San Diego Zoo

Fossa Pup Explores Its New Home at San Diego Zoo

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A baby Fossa (pronounced FOO-sa) was born this summer at the San Diego Zoo.  Now 12 weeks old, the Fossa pup, its mother and three siblings moved into their new home in the Conrad Prebys Africa Rocks exhibit last week and wasted no time exploring—jumping over grassy areas, climbing on rocks and playing in trees.

ARFossa_001_WebPhoto Credit: San Diego Zoo



Weighing 12 to 22 pounds, Fossas are the largest carnivorous mammals on the African island of Madagascar. The classification of Fossas has been vigorously debated for decades. They have been linked to Cats, Civets, and Mongooses based on their physical characteristics and DNA analyses.  Fossas are currently in the family Eupleridae along with other carnivores of Madagascar.

Fossas’ slender bodies, muscular limbs, and long tails enable them to move with dexterity along tree branches. They are active in early morning, late afternoon, and late at night, when they hunt small animals such as Birds, Rodents, and Lemurs. Communication between individuals occurs via scent markings and sounds including purrs, calls, and yelps.      

Little is known about Fossas’ habits because they live in remote areas, and there are only an estimated 2,600 to 8,800 Fossas remaining in the wild. They are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

 


Zoo Welcomes First Okapi Birth in Four Years

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The San Diego Zoo recently welcomed a handsome new resident. Okapi mom, Mbaya, gave birth to her first calf—adding one more individual to a population that is in steady decline worldwide.

Only a few zoos in the United States house the endangered Okapi, and four-week-old Mosi (pronounced MO-see) became the first of his species to be born at the San Diego Zoo in four years.

Animal care staff said Mosi (Swahili for first-born) is a robust little guy who exhibits many of the same personality traits as his mom, including a calm and easygoing demeanor.

“This is her first calf, and she is allowing us to interact with this calf because she trusts us,” said John Michel, senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo. “It was a relationship we had developed over a long period of time prior to this calf being born. And so, the relationship we have with her is the same relationship we have with the calf—very trusting.”

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3_36723774405_6eda7ab79d_hPhoto Credits: San Diego Zoo

The Okapi (Okapia johnstoni), the only living relative of the giraffe, is a large animal that lives in the Ituri Forest: a dense rain forest in central Africa, located in the northeast region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire). The species’ zebra-like white-and-black striped hindquarters and front legs give them added camouflage in the partial sunlight that filters through their rainforest habitat.

A very cautious animal, Okapis in the wild use their highly developed hearing to alert them before humans can get close. In fact, while natives of the Ituri Forest knew of Okapis, scientists did not know of the animal until 1900.

Today, the Okapi is listed as “Endangered” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, due to hunting and continued habitat loss.

San Diego Zoo Global, and other zoos and conservation organizations, work with local residents to protect and support this rare and unusual forest dweller in its native habitat. In 1992, one-fifth of the Okapi habitat in the Ituri Forest was protected to create the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, a World Heritage Site providing the species a place removed from most human interference.

Okapis first arrived at the San Diego Zoo in 1956, and since then, there have been more than 60 births at both the Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Zoo guests can visit Mosi, his mom, and the other Okapis in their habitat along Hippo Trail in Lost Forest. Their exhibit is designed to let guests enjoy a good look at these beautiful animals without disturbing them.

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.


Monkeys and Keepers Team Up to Care for Endangered Baby

BabyLangur_001_Med-860x450Animal care staff at the San Diego Zoo are getting some unique helpers as they assist an endangered 7-week-old François’ Langur Monkey: The entire Langur troop pitches in to socialize the baby, while keepers make sure he gets enough food and care.

After the baby, named Chi, was born in February to mother Mei Li, keepers noticed that she rejected her baby and failed to nurse him.  The staff hoped that other members of this troop might decide to raise the baby, because Langurs practice alloparetning, where all members of the group participate in rearing young – but the other Langurs also rejected the infant. 

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Screen Shot 2017-04-27 at 11.30.08 AMPhoto Credit: San Diego Zoo

“Infants need to nurse every few hours in order to stay healthy,” said Mindy Settles, primate keeper at the San Diego Zoo, adding that keepers intervened right away to feed the baby before his condition deteriorated. “Every day, we did introductions trying to pair him back with mom; and it wasn’t actually until he was over a week old—almost a week and a half old—that mom picked him up and actually held him for the first time.”

Rather than remove Chi from the troop and hand-rear the baby in the nursery away from his family, keepers decided to use assisted-rearing techniques. Because the animal care staff has established a bond of trust with the Langurs, the troop allows keepers to remove Chi for feedings, then accepts him when he returns to the troop. This allows Chi to develop normal social behaviors and understand that he is a Monkey, not a human, and hopefully breed one day with a female.

“I can’t stress enough how amazing this opportunity is for us,” said Jill Andrews, animal care manager for primates at the San Diego Zoo. “The amount of cooperation between the Monkeys and the keepers for the care of this 7-week-old infant is, frankly, astonishing. He is way ahead of the curve.”

Francois’ langurs are a species of Old World Monkey native to Asia—ranging from southwestern China to northeastern Vietnam. The species is listed as Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, due to a 50 percent decline in their population over the past 30 years. Hunting to supply body parts for traditional folk medicines is a primary reason for their diminished numbers. Habitat loss and fragmentation due to agricultural development has also had a negative effect on the population.


San Diego Cheetah Sisters Ready to Be Weaned

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The two Cheetah cub sisters, being raised by animal care staff at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, are almost two-months-old.

The sisters were born November 19. Unfortunately, their mother wasn’t caring for them after their birth, so the Zoo’s animal care staff had to intervene.

Although the girls are yet-to-be-named, keepers have been calling them “Yellow” and “Purple” (due to the colors of the temporary ID markings put on their tails).

Nursery staff reports that the cubs are very active and playing almost constantly, with only short catnaps during the day. They are eating ground meat, with some formula supplement, but keepers say they will be weaned very soon.

The two growing Cheetahs have also been given more play area. Previously, the sisters were cared for in the nursery’s large playpen. However, now that they are bigger, they have been given access to their entire nursery room.

To prepare the nursery for the cubs, animal care staff had to “kitten-proof” the room, much the same way that parents would prepare a house for a toddler: electrical sockets were blocked, electrical cords were taken away, and any small spaces or sharp corners were filled or covered with towels and blankets.

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3_32118339302_a4475573c8_oPhoto Credits: San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Guests visiting the Safari Park can see the Cheetahs, currently known as Purple and Yellow, in their nursery at Nairobi Station between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. However, the cubs will eventually be transferred to the San Diego Zoo to serve as animal ambassadors for their species. To prepare the cubs for this, animal care staff at the Park are working with Zoo staff to crate train the cubs, as crate travel will be the primary way the Cheetahs will be transported for their animal ambassador appearances. Keepers attempt to make the crates comfortable and a rewarding place for the cubs to relax, and they encourage the young Cheetahs to retreat to their crates for naps and sleeping.

A recent survey shows that Cheetah populations in their historic range are much lower than previously thought. According to a study published in December 2016, in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, there are only 7,100 Cheetahs remaining within the species’ native habitat. The last comprehensive survey of African cheetah populations was conducted in 1975, when it was estimated there were 14,000 Cheetahs.

San Diego Zoo Global, which has been breeding Cheetahs for more than 40 years, is working to create an assurance population of Cheetahs by participating in the national Cheetah Breeding Center Coalition (BCC). By building a sustainable cheetah population, San Diego Zoo Global and the other eight members of the Cheetah BCC are working to prevent extinction of the world’s fastest land animal. The Cheetah BCC was formed in late 2012 as part of the Cheetah Sustainability Program, a partnership between the Cheetah Species Survival Plan (SSP) and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) program.


San Diego Zoo’s Sloth Baby Has First Health Check

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A baby Linné’s Two-toed Sloth recently received its first health check at the San Diego Zoo!

The baby was born October 12 and now weighs 1.43 pounds (.65 kilograms). Staff also saw four teeth during the exam. According to the Zoo, it is difficult to determine the sex of a sloth at this age, so a hair sample was sent to a lab for analysis, to determine if the baby is male or female.

Zoo visitors may have trouble catching a glimpse of the baby, as it is typically found clinging to its mother, Consuelo, in their nesting box at the Zoo’s Harry and Grace Steele Elephant Odyssey Sloth habitat.

Sloths may begin eating solid foods as early as four days old, but they also continue to nurse until they around four months old (typical weaning age). San Diego Zoo keepers report that their new baby is eating solid foods and has a preference for apples.

To acclimate the baby to being handled for routine health checks and veterinary exams (as part of overall animal welfare), keepers have a plan to work with the baby and the mother on a regular basis. So far, Consuelo has been attentive, but calm, when the keepers hold and interact with her baby.

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3_31166822880_9bb0948e14_oPhoto Credits: San Diego Zoo

Because Sloths are nocturnal, Zoo guests might not be able to see the new family. However, animal care staff have observed that the baby is becoming more independent and is starting to venture away from Consuelo, so staff suggest that guests may have a better chance of seeing the baby if they stop by the exhibit closer to dusk.

Linné’s Two-toed Sloth (Choloepus didactylus), also known as Southern Two-toed Sloth, Unau, or Linnaeus's Two-toed Sloth, is a species from South America. It is native to Venezuela, the Guyanas, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Brazil--north of the Amazon River.

The species has a ten-month gestation period. Their inter-birth rate extends past sixteen months (so there is not an overlap of young to care for). There is generally only one offspring per litter, and the young typically become independent at about a year old.


San Diego Zoo Keepers Care for Cheetah Sisters

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The Animal Care Center nursery, at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, is currently home to a pair of female Cheetah cubs.

The sisters were born November 19. Unfortunately, their mother wasn’t caring for them after their birth, so the Zoo’s animal care staff had to intervene. A team of eight keepers now cares for the cubs, bottle-feeding them a formula specifically designed for Cheetahs. The cubs are weighed daily to monitor their health, and staff also simulate the grooming that the duo would normally receive from their mother.

Although the girls are yet-to-be-named, keepers have been calling them “Yellow” and “Purple” (due to the colors of the temporary ID markings put on their tails). As the cubs grow, the bottle feedings will become less frequent. Zoo staff plans to introduce solid foods at four weeks of age, and when they reach 70-days-old, they will be weaned from their Cheetah formula.

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According to staff, guests visiting the Safari Park during the month of December can see the Cheetahs in their nursery, at the Nairobi Station exhibit, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. At this stage in their development, they spend about 22 hours a day sleeping, but they are expected to be more active as they mature. Staff have also shared that the lights in their nursery are usually turned off to simulate the darkness of a den, where they would typically spend their first five weeks with their mother.

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is one of nine breeding facilities participating in the Cheetah Breeding Center Coalition (BCC). The goal of the coalition is to create a sustainable Cheetah population that will prevent extinction of the world’s fastest land animal. San Diego Zoo Global has been breeding Cheetahs for more than 40 years, with more than 150 cubs born. It is estimated that the worldwide population of Cheetahs has been reduced from 100,000 in 1900 to just 10,000 left today, with about 10% now living in zoos or wildlife parks.


New Mandrill Joins Troop at San Diego Zoo

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The San Diego Zoo’s Mandrill group welcomed a new addition to their ranks last week. Female, Kesi, gave birth to a baby boy, and he is the first Mandrill born at the Zoo in over 14 years.

Animal care staff had been watching for Kesi to give birth; but the night before, there were still no signs she was in labor. The next day, staff members said they were surprised to see Kesi walk out of her bedroom holding her new baby.

“It’s like every day we would come in, in the morning, and think like there might be a baby – we don’t know,” Jenny Baublit, senior primate keeper at the San Diego Zoo. “To actually see it was pretty incredible. Especially since she came in so quietly, just like a typical morning, but just happen to have a baby with her.”

This is the first baby for Kesi and male Mandrill, Jasper. So far, staff said, they are doing exceptionally well as new parents, and mom is being very attentive to the baby’s nursing needs.

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3_Mandril Baby Ride LGPhoto Credits: San Diego Zoo/Tammy Spratt

The Mandrill (Mandrillus sphinx) is the largest and most colorful of the Old World monkeys. They are easily recognizable by their furry head crests, manes and golden beards. Their bright coloration, red nose and lips, and thick purple and blue ridges along the sides of the nose are also well known.

Mandrills are native to small social units in the rain forests of equatorial Africa. These small groups often join with others to form larger groups called ‘hordes’ that can number in the hundreds and sometimes have more than 1,000 members.

The species is listed as “Vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Their numbers are decreasing due to habitat loss from illegal logging and the bush meat trade (hunting wild species for food). This trade has become lucrative and, as human populations increase, it is becoming a greater threat to many species’ survival.

The San Diego Zoo's first Mandrills, Peter and Suzy, arrived in 1923. More Mandrills arrived in 1938, and a breeding program was established in an effort to bolster the population. More than 34 Mandrills have been born at the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park over the years.

Guests can visit the Zoo’s three Mandrills at ‘Monkey Trail in Lost Forest’. They share an exhibit with Guenons, including Spot-nosed Monkeys and Wolf’s Monkeys.

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.


Sweet Surprise for San Diego Zoo Gorilla Keepers

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Gorilla keepers at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park arrived to a surprising workday on October 19. They discovered that their expectant Western Lowland Gorilla mom-to-be, Kokamo, had given birth to a tiny female!

The baby weighed approximately 4 pounds at birth, and staff observed her nursing with her new mom. After a health assessment of mom and baby, the Zoo reports that keepers kept to their normal routine and released all of the Gorillas from the troop back into the exhibit.

Aside from the initial assessment, animal care staff don’t intend to have contact with the baby (which has not yet been named) until she is much older.

Keepers report that Kokomo is a very protective and attentive mother. She is also allowing the other members of the troop to check out the new baby, but the Zoo stresses that visitors to the Park should expect the newborn to be held by her mother constantly, making it difficult to see the baby in the arms of her 229-pound, protective, mom.

This is the second baby for mother Kokomo and father Winston, at the Safari Park. Winston doesn’t have a direct role in caring for the baby at this point, but he will continue to be protective of the rest of the troop of eight Gorillas, which consists of: one adult male, three adult females, 5-year-old Monroe, 8-year-old Frank and 2-year-old Joanne.

GorillaSafari_002_LGPhoto Credit: Ken Bohn/ San Diego Zoo Safari Park

The Western Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) is one of two subspecies of the Western Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla) that lives in montane, primary and secondary forests and lowland swamps in central Africa in Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. It is the Gorilla most common to zoos.

The main diet of the Gorilla species is roots, shoots, fruit, wild celery, tree bark and pulp, which are provided for in the thick forests of central and West Africa. An adult will eat around 18 kg (40 lb) of food per day. Gorillas will climb trees up to 15 meters in height in search of food.

Females do not produce many offspring, due to the fact that they do not reach sexual maturity until the age of 8 or 9. Female gorillas give birth to one infant after a pregnancy of nearly nine months. Unlike their powerful parents, newborns are tiny (weighing about four pounds) and able only to cling to their mothers' fur. The infant will ride on mother’s back from the age of four months through the first two or three years of life. Infants can be dependent on the mother for up to five years.

The Western Lowland Gorilla is classified as “Critically Endangered” on the IUCN Red List. Population in the wild is faced with a number of factors that threaten it to extinction. Such factors include: deforestation, farming, grazing, and the expanding human settlements that cause forest loss. There is also said to be a correlation between human intervention in the wild and the destruction of habitats with an increase in bushmeat hunting.


Reptile Hatchings at San Diego Zoo Boost Rare Species

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Two rare reptile species native to two delicate island ecosystems—the Black Tree Monitor, native to the Aru Islands off the coast of Papua New Guinea; and the Mossy Leaf-tailed Gecko, native to Madagascar—have reproduced at the San Diego Zoo and offer hope for two little-known, yet important species.

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Monitor_001_WebPhoto Credit:  San Diego Zoo

Four Black Tree Monitor babies hatched from eggs laid in January and are the first ever hatched at the zoo.  The young lizards weigh about two-fifths of an ounce each, and are doing well.

Black Tree Monitors live in the hot, humid forests and mangrove swamps of the Aru Islands off the coast of Papua New Guinea. They are dependent on the forest canopy to survive, but most of the regional forest on the Aru Islands has already been lost. Other threats to the species include the pet trade and non-native predators, such as foxes and cats. With the threats the Black Tree Monitor faces in the wild, establishing insurance populations in accredited zoos will help ensure the survival of the species.

Mossy Leaf-tailed Geckos face similar challenges in the wild, and have also experienced recent breeding success. The zoo received a confiscated group of mossy Leaf-tailed Geckos in 2010. The geckos have since produced eight hatchlings, with several generations now thriving at the zoo.

Leaf-tailed Geckos have evolved to resemble leaves, blending into their forest surroundings to avoid predators and better ambush their insect prey. However, more than 80 percent of Madagascar’s forests have been decimated by logging, agriculture, housing development and other human activity, threatening the future of the species. With these ongoing threats, keeping healthy satellite populations outside of Madagascar is increasingly important as a safeguard against extinction.


Rare Lemur Born at San Diego Zoo

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On May 18, 2016, a male Red Ruffed Lemur was born at the San Diego Zoo’s behind-the-scenes Primate Propagation Center. It has been 13 years since the last Red Ruffed Lemur was born at the zoo, and excitement is in the air.

The San Diego Zoo has a successful history of breeding Red Ruffed Lemurs; in fact, more than 100 born have been born here since 1965. That success is attributed to the zoo’s Primate Propagation Center, a facility specifically designed for breeding Lemurs.

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Photo Credit:  San Diego Zoo

"Red Ruffed Lemur Morticia is a first-time mom, but she has proven to be a great mother,” said Kristen Watkins, a primate keeper at the San Diego Zoo. For the first week after the birth, it was important for keepers to get daily weights on the infant, to make sure he was gaining weight. A rising weight indicates that the baby is successfully nursing and that mom is taking good care of him. Morticia is willing to let keepers borrow her infant in exchange for some of her favorite fruits, but she is eager to get him back, Watkins said. The infant has been gaining about one-third of an ounce (10 grams) a day and is getting more active and aware of his surroundings. Although he currently weighs only 6.6 ounces (188 grams), Red Ruffed Lemur babies grow up fast. During his first month, keepers expect him to be exploring outside of his nest, with Morticia watching closely.

This rare species is included in Primates in Peril: The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates, published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature SSC Primate Specialist Group, and every birth of a Red Ruffed Lemur is a critically important one. They are only found in one region in the entire world: the Masoala Peninsula in Madagascar, which is undergoing deforestation.

San Diego Zoo Global leads on-site wildlife conservation efforts 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.