Friday, March 30, 2012

Baby Lemurs!

The Sacramento Zoo is welcoming its newest residents: a baby Coquerel’s Sifaka (CAHK-ker-rells she-FAHK) born on February 4th weighing 115 grams, and a baby Mongoose Lemur that was discovered the morning of Friday March 30th.

There are only eight AZA-accredited facilities that house the fewer than 60 endangered Coquerel’s Sifaka, while 17 AZA-accredited facilities house the fewer than 60 endangered Mongoose Lemurs in the U.S. 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.

“Both births are significant at the Sacramento Zoo and to lemur populations” said Harrison Edell, General Curator. There are between 1,000 and 10,000 Mongoose Lemurs left and potentially less than 10,000 Coquerel’s Sifaka living in the wild.

Mongoose Lemur & Baby (Baby in bottom right corner)

Knowing that both lemurs were going to be first time moms and that their due dates were nearing, staff had been keeping an eye out for any significant changes in the mothers’ behavior. The sifaka mother and baby are bonding in their habitat across from the Conservation Carousel and the Mongoose Lemur baby can be seen on exhibit with its mother and father.

Both Coquerel’s Sifaka 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.

Newborn sifaka ride on their mother’s belly for the first month, then graduate to riding on her back. By two months of age, they have learned the basics of leaping. By about six months of age, they claim the treetops as their own. Young reach adult size at one year. Coquerel’s Sifaka are among the most endangered of the sifaka species – habitat loss due to deforestation is the leading threat. They have a unique brown and white coloration, and are distinguished from other lemurs by the way they move. They maintain a very upright posture. Using only their back legs, they leap through the treetops, easily leaping more than 20 feet in a single bound. On the ground they spring sideways off their back feet to cover distance.

All Mongoose Lemur infants are born with female coloration and; 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.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Pelicans find a Home at the Sacramento Zoo

By Tonja Swank, Public Relations Coordinator

A pelican, discovered alone along the mudflats at the Nevada Creek Reservoir, has found a new home at the Sacramento Zoo. After being found stranded and without his right wing (likely due to tangling in abandoned monofilament fishing line), the bird underwent health exams, made a complicated journey, and has landed in Sacramento along with a second pelican that was also injured in the wild. These two American White Pelicans made their debut at the Zoo March 11th.

Both pelicans were found at separate locations in the wild and unable to care for themselves. They were rescued and placed in a Montana rescue facility, but that was not the end of their story. The pair still had to undergo exams, receive clearance from California and Montana Departments of Fish and Game, go on a car ride from Montana to the Hogle Zoo in Utah (where they spent a night), then find an aircraft that had room for two large crates – all before they could reach their new home.

American White Pelicans have not been housed at Sacramento Zoo since 1983. Although the Zoo often receives animals from other zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums based on recommendations from Species Survival Plans, special cases such as this one allow the Zoo to take in animals from rescue facilities that are considered non-releasable, or unable to care for themselves in the wild.

When you visit the Zoo keep an eye out for the new pelicans! They are on the lake and are usually close to the flamingo area.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Pat Walsh and the ZooMobile

By Tonja Swank, Public Relations Coordinator

Students at Charles Mack had been working very hard to earn top reading scores and surpass reading requirements so the teachers wanted to give them a reward. 40 fifth and sixth grade students received a surprise visit from the ZooMobile and local celebrity Pat Walsh, sports reporter for News Talk KFBK 1530 AM, who went to Charles Mack Elementary as a student.

Pat began the presentation by telling the students about his time at Charles Mack and congratulating them for working so hard. He explained that if they continued to make good decisions, like going to school, reading and being conscious of those around them, then they could be anything they wanted!

Lara and Brooke, who you may recognize from the stage shows and other education programs at the Zoo, followed Pat’s discussion with the real stars of the day, the animal ambassadors. The animal ambassadors helped Lara and Brooke teach the students about the animals’ native habitats and the what the students could do to help the same animals out in the wild.

For more information about the ZooMobile program, how you can bring it to your school or sponsoring a ZooMobile visit the ZooMobile page.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Himalayan Monal Plumage Change

By Christa Klein, Zoo Keeper

Have you ever seen the Disney-Pixar movie “Up?” While making the film, Pixar came to visit the Sacramento Zoo to take pictures, make sketches and observe the behavior of our Himalayan Monals, In the movie “Up,” Kevin is partially based on our birds!

The Sacramento Zoo houses many birds, but the Himalayan Monal Pheasant, sometimes mistakenly called a peacock or a chicken, is one of the most beautiful birds at the zoo. The slideshow below shows the color changes that males go through as they mature.

Male Himalayan Monals have vibrant colors to attract the females. The female has duller, brown colors to help her avoid being seen by predators while she incubates her eggs. The male doesn’t start out life with those beautiful colors; he actually looks very similar to a female as a youngster. As he matures, his colors slowly start to come in, but it can take up to two years. Our male is a few months shy of 2 years old and still has some juvenile plumage visible. Our pair came to the Sacramento Zoo from the San Diego Zoo when they were just 7 months old.

Our male is full of personality! He enjoys chasing keepers when they walk away, but if the keeper turns around and looks at him, he’ll completely stop and look away as if he wasn’t doing anything. He also loves to spend a lot of his time digging around the exhibit; a natural behavior expressed when foraging for food.

In some of the pictures you might notice a crate in the background. This is because the Zoo’s Monals participate in a crate training program where they voluntarily enter a crate for a food reward. This helps keepers to weigh the birds or easily transport the birds for veterinary exams without having to enter the exhibits with nets and create a stressful situation.

The Himalayan Monal is considered endangered and their numbers continue to slowly decrease due to a loss of habitat and hunting of the males for their crests. They are the national bird of Nepal and are native to Asia; more specifically the Himalayas from eastern Afghanistan to Bhutan, including southern Tibet and northeast India.

The next time you are at the Zoo, take a walk over to the Red Panda Forest! There you will find the Himalayan Monal and Azure Winged Magpie mixed species exhibit across from the Red Pandas.