Cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) are currently classified as “Vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The species has suffered a substantial decline in its range due to hunting, and several African countries have taken steps to improve Cheetah conservation. By late 2016, the population had fallen to approximately 7,100 individuals in the wild due to habitat loss, poaching, illegal pet trade, and conflict with humans. Some researchers suggest that the animal could soon be reclassified as "Endangered" on the IUCN Red List.
In light of the challenges facing the future survival of the Cheetah, animal care staff in charge of the new little cub made the decision to hand-rear. After birth, the little female was very small compared to her four brothers and one sister. She could not successfully compete with her litter-mates at nursing time and was not gaining weight. Since bottle feedings began, she is now thriving and gaining weight consistently.
Photo Credits: San Diego Zoo Safari Park
Animal care staff now reports that the cub has a “sweet personality” and is very vocal. According to them, she seeks interaction and attention from her keepers. Although she is still formula-fed, it is now being mixed with meat. The growing cub is eating four times a day and weighs just over four pounds.
Visitors to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park can see the curious cub daily in the nursery at the park’s Ione and Paul Harter Animal Care Center. She will remain at the Safari Park for about three months, and then will move to the San Diego Zoo, to become an ‘animal ambassador’.
The population of critically endangered Jamaican Iguanas is on the rise, thanks in part to the efforts of researchers at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research’s Kenneth and Anne Griffin Reptile Conservation Center (an off-exhibit breeding facility at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park).
Since September, four Jamaican Iguanas have hatched here from eggs of two different pairs of adult Iguanas. One egg from the first clutch hatched September 4, and three eggs from the second clutch hatched October 6, 7 and 11. With the addition of these four new animals, a total of 11 Jamaican Iguanas now reside at the Park’s Reptile Conservation Center.
Photo Credits: Ken Bohn/ San Diego Zoo Safari Park
The baby Iguanas now have a much lighter gray color overall, with more pronounced striping than they will have when they become adults. As they grow, their body will become dark gray and rust-colored, with greenish-blue highlights. Jamaican Iguanas continue to grow over their entire lifetime, and they can eventually reach up to three feet in length and weigh up to 15 pounds.
San Diego Zoo Global first received a group of Jamaican Iguanas in 1996: three males and three females. The first successful hatching of this critically endangered lizard occurred in 2013, with the birth of a female that still lives at the Reptile Conservation Center. She will become part of the center’s breeding program when a suitable mate can be found for her.
"I'm very pleased with the results of our work this year,” said Jeff Lemm, conservation program specialist at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. “Our job is to help make the animals successful at reproducing through the husbandry we provide, and it's fantastic that we are starting to achieve these goals."
The Jamaican Iguana (Cyclura collei) is found only in the tropical dry forests of the Hellshire Hills outside of Kingston, Jamaica. They are Jamaica’s largest native species and believed to be extinct in the 1940s. However, in 1990, a pig hunter’s dog found a live specimen and the Iguana was brought to the Hope Zoo in Kingston, Jamaica. That same year, a survey of the Hellshire Hills found a small population of fewer than 100, and researchers began a large-scale program to try to save this Iguana from extinction. Due to deforestation and threats from non-native animals (including mongooses, cats, dogs and pigs), the Jamaican Iguana is currently listed as “Critically Endangered” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
A 9-week-old Sumatran Tiger cub was introduced to a 7-week-old Bengal Tiger cub at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Ione and Paul Harter Animal Care Center on September 11.
The Sumatran Tiger cub arrived from the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C. and was introduced to the Bengal Tiger cub, currently residing at the Safari Park.
The Sumatran Tiger cub was born at the National Zoo on July 11 and was rejected by its mother a short time later. After numerous attempts to keep the mother and cub together, the animal care team decided it was in the cub’s best interest to separate them.
Both the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and the National Zoo are members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), and in a collaborative effort, both zoos’ animal care teams determined the best solution for the well-being of the two cubs would be for them to become companions.
The cubs took to each other immediately, and interacted by wrestling, jumping and engaging in a lot of friendly roughhousing—things tiger cubs do.
Park staff explained how they are able to differentiate between the two tigers. Although Sumatran Tigers, in general, are the smallest subspecies of tiger, the opposite is currently the case with the two cubs. The Safari Park’s Sumatran cub is currently the larger and darker colored of the pair, however, it won’t be long before his new companion is larger.
Guests at the Safari Park can now see them through the nursery window at the Animal Care Center during Safari Park operating hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
A tiny male Bengal Tiger cub that was being smuggled into the United States is receiving care at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The young Tiger was confiscated by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officers, who discovered the cub while inspecting a vehicle entering the U.S. from Mexico on August 23.
Photo Credit: San Diego Safari Park
Once the cub was safely at the Safari Park, veterinary staff performed a thorough health exam and determined that he was in good health. “His heart and lungs sound good, his blood work looked great and, since he took a bottle from us, it’s a good sign he’ll continue to thrive,” said Dr. Jim Oosterhuis, principal veterinarian.
“I estimate the cub to be between 5 and 6 weeks old, and he weighs in at a little over 6 pounds,” Dr. Oosterhuis said. “He has teeth coming in, so he’ll be teething in the next week or two—so, animal care staff will have a little chore getting him through that.”
The cub is being cared for in the Safari Park’s nursery, and once his location became known, hundreds of eager fans gathered outside the nursery window hoping to see the tiny Tiger. He is now viewable most of the day, except when he is taking a ‘catnap,’ according to his keepers. The cub receives a bottle six times a day with a special formula made for exotic carnivores and is thriving under the watchful eyes of his care team. He is steadily gaining weight and now weighs more than seven pounds. His teeth are coming in and he’s chewing on everything in sight—stuffed toys, blankets, even his paws.
Guests watching the cub through the nursery window might see keepers using a wet cotton ball to give the cub a bath. This procedure mimics how wild mother Tigers bathe their cubs after feedings.
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.”
Photo 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.
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.
Two female Desert Bighorn lambs were born, to different mothers, in the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Bighorn Sheep habitat at Condor Ridge on March 19 and March 25.
“We are thrilled to welcome these lambs to the Bighorn herd, as they are important to the genetic population of Bighorn Sheep,” stated Karla Nielsen, keeper, San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “These little girls are thriving. They are nursing well and, within a few days of their birth, were climbing, jumping and running around their exhibit. They’re able to be very sure-footed on the rough terrain in their habitat, as their outer hooves are shaped to snag and grab onto rocky surfaces—and the bottom of each foot is soft, giving them the ability to grip.”
Photo Credits: San Diego Zoo Safari Park
Desert Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis nelsoni) are found in dry, desert, mountain ranges of California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado and Mexico. Desert Bighorn Sheep inhabit rocky slopes and cliffs, canyons and washes, and they use their climbing ability and excellent vision to detect and escape from predators.
The most prominent feature of Desert Bighorn Sheep is their large brown horns, which continue to grow throughout their lives. Both male and female sheep have horns, but the males’ are much larger and will generally grow into a curve.
On an international scale, Bighorn Sheep are listed as “Least Concern” by the IUCN. However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service classified Peninsular Bighorn Sheep as “Endangered”, and the species is protected under the United States federal Endangered Species Act. Their numbers have dropped over the past few decades due to competition from domestic animals for water and food, habitat fragmentation, disease and poaching.
According to staff at the park, San Diego Zoo Global is doing its part to conserve the species by working with its partners to study Bighorn Sheep populations in northern Baja California, Mexico. Using GPS telemetry, Population Sustainability and Recovery Ecology researchers are collecting detailed data on movement patterns that will indicate the most important movement corridors and habitat features that need to be protected for bighorn sheep populations.
Conservation Genetics researchers are using fecal pellets from wild Bighorn Sheep to obtain genetic profiles for population structure and connectivity analyses and Disease Investigation team members are examining the health status of Bighorn Sheep in the Sierra Juarez region, just south of the U.S./Mexico border.
There’s a new “miracle baby” at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park—and this time, it has wings. A 12-day-old Rodrigues Fruit Bat is flying ahead of schedule in his development, despite a rough delivery.
On January 11, Bat keepers at the Safari Park noticed female Fruit Bat Patty was behaving abnormally and didn’t greet animal care staff during their morning rounds. Keepers determined that the first-time mother was having labor difficulties. Patty was brought to the park’s medical center, where veterinarians performed the first-ever emergency C-section on a Rodrigues Fruit Bat. Unfortunately, Patty did not survive. To ensure the pup’s survival, animal care staff is providing round-the-clock care until the pup is old enough to be introduced to the rest of the Bat colony.
Photo Credit: San Diego Zoo Safari Park
The male pup is the second Rodrigues Fruit Bat ever to be hand reared at the nursery. Patty was the first. Hand raising this winged mammal is no easy task: It requires a very detailed regimen and lots of affection. The pup spends all of his time attached to a “sock mom” that mimics his mother. To properly regulate his body temperature and provide enough humidity to maintain pliable wings, the pup stays in a controlled incubator set between 85 and 89 degrees Fahrenheit, with 75 percent humidity. Animal care staff feed the youngster inside the incubator every two hours, and feedings can take up to 45 minutes. “He tends to fall asleep during his feedings,” says Kimberly Millspaugh, senior animal keeper. “Sometimes he wants to play or just wants attention, so getting him to finish can be challenging.” Careful feedings are required to avoid asphyxiation. The pup receives human infant formula because Bats cannot synthesize their own vitamin C, which the formula contains. Following every feeding, the youngster is bathed with a damp cotton ball, dried off and wrapped in a warm blanket, to mimic his mother’s cradling wings.
The critically endangered Rodrigues Fruit Bat is only found on Rodrigues Island, located about 300 miles east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. Most of this Bat population is found in a single colony, at three roost sites they have used for more than 50 years. As tamarind and mango trees, which produce the Bats’ favored fruits, were cut to plant other crops, food sources for the Bats dwindled, as did the Bats’ numbers. Following a cyclone in 2003, which destroyed habitat and swept Bats out to sea, they numbered only about 4,000. The San Diego Zoo Safari Park has established a breeding colony as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan program in order to create a sustainable population. San Diego Zoo Global has also partnered with the Rodrigues Environmental Educator Programme, working with school and community groups to support Bat conservation.
Bats do more than earn their keep—insect-eating Bats prevent diseases like West Nile virus and help save crops from pests, and fruit-eaters pollinate plants and disperse seeds. Bat droppings support bacteria useful to humans, including the production of antibiotics.
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.
Photo 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.