Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Small Wonders Construction

On January 30th, the Sacramento Zoo broke ground on the Small Wonders of Africa exhibit. Since then, we have been working hard to transform the area. As the summer draws to a close, we are happy to report that the new exhibit will open Labor Day weekend!

Small Wonders will house six new African species: African Straw-colored Fruit Bats, Aardvark, Wolf's Guenons, Red-billed Hornbills and Crested Guineafowl. Later this year, Banded Mongooses will join the Aardvark on exhibit.

Each of these species will help tell the story of East Africa, presenting the challenges of conserving wildlife in this unique corner of the world. The Sacramento Zoo has been an active participant in many East African conservation programs to educate the African people who share the landscape with native wildlife.

Small Wonders has improved and expanded on an existing structure – both on-and off-exhibit animal facilities. It replaces the existing mesh with modern, finer-grade stainless steel and glass in some areas to allow for greater visibility. The previous six exhibits were combined to form three large spaces where the new Eastern African animals will live. The renovation also includes an artificial termite mound where guests will be able to observe nocturnal Aardvarks even as they sleep.

Save the date and visit Small Wonders of Africa on Labor Day Weekend!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Zoo Supports Wildlife Care Association

On Thursday, July 24, the Sacramento Zoo will host the Wildlife Care Association as a featured nonprofit during the Zoo’s Twilight Thursday concert and car show event. With the recent financial crisis released by WCA, the Zoo’s Executive Director Mary Healy was compelled to further highlight their services as well as donate $1 for each paid attendee, something that has not been done for any previous Twilight Thursdays.

 “The Wildlife Care Association provides such a critical service to native wildlife. As a longtime partner, we can’t sit by and watch as they struggle to stay open,” said Healy. “The local wildlife depends on all of us to help ensure services continue.”

WCA is an independent, volunteer-based association permitted by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to care for native species. Since its inception, more than 30 years ago, WCA rescues and rehabilitates native wild animals that are dropped off by concerned citizens and public agencies. Each year, more than 6,000 animals are cared for by WCA. With the help of volunteers, staff and local veterinarians, WCA provides valuable medical services to these animals. Once the animals have recovered, or have grown and learned to fend for themselves, they are released into the wild, giving them a second chance at life.

In a statement, WCA President Theresa Bielawski said, "In 2008, Wildlife Care Association moved to our current location in response to the increased need for rehabilitation services and animal care. The decision to keep the doors open year round more than doubled our expenses. Unfortunately, donations haven't matched our increased financial needs.  We are very appreciative of the generous financial support the Sacramento Zoo is providing as well as giving us the opportunity to increase awareness of our services."

The Zoo and WCA have a long-standing partnership. In March, the Zoo’s Conservation Committee donated $1,000 to WCA. Several Zoo staff and Keeper-Aide volunteers have also donated their time and expertise at the WCA facility. The nonprofit is regularly invited to display information during several of the Zoo’s annual events. However, it is not just WCA that benefits from the partnership. When people find injured animals, they often contact the Zoo with questions on how to help and the Zoo refers these inquires to the WCA. In addition, native wildlife such as crows and hummingbirds that are found injured on Zoo grounds are transported by Zoo staff to WCA so they can be rehabilitated. The Zoo specializes in the care of exotic species on grounds and the community relies on the expertise of WCA to assist the native species.

“If the Wildlife Care Association is forced to close, we will have nowhere to refer these calls,” stated Healy. “We are thrilled to provide additional financial support and increased recognition for this worthy nonprofit. We want to help so services to our native wildlife will continue for years to come.”

Please visit the Wildlife Care Association website for more information and to make a direct donation.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Loss of Marzipan the Ostrich

The Sacramento Zoo is mourning the loss of Marzipan, the Zoo’s 21 year-old Ostrich. The morning of July 14th, the Zoo’s male Ostrich was pursuing the female ostriches around the exhibit in typical breeding behavior when Marzipan went to the ground (a normal sign of submission). Once the male was moved off exhibit, keepers noticed that Marzipan seemed unable to stand. Zoo veterinarians and staff were able to anesthetize her on exhibit and then move her to the veterinary hospital for examination. Radiographs revealed a severely comminuted (multiple small fragments) fractured leg bone that could not be repaired. The difficult decision was made to euthanize Marzipan. She was taken to UC Davis for a complete necropsy.

“Marzipan was really special — she enjoyed enrichments when we put them out, loved when keepers got the hose and gave her showers on hot days, and was just an all-around enthusiastic bird,” said primary zookeeper for ungulates, Melissa McCartney. “With her big brown eyes, she had a very sweet look to her (although she was not always sweet to keepers!). She was really special to me and the exhibit will have a little less flair without her.”

Marzipan arrived at the Sacramento Zoo in 2008. She shared an exhibit with three female Grevy’s Zebras and two other Ostriches.

ADDITION 7/15/14: Regarding the severity of Marzipan's fracture.
"All of us at the Sacramento Zoo are deeply sadden by the decision we had to make to euthanize Marzipan, our female ostrich. While fracture repair is possible in many cases, in this case it was not possible. Marzipan's tibiotarsus (a main weight bearing bone necessary for a top heavy bird weighing over 225 pounds) was completely shattered into a large number of small fragments. The fracture included the knee joint and over half of the length of the bone. The remaining distal end of the tibiotarsus had multiple cracks and fissures near the hock as well. Sadly there was not sufficient bone remaining to allow the placement of metal plates to hold the leg together." Dr. Ray Wack, senior veterinarian at the Sacramento Zoo and clinical professor at the Wildlife Health Center within the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

Ostriches are native to Africa, south of the Sahara. Males can range from 7-9 feet and weigh up to 300 pounds while females are 5-6 feet and weigh between 200 and 300 pounds. They are social animals and can often be found roaming with herds of antelope, gnu zebra and cattle. Their long necks make them great lookouts for other animals while herds of hoofstock stir up seeds and insects for the Ostriches to feed upon. Ostriches are the largest flightless bird and have very powerful legs that can deliver 500 pounds of pressure per every square inch of contact. While this species is not severely threatened their populations are declining. Their range once included the Middle East, Asia and Africa in the north as well as south of the tropical rainforests.

Marzipan the Ostrich

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Giant Garter Snake Conservation

The Sacramento Zoo is involved in a number of local conservation efforts. One area of focus is the conservation of Giant Garter Snakes. This species of garter snake is enemic to the central valley of California meaning that is only found in California. It is considered threatened in California and nationally by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The snake is very aquatic preferring habitats that have vegetation along slow moving creeks, lakes or rice fields. With the loss of wetlands, the snake is no longer found in 98% of the areas that it was previously found. The snake primarily eats frogs, tadpoles and fish. The Sacramento Zoo is working with biologists, state and federal officials to help monitor snake populations and evaluate the health of the snakes.

In collaboration with the United States Geological Survey, the veterinary department at the Zoo performs sterile surgery on captured snakes to place radio transmitters inside the snakes. At this time a complete health assessment is performed including a detailed physical exam, radiographs (x-rays), blood sample, fecal sample and swabs for infectious disease testing. After a brief recovery period, the snakes are released back at their site of capture. The radio transmitters allow biologists to track the movement of the snakes and learn more about how the snake uses the habitat. This information helps managers determine how to use water flow through rice fields and restore wetlands in a manner that helps the snakes.

In addition to this project, the Sacramento Zoo works with a local biologist on several Giant Garter Snake projects. Some of these projects involve determining the number of offspring that the snakes have and the timing of the their births, and monitoring the health of the Giant Garter Snakes after starting new wells in the river system they are living in.

The Sacramento Zoo is recognized as an expert in the care of Giant Garter Snakes. Whenever there is construction in a known Giant Garter Snake habitat, biologists monitor the construction for any harm to the snakes. This past winter, four injured snakes were brought to the Sacramento Zoo by government officials. Two of the snakes were treated at the veterinary hospital and released back at the construction site. Unfortunately, the third snake did not survive. The fourth snake healed from it's wounds but is not releasable due to being blind in one eye. This snake can be seen in the Reptile House at the Sacramento Zoo.

Fun fact: Giant Garter Snakes are ovoviviparous meaning that female snakes have eggs which they hold inside of them. The eggs hatch inside the female snake and little snakes emerge from the mother.

For more information visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife species profile page and the California Herps page on Giant Garter Snakes.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Wildly Fun Family Overnights

This summer, The Sacramento Zoo brings back its Family Overnight Safaris where families can enjoy camping out at the Sacramento Zoo during one of the scheduled Family Overnight Safaris. Overnights at the Zoo provide the perfect opportunity for families looking to enhance a staycation this summer, or those who just wanting to enjoy unique family fun.

Parents don’t have to do any work; all of the activities are planned with dinner, continental breakfast and snacks included. After tents (or bedding under the open sky) are set up, families will enjoy touring the Zoo and seeing the animals during their evening routines. The animals often display behaviors not normally seen during daytime hours. After a close up animal feeding it’s campfire time. Just like any campout, snacks, songs and stories are enjoyed as the sunset skies darken; however, a stage show with animal ambassadors specifically designed for the overnight also takes place. Once campfire time ends, it’s off to bed with the soundtrack of animals. In the morning families are awaken by a special alarm clock, breakfast, another unique animal encounter and surprising the animals with a special enrichment activity.

Family Overnight Safaris are offered on various Fridays and Saturdays from June through August.  If you’d like to expand this adventure, Group Overnights can also be arranged for groups of 50 or more.  Unique evening non-sleepover birthday parties can also be arranged through private Starlight Safaris.

Every sleepover has a packed itinerary with activities led by Zoo staff and wonderful Zoo Teen and Docent volunteers who seem to have as much fun as the guests.

Learning about animals during a twilight walk.

Sleeping under the stars

Up-close-and-personal Animal Encounters with the Docents

Campfire storytelling

Friday, June 27, 2014

Get Well Jasper

If you've been to the Zoo recently, you may have noticed that you were not greeted by Jasper, the very talkative Plain-colored Amazon parrot. On Monday, June 16th Jasper was transported to the Zoo’s veterinary hospital and put on supplemental oxygen because he was having difficulty breathing.

The following Thursday UC Davis cardiologists were brought in to do an ultrasound of his heart, which revealed that he has pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the lungs). The next day veterinarians began giving Jasper blood pressure medicine to decrease the pressure in his lungs and within two days he was brighter and more active. Zoo veterinarians have since taken him off of the supplemental oxygen and he has been doing well since.  Although Jasper is not out of the woods yet he is improving and we are cautiously optimistic that he will continue to progress and eventually go back on exhibit.

Jasper is a 25-year-old Plain-colored Amazon who has lived at the Sacramento Zoo since 1990. Plain-colored Amazon parrots are one of the largest Amazon parrot species. In the wild, these birds are found in the Amazon rain forests and foothills of South America as well as parts of Central America and Mexico. Like many parrots, they have a very wide variety of vocalizations such as chirps, tweets and squawks as well as the ability to imitate sounds including human speech.

Many children come through the gates hoping to hear Jasper’s familiar voice welcoming them with a “Hello!” or “Here, Kitty, Kitty!”
For more information on pulmonary hypertension in people and why it is important to have your blood pressure checked visit the Pulmonary Hypertension Association’s website.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Burrowing Owls Visit the Vet

On Friday, June 6th seven of the nine Burrowing Owl chicks that hatched in early May visited the Zoo’s veterinary hospital for the first time. During their visit with the veterinarian each owl was given a quick physical exam to make sure it was in good health and received its first West Nile Virus vaccine. Also, a small drop of blood was drawn to determine the sex of the owl (males and females don't look any different in plumage). These seven chicks are being hand-raised to become outreach animals, acting as ambassadors for their wild counterparts.

The other two chicks, on exhibit with mom and dad, also received similar exams on June 9th.