El Paso Zoo

Prairie Dog Count on the Rise at El Paso Zoo

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The baby Prairie Dog count, at the El Paso Zoo, is up to nine! The babies can be seen, outside the burrows in their exhibit, hanging with the rest of their family...keeping mom on her toes. 

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11119093_10153211886122622_259194640189101805_oPhoto Credits: El Paso Zoo

Prairie Dogs are mostly herbivorous burrowing rodents that are native to the grasslands of North America. There are five species: Black-Tailed, White-Tailed, Gunnison’s, Utah and Mexican. In Mexico, Prairie Dogs are found primarily in the northern states, which lie at the southern end of the Great Plains of the United States. This area of Mexico includes: northeastern Sonora, north and northeastern Chihuahua, northern Coahuila, northern Nuevo Leon, and northern Tamaulipas. In the United States, the Prairie Dog’s range is primarily to the west of the Mississippi river, though they have been introduced in a few eastern locales.

Prairie dogs are named for their habitat and warning call, which sounds similar to a dog's bark. The name was in use as early as 1774. The 1804 journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition note that in September 1804, they “discovered a Village of an animal the French Call the Prairie Dog”. Its genus, Cynomys, derives from the Greek for “dog mouse”.

Prairie Dogs are stout-bodied rodents that grow to around 12 to 16 inches long (30 to 40 cm) and weigh between 1 and 3 lbs (0.5 and 1.5 kilograms).  They are mainly herbivorous, feeding on grasses and small seeds, but they will occasionally eat insects.

Highly social, Prairie Dogs live in large colonies called “towns” and in collections of families that can span hundreds of acres. A Prairie Dog town may contain 15 to 26 family groups, made up of a series of burrows with mounded entrances.

Mother Prairie Dogs provide most of the care for the young. In addition to nursing, the mother’s job is to provide protection for the nursery chamber and collect grass for the nest. Males participate by providing defense for the family territories and maintaining the burrows. The young spend their first six weeks below ground, being nursed. When weaned, they will begin to surface from the burrow. By five months, they are considered fully grown and can fend for themselves.

Ecologists consider them to be a keystone species. They are included in the primary diet of other prairie species, such as: Black-Footed Ferret, Swift Fox, Golden Eagle, American Badger and Ferruginous Hawk.

The Prairie Dog’s existence on the Great Plains is also valuable to the Burrowing Owl, who relies on Prairie Dog burrows for nesting. However, the rodent is, in general, considered a pest in its native area and are often eliminated or relocated. 


Meet El Paso Zoo’s First Birth of New Year

10988333_10153065142952622_5379029355534954236_nThe first birth of 2015, at the El Paso Zoo, was a female Thomson's Gazelle. 

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10440938_10153065142967622_2258432596192051485_nPhoto Credits: El Paso Zoo

As with all gazelle and antelope births, at the El Paso Zoo, the babies are initially left to bond with their moms for several hours, or overnight, before brief initial examinations are conducted to make sure babies are healthy and nursing. The babies are immediately placed back with mom and their herd after their exams.

The Thomson’s Gazelle is one of the best-known gazelles. Named after explorer Joseph Thomson, it is sometimes referred to as a “Tommie”.  Native to Africa’s savannas and grassland habitats, particularly the Serengeti region of Kenya and Tanzania, it has a habitat preference for short grasslands.

After mating and a five to six month gestation period, females will leave the herd to give birth to a single fawn. They generally give birth twice yearly with 1-2 fawns. In the first six hours of the fawn’s life, it moves and rests with its mother, but eventually spends more time away from the mother or hides in grasses. The mother will remain in the vicinity of the fawn and return periodically, throughout the day, to nurse the baby. Mothers, in the wild, will defend their young against jackals and baboons, but not against larger predators. Head-butting is her means of defense against the smaller predators.

At around two months of age, the young will begin to spend more time grazing with mother and less time in hiding. However, the mother will also continue to nurse her offspring, during this time period.

The Thomson’s Gazelle is classified as “Near Threatened” on the IUCN Red List. There was an estimated population decline of 60% from 1978 to 2005. Threats to the animal include: tourist impacts, habitat modification, fire management, and road development. 


'Sweet Emotion' for More Pygmy Slow Loris Twins

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The El Paso Zoo is excited to announce the birth of twin Pygmy Slow Lorises!  

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PygmySlowLorisElPaso_5Photo Credits: El Paso Zoo

The tiny, nocturnal primates were born August 22nd to mother, Kym Ly and father, Steven Tyler. They are the second set of Pygmy Slow Loris twins born at El Paso Zoo. Their older siblings, Meka and Malia, were born in April of last year.

The yet-to-be-named duo had their first medical exam, recently. The male weighed in at 52.4 grams and his sister, a petite 43.5 grams. Holding them in your hand, they would each feel about the heft of a small lime!

Area Supervisor, Rachel Alvarez, said, “We are excited about the birth of this second set of twins. It’s difficult to breed Slow Lorises, and it’s taken a lot of work from our staff to have these successful births. Through our work with Kym Ly, we have been able to help her become a confident and cooperative mother.”

The births are part of a breeding recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP), to aid in the species’ conservation. The exhibit is currently blocked off to allow mom and twins to bond. They are expected to be on exhibit later this month.

See more amazing pics below the fold!

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Tiny Slow Loris Twins Are a First for El Paso Zoo

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El Paso Zoo is celebrating the first Pygmy Slow Lorises ever to be born at the zoo— healthy twins! The babies, born to zoo residents Steven Tyler and Kym Ly on April 26th, have not yet been named, but they have been identified as one female and one male. At birth, the male weighed in at twenty-five grams and the female weighed in at twenty-seven grams. For reference, twenty-five grams is equivalent to about 2 tablespoons of white sugar! The newborns were dwarfed by the stethescope as the zoo's vet listened to their hearts during their checkup. 

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Photo credits: El Paso Zoo

Zoo staff worked with the mother, Kym Ly, using positive reinforcement training so that they could monitor her through the pregnancy. This kind of training uses cues and rewards to encourage the loris to engage in behaviors that make it easier for staff to care for her. Kym Ly learned many commands including how to hold steady for radiographs and exams and how to present her abdomen and mammary glands for checkups. This makes checkups easier and less stressful for the new mother. Staff are already helping the babies to learn how to climb on a branch to be weighed so that staff doesn’t have to touch them.

Learn more after the fold!

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