Monday, September 24, 2012

New Kitchen for the Rare Feline House

By Amanda Mayberry, Carnivore Keeper

Behind-the-scenes in the Rare Feline House (where the lions, tigers, jaguars are) we have space for the animals but we also have a bathroom, office and kitchen that makes it functional for the humans! Every morning keepers bring up food from the main Zoo kitchen to prepare the daily meals for the carnivores (meat eating animals). Meat is weighed and combined with chow or various other items depending on the species.

Due to concerns about the sustainability of our current cabinets we recently chose to completely overhaul the kitchen area. The room was stripped, re painted, and rebuilt from the ground up. Our new kitchen is now home to a shiny new sink, sleek-easily cleanable counter tops, and open shelving for various new organization bins.

This entire setup can also be easily cleaned top to bottom. We have direct access to our enrichment items, emergency equipment, and tools. Our new cabinets have a lazy Susan which allows easy storage and accessibility to enrichment spices as well as supplements and medications.

The new kitchen has made a huge difference in our daily routines making it that much easier to find what we need quickly and efficiently. Our new kitchen was designed to last and we couldn’t be happier. 

We would like to give a BIG thank you to our friends at IKEA West Sacramento for making this all possible!!

The Tamanduas approve of the new kitchen.

The finished kitchen.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

California Tiger Salamander

By Kate Gore, Reptile Keeper

This is a California Tiger Salamander, one of 34 that we currently have behind-the-scenes at the Zoo. You can see our older resident salamander living on exhibit with the Red Legged Frog in the reptile house.

The 34 salamanders that we received earlier this year were part of a temperature study being done by UC Davis. These captive-born salamanders could not be released into the wild, so many of the UC Davis animals went to zoos. We hope in the future, the 34 may be involved in starting a new captive population program. There is so much we don’t know about these salamanders and what we learn by having them here can help the husbandry needs of many other salamander species.

One of the 34 young California Tiger Salamanders

As for the species itself, California Tiger Salamanders are one of the larger species of Ambystomids (a specific group of salamander species); they used to be spread all over the central valley of California, and into Southern California as well. Today’s populations are quite a bit lower, leaving them with a few suitable habitat locations in the central valley. This has led them to a California Species of Special Concern as well as a threatened federal species.

In the past few years, there has been a push to get the California Tiger Salamander listed as an endangered species, but questions have been brought up regarding their status as a species, as some believe they are a sub species of the Tiger Salamander. They are threatened primarily by habitat loss in the form of wetland development, as they lay eggs in vernal pools, where then the larvae hatch, being fully aquatic, until they lose their gills, and become fully terrestrial. The Axolotls in the reptile house look similar (only MUCH larger) to what a baby tiger salamander looks like.

With the loss of the wetlands, the California Tiger Salamanders have lost well over half of their habitat. Another population issue they are facing is the invasive Barred Salamander, who have been moving into tiger salamander habitats and hybridizing with them.

California Tiger salamanders can grow up to 8 inches long, able to eat all sorts of insects (earthworms and crickets are favored) and they can even eat young mice. They can partially “leap” up to grab their prey (even when the ‘prey’ is zookeeper fingers!). Within 6 months of ‘morphing’ into terrestrial salamanders, the patterns on their bodies will be permanent, making them less difficult to identify as individuals.

All of the salamanders have come to recognize when the keepers are there to feed them, they all come out from their hiding spots and approach the glass walls watching the keepers—and always with a big salamander grin!

Adult California Tiger Salamander

Thursday, September 6, 2012

New Masai Giraffe

The Sacramento Zoo’s giraffe herd has grown from four to five in the last month. “Shani” came to the Sacramento Zoo from the LA Zoo in mid-August and has completed quarantine. She is now exploring the exhibit and getting to know the Zoo’s three female Reticulated Giraffes and her new companion Chifu, a two-year-old male Masai Giraffe.

“Eventually Shani and Chifu will become the nucleus of a Masai Giraffe herd,” said Harrison Edell, General Curator. “As part of the Masai Giraffe Species Survival Plan, the creation of this new herd will support genetic diversity in the North American Masai Giraffe population.”

Born August 30, 2010, Shani stands approximately 11 feet tall. When full grown, she is expected to reach between 16 and 19 feet. Shani’s name comes from the Swahili word for “wondrous.” Keepers have noted that she enjoys the presence of the other giraffes and is getting along well with Chifu.

The Masai Giraffe is the largest giraffe subspecies and is found in southern Kenya and Tanzania In addition to a difference in size, Reticulated and Masai Giraffes tend to have slightly different spots. A Masai giraffe's spots are usually darker and irregular in shape.

Shani and Chifu are two of fewer than 100 of Masai Giraffes in institutions accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Giraffes in captivity have helped field researchers, such as those from the Wild Nature Institute, to recognize physical characteristics and social behaviors in the wild.  The Wild Nature Institute is currently studying the demography of Masai Giraffes and the African Savannah ecosystem with photo recognition software. Through this methodology, researchers can follow the giraffes’ movements and reproduction habits in order to understand where and why they are declining in the wild. The study includes more than 1500 Masai Giraffes. The partnership between the Sacramento Zoo and the Wild Nature Institute is an example of research and education feeding into conservation. 

Shani, the new Masai Giraffe
Shani is the second from left