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11 Animals That Feast Together

Mealtime is a profoundly social activity, and humans aren’t the only species that come together to satiate their nutritional needs. As we prepare to give thanks around heaping tables of festive cooking, let’s consider our friends in the animal kingdom that can also appreciate a meal together.

Lions | 11 Animals That Feast Together

A king may lead a pride of lions, but it’s the females that bring home the actual bacon (aka food). Their smaller and lighter physique makes lionesses more agile and faster when it comes to catching prey. Dinner typically comes at dusk and dawn, after the group takes down and sometimes relocates their meal to a safe spot for feasting.

Zebra | 11 Animals That Feast Together

Herd animals, like zebras, mow the fields together as a group, in part because herd immunity makes larger groups of prey harder to attack. Since zebras are grazing and grinding food for hours each day, their teeth have adapted to grow throughout their lifetime.

Meerkat | 11 Animals That Feast Together

Meerkat mobs understand the value in numbers. Even though individuals typically find their own food, meerkats sometimes share the task of capturing and enjoying larger prey, such as lizards. Let’s be honest—humans typically don’t gather their extended family together for every meal (could you imagine?), but special seasonal moments unite our gang in a similar fashion.

Dholes | Animals That Feast Together

Like other dogs, dholes form super packs that hunt together. Packs range from 5 to 12 members, but sometimes groups will join forces to hunt and share prey before separating into their original smaller packs. This is similar to those distant relatives who come home once or twice a year, if only to score a huge holiday meal.

Gorillas | 11 Animals That Feast Together

In contrast, gorilla troops travel, sleep, and eat together on a regular basis. A gorilla’s diet is made up of primarily plant material, so luckily for them, the forest they call home is like a huge restaurant buffet. Habitat destruction is a major threat facing species like gorillas, so we must work together to preserve the forests these primates and many others feast on.

Orangutan | 11 Animals That Feast Together

Orangutans tend to be more solitary and relaxed than other great ape species, like Thanksgiving dinner party on chill mode. Troop members would rather feed together peacefully, keeping an eye on the youngsters, than swing from tree to tree in search of fruit.

Elephants | 11 Animals That Feast Together

Like gorillas, elephants live in close social groups and graze for browse together to satisfy their healthy appetites. Unlike other mammals, elephants grow throughout their lifetime, so you can imagine how large their habitat needs to be. And like gorilla habitats, we have to do a better job at protecting these areas.

Spotted hyenas | 11 Animals That Feast Together

Spotted hyenas do more than just scavenge for meals together. The bigger the clan, the larger its prey—including young rhinos, wildebeests, zebras, and cape buffalo. After they bag a meal, hyenas bring new meaning to the phrase “lick the plate clean” and eat practically every part of the animal, including the skin, hooves, bone, and teeth. Yum!

Vultures | 11 Animals That Feast Together

Vultures tend to look at any meal as a Thanksgiving meal, because they never know when or where the next one will take place. Once carrion is located, the information is relayed quickly and quietly to surrounding birds, and masses land to join the feast. For nature’s cleanup crew, you don’t want to be the last to the table.

Flamingos | 11 Animals That Feast Together

Flamingos may be pretty in pink, but large swaths of birds, sometimes referred to as a flamboyance, share the same shallow muck during mealtimes. In other words, every bird double dips. Their eating habits involve a lot of backwash, but their bills are specifically designed to filter out mud and trap tiny morsels, including algae, diatoms, and small aquatic crustaceans.

Przewalski's horse | 11 Animals That Feast Together

Mongolian wild horses, aka Przewalski’s horses, live in distinct social groups that spend large amounts of time grooming one another. When they aren’t reinforcing social bonds and keeping each other clean and tidy, members all graze and rest together, too.

 

Join the conversation: Which animals would you add to this list of social eaters?

 

Jenn Beening is the social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous post, 14 Adorable Baby Animal Facts.

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A Halloween Party Fit for a Grandma

San Diego Zoo’s oldest resident, 130-year-old Galapagos tortoise Grandma, celebrates Halloween with a pumpkin breakfast.

San Diego Zoo’s oldest resident, a 130-year-old   named Grandma, enjoyed a pumpkin breakfast.

The San Diego Zoo’s oldest residents, the Galápagos tortoises, proved age is nothing but a number this morning, as they celebrated the Halloween season with a yummy pumpkin breakfast. The senior citizens group—led by Grandma, the oldest member at approximately 130 years old—had a great time chomping down on delicious pumpkins, while animal care staff looked on.

Galápagos tortoises are the giants of the tortoise world, with males weighing more than 500 pounds and females weighing an average of 250 pounds. The San Diego Zoo currently has 13 of these supersize tortoises; nine of them arrived at the Zoo in 1928, and the other four joined the herd later. Animal care staff estimates all of the tortoises, with the exception of one, are over the age of 90, making them among some of the oldest animals on the planet. Staff members say their steady behavior and longevity makes them a favorite of Zoo guests.

“I can’t tell you how many people are absolutely amazed when they come to the exhibit,” said Jonny Carlson, San Diego Zoo reptile keeper. “They’re surprised at just how big or old the tortoises are, and that’s just something you can’t appreciate without seeing them in person.”

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies the Galápagos tortoise as a vulnerable species. Modern conservation efforts have helped increase population numbers after human hunting almost wiped out the species. Today, the tortoises face threats from nonnative species, such as rats, dogs and cats, which eat tortoise eggs and young tortoises. San Diego Zoo Global partners with the Charles Darwin Research Station on the Galápagos Islands to help with breeding and to give the hatchlings a headstart by protecting them until they are old enough to survive on their own.

Zoo visitors can see Grandma and the other Galápagos tortoise seniors at Reptile Mesa in the Discovery Outpost area of the Zoo. Grandma is smaller than her roommates and tends to stay in one location, moving only when she feels it is necessary.

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.

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Aisha Turns Two

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Aisha is becoming more independent, agile, and bold!

Two years have flown by and our little girl had another birthday (October 25)! Recently, we have a seen a lot of milestones in Aisha’s behavior. She is becoming more independent and Indah is more comfortable letting her explore on her own. In just the last two months, we have seen Aisha follow her mom to the front glass, increase her amount of play with her “aunties,” and even come down to the ground on her own.

Indah has started to leave Aisha and is letting her decide if she wants to follow. Most of the time, Aisha decides to join her. But the first few times Aisha walked on the ground, she was very hesitant; she particularly did not like the sand at the front of the exhibit and called for her mom to get her, so she did not have to touch it. She now crawls across it with little hesitation.

We have even seen her come to the ground without anyone being near. At first she came to the ground because Indah or another orangutan was there.  But recently she came and pulled grass to eat and play with when no one else was around. All of this behavior is mimicking what she has seen from her mom.
In just the past week, we have seen an increase in the length of play between Aisha and Janey and Karen (the latter in particular). Karen clambers up into the climbing structure near Aisha and waits for the youngster to initiate play. (Aisha will leave if Karen is too pushy and tries to touch her first.)  They play and wrestle on the ropes and in the hammocks. Sometimes it looks quite rough, but it is all play behavior. When Janey wants to play with Aisha, she goes to a spot on the ground that she knows the little one can reach from a rope or tree and waits for her to come to her. Once Aisha is more comfortable on the ground, I suspect we will see a lot more play between her and Janey.

The bond between Aisha and Indah continues to be incredibly strong. Aisha still goes to mom whenever she is anxious, and we have not ever separated Aisha from Indah. We are starting to work with them to be comfortable separating from one another. We want to be able to get frequent weights on Aisha—this is important for the species database on what is the normal range for a parent-raised infant. We also want to start her operant training so we can monitor her health as she grows and becomes an adult.

Tanya Howard is senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous blog, Siamangs Play Nice with Baby Orangutan Aisha.

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No Tricks, Just Treats for Komodo Dragon at the San Diego Zoo

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Ratu, a Komodo dragon, uses her tongue to “smell” where her treat awaits.

Animal care staff at the San Diego Zoo got into the Halloween spirit this morning, with carved pumpkins for the world’s largest lizard. There were no candles to light the jack-o’-lanterns, but keepers filled the gourds with trout and ground elk meat drizzled with fish blood, for a 4-year-old Komodo dragon. Ratu, which means “queen” in the Indonesian language, could see the orange gourds, but it was the action of flicking her tongue that allowed her to locate the meat, which is part of her daily diet. Putting her food inside the jack-o’-lanterns encourages the animal’s natural behavior of scavenging and foraging.

Komodo dragons are carnivores that detect odors by sending their long, yellow forked tongue to sample the air and then delivering it to the roof of the mouth, making contact with an auxiliary olfactory sense organ called the Jacobson’s organ. The chemical analyzers in that organ are able to “smell” airborne molecules—and if the concentration present on the left tongue tip is higher than that sampled from the right, the Komodo dragon will follow the stronger scent to the food.

The Komodo dragon is the largest lizard in the world and is the apex, or top predator in its native range on Komodo, Rinca and Flores islands in Indonesia. They are known to scavenge from carcasses or stalk animals ranging in size from small rodents to large water buffalo. Komodo dragons can detect carrion from an estimated 2.5 miles away, and will actively seek it out. Its jaws, muscles and throat allow a Komodo dragon to swallow huge chunks of meat rapidly, while its stomach expands easily, enabling an adult to consume up to 80 percent of its own body weight in a single meal.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the Komodo dragon population as vulnerable. Laws have been in place to protect the Komodo dragon since the 1930s, and international trade is prohibited by Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)

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.

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Curious Wallaby Joey Leaves Mother’s Pouch to Explore the Outside World

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After more than half a year, this wallaby joey has emerged from its mother’s pouch to explore the outside world.

A seven-month-old Parma wallaby joey at the San Diego Zoo is now out of its mother’s pouch and is checking out its habitat for the first time. Animal care staff watched the youngster hop around the enclosure this morning, often moving away from mother and traveling around on its own. The baby — born in March — spent more than half a year in the pouch before leaving it just a few days ago.

This is the first joey born to four-year-old Tinka, who was hand-raised by Zoo staff. Keepers say Tinka has been a great mom, always making sure her pouch was clean; and she now stays close to her baby, in case it gets hungry. It’s unknown yet whether the joey is a boy or a girl, but animal care staff says they will confirm the gender when they weigh the joey, around its first birthday.

Parma wallabies are marsupials that are native to Australia and New Guinea, found in wet forests with dense undergrowth, near grassy areas. A close relative to kangaroos, these creatures are often mistaken for a smaller version of their popular cousins. There are brush, scrub, swamp, forest and rock wallabies, which gives some clue as to the vastly different habitats these creatures call home. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has named the Parma wallaby a “near threatened” species, with less than 10,000 mature individuals existing worldwide. The species faces a number of environmental threats, including wild dogs, foxes and feral cats, which are its top predators, as well as human development that has contributed to habitat loss.

Visitors can see the newly emerged joey, mother Tinka and their other wallaby friends in the San Diego Zoo’s Australian Outback exhibit.

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 October 19, 2015 by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo

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

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Rare Baby Aye-aye Gets Her Weight Checked at the San Diego Zoo

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A rare baby aye-aye made for an adorable handful when it was weighed at the San Diego Zoo.

Keepers at the San Diego Zoo checked the weight of a one-month-old female aye-aye today (Oct. 15), under the watchful eye of her mother. After distracting mom for a short time with a treat of honey, keepers were able to locate the baby in the nest box, reach in and scoop her up, so they could check her weight. This is an important procedure that is done frequently when the baby is young, to ensure that she is healthy and growing properly. The baby weighed 3.6 ounces at birth and weighed in at 9.03 ounces today. The weight gain is a sign that the mother aye-aye is doing a great job of caring for her adorable baby. The young aye-aye’s name is Fady (pronounced FAW DEE), which means taboo in Malagasy.

“Aye-ayes are extremely rare in zoological settings; only a handful of zoos in the U.S. house these animals,” said Mindy Settles, primate keeper at the San Diego Zoo. “Fady’s birth on September 8 marks the first aye-aye baby born at the San Diego Zoo. Counting this infant, there are only 27 aye-ayes in North America.” Fady was born to a first-time mother, Styx, and father, Nirina. Nirina (which means hope in Malagasy) is an important founder in the aye-aye Species Survival Plan program, developed through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to help ensure the survival of species that may be endangered or threatened in the wild, providing genetic diversity to the species.

Aye-ayes live only on the island of Madagascar. They are the largest of the nocturnal primates and are the most specialized. Aye-ayes spend their lives in rain forest trees. They are dark brown or black in color, and are distinguished by a bushy tail that is larger than their body. Aye-ayes use a unique foraging method called “percussive foraging.” The aye-aye uses its most distinguishing feature—a thin, elongated and versatile middle finger on its hand—to tap on tree trunks and branches, while listening with its large rounded ears for hollows in dead or decaying wood. They search the hollows for their prey—grubs—and use their large teeth to rip open the bark until they find one. Then, the aye-aye uses its long finger to reach in and extract the grub.

Today aye-ayes are protected by law in Madagascar, however many people native to the island consider the aye-aye an omen of bad luck and will often kill one on sight. This, along with habitat destruction, has put the aye-aye on the endangered list.

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes on-site wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is inspiring children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network, reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.

Photo taken on October 15, 2015 by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo

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

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A Day in the Life of a Registered Veterinary Technician at the San Diego Zoo Hospital

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The RVTs at the Zoo have a diverse patient list that can include animals like this Baird’s tapir.

Many people ask me if I love my job here at the “World Famous” San Diego Zoo. I am one of six clinical registered veterinary technicians (RVT) working alongside the Zoo’s veterinarians to help care for and maintain the health of the animal collection. We are a highly skilled group of professionals that strive to deliver state-of-the-art care for the many unique animals that call the San Diego Zoo home.

We work with a diverse range of animals every day. First thing in the morning, we meet in the treatment room of the hospital to look over the list of the day’s scheduled procedures. We divide the list among ourselves, each taking on a different case or cases that we will help with that day.

On this particular day, we have a sun bear coming to the hospital for an annual exam, which includes blood work, radiographs, dental check, sample collection, and ultrasound. We also have a rattlesnake that needs an eye exam, several birds that need physicals, a yellow-footed rock wallaby that needs radiographs and a Caribbean flamingo that needs a bandage changed as well as laser therapy on one of his legs! Since all of these procedures will take place in the hospital building, each animal has a scheduled appointment time.

We will also visit some animals on grounds today: a Baird’s tapir for blood collection and a Queensland koala for fluid therapy (while he sits in his tree). Also, one of our ambassador dogs will have his ears cleaned, a giant panda will get his blood pressure checked, and we’ll provide laser therapy on a little chick’s swollen foot at the Avian Propagation Center. Whew!

Even though some days at the hospital can be incredibly busy and mentally draining, I feel grateful and honored to be able to work with this amazing array of animals. It’s rewarding to know that my job allows me to help each animal individually, and also contribute to wildlife conservation as a whole.

So, do I love my job? I most certainly do!

Marianne Zeitz is a registered veterinary technician at the San Diego Zoo.

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13 Animals Celebrating Pumpkin Season

Who needs a pumpkin spice latte when you can have the whole pumpkin…

This tiger is ready to pounce on seasonal prey.

Animals Celebrating Pumpkin Season

An otter isn’t sure why people are so obsessed with these things.

Animals Celebrating Pumpkin Season

Pro-tip: Always inspect your jack-o-lantern.

Animals Celebrating Pumpkin Season

This pumpkin was no match for our meerkat mob.

Animals Celebrating Pumpkin Season

A Galapagos tortoise has no time for napkins.

Animals Celebrating Pumpkin Season

Om nom nom nom.

Animals Celebrating Pumpkin Season Animals Celebrating Pumpkin Season

Lion paws on the prize.

Animals Celebrating Pumpkin SeasonAnimals Celebrating Pumpkin Season

Sniffing out the scents of the season.

Animals Celebrating Pumpkin Season

If you can’t carve it, roll it off a cliff.

Animals Celebrating Pumpkin Season

No pumpkin is safe from this extraordinary nose.

Animals Celebrating Pumpkin Season

I’ll look inside, you stand guard!

Animals Celebrating Pumpkin Season

On behalf of everyone at the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park, we hope you have a fantastic fall season!

 

Jenn Beening is the social media planner for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous post, How to Grow a Water-Smart Landscape.

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Iguana Workout: Rare Iguana Participates in Training Session at the San Diego Zoo

 An Anegada ground iguana named Gus participates in a “target training” session with reptile keeper, Joey Brown, at the San Diego Zoo.


An Anegada ground iguana named Gus participates in a “target training” session with reptile keeper, Joey Brown, at the San Diego Zoo.

An Anegada ground iguana named Gus participated in a “target training” session with a reptile keeper earlier this morning (Oct. 6) at the San Diego Zoo. During these sessions, a keeper asks the 31-year-old Gus to walk to a spot where a target is placed. Once Gus successfully completes the behavior, the keeper hits a clicker, letting the iguana know he did what was asked of him, and then the keeper rewards him with a special treat of sweet potato to positively reinforce the behavior.

“Target training is extremely beneficial for Gus’ well-being,” stated Joey Brown, reptile keeper, San Diego Zoo. “The training provides exercise and mental stimulation for the animal, and allows him to exhibit natural behaviors like foraging and climbing on rocks. It also allows us to train him to move from one location to another on his own initiative. With this training, we can target him to move into his warm cave on cold nights or to walk into a crate in the event we need to take him to the veterinary hospital for blood draws or medical procedures.”

Keepers report Gus was a good “student,” learning to hit his target in a series of short sessions in just over a month. Training sessions are held for approximately 10 minutes, two to three times a week—and Gus always seems eager to participate.

The Anegada ground iguana, native to Anegada Island in the British Virgin Islands, is a critically endangered species with an estimated population of just 200 individuals remaining in the wild. These iguanas have to compete with free-ranging livestock for vegetation, and avoid feral dogs and cats that prey on them.

The San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research has been working with iguanas in the Caribbean for the past 18 years and has a headstarting program on Anegada island. Iguana eggs are protected and hatchlings are taken into a captive setting when they are very young so they won’t be predated by feral cats. The iguanas are then released back into the wild at around two years of age. To date, the reintroduced headstarted iguanas are exhibiting a remarkable 87 percent survival rate. There also is a captive breeding program of Anegada iguanas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Visitors to the San Diego Zoo can see Gus in his outdoor habitat on the Klauber-Shaw Reptile Walk.

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes on-site wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is inspiring children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network, reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.

Photo taken on Oct. 6, 2015 by Tammy Spratt, San Diego Zoo

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

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Rare Lady’s Slipper Orchid Blooms at the San Diego Zoo for First Time in 14 Years

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These stunning blooms were the key to the plant’s identity.

An extremely rare orchid has been identified by San Diego Zoo staff after the plant bloomed for the first time in almost 14 years. The rare flower is a Paphiopedilum stonei, (pronounced paff-ee-oh-PED-ih-lum stoney-eye). The endangered plant was confiscated at the border after being illegally transported into the US, and was placed with the Zoo—a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-designated Plant Rescue Center—where it has been safeguarded and cared for ever since. Plant care staff first identified the orchid as a Paphiopedilum when it arrived at the zoo back in 2001, but it wasn’t until the orchid’s recent bloom that they realized it was a species called Paphiopedilum stonei.

The Paphiopedilum stonei’s peculiar and distinctive pouch-shaped petal gives the orchid species its popular name: lady’s slipper. The species grows on steep limestone cliffs and ledges of western Sarawak, on the island of Borneo. It was first discovered and introduced to private collections in 1862, and today it is critically endangered due to overcollection by orchid poachers. This orchid is one of over 60 different species of lady’s slippers that are part of the San Diego Zoo’s diverse orchid collection.

San Diego Zoo guests can view this orchid—one of over 3,000 orchid plants at the Zoo—during Orchid Odyssey at the Zoo’s Orchid House, on the third Friday of each month from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. However, this flower is expected to be past bloom by then.

Photo taken on Sept. 30, 2015 by Tammy Spratt, San Diego Zoo

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