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A Party to Remember for Giant Panda Xiao Liwu: The Small, but Mighty Bear Celebrates His Third Birthday

Xiao Liwu seemed delighted by his ice cake!

Xiao Liwu seemed delighted by his ice cake!

It’s a birthday extravaganza at the San Diego Zoo today! Giant panda Xiao Liwu (pronounced sshyaoww lee woo)—“Mr. Wu” to his keepers and fans—was all energy as he celebrated his third birthday in spectacular pirate-themed fashion. The birthday bear, whose name means “little gift,” came out of his den to find a festive atmosphere, complete with decorations, a brand-new swing, and a beautiful ice cake proclaiming, “Happy Birthday Mr. Wu.”

Hundreds of guests watched as the easy-going bear opened gift after gift. The crowd’s excitement grew as he finally made his way over to his cake and began devouring the slices of fruits and vegetables layering the top. The Zoo’s nutritional services team—the imaginative force behind this year’s impressive cake—spent weeks freezing and sculpting the blue and orange icy treat. The two-tiered cake was made of water mixed with food coloring and frozen into layers. Bamboo stalks, a favorite of Mr. Wu’s, were used to support the top tier. The cake was decorated with sliced fruits and vegetables, colored pieces of ice, pureed yam frosting, and a little honey.

As a special birthday gift, a new swing set was hung inside his exhibit. The swing was built by the Zoo’s exhibit team, with all of the parts donated by fans. Mr. Wu’s keepers also hung decorations, and placed tiny gift boxes filled with hay, pine shavings and his daily food items around the exhibit for him to enjoy. The cake, swing, and gifts are a form of enrichment, which is important to the panda. The items keep him stimulated and active, and allow him to show natural behaviors.

Keepers describe Mr. Wu as a small but mighty bear, who’s extremely smart and adventurous. He enjoys playing with ice cubes and climbing the tallest tree in his exhibit. He also enjoys rolling in different scents, with his favorites being wintergreen and cinnamon. He weighs just over 155 pounds today—but when he is full grown, he could weigh as much as 250 pounds. Visitors can see Mr. Wu at Panda Trek at the San Diego Zoo, or watch him on the Zoo’s Panda Cam, at www.zoo.sandiegozoo.org/cams/panda-cam

The San Diego Zoo is home to three giant pandas: Xiao Liwu; his mother, Bai Yun; and his father, Gao Gao. Giant pandas are on loan to the San Diego Zoo from the People’s Republic of China, for conservation studies of this endangered species. Those who want to help San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy lead the fight against extinction can celebrate Mr. Wu’s birthday by becoming a Hero for Wildlife. To find out how, visit www.endextinction.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, 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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San Diego Zoo Begins Transformation of 8 Acres for New Africa Rocks Exhibit

Ruva, a South African porcupine breaks ground on the largest expansion in the Zoo's 99-year history. Pictured from left to right: Krista Perry, animal trainer, San Diego Zoo; Conrad Prebys, who gave the visionaly gift of 11 million for Conrad Prebys Africa Rocks; and Debbie Turner. At center: principal donor Ernest Rady and wife Evelyn Rady. At far right: Robert Horsman, chairman of the board, San Diego Zoo Global.

Pictured from left to right: Krista Perry, animal trainer, San Diego Zoo; Conrad Prebys, who gave the visionary gift of $11 million for Conrad Prebys Africa Rocks; and Debbie Turner. At center: principal donor Ernest Rady and wife Evelyn Rady. At far right: Robert Horsman, chairman of the board, San Diego Zoo Global.

An African crested porcupine had the honor of taking the first dig this morning, when the San Diego Zoo broke ground on the largest expansion in its 99-year history. Conrad Prebys Africa Rocks is a $68 million project that will transform eight acres of the Zoo and replace 1930s-era grottos and enclosures (formerly known as Cat and Dog Canyon) with new habitats for African plant and animal species that range from savanna to shore.

When the exhibit opens in 2017, Africa Rocks will entirely transform the area that was previously a steep canyon. Africa Rocks’ gently winding, ADA-accessible pathway will lead guests through different types of African habitats—including a West African forest, acacia woodlands, Ethiopian highlands, kopje gardens and a Madagascar habitat.

More than 4,500 individual donors, including the visionary gift of $11 million from Conrad Prebys, have contributed to the Africa Rocks Campaign. Principal donor Ernest Rady provided a $10 million matching gift challenge in 2013 that resulted in 3,800 individual donors giving more than $20 million toward the exhibit. Other principal donors, Dan and Vi McKinney, gave $5 million for the creation of an African penguin habitat. Additional funds have been generously given by corporations, private foundations and estate gifts.

”We want Conrad Prebys Africa Rocks to showcase Africa, where wildlife and habitat are being threatened like never before,” said Douglas Myers, president and CEO of San Diego Zoo Global. “The new area has been designed with some innovative exhibit features that demonstrate San Diego Zoo’s leadership in animal welfare and give us some amazing storytelling opportunities, to help connect people to wildlife.”

Africa Rocks will be a home to mammals, reptiles, birds, and plant life native to Africa. The exhibit will feature a range of primates, including hamadryas and gelada baboons, vervet monkeys, and lemurs. Other mammals in the exhibit will include southern ratel, fossa and an African leopard.

The Zoo is now home to two African penguins, found in the Children’s Zoo—but expect this number to grow when Africa Rocks’ penguin beach opens, and the Zoo begins its participation in an international species survival plan for these endangered aquatic birds. There will also be a walk-through aviary with sociable weavers.

Dwarf crocodiles will be among the reptile species in Africa Rocks, which are the smallest of the crocodile species. Other reptiles featured in the exhibit will include Agama lizards and spurred tortoises.

The Zoo will also be relocating several old-growth trees, including a ficus and a sausage tree. Other African-native plants in the exhibit will include acacia, aloe, Madagascar ocotillo and palms.

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 July 29, 2015 by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo

CONTACT: SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS, 619-685-3291
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10 Tiger Vines for Global Tiger Day

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.

For more fun animal videos, follow the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Jenn Beening is the social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous post, 21 Terrific Tiger Facts.

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Ahoy! Let’s Celebrate Xiao Liwu’s Birthday!

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Flashback to Xiao Liwu’s first photo at about a month old. Oh, that face!

Xiao Liwu’s 3rd Birthday is July 29th  but we are going to have his big party on August 1st for him, beginning at 9 a.m. (US Pacific Daylight Time), so mark your calendars and set your alarm!  We are looking forward to seeing what his ice cake (crafted by our creative Forage Team) looks like this year. We as a team always enjoy this little surprise and the only hint we have had is that it is orange. (You can read about how an ice cake is made here.)

“X marks the spot” when the Forage Team delivers the cake at 8:45 a.m., while we keepers put out all his enrichment.  The birthday boy will be able to come aboard his exhibit at 9:15 a.m., right after the Zoo opens so all of his crew and friends can be there to watch him enjoy his cake and “presents.”  Mr. Wu  has commandeered the cave exhibit, so his fans will have a bigger space to view the celebration.  This is also the better exhibit for Panda Cam viewing so all the Panda Fans that cannot be there in person can celebrate with us, too!

Mr. Wu still is our “Little Gift” and amazes us everyday. He is now 149.6 pounds (68 kilograms) and is still small but mighty. He has been going through the destructive phase, testing the limits of every climbing branch and log in his exhibit.  So be ready for the fact that there may be times that he falls or gets a new scrape, just like any young boy would.  He has many playful bouts of running around and enjoying his enrichment, but he still remains patient during his training sessions.  We have taken a little break with his blood pressure readings, as Bai Yun has been having full access to the training crate.

As keepers we look forward to this time to give all our pandas extra enrichment in celebration of this milestone—another year closer to being an adult (which usually is around five years of age).  If you are able to come to the celebration in person, please also stop over at our Volunteer table to learn about giant pandas and look at our special artifacts.

We know one day that Mr. Wu will add to the genetic diversity of future giant pandas and maybe even one day his future cubs will be candidates for release into the wild. In this way and so many others he is a “Little Gift” that keeps on giving!

Jennifer Becerra is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Happy Anniversary, Gao Gao.

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Malayan Tigers, A Family Tradition at the San Diego Zoo

Having one offspring of a legendary pair is special. Having THREE is something else altogether. Mek and Paka, a breeding pair of Malayan tigers, are heroes in the fight against extinction. The latest in their long line of offspring, Cinta and Berani, are a pair of 18 month old sub-adult males that just sauntered into the Lost Forest at the San Diego Zoo. Cinta and Berani, aka “the Boys,” were born January 4th 2014 in a four-cub litter that also included two girls.

Brothers Berani & Cinta are inseparable. (photo by Penny Hyde)

Brothers Berani & Cinta are inseparable. (photo by Penny Hyde)

The addition of the youthful teenagers has been both joyful and a bit nerve-wracking! One particularly heart pounding moment came in the first few weeks of the boys exploring the recently renovated exhibit. At the end of May, Cinta and Berani were wading in the large pool in the lower exhibit when one decided to try to jump up the wall. Easily clearing 10 feet in a single bound, he gently fell back on his feet in the pool and wandered off to explore something else. Even though there was never a chance he could get out of the exhibit, it was still surprising to see how easily he leapt up a sheer wall. This was a true testament to how athletic and powerful these majestic creatures really are.

Brothers Cinta & Berani snuggle up for a cat nap (photo by Deric Wagner)

Brothers Cinta & Berani snuggle up for a cat nap (photo by Deric Wagner)

The exhibit was not the biggest adjustment the boys had to make. Their brother Conner, twice their age and a quarter larger in size, is an imposing and dominant male. Connor made it his mission to scent mark the entire exhibit thoroughly. This marking can last for a month. While the boys are never in the same exhibit as Connor, they know he is around and they had to adjust to seeing and smelling a much larger male. This certainly put the boys in a nervous state, leading to some funny interactions and behaviors early on. Both Berani and Cinta were on high alert the first day they and Connor were out on their exhibits for the first time. They could see Connor through the double fence and never once turned their backs on him the entire day. All the while, Connor just sat on his rock, welcoming the new kids to the block.

Connor sharpening his tetherball skillz. #TigerTetherball (video by Rachel Pollard)

A video posted by San Diego Zoo (@sandiegozoo) on

Once things settled down and all the tigers were getting comfortable with their surroundings, we all moved on to the next phase, exhibit swapping. Both Connor and the boys have now had time in each of the two sections of the redesigned tiger exhibit and they are noticeably calmer as a result. Connor, still a relatively young male himself, continues to show his youthful attitude and exuberance for life. On the first night of Nighttime Zoo, Connor decided to put on a show. He managed to create his own version of The Bellagio water show by ripping up a water line to his drinker. Water sprayed everywhere and one happy tiger got to play in it. The repairs were made the next day and after a short test, Cinta and Berani were swapped into the previously flooded exhibit. They decided to team up and proceeded to tear the water line out of the drinker, just after it got repaired! I guess the boys think imitation is the best form of flattery.

Connor has reclaimed his renovated digs on Tiger Trail in the Lost Forest. #caturday (Pic by Mike Wilson) A photo posted by San Diego Zoo (@sandiegozoo) on

Just two months in with our rambunctious family of brothers, Connor, Cinta and Berani are all adjusting. The family fun and adventure shall continue!

Aimee Goldcamp is a keeper at the San Diego Zoo.

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Mayor Officially Opens New Balboa Park Roadway

PrintSan Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Councilmember Todd Gloria today joined San Diego Zoo Global staff to officially open the newly renovated Old Globe Way, on the south side of the San Diego Zoo. The widened and landscaped roadway leads to the Zoo’s new employee parking structure and the Old Globe, past the Casa del Prado and the San Diego Museum of Art.

“This Old Globe Way project is a gift to all of San Diego, creating a wonderful connection between two of the City’s most cherished landmarks: historic Balboa Park and the world-famous San Diego Zoo,” said Mayor Faulconer. “It’s fitting that the project opens during the Balboa Park Centennial as we elevate, celebrate and promote the park for 2015 and beyond.”

The Old Globe Way project—including a renovated roadway that leads to the Old Globe theater complex and Village Place (an improved turnaround and unloading zone that serves the Casa del Prado)—cost more than $2 million to build.

The transformation of Old Globe Way was made possible in large part through grants from the Legler Benbough Foundation, the Parker Foundation and the Balboa Park Trust at the San Diego Foundation. Also mentioned in the ceremony was the Centennial Walkway that links Balboa Park with the San Diego Zoo, through a landscaped path including two elephant topiaries and the new San Diego Zoo employee parking structure, which is expected to reduce staff use of the main guest parking lot.

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.

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

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Summer Pool Party – Animal Style

Summer is in full swing and you know what that means–pool parties! And not just for us; many animals also enjoy the life aquatic. Enjoy this roundup of animals who take to water like moths to flame.

Hippos

Hippos are water fiends. They’re actually adapted for life in the water and are found living in slow-moving rivers and lakes in Africa. With their eyes, ears, and nostrils on the top of the head, hippos can hear, see, and breathe while most of their body is underwater.

Elephants

Our behemoth pachyderm friends also don’t hate water. Elephants often spray themselves with water or roll in the mud or dust for protection from the sun and biting insects. They can also use their trunks as periscopes to breathe underwater, which is quite possibly one of the coolest adaptations ever.

Polar Bears

Polar bears practically live a perpetual pool party. The taxonomic name for polar bears is Ursus maritimus, which means sea bear, a fitting name for these champion swimmers. They have been known to swim more than 60 miles without rest in search of food, using their broad front feet for paddling and their back legs like rudders to steer.

A #polarbear can swim for up to 12 days & up to 426 miles. #regram #animals #nature #sandiegozoo

A photo posted by San Diego Zoo (@sandiegozoo) on

Jaguars

Jaguars would show you up at any pool party with their swimming prowess, helped along by super muscular limbs and large paws to paddle with. In fact, they typically live near water and have a taste for aquatic creatures. Jaguars have even been observed sitting quietly at the water’s edge, occasionally tapping the surface with their tail to attract fish.

Otters

Otters are the only species in the weasel family that enjoys constant pool parties. They spend most of their lives in water, and they’re built for it. Their streamlined bodies are perfect for diving and swimming. They also have webbed feet and can close off their ears and nose as they swim underwater. Otters can also see just as well underwater as they can above, and can stay submerged for five to eight minutes.

Penguins

Most birds are masters of the skies, but penguins prefer the sea. Penguins are fast swimmers allowing them to catch a variety of prey including sardines and anchovies, as well as squid and crustaceans.

Tigers

Much like jaguars, tigers don’t shy away from a good dip in the water. Excellent and powerful swimmers, tigers are often found during the day relaxing or waiting to ambush prey in ponds, streams, and rivers.

Gharials

Gharials, like all crocodilians, are born knowing how to swim. As they grow older they become incredibly agile swimmers, moving through the water with ease by using their powerful, oar-like tails and strongly-webbed hind feet.

Photo by Bob Worthington

Photo by Bob Worthington

 

Can you think of any other animals who love water? Let us know in the comments.

 

Matt Steele is senior social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read his previous post, Myths About Rhino Horn That Need To Go Away.

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A Little Switch

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A change of scenery will be enriching for active, curious Xiao Liwu.

On Friday our keepers decided to switch it up a bit for our panda bears (and for a particular tree); Xiao Liwu was moved into the first enclosure and Gao Gao moved to the “Keebler” side. This change of environment is nothing new to our bears (we do this every few months), and is a chance for guests and Panda Cam viewers to see some interesting behavior as the pandas get reacquainted with their new spot. Giant pandas are very good at scenting their territory, and when we are able to play “musical bears” we give them the chance to re-mark territory and exhibit some of those behaviors: scent marking in a handstand position as well as rubbing on trees and even on the ground. Not only is this fun for our guests to observe, it is a good behavior for our bears to express. Changing locations is a novel enrichment experience for the pandas.

The switch last week also gave our staff a chance to check out the little elm tree that Mr. Wu was exposing. For those of you who haven’t seen that particular enclosure over the years, it has gone through a few trees in its day. The first tree in the exhibit was knocked over by Su Lin, born in 2005. Luckily, nothing was damaged and we were able to secure her and the tree so that she could continue to use it as a climbing structure. We were then gifted with a young elm tree that Yun Zi (born 2009) tore apart during one of his many energy bursts. Shortly after that, we acquired the elm currently in the exhibit. We did our best to secure it so that the tree might stand a chance against a young, rowdy bear. So yesterday when our keepers discovered that little Mr. Wu had torn the plastic covering off the elm, they moved Gao Gao into the exhibit knowing that he probably wouldn’t destroy the tree.

Over the past ten years, I’ve watched cubs go through the many stages of adolescence, and they can be very destructive. The cubs learn how strong they are and like to test boundaries. And never forget how smart bears are and how curious they can be. As keepers, our job is to make sure that these bears go through these stages safely. For our researchers, this is a busy time watching and noting the many changes going on with our bears. This can often be fun for the observers as they watch the bears be a little silly and try out their abilities.

So while our staff does their best to restore the tree’s protective covering, enjoy watching the bears in a new—yet familiar—environment. Also keep an eye out for some smelling behaviors; after every storm I think we get some of the most fascinating behaviors from all of our animals as they investigate all the new smells kicked into the air.

Anastasia Jonilionis is a panda narrator and keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous blog, Thunder and Lightning.

Monitor’s note: We have recently updated our Blog Comment Policy. We ask that comments stay focused on the topic of the blog or what you observe on Panda Cam rather than animals or events at other institutions. Thank you!

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21 Terrific Tiger Facts

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.

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. | 21 Gripping Tiger Facts

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. | 21 Gripping Tiger Facts

The earliest tiger fossils date back about two million years.

In the last 100 years, we have lost 97 percent of wild tigers. | 21 Gripping Tiger Facts

In the last 100 years, we have lost 97 percent of wild tigers.

At the current rate, all wild tigers could be extinct in 5 years. | 21 Gripping Tiger Facts for Global Tiger Day

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. | 21 Gripping Tiger Facts

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. | 21 Gripping Tiger Facts

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. | 21 Gripping Tiger Facts

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.

Tigers can take down prey 5 times their own weight. | 21 Gripping Tiger Facts

They can take down prey five times their own weight.

A tiger can cover a distance of up to 33 feet in one leap. | 21 Tiger Day Facts

A tiger can cover a distance of up to 33 feet in one leap.

Tigers are solitary cats, unless a female is raising cubs. | 21 Gripping Tiger Facts

Tigers are solitary cats, unless a female is raising cubs.

A tiger’s night vision is six times better than that of a human. | 21 Gripping Tiger Facts

A tiger’s night vision is six times better than that of a human.

Female tigers are about 20% smaller and lighter than males. | 21 Gripping Tiger Facts

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. | 21 Gripping Tiger Facts

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. | 21 Gripping Tiger Facts

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. | 21 Gripping Tiger Facts

A tiger’s stripes are skin deep.

ITigers 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. | 21 Gripping Tiger Facts

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. | 21 Gripping Tiger Facts

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. | 21 Gripping Tiger Facts

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. | 21 Gripping Tiger Facts

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. | 21 Gripping Tiger Facts

While most cats avoid it, tigers seek out water to swim and hunt.

While most cats avoid it, tigers seek out water to swim and hunt. | 21 Gripping Tiger Facts

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.

Jenn Beening is the social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous post, How to Build a Pollinator Garden.
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African Serval Kittens and Mother Play, Pounce at the San Diego Zoo

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A male two-month-old African serval kitten plays with one of his new enrihment items at the San Diego Zoo this morning.

Three African servals were doing what cats do best this morning at the San Diego Zoo—pouncing, digging, hunting and sleeping. The mother, Onshe, and her two cubs (who have not yet been named) received their daily enrichment, with a few extra treats thrown in. In addition to new piles of mulch, the cats were given carved, painted gourds covered with different scents from food seasonings. They were also given a few pinecones filled with paper and skin shed from a snake. The enrichment items, created by the Zoo’s “Epic Teen” summer camp participants, were designed to encourage the animals’ natural foraging and investigative behaviors.

The male and female servals were born on May 13. While they’re the same size and weight, keepers are able to tell them apart by the pink spot on the male kitten’s nose—the female’s nose is solid black. The serval kittens are still being nursed by their mom, but they are starting to try solid food, when their mother shares her carnivore diet with them. As they mature, they are becoming more adventurous—and are venturing farther and higher from their mother in the exhibit, as they test their ability to climb and jump. Guests visiting the San Diego Zoo can find the trio of servals in the Rock Kopje area on Front Street.

The San Diego Zoo is hosting Nighttime Zoo, presented by Cymer, now through Labor Day, Sept. 7. During this special event, guests can stay in the Zoo until 9 p.m. and experience toe-tapping, body-moving music in a variety of sounds and styles throughout the afternoon and evening—including rock tunes through the decades, festive mariachi melodies, a brass band and even a cappella harmonies. The Zoo has also added a 15,500-square-foot exhibit for Asian leopards that is the new entrance to the Barlin-Kahn Family Panda Trek. All Nighttime Zoo activities and entertainment are included with admission to the San Diego Zoo.

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 July 17, 2015 by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo

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