Conservation

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

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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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Wild Earth Action Team leads whooping success in Corpus Christi

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The Wild Earth Action Team birding in Blucher Park

The Wild Earth Action Team birding in Blucher Park.

The Dallas Zoo works with partners around the world to save wildlife and protect wild spaces, but a major effort recently happened closer to home with some important Texas neighbors.

The team observes the endangered whooping crane in the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

The team observes the endangered whooping crane in the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

The zoo’s Wild Earth Action Team trekked south to Corpus Christi to restore coastal habitats in support of whooping crane conservation.

The whooping crane is the tallest bird in North America and migrates each year from central Canada to the Texas coast for the winter. The Dallas Zoo group dug in and got their hands dirty during a clean-up to help wildlife and their vital ecosystems.

The Wild Earth Action Team also took a four-hour adventure through the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, exploring the whooping crane’s winter grounds and observing 14 of these elegant birds. They even witnessed a rare moment when a whooping crane pair caught a snake and fed it to their young.

“It was thrilling to see whooping cranes up close,” said volunteer Becca Dyer. “I learned so much from the naturalists on the trip. I felt I was taking positive action participating in the beach cleanup.”

Removing litter from Corpus Christi's North Beach

Removing litter from Corpus Christi’s North Beach.

The entire experience was incredible for the team since this species once was so close to the brink of extinction. Our team of 23 volunteers and staff removed nearly 200 pounds of micro-litter along North Beach, including roughly 1,000 cigarette butts. Litter removal plays a key role in improving water quality and restoring coastal wetlands where many of the whooping crane’s food sources reside.

By the mid-1940s, only 15 whooping cranes existed in the wild. While still categorized as an endangered species, roughly 600 birds exist today due to the continued advocacy of conservation heroes across the United States.

“It made me feel overwhelmed with inspiration and gratitude for the conservation champions who went before us and stood up to save these cranes – all the work, the study, the policy advocacy, the habitat restoration and protection, the propagation and reintroduction by zoos and other conservation organizations – everything it takes to save animals from extinction,” said Ben Jones, dean of the Dallas Zoo’s Wild Earth Academy and trip co-leader.

Volunteers enjoy a visit to Dyers Aquarium

Volunteers Elizabeth Clay and Paul and Becca Dyer enjoy a visit to the Texas State Aquarium.

The weekend was filled with engaging learning opportunities as well. Alex Gilly, a bird keeper at the zoo, provided a fantastic presentation on the world’s 15 crane species as well as our role in crane conservation. The team was given a behind-the-scenes look at the Texas State Aquarium rehabilitation facilities, where they met an array of aquatic life and learned their unique stories. Dr. Liz Smith, the International Crane Foundation’s whooping crane biologist and Texas program director, even spoke to the group, providing an update on whooping crane preservation and efforts to combat the effects of climate change on coastal   wetlands.

All and all, the weekend stands as a whooping success for our Wild Earth Action Team as they extended the Zoo’s vision of creating a better world for animals. Still, it’s important to remember that conservation is a joint endeavor that requires dedication to produce results. It all starts with taking actions, no matter how small, and making sustainable changes.

The Wild Earth Action Team gathers for a group shot

The Wild Earth Action Team gathers for a group shot.

“Much of our conservation field efforts are done by volunteers who are a part of our Wild Earth Action Team,” said Julie Bates, director of Volunteers and trip co-leader. “This is a movement of volunteers that have a passion for nature and wildlife. The time and energy this team gives is priceless. Locally and across the state, we are creating a better world for animals by planting trees, restoring wildlife habitat, and cleaning beaches. We would love to have you join us on our next adventure!”

Stay tuned for more information about our next Wild Earth Action Team expedition when we travel to South Padre Island June 23–25 and work on Saving Sea Turtles.

 

Categories: Birds, Conservation, Education, Volunteers | Tags: , , , , | 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

It’s World Wildlife Day & we need millennials to care

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“Investment in our young people will ensure the continued survival of wild animals and plants and help us in the fight against the devastating illicit trade in wildlife.” ~ John E. Scanlon, Secretary-General of CITESIMG_4353 Galapagos Number 12 with Bradley Lawrence CS

Today is World Wildlife Day, a global celebration dedicated to raising awareness about the wild animals and plants that inhabit our incredible planet. This year’s theme urges animal lovers everywhere to “listen to the young voices.” Nearly half of the world’s population is under the age of 25 – that’s roughly 3 billion young people!

Now, more than ever, we need to encourage these future leaders to take action and protect endangered wildlife before they are gone forever. Today, we seek to empower both millennials and Gen Z so that they may be the last generations to ever have to worry about species extinction. We incite these young people to make their voices heard and call for change before it is too late.

There are currently over 40,000 species on the IUCN Red List. Of these species, approximately 16,000 of them are endangered – translation: they’re at risk of extinction. More than 1,000 of these endangered species are native to the U.S. alone. Each year this number grows larger and larger from pollution, habitat destruction, poaching, and illegal trade. If left unchecked, the results could be catastrophic.

The loss of even a single species reverberates through the food chain, impacting all plants and wildlife within an ecosystem. Natural landscapes are slowly disappearing with little hope for reversal or regrowth. _MG_0033-Little boy at penguins-CBFrom advances in medicine to helping us breathe, the reasons for protecting these wild spaces and their inhabitants are innumerable.

For millennials and Gen Z, sustainability is no longer merely a suggestion, but an immediate responsibility. Change must happen now on both a local and global scale. We owe the earth, its wildlife, and its diverse habitats the simple kindness of respect and appreciation. While it is still up to everyone to do their share in protecting the environment, these young voices are the driving proponents of future change. Together, we can enhance them so that they may echo and resound around the world, inspiring protective policies that keep our wild plants’ and animals’ best interests in mind. So, we ask everyone – no matter which generation you may be a part of – to #DoOneThingToday to support conservation efforts and help save the world’s wildlife.

Learn more about Dallas Zoo’s wildlife conservation partners, and how you can get involved. Plus, visit our volunteers page and get hands-on with us – kids, too!

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Dallas Zoo featured in 10-hour Animal Planet Facebook Live marathon

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Update: Thanks to everyone that tuned in LIVE. See our Two segments at the links below:
See Amani and Winspear run in our Cheetah Encounter!
See Tebogo at our giraffe feeding platform! (Our segment begins at 2:35:00.)


The Dallas Zoo is joining a beast of a lineup Thursday, March 1, as Animal Planet partners with 15 zoos and aquariums across the country for “Inside The Zoo” – a 10-hour Facebook Live marathon giving viewers up-close access to the work of AZA-accredited institutions.

The swarm of live-streaming begins Thursday, March 2 at 8 a.m. CST and will run for 10 hours. The Dallas Zoo will go live on Animal Planet’s Facebook page from 10:30-10:45 a.m. featuring its iconic giraffe herd, and again from 3:15-3:30 p.m. with its popular dog and cheetah duo, Amani and Winspear.

Throughout the marathon, animal care professionals and experts will interact with animals and answer viewer questions, while discussing the mission and priority of all zoos and aquariums accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums – conservation of species in the wild.

Viewers watching the Facebook Live event can comment on the stories and ask questions in real time.

“Every day, the animal care professionals at AZA-accredited aquariums and zoos deliver expert care to the animals at their facilities. They also contribute tremendously to species conservation efforts, both locally and around the globe,” said Dan Ashe, President and CEO of the AZA. “With the help of Animal Planet and Facebook, it is exciting to be able to bring a live, inside look at what happens at zoos and aquariums to millions of people.”

During the Facebook Live event, viewers will get sneak peeks at upcoming episodes of Animal Planet’s new series, “THE ZOO,” which takes audiences on a first-ever, in-depth look behind the scenes at the Bronx Zoo.

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