Africa

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

Six months with lion cub Bahati & the journey to get here

 

The lucky one

Guests have fallen in love with our now 6-month-old Bahati Moja, the first lion cub born at the Dallas Zoo in 43 years. Her birth on St. Patrick’s Day this year via a scheduled C-section left nothing to chance. The positive outcome was the result of a well-coordinated and meticulously planned group effort between our animal care, veterinary, and nutrition teams.

Planning for baby

The veterinary team knew that Bahati’s mother, Lina, has a narrow pelvic canal and small hips, which had resulted in two stillborn cubs during her previous pregnancy. Once keepers noticed Lina breeding with Kamau, the planning began to try to ensure a healthy pregnancy and birth. The team determined the safest option for mom and baby would be a scheduled C-section. Then the staff planned out 105-110 days, the length of lion gestation, so that full veterinary and carnivore care teams could be on hand for the day of delivery.

Bahati nuzzles up to mom Lina.

When the big day finally arrived, all the careful planning paid off. The veterinary team performed a by-the-book C-section and ran into no issues during the procedure. Bahati was strong and vocal immediately after birth. Mother and cub returned to the carnivore barn soon after delivery so Lina could wake up from anesthesia, recover from surgery, and meet her cub in familiar surroundings. Keepers bottle-fed Bahati a special formula the first few days until mom fully recovered, but Lina showed excellent maternal instincts and took over care just 30 hours after her operation.

Meeting benchmarks

Bahati has been consistently gaining two to three pounds per week, and now weighs 60 pounds. In addition to nursing, the little predator now gets her own diet of bones and ground meat. In the wild, these carnivorous cats are opportunistic feeders and prey on zebra, wildebeest, buffalo, antelope, and other sources of meat.

This smart cub has mastered shifting from her yard to the barn and is working on target training, lying down, and sitting during voluntary training session with keepers. Soon she will advance to presenting her paws for inspection and conducting blood draws on her tail. Guests can watch her progress during training demonstrations at Predator Rock in our Giants of the Savanna habitat.

During a weighing session, newborn Bahati sticks her head out of the scale box.

Social life

Since lions are the only true social species of big cats, females tend to work together to raise all the cubs in their pride. It’s no surprise, then,  that aunt Jasiri enjoys her wild and playful niece and often helps Lina by babysitting. Even dad, Kamau, is playing a part in rearing the cub. When Bahati practices her stalking on Kamau’s thick mane and tail, dad is loving but stern in his response.

Bahati is putting her climbing skills to good use, exploring the rocks and hills in her habitat and climbing over mom, dad, and aunt Jasiri. In Africa, lions will lounge underneath trees to escape the heat and insects, and you’ll often see the same with our pride here.

Purr-fectly adorable

You may hear Bahati mew and growl, but it will still take a few more months for her to develop a full roar. As she grows, she’ll lose the spots of a newborn and will develop a full tail tuft. Come to Predator Rock – or the Serengeti Grill windows – to see our new pride and joy for yourself!

Bahati was born via C-section.
Bahati was born via C-section.
« 1 of 9 »
Categories: Africa, Lion | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Dallas Zoo welcomes first-ever rare Somali wild ass babies

 

For the first time in Dallas Zoo’s 129-year history, we’re proudly welcoming two extremely rare Somali wild ass foals. Born 10 days apart, the little girls and their moms are doing great and bonding beautifully behind-the-scenes.

The first foal named Kalila, meaning “dearly loved” in Arabic, was born July 9 to 13-year-old mom Liberty. This is dad Abai and Liberty’s third foal together – the pair previously welcomed two babies at their former home, the St. Louis Zoo.

One-week-old Naima explores her behind-the-scenes habitat.

The second foal named Naima, meaning “calm” in Arabic, was born July 19 to dad Abai, and first-time mom Hani, who turns five years old next month. And just like her older half-sister, Naima was standing, walking and nursing within minutes.

“This is a big moment for our hoofstock team. Somali wild asses are critically endangered with less than 600 left in the wild,” mammal curator John Fried said. “Only nine institutions in the U.S. care for this rare species, and to be able to welcome two babies is truly one of the highlights of my career.”

Native to the arid regions of the Horn of Africa – Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea – there are many reasons the Somali wild asses’ numbers have dropped drastically in the wild. Locals hunt this species for food and traditional medicine – some believe their fat treats tuberculosis. Somali wild asses also directly compete with livestock for limited land and water sources. Plus, wild asses are crossbreeding with domestic asses, hurting the genetics of this species.

With unique zebra-striped legs, a soft gray upper body, a white belly, and a spikey black-and-gray mane, Somali wild asses are the smallest of the wild equids (horses, asses, and zebras). Standing about four feet at the shoulder and weighing roughly 600 pounds, these animals also have the smallest hooves of any equid, which help them navigate rocky slopes.

The Dallas Zoo is working with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Somali Wild Ass Species Survival Plan (SSP) to increase their numbers in human care and keep the North American gene pool genetically sound. In 2005, father Abai arrived from the Basel Zoo in Switzerland to bring a new bloodline to the U.S. Since then, he’s sired multiple foals.

Kalila nurses behind-the-scenes from mom Liberty.

“These little girls have brought so much excitement to our hoofstock barn,” mammal supervisor Christine Rickel said. “Although they were born 10 days apart, they look vastly different. We joke that Liberty has super milk because Kalila’s already a big girl. She was born weighing 65 pounds – 14 pounds heavier than Naima.”

Liberty, Hani and their foals were introduced to each other last week behind-the-scenes, but the protective mothers are hesitant to allow the little ones to play together, who just want to run in circles to their hearts’ content.

The babies will soon venture into the arid habitat off the Wilds of Africa Adventure Safari monorail. And, in time, they’ll meet the gemsbok, addax and ostriches, with whom they’ll eventually share the habitat.

Stay tuned for more updates as these precious girls continue to grow.

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

Dallas Zoo partners with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund to foster change in Rwanda

Every morning, more than 100 trackers set out from the Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda to protect nearly half of the nation’s mountain gorilla population. The trackers monitor the gorillas round-the-clock, serving as the first line of defense against poachers. Each individual tracker is assigned a gorilla group; it is their job to locate group members and record data used to study the species. This continued daily commitment is what it takes to ensure the survival of critically endangered mountain gorillas.

Dallas Zoo based Fossey Fund board members at headquarters in Rwanda with Tara Stoinski

The Dallas Zoo and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International are in this battle together, pledging resources, time, and efforts toward gorilla conservation. Established in 1978, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund has dedicated nearly 50 years to protecting mountain gorilla populations. As a result, mountain gorillas are the only species of ape whose numbers are slowly increasing; how ever, with less than 900 individuals remaining, this species is still critically endangered. And at the Dallas Zoo, we’re honored to support the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund as one of our conservation partners.

In January, Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund President and CEO/Chief Science Officer Tara Stoinski spoke during a Dallas Zoo Wild Earth Conservation Lecture held at the Angelika Film Center here in Dallas. In addition, she gave an inspiring talk for Dallas Zoo keepers and staff about the Fund’s latest developments and updates on the animals they protect. But the story doesn’t stop there.

Gregg Hudson, president and CEO of the Dallas Zoo, currently is the immediate past chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, in which he’s been a member since 2007. In celebration of the organization’s 50th anniversary, he and the rest of the board of trustees traveled to Rwanda in late February to meet the partners of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund who are working in the wild. This group also included two of the Fossey Funds newest Trustees – Dallas Zoo board member Diane Brierley and the Zoo’s Special Counsel Bill Evans.

Tara Stoinski speaks to staff at the Dallas Zoo

“It’s amazing to take what we do at zoos, our special talents, and apply them to other meaningful organizations. Zoos are a conduit from our communities to these important, large-scale projects. We have a responsibility to go beyond our gates and be involved in wildlife initiatives outside of the Zoo,” explained Hudson.

Once in the heart of the Virunga Mountains, the trustees embarked on treks through the Rwandan bush to see both gorillas and golden monkeys.

This amazing experience also highlighted the Fund’s numerous health, education, and economic development initiatives, which encourage Africans to become conservation leaders. The trustees visited community education and health projects in Bisate Village and spent a gratifying afternoon with the Karisoke trackers.

Dallas Zoo President and CEO Gregg Hudson hikes through the African bush to see gorillas

“I am just blown away by what the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund does. It’s one of the longest, continuous field projects in the world. On top of that, it’s connected to this incredible community in Rwanda where they have helped build a health clinic and create educational programs at local schools. Gorillas are fascinating animals, but the impact of the Fossey Fund on the community is incredible, too,” Hudson said.

The trip culminated with a reception at the home of U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda Erica J. Barks-Ruggles, an eminent supporter of gorilla conservation, fostering hope for the future of a troubled species.

Hudson’s trip emphasizes the importance of partnerships like those between the Zoo and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund as they bring together conservationists from around the world to collectively further research and prevent species extinction.

“The Rwandan people see gorillas as part of what makes their nation special. I feel a lot of personal pride for helping with each new sustainable, long-term initiative. It’s a rare and fulfilling chance to create a legacy project that will help gorillas in the future,” Hudson stated.

Learn more about how you can support the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund’s conservation efforts by symbolically adopting a gorilla.

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

Meet our world renowned okapi herd

For the past 50 years, we’ve been working with the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) Okapi Species Survival Plan (SSP) to substantially increase the population of these endangered “African unicorns” in human care. Nearly 75 percent of all okapi in the SSP are related to Dallas Zoo offspring, and in our history we’ve welcomed 36 calves!

Though they’ve been off exhibit during the construction of the Simmons Hippo Outpost, you can now view these solitary creatures in two different yards. Learn about our six okapi and how to tell who’s who!

Kwanini

Kwanini is a dedicated and attentive mother who was born at the Dallas Zoo when the Wilds of Africa originally opened. Nearly 27 years old, she’s given birth to 7 calves, including Ikenge, a son who still lives here.

Although shy around other adult herd members, Kwanini is a caring, maternal figure. She enjoys interacting with calves and grooming them (and occasionally keepers) with her rough tongue.

You can recognize Kwanini by her deep chocolate coloring and very defined brows.

Kwanini (pictured left) with son Ikenge

Niko

Niko was born at White Oak Conservation Center in Florida and arrived in 2000 at the age of three as a breeding male. His father was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, making his genetics extremely valuable to the SSP. Since 2001, he’s fathered 7 calves.

Known as the friendliest okapi ever encountered by our keepers, he’ll seek out the company of keepers and happily approach strangers for a head rub, which is atypical for this solitary species. In fact, Niko’s developed an interesting habit of bobbing his head at other animals and staff to get their attention.

Niko is tall, dark, and handsome. He’s especially recognizable by his ossicones, which are only about 2 inches long because he likes rubbing them on trees and branches.

Niko

Desi

Desi was born at Dallas Zoo in 1999, and is now almost 18 years old. She is currently our primary breeding female, and has birthed two calves. As the herd’s dominant, leading lady, the other okapi will submit to her—even the males! She is very comfortable and confident around keepers, and enjoys a good neck or ear rub.

Desi learns very quickly and has been known to playfully test new staff members by not shifting (moving to a new space when asked) unless she is offered a treat. Though strong-willed, she’s a sweet girl.

Look for Desi’s mahogany face and fuzzy fringe around her ears.

Desi

Uche

Uche is 6 years old and will begin introductions with females this summer as an up-and-coming breeding male. Born at San Diego Safari Park, he came to Dallas 3 years ago as Desi’s mate. He is often shy around female okapi, though enjoys saying howdy to them through stall windows.

Upon first meeting, Uche appears aloof, but warms up quickly to familiar faces. When he first arrived, he was not fond of touching or direct feeding, but our keepers have earned his trust, and he now willfully approaches them to have his ears and ossicones scratched. He’s a quick learner with training, too.

You’ll notice Uche’s very light face and thick ossicones. Still a rather young okapi, he is smaller than the other males and females.

Uche

Ikenge

Ikenge was born at Dallas Zoo to mother Kwanini and father Niko. At only five years old, he’s still a little shy, but loving and playful nonetheless. When he isn’t visiting mom through the stalls, you’ll find him energetically running around the habitat.

This little calf is very trusting and will follow keepers into new areas without hesitation. He appreciates being groomed by other okapi and his keepers, and enjoys training sessions and time out on exhibit.

Although he is short, Ikenge is very muscular. Look for his dark face and long eyelashes.

Ikenge

Kilua

Kilua is the newest addition to our herd and our youngest. She was born in Cincinnati, but came to become a primary breeding female in the future. But don’t let her age fool you—Kilua is one of the largest okapi our keepers have ever seen.

A gentle giant, she is both brave and friendly. Kilua likes to interact with people, and happily tolerates hoofwork. Though calm, she is still playful at heart and enjoys enrichment items, like her bamboo curtain and puzzle feeder.

Kilua is huge, weighing in at nearly 800 lbs. With her massive frame, you’ll easily be able to identify her.

Kilua

Visit our okapi herd in person, and learn more about this unique species during an okapi keeper chat, occurring daily at 2:15 p.m.

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

Brought to you by the Dallas Zoo