Dallas Zoo’s Simmons Hippo Outpost closed for maintenance

With winter in full swing, we’re taking advantage of the cold weather to perform maintenance on the Simmons Hippo Outpost – the zoo’s newest habitat that opened in April 2017.

No otters will be harmed or put to work during this maintenance project. 😉

The maintenance project will take about 6-8 weeks to complete, which means the hippo pair, male Adhama and female Boipelo, will remain behind-the-scenes during this time.

“Since we keep the hippos inside their warm barn when the outside water temperature drops below 60 degrees, we saw this timing for maintenance as a way to minimize any inconvenience to our guests,” said Harrison Edell, Vice President of Animal Operations and Welfare. “The hippos are receiving the best care possible during this period, getting extra enrichment items to keep them stimulated, and enjoying access to their private outdoor yard for extra exercise when the weather allows.”

Maintenance to Simmons Hippo Outpost will include repairs to the 24-foot by 8-foot underwater viewing window, which was recently damaged while a contractor was performing upkeep to one of the two viewing panels. Maintenance staffers will replace both panels with an acrylic that will be easier to maintain.

The 4,485-square-foot Highland Hippo Hut learning and event space will remain open during this time. Guests can also visit the okapi in the special encounter area where they can meet the stunning, endangered animals up-close during the daily 2:15 p.m. keeper chat (weather permitting, of course).

We promise to keep you up-to-date on the reopening of the habitat on DallasZoo.com and our social media platforms.

The Dallas Zoo opened the $14 million, 2.1-acre Simmons Hippo Outpost on April 28, 2017; the habitat was funded solely with private donations.

 

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

A teacher’s perspective: Working on Dallas Zoo’s Texas horned lizard project

A teacher measures the size of a wild Texas horned lizard for Dallas Zoo’s population research.

Dallas Zoo’s reptile keepers recently ended their eighth year studying the life history of Texas horned lizards on the 4,700-acre Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch in Fisher County, Texas. By collecting lizard life history data, we hope to shed valuable light on the ecology of this threatened native Texan that is now in decline throughout much of its range. Earlier this year, Dallas-area teachers joined us for our first-ever Texas Horned Lizard Teachers Expedition. Teacher Cara Kailukaitis shares her story on ZooHoo! 

Reptile Supervisor Bradley Lawrence inserts a tag (similar to a pet microchip) into a lizard.

This summer, I had the pleasure of attending the first-ever Texas Horned Lizard Teachers Expedition offered through the Dallas Zoo. When I saw this on the website, I knew I had to attend. Twenty years ago I

did my high school senior research report on these amazing creatures. Finally being able to study these tough little lizards up close and handle them was very fulfilling.

I have always loved nature and as an informal educator I’ve tried to pass this along to homeschoolers. Working with young children is very rewarding and they often bring a smile to my face. But getting a chance to do actual field work with other professionals and teachers was a great change of pace.

Throughout the expedition weekend, I was able to do transect field studies, examine scat and tracks, and help find and take measurements on the Texas horned lizards. What the schedule failed to mention was

The research team, including Cara pictured third from right.

that we would be diving out of four wheelers and grabbing horned lizards as they tried to scurry away. It felt like I was living an episode of The Crocodile Hunter. All that was missing is the guy yelling “crikey!”

While I went to learn about the Texas horned lizard, I also had the opportunity to meet with the interns at the Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch where the field trip was conducted. They shared a wealth of knowledge about not only the quail but other flora and fauna in the area.  Seeing their efforts put the techniques we were learning about, like transect studies, into perspective. Rather than being just an idea in a book, these techniques were brought to life in front of us. Their efforts to protect the quail have the added benefit of helping the lizards, as well.

All fun aside, I want everyone to know how important it is to reconnect with nature and preserve our environment. The ranch is an oasis in the middle of oil rigs and empty cotton fields. With 94-percent of Texas land in private ownership, it is doubly important that such places exist. Without this space, Texas horned lizards, quail, and many other indigenous species would be homeless.  While at the ranch I could envision the bison that once roamed across this land and wonder what animals will still be here in 50 years. I would love for everyone to make time for an opportunity like this to see just how interconnected we all are.

I’m so thankful for the opportunity the Dallas Zoo gave me to participate in this event and can’t wait for another field trip! A huge thank you to Colin Johnson with Dallas Zoo Education team; reptile keeper Shana Fredlake; and reptile supervisor Bradley Lawrence for making this trip possible, and the staff at the Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch for all that you do to help protect this environment for future generations.

*If you’d like to be part of an Educator Workshop, check out all of our upcoming programs.

Categories: Conservation, Reptiles and Amphibians | Tags: | Leave a comment

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.

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