Author Archives: Dallas Zoo

Hippos, hippos, hooray! Dallas Zoo opens new $14 million exhibit

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Adhama swims in the waterhole

Adhama swims in the waterhole in the new Simmons Hippo Outpost

It’s finally ready! Our $14 million, 2.1-acre Simmons Hippo Outpost, an immersive African waterhole habitat that includes an underwater viewing area, will open on Friday, April 28.

An official ribbon-cutting at 10:30 a.m. will kick off the three-day, Simmons Hippos Outpost Opening Weekend, featuring special activities and giveaways.

“This habitat has exceeded our highest hopes,” said Gregg Hudson, Dallas Zoo’s president and CEO. “We’re confident that being face-to-face with a submerged, 3,000-pound hippo will be a highlight for our guests. Even more importantly, this new experience will help our community better understand the critical need for conservation of all species and wild spaces.”

“The Dallas Zoo has once again set the standard for today’s accredited zoological parks,” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said. “This project is the latest example of how successful public-private partnerships can be, especially when supported by our city’s generous philanthropists. The new Simmons Hippo Outpost brings yet another level of excellence to this world-class facility just three miles from downtown.”

Boipelo explores underwater at the new viewing window

Boipelo explores underwater at the viewing window

Special Simmons Hippo Outpost Opening Weekend events include:

  • The first 500 guests in the zoo each day (Friday-Sunday) will receive a squishy hippo toy
  • Unveiling of a hippo-themed “B-G” statue, part of the popular series from VisitDallas
  • #DallasZooHippos photo opportunities with a life-sized ceramic hippo and a costumed hippo
  • An okapi keeper chat at 2:15 p.m. each day, followed by a hippo zookeeper chat at 2:30 p.m.
  • Create hippo-related crafts at the Highland Hippo Hut
  • Take home special Simmons Hippo Outpost trading cards

Reunion Tower also will light up the Dallas skyline Friday at dusk with a special light show celebrating the hippo habitat opening.

The new habitat, home to Adhama (uh-DAHM-a) and Boipelo (BOY-pa-lo), includes a 24-foot by 8-foot viewing window that brings guests eye-to-nostril with the Nile hippos as they explore their 120,000-gallon waterhole. Such close contact will help us teach millions of guests about conservation efforts on behalf of the world’s third-largest land mammal.

The Simmons Hippo Outpost will be our first major exhibit since the award-winning Giants of the Savanna opened in 2010.

“This remarkable exhibit is a perfect complement to the Giants of the Savanna, a game-changing habitat that helped kick off the ongoing renaissance here at the Dallas Zoo,” Hudson said. “More than a million guests a year visit us to learn about animals and conservation efforts to protect them, and bringing hippos back has been one of their most consistent requests.”

The surprisingly agile, super-sized “river horses” can be observed from multiple vantage points in the exhibit. An upper-level habitat provides an enhanced home for our world-renowned okapi herd. The new habitats are visible from the elevated Wilds of Africa Adventure Safari monorail, and red river hogs will also join the habitat in time.

Adhama walks on the shore

This habitat opening marks the return of okapi, an endangered species that we have worked with for more than a half century. Our five okapi, often called “forest giraffes” in their native Congo, have been off exhibit during construction. The okapi will return with easier visibility in two habitats, plus a special encounter area where guests can meet the stunning animals up-close during the daily 2:15 p.m. keeper chat.

In our 50-year history of caring for okapi, the animal team has welcomed 36 calves. With one of the most successful okapi breeding records of any zoo, our staff have continuously contributed to research, promoting improved husbandry practices for this charismatic species. About 75 percent of all okapi in the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ Okapi Species Survival Plan (SSP) are related to our offspring.

We have also played a key role in okapi conservation in the Dominican Republic of Congo in Africa by helping fund the Okapi Conservation Project. Now, our guests can get closer than ever before to this majestic, endangered species.

The Simmons Hippo Outpost campaign was funded solely with private donations, beginning with a $5 million grant from the Harold Simmons Foundation launching the project. Additional donations included:

  • Highland Capital Management LP, $1 million: This donation built the 4,485-square-foot Highland Hippo Hut for special educational displays and private events.
  • Diane and Hal Brierley, $1 million: The longtime philanthropists and Dallas Zoo supporters built the Hippo Encounter underwater viewing area, where zookeeper talks also will be held.
  • Eugene McDermott Foundation, $800,000: Longtime supporters of the Dallas Zoo.
  • A public personalized brick campaign, which honors our community supporters as a permanent part of the exhibit.
Categories: Conservation, Exhibits and Experiences, Hippo, Mammals, Okapi, Simmons Hippo Outpost | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Gorilla wounds common as males grow into silverbacks

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Gorillas Zola (left) and B’wenzi (right) interact in their habitat. Photo courtesy of Tom Harlan

Humans are squishy. It’s been a long time since our ancestors shared any of the strong, physical traits of the other great apes. And while those primates evolved to be big and tough, we did not.

As our brains began to develop instead, we became adept at using tools and learned to control fire, build shelters, and grow our own food. These advancements set us on a course to be very smart – and very squishy. We no longer needed to be big and tough, so those traits began to go away as we became more technologically advanced.

The other great apes continued down their own paths, which still require them to be strong, powerful animals. In their environments, being tough is the key to survival. It’s no surprise that a 450-pound gorilla with canine teeth 2-3 inches long can leave a nasty wound on another gorilla, and from time to time we see that here at the Zoo.

When cuts and scrapes occur in our gorillas, we’re always ready to treat and monitor them until every last scratch has healed.

So why do these herbivorous animals have such big teeth to begin with? Well, those teeth are for protection. Gorillas don’t have any true natural predators, although some research suggests the possibility of rare conflicts with leopards (definitely a good time for big teeth).

The most common threat to a silverback gorilla is generally another silverback. A male may try to challenge another to usurp his throne or steal females to build a troop of his own. Male gorillas have much larger canines than females, and they use those teeth to protect the females and youngsters in their troop.

If challenged, gorillas go through a long list of behaviors, trying to avoid a physical conflict. If you think about it, fighting someone means you’re just as likely to get hurt as they are, so why risk it? Gorillas are peaceful, laid-back animals that generally keep to themselves. In the wild, keeping a 400-pound frame of muscle while sometimes eating only the caloric equivalent of wild celery means there aren’t many good reasons to waste energy. However, when threatened, a male gorilla will not hesitate to defend his troop.

Fighting isn’t just a human trait, it’s part of life for much of the animal kingdom. Being that we’re so delicate, we’re used to even small wounds requiring attention, so our own experiences create a predisposition to react to wounds a certain way. Cutting your finger on a broken glass could require stitches, but in the middle of the jungle you don’t have the luxury of hopping in the car and heading to the hospital.

As bad as an open laceration may appear, it may not be that big of a deal for the gorilla. At the Dallas Zoo, we have an exceptional veterinary staff that can treat just about anything, and we don’t hesitate to call upon them when needed. Keeping that in mind, most animals are experts at taking care of their own wounds, and gorillas are no exception.Gorillas telling secrets-CB

If you see a gorilla with an open wound, you may notice them grooming it with their fingers and utilizing nature’s ultimate antiseptic, spit, to keep it clean. As zookeepers, we keep a close eye on injuries to make sure things are healing appropriately, but when we can, we try to let the gorillas handle the job. The decision to anesthetize a gorilla to suture a wound is a carefully calculated risk/reward scenario, especially considering that more often than not that gorilla is going to hand you back those sutures within a few hours of waking up.

We train with the gorillas daily to make sure we can see every part of their body. We also desensitize them to being sprayed with antiseptic sprays, and we work on more complicated behaviors, like hand injections. If a gorilla were to need an injectable medication, which is rare, we want to get it to them in the least stressful way.

We also record even the smallest injuries. We use a very detailed system to document every injury and the details of the situation in which it occurred. Photographs are especially helpful, as they can be used as objective data to monitor the healing process. This information is not only important for individual injuries, but for enhancing our ability to treat future injuries.

In recent months, we have seen a few different wounds to gorillas in our bachelor troop. This troop consists of four 14- to 15-year-old males. Sometimes we see genuine social issues develop, while other times play just gets a little too rough.

Bachelor troops are a relatively new concept in zoos, so constant, adaptive management is the key to peace within the troop. Between the keeper staff and our volunteers in the Gorilla Research Station, we’re able to keep a close eye on all eight of our gorillas. This has been very important as we move into a new phase of troop management with the four bachelors.

This troop has been together since 2013, when Shana and Zola came to Dallas from the Calgary Zoo to join Juba and B’wenzi. When the boys were 10-11 years old, they started forming social relationships, which comes in handy as they get older. With the information we have as other institutions manage similar troops, we know that management of bachelors is most difficult between ages 14-20. Having similar life expectancies and developmental stages to humans, we understand why these years are the most difficult (right, parents?).

Bachelor troops exist both in human care and the wild, and they serve a number of purposes. As young males begin to grow, the silverback generally will force them out of the troop, avoiding a threat to his position. Sometimes those exiled males will band together and form bachelor troops. These groups are generally transitory, but allow for development of social behaviors and provide some degree of protection from outside threats.

In zoos, bachelor troops are used to manage unattached males. Gorillas have a 50:50 birth ratio, just like humans, meaning that having single-male/multi-female troops isn’t possible for everyone. Bachelor troops can provide healthy social environments for growing male gorillas, which are often more closely bonded than they would be with female gorillas.

With all of our social apes, we also see an increase in aggression during introductions and reintroductions, which is another reason we avoid more invasive and intrusive courses of treatment. When possible, we try to avoid separating the gorillas for long periods to make sure we keep aggression to a minimum when they get back together.

When animals are injured in the zoo setting, it’s important to know the team behind the scenes is on the job at all times. If an animal needs to be watched 24 hours a day, we’ll be here with them. If they need to receive medication at a certain time, someone will be there. Between the keeper staff and the vet staff, we do all we can for preventive and reactive care of our animals, and not a scratch goes unnoticed under the watchful eye of the animal staff here at Dallas Zoo.

Categories: Gorilla, Mammals | Tags: | Leave a comment

Special arrival: Meet Dallas Zoo’s first-ever tamandua baby

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_MG_4707-Chispa tamandua and baby Corajosa-w-logo - Copy

She might be small in size, but there’s nothing little about the spirited personality of our first-ever newborn tamandua. Meet baby Cora, a lesser anteater known as a tamandua, who was born Feb. 25 to mom Chispa and dad MJ.

In just over six weeks, Cora has more than doubled her birth weight, and is now a healthy two pounds.

Her birth is a major feat for a troubled species – her full name, “Corajosa,” means “brave” in Portuguese, and this little one is courageous indeed. Tamandua births are rare in zoos, as the species requires specialized care and has specific nutritional needs. Just three babies survived last year in AZA-accredited zoos.

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Vets perform a well-baby check on the one day old pup.

Zoos are working hard to learn how to help this unique species thrive in human care. And Dallas Zoo’s vice president of Animal Operations & Welfare, Harrison Edell, is a major key to the survival of tamanduas. As the coordinator for the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ Southern Tamandua Species Survival Plan, Edell is responsible for the success of the 70 tamanduas living in North American zoos.

That effort is necessary because sadly, the growing illegal pet trade has led to the removal of an alarming number of tamanduas from their habitats in Central and South America. Imported into the U.S. and kept as exotic pets, hundreds have died due to lack of expert care.

“From 2000 to 2012, 475 tamanduas were sold into the exotic pet trade and imported into the U.S.,” Edell said. “These animals are very difficult to keep healthy in human care, as their nutritional needs can be really challenging. In the wild, tamanduas can consume nearly 9,000 ants a day. In all likelihood, those 475 animals are no longer living.”

Cora’s father, MJ, came to Dallas from the Staten Island Zoo as a SSP breeding recommendation, and this birth is a testament to the dedication of our animal care experts, who work hard every day to protect and ensure the longevity of this species.

The apple – or avocado, if you’re a hungry tamandua – doesn’t fall far from the tree with Cora. There’s no doubt she takes after mom Chispa, a lively and charismatic tamandua whose name means “spark” in Spanish.

“Chispa is a fantastic mom,” said Allyssa Leslie, Animal Adventures Outreach manager. “They cuddle up and sleep together for a good portion of the day, and when they’re awake, Cora enjoys riding around on mom’s back.”

This may not seem like much, but don’t be fooled – Cora’s as outgoing as a tiny tamandua can be!

“Cora is a very active and feisty young lady. We feel that her name perfectly describes her personality,” Leslie said. “There is no doubt that she _MG_0950--Tamandua baby-CBis her mother’s daughter.”

AZA partners, such as the IUCN’s Anteater, Sloth & Armadillo Specialist Group, continue to raise awareness about this international concern, educating residents in the tamandua’s home range and encouraging the protection of these creatures rather than their commodification.

Both Cora and Chispa will remain off exhibit while they bond, but will return as important animal ambassadors in our Animal Adventures outreach program. The duo will travel to schools, hospitals, and events in north Texas, informing the public about the illegal pet trade and habitat loss faced by the species.

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Green Tip #6: Rainwater Collection

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Five barrels across the Zoo collect rainfall – up to 9,256 gallons of harvested rainwater.

The Dallas Zoo Green Team is back just in time to help you go green for spring! This month, we are taking you on a learning adventure about rainwater collection. Here are some questions and answers to help you get started with your own rain barrel at home:

  1. What is rainwater collection?

Rainwater collection is simple. It’s the practice of harvesting and storing rainwater for later use. The practice dates back thousands of years in Thailand, China, Israel, and many other parts of the world.Garden Photo2 AA

  1. What can rainwater be used for?

Rainwater that you collect can be used for a wide variety of things including: landscape watering, gardening, in-home use, and wildlife and livestock watering just to name a few.

  1. What makes this a “green” practice?

Using rainwater can reduce the use and demand of municipal water, alleviating cities’ aquifers. It can also reduce the flow to storm drains, lessening their impact on erosion and keeping pollutants out of natural bodies of water.

  1. How much rainwater will I actually collect?

It varies by roof size and shape, but for every inch of rain falling on a 2000 sq. ft. roof, about 1000 gallons of rainwater can be collected. In Dallas, we have about 37 inches of rain a year, which could yield 37,000 gallons of water!

  1. Why should I collect rainwater?_MG_1202-flower and bee

If we haven’t convinced you yet, here are some awesome reasons to start your own rainwater collection:

  • Save money – using less municipal water will lower your monthly water bill, and in Texas, rainwater harvesting equipment is exempt from sales tax (Texas Tax Code §151.355). For more info, visit the Texas Water Development Board.
  • Grow healthy plants – rainwater is free of chlorine or other chemicals, meaning your plants and lawns will love it.
  • Help relieve drought – if you start collecting this spring, you’ll have water to use during summer droughts when there are restrictions on municipal water usage.

Spring showers are on their way, and we hope we’ve sparked your interest in rainwater collection just in time! Need a little help getting started? The City of Plano is currently selling a particular model of rain barrel and compost bin at a discount. For more information about composting, take a look at our previous blog. Before you start, check with your city office and take advantage of any discounts or incentives offered for rainwater collection.

Interested in assisting in a Zoo conservation project? Learn more about how you can be a part of Dallas Zoo’s Green Team.

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‘National Geographic Photo Ark’ exhibition to spotlight endangered species

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The Dallas Zoo and National Geographic are showcasing a one-of-a-kind project through the national launch of a traveling exhibition, “National Geographic Photo Ark,” opening at the Dallas Zoo on Thursday, April 20. Featuring the remarkable work of National Geographic photographer and Fellow Joel Sartore, the exhibition will be on display until Labor Day (Sept. 4, 2017). This exhibition is organized by the National Geographic Society and Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium.

The National Geographic Photo Ark is an ambitious project committed to documenting species living in the world’s zoos and other protected areas — inspiring people not just to care, but also to help protect these animals for future generations. The compelling and visually powerful project aims to photograph species before it is too late.

In addition to creating a wildlife archival record for generations to come, this project is a hopeful platform for conservation and shines a light on individuals and organizations working to preserve species around the world. Sartore has photographed dozens of animals at the Dallas Zoo, from spitting cobras to brilliant birds and Somali wild asses. Last fall, he taught a sold-out seminar to share tips on shooting wildlife with amateur photographers at the zoo.

The Dallas Zoo’s National Geographic Photo Ark exhibition will highlight 80 of Sartore’s most compelling images and provide visitors with the unique opportunity to come face to face with some of the most endangered animals on earth. As one of the 129-year-old park’s continuing efforts to give back to the community, the special exhibition will be free with zoo admission, so guests pay no additional charge.

Artistic rendering of the outdoor Photo Ark display kiosks for zoos. Each structure is 8 feet tall./Rendering by National Geographic Museum

Artistic rendering of the outdoor Photo Ark display kiosks for zoos. Each structure is 8 feet tall./Rendering by National Geographic Museum

The exhibition will include 28 double-sided, larger-than-life kiosks standing 8 feet tall, featuring 56 of Sartore’s iconic photographs of animals in a “hero”-type image on a stark black or white background. His unique shooting style creates beautiful, yet poignant, images that subtly bring home the dangers faced by these species.

In addition, the Dallas Zoo has turned its well-known Giants of the Savanna tunnel into a permanent striking artistic showcase featuring 24 of Sartore’s iconic images. One side of the tunnel has been painted black and the other white, both offering a massive canvas for giant photographs, such as a brightly colored, 7-foot-tall double-eyed fig parrot; a massive flock of monarch butterflies frozen in flight; and a giant panda up-close in all its beauty.

Sartore has worked in more than 250 zoos, aquariums and animal rescue centers around the world, and many of the images featured were taken at the Dallas Zoo. Visitors will learn about the project, its mission and its conservation efforts by the Dallas Zoo, and the exhibition also will engage audiences of all ages through free educational materials and activities.

Sartore estimates the completed National Geographic Photo Ark will include portraits of more than 12,000 species, including birds, fish, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates. In what will be the largest single archive of studio-quality photographs of biodiversity ever, the National Geographic Photo Ark continues to move toward its goal of documenting these animals, thanks in part to Sartore’s enduring relationships with many of the world’s zoos and aquariums. The iconic portraits have captured the imagination of people around the world

Dallas Zoo's dusky leaf monkey to be featured in National Geographic Photo Ark exhibition./ © Photo by Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark

Dallas Zoo’s dusky leaf monkey to be featured in National Geographic Photo Ark exhibition./ © Photo by Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark

and have even been projected on the Empire State Building in New York and St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
“The National Geographic Photo Ark has already inspired millions around the world with the message that it is not too late to save some of the world’s most endangered species,” said Kathryn Keane, vice president of Exhibitions, National Geographic Society. “Joel Sartore has demonstrated what one man can do using the power of photography—and now National Geographic wants to inspire people all over the country to contribute to this global challenge.”

“This visually stunning project really highlights the weight of what we are in danger of losing, and reinforces the important role zoos play in saving these incredible animals,” said Gregg Hudson, president and CEO of the Dallas Zoo. “We’ve welcomed Joel into our habitats and barns for years, and his work never fails to amaze.”

The exhibitions accompany a new National Geographic book, The Photo Ark (National Geographic Books; $35), and a children’s book, Animal Ark (National Geographic Kids Books; $15.99), which will be available for purchase in the zoo’s Zoofari Market.

A documentary series on Sartore’s work, RARE – Creatures of the Photo Ark, will also premiere on PBS in July. Learn more at NatGeoPhotoArk.org and join the conversation on social media with #SaveTogether.

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