Friday, June 26, 2015

New Yellow-footed Rock Wallabies

New to the Australian Outback at the Zoo are nine female Yellow-footed Rock Wallabies who moved to Sacramento from the San Diego Zoo. When visiting the exhibit be sure to be as quiet as possible while they acclimate to the exhibit and get to know the Red Kangaroos and Emus that share the yard. If you cannot spot them at first, be sure to look around the rocky outcrops that were created especially for them.

Yellow-footed Rock Wallabies are medium-sized and generally measure 19-32 inches long, plus a 16-28 inch tail, and females weigh 5-15 pounds. They inhabit rocky cliffs and hillsides in the Australian states of New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia, where they rest in caves and rock crevices during the day in the heat, occasionally emerging to sunbathe. They are classified endangered because they live in a limited habitat range that continues to decrease in size.

Yellow-footed Rock Wallaby
Wallaby jumping from a rock

Sunday, June 21, 2015

First Father's Day for the Lion

In honor of Father’s Day, the Zoo’s first-time lion dad received a special-themed enrichment. A Zebra pinata!

Male African Lion with his Zebra pinata
Lion dads are unique among cats because they are involved in rearing their offspring. Other cats are fairly solitary and come together for breeding, then separate. This leaves the female to raise the offspring on her own. Also unlike other cats, lions are very social and live in prides whose members often live very close together for extended periods of time. Lion cubs are closely-knitted to their pride. Adult lions keep their youngsters close by for up to three years. Other cat species will push their youngsters to be on their own by one year of age.
Lion cub helping with dad's pinata
Lion cub found one of the other boxes
Lion cubs learn important behaviors from both parents and the rest of their pride. This sets the cubs up to be very successful in creating or joining prides of their own. These skills include hunting as a team, protecting the pride, and of course, the best times and places to take long cat naps.
You can tell the lioness is the hunter in the family!
Fun Fact: Field research shows that dark-maned males have characteristics which make them more desirable mates and formidable foes; they tend to be older than the others, have higher testosterone levels, heal well after wounding and sire more surviving cubs.

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. As part of the SSP, the cubs will move to accredited zoos over the next two to three years.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

#JurassicZookeeper Meme

Zookeepers jumped on the #JurassicZookeeper trend that has been sweeping through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram today. An iconic scene in the Jurassic World movie where Chris Pratt's character holds three velociraptors at bay has now been imitated but zookeepers across the country.

Staffer Mike Owyang is credited with helping start the #JurassicZookeeper hashtag and others have now popped up like #PrattKeeping #JurassicZoo and more. Here are a few zookeepers doing their best Chris Pratt impressions.
Christa Klein calming Black & White Ruffed Lemurs
Mike Owyang holding back Fulvous Whistling Ducks
Kate Gore keeping White's Tree Frogs at bay
Alex Johnson stopping Crested Screamers
Kate Gore holding back Chinese Three-striped Box Turtles
Amazon Milk Frogs
California Tiger Salamanders. Photo credit, Kate Gore.
Summer Copeland calming the Spur-thighed Tortoises

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Zookeepers as Animals

As you may imagine, it takes a lot of work to care for the more than 500 animals spanning over 150 species that call the Sacramento Zoo home. The dedicated zookeepers pour their blood, sweat and sometimes tears into making sure the animals are healthy and cared for while accounting for their age, medical issues, dietary needs, habitats, personality traits and quirks.

It's such hard work that sometimes, you just need to have a little fun.

After seeing the #ZookeepersAsAnimals photos from the Symbio Wildlife Park in Australia, Sacramento zookeepers decided to join in the fun.

Allie as a Burrowing Owl
Alex as a Chimpanzee
Allie as a Desert Tortoise
Zookeepers as the Flamingo flock
Alison as a Reticulated Giraffe
Alison & Amanda as Wolf's Guenons
Allie as a Great Horned Owl, Chris as herself
Erik, Kate & Amanda as African Lion cubs
Amanda, Kate & Erik as African Lion cubs
Sadie as a Sumatran Orangutan
Sadie as a Sumatran Orangutan
Christa as a Red Panda

Friday, June 12, 2015

Newborn Baby Lemurs

We are excited to announce that two female Black and White Ruffed Lemurs were born on May 27 and a Mongoose Lemur was born on June 9 at the Sacramento Zoo. Both are critically endangered species of lemur native to Madagascar.

The Black and White Ruffed Lemur family can be found in the exhibit area across from Conservation Carousel but mom and the two infants are currently off-exhibit. The Mongoose Lemur family can be found in their exhibit next to the White-handed Gibbons. 

“Due to the intricate records and observation notes by Keeper staff and our Veterinary team, we were extra vigilant as the expected birth dates approached,” said Matt McKim, Sacramento Zoo’s Animal Collection Director.  “We are proud of our continued commitment to these highly endangered Lemur species. “

The critically endangered Black and White Ruffed Lemur females that weighed 129 grams and 138 grams at two days old, have been growing fast in an off-exhibit area with mom. This is the fifth litter of infants for the pair of Black and White Ruffed Lemurs.  Ruffed lemurs are the only primate that keeps their young in nests instead of carrying them around. In the wild they would use tree cavities and crooks to nest in, but at the Zoo, keepers provide other nesting options such as tubs and crates. They are currently in an off-exhibit area, but you may see them through a mesh door between the lemurs’ building and the exhibit. This door allows the father and older siblings to get to know the youngsters through the mesh and will help with the introduction process.

Black & White Ruffed Lemur at 8 days old. Photo by Christa Klein.
Black & White Ruffed Lemur at 8 days old. Photo by Christa Klein.
Black & White Ruffed Lemur at 12 days old. Photo by Christa Klein.

Black & White Ruffed Lemur at 12 days old. Photo by Christa Klein.
This is the third offspring for the Mongoose Lemur pair. All Mongoose Lemur infants are born with female coloration. Males change coloration within six to eight months. The infant is carried around the mother’s waist and is weaned between five and seven months. Mongoose Lemurs tend to live in small groups of three to four consisting of a mature pair and their immature offspring. The Ankarafantsika Reserve is the only protected area in Madagascar for the Mongoose Lemur. It is under heavy pressure due to forest clearance for pasture, charcoal production and croplands.
Mongoose Lemur at 1 day old
Mongoose Lemur at 1 day old
Both Black and White Ruffed Lemurs and Mongoose Lemurs are native only to the island of Madagascar off the southeastern coast of Africa, although the Mongoose Lemur was introduced to the Comoro Islands of Moheli and Anjouan roughly 200 years ago. To help preserve these vanishing species, the Sacramento Zoo takes part in Species Survival Plans® (SSP) initiated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), to cooperatively manage specific, and typically threatened or endangered species, populations in accredited institutions.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Abby & Ringo, Six-banded Armadillos

Abby and Ringo are two very energetic Six-banded Armadillos. One of their favorite activities is running around the Reptile House Lawn with groups of children sprinting behind them. While on excursions around the lawn they have a talent for finding all of the mud puddles and showing off how fast they can dig while looking for worms. When taking a break from running around they often cuddle together with Abby sleeping on her back and Ringo using Abby’s stomach as a pillow.

Ringo is the most active and curious of the pair and is constantly on the go. The two are fond of apple sauce and fruit baby food. The zookeepers use this to their advantage and will often mix medicine in with Abby and Ringo’s favorite treats. Abby and Ringo are often seen in stage shows and enjoy visiting classrooms with the Zoomobile.

Ringo the Six-banded Armadillo
Abby the Six-banded Armadillo

Monday, June 8, 2015

From Zoo Camp Teacher to PhD Candidate

Ryan Richards is a PhD candidate with George Mason University and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) – the research arm of the National Zoological Park. He is currently based in a small town in the Cantareira Region – a watershed in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil that supplies water to half of the residents of the São Paulo metropolitan area. His research focuses on farmer responses to incentives that promote forest restoration in the watershed, and the potential for these forests to improve water quality. 

I first visited the Sacramento Zoo around 1990, on a trip to Land Park that many Central Valley families take when they have small children (I was around 6 at the time). I always loved wildlife and nature, and in addition to visiting Sacramento and Micke Grove Zoos (I was born in Stockton), I grew up in “the woods” of Calaveras and Siskiyou counties.

My professional involvement in the zoo started while I was working on my bachelor’s degree at UC Davis. I studied wildlife biology, and a classmate who had a summer job teaching zoo camp suggested I apply. I did, and worked for Ann Geiger for two summers, writing curricula and walking campers around the zoo to learn about different species and habitats and meet some of the zoo’s residents.

In addition to talking about wildlife, which is something I’d always found rewarding, the job also provided an opportunity to learn more about the role zoos were developing for themselves to support conservation efforts in the field. Mary Healy and Ray Wack were especially generous, allowing me to attend meetings with the zoo’s Conservation Committee, even while I had shifted to full-time work with the Sacramento Tree Foundation.

In 2007 I left California to pursue a master’s degree in conservation biology at the University of Maryland, but remained in contact with the zoo and visited when I was in town. During one of these trips, Mary suggested that I attend a new-ish conference that was being held biennially, called Zoos and Aquariums Committing to Conservation, or ZACC. It was held in Houston in January 2009, which was around the time I needed to find a final project for my degree. I attended, and happened to strike up a conversation with Dr. Laurie Marker, who founded the Cheetah Conservation Fund, an NGO in Namibia with a focus on coexistence between this cat and the human communities present in its habitat.

With the benefit of hindsight, Mary’s advice had a far-reaching effect on my professional life. I spent several months in Namibia, working on a biomass energy project that removed overgrown woody plant species for fuel, thereby improving grazing land for wildlife and domestic stock. I also spent a month tracking rhinos as part of a reintroduction project, which was a great way for a conservation scientist to pass the time. Upon my return and graduation, this field experience led to a job developing training courses with the Smithsonian Institution. I was working for the National Zoo on the Global Tiger Initiative – a joint effort among the 13 countries within the tiger’s range (with assistance from the World Bank, Smithsonian, and a group of environmental NGOs) to double the global tiger population by 2022.

After two years with the Global Tiger Initiative, a fellowship became available to pursue a PhD as part of a joint program between SCBI and George Mason University, and I went back to school. I am again working on the issues farmers face living with nature, but in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil, one of the most biodiverse and imperiled ecoregions on the planet. Much of the original forest has been logged or burned, and now major conservation efforts are underway to encourage farmers to replant riparian areas to provide corridors for wildlife and protect city water supplies, as the region is home to 60% of Brazil’s population and almost all of its major cities. I received a Fulbright grant to work with a Brazilian NGO, Instituto de Pesquisas Ecológicas (Ecological Research Institute, in English), on economic factors that affect farmers, so the NGO can make better decisions about how to support forest restoration.

There’s still a great deal of work in front of me before the PhD is complete, but I can and do look back on my experiences with the Sacramento Zoo as an important influence on where I am today. As a native Californian – albeit from much more rural areas than Sacramento – I really enjoyed working with the zoo to educate local youth about the interesting and important aspects of the natural world, including California (which is another global important region for biodiversity). The zoo also helped me find other opportunities to work in the field of conservation, and develop a niche for myself working on natural resource management issues that improve our stewardship of the world’s ecosystems and secure the ecosystem services our society depends on to function. I am very grateful for that, and hope to be back soon to share some more news about my research.