Sichuan takins


Baby Takin

Baby takins like this one are adorable little creatures!

Monday afternoon, January 30, 2012, I was standing in front of the giant panda enclosures in the San Diego Zoo’s Panda Trek, talking to guests, when a gentleman walked up to me very casually and said, “One of your buffalos is giving birth.” I looked at the guest ambassador next to me, and we ran down to our “buffalo,” which are actually Sichuan takins. As I couldn’t really see anything right away, I had to ask other guests in the area if they could see a baby and made my way toward the front of the exhibit. As I looked into the corner of the cave, I was delighted to see a little, dark heap in the corner being licked clean by her mother, Summer. I quickly called keepers, who then called supervisors and vet staff to inform them of our newest addition.

Summer is an experienced mother here at the Zoo and was not nervous and never hesitated with this baby. The other adult female in the enclosure, Blondie, was keeping the younger takins from getting too close to the newborn. As the baby was getting cleaned, she began to try to stand up and, of course, at first she was very wobbly. But after a few tries she began standing and even moving around. After a few minutes, the adult females allowed the other young takins to come check out the new baby and see what the buzz was about. They were a little nervous at first yet very curious about the new little bundle. Soon after this, the new male, Leon, came to check out the baby. All of the staff and visitors were entertained by the male, who was rather apprehensive of the wobbly 20-pound (9 kilograms) baby. As the baby walked toward Leon, he was quick to walk backward!

After the herd had checked the baby out and gotten the clear from Summer, they were satisfied with their newest member and went about their business. Everyone began browsing and finishing their food. But for our visitors and staff, we were still excited and enchanted with the little charcoal fluff ball warming her way into our hearts!

Anastasia Horning is a panda narrator at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Pandas: Another Switch.


Talkin’ Takins

Sichuan takin calf

The first time I ever really knew about Sichuan takins was when I was about 12 years old and was volunteering at the San Diego Zoo in its Zoo Corps program. At a young age I was educating our guests about animals here at the Zoo, conservation, and what the Zoo feeds its animals. The takins quickly became a favorite of mine, and I loved to tell people about them. Eleven years later I’m still here at the Zoo educating guests, mainly about giant pandas and conservation, but now we have the Sichuan takins right next to the pandas!

As I let people into the Panda Trek habitat in the mornings, they usually want to hurry straight toward the pandas. But since there is now more for them to see as they walk through, I find more and more people are curious about other animals that come from the Sichuan Province of China, and they are interested in the work that we do not only for pandas but for other animals as well. It also doesn’t hurt that we have a baby Sichuan takin right now that is absolutely adorable, and we have two more females that are pregnant. Baby takins are all fur and hooves; their fluffy faces and big hooves are usually the first things you notice when the calves are running around their enclosure!

We have a new male takin that will be joining the Zoo’s breeding program at Panda Trek. Our adult male Louie is being sent to another zoo where he can breed with other females. The new male coming here is important, as he represents a new line in the genetic pool. Sending animals to other facilities is a bittersweet situation: we are going to miss the animals, but at the same time we are helping the conservation of that animal in allowing new bloodlines to help avoid any inbreeding.

The San Diego Zoo’s breeding program for the Sichuan takins has been very successful; there have been 51 Sichuan takins born here, and we were the first zoo to breed takins in the Western Hemisphere. Sichuan takins are suffering from exactly the same problem that pandas are facing: deforestation. Both live high in the mountains of China’s Sichuan province, and both are losing their habitat and food sources. I think that’s one of the best parts of the design of Panda Trek: guests are learning about an animal they may have never heard of, and they know that coming to the Zoo helps save this animal.

Thank you for supporting our conservation efforts and helping us make so much possible for animals around the world!

Anastasia Horning is a panda narrator at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous post, Bai Yun: Time to Relax.


An Aussie in San Diego

Brent with a lesser kudu

Brent with a lesser kudu

G’day! My name is Brent, and I am one of the Sumatran tiger keepers from the Melbourne Zoo in Australia. For the next three months I am lucky enough to be working at the San Diego Zoo, participating in a keeper exchange with a great guy named Adam. I’m working in the San Diego Zoo’s hoofed animals team, while he looks after our native animals at the Melbourne Zoo. It has been an outstanding experience so far! (Read Adam’s previous blog, Hopping along the Exchange.)

Now, most of the information I knew about America came from watching Jerry Springer on Australian TV, but so far I have not even seen ONE dwarf fighting with a large security guy. In fact, every single person I have met here at the San Diego Zoo and around San Diego have been absolutely fantastic. Californians seem like very relaxed and friendly people, just like back home in Australia. I think I might stick around and run for mayor.

One of the reasons I came to the San Diego Zoo was to learn more about ungulates (animals with hooves), and there is no better place in the world to do that than here at the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park. Being a tiger keeper, most of my hoofed animal knowledge revolved around how to prepare meat to feed to the tigers…but I needed more.

Adult dik dik

Adult dik dik

The animals that I get to care for are amazing. I’m learning about reindeer, Calamian deer, Sichuan takins, Japanese serow, Soemmering’s gazelles, red-flanked duikers, Cape blue duikers, hairy armadillos, lesser kudu, pronghorn, tufted deer, steenbok, and my favorite: the dik diks. They are amazing little African antelope weighing about six pounds (2.7 kilograms) and their name comes from the alarm call they make when they are startled. Visitors to the Zoo will be lucky enough to see our one-week old baby dik dik near the west end of the Skyfari aerial tram. He could be the cutest animal in history!

Speke's gazelle

Speke's gazelle

Another animal that I look after and I’m really enjoying learning about is the Speke’s gazelle. These guys are another African antelope weighing around 40 pounds (18 kilograms), and they are super quick. But their most unique feature is their nose: they have folds of skin over their nostrils that inflate when they get excited. If I am working in their enclosure and they think I’m getting a bit close, they will stamp their hoof on the ground and their nose inflates like a small tennis ball! Visitors to the Zoo can see the Speke’s gazelle in our large mixed species exhibit just before you get to the polar bears. And you shouldn’t have to wait too long to see a Speke’s gazelle inflate its nose sack, because these guys don’t mind fighting out of their weight division, and you could see them trying to intimidate much larger animals like lesser kudus, and gerenuks, all with the help of an inflatable nose!

So, I hope the great people of San Diego get a chance to come into the Zoo soon, and if you see an Australian going walkabout, then come and say G’day.

Brent Clohesy is a keeper at the Melbourne Zoo.