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Baby Bonobo Climbs, Plays at San Diego Zoo

PrintThe youngest member of the bonobo troop at the San Diego Zoo could be seen playing, climbing ropes and rolling in the grass on Friday morning, Aug. 28. The female, named Belle, is 20 months old and is one of four bonobos that arrived at the San Diego Zoo last month, from the Cincinnati Zoo. Bonobos live together in integrated family groups. Belle, her mother, older brother and sister integrated easily into the existing bonobo troop providing them the opportunity for the kind of social interaction they would have in the wild.

Bonobos are a very rare and critically endangered great ape species native only to the Democratic Republic of Congo, but the wild populations are being decimated at an alarming rate. They are very closely related to humans, sharing 98.4 percent of the same DNA. The San Diego Zoo is one of only a handful of zoological institutions in the United States that house and care for this rare species.

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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Punk Rock Polar Bears?

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Polar bears are champion swimmers!

One of the most frequently asked questions during the summer months at Polar Bear Plunge is “Why are the bears green?” The answer may surprise you!

The outer guard hairs on a polar bear’s coat are clear and hollow (like a straw), which means they often take on the color of whatever they happened to roll in. Wild bears mostly have only snow and ice to lie on, so they usually maintain the bright white color that you imagine when you picture a polar bear. Here at the Zoo, we like to provide Kalluk, Tatqiq, and Chinook with as many different substrates in their habitat as we can so that they have options when they choose to rest or roll around. This gives them an opportunity to exhibit species-specific behavior. Throughout their habitat they have access to grass, sand, mulch, dirt, pine needles, hay, and a couple of hammocks made out of used fire hose. You may have seen Chinook masquerading as a brown bear after a prolonged roll in the mulch or dirt.

That brings me back to the original question of “Why are the polar bears green?” Remember those hollow hairs? That tiny space in each hair is a great place for algae to live. The bears’ main exhibit pool is fresh water and during the summer, when the weather is warmer than usual, algae begin to grow on the pool floor. When our bears swim and brush up along the bottom or sides of the pool, they pick up some of the algae, which continue to grow inside the individual hairs! It is not a concern for the bears as we have an elaborate filtration system and excellent water quality team. It is unlikely that they even notice it, but it does give them a bit of a punk rock look. In the winter, around Christmas time, they look downright festive!

The discoloration will last until the bears molt in the springtime. For about two weeks in March to April, our bears glisten with a brilliant white color. Once they start rolling around in all that substrate we provide, they begin to take on the color of their environment and the cycle begins again.

Matthew Price is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read his previous blog, Springtime for Polar Bears.

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Devi, Cover Girl

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Five-month-old Devi is a bundle of energy with a personality all her own!

Have you seen the August 2015 ZOONOOZ? Hippo calf Devi is the “cover girl”—complete with a model-like, pouty lip. Devi is now five months old and has been growing in both size and personality. It wasn’t that long ago we were straining to get a glimpse of the shy, skittish calf tucked under the chin of Funani, her almost 3,500-pound mom. Nowadays, Devi is doing underwater barrel rolls and cartwheels while Funani tries to keep up! Often, Funani rests her big head on her calf’s back to keep her still, if only for a minute. But if Devi isn’t ready to settle down, she wriggles free to go on to her next adventure.

Some of you might wonder: “When is this happening? Every time I go see them, they are sleeping.” Hippos are naturally nocturnal, meaning they are active at night. Here at the Zoo, the best time to see them active is after they’ve finished breakfast in the barn and go back out to the exhibit—usually right as the Zoo opens—and then later in the afternoon. But keep in mind that, depending on their mood and weather, they can be active anytime.

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Devi often likes to get right up to the window to watch the visitors.

If you witness one of their active times, you will see Devi’s personality shine. There is only one word to describe her: sassy. She often ventures up to the glass to gaze at the visitors while Funani gently nudges her to move along. Then, if they pause on a ramp or a rock, she might initiate a play session with mom. Devi will start with a quick head toss that turns into a nibble on her mother’s ear or mouth and then, ever so gently, Funani opens her large mouth (exposing those enormous teeth) and thus begins the session.

These sessions are teaching Devi valuable life lessons on how to maneuver if and when she has to fight, but for us onlookers these sessions are sweet and smile inducing. Their play sessions on land are something to see, too! Mostly, it’s Devi trying to check out everything around her as she head tosses, nose bumps, bounces, and pivots all at a pace much quicker than Funani who is trying to make sure her “little one” doesn’t get into trouble. It is common to see or hear Funani snort at Devi if she needs to reign in the sass. You can “see” the snort when they are in the water—it’s when a rush of large air bubbles suddenly come from Funani’s nostrils. If you watch closely, you’ll see Devi will change her tune after a snort from mom…usually.

Funani and Devi are scheduled to be in their habitat on Hippo Trail Tuesdays, Thursdays, and weekends. As always, the schedule is subject to change depending on their needs, but try to come by and see the sassy sweetie soon!

 

Jennifer Chapman is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous blog, Hippo Birth: A Private Event.

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San Diego Zoo Welcomes Four Capybaras

PrintVeterinarians gave their first exam this morning to four capybaras, members of the world’s largest rodent species, born Monday at the San Diego Zoo. The exam included weighing the youngsters; checking their eyes, ears and overall physical health; and taking a sample of hair for use in determining the sex of each one. Like many other species of rodents, there are no visible signs to indicate the sex of these animals until they reach maturity, which is about 18 months to 2 years.

The four capybaras, which weighed between 3.5 and 4 pounds, were born on-exhibit in the Harry and Grace Steele Elephant Odyssey. They were discovered by keepers at around 6 a.m. Aug. 10. Their mother, Buttercup, is an experienced mom: This is her sixth litter, and she has given birth to a total of 23 babies. The father of these four is a capybara named Wesley.

Guests visiting the San Diego Zoo can see the capybaras, who are walking and swimming on their own. All of the females in the group help to care for—and even nurse—the babies.

Capybaras are the world’s largest rodent and are found east of the Andes, on Central and South American riverbanks, beside ponds and in marshes, or wherever standing water is available. Due to its dry skin, the capybara requires a swimming hole as part of its lifestyle, to stay healthy.

The capybara is not currently classified as an endangered species, although it is threatened by deforestation, habitat destruction and illegal poaching. It was in trouble not too long ago, though, due to hunting. Local people have used this animal as a food source for centuries, and have been seen wearing capybara teeth as ornaments.

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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No Pregnancy for Panda at San Diego Zoo

PrintSan Diego Zoo Global scientists have confirmed that the female giant panda, Bai Yun, is not pregnant.

During a naturally-occurring estrous cycle in March 2015, Zoo staff performed an artificial insemination procedure following unsuccessful breeding sessions with male, Gao Gao. Since the artificial insemination procedure, veterinarians, animal care personnel from the San Diego Zoo along with scientists and researchers at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research have been tracking her hormone levels and watching for behavioral signs of pregnancy. In addition to the hormone tracking, ultrasounds and thermal imaging were conducted to check for any fetal development. All methods used for monitoring for a possible pregnancy are providing conclusive negative results.

Female giant pandas experience estrus just once a year and it only lasts for 48 to 72 hours. If Bai Yun had been pregnant, she would have been one of the oldest giant pandas to give birth. Her mother currently holds that record.

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