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San Diego Zoo Safari Park

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Feeling Better and Getting Her Nails Done: Northern White Rhino at San Diego Zoo Safari Park Gets Pedicure

Northern white rhino Nola receives a regularly scheduled pedicure at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Northern white rhino Nola receives a regularly scheduled pedicure at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Nola, a critically endangered 40-year-old northern white rhino, received some pampering and a pedicure earlier today at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. While keepers Jane Kennedy and Mary Weber-Evans gave Nola a rub down and scratched her ears, keeper Ken McCaffree trimmed the 4,000-pound rhino’s nails. The elderly Nola, who was under veterinary care for a sinus infection until recently, is feeling much better and seems to enjoy the extra-special care by her keepers.

Most rhinos wear their nails down just by walking, but Nola’s nails grow at a particularly fast rate. To provide optimal health, keepers provide Nola with nail trims about every three weeks. She is the only rhino at the Safari Park who receives pedicures. Keepers use the same type of tools to trim Nola’s nails as are used to trim horses’ hooves. Most pedicure sessions last about 30 minutes, but keepers work as long as Nola will allow. When Nola is done, she lets the keepers know by standing up and walking away.

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 of an advanced age and have not reproduced. Poaching for its horn has brought the northern white rhino to such critically low numbers. 

Photo taken on Feb. 19 by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291
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Strutting His Stripes, Baby Okapi Steps Out in New Habitat

Amaranta, a four-week-old male okapi calf, explored his outdoor habitat for the first time today at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Amaranta, a four-week-old male okapi calf, explored his outdoor habitat for the first time today at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

A four-week-old male okapi calf explored his outdoor habitat for the first time today at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The young okapi, named Amaranta, previously had been spending time in the okapi barn and outside yard, but after showing signs of curiosity, staff provided the calf and his mother, Makini, access to the main forested habitat, which is viewable by guests.

This is the 41st okapi calf born at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The Safari Park has taken a leadership role in conservation awareness through its ongoing support of the Okapi Conservation Project. This project provides wildlife protection, alternative agriculture methods and community assistance in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The okapi calf and his mother will be on exhibit Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Photo taken on Feb. 13, 2015, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

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

 

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Wild Romance

Anytime is the right time for "romance" among rhinos.

Anytime is the right time for “romance” among rhinos.

“There’s a rhyme and reason to the wild outdoors,” sings Elton John in The Lion King. Disney’s Simba and Nala aren’t the only ones who “can feel the love tonight” during the Valentine’s Day season. Perhaps you want to know about the wacky, wild, and sometimes familiar romance rituals of the Safari Park animals? During this season of love, now’s your chance.

Some of the largest lovers at the Safari Park are southern white rhinos. Instead of mating seasonally like deer, breeding females can go into estrus any time of the year. Solitary, territorial males horn-wrestle one another for the privilege of mating with an estrus female. The winner approaches his intended mate with a wheezy, hic-throb noise—kind of a “Hey baby. How you doin’?” a la Friends character Joey Tribbiani. In an attempt at seduction, the male rests his head on the female’s rump. If she’s willing, mating lasts about 30 minutes. Over the years, “love” has definitely been in the air among the southern white rhinos at the Safari Park: they have produced 93 calves and counting.

Get the Party Started: Once their courtship ritual is rolling, all the flamingos in this flock will have their wings out.

Get the Party Started: Wing-spreading is one part of a flamingo flock’s courtship ritual.

In contrast to the rhinos’ cumbersome courtship, greater flamingos look like a precision drum line during their elaborate courtship rituals. The flamingo colony, or flamboyance, marches together in shallow water while honking, abruptly switching directions. The birds also head-flag, rhythmically turning their heads side-to-side, and salute each other with outstretched wings to display their contrasting colors. When a female finds a desirable male, she leaves the flamboyance and heads to slightly deeper water. The male vaults onto the female’s back and plants his feet on her wing joints, followed by an acrobatic dismount over her head. After mating, the pair begins building a volcano-shaped mud nest. Females lay a single egg, and both parents take turns incubating it for 28-32 days. Flamingo mating is seasonal, occurring during the rainy season to take advantage of the abundant food and mud.

Unlike flamingos, African lions don’t have a breeding season. Instead, mating usually occurs when a male assumes control of a pride. Lionesses only have a four to seven day estrus window, and the male makes the most of it. Although lions are world-renowned for their marathon sleep sessions, they also break records in the mating category. Lions usually mate for eight to 68 seconds at a time every 25 minutes over a four-day period; pairs may mate up to 100 times in one day! During this time, the male guards the female to keep the competition away. If the mating is successful, three and a half months later the female delivers a litter of one to four cubs. The females in a pride communally nurse their cubs for about seven months.

It may look like he's blowing a kiss, but this male is checking to see if the female is ready to mate.

It may look like he’s blowing a kiss, but this male is checking to see if the female is ready to mate.

While lions have some of the longest mating sessions in the animal kingdom, giraffes have some of the shortest. Copulation lasts barely a second, but it’s no “stretch” to say that giraffes are foreplay nerds. Interested males practically do a litmus test to evaluate females! A male closely follows an estrus female, waiting for the right moment to nudge her hind leg—her cue to urinate. Next, he sips a sample of the urine and curls his upper lip, opening the Jacobson’s organ on the roof of his mouth in a behavior called the Flehmen response. This allows him to test the female’s hormone levels to see if she is ready to breed—picture a connoisseur sampling a fine wine.

This year, forget the fancy dinner and flowers for Valentine’s Day. Come to the Safari Park and marvel at wild romance. Maybe you’ll even imagine strains of Elton John’s “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” playing in the background…

Elise Newman is a Caravan Safari guide at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read her previous post, Gaur Game Plan.

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Balloon Safari Takes Flight at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

SafariParkBlogA yellow tethered helium balloon ascended into the air this morning at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park as staff prepared for the re-opening of the Balloon Safari experience. A newly designed balloon will be lifting guests 400 feet in the air starting this Saturday, Feb. 7, as guests observe clear and unobstructed views of giraffe, rhinos, impala and other exotic and endangered animals at the Safari Park.

Modeled after the hot air balloon tours of the Serengeti, the Balloon Safari can hold up to 30 passengers in an open-air gondola as the tethered balloon rises silently into the sky. The Balloon Safari allows guests to hover in place over the Safari Park, experiencing the view that the hawks, eagles, and other birds in the San Pasqual Valley see. Designed by the company Aerophile, the system consumes no more energy than an elevator and is completely noiseless.

“Now that we have the new balloon, we will be able to take more passengers on more flights daily,” Dami An Jones, operations manager of admissions and guest services said.  “We have a better capacity for the different weather conditions that we have here in the valley, so we will be able to offer more flights for our guests to enjoy a wonderful scenic view.”

The Balloon Safari takes 8-10 minutes and costs $20 for guests. Children 11 and younger must be accompanied by an adult, and the safari availability is subject to weather conditions.  For more information visit sdzsafaripark.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 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.

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291
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Baby Joanne’s Growing Diet

Little Joanne is exploring a whole range of new tastes as she begins to add solid foods to her daily diet.

Little Joanne is exploring a whole range of  tastes and textures as she begins adding solid foods to her diet.

Baby gorilla Joanne continues to grow and develop at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Baby gorillas will continue to nurse until mom chooses to wean them, usually between ages three to four years. Still, at 10 months old and with a full set of baby teeth, Joanne has developed quite a healthy appetite for solid foods!

Western lowland gorillas are herbivores, meaning that they eat only plant material. Each day, we offer the gorillas at the Park a variety of fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, nuts, tree branches harvested from the our browse farm, and high-fiber primate biscuits. Little Joanne is developing a taste for her favorites, favorites, although her opinion seems to change almost daily! When Joanne either eagerly devours or spits out something we have offered her, we consider ourselves “updated” as to her preferences.

Keepers feed the gorillas in different ways throughout the day. We spread food items around the exhibit to allow the gorillas to forage at their own pace in addition to calling them to a spot or “station” to receive individual diets specifically measured out for each gorilla. During these station-feeding sessions, Joanne has learned that it benefits her to put some distance between herself and mom, Imani. While Imani is generally patient about letting Joanne finish chewing whatever food is in her mouth, anything in Joanne’s hand or on the ground around her is fair game!

At lunchtime on exhibit, Imani and Joanne station on the upper right-hand hill of the gorilla exhibit, and keepers can toss items to each individually. Morning station feedings in the bedrooms are set aside for training and generally occur as a one-on-one keeper to gorilla session. Since Joanne has become interested in participating in these sessions, she often gets her own keeper with to interact with while Imani focuses on her training on the other side of the bedroom.

For now, these sessions with Joanne are helping her form relationships with her keepers and build up her confidence away from mom. As little Joanne grows older, keepers will begin training her to offer different behaviors useful in our care of her, using her favorite food items as positive reinforcement. As for what those favorite food items will be, Joanne will certainly let us know in her own way!

Jami Pawlowski is a keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read her previous post, Gorilla Joanne: Little Miss Personality.

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Party Time: Leroy the Giraffe Turns One!

Safari Park keepers created a special celebration for a special giraffe.

Safari Park keepers threw a party for a special giraffe.

January 8, 2015 was a day for celebration at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. After a long bout of illness and recovery, giraffe calf Leroy turned one year old! To celebrate the thriving “Birthday Boy,” we threw him a little party, complete with banana-apple-carrot cupcakes for him and chocolate cupcakes for the staff.

It’s hard to believe it’s already been a year since this very special giraffe calf was born to female Shani. Every one of our giraffes special to us, but this birthday milestone is cause for celebration because while he had a bit of a rough start, he’s doing great today! Although he spent the first few months of his life in and out of our Harter Veterinary Hospital receiving care for multiple health concerns, Leroy remains one of the most cheerful and easy-going giraffe I’ve ever met. He continues to receive excellent follow up care from our veterinary and keeper staff, which is helping him thrive.

After our little party, Leroy spent the rest of the afternoon doing what he loves most—eating acacia leaves from the hands of guests on the back of caravan safari trucks, cruising the exhibit with the rest of the giraffe nursery group, and getting special attention from the keepers who have been there with him every step of the way.

Party Prep: Giraffe treats on the left, keeper treats on the right

Party Prep: Giraffe treats on the left, keeper treats on the right

And in case you’re wondering, the other giraffes let Leroy have all the glory during the party, but were quick to clean up afterwards. Chuku, Leroy’s 20-year-old “auntie”, scarfed down what was left of the “cupcakes” shortly after the festivities ended!

Cheers to Leroy! We wish him a many more years of good health, great fun, and delicious leafy browse!

Amanda Lussier is a keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read her previous blog Giraffes: A Creche Full of Cuties!

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Rhino Wet Willy: Rhino Calf Introduced to Ankole Calf at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

RHINO WET WILLY: RHINO CALF INTRODUCED TO ANKOLE CALF AT SAN DIEGO ZOO SAFARI PARK A 6-week-old greater one-horned rhino calf appears to stick his tongue in the ear of his new playmate, an 8-month-old Ankole calf, at the Ione and Paul Harter Animal CareA 6-week-old greater one-horned rhino calf appears to stick his tongue in the ear of his new playmate, an 8-month-old Ankole calf, at the Ione and Paul Harter Animal Care Center at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park earlier today. The pair, introduced three days ago, is still getting to know each other but animal care staff at the Safari Park hope they will become longtime companions.

The male rhino calf, named Chutti, was born on Nov. 27, to a first-time mother in the Safari Park’s Asian Plains exhibit. The mother nursed and cared for her newborn for almost two weeks, but keepers realized he wasn’t gaining weight as he should. To provide the calf with the optimal care to thrive, he was brought to the Safari Park’s animal care center where he is being hand-raised.

 Since the rhino is being raised in a nursery setting, it is important for him to get daily exercise and have companionship. The female Ankole calf, affectionately named Moo Moo Kitty by keepers, was born on May 23 and also was born to a first-time mother that couldn’t properly care for her calf. Keepers hand-raised and recently weaned the Ankole, and they felt she would make the perfect companion for the little rhino since both are social animals. If Chutti and Moo Moo Kitty bond, they could be companions until the little rhino is weaned in 14 to 15 months.
 Visitors to the Safari Park may see these unlikely playmates at the animal care center nursery corral between 1 p.m. and 1:45 p.m. daily, weather permitting, and possibly other times throughout the day.

Photo taken on Jan. 9, by Dustin Trayer, San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

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

 

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Critically Endangered Northern White Rhino at San Diego Zoo Safari Park Returns to the Field

NolaNola, a critically endangered 40-year-old female northern white rhino, who has been under close medical watch for the past 11 days in a boma at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, is showing signs of improved health and returned to her 65-acre field enclosure today where she was greeted by Cape buffalo that also share her habitat.

The elderly Nola was placed under veterinary care on Saturday, Dec. 27, after her keepers noticed she had reduced appetite and activity levels and had a thick nasal discharge. To provide the opportunity for optimal health, Nola was moved to a heated enclosure inside the South African Plains field exhibit to provide her comfort from the recent chilly weather and allow the animal care team to keep close watch over her. Veterinarians determined that, in addition to Nola’s age-related issues, she has a sinus infection and they are treating her with antibiotics.

Keepers report Nola was pleased to be back in the field where she has ample space to exercise and can enjoy time with her companion, a 45-year-old male southern white rhino named Chuck.

Nola is one of just five northern white rhinos left in the world. Three other northern white rhinos are at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya and one is in the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic. The five remaining rhinos have not been able to breed. Poaching for its horn has brought the northern white rhino to such critically low numbers.

Photo taken on Jan. 8, 2015, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291
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Rhino with a Runny Nose: Rare Rhino Undergoes Veterinary Exam at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Rhino ExamNola, 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.

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291
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Elderly Northern White Rhino Passes Away at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

SafariParkA northern white rhino, Angalifu, passed away in the early hours of this morning, Sunday December 14. The male rhino, who was estimated to be 44 years of age, was under veterinary care for a variety of age related conditions. His death leaves only 5 Northern white rhinos left in the world: one elderly female at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, 1 at a zoo in Czechoslovakia and 3 in Africa.

“Angalifu’s death is a tremendous loss to all of us.” said Randy Rieches, curator of mammals for the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “Not only because he was well beloved here at the Park but also because his death brings this wonderful species one step closer to extinction.”

Northern white rhinos have been brought to the brink of extinction due to poaching in Africa. Unfortunately only a few have been preserved at zoos and these have been largely non-reproductive.

“More than two decades ago we started working with the species here at the Safari Park.” Said Barbara Durrant, director of reproductive physiology for the San Diego Zoo Institute of Conservation Research. “Unfortunately we only had three rhinos here at the Park and they were all of an advanced age. We were not able to get them to breed and we have been sadly watching their species being exterminated in the wild.”

In the wild rhinos are killed for their horns, a unique physiological feature made up of keratin (the same material in human fingernails). Many cultures believe rhino horn has medicinal value and the black-market in horns taken from poached animals continues to thrive.

Protected from the poaching that has wiped out northern white rhinos in Africa, Angalifu has been living at the Safari Park since his arrival from the Khartoum Zoo in the late 1980s. Although holding out little hope for the species, conservationists at San Diego Zoo Global continue to work to find a way to recover the species. Semen and testicular tissue from the male rhino have been stored in the Frozen Zoo with the hope that new reproductive technologies will allow recovery of the species.

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the mission 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, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The important conservation and science work of these entities is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of the Zoological Society of San Diego.

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