Africa

Hippo, hippo, hurray! Meet Adhama and Boipelo, our first hippos in 16 years

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Texas may be known for horses and cowboys, but a couple of new “river horses” that soon will call the Dallas Zoo home won’t be seeing any saddles or lassos.

Adhama eats some greens at the L.A. Zoo./Courtesy L.A. Zoo

Adhama eats some greens at the L.A. Zoo./Courtesy L.A. Zoo

That’s because they’re hippopotamuses!

Adhama, a 6-year-old male from the Los Angeles Zoo, and Boipelo, a 10-year-old female hailing from the Albuquerque Biological Park, will be the first hippos at the Zoo in more than 16 years.

Through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan (SSP), these two Nile hippos are being paired on a breeding recommendation in hopes that one day they’ll start their own family.

They’ll share shiny, new state-of-the-art digs here in Dallas. Set to open late April, the Dallas Zoo’s $14 million, 2.1-acre Simmons Hippo Outpost will be an immersive African waterhole habitat, including an underwater viewing window for visitors.

So let us introduce our newest residents:

Born Jan. 26, 2011, at the San Diego Zoo, Adhama moved to the L.A. Zoo in 2013, where he met female companion Mara. The duo welcomed their daughter Rosie on Halloween 2014.

Rita Huang, assistant supervisor of the Dallas Zoo’s Inner Wilds of Africa, recently traveled to Los Angeles, where she got to meet the 3,722-pound Adhama and learn about his personality, training behaviors, likes/dislikes, if he’s a diehard L.A. Dodgers fan or willing to convert to the Texas Rangers, and much more.

“Adhama is a sweet boy,” Huang said. “He’s very curious, likes to climb, and enjoys a nice face-rub from his keepers. He also loves to sleep under the sun, and is very particular about the temperature of his water.”

Fascinating fact: Adhama has three half-sisters, all with the same mom but different dads. Those females are the great-granddaughters of the Dallas Zoo’s former hippos, Mama and Papa! Mama passed away in 1984, and Papa died in 2001 at age 53. At the time, Papa was the oldest Nile hippo being cared for in a U.S. zoo. And he was the last hippo to live at the Dallas Zoo, until now.

Boipelo bites down on an enrichment item at the Albuquerque Biological Park./Courtesy of ABQ BioPark

Boipelo bites down on an enrichment item at the Albuquerque Biological Park./Courtesy of ABQ BioPark

Born Aug. 17, 2006, Boipelo lives with her mom, dad and younger brother at the ABQ BioPark.

“This 2,395-pound girl is extremely playful,” Huang said. “She enjoys dragging logs around her habitat and pushing her ball around. She’s also very particular about her enrichment items. In the morning, keepers say they’ll come in to find that she’s placed all her objects back in the same spot in the barn.”

These super-social animals will meet within days after arriving in Dallas.

Welcome the duo to Texas and show ’em your favorite local spots. Print out and color this hippo coloring sheet, and snap a picture with your “flat hippo” at your beloved spots throughout DFW. Tag your “flat hippo” photos on social media with the hashtag #DallasZooHippos and we’ll pick a few of our favorite photos to feature!

Categories: Africa, Hippo, Mammals, Simmons Hippo Outpost | Leave a comment

It’s been one magical year with our Swaziland elephants

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Tendaji and Zola share a playful moment.

Tendaji and Zola share a playful moment.

Today marks one monumental year since we rescued five elephants from drought-stricken Swaziland, Africa. (We’re as shocked as you are that it’s really been a year.) The elephants were flown to the U.S. aboard a chartered 747 jet in a carefully planned operation, arriving March 11, 2016.

Nolwazi, Amahle, Zola, Tendaji, Mlilo and baby Ajabu joined our four “Golden Girls,” Jenny, Gypsy, Congo and Kamba. And since they’ve arrived, we’ve soaked up every minute of this opportunity to get to know them.

Nolwazi, Jenny and Zola rub their trunks on one another./Jared Moeller

Nolwazi, Jenny and Zola rub their trunks on one another./Jared Moeller

They’ve taught us more than we could’ve imagined. Patience. Perseverance. Our love runs so deep for these animals.

Each elephant is complex and personable, each different from the next, yet so perfect together. They’ve merged extremely well with our Golden Girls.

“Their social bonding has exceeded our highest expectations,” said Harrison Edell, vice president of animal operations and welfare. “It’s been quite heartwarming to see them form such strong connections so quickly.”

As they continue to figure out their social hierarchy within the 10-member herd, we’ve enjoyed learning who’s drawn to who; who prefers dips in the pool and who prefers dry land most; who brings the playful trouble and who respects their elders. Here’s the shortened Cliff Notes version.

Gypsy embraces Amahle./Marc Abelanet

Gypsy embraces Amahle./Marc Abelanet

According to our rock star elephant keepers, “little” Amahle, who is daughter to Nolwazi, is goofy, playful, loud and dramatic. She’s an instigator and gets away with it, because most of the elephants are simply drawn to this social butterfly. She’s a water baby and will gladly swim solo, or welcome a partner. She’ll lay down and flop around in the pool with the Texas sun shining down on her.

Nolwazi, who is protective of daughter Amahle, is pretty quiet and mellow, but has a frisky side that she can’t hide. She enjoys playfully sparring with older gals Jenny and Gypsy. She enjoy pool dips and serious mud wallow sessions. She also loves her browse, stripping the bark off of branches and snapping ‘em like twigs.

Tendaji is a ladies man for sure, and the ladies sure love their boy! Zola and Gypsy are his go-to sparring partners. He frequents mud wallow gatherings with the ladies, where they’ll splash in the mud with no cares. He’s grown into one confident, gregarious fella.

Take note: This is how you really enjoy a sand pile. Thanks, Nolwazi and Jenny./Jared Moeller

Two happy elephants in a sand pile. (Nolwazi and Jenny)/Jared Moeller

Zola can be quiet and reserved, but at other times very playful and assertive. She’s great at respecting her elders, and is a leader by example. Her favorite sparring partners are Amahle and Tendaji – the playing never ends.

Mama Mlilo is busy raising her 635-pound, 10-month-old baby Ajabu like a pro. She’s patient and attentive, and keeps a very watchful eye on her precious boy. She enjoys wallowing and dust bathing with the sand.

Ajabu, our surprise baby born two months after their arrival, loves getting dirty, climbing on rocks and logs, investigating everything and testing his strength by trying to push logs around. “He’s sometimes overly dramatic, and is usually full of energy, but will often have afternoon siestas if he has worn himself out earlier in the day,” said elephant supervisor Katrina Bilski.

Ten-month-old Ajabu take a break to nurse.

Ajabu takes a break to nurse.

Last year, our Swaziland rescues arrived underweight. With food sources affected by the historic Swaziland drought, we were paying to bring in truckloads of hay from South Africa to feed the hungry elephants.

Now, their diet is as gourmet as it gets. Fresh woody “browse” greets the growing elephants daily – they spend hours foraging for scattered branches like American elm, Bradford pear and red-tipped photinia. Produce like sweet potatoes and carrots are crowd favorites; squash, zucchini, and celery, though, not so much.

Bilski says Ajabu is the odd exception. “The baby loves his greens, especially kale and celery.”

And they’ve packed on weight like happy honeymooners on vacation.

Nolwazi, our oldest Swaziland elephant estimated to be 23 years old, and Amahle’s mom:

  • Arrival weight: 4,310 pounds
  • Now: 5,390 pounds

Mlilo, estimated to be 14 years old, and mother to Ajabu:

  • Arrival weight: 4,775 pounds
  • Now: 5,000 pounds and a nursing mama

Zola, estimated to be 14 years old:

  • Arrival weight: 4,055 pounds
  • Now: 5,160 pounds

Tendaji, our bull, estimated to be 14 years old:

  • Arrival weight: 3,530 pounds
  • Now: 4,780 pounds

Amahle, daughter to Nolwazi, estimated to be 8 years old:

  • Arrival weight: 2,395 pounds
  • Now: 3,130 pounds

We hope you’ve enjoyed observing these exceptionally smart, dynamic animals as much as we’ve loved caring for them. Elephants in the wild have a huge crisis to combat, and one we will continue to fight wholeheartedly in Africa and here at the Dallas Zoo.

“Our research scientists have several observation projects under way involving our 10-elephant herd,” said Edell. “With the species facing such an uncertain future and so many threats in the wild, that critically important information will help us ensure that these animals thrive in human care.”

Our Swaziland elephants remind us every day why we undertook this long, difficult process to bring them to a home where they’re safe, loved and enriched.

And a special shout-out goes to our elephant curator Karen Gibson and her remarkably devoted, hard-working team of keepers. They’re world-class.

Check out this slideshow of never-before-seen photos of our herd.

The elephants gather on the Savanna.
The elephants gather on the Savanna.
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Categories: Africa, Conservation, Elephant, Mammals | Tags: | 3 Comments

Scimitar-horned oryx: Thanks to zoos, the world welcomes them back from extinction

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While we proudly care for five new scimitar-horned oryx at the Dallas Zoo, these African antelope are making huge strides across the world – they’re rebounding from extinction in the wild.

Due to over-hunting, human encroachment and drought, it’s been 30 years since the oryx was last seen in Chad – until now.

Thanks to zoos and other private groups, these beautiful antelope were successfully preserved in human care, allowing a wild bounce-back this year.

In a rare and daring move, the Sahara Conservation Fund and the governments of Abu Dhabi and Chad, released a small herd of 25 oryx back into the desert with GPS radio collars in August.

“This is why you start working in zoos, for outcomes like this,” mammal curator Keith Zdrojewski said. “It’s rewarding to work with an animal that is so rare. And because of successful breeding programs, these animals are now able to go back to their native country.”

The scimitar-horned oryx has long been the most iconic animal in Chad. Tremendously adapted for desert life, oryx are equipped to conserve _mg_1693-sciimitar-horned-oryx-cbwater, allowing them to go for long periods without drinking.

Their stunning, sharp-tipped horns curve all the way over their backs, and also represent their name – “scimitar” derives from the long, curved Arabian swords used for centuries.

One of our new female oryx hails from Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Glen Rose, Texas, where she was part of a critical study to determine if GPS collars would negatively affect the behavior of newly wild oryx. And good news – they don’t.

While our female wasn’t one of the oryx chosen to be released back into Chad, we’re honored to care for this special girl, along with three other females and a breeding male.

Here on an Association of Zoos and Aquariums Scimitar-Horned Oryx Species Survival Plan breeding recommendation, our new residents may add some much-needed tiny additions to the population. Visit our herd (video of them playing below!) in the desert exhibit off the monorail.

The Sahara Conservation Fund (SCF), the only organization committed to conserving wildlife of the Sahara and its bordering Sahelian grasslands, also partnered with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the Zoological Society of London to make this release possible. Now, SCF faces its biggest challenge ahead – ensuring that these oryx, and future released herds, can thrive in the desert for generations to come.

A sign they’re already on the right track: the first wild-born scimitar-horned oryx in three decades was just warmly welcomed to the arid land. Follow SCF as they share updates on this momentous herd.

Watch video captured by keeper Laura Frazier of our females chasing each other! 

Categories: Africa, Conservation | Tags: | 1 Comment

New male mandrill to unite family troop

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Keeper Annie Birdsong guest-blogs on ZooHoo!

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Jax shares an inquisitive moment with Saffron and her son Obi.

We’re loving our new male mandrill, Jax, who joins Saffron and her son, 2-and-a-half-year-old Obi! Jax’s timely arrival brings our family troop together once again.

During the short history of our mandrill troop since little Obi arrived, we’ve suffered two difficult losses. Born March 28, 2014, Obi was the first mandrill born at the Zoo in nearly 25 years. Sadly, three months later, Obi lost his father, 18-year-old Milo, to a form of lymphatic cancer.

Milo’s sudden death left Dallas Zoo staff at a loss. But that winter, after a long search, we welcomed Savuti, a geriatric 23-year-old male mandrill from the Buffalo Zoo. Savuti would become Obi’s father figure.

But more than a year later, Savuti passed away from age-related health issues, which wasn’t unexpected due to his advanced age. And again, our search was on to find a male who would bring our family troop together and teach Obi how to be a respectful adult, so he could one day take over the troop.

That’s where 9-year-old Jax comes in. He arrived in August from Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Fla. Jax lived with his father, and due to this, he hasn’t developed into his full male mandrill size. But that’s about to change, and all our visitors will be lucky enough to witness his transformation.

img_4093-jax-mandrill-csJuvenile male mandrills who live in close contact with a dominant male can be hormone-suppressed, and may stay skinny with drab colorations, as to not compete with the dominant male.

Dominant male mandrills have even more brightly colored faces and rumps than females and juvenile males, and an impressive mane and beard, too. They also have a stockier body, and you can see that our Jax is still rather skinny and lanky. We’re excited to see that since Jax has moved into our mandrill barn and met his new family, his colors already have begun to pop.

Here on an Association of Zoos and Aquariums Mandrill Species Survival Plan (SSP) breeding recommendation, Jax has been paired with Obi’s mom, Saffron, and we hope they will bring Obi a little brother or sister, as well as becoming a needed male role model in Obi’s life.

Jax sits in the window of the mandrill habitat and absolutely loves to smile at visitors. Mandrills are the only primate species, besides humans, who actually “smile” as a greeting; most other primates only show their teeth when they’re “fear grinning.” He also is very particular about his food, rinsing off produce in the habitat streams before he eats it.

Come watch Jax, Obi, and Saffron getting to know each other in our mandrill habitat at the entrance of the Wilds of Africa. We look forward to sharing more developments as our troop becomes more bonded.

Categories: Africa, Mandrill, Monkey | 1 Comment

Dallas Zoo’s baby elephant and mom meet their adoring fans

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img_5224-ajabu-mlilo-elephant-w-logo-csLoyal and loving fans of our baby elephant, Ajabu, and his mom, Mlilo, one of the elephants rescued from drought-stricken Swaziland this spring, can now see the mother-son pair in the Giants of the Savanna.

Earlier this week, the 5-month-old calf and his mom were gently introduced to the lower portion of the Giants of the Savanna habitat. But starting today, Ajabu will make regular appearances outdoors, weather permitting. The elephant care team will keep a watchful eye on temperature and rain to ensure that our growing calf remains safe and healthy.

“It’s an incredible feeling to see how involved the public has been in Ajabu’s five months of life without meeting him until today,” said Gregg Hudson, Dallas Zoo president and CEO. “Ajabu is a remarkable ambassador for his declining species, and now he’s able to connect our community even more to the importance of protecting African elephants.”

After his birth, we allowed several months for the calf and mother to bond privately while staff worked to “baby-proof” every area the baby _mg_2576-cb-w-logowould inhabit, including two barns, behind-the-scenes yards, and the lower portion of the Giants of the Savanna habitat.

Portions of the habitat, which includes 12-foot-deep ponds and gaps that needed to be closed off, were safeguarded for the well-being of the little fellow. A shallow portion of the pond remains for the water-loving calf to enjoy. And as he grows, he will be given access to deeper parts of the pond.

At birth, Ajabu weighed 175 pounds and stood about 3 feet tall, with a tiny trunk just over a foot long. He’s now up to 332 pounds and stands almost 4 feet tall. His teeth are starting to grow in, and he’s experimenting with solid foods, like produce and hay. He still nurses often and remains close to Mlilo, who remains the ultimate, protective mom.

A constant ball of energy, Ajabu enjoys “sparring” with tree branches, pushing his favorite ball around, and exploring with his trunk, which he recently discovered makes noises when he’s excited.

In addition to Ajabu and Mlilo, who’s believed to be about 14 years old, the Swaziland elephants at the Dallas Zoo include bull Tendaji and females Zola, Amahle and Nolwazi. All range in age from 6 to their mid-20s. They join our four “Golden Girls” – Jenny, Gypsy, Congo and Kamba – in the award-winning Giants of the Savanna habitat. Ajabu and Mlilo eventually will join other herd members in the habitats after careful, methodical introductions.

Earlier this year, the Dallas Zoo collaborated with conservation officials in Swaziland, Africa, and two other accredited U.S. facilities to provide a safe haven for 17 African elephants. The elephants had destroyed trees and other vegetation in the managed parks where they lived, making the land uninhabitable for more critically endangered rhinos. Swaziland managers planned to kill the elephants in order to focus on rhino conservation. The elephants were flown to the U.S. aboard a chartered 747 jet in a carefully planned operation, arriving March 11, 2016.

All three U.S. partner zoos – Dallas Zoo; Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Neb.; and Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita, Kan. – have expansive new habitats that set the standard for an advanced way of managing elephants in human care, allowing for socialization, herd behavior and extensive walking. Public support for the rescue has been overwhelming, given the critical situation in the animals’ native land. African elephants face many threats, ranging from human encroachment on their habitat to extreme poaching, which claims the life of nearly 100 elephants every day.

Categories: Africa, Conservation, Elephant | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

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