Green Tip #5: Helping you make sustainable palm oil choices



For the last few years, around Halloween and Easter, we’ve updated you on candy companies committed to using certified sustainable palm oil (see our latest flyer below!). Palm oil is obtained from the fruit of the African and South American oil palm tree. Today, it’s found in about half the products sold in grocery stores, everything from cookies to toothpaste. The production of palm oil has ravaged habitats across the globe, especially in countries like Indonesia and Malaysia. To create plantations to grow more palm trees, essential rainforest habitat is destroyed, leaving animals like orangutans and tigers without homes.

Thanks to efforts from concerned consumers and organized groups, such as the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), companies are changing their ways and beginning to use sustainably harvested palm oil. What does it mean when a company uses sustainable palm oil? The company is harvesting its palm oil from plantations that are certified by the RSPO. According to RSPO, “One of the most important RSPO criteria states no primary forests, or areas which contain significant concentrations of biodiversity (e.g. endangered species) or fragile ecosystems, or areas which are fundamental to meeting basic or traditional cultural needs of local communities (high conservation value areas), can be cleared.”

Here are a few tips to help you when shopping:

  1. Read labels. Look for the RSPO trademark to see if the palm oil in the product is certified sustainable.
  2. Download the Sustainable Palm Oil Shopping App from the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. It allows you to scan product barcodes to determine if the company is “excellent,” “good,” or “needs improvement” in sustainable palm oil harvesting. Available in iTunes or Google Play.
  3. Download the RSPO app. It provides lists of products with sustainable palm oil. It also has a geo-location function that will help you find products near you, and will upload information about products at your local store. Available in iTunes or Google Play.
  4. If you don’t see the RSPO trademark and you can’t find the product on either app, check out the ingredients. Sometimes palm oil may be listed under other names. If you see one of these ingredients, and haven’t found any information on how the product uses sustainable palm oil, it probably is not sustainable.
    • PKO – Palm Kernel Oil
    • FP(K)O – Fractionated Palm Oil
    • OPKO – Organic Palm Kernel Oil
    • Palmitate – Vitamin A or Asorbyl Palmitate
    • Palmate
    • Sodium dodecyl Sulphate (SDS or NaDS)
    • Elaeis Guineensis
    • Glyceryl Stearate
    • Stearic Acid
    • Steareth -2
    • Sodium Lauryl Sulphate
    • Hydrated palm glycerides
    • Sodium isostearoyl lactylaye

We realize there are many issues to think about when shopping, but buying products with sustainable palm oil is a good place to start. As a conservation organization, the plight of rainforests and their inhabitants is critically important to us, and educating our guests is one way we work towards our mission of conserving wildlife and inspiring a passion for nature. We encourage you to do your research and educate your friends and family, too, on sustainable palm oil!

(Learn more about how you can be a part of Dallas Zoo’s Green Team.)

Below is a list of treats made with certified sustainable palm oil that help protect the homes of rainforest wildlife.


Categories: Conservation, Tigers | Tags: , | Leave a comment

World Okapi Day: Celebrating our remarkable history



The Dallas Zoo has deep roots in the preservation of the okapi species – roots that far exceed North America.

They’re growing steadfastly into Europe, where our renowned breeding program is ensuring the survival of these stunning, mysterious animals from the Congo. And on the first-ever World Okapi Day, we’re sharing our pivotal story to make sure these horse-shaped, zebra-stripe-wearing, giraffe-head-resembling animals never disappear from Earth.

First discovered in 1901 by a British explorer, okapis were incredibly elusive in the wild, earning them the nickname “African unicorn.” The naturally solitary creatures were, and still are, experts at traveling unnoticed in the dense rain forests.

But today, their numbers have drastically dropped. Fewer than 15,000 remain in the Congo, and that’s a generous estimation. Their numbers have fallen by 50 percent in the past 15 years due to illegal poaching, logging and human encroachment.

It wasn’t until the late 1930s that okapi made their way to the U.S. And accredited zoos have learned new information daily about these extraordinary animals ever since.

The 1980s proved to be a big decade for okapi breakthroughs. In 1982, only 16 okapi lived in U.S. zoos, and seven of those called Dallas Zoo home.

With a stable population, our staffers spearheaded okapi research and wrote the standards for okapi behavior, including research on infrasound communications, vocalizations heard below the range of human hearing; behavioral indicators of estrus and pregnancy; and relationship and physiological norms for mothers and calves.

Published in 1999, The Okapi: Mysterious Animal of Congo-Zaire, is still the only book of its kind on okapi in English. This material allowed zoos across the world to successfully reproduce okapi.

Before arriving in Zurich, the okapi underwent 3 inspections, 6 trips on various forklifts, an 8-hour flight, and two road trips. Megan Lumpkin was there every minute of the 30-hour journey.

Before arriving in Zurich, the okapi underwent 3 inspections, 6 trips on various forklifts, an 8-hour flight, and 2 road trips. Lumpkin was with Ann and Imba every minute of the 30-hour journey.

Sending our bloodline

In the Dallas Zoo’s 50-year history of caring for endangered okapi, we’ve welcomed 36 calves. About 75 percent of all okapi in the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ Okapi Species Survival Plan (SSP) are related to Dallas Zoo offspring.

Jump to spring 2013, when we made a move that hadn’t been done in more than 20 years – after three years of coordination, we flew two of our majestic okapi to Europe.

Our okapis’ bloodlines were needed to improve and protect their lineage in zoos overseas, so the SSP and the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) partnered to diversify the okapi gene pool.

We sent okapis Ann and Imba on a cargo plane to Zurich, Switzerland, along with their dedicated keeper Megan Lumpkin, an okapi behavior expert.

“People often call okapi mysterious, but I know them to be so much different,” said Lumpkin, Upper Wilds of Africa assistant supervisor. “It‘s so special to work with an animal that few humans have had the opportunity to research in the wild.”

Ann now resides at the Zooparc de Beauval in France, while male Imba lives at Zoo Basel in Switzerland.

Assistant Supervisor, Megan Lumpkin, shares a special moment with 19-year-old male Niko.

Assistant Supervisor, Megan Lumpkin, shares a special moment with 19-year-old male Niko.

Cue the big baby news

The first okapi calf born out of the Dallas Zoo and EEP partnership was just welcomed Oct. 1 to father Imba. This is also the first okapi baby for Zoo Basel in 11 years.

The grandson of our male Niko and female Kwanini, Imba’s doing exactly what his endangered species needs.

Lumpkin says that despite the language barrier, she and Imba’s lead keeper exchange emails frequently, and the baby photos make the memories of that 30-hour journey worthwhile.

Although okapi experts say numbers in human care still need to grow, about 170 okapi now live in zoos across the globe, with 96 in U.S. AZA-accredited facilities and 67 in European zoos.

“They’re truly gentle giants and are very much individuals. Being naturally solitary animals, they have to figure things out for themselves,” said Lumpkin. “Every day I have the rare opportunity to learn something new about this remarkable animal, and I’ve fallen in love with them.”

(Dallas Zoo’s five okapi remain off exhibit through the spring while construction of the 2.1-acre, $13.5 million Simmons Hippo Outpost continues near their habitat.)

WATCH this throwback footage of baby Almasi, our last calf born Aug. 14, 2013.

Categories: Conservation, Okapi | Leave a comment

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


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

Zoo studbook keepers play matchmaker for the animal kingdom



In the animal world, there is one matchmaker to the stars, and he calls the Dallas Zoo home.

_dsc0370-harrison-edel-4x6-aa-color-correctedHarrison Edell, Dallas Zoo’s senior director of living collections, is responsible for the survival and growth of eight different populations of animals across North American zoos.

Edell ensures that the Eurasian eagle owl, emerald starling, violet-backed starling, southern tamandua (pictured above), marbled teal, southern bald ibis, waldrapp ibis and hadada ibis thrive for generations to come. His tool is a meticulously crafted document, called a studbook, which outlines family trees, genetic diversity and identifies breeding pairs for AZA-accredited zoos.

Think of a studbook like eHarmony meets for the animal kingdom.

“We track every detail of information we can about where an animal came from, who its parents or potential parents may be,” Edell said. “And that allows us to maximize the genetic diversity within a population and minimize inbreeding.”

It’s all done in the name of conservation.

The studbook serves as the blueprint for an entire animal population. Every potential pairing is scrutinized and analyzed based on how a new birth or hatchling could affect the overall genetic diversity of a population, with a goal of maintaining sustainable populations well into the next century.

And the job is done entirely on a volunteer basis. Six other Dallas Zoo employees act as studbook keepers, crafting the documents that recommend breeding pairs and animal transfers between zoos:

Lisa Van Slett Lisa Van Slett (assistant mammal supervisor) – cotton-top tamarin Kevin Graham Kevin Graham (bird supervisor) – green woodhoopoe, blue-crowned motmot Debbie Milligan Debbie Milligan (assistant bird supervisor) – lappet-faced vulture
Marcie Herry Marcie Herry (assistant bird supervisor) – saddle-billed stork Sprina Liu Sprina Liu (bird curator) – storm’s stork Sarah Ksaizek Sarah Ksiazek (savanna animal keeper) – blue duiker

Almost every animal birth and transfer is a process years in the making.

Amethyst starling

Amethyst starling

“I don’t think most guests at the zoo realize how much thought goes into breeding this pair, vs. not breeding this pair. And I don’t think people realize how much thought goes into the transfers when an animal moves from one zoo to another,” Edell said.

He began his side job as animal matchmaker in 2007, with the Eurasian eagle owl. He was recently appointed Vice Chair of AZA’s Wildlife Conservation Management Committee. A role that oversees administration of nearly 600 AZA Species Survival Plans and studbooks.

Edell credits the positive feelings associated with contributing to the broader species status as his reason for being a studbook keeper – and a prolific one at that.

In the end, one challenge always lingers over the work of studbook keepers: chemistry.

“A male and a female of some species may look great on paper, but get them in the same enclosure and they may not be interested in one another,” Edell said.

Thanks to all studbook keepers for volunteering your time, energy and brain power for the greater good of species survival and growth.

Categories: Conservation | Leave a comment

Green tip #4: Pack a trash-free lunch


This month’s green tip is another double whammy: helping the earth and your pocketbook! Did you know that the average U.S. child produces 67 pounds of lunch trash per school year? That’s about a billion pounds a year going straight to our landfills. Fear not, you can help reduce that by following these lunch-packing tips.

1. Pack everything in a reusable lunch pail, instead of paper bags. Paper bags often end up in the trash, rather than the recycling bin. A reusable bag can be used year after year! They also come in all different sizes, shapes, colors, patterns, and materials.

2. Ditch the plastic sandwich and snack baggies! Swap them out for reusable containers and snack bags. Do you like having your foods separated, but don’t want too many bulky containers in your lunch bag? Try bento-style boxes! These containers have sections, so you can keep everything separated until you’re ready to eat. It’s a great all-in-one option.

3. Pack a reusable water bottle. These bottles can be filled with water, juice, or anything else and significantly reduce the amount of plastic entering our landfills. This one is a big money-saver, too, because 24-packs of water can cost about $10. For that amount or less, you can have unlimited refills on water!

4. Ditch the disposable plastic utensils. Pack lunches with reusable utensils made from bamboo, metal, or BPA-free plastic. Reusable utensils are more durable in the long run.

5. Try using cloth napkins. They are small enough to fit in with any load of laundry when they need cleaning, and save a lot of paper! You can find different designs and smaller sizes to fit your lunchbox.

These aren’t the only ways to have a trash-free lunch, but it’s a great start! Do more research and find ways for you and your family to reduce your waste. Are you already doing these things? Do you have any other tricks of the trade? Comment below and let us know!

Learn more about how you can be a part of Dallas Zoo’s Green Team.

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