Tuesday, June 21, 2016

All About Bird Eggs

Many visitors love watching the Zoo’s feathery residents, but something that guests may not realize is the work that goes into hatching eggs from those residents. The Sacramento Zoo’s Primary Bird Zookeepers, Carolyn and Sebastian, dedicate a lot of time to properly monitoring and caring for a variety of bird eggs around the Zoo, giving them egg-sactly what they need.

Caring for the bird collection and their offspring sometimes includes the decision to move some eggs from nests to an incubator, giving those bird eggs a little extra support.  The decision can be based upon a variety of factors including the history of individual parents with their eggs and offspring, the endangered status of a species and future plans for the eggs after they hatch.

Keeper checking on eggs in the incubator
Burrowing Owl egg
In the photo above, Keeper Carolyn is completing a regular check on the eggs in the incubator. The incubator keeps eggs at a preferred temperature (around 99 degrees for most eggs), turns the eggs and has adjustable humidity based on the needs of the eggs. While looking after the eggs Keeper Carolyn will turn the eggs by hand to replicate movement they would experience in the nest and weigh each individual egg to monitor weight loss. Eggs are supposed to lose about 15% of their weight through moisture loss. If an egg is losing too much weight or not enough, Carolyn will adjust the humidity in the incubator.
Candling an egg
Candling an egg
Periodically during the incubation process Keepers Carolyn and Sebastian will check the viability of the egg and how likely it is to hatch.  They do this through a process called candling. During the candling an egg is briefly held near a bright light, giving a peek at what is inside.  When candling they are often able to check the egg’s fertility, age of the embryo, quality of the shell and the size of the air pocket.
Recording the egg weight
Zookeepers Sebastian and Carolyn are serious about the care of the eggs and birds under their care. Keeper Sebastian took a 32-hour intense egg incubation course taught by Susie Kasielke, curator of birds at the Los Angeles Zoo. The avian incubation workshop not only empowered him with more information and skills to care for the Sacramento Zoo’s birds, but he has also shared the information with many of his coworkers and hatched plans on how to best care for the Sacramento Zoo’s collection. Carolyn has plans to take the course.

The course includes topics:
  • Embryo and membrane development
  • Factors affecting hatchability before and during incubation
  • Hatchery management techniques 
  • Artificial incubation and its role in field conservation programs
Crested Guineafowl chicks
Egg Fun Facts
An egg is a single cell until it becomes fertilized. Thus, unfertilized eggs are single cells large enough to be seen without a microscope!

Brightly colored eggs often encourage males to play a role in sitting on the eggs and helping care for the young.

Pores in an egg shell allow oxygen in and carbon dioxide and moisture out.

Chicks have an ‘egg-tooth’ on the top of their beak which cuts through the egg shell when it is time for them to come out. The egg tooth falls off soon after hatching.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Happy 19th Birthday to Jane the Red Panda

Today, Jane the Red Panda celebrates her 19th birthday. Jane is the oldest Red Panda in an Association of Zoos and Aquariums facility. Reaching the age of 19, is no small feat when the median life expectancy for a Red Panda is 10.4 years.  In celebration of Jane’s birthday, Zookeepers made her a special ice cake filled with leaf-eater biscuits and topped with apples and grapes.

Jane was born at the Knoxville Zoo in 1997 and arrived at the Sacramento Zoo in 2001.  In 2012, Jane delighted guests during her brief stint as the star of the Wildlife Stage Shows at the Zoo. At 19, Jane lives the leisurely life of an older Red Panda, meandering around her exhibit and making sure she gets lots of rest. Zookeepers and veterinarians keep an extra close eye on her as they treat her for age related conditions such as arthritis.

Red Pandas are native to Eastern Asia, including Nepal, Burma, Tibet and south-central China. They are mostly solitary, small carnivores, whose markings mimic the reddish-brown tree trunks of their habitats. Red Pandas are also commonly referred to as “fire fox” or “bamboo cat”, Red Pandas are endangered in the wild. The Sacramento Zoo supports the Red Panda Network, an organization committed to the conservation of wild Red Pandas and their habitat throughout the education and empowerment of local communities. The Sacramento Zoo also participates in Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan (SSP®) program that cooperatively manages specific populations with the goal of sustaining a healthy, genetically diverse, and demographically varied species well into the future.

Jane with her birthday cake
Jane with a biscuit from her cake
Jane being trained during her stint in the stage show


Monday, June 13, 2016

New Kilimanjaro Climb

Climb to new heights on the Sacramento Zoo's newest activity – Kilimanjaro Climb.

Spend a day at the Zoo and top it off with a trek up the mountain for just $5 for two climbs.  With every ticket sold, the animals win too as $.25 goes toward the Sacramento Zoo’s global conservation efforts.

Climbers must be between 45 lbs. and 250 lbs.




Monday, June 6, 2016

Wolf’s Guenon Birth

On Sunday, June 5th the Sacramento Zoo’s Wolf’s Guenon family welcomed a new addition. This was a recommended breeding per planning by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Wolf’s Guenon Species Survival Plan® (SSP) program. Zookeepers had been monitoring the mother closely throughout her pregnancy. Staff will continue to observe the entire family group after the new birth to ensure that the infant is receiving all the care that it needs. Currently there are fewer than 25 of these monkeys, housed at 8 Association of Zoos and Aquariums institutions in the United States.

The dam was born at the San Diego Zoo in 2007 and the father was born at the San Antonio Zoo in 1995. This is their second offspring as a pair, the first was Zuri who was born at the Sacramento Zoo in 2013. This is Zuri’s first experience with a sibling. She will be watching the interactions between her mother and her sister/brother closely as mom cares for the new infant, learning valuable parenting skills that she herself will use one day.

Wolf’s Guenons are native to Central West Africa, in the Congo Basin where they inhabit a variety of forest types.  Diet consists of foraging for fruits, seeds, leaves, flowers and an occasional insects. Little information is known about this diurnal and arboreal species. Wolf’s Guenons are thought to form single male – multi-female groups.  These monkeys are known to spend time with other primate species including Bonobos, Colobus Monkeys and other guenon species. A larger mixed-species group may mean that there are more eyes on the lookout for predators, and many guenons have learned to recognize other monkeys’ alarm calls so that they know how to respond correctly if a neighbor spots a leopard or eagle.

Since little is known about Wolf’s Guenons in the wild and this species has only been in AZA facilities since the mid 1980’s with a historic population of less than 60 guenons, each birth, adds to our overall knowledge of this species, their biology, social interactions, developmental stages and more. The nonprofit Sacramento Zoo participates in over 60 Association of Zoos and Aquariums managed programs, including the AZA Wolf’s Guenon SSP®. The main focus of this particular plan is captive breeding and educational awareness as to their declining population in the wild due to the bushmeat trade and habitat loss.




Friday, May 27, 2016

Mongoose Lemur Infant, Update & Video

The Mongoose Lemur born on April 21st is doing well on exhibit with mom, dad and older sister. The youngster is getting stronger and just starting to venture off of mom and test out the solid food and browse in the exhibit. As the infant gets older, the gender will become evident by the coloration under the chin. The males develop a reddish color while the female's fur remains white (as shown in the middle photo below).

Like other lemur species Mongoose Lemurs are found on the island of Madagascar. Approximately 200 years ago they were also introduced to the Comoro Islands by man. Mongoose Lemurs are endangered due to hunting and forest fragmentation.


Dad on the left and mom on the right

Monday, May 23, 2016

Sacramento Zoo Mourns Loss of Grevy's Zebra

The Sacramento Zoo is sad to share that after a rapid decline in health over the last few weeks Mara, a 20-year-old Grevy’s Zebra was humanely euthanized the evening of Sunday, May 22. A full necropsy will be performed at UC Davis.

Over the past three weeks zookeepers and veterinarians had been closely monitoring Mara as she progressively became lethargic, had a sever lack of appetite, and experienced weight loss and diarrhea. She was receiving supportive care such as antibiotics, pain medications and gut protectants. Tests were inconclusive as to a root cause. During her last 24-hour she stopped eating, drinking and urinating. Due to her serious decline and concerns for her quality of life, the decision was made to euthanize during a medical examination.  

“Mara was a quiet and dependable zebra who was happy to follow along with the herd,” said Melissa McCartney, Primary Ungulate Zookeeper at the Sacramento Zoo. “At mealtime she had learned to knock on the shift door to let keepers know she was ready for breakfast and wanted to be let in first.”

Mara came to the Sacramento Zoo in 2000 from the San Diego Wild Animal Park. The Sacramento Zoo has been home to Grevy’s Zebras since 1973.
The Sacramento Zoo participates in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Grevy’s Zebra Species Survival Plan®. The main focus of this plan is captive breeding and educational awareness to prevent the extinction of this species. From 1978 to 1999 the Zoo had 22 foals born. In 2000 the Sacramento Zoo made the decision to participate in the SSP® in a different way, to give females who are past breeding age or have never conceived with a proven stallion, a home. The non-breeding females that live at the Sacramento Zoo are animal ambassadors for their species and serve an important role in educating the public.

This species of zebra lives in a dry, nutrient-poor habitat in Africa. Their social organization is very different from that of other zebras. Intense competition among females for limited resources prevents long-lasting bonds from being formed. Life on the African plains is also full of danger and predators are a constant threat to the zebras’ survival. Because Grevy’s Zebras are more solitary, they do not have the safety of a large herd to protect them and instead rely on excellent hearing, with large ears that can rotate in any direction. The wild population of Grevy’s Zebras has been drastically reduced in the past few decades. Although protected by law, their beautiful pelts continue to demand a good price on the black market. Loss of habitat and competition from cattle are also threats to their survival. The Sacramento Zoo has been a longtime supporter of the Grevy's Zebra Trust, a program founded to address the urgent need to conserve Grevy's Zebra in the rangelands of Kenya and Ethiopia by incorporating human and wildlife interests into all of their programs.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Red Panda Beckie Passes Away, 3rd Oldest in AZA Zoo

We are sad to announce the death of Beckie, the Red Panda. At the age of 16 she was the third oldest Red Panda in an Association of Zoos and Aquariums facility and was just two weeks shy of her 17th birthday. In zoos, the median life expectancy for a Red Panda is 10.4 years.

“While the loss of Beckie is difficult, her life is one that should be celebrated,” said Primary Carnivore Zookeeper Amanda Watters “She was well loved by staff and considered our supermodel Red Panda.”

Veterinarians had been treating Beckie for liver disease for over two years. During the past six weeks her condition worsened as she became anemic. An ultrasound exam showed that both her liver and spleen was affected and likely causing her reluctance to eat. In the early afternoon on May 19th, after discussing her quality of life, the difficult decision was made to humanly euthanize Beckie. A complete necropsy will be performed at the UC Davis.

“Beckie was very old for a Red Panda and the zookeepers and veterinarians took excellent and special care with all her geriatric needs,” said Leslie Field, Supervisor of Mammals at the Sacramento Zoo. “She was a sweet Red Panda and lived her last years with other, older Red Pandas.”

Beckie was born June 8, 1999 at the National Zoo. She had lived at the Sacramento Zoo since 2006.
Red Pandas are native to Eastern Asia, including Nepal, Burma, Tibet and south-central China. They are mostly solitary, small carnivores, whose markings mimic the reddish-brown tree trunks of their habitats. Also known as a “fire fox” or “bamboo cat”, Red Pandas are endangered in the wild. The Sacramento Zoo supports the Red Panda Network, an organization committed to the conservation of wild Red Pandas and their habitat throughout the education and empowerment of local communities. The Sacramento Zoo also participates in Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan (SSP®) program that cooperatively manages specific populations with the goal of sustaining a healthy, genetically diverse, and demographically varied species well into the future.