San Diego Zoo Safari Park

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Conservationists Raise Rare Egyptian Vulture

SAN DIEGO (Sept. 23, 2021) – After more than four decades of successfully breeding, rearing and introducing California condors and other vultures back into their native habitats, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance is ushering in a new era of vulture conservation. Wildlife care specialists at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park have begun hatching and raising the Western Egyptian vulture, a species native to southern Europe, Asia and northern Africa. Listed as Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, very few of these rare birds live in the United States—and this novel breeding program represents new hope for increasing the conservation population of the species in North America.

                  “This is an endangered species with a rapidly declining population trend, as is the plight of many vulture species,” said Lisa Peterson, executive director of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “Increasing the number of individual birds and maintaining genetic diversity in North America is an extremely important part of our work. As Egyptian vulture numbers continue to decline in their native habitat, the genetic line of every individual becomes increasingly more important to the continuation of this species.”

                  A chick named Jamila was successfully hatched earlier this year, and she is the offspring of the only Western Egyptian vulture breeding pair in North America. She is also the first hatchling of the species in San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance’s 105-year-history. To ensure Jamila’s survival after hatching, wildlife care specialists used 40 years of experience conserving threatened vultures by puppet rearing her—a practice where they passed food to Jamila from the beak of a lifelike hand puppet resembling an adult vulture. This care process is particularly valuable to the successful rearing of a chick from a species with such low population numbers, and with inexperienced parents. It also ensures that the chick not only receives proper care, but also does not form a bond with humans.

                  “Puppet versus hand rearing is an important distinction to make, as these are very intelligent animals that can easily imprint on humans, if we are not careful,” said Peterson. “Due to the low numbers of Egyptian vultures, each one is very special. The likelihood of survival for each offspring is greatly increased by assisting with rearing in the early years of a program. The California condor program is a great example of how this method is used.”

                  Worldwide, vultures are considered one of the most threatened groups of birds, yet they are essential to a healthy ecosystem—preventing the spread of disease to other wildlife and to humans. The well-known California condor program is a noteworthy conservation success story as it not only allowed scientists to study the species, but also helped them develop and enhance the systems necessary to preserve a vital vulture species that was near extinction. California condors are just one of 19 of the world’s 23 vulture species that San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance has cared for, and the Egyptian vulture is the 11th species that has successfully bred at the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Moving forward, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance plans to use its vulture expertise to continue increasing this species populations, and work with additional partners—including zoos and other conservation institutions—to help supplement the program when needed.


San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Boosts Rhino Conservation Efforts: Southern White Rhino Calf Born at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

SAN DIEGO (Aug. 27, 2021) – A six-day-old female southern white rhino calf explored the Safari Park’s 60-acre African Savanna earlier this morning—running, playing and curiously getting close to Cape buffalo that share her habitat—all under the watchful eye of her protective mother. The calf, yet to be named, was born in the early hours of Aug. 22 to first-time mom Kianga, and father J Gregory.

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“We are delighted to welcome this calf to the Safari Park’s crash of southern white rhinos,” said Lisa Peterson, executive director, San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “Babies are always delightful—cute and fun to watch grow—but more importantly, they serve as ambassadors for their species. Seeing a rhino up close allows our guests to connect with them, with the hope they gain a greater appreciation for them, and the vitally important need to conserve and protect rhinos and their native habitats.”

                  Wildlife care specialists report the calf is healthy and nursing well—and Kianga is proving to be an excellent mother, who is very attentive to her offspring. Estimated to weigh around 125 pounds at birth, the little ungulate with big feet will nurse from her mother for up to 12 months; and she is expected to gain about 100 pounds a month for the first year. When full grown, at around 3 years of age, she could weigh between 4,000 to 5,000 pounds. 

                  Rhinos are very important to the ecosystems in which they reside. Southern white rhinos live in the savannas of Africa. These gentle giants are mega-herbivores, grazing on grasses—which helps maintain the diverse African grasslands, increasing plant diversity and providing grazing areas for other animals that share their natural habitat, such as elephants, zebras, antelope and gazelles.

There are an estimated 18,000 southern white rhinos remaining in Africa. The southern white rhino is classified as Near Threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species, due to poaching threats and illegal trafficking of rhino horn. San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance has been working for more than 40 years, along with other accredited zoos, to keep a sustainable population of rhinos safe under human care while working to protect them in sanctuaries in their native habitats.

                  Kianga’s calf is the 104th southern white rhino calf born at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park since 1972. The rhino calf and mom can best be seen roaming their habitat from the Park’s Africa Tram, a Wildlife Safari, a Balloon Safari or from the Park’s giraffe cam (showcasing a multitude of wildlife including rhinos, giraffes, Nile lechwe, African crowned cranes, gazelles and other species) viewable online at sdzsafaripark.org/giraffe-cam. 


Safari Park’s Elephant Calves Keep It Fair and Friendly

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Two young Elephant calves at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park enjoyed a high-spirited play session recently. Three-month-old male calf, Umzula-zuli (known as “Zuli”), and almost two-month-old female calf, Mkhaya (called “Kaia”), engaged in some friendly sparring, pushing, climbing, and head-butting!

Zuli was born August 12 to mother Ndulamitsi (pronounced en-DOO-lah-mit-see) and Kaia was born September 26 to mother Umngani (pronounced OOM-gah-nee.)

Keepers report the calves are almost the same size, so they naturally gravitate to each other. The calves’ moms know they are in a safe environment and are allowing them to roam the exhibit, knowing that if the calves stray too far or get too rough with each other, an “auntie” will intercede and make sure they are okay. The two calves have plenty of “aunties,” who help the moms out by alloparenting—a system of group parenting in which individuals, other than the parents, act in a parental role.

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is home to a total of 14 Elephants: four adults and 10 youngsters. The new calves and their herd may be seen at the Safari Park’s elephant habitat and on the Safari Park’s Elephant Cam, at: www.sdzsafaripark.org/elephant-cam.

Photo Credits: Ken Bohn/ San Diego Zoo Safari Park


‘Big’ Little Elephant Surprises Keepers at Safari Park

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A female African Elephant calf was born to experienced mom, Umngani, on September 26 at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

The female weighed in at 281-pounds, making her the largest calf ever to be born at the Safari Park. A newborn elephant generally weights 200 to 268 pounds at birth, and the average gestation period for African Elephants is 649 days, or 22 months.

The yet-to-be-named, little pachyderm was introduced to the remainder of her herd on September 28. The Safari Park reported that the other elephants appeared very excited to meet the new baby: ‘rushing to her, and touching and smelling her with their trunks, all under the watchful eye of her protective mother’. The elephant herd includes three older siblings (one of which the new calf now shares a birthday with) and a male calf, named Umzuli-Zuli, who was born August 12 to mother, Ndula.

2_BabiesEle_001_LGPhoto Credits: Ken Bohn/ San Diego Zoo Safari Park

The Safari Park is now home to 14 African Elephants: 4 adults and 10 youngsters. The adults were rescued in 2003 from the Kingdom of Swaziland, where they faced being culled.

Guests can visit the new baby, her mom, and the rest of the herd at their home in Elephant Valley at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and they also may be seen on the Safari Park’s Elephant Cam, at: www.sdzsafaripark.org/elephant-cam .


Wallaby Joey Trio Moves Into Their New Home

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A Red-necked Wallaby joey was photographed out with her keeper on September 4, just before exploring her new home at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s newest exhibit: “Walkabout Australia”.

The almost 11-month-old Wallaby is one of three joeys—Laura, Thelma and Tatum—who’ve finally settled into their grassy habitat at Walkabout Australia after weeks of commuting back and forth from their previous home at the Ione and Paul Harter Animal Care Center, where they were hand raised.

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Wallaby_001_LGPhoto Credits: Ken Bohn/ San Diego Zoo Global

The joeys currently stand over 20 inches tall and weigh between 9 and 13 pounds each. When full grown, Wallaby females can weigh between 26 and 35 pounds and reach a length of up to 3 feet from head to tail.

Animal care staff continues to bottle-feed the trio three times a day, but they will be gradually reducing the amount until the joeys are completely weaned by the end of October.

Guests visiting the Safari Park can see the Wallaby joeys in Walkabout Australia—an immersive, interactive experience that allows guests to discover the wildlife and habitats of the Land Down Under, and learn how Australia’s one-of-a-kind species interact with humans who share their world.


Summer Baby Boom at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

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There’s been a late summer baby boom at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, eliciting lots of “oohs and aahs” from visitors of all ages.

Among the new baby animals that can be seen at the Park, there’s a Greater One-horned Rhino calf, named Tio, who was born on July 9 to mom, Tanaya.

Also, a male Giraffe calf, named Kumi, was born August 6, and a handsome male African Elephant was born August 12 and has been named Umzula-zuli.

A young Scimitar Horned Oryx can be seen sticking close to his mom at the Park, and a one-month-old Grevy’s Zebra foal enjoys sunning with mom.

San Diego Safari Park visitors may see the baby animals and all the Safari Park has to offer from an African Tram Safari, a Caravan Safari or private Cart Safari.

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4_BabiesOryx_007_LGPhoto Credits: Ken Bohn/ San Diego Zoo Global

Since 1969, more than 37,600 animals have been born at the Safari Park, including 23,000 mammals, 12,800 birds, 1,500 amphibians and 40 reptiles. The Safari Park’s successful breeding programs help conserve numerous species, many of which are threatened or endangered, like the Scimitar Horned Oryx.

Continue reading "Summer Baby Boom at San Diego Zoo Safari Park" »


Calf Born on World Elephant Day Meets His Herd

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Animal care staff at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park are celebrating the birth of a baby Elephant, born just before midnight on World Elephant Day, August 12. The calf, a male, was born to mother Ndlulamitsi, better known as ‘Ndlula,’ without complications and began nursing shortly after birth. 

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EleBoy_002_MedPhoto Credit: Ken Bohn/San Diego Zoo Safari Park

“Mother and baby were in a small area of the yard, separate from the rest of the herd,” said Curtis Lehman, animal care supervisor at the Safari Park. “This separation, much like what would occur in natural habitats in Africa, allows mom and baby time for bonding.”

The baby Elephant, named Umzula-zuli, tipped the scales at more than 270 pounds—making him the largest Elephant calf ever born at the Safari Park. A newborn calf generally weights 200 to 268 pounds at birth. By late morning, with the baby appearing healthy and well bonded to his mother, animal care staff offered the pair the opportunity to move into a larger area of the habitat with the rest of the herd.

“This morning’s introduction of ‘Zuli’ to the other 12 Elephants in the herd was one of the most endearing animal scenes I have had the privilege of seeing,” said Mindy Albright, lead keeper, San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “The other Elephants were clearly excited to meet the new baby—touching him, trumpeting and smelling him with their trunks.”

The average gestation period for African Elephants is 649 days, or 22 months, so Zuli’s birth had been long anticipated. When the Park opened at 9 a.m., guests at the African Elephant overlook were able to see Ndlula and her newborn interacting with the herd. The new baby and his herd may also be seen on the Safari Park’s Elephant Cam.

The Safari Park is now home to 13 Elephants—4 adults and 9 youngsters. The adults were rescued in 2003 from the Kingdom of Swaziland, where they faced being culled. A lack of space and long periods of drought had created unsuitable habitat for a large Elephant population in the small southern African country. At the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Elephant studies are underway on nutrition, daily walking distance, growth and development, and bioacoustic communication. Since 2004, San Diego Zoo Global has contributed $30,000 yearly to Swaziland’s Big Game Parks to fund programs like anti-poaching patrols, improve infrastructure and purchase additional acreage for the Big Game Parks.  African Elephants are listed as Vulnerable to Extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).


Cheetah Siblings Get Extra Care in San Diego

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Visitors hoping to glimpse three Cheetah cubs at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park weren’t disappointed when the trio debuted on February 22.  The three siblings – one male and two females – watched the people, explored their surroundings, played with each other and, typical of any infant, after one of their five daily feedings, settled in for a long nap.

The 7-week-old Cheetahs were born January 6 at San Diego Zoo Global’s off-site Cheetah Breeding Center to an inexperienced mom named Malana. In an effort to care for her cubs, Malana inadvertently caused minor injuries to them. After being with their mother for five weeks, the cubs were taken to the Animal Care Center to be monitored for medical issues. Keepers will keep close watch over them, feeding them a special diet of soft carnivore food and formula, and weighing them to monitor their health. After they turn 12 weeks old and receive their three-month immunization, they will be returned to their home at the Cheetah Breeding Center.

Photo Credit: Ken Bohn

The Cheetah siblings don’t have names yet, but keepers call them “Purple,” “Yellow,” and “Blue” because of the colors of temporary ID markings placed on their tails. Purple is the smallest of the two sisters, and keepers describe her as feisty and very playful—and she has a big appetite. Yellow is also very playful and loves cuddling with her siblings; and Blue, the only male, loves to play and take extra-long naps.

Cheetahs are native to Africa and a small part of Iran. They are classified as Vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. It is estimated that the worldwide population of Cheetahs has dropped from 100,000 in 1900 to just 7,000 today, with about 10 percent living in zoos or wildlife parks.

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is one of nine breeding facilities that are part of the Cheetah Breeding Center Coalition (CBCC). 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 160 cubs born to date.

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. Their work 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.

 


Cheetah Cub Arrives at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

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A six-week-old female Cheetah cub arrived at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, on November 13, from Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Glen Rose, Texas.

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.

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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’.


Endangered Iguanas Hatch at SDZ Safari Park

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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.

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Jamaican_003_LGPhoto 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.