Mammals

 
 

Saving chimps: Help protect one of our closest relatives

Little Mshindi and female Koko share a moment. (Photo by Jackie Smith)

Conservation and Community Engangement Intern Alicia Moreau guest-blogs about Chimpanzee Action Awareness Week on Zoohoo! 

“When you meet chimps, you meet individual personalities. When a baby chimp looks at you, it’s just like a human baby. We have a responsibility for them.” ~ Jane Goodall

Chimpanzees are more closely related to humans than we may think. We share 98% of our DNA with chimpanzees and quite a few personality traits.

In 1962, virtually nothing was known about chimps in the wild. Jane Goodall changed all that. She dedicated her life to researching and observing chimps by sharing a special bond with them — she says, “One touch started a revolution.” Goodall is the reason we know so much about chimps and the personalities they possess. They share our emotions of pleasure, joy, and sadness.

Chimpanzees are very social animals and thrive in communities of about 15-20 consisting of both genders. However, they tend to feed, travel and sleep in a smaller community consisting of six or fewer. One may say that this is related to humans due to our nature of establishing close knit groups of friends and/or family we surround ourselves with on a regular basis.

Chimps are also related to us in their ability to communicate through complex systems of vocalizations, gestures, body postures and facial expressions. Grooming is an important example of their social nature. They participate in grooming for two main purposes: cleaning and establishing bonds between family and friends. It’s a critical action that helps them maintain friendships and comfort each other after a hard time or disagreement.

Mshindi hangs from a tree branch in the Kimberly-Clark Chimpanzee Forest. (Photo by Jackie Smith)

The use of tools was first observed by Goodall when she witnessed a chimp use the stem of a branch to collect termites for food. After this groundbreaking discovery, more evidence has been found all throughout Africa. Chimpanzees use rocks as hammers; anvils to open nuts; leaves as napkins or sponges; sticks to open beehives for honey and create spears to kill small mammals.

It’s a Chimp’s Life

Chimps are actually great apes and not monkeys. An easy way to distinguish between the two is to look for a tail. Monkeys have tails, while apes (gorillas, orangutans, bonobos, chimpanzees, and humans) do not.

Chimpanzees are omnivores. Their diet consists mostly of fruit and leaves. However, they also tend to eat insects, bark, eggs, nuts and even smaller monkeys or other animals for meat.

Chimps are highly intelligent when it comes to foraging for food. They are capable of remembering where food is located and when a particular fruit is ripe. They will also coordinate their efforts and share the meat amongst the group. It has also been observed that some chimpanzees may consume certain plants for medicinal purposes, like soothing an upset stomach or getting rid of intestinal parasites.

Chimps are Declining

  • Chimpanzees are among the most threatened primates in Africa for many reasons (Goodall 2001).
  • Fifty years ago, one million chimps were living in Africa. Today, it’s estimated that number has decreased to 170,000-300,000 wild chimps.
  • The Ivory Coast revealed that chimp population had decreased 90% in the last 20 years.
  • Chimpanzees are listed as “Endangered” according to the IUCN Red List.
  • 250 individuals are cared for in zoos throughout the United States.
  • Central chimps are the most abundant (80,000 found in Gabon & Congo); Eastern chimps ~ 13,000; Western chimps ~ 12,000

Habitat Destruction, hunting and disease are some of the primary threats to chimpanzees. Ultimately the major risk to chimpanzees and their habitats is human encroachment.

Thanks to Dr. Jane Goodall and her research, The Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) was established to spread the conservation message by raising public awareness, advocating and promoting healthy habitats and sustainable livelihoods. JGI works to protect chimps and other great apes against disease transmission, illegal hunting and poaching, as well as human-wildlife conflict. JGI also uses the triangle approach, which relies on the cooperation between law enforcement, environmental education programs and sanctuaries. (Educate. Protect. Rescue)

Female Ramona grooms male Mookie.

Jane Goodall Institute’s Tchimpounga sanctuary has taken in hundreds of rescued, confiscated chimps since it was founded and provides them with lifetime care. During our Swing Break event, the Dallas Zoo is partnering with The Jane Goodall Institute to raise much-needed funds to feed and care for two rescued chimps.

 How YOU can help

Choosing sustainable forest products, recycle (especially cell phones), help stop the bushmeat trade, and support local farming are all major ways you can help protect chimps and their habitat.

Educating those around you about environmental issues and promoting conservation are simple yet effective actions you can take, too. Goodall strongly believes that it is our responsibility as humans to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.

A group of Dallas Zoo interns, including myself, have organized a jammed-packed week full of fun events and conservation engagement. We hope you join us at the Dallas Zoo during SWING BREAK through March 18 to help us create a better world for animals.

We’ve set ambitious goals for chimp conservation and we need your help to reach them:

  1. $14,000 for chimpanzee conservation – food and care for two chimps rescued from the bushmeat and illegal wildlife trade
  2. 3,000 personal pledges for chimp conservation action
  3. 300 recycled mobile phones

Please support our efforts of raising funds for chimpanzees and the Jane Goodall Institute, so we can continue making a positive impact for the lives of great apes!

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

Dallas Zoo mourns the loss of hippo calf

Adhama and Boipelo in their Simmons Hippo Outpost habitat.

We are heartbroken to share the news that our female hippo Boipelo gave birth behind the scenes to a hippo calf early Saturday morning; unfortunately, the calf did not survive. Because this was Boipelo’s first pregnancy and we could not predict how she would react to the birth and baby, we had been cautious and had not shared the news of the impending birth with all of you. But just as we like to share our good news, we wanted you to have a chance to grieve with us, as well.

“We always put an emphasis on allowing animals to express natural behaviors, so we gave Boipelo space to interact with the baby immediately after the birth,” said Harrison Edell, our Vice President of Animal Operations and Welfare. “The calf arrived just after 6:30 a.m., and while Boipelo did assist the calf to the surface of the pool, it was not soon enough. In reviewing the situation, we know for certain there was no safe way for the staff to intervene to help the calf.”

Our keepers had been monitoring closed circuit cameras 24/7 over the last few months while on birth watch, and we were even able to capture several sonogram images recently, making us one of the only zoos in the country to have done this successfully. We had been anticipating the baby hippo’s arrival and were looking forward to announcing and having the new family debut when we reopen our Simmons Hippo Outpost in a few weeks.

Our hippo team is understandably upset but are focusing on Boipelo to help her through this difficult time. She is healthy following the birth, and our keepers and veterinary team will keep an eye on her to make sure she’s recovering well.

It’s a tough day for our entire Zoo family. Our hearts are heavy, but we so appreciate your support and well-wishes.

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

Dallas Zoo’s Simmons Hippo Outpost closed for maintenance

With winter in full swing, we’re taking advantage of the cold weather to perform maintenance on the Simmons Hippo Outpost – the zoo’s newest habitat that opened in April 2017.

No otters will be harmed or put to work during this maintenance project. 😉

The maintenance project will take about 6-8 weeks to complete, which means the hippo pair, male Adhama and female Boipelo, will remain behind-the-scenes during this time.

“Since we keep the hippos inside their warm barn when the outside water temperature drops below 60 degrees, we saw this timing for maintenance as a way to minimize any inconvenience to our guests,” said Harrison Edell, Vice President of Animal Operations and Welfare. “The hippos are receiving the best care possible during this period, getting extra enrichment items to keep them stimulated, and enjoying access to their private outdoor yard for extra exercise when the weather allows.”

Maintenance to Simmons Hippo Outpost will include repairs to the 24-foot by 8-foot underwater viewing window, which was recently damaged while a contractor was performing upkeep to one of the two viewing panels. Maintenance staffers will replace both panels with an acrylic that will be easier to maintain.

The 4,485-square-foot Highland Hippo Hut learning and event space will remain open during this time. Guests can also visit the okapi in the special encounter area where they can meet the stunning, endangered animals up-close during the daily 2:15 p.m. keeper chat (weather permitting, of course).

We promise to keep you up-to-date on the reopening of the habitat on DallasZoo.com and our social media platforms.

The Dallas Zoo opened the $14 million, 2.1-acre Simmons Hippo Outpost on April 28, 2017; the habitat was funded solely with private donations.

 

Categories: Africa, Hippo | Tags: | Leave a comment

Saving endangered gorillas takes all of us

What do you think they’re talking out?

Lower Wilds of Africa zookeeper, Will Bookwalter, guest-blogs on ZooHoo! 

Gorillas have an otherworldly presence, there is just something incredibly special about them – size, majesty, silence that speaks volumes.

The deep chorus of rumbles through a happy troop breaks the hush of an otherwise ominously quiet setting. I sometimes describe it like the moments before a thunderstorm rolls in – there’s a certain force around you that you can’t quite identify and your stomach sinks with anticipation.

Subira is our incredible silver back over our family troop.

Sharing a moment with them is immensely humbling; just a brief second of eye contact is enough to lock you into their world for life and it’s an honor to be there.

The story of gorillas cannot be told without the story of humans. Our lives are intertwined in both the best and worst of ways, but we have the opportunity to effect change and a movement is taking shape across the globe.

A small part of the force that once destroyed habitats and populations has now pivoted to try and save what’s left, those people hope to protect the global treasures that live within the forests of Africa. Many have now learned that the crack of a rifle in the forest is far less valuable than the shutter of a camera. And in that regard, many former poachers have joined the elite corps of rangers who risk their lives everyday to protect the gorillas we have left.

While these brave men and women keep their boots-on-the-ground, standing across the battlefield from poachers, militias, and warlords, each one of us can have our own positive impact on gorilla populations right here at home. We all have the power to create a better world for gorillas.

Staggering numbers 

There are actually four types of gorillas, two species that each have two subspecies. The gorillas we care for

in AZA-accredited zoos are all Western lowland gorillas. In the wild, their population has dropped to 125,000 individuals; they’re classified by the IUCN as critically endangered. The other three subspecies aren’t as lucky. It’s believed there are only 3,800 Grauer’s gorillas left (our partner GRACE is working to save them); Eastern mountain gorillas are struggling with just 880 individuals remaining; and the Cross River gorillas are barely holding on with as few as 100 animals left.

Amani is an orphaned Guarer’s gorilla, living with our partner, the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center (GRACE), in the Congo.

But, wait! There’s good news on the horizon. Not only can we help, we ARE helping!

According to our conservation partner, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, mountain gorilla populations in Bwindi National Forest, Uganda, have actually increased from 302 individuals to no less than 400 between 2006 and 2012. Five years after the last census, we’re still trending upwards.

Gorillas don’t have any true natural predators. From time-to-time they may encounter a leopard interested in a youngster, but the silverback will protect the troop with his 500-pound frame and two-in-a-half inch canine teeth. Unfortunately, the remaining threats to gorillas are all human. In a way, that can be viewed as a positive. You can’t explain conservation to a leopard, but human behavior can be changed, and beliefs and opinions can be swayed with new information.

Gorillas are poached for many reasons, for example, bushmeat is an issue we often encounter. People kill and eat lots of endangered animals, gorillas are certainly included. And while their meat is valuable, bio-facts like hands, feet, and skulls can fetch much more on the black market.

The wildlife trade is a problem born purely out of greed and corruption, and we’re watching animals go extinct before our eyes in the name of trophies and pseudo-science. At the lowest levels of these operations, human lives are destroyed, as well, in order to feed and protect families, while war lords and corrupt politicians enjoy the luxuries that come along with exploitation.

With issues like these, simple conversations go a long way in changing minds. Consumers can sometimes be persuaded to stop purchasing items, like rhino horn and elephant ivory. There are a million different ways we can use our purchasing power to protect these precious habitats. Everyday electronics that we use contain minerals, like gold and coltan, mined in the areas where our gorillas live, and the vicious cycle begins there.

The trade of conflict minerals destroys the lives of humans and animals alike, and most of us have no idea the pain, struggle, and loss that goes into the obtaining the components of a new laptop.

We have proven before the power of the consumer, we are rapidly taking steps to convince companies to use sustainably sourced products across the entire spectrum of
manufacturing. As I mentioned above, each one of us truly does have the power to change the world.

On this historic World Gorilla Day, we hope you will join us at the Dallas Zoo, today through Sept. 26, to support our initiatives to raise $10,000 to protect these incredible gentle giants of the forest. Looking into a gorilla’s eyes, we can all see a reflection of ourselves. We share so much with these amazing animals, it’s time we share some of ourselves with our hallowed cousins. Together, we truly can create a better world for gorillas.

BREAKING NEWS: The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is considering rolling back a rule that helps protect wildlife, like critically endangered Grauer’s gorillas, from the effects of illegal mining operations. Tell them NO on conflict mineral amendment in #HR3354. Add your voice HERE. 

Categories: Conservation, Gorilla, Zookeepers | 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.
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Categories: Africa, Lion | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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