San Diego Zoo Safari Park

March Went “Out Like a Lamb” at SDZ Safari Park

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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.”

BigHorn_002_Med-860x450Photo 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.

For more information on this important conservation project, go here: http://institute.sandiegozoo.org/species/peninsular-bighorn-sheep .

Visitors to the Safari Park may see the Bighorn Sheep lambs, ewes and ram in their habitat at Condor Ridge.


Tiny Bat Pup Delivered by C-Section Defies Odds

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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.   

BatPup_002_MedPhoto 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.

 


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.