New male mandrill to unite family troop



Keeper Annie Birdsong guest-blogs on ZooHoo!


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

At 2 years old, mandrill Obi continues to steal our hearts


Zookeeper Annie Birdsong guest-blogs on ZooHoo!

Now a juvenile, Obi's more comfortable venturing without mom Saffron.

Now a juvenile, Obi’s more comfortable venturing without mom Saffron.

It’s hard to believe it’s already been two years since little mandrill Obi was born to first-time mom Saffron! Obi was the first mandrill baby at the Zoo in 24 years. From day one, the precocious baby clung to Saffron, taking in his new environment.

As soon as he was comfortable, he took wobbly steps, exploring his big new world. At first, the pink fuzzy monkey would stay very close to mom, with one hand always on her. But avid fans of Obi know he has no fear anymore. He runs, jumps and explores, having a ball all day long.

Obi Mandrill with log square 4 CS

Obi with his trusty stick.

When Obi began exploring his exhibit, he found a stick that quickly became his favorite toy. That stick, nicknamed “Wilson” by keepers, has seen better days. After constantly being thrown about, “Wilson” ended up in the habitat’s water feature and has since been retired. Obi now has a bigger stick he plays with – you can often see him spinning it in circles and throwing it all around the exhibit. We thought this was a special quirk of Obi’s, but photos of other baby mandrills at zoos show them also playing with a favorite stick. (Here’s video proof of Obi’s obsession with his stick!)

Obi is still dependent on Saffron and will remain close to her until he’s 5 or 6. Mandrills don’t reach full maturity until about 9 years old. The largest species of monkey, Obi eventually will grow to about 60 pounds.

_MG_4049-Saffron & Obi

As a baby, Obi always remained close to Saffron.

His antics have earned him many admirers, and it’s easy to see why. When he takes a break from running around, he often sits in the window and interacts with visitors. He especially loves to look at small children, and loves bouncing off the glass, to onlookers’ delight. Come see Obi and mom Saffron in the mandrill habitat at the entrance of the Wilds of Africa.

(More from Annie Birdsong on Obi’s story: “A Mandrill Puzzle: How We Brought a Broken Troop Together”)


Categories: Africa, Mandrill, Monkey | 2 Comments

10 animals who wear fall well


Forget the flannel, cable-knit sweaters, and scarves – no one knows fall style better than the animal kingdom. We’re laying down some fall fashion with 10 animals who make this season look better than ever.

1. African crowned cranes rock autumn’s trendiest hairdo like fall royalty. They sport a golden crown of feathers atop their head, distinguishing them from other cranes. Their red neck wattle adds a nice splash of color, too.

African Crowned Crane2. A creature that resembles a large, ripe tomato deserves a major autumn accolade. Tomato frogs are brightly colored to warn predators that they’re not good to eat – but we think they’re juicily good-looking.

_MG_9734 Tomato Frog CB3. Giraffes’ spotted coats prove nature has a sense of style. Within all nine giraffe subspecies, each individual’s markings are as unique as our fingerprints. The reticulated giraffe subspecies, which you’ll find at our Zoo, sports a dark coat with a beautiful web of fine white lines.

4. Because no other animal can model a bed of fall leaves as adorably as our African pygmy hedgehog. These tiny guys use their coat of spines to escape predators – they’ll curl up into a tight ball and their spines will raise, forming a protective barrier.

Hedgehog-African Pygmy5. African red river hogs got it goin’ on. From their striking coloration and prominent tassels on their ears, to the hairy white Mohawk running along their spine, these hogs wear fall like no other.

Red River Hog Hank6. Yellow and black has never looked so good. Amiright? Tiger salamanders’ colors and markings vary throughout their wide North American range, but their most common marking resembles the striped pattern of their big cat namesake.

Tiger Salamander7. Golden lion tamarins rock nature’s fieriest coat. These small monkeys get their name from their vibrant reddish-orange fur and the long hair round their face that forms a perfect mane.

IMG_1599 Golden Lion Tamarin CS8. The chestnut-breasted malkoha manages to flaunt every fall color flawlessly. Males and females have near identical plumage, and wear those red eye patches like bosses.

ChestnutBreastedMalkohaMilkyEyelashes9. Tigers totally own fall. Their symbolic stripes act as camouflage in high grasses or dense forests. Sumatran tigers, like our boy Kipling, have the darkest orange coat of any tiger subspecies.

Kipling10. Thanks to our fall-loving chimps, playing in foliage has never looked so good.

Categories: Birds, Chimpanzee, Giraffe, Mammals, Monkey, Reptiles and Amphibians, Tigers | Leave a comment

Longtime animal couples set the bar for love


It’s not just humans who show love and affection toward each other. During this season of love, we wanted to share with you some of our longtime animal couples who just can’t get enough of each other. Humans: take note of these inspiring, lovable partnerships.

Mason & Julius: These gibbons have been together for four years, earning the name “the newlyweds” by their keepers. While they haven’t had a baby yet, Mason and Julius couldn’t be more bonded. Gibbons are one of the few serial monogamous primates. These two are constantly hugging and cuddling — making some of the simplest tasks, like separating them to work on training techniques, nearly impossible for their keepers.

Gibbons Mason and Julius share a sweet embrace./Dallas Zoo

Gibbons Mason and Julius share a sweet embrace./Dallas Zoo

Cory & Bolivia: Together for more than 13 years, with 11 babies together, these titi monkeys know how to keep the love going! Adult titi monkeys form lifelong partnerships. Cory and Bolivia are often seen sitting in the Primate Place treetops with their tails intertwined while they groom one another. Cory is very protective of his leading lady and can’t stand to be away from her for very long.

Titi monkeys Cory & Bolivia caught on the "kiss cam!"/Dallas Zoo

Titi monkeys Cory & Bolivia caught on the “kiss cam”/Dallas Zoo

Curtis & Darlene: These true “love bids” have been together for six years and remain a very affectionate and faithful couple. Guest favorites in Travis & Zach’s Birds Landing, cockatiels Curtis and Darlene have hatched four chicks together. The duo and their offspring are usually the first to greet visitors as they walk into the aviary, even if they don’t buy food! Curtis likes to woo guests with his whistle song and preen their hair. Darlene’s a cool chick and never gets jealous — she usually watches his antics from atop the nearest guest’s head or shoulder.

Cockatiels Curtis and Darlene share a meal together./Dallas Zoo

Cockatiels Curtis and Darlene share a meal together./Dallas Zoo

Batt & Carol Lee: Brought together in 2005, Batt didn’t need to court Carol Lee – there was an instant attraction. And shortly after meeting, their three pups were born. Batt is one of the oldest Asian small-clawed otters on record, at almost 19 years old. As he’s aged, he’s developed sight issues but Carol Lee has proved to be a loyal partner, guiding him with a nudge of her nose and bringing him food. The two can be seen sharing quite a few snuggly naps together.

Otters Batt and Carol Lee cuddling during a nap./Dallas Zoo

Otters Batt and Carol Lee cuddling during a nap./Dallas Zoo

Ramona & KC: Ramona came to the Zoo in 2006 and instantly caught KC’s eye. Three years later, they welcomed little Kona. KC also may be the father of 1-year-old Mshindi, but we’re awaiting paternity results to confirm. Their relationship has its ups and downs just like any, but they show sweet moments of affection, which make for great photo opportunities!

KC and Ramona hug with little Mshindi in between./Dallas Zoo

KC and Ramona hug with little Mshindi in between./Dallas Zoo


Categories: Africa, Birds, Chimpanzee, Monkey, Otter | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Deforestation is so last season


Stacy Lupori is a tiger, otter and primate keeper at the Dallas Zoo. She’s also an Action Team Leader for the Rainforest Action Network, where she helps coordinate campaigns to save Earth’s forests and the animals who call them home.

Cotton-top tamarin, Medusa. Her wild counterparts are critically endangered in Colombia.

Cotton-top tamarin, Medusa. Her wild counterparts are critically endangered in Colombia.

Did you know that some of the most popular clothing brands we wear use fabrics made from tree pulp? It’s an incredibly toxic process that’s destroying forests across the world and leaving the endangered animals that live there homeless.

As a zookeeper who cares for animals that are directly affected by this forest destruction, like Sumatran tigers, Bolivian gray titi monkeys and cotton-top tamarins, I feel it’s my obligation to ensure the survival of their wild counterparts.

The forests these fabrics come from include Indonesia (Borneo and Sumatra), Colombia, Brazil and even Canada. The trees are being clear-cut, processed into pulp, and used to create fabrics that are made into clothing by some of the world’s most popular brands. The incredibly harmful process known as dissolving pulp, creates a fluffy white material that gets spun into threads and woven into cloth.

Bolivian gray titi monkey, Cory.

Bolivian gray titi monkey, Cory.

This holiday season, the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) is asking consumers to consider not shopping at the stores dubbed as RAN’s “Fashion Fifteen.” These companies are at the forefront of deforestation for clothing. Through consumer pressure, our goal is to have these companies commit to remove forest destruction from their supply chains.

Zookeepers are critical educational and conservational messengers, acting as a voice for the animals they care for. Our animals are ambassadors for their species and they need help from those who want to protect the wild that’s left. Let’s save the remaining forests we have and the animals who live there by pledging to shop deforestation-free. For more information and to see the list of the “Fashion Fifteen,” click HERE.


Categories: Africa, Conservation, Education, Mammals, Monkey, Tigers, Zookeepers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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