Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Death of Castro the Tiger

Our hearts are heavy as we mourn the loss of Castro the Sumatran Tiger who was diagnosed with lymphoma in February 2013. Castro, age 16 1/2, exceeded the life expectancy, becoming the longest living large cat diagnosed with that form of cancer and was the oldest breeding male Sumatran tiger in the United States.

“Castro has been an incredible tiger and we have been privileged to care for him. We are extremely thankful to all of the specialists from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and the Sacramento Medical community which have rallied to assist us in providing Castro with a long comfortable life,” commented Dr. Ray Wack, Senior Veterinarian at the Sacramento Zoo.

Since his lymphoma diagnosis in February 2013, Castro has been receiving oral chemotherapy every day while being closely monitored by veterinarians and zookeepers. While on treatment, Castro regained the weight he had lost and became more active again.  His chemotherapy controlled his cancer and maintained a good quality of life. In October 2013, with a great outpouring of help from the medical community, Castro underwent a minimally-invasive surgery providing relief from partial obstruction near his kidney, caused by urinary tract stones.

In February 2014 Castro received a complete physical and extensive diagnostic testing to evaluate the status of his cancer and renal disease. During the exam a miniature camera was placed in his stomach to look for signs of GI ulceration (a potential complication from the chemotherapy). Test results and Castro’s behavior at that time indicated that his cancer was adequately controlled and his chronic kidney disease was stable.

Recently, Castro’s appetite began to decline. Staff has worked diligently to maintain his appetite and weight, enticing him to eat with a multitude of extra-special foods and adding additional medications to stimulate his appetite and minimize his nausea. Sadly, Castro’s condition has deteriorated and the Zoo’s veterinary and animal care teams made the difficult decision to euthanize him.

"Castro has always been one of our favorite cats. He’s been challenging and stubborn at times but these are also traits that we've loved about him. It often made us laugh when he had to readjust his toys or furniture to just the way he liked it," said carnivore Zookeeper Amanda Watters. "I am so glad I had the privilege of taking care of him and getting to know him. He was an incredible animal and ambassador for his species who was a favorite of both staff and visitors."

Castro came to the Sacramento Zoo from the Audubon Zoo with his mother in 1999. He and his female companion Bahagia have five living offspring who went to other Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) zoos to participate in Sumatran Tiger Species Survival Plans® (SSP). Those five offspring have produced five cubs to date. Castro and Bahagia’s last cub, Castro Jr., more commonly known as CJ, recently went to the Los Angeles Zoo as part of the SSP recommended plan.

Sumatran Tigers are critically endangered and found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Fewer than 500 Sumatran Tigers are believed to exist in the wild and approximately 200 live in zoos around the world. The Zoo participates in the Sumatran Tiger SSPs – cooperative breeding and conservation programs designed to maintain genetically viable populations of animals in captivity, and to organize zoo- and aquarium-based efforts to preserve the species in nature.

Castro the Sumatran Tiger. Photo by Mike Owyang.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Lion Cubs Born at the Sacramento Zoo

The Sacramento Zoo is excited to announce the birth of three African Lion cubs. The cubs were born the morning of Friday, October 24. The first time mother and cubs appear to be healthy at this early point in the cub’s lives.  

“These are very early days for our first-time mother. So far, we are pleased with the progress of the female and her cubs. Females would naturally take some “maternity leave” from the rest of the pride for the first 4-8 weeks,” said Dr. Adrian Fowler, Acting Director of the Sacramento Zoo. “Our own female will be off-exhibit for a while to allow her the same kind of mother-cub bonding. If all goes well, we are hopeful that the cubs will be ready to explore their exhibit in the weeks running up to Christmas.”

A female lion’s gestation is 3 ½ months with a litter typically ranging from two to four cubs. They are born with eyes closed and rely entirely on their mother for the first few months. Mother and cubs will be inside the den, away from public view, while the babies gain strength and coordination. Updates, photos and video will be posted here on the Zoo Blog in the coming months. 

Lions usually spend 16 to 20 hours a day sleeping and resting, devoting the remaining hours to hunting, courting and protecting their territory. They protect their territory and keep in contact with one another by roaring loud enough to be heard up to five miles away.  African lions are excellent hunters. Although they are mostly nocturnal, they are opportunistic and will hunt anytime, day or night. Females do 85 to 90 percent of the pride’s hunting, while the males patrol the territory and protect the pride. 

Lions are considered regionally endangered in West Africa and an estimated 42% of major lion populations are declining. Their habitats are now only in game reserves in Eastern and Southern Africa. Loss of genetic diversity from inbreeding, fragmentation, diseases and habitat loss are all problems that continue to threaten this species. Diseases from domestic cats and dogs have also made an impact on wild populations.

The Sacramento Zoo participates in the Lion Species Survival Plan® (SSP). The Lion SSP works with captive populations to increase awareness of the problems that face this big cat.
African Lion Parents - Photo by Erik Bowker

Friday, October 24, 2014

A Future for Cheetah

Did you know that the cheetah is the world’s fastest land animal and Africa’s most endangered cat? Dr. Laurie Marker, founder and Executive Director of the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia shared that fact and many more during her recent presentation at the Sacramento Zoo. Dr. Marker took guests through her journey to secure a future for cheetahs.  Following the presentation she signed her new book, A Future for Cheetahs. In the book Dr. Marker shares the story of the cheetah’s race against extinction.


Learn more about the Cheetah Conservation Fund and how you can help cheetahs. 





Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Halloween Moon Crabs

Halloween Moon Crabs are also known as the Jack O’ Lantern Crabs thanks to the spots and coloration on the top of their carapace. They are found along the Pacific coast of Central and South America, and while they do return to the ocean to spawn, they spend the majority of time on land amid mangroves and forests. They are very open to different types of food; everything from fruits to carrion and insects, and even leaves. These crabs are a social species, often sharing burrows. They are also nocturnal, bedding down in a shallow burrow of the substrate, or wedged among rocks, so they may not be seen during the day.

Stop by the Reptile House and try to spot them in the Blue Tree Monitor exhibit!




Monday, September 22, 2014

Small Wonders of Africa Opening!

The Small Wonders of Africa exhibit, located across from the giraffe habitat, will be opening this weekend! This dynamic multi-species exhibit will include permanent residents as well as visiting exhibits and species. Each of the animal species, including Aardvark, Straw-colored Fruit Bat, Red-billed Hornbill, Crested Guineafowl and Wolf’s Guenon, will help tell the story of East Africa, presenting the challenges of conserving wildlife in this corner of the world.

The $700,000 renovation has increased the footprint of the older building and includes three, new exhibit spaces. Finer-grade, stainless steel mesh and glass allow up-close viewing by visitors – enabling them to get nose-to-nose with an Aardvark, exploring inside a termite mound. Visitors will be able to explore the base camp and dig for fossilized bones as part of their African adventure.

Straw-colored Fruit Bat
Aardvark

Friday, September 19, 2014

Farewell to CJ the Sumatran Tiger

CJ the Sumatran Tiger born on March 3, 2013 will soon be moving to his new home at the LA Zoo. His move is based on a recommendation from the Sumatran Tiger Species Survival Plan® and coincides with the timing that young tigers usually leave their mothers. He is so big now, that it can be hard to tell him apart from his mom Baha.

Come say farewell to CJ! He is on exhibit with mom starting around 3:30 pm each day until October 2nd. In addition, he will be on exhibit all day from Sunday, September 21st through Tuesday, September 23rd.

Baha will be reintroduced to Castro the male in the months following CJ's departure so you will soon see two tigers on exhibit again.

CJ, September 2014 - Photo by Mike Owyang
CJ, May 2013 - Photo by Erik Bowker
CJ, April 2013 - Photo by Erik Bowker
Sumatran Tigers are critically endangered and found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra off the Malaysian Peninsula. Fewer than 500 Sumatran Tigers are believed to exist in the wild and approximately 200 live in the zoos around the world. The Sacramento Zoo participates in the Sumatran Tiger Species Survival Plan® (SSP), coordinated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. SSPs are cooperative breeding and conservation programs designed to maintain genetically viable populations of animals in captivity, and to organize zoo and aquarium-based efforts to preserve the species in nature.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Female Giraffe Gave Birth to Stillborn Calf

The Sacramento Zoo is saddened to share that Shani, the Sacramento Zoo’s female Masai Giraffe gave birth to a stillborn female calf in the early afternoon of September 14th.

The first signs of labor were observed by zookeepers this morning. Our veterinary staff consulted with many colleagues as staff monitored the progression of her labor. Shani was having difficulties delivering the calf due to a poor presentation involving the calf’s neck being wrapped around her long forelegs. The Zoo’s animal care staff and veterinarians worked with the Large Animal Reproductive Service from UC Davis to assist Shani in the delivery of the stillborn calf. Without intervention, Shani would not have been able to deliver the calf and her health would have been in jeopardy. A full necropsy of the calf will be performed at UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital.

“Intervening in a giraffe delivery is no trivial task, but our staff and specialized giraffe-handling facilities enabled us to assist Shani successfully,” said Dr. Adrian Fowler, Acting Director of the Sacramento Zoo. “We are pleased to say that Shani appears to be recovering well and the birth does not seem to have created any complications for her moving forward.”

It is not uncommon for first time giraffe mothers to have stillborn calves or lose them early in their rearing; 23% of calves do not survive the first 30 days.

The Sacramento Zoo is one of 29 AZA accredited institutions managing 111 Masai Giraffes in North America. The Masai Giraffe is the largest subspecies and is found in southern Kenya and Tanzania. Populations in the wild are declining.