (as well as every other condor that has been raised at the Safari Park) play with, sleep on, and re-distribute these items around the nest. Field observations have shown that chicks in wild nests in California, Arizona, and Mexico behave in the exact same manner. We don’t want to provide any unnaturally occurring items in the nest as playthings as this could encourage her to seek out similar items after she is released to the wild, possibly putting her in harm’s way. Remember, we are trying to foster behaviors that wild condors should have–avoiding human activity and hazardous, artificial situations. Survival rates for condors that become accustomed to humans and human activity are very low.
We are preparing for Antiki’s second health exam this week; it is usually scheduled when the chick is approximately 75 days old. Enjoy watching our little girl grow up and stay tuned for more updates!
Ron Webb is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read his previous blog, Condor Cam Chick’s First Health Exam.
Pollinators are one of Mother Nature’s greatest gardeners, yet many populations continue to decline at an alarming rate. While National Pollinator Week continues to raise awareness, conservation of our precious pollinators is a year-round project. One way you can be a hero for wildlife is by creating a pollinator-friendly habitat in your own yard or community, and invite hummingbirds, bees and butterflies to do what they do best.
For starters, you’ll need a nectar source for your hummingbird guests. They get most of their nectar from tubular blossoms, the perfect shape to accommodate their long, slim beak and tongue. Hummers like bright plants that are open during daylight hours, when the birds are awake and hungry. Sage is an excellent option for these tiny pollinators, not to mention the added bonus of providing your herb pantry with some homegrown goodies.
It’s no secret that honeybee and native bee populations are in trouble. Entertain bees in your outdoor space by planting a diversity of vibrant flowers. It’s extremely important to select plants that do not contain neonicotinoids, a class of insecticides that may contribute to Colony Collapse Disorder. Nowadays, some stores label plants that have been treated with neonicotinoids, but many do not, so it’s best to consult with your local nursery before purchasing.
Including suitable nesting habitat in your landscape can help bolster the struggling populations of native bees. Many are solitary (so you don’t need to worry about a hive) and a good number of species are considered stingless, in case that is a concern. You can purchase ready-made nesting houses for mason and orchard bees online, or make your own.
For butterflies, a simple search on Google will help you discover which species are common in your area. Once you know which butterflies live in your region, it’s important to learn about their habitat needs. Certain species require specific host plants to serve as larval food for caterpillars. Choose a variety of colorful, native plants with upward-facing blossoms as they provide a landing pad for butterflies to stop and sip on sweet nectar.
Adding a water source for all of your pollinator guests is another great idea. If you’re going to use a bird bath to accomplish this, just be sure to add stones that peek above the surface so your tiny guests (bees) don’t drown.
Do you have any tips for creating a pollinator-friendly garden? Leave them in the comments.
Jenn Beening is the social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous post, 10 Cats You Don’t Want to Cuddle With.
This week, M&C Saatchi LA launched “Safaris Departing Daily,” a new campaign for the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Developed to show Southern California residents that they don’t need to fly around the world for a safari experience, the campaign showcases the thrill, adventure and breathtaking animal encounters of a safari far closer to home, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
“We assumed that if we stopped random people on the streets and invited them to go on safari that they’d look at us as if we had three heads,” said James Bray, Executive Creative Director at M&C Saatchi LA. “And they did. But that was the point. The reality of the whole place is quite shocking.”
Featured in the digital video, people on the streets of California were offered the chance to go on a safari, right then and there. Those brave enough to answer yes were driven in a customized safari truck directly to the Park to embark on range of safaris – from a Caravan Safari bringing them face to face with giraffes to a Behind-the-Scenes Safari allowing them to hand-feed birds of prey. Those up for the adventure also had the opportunity to experience a sleepover at the Park as part of the Roar & Snore Safari, relaxing in tents surrounded by the sights and sounds of wildlife.
The multimedia marketing campaign consists of print, social, digital, video and radio, targeting the Southern California region. Directed and produced by Nice Films, the spots feature authentic reactions and experiences from Southern California residents.
The “Safaris Departing Daily” print and digital display will run across Southern California. A digital video “teaser” will run as pre-roll, encouraging viewers to see the rest of the story in a YouTube play list. Radio and OOH will run in the Greater Los Angeles and San Diego markets, and social media will consist of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube activity.
“The San Diego Zoo Safari Park offers a truly authentic safari experience for our visitors that balances wholesome family adventure with our mission to lead the fight against extinction,” said Ted Molter, Chief Marketing Officer, San Diego Zoo Global. “The “Safaris Departing Daily” campaign shows just how close a unique safari experience is for the people of California, and it perfectly showcases the excitement and variety that can be found here.”
Recruiting strangers to drop everything and embark on a safari wasn’t easy – with one consumer even asking, “Can I see some form of identification, please, sir?” To see the full reactions and campaign creative you can visit: https://www.youtube.com/user/sdzsafaripark.
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.
CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291
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.
At approximately one month of age, our California condor chick should weigh around 4 pounds (2 kilograms). The parents, Sisquoc and Shatash, may start leaving the chick alone overnight, sleeping near the nest instead of in it. If the weather is still cool or it’s raining, the parents may continue to brood overnight until the weather improves. Even though the parents are increasing their time away from the chick, they remain VERY vigilant and protective of their nest and especially their chick. Some field biologists have even seen wild condor parents chasing black bears away from the nest area!
Up until now, the chick has been scooting around the nest on its tarsal joints. We refer to that as a “tarsal crawl.” It’s not uncommon, at this age, to see the chick standing all the way up on its feet, teetering around the nest, holding its wings out for balance. As its legs get sturdier, the chick may even approach the parent, begging for food. The “wing-begging” behavior we’ve been seeing will get more pronounced: lots of wing flapping, head bobbing, and trying to position itself in front of the parent.
It is possible that the parents, who are offering larger quantities of food per feeding session, might be providing a small amount of fur/hair in the chick’s diet. (Part of the adults’ diet includes mammals, like rats and rabbits.) Condors can digest just about every part of the animals they eat, except for fur. This fur accumulates in the digestive tract and is eventually regurgitated as waste. We refer to this as “casting.” A condor’s cast is composed of predominantly fur, whereas a cast from an owl has fur and bones; owls can’t digest bones, but condors can. We have seen condor chicks cast hair pellets as young as three weeks of age. When the chick casts, it throws its head forward several times, mouth open, until the pellet is ejected from its mouth. It can look like the chick is in trouble, but it is perfectly normal, and good for the chick.
At 45 days of age, the chick will get its first health exam. We will obtain a blood sample for the lab to make sure it is healthy and send a portion of this sample to a lab in the Genetics Division of the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, located adjacent to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. From this blood sample, the geneticists can determine if the chick is male or female. Also, during the exam, we will weigh the chick—it should weigh between 7.75 to 8.75 pounds (3.5 – 4 kilograms)—and inject a transponder chip as a form of identification. It’s the same kind of chip you can get for your dog or cat at the veterinarian. Most importantly, this exam allows us to administer a vaccine for West Nile Virus. West Nile Virus is disease that originated in Africa and was accidently introduced to North America by humans. North American wildlife, including condors, usually doesn’t have a natural immune response to West Nile Virus, so we are trying to give the chicks as much of a head start as we can.
This exam will be the first time that the chick will see humans, so it will naturally be disturbing for it. We try to be as quick as we can be (9 to 10 minutes) to minimize the disturbance. Additionally, we will keep the chick covered with a towel to reduce its exposure to humans and to provide it a bit of security. Sisquoc and Shatash are usually away from the nest when we perform the procedure in order to keep them as calm as possible, as well. We have to keep in mind that we don’t want the chick to become accustomed to or feel reassured by our presence; we want it to be a wild condor, uninterested and wary of humans, so that it may someday fly free in California, Arizona, or Mexico.
The chick will look very large at this age compared to how big it was at hatch, but remember that it is still less than half of its adult weight. There is much more growth and fun to come!
Ron Webb is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read his previous blog, Guide to Condor-chick Watching: Ages 1 Week to 1 Month.
Nola, a critically endangered 41-year-old northern white rhino, is undergoing medical treatment at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Keepers noticed a swelling on Nola’s right hip late last week and began monitoring the area. The swelling continued to grow over a few days, causing concern for the elderly animal.
On Saturday, in an attempt to find out if the affected area was an abscess or something else causing the swelling, the veterinary team lanced the growth. “We found the swelling was consistent with a large abscess, filled with pus,” stated Meredith Clancy, associate veterinarian, San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “We were able to flush the area with sterile saline and will wait on tests results to determine what is going on with Nola.”
The rhino, a favorite of the animal care team and Safari Park guests, doesn’t appear sick outwardly so veterinarians are hoping the swelling is a walled-off abscess that isn’t affecting her systemically, or affecting her entire body. Nola has been put on a course of antibiotics as a precautionary measure. She will be carefully monitored, having the area flushed on a daily basis. Test results from fluid and tissues samples taken on Saturday should be available within a week to two weeks.
Nola is an exceptional rhino in more ways than one. She has a great relationship with her keepers and due to her ongoing, age-related medical needs, they interact with her in ways they might not be able to do with other rhinos. During her examination, she walked slowly through the field with both her keepers and the veterinary team, allowing the veterinarians to aspirate fluid from the abscess site. “Nola is a great patient,” added Clancy.
Nola is one of just five northern white rhinos left in the world. Three other northern white rhinos are in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya and one is in the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic. The five remaining rhinos are all non-reproductive.Poaching for its horn has brought the northern white rhino to such critically low numbers.
Currently, a rhino is poached every eight hours in South Africa. With dramatically low populations of all five rhino species, rhinos could become extinct in 15 years. On Endangered Species Day, May 15, the Safari Park will be holding a “Rally 4 Rhinos” to raise awareness of the plight of rhinos and the urgent need to protect them for future generations. A ceremony will take place at the Safari Park’s African Plains Overlook beginning at 9:30 a.m. and will include guest speakers, special entertainment and a sky art project. For more information, visit www.Rally4Rhinos.org
Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes on-site wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is made accessible to children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.
CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291