A major conservation success: Welcoming scimitar-horned oryx calves

 

It’s a success story that proves when accredited zoos and conservation organizations work together, we have the power to bring animals back from extinction in the wild.

While we proudly welcome three new scimitar-horned oryx babies at the Dallas Zoo, these African antelope are finally walking their native desert again for the first time in more than 35 years.

In August 2016, the Sahara Conservation Fund and the governments of Abu Dhabi and Chad, released a small herd of 25 oryx back into Chad with GPS radio collars to keep track of the treasured animals. Thanks to zoos and other private groups, these iconic desert antelope were successfully preserved in human care, allowing a wild bounce back.

Since the initial release, two more groups have joined, and the growing herd has welcomed a few babies, showing signs of a healthy, thriving population.

And AZA-accredited zoos continue to welcome babies through the Scimitar-Horned Oryx Species Survival breeding program. So far this year, 38 calves have been born in U.S. zoos, including our three babies.

We’ve put together some highlights on our new calves who were all born to dad Berm:

  • Our first calf was born Aug. 15 to mom Rime. Named Bahira, meaning “dazzling” in Arabic, she was born weighing 17 pounds and has an extremely protective mother.

    Our calves will grow up to look like their moms pictured here (including our fourth adult female Ouadi). Their stunning, sharp-tipped horns curve all the way over their backs.

  • Our second calf arrived a day later on Aug. 16, weighing 21 pounds. Born to mom Mimolette, she was named Ara, meaning “opinionated” in Arabic, because she was very vocal during her neonatal exam.
  • Our male calf was born Aug. 21 to first-time mom Achima. Keepers gave him a very special name – Moussa, which means “Moses” in Arabic. The name is in honor of John Newby, the CEO of the Sahara Conservation Fund, and a key leader in reintroducing Scimitar-horned oryx back into the wild. In North Africa, the natives there call him Moses.

Our three calves and their moms are doing great! Ara and Bahira have been inseparable since they were introduced. The little girls often play and spar with one another, chase each other around, and snuggle up together when napping.

Since 1988, Dallas Zoo has welcomed 14 scimitar-horned oryx calves. We’re proud to contribute to the survival of this beautiful species in human care, and in the wild. Look for our new little ones soon in the Arid habitat off the Adventure Safari monorail.

Categories: Africa, Conservation | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

2017 Feather, Fur and Scales photography contest winners

Staff photographer Cathy Burkey guest-blogs on ZooHoo! 

Our 14th annual Feathers, Fur and Scales Photography Contest brought a new level excitement this year with world-renowned National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore joining as one of our three judges. Knowing Joel’s busy, globe-trotting schedule, it was an honor for us to have him make time to judge our photo entries. He’s one of my most respected photographers, and an incredible supporter of the Dallas Zoo and the AZA community. (Joel debuted his National Geographic Photo Ark exhibition at the Zoo earlier this year!)

Every year, our photography community blows me away with their submissions and this year did not disappoint. Our judges, including Lewis Glaser, Professor and Chair of the Department of Graphic Design at TCU, and The Urban Alternative Director of Communications Heather Lynn, had the difficult job of selecting the winners from all of the amazing submissions in our three categories: adult, teen, and youth.

We honored our winners and their guests with an awards luncheon at the Zoo, where they also received their prizes. We were delighted that a bird keeper from the Abilene Zoo entered the contest, and was chosen as our first place winner in the adult category! Thank you all so much for your submissions. Your photography helps the world connect to our wild world, and could very well inspire our next generation of wildlife heroes.

Below are the winning entries for the 14th annual Feathers, Fur and Scales Photo Contest. Check them out! And if you’re interested in seeing past years’ winners, take a look at our 2014, 2015 and 2016 photographs. Happy shooting!

 

Grand Prize: Bob Peterson
Grand Prize: Bob Peterson
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Browse 101: What is browse and why do we need it

Allison Headley, Animal Operations’ Supervisor of Horticulture, guest-blogs on ZooHoo! about our Browse Program and how Dallas-area residents can help feed our animals! 

It should come as no surprise that with such big animals to care for comes big appetites! One of ways we care for our animals is through our Browse Program where our community can help feed our elephants and other browse-eating animals (more about that later!). For now, let’s chat about the basics of browse.

What is browse? What is a browser?

In simple terms, there are carnivorous animals who eat meat, and herbivores who eat plants. When it comes to herbivores, there are “grazers” who graze on fields at ground level, and there are “browsers” who browse on various foliage of shrubs and trees. We use the term browse often — it’s defined as, “Plant material for consumption or enrichment that is cut and carried to animals in a collection.”

Why do we need browse?

Browse is a crucial element in some of our animal’s diets. It’s full of nutrition that some herbivores need, like proteins, fats, and amino acids.

Browse is also an enrichment item that promotes natural behaviors, such as foraging. It can be used to expand the usage of a habitat, too. Each morning when our elephant team is prepping the Giants of the Savanna habitat, the keepers will scatter branches around in every crevice to encourage the elephants to seek for food and use the entire habitat space.

Also, by providing our animals with browse, we are lessening their eating impact on the landscapes within our habitats. So the habitats continue to look lush and beautiful, and the animals are still active and work to find their scattered food.

How do we collect browse?

We follow the City of Dallas’ Bulk Trash Schedule to find the majority of our browse. Dallas residents have a designated week out of the month where the City allows them to set out bulky trash items that’ll be picked up and disposed of. Our team visits those designated areas to find piles of fresh browse before they’re hauled away.

We also have a few dedicated tree trimming companies that will alert us when large amounts of safe and approved browse items are available. Plus, the City of Dallas Parks and Recreation Department contacts us twice a month to gather material they’ve cut on the City’s golf courses.

Don’t forget about us this winter!

We are always looking for fresh browse for our animals — rain or shine, 365 days of the year. And you can help! With cooler temps coming, many of our go-to trees and shrubs will lose their leaves, and our options become more limited. For animals like African elephants and giraffes, they eat more than just the leaves of the trees we provide them — they enjoy eating the twigs and strip the bark off, too. So we’re still in search for leaf-less browse to feed these species.

For our other critters who are strictly leaf-eaters, it can be a little more challenging in the winter. Evergreen trees are hard to come by, and the common live oak is toxic to our animals. So that leaves us with magnolia, photinia, loquat, and bamboo to collect for them. If you have any of those items available this winter, please contact us!

Check out our Browse Program for all the details, including FAQs, a list of approved plant material, and contact information.

Categories: Nutrition | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Dallas Zoo smashes attendance record for eighth straight year

 

We did it! We crushed our all-time attendance record for the eighth consecutive year with more than 1.2 MILLION guests visiting in our fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

This now marks the third time we’ve exceeded one million visitors in our 129-year history. A huge thanks goes out to our incredible guests for helping us become one of the best AZA-accredited zoos in the nation.

As we look back on some of our accomplishments over the past year, these ones made us particularly proud:

  • We opened our $14 million Simmons Hippo Outpost.

    Our $3 conservation wristbands brought in more than $45,000 and it goes straight to global wildlife conservation projects!

  • We debuted the eye-catching National Geographic Photo Ark exhibition, featuring photographer Joel Sartore’s stunning images .
  • Safari Nights Powered by Breeze Energy brought in a record-breaking crowd!
  • Plus, we had an EPIC baby boom, welcoming loved ones like lion Bahati, giraffe Tsavo, two Somali wild asses, endangered tortoises, Caribbean flamingos, a tamandua, Southern ground hornbills and many more.
  • We donated more than $347,000 to wildlife conservation efforts across the globe.
    • More than $45,000 was raised through our conservation wristband sales.
    • And nearly $13,500 was collected by our bird show ravens in Wonders of the Wild Presented by Kimberly-Clark.
  • We welcomed 102,807 students through field trips, and 52% were from Title 1 schools.
  • We had 786 teachers participate in Dallas Zoo workshops, earning 4,625 CTE credits.
  • Our Wild Earth Action Team (WEAT) removed 7 tons of litter from Texas waterways to restore habitat for endangered sea turtles and whooping cranes.

    Bird show ravens gladly collect guests’ donation dollars at the end of each Wonders of the Wild show; they’ve gathered nearly $13,500 for conservation.

  • WEAT also planted 10,000 trees in the Big Thicket National Preserve to restore habitat for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.
  • WEAT inspired 32,457 guests to make personal pledges for pro-environmental behavior on behalf of animals, like conserving water, using canvas bags and reusable water bottles.

Wild places around the world our need help more than ever, and every visitor we welcome has a part in helping us create a better world for animals everywhere.

 

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Saving endangered gorillas takes all of us

What do you think they’re talking out?

Lower Wilds of Africa zookeeper, Will Bookwalter, guest-blogs on ZooHoo! 

Gorillas have an otherworldly presence, there is just something incredibly special about them – size, majesty, silence that speaks volumes.

The deep chorus of rumbles through a happy troop breaks the hush of an otherwise ominously quiet setting. I sometimes describe it like the moments before a thunderstorm rolls in – there’s a certain force around you that you can’t quite identify and your stomach sinks with anticipation.

Subira is our incredible silver back over our family troop.

Sharing a moment with them is immensely humbling; just a brief second of eye contact is enough to lock you into their world for life and it’s an honor to be there.

The story of gorillas cannot be told without the story of humans. Our lives are intertwined in both the best and worst of ways, but we have the opportunity to effect change and a movement is taking shape across the globe.

A small part of the force that once destroyed habitats and populations has now pivoted to try and save what’s left, those people hope to protect the global treasures that live within the forests of Africa. Many have now learned that the crack of a rifle in the forest is far less valuable than the shutter of a camera. And in that regard, many former poachers have joined the elite corps of rangers who risk their lives everyday to protect the gorillas we have left.

While these brave men and women keep their boots-on-the-ground, standing across the battlefield from poachers, militias, and warlords, each one of us can have our own positive impact on gorilla populations right here at home. We all have the power to create a better world for gorillas.

Staggering numbers 

There are actually four types of gorillas, two species that each have two subspecies. The gorillas we care for

in AZA-accredited zoos are all Western lowland gorillas. In the wild, their population has dropped to 125,000 individuals; they’re classified by the IUCN as critically endangered. The other three subspecies aren’t as lucky. It’s believed there are only 3,800 Grauer’s gorillas left (our partner GRACE is working to save them); Eastern mountain gorillas are struggling with just 880 individuals remaining; and the Cross River gorillas are barely holding on with as few as 100 animals left.

Amani is an orphaned Guarer’s gorilla, living with our partner, the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center (GRACE), in the Congo.

But, wait! There’s good news on the horizon. Not only can we help, we ARE helping!

According to our conservation partner, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, mountain gorilla populations in Bwindi National Forest, Uganda, have actually increased from 302 individuals to no less than 400 between 2006 and 2012. Five years after the last census, we’re still trending upwards.

Gorillas don’t have any true natural predators. From time-to-time they may encounter a leopard interested in a youngster, but the silverback will protect the troop with his 500-pound frame and two-in-a-half inch canine teeth. Unfortunately, the remaining threats to gorillas are all human. In a way, that can be viewed as a positive. You can’t explain conservation to a leopard, but human behavior can be changed, and beliefs and opinions can be swayed with new information.

Gorillas are poached for many reasons, for example, bushmeat is an issue we often encounter. People kill and eat lots of endangered animals, gorillas are certainly included. And while their meat is valuable, bio-facts like hands, feet, and skulls can fetch much more on the black market.

The wildlife trade is a problem born purely out of greed and corruption, and we’re watching animals go extinct before our eyes in the name of trophies and pseudo-science. At the lowest levels of these operations, human lives are destroyed, as well, in order to feed and protect families, while war lords and corrupt politicians enjoy the luxuries that come along with exploitation.

With issues like these, simple conversations go a long way in changing minds. Consumers can sometimes be persuaded to stop purchasing items, like rhino horn and elephant ivory. There are a million different ways we can use our purchasing power to protect these precious habitats. Everyday electronics that we use contain minerals, like gold and coltan, mined in the areas where our gorillas live, and the vicious cycle begins there.

The trade of conflict minerals destroys the lives of humans and animals alike, and most of us have no idea the pain, struggle, and loss that goes into the obtaining the components of a new laptop.

We have proven before the power of the consumer, we are rapidly taking steps to convince companies to use sustainably sourced products across the entire spectrum of
manufacturing. As I mentioned above, each one of us truly does have the power to change the world.

On this historic World Gorilla Day, we hope you will join us at the Dallas Zoo, today through Sept. 26, to support our initiatives to raise $10,000 to protect these incredible gentle giants of the forest. Looking into a gorilla’s eyes, we can all see a reflection of ourselves. We share so much with these amazing animals, it’s time we share some of ourselves with our hallowed cousins. Together, we truly can create a better world for gorillas.

BREAKING NEWS: The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is considering rolling back a rule that helps protect wildlife, like critically endangered Grauer’s gorillas, from the effects of illegal mining operations. Tell them NO on conflict mineral amendment in #HR3354. Add your voice HERE. 

Categories: Conservation, Gorilla, Zookeepers | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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