New roomies: Planning, patience required for nyala, red river hog introductions



Middle Wilds of Africa keeper Jessi Vigneault guest-blogs on Zoohoo!

Just as if you were to put groups of Longhorns and Aggies in a room, getting a nyala herd to coexist peacefully with a sounder of red river hogs can have its challenges, especially when males are involved (sorry, guys).

The Dallas Zoo wanted a new home for its male and two female red river hogs, and the nyala antelope habitat had some extra room to share. Both are African species, although they inhabit different parts of the continent. This new pairing required habitat modifications, new animal training, and a slow, very closely monitored introduction. Ultimately, it would be up to the animals to decide if it would work or not.

The habitat was great for our bachelor herd of four nyala, but it wasn’t quite ready for the rooting and digging habits of hogs, so underground rebar was added to reinforce the fencing. A log and rock barrier was built around the exhibit’s large pond, to prevent the hogs from falling in. And we constructed a concrete drinking bowl for the hogs, because they tend to play with anything light enough to move, including rubber water bowls.

A nyala and red river hog share an inquisitive moment on the first day of face-to-face intros. (Image: Mammal Curator Keith Zdrojewski)

A nyala and red river hog share an inquisitive moment on the first day of face-to-face intros. (Image: Mammal Curator Keith Zdrojewski)

With the habitat ready, we worked on avoiding possible conflict at the gates when the animals “shifted” in and out between the exhibit and their night quarters. We ring a bell and reward the nyala with their favorite treats at the bottom of the exhibit. They quickly learned to come toward the bell when rung. This training provided us a method to pull the nyala away from the top shifting gate when the hogs would be let through.

The next step of the introduction was getting the hogs comfortable and familiar with the area before meeting the nyala. Using a corral made of cattle panels covered with boards and wire mesh, the habitat was divided in half and the hogs were given time to acclimate to each side. We introduced them to their own shifting cue by honking a horn and rewarding them when they shifted in and out.

Though the hogs and nyala can see each other in their night quarters, we also gave them a chance to see and smell each other up close with the protection of the corral. We believed this interaction would give some indication of how the two groups would co-exist. There was some interest from both groups, but no aggressive behaviors were observed, and they soon ignored each other. This was a good sign, so we decided to move forward.

Log piles and large branches were placed around the habitat, so animals being chased would have something to put between them and their pursuer. The corral panels were removed to open the space up so individuals couldn’t be trapped.

It can be hard to predict how animals will react during new introductions and we always prepare for incidents, but this went extremely well. There were a couple of brief disagreements, but no chasing or serious altercations. As a result, the hogs now enjoy spending time in a new home with new friends.

Letting the animals become accustomed to their new surroundings and the sight and smell of other animals before putting them together help ensure successful introductions, and we greatly appreciate the patience of our visitors during this process. Next time you visit the Dallas Zoo, be sure to ride the Adventure Safari monorail and see how the nyala and red river hogs are doing together!

Categories: Mammals, Zookeepers | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Dallas Zoo wins international award for protecting wild gorillas


The Dallas Zoo and eight other Association of Zoos & Aquariums institutions have been recognized with a prestigious national award for conservation work protecting gorillas in the wild.

We received AZA’s 2016 International Conservation Award for our work with GRACE – the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center. GRACE was created in 2009 to protect Grauer’s gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It’s the only facility of its kind in the world.

The conservation award recognizes exceptional efforts toward habitat preservation, species restoration and support of biodiversity in the wild. We received the award in collaboration with Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Houston Zoo, Detroit Zoo, Nashville Zoo, Jacksonville Zoo, Los Angeles Zoo, Sedgwick County Zoo and Utah’s Hogle Zoo.

The Dallas Zoo is a longtime supporter of GRACE financially, through volunteer work and donations. Dallas Zoo President and CEO Gregggracve-award Hudson serves on GRACE’s board of directors and Mammal Curator Keith Zdrojewski is on the organization’s Animal Care and Welfare Advisory Group. Last year, Zdrojewski traveled to the DRC to help GRACE design and build a corridor for the endangered gorillas.

“This award reinforces our commitment to conservation of animals all across the globe,” Hudson said. “Grauer’s gorillas are some of the most endangered animals on the planet, and the GRACE Project is playing a vital role in keeping these remarkable animals around for generations to come. We look forward to continuing to support these gorillas alongside this dedicated conservation group, as we do with partners around the world.”

Did you know: Our support of the gorillas’ rehabilitation in the DRC isn’t possible without the support of our community and the million-plus visitors who walk through our gates every year. The Dallas Zoo is non-profit organization, and a portion of every ticket purchased supports our conservation fieldwork partners, helping protect wild animals and wild places worldwide. We thank you, and so do the Grauer’s gorillas and other wildlife.

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

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 Lemur Day: Recognizing Madagascar’s iconic primate

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The Dallas Zoo’s lemurs are often the first animals our visitors see (and hear)! There are 110 different species of lemurs that call Madagascar home, but habitat degradation is threatening their existence. On this #WorldLemurDay, we’re introducing you to the three different lemur species that call us home:

Black-and-white ruffed lemurs: This lemur is the largest and sometimes loudest. Lemurs are seasonal breeders and this fall is the first chance our male-and-female duo Iggy and Alina will have to start a family.

Ring-tailed lemurs: These are the easiest to spot because of their white and black striped tails. Our male group of Howie, Leo, Daryl and Leif spend more time on the ground than in the trees above. They LOVE to munch on fruit, often in unison. (Check out our video below for proof!)

Collared lemurs: These arboreal lemurs prefer to spend their time in the trees and blend in quite well. Look in the tree branch crooks and you may see our gal Gigi or her man Pierre snoozing the day away. This pair is extremely bonded, and together, they rule the massive oak tree in the center of the habitat.

Visit to learn more about what you can do to help these endangered animals!

Categories: Lemur | Leave a comment

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

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