Author Archives: Jordan Doyle

Spring season springs new chicks

With every spring comes another busy breeding season for Dallas Zoo’s bird team. This year, we’ve had success after success in breeding remarkable, threatened animals. The hatchlings are very carefully planned under recommendations from the Species Survival Plans, coordinated through the Association of Zoos & Aquariums to help ensure the survival of threatened and endangered species. Here are our most recent chicks we’ve welcomed:

African penguins: We’ve had three hatch this spring! Jakada (male) hatched Feb. 26, Zebib (female) on March 5, and another on April 24 (still hasn’t been named yet). You may have seen Jakada’s and Zebib’s first swim recently. We’re now giving them pool time in their habitats for brief periods in the day, and will continue introducing them to the rest of the flock. Stop by their pool in the Wilds of Africa to catch a glimpse of these adorable chicks! (Our last chick to hatch will join the flock in the pool in late July).

Jakada and Zebib shortly after their hatchings.

The April 24 chick after its hatching.

 

 

 

 

 

 

King vulture: Hatched on April 3, this chick is melting hearts in its ZooNorth Wings of Wonder habitat. The little one will eventually develop a very colorful neck and head with varying colors, including yellow, orange, blue, purple, and red.

Southern ground hornbill: This little one was hatched on March 29. Fun fact — these are the “wolves of the bird world,” living in family groups. (In case you missed it, we welcomed our first-ever flock of chicks last year. This is a must-watch video!)

Yellow-billed storks: We hatched six of these chicks this season. This group is currently behind the scenes, but will most likely be in their habitat soon. These storks are a particularly big deal for us because we’re the only AZA-accredited zoo hatching them right now.

Marabou storks: Two of these chicks hatched this season, one on Jan. 30 and one on May 6. The first chick is in its habitat on the Gorilla Trail, and our second chick remains behind the scenes. We’re proud to care for one of the largest flocks of marabou stock in North America!

Hooded vulture: Hatched on May 16, this chick is currently on habitat in Wings of Wonder. Our other chick hatched May 22 and is in the saddle-billed stork habitat near Simmons Hippo Outpost. Check out the live-streaming “nestcam” video near the habitat to see this chick!

Hatching season still isn’t done! We still have more to share, including some hatchlings that are a first for us. Stay posted for more!

Categories: Birds, Penguins | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dallas Zoo welcomes its first baby gorilla in 20 years

A close up of Hope’s sleeping baby./June 25

Dallas Zoo staff are smiling big after welcoming our first baby gorilla in 20 years on Monday, June 25. This also marks the fifth baby gorilla the zoo has cared for in nearly 50 years.

Our 22-year-old critically endangered western lowland gorilla named Hope quietly delivered the infant last Monday morning in the gorilla

barn after laboring for just over an hour. Hope and the baby are both doing well. Mom is tired but she’s tending to the infant perfectly, and the baby appears to be strong – gripping onto mom, and nursing frequently.

Baby was holding onto mom on its own (as it should) immediately after birth.

Silverback Subira, a first-time father, was the first member of the troop to greet the baby, gently putting his lips on the infant’s head shortly after birth.

“Welcoming a critically endangered gorilla into our family is one of the most significant animal announcements we can make, and we’ve

waited patiently for 20 years for this moment,” said Gregg Hudson, Dallas Zoo’s President and CEO. “We’ve dedicated years of conservation field work to saving gorillas in the wild and now we’re proudly increasing their numbers in human care. We’re truly beaming with pride. ”

This is Hope’s second baby – she delivered her first in 2004 at the ABQ BioPark Zoo in Albuquerque, NM. Hope arrived at the Dallas Zoo in February 2017 on an Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan breeding recommendation in *hopes* of increasing the population in North America.

“It’s taken a lot of perseverance, the right chemistry, and a team of dedicated animal experts to get here,” said Harrison Edell, Executive Vice President of Animal Care and Conservation. “Reproducing critically endangered species is no easy feat, and this moment doesn’t come without its share of obstacles. We’re feeling a ton of emotions – excitement, relief, gratitude – and now we have to ensure this infant grows into a successful member of our gorilla troop.”

The zoo cares for nine gorillas, including its bachelor troop who live on the south side of the Gorilla Trail, and the family troop who live on the north side. The family troop remains behind the scenes where Hope and her baby are bonding privately. Hope continues to keep her baby close, so keepers have not been able to definitively confirm the gender.

Twenty-two-year-old father Subira is very curious of the infant and calmly investigates the little one; 13-year-old female Megan is the most inquisitive, staying very close to Hope; and 21-year-old female Shanta is extremely respectful of Hope, giving her privacy and space.

“It’s incredible to see how our troop is reacting to the baby – they’re all managing well and Hope has been super patient with their presence,” said Keith Zdrojewski, Dallas Zoo’s Curator of Primates and Carnivores. “Hope’s pregnancy lasted 8.5 months and we were able to monitor the baby’s growth along the way through ultrasound. Keepers trained Hope to voluntarily participate in her own health care, allowing us to observe movement; hear the heartbeat; see the infant’s bladder, spine, appendages; and confirm when its head was down.”

Due to habitat destruction, poaching for bush meat and the animal trafficking trade, and disease, gorillas have never been under greater threat in the wild. According to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, the world’s leading gorilla conservation organization and a Dallas Zoo partner, there are approximately 350,000 western lowland gorillas left in Africa.

Native to the Congo Basin, western lowland gorillas are the smallest of the subspecies and the least critically endangered. There are roughly 3,800 Grauer’s gorillas, 880 mountain gorillas, and 300 Cross River gorillas remaining in the wild.

With 295 western lowland gorillas living in AZA-accredited zoos, the nation’s top zoos have never been more committed to protecting this species in human care and in their native habitat.

Baby rests while Hope eats (note mom’s food droppings).

The Dallas Zoo has supported gorilla conservation for many years. A species that is close to our President and CEO’s heart, Hudson is the immediate past chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, where he’s been a member since 2007. He serves on the board of directors for the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center (GRACE), as well. Zdrojewski is also on GRACE’s Animal Care and Welfare Advisory Group – he helped the organization open a one-of-a-kind forest enclosure in the Congo for its orphaned Grauer’s gorillas in 2015.

Our animal care team aims for Hope and her baby to make their first scheduled public appearance within the next week or so. We will share the date on our social media pages, so stay posted!

Categories: Africa, Conservation, Gorilla | Tags: , , , , , | 11 Comments

Creating memories one step at a time

David Bacon (left) and Joe Barentine (right) walking at the Zoo.

Did you know that if you visit the Zoo frequently enough, some of the animals may actually recognize you? Some even go beyond simple recognition and want to interact with you. Don’t just take our word for it, though. Ask Dallas Zoo member Joe Barentine and his partner, David Bacon.

“One time Joe came home and said ‘I have a new friend at the Zoo,’” said Bacon. “It was giraffe Tebogo. Joe said Tebogo followed him around, but I didn’t believe him at first.”

Until he saw it for himself.

Joe had been walking at least two days a week at the Zoo since 1991. Over the course of his routine walks, Tebogo started recognizing him. Of course when the same man walks by the same habitat at the same time of day multiple times a week, some animals—like Tebogo—pick up on it. So when David started joining Joe on his Zoo walks, he saw Tebogo spot Joe from across the mixed species habitat, walk over to him, and let Joe pet his nose, a moment he specially calls “communion.”

This isn’t the only interaction he’s had with our animals. He’s had moments range from the humorous—like when one monkey started recognizing Joe, and it tried to startle him every week by jumping out at him in its habitat—to the cathartic, like when he would look into the eyes of former hippo Papa.

“It was like he was a telepath,” said Barentine. “He could interrupt my thoughts if I had bad ones. He could very easily re-arrange my thinking. It was really therapeutic.”

What started out as exercise for Joe quickly turned into something more. Twenty-seven years ago when he found the Zoo, he just wanted a safe place in Oak Cliff to walk.

“Oak Cliff today is not the same place it was by any means,” said Barentine. “I lived close to the Zoo, so I thought ‘Why not walk at the Zoo?’ It’s got terrain, it’s safe; it has water, restrooms, and animals!”

Walking at the Zoo is now a meditative experience for Joe. As a member of the Zoo, he has the opportunity to enjoy our nature, our animals, and all it may bring multiple times a week with his partner, David. In fact, walking at the Zoo is the second longest practice Joe has had in his life.

For 30 years, Joe was involved in the practice of law. However, now that Joe is retired, that practice has come to an end. In just three more years, walking at the Dallas Zoo will be the longest single thing he will have done in his life. And from the types of experiences he’s had here, it’s easy to guess that he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Categories: Exhibits and Experiences, Membership | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

A special baby Witten update on World Giraffe Day

 

 Dallas Zoo North Savanna Assistant Supervisor Allison Dean, and Giraffe Keeper II Jessica Romano guest blog on ZooHoo!

It’s always exciting when we are expecting a new giraffe calf, but once that little… well, big bundle of joy is here, it takes a lot of work to integrate them into the herd. While giraffes are herd animals that live in large groups called “towers,” it’s important for mom and calf to have some private time in those first couple of days. Here at the Zoo, Chrystal and Witten spent their first days in our maternity stall away from the inquisitive herd. This area is filled with sand that helps newborns find sturdy footing as they learn to walk and keep up with mom. It also allows for uninterrupted bonding between mom and baby.

Witten stands close to mom Chrystal.

Once the calf is nursing well and is bonded with mom, we begin the process of introducing them to the rest of the herd. First up, our oldest giraffe, Auggie. His gentle nature, extreme tolerance, and protective personality makes him the go-to guy for babysitting when mom needs a break. Some individuals need more introduction time than others. Younger giraffes, like three-year-old Betty, are often more curious and can inadvertently be a bit of a bother to mom while she’s in protective-mommy mode. It’s all a normal part of herd dynamics and learning social behaviors for everyone, not just the new calf. The progress of the introductions is always on mom’s terms. After introductions are complete, it’s time to head out to a whole new world – the giraffe feeding habitat.

Learning to shift from the barn to the habitat can take a bit of work. Sometimes calves learn this process quickly and other times they need a little extra encouragement from mom to get over those first day jitters. Little by little, the calves get used to their new surroundings and make their way out to the habitat.

It’s hard to believe that Witten will be two months old next week. Seems like just yesterday he was taking his first steps and now he makes regular trips to the giraffe feeding habitat like a pro (or a pro-football player, *nudge nudge*). He’s sprouted up to 7 feet tall and weighs nearly 250 pounds! Those lanky legs are good for running post routes around the trees (and his mom). We’re sure Witten would spike the ball if he could carry one, but he usually just turns loose a high kick and a stomp to signify the completion of his run.

Witten has already made an impression and has become a great ambassador for his reticulated giraffe sub-species – it’s estimated there are less than 8,700 left in the wild. Giraffe populations are undergoing what conservationists call a “silent extinction” – the species is already extinct in at least seven African countries. They are currently listed as vulnerable to extinction due to a 40-percent population decline in the past 15 years with fewer than 80,000 wild giraffes left. Human encroachment on their habitat has led to significant conflict and poaching.

On June 21, we celebrate World Giraffe Day to bring awareness to the issues facing this amazing species. Our partners at the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) work tirelessly in the field every day to protect these majestic animals. We’re proud to help fund GCF’s efforts to monitor giraffes and remove snares in Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda, home to more than 90 percent of the wild population of the Rothschild’s giraffe sub-species.

Learn more about how we’re helping save giraffes with GCF, and please consider donating directly to GCF on this special day dedicated to saving the long necks of the animal kingdom.

PS: It’s also National Selfie Day today, so we highly suggest you make a trip out to snap a selfie with our giraffes!

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

Dallas Zoo animals bring smiles to tiny hospital patients and beyond

A small Children’s Health patient prepares to meet a Dallas Zoo animal ambassador penguin along with Outreach Supervisor Shannon College.

Whether it’s a tamandua high up in the sky at Reunion Tower or penguins at a Texas Rangers ballgame, you never quite know where the Dallas Zoo’s Animal Adventures outreach team will go next. With just seven staff members, the team carries out nearly 1,000 animal outreach programs a year across North Texas, bringing animal encounters to places like, schools, hospitals, businesses, convention centers, and many iconic Dallas locations.

When the small staff is not on the road, they’re tending to the needs of the 40 educational ambassador animals that delight, inspire and educate those attending an outreach experience. The job sounds demanding, however for Animal Adventures outreach team manager, Allyssa Leslie, the well-being of the ambassador animals remains top priority, “We work hard to ensure our animals feel safe and comfortable traveling with us. It’s great to see that when we go out to these events, the animals choose to come out with us because they know they’re safe and it’s interesting for them to go to new places.”

Despite all the variety this team experiences, some trips are so special that they’re repeated over and over again. Thanks to the Simmons Animal Safari program, and a treasured partnership with Children’s Health established in 2014, the outreach team returns to the hospital every few months to provide magical up-close animal encounters to small patients overcoming big obstacles.

The outreach team, including two-toed sloth Lola and African penguin duo, Sid and Jazz, arrive with the humble goal of encouraging smiles while gifting a special experience to those families who have more on their plate than planning a trip to the Zoo at this time.

Excitement filled the room as the children enjoyed the animals on stage.

“Even for the children that cannot physically come down to see the presentation, Children’s Health broadcasts the program into their rooms so they can enjoy it as well,” Leslie shares of the experience, “We are glad to be able to go out and hopefully bring some joy and fun memories for the patients and their families.”

Following the animal presentation, families are encouraged to come up close and commemorate the experience with a photo with an animal ambassador. Leslie watches on as the patients eagerly line up to have their moment at the front of the stage, “It’s so wonderful to see the excitement on the kids and their families’ faces when they get to see the animals so close!” she gushes.

At the close of the presentation, one last parting gift is revealed, each family is given tickets as a standing invitation to visit the Dallas Zoo. We look forward to many future visits to Children’s Health, bringing enjoyment to these extraordinary kids and their families with each animal encounter.

(Interested in hosting an Animal Adventures outreach program? Click here for more information.)

Categories: Education, Events, Penguins, Wild Encounters | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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