Mammals

World Giraffe Day: When it comes to giraffe conservation, we take it personally

Auggie shows off his impressive height next to Katie

Dallas Zoo North Savanna Supervisor Lisa Fitzgerald, Assistant Supervisor Allison Dean, and Giraffe Keeper II Jessica Romano guest blog for ZooHoo!

Since 1998 the population of giraffes in Africa has dropped from 140,000 to less than 80,000 individuals. That’s only 80,000 wild giraffes left in the entire world! For comparison, there are more than 1.3 million people living in Dallas and over 200,000 people living in Oak Cliff alone.

Tebogo

As zookeepers at Dallas Zoo’s Giants of the Savanna habitat, we take giraffe conservation personally. We think giraffes are amazing and beautiful creatures. As keepers, we have the privilege of getting to know them as individuals and sharing in their daily lives. As wildlife conservationists, we want to ensure that the four species of giraffes not only survive, but thrive in the wild for eternity.

Why has the giraffe population dropped so dramatically? This is largely a situation created by us – humans. Prolonged civil wars in northeast Africa have created large populations of refugees, living in city sized refugee camps. Refugees seek protein sources and giraffes are large, easy targets.  Human population growth has also broken wildlife habitats into pieces, splitting giraffe populations into smaller groups that cannot recombine for breeding.

The Dallas Zoo partners with the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) to provide monitoring of giraffe populations, procure and protect giraffe habitat, and seek workable solutions that identify and relieve threats to wild giraffes. As members and visitors, you help us support GCF’s efforts!

Want to do more? 

  • Spread the word! Most people don’t know giraffes are a threatened species. Ask your friends which of these wild populations is the smallest, elephant or giraffe? The answer is giraffe – there are approximately 350,000 elephants in Africa vs. 80,000 giraffes
  • Support conservation groups like the Giraffe Conservation Foundation
  • Take that life changing trip to Africa and see giraffes in the wild – you will also be supporting local economies and communities
  • Consider a working vacation to Africa – volunteer for a non-profit organization, like Earthwatch

    Chrystal and Katie

  • Contribute to efforts to aid and relocate refugees

Meet Dallas Zoo’s herd:

Auggie – our oldest giraffe is 14 years old. Also known as “Uncle Auggie” for his gentle and protective approach with calves.

Tebogo – our breeder and greeter. Tebogo is the father of the calves born in the Giants of the Savanna. He is people oriented and can be easily identified by his dark brown spots.

Jesse – our tallest giraffe. Measuring in at more than 17 feet, Jesse is a total sweetheart and Jade’s BFF.

Ferrell – everyone’s buddy and one of our most curious giraffes. He is always keeping a watchful eye on what is going on.

Five – a shy guy, but one of our most handsome giraffes. Five has a beautiful brown coat with thin white stripes.

Katie – our most prolific mother. Katie is a beautiful giraffe with an even temperament and a slight sassy side.

Tsavo and Katie

Chrystal – “the diva.” Chrystal is our other mother and likes things her way.

Jade – “the princess.” Jade is very particular and sensitive; she likes compliments.

Betty – the “new girl in town.” Betty is our 2-year-old giraffe and has a warm personality when she isn’t getting into trouble.

Tsavo – “the baby.” Tsavo is Katie’s third calf here at Dallas Zoo and is the newest addition to our herd. While still growing into his personality, we can already tell he is going to be a lot of fun! He’s got his mama’s good looks and his dad’s rambunctious spirit. Tsavo is quite curious about his keepers and the rest of the herd. When he isn’t following mom around, Tsavo enjoys running and exploring. An affectionate little guy, he likes to nuzzle the other adults and will often give them good morning kisses through the stalls. Tsavo’s already nibbling on bits of browse, and bamboo, in particular, seems to be his favorite. Guests can now see Tsavo out in the giraffe feeding yard with mom and other herd members.

Happy World Giraffe Day from the Dallas Zoo giraffe herd and their keepers! Thank you for loving giraffes as much as we do.

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

Gorilla groovin’: Promoting play through enrichment

 

Dallas Zoo’s Primate Keeper II Ashley Orr guest blogs for ZooHoo!

You may have seen the original viral video of gorilla Zola dancing in a puddle when he was a youngster living at Calgary Zoo, and his passion for splashin’ has only continued with age! However, there’s a lot more to this behavior than a great ape groovin’ in the water.

Zola is a 14-year-old male Western lowland gorilla, and the youngest member of our bachelor troop. When he isn’t hanging out in the South gorilla habitat, Zola spends his hours inside our roomy gorilla building. The big, blue pool featured in this video is one of many enrichment items the gorilla keepers use to engage primates.

The Association of Zoos & Aquariums defines enrichment as a process to ensure that the behavioral and physical needs of an animal are being met by providing opportunities for species-appropriate actions and choices. Enrichment helps enhance the environment and lives of animals by providing them with mental and physical stimulation to increase natural and healthy behavior. This is an important component in caring for all zoo animals, but primate enrichment is among the most complex and varied.

Enrichment can take many forms; it can be an object such as a ball, a scent like an herb or perfume, visual stimulation such as a mirror, a change in an animal’s company or location, an activity like painting or training, introduction of a new food, or a challenging food presentation… the options are almost limitless! As keepers, we are constantly coming up with new and fresh ways to enrich our animals. And clearly the pool is a favorite for Zola!

Zola’s “dancing” is really just a play behavior (there was no breakdance music playing in the building, we promise). Play is a natural behavior present in a wide array of animals. In fact, the presence of play can signify an animal is content or comfortable, and it is recognized as an indicator for general welfare. It is easy for anyone to appreciate the good time that Zola is having in the pool because we recognize some of the same signs of play that we see in people.

Gorillas in the wild have been observed to willingly enter the water to feed or to cross to other areas. Some gorillas have even been documented using long sticks to probe beneath the water and gauge depth for safe passage (fun fact, gorillas are anatomically too dense to swim). This is an impressive example of great ape intelligence.

Visit Zola and the three other gorillas in our bachelor troop, or the four members of the family troop, to watch them engage with enrichment in their habitats. Proceeds from your visit help purchase enrichment items for our Zoo animals, and also support our conservation partners in the field, like the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center (GRACE), that help gorillas in the wild.

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

Zoo Corps electronics recycling initiative is here to stay

We’ve just wrapped up our second year of Zoo Corps, and I couldn’t be prouder of this year’s group of amazing high schoolers. Our youth-led conservation team meets twice a month throughout the school year and selects an important conservation issue to address. While I provide guidance along the way and connect the team with knowledgeable Zoo staff, these teens do it all – from conducting research to making key decisions.

This year’s group selected deforestation as their issue to tackle. Although a multi-faceted and daunting issue, the teens came up with a creative and effective way to make a positive impact.

During Endangered Species Weekend, Zoo Corps launched a new initiative to help save gorilla habitats and encourage Zoo guests to reforest their own backyards. As you may have read in their earlier blog post, gorillas, chimps, okapi and many other animals who call African rainforests their home are losing this critical habitat. Much of this habitat loss is due to mining coltan, a mineral used to manufacture electronics such as cell phones and tablets. By recycling or extending the life of these devices, you can help reduce the demand for coltan, and ultimately help save gorilla habitat!

While the potential for storms seemed to keep some people away on Saturday, May 20, we had a great turnout on Sunday, May 21, and overall, the weekend was a success! We collected a total of 56 devices, including phones, tablets and MP3 players. Each will be recycled with ECO-CELL, a handheld electronics recycling company founded in 2003.

Though team members were initially concerned about saving habitat in Africa, they also wanted to save wildlife in their own backyards. To help local wildlife, the teens gave out Texas native tree saplings to Zoo guests who brought a device to recycle. They also engaged visitors in conversations about gorillas, giving out saplings to guests who could answer trivia questions about the great apes. In total, Zoo Corps gave out 100 tree saplings from Texas Trees Foundation that were ready for guests to take home and plant in their yards!

In addition to the Zoo Corps cell phone recycling drive, Endangered Species Weekend featured 7 stations around the Zoo where visitors took specific pledges to help protect wildlife. Pledges were simple tasks that anyone can do, but they can make a big difference in small ways! In total, there were 3,200 pledges to save wildlife, with 250 specifically for gorillas.

I could not be more proud of these students who have so much passion and drive to save endangered species, and I look forward to welcoming the 2017-2018 Zoo Corps group who will make their own difference in the world. Applications will be live this August for students who will be in grades 9-12 for the upcoming school year.

If you didn’t make it to Endangered Species Weekend, you can still recycle your small electronics any time you visit the Zoo.

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

10 ways to have the best Saturday ever at the Zoo

It’s Saturday, the sun is shining, and you’ve watched everything in your Netflix queue. Whether you’re ready to spend the day with your crew or going on a date, the Zoo’s got you covered. We’ve listed 10 suggestions for having the best Saturday ever with us and over 2,000 animals. So change out of those PJs, and head outside to experience the Zoo like never before!

1. Saturday, Caturday

We have the cutest baby animals ever (okay fine, we may be a tad biased). Have you met our little lioness Bahati? Head over to the lion exhibit first thing in the morning, and you might see her exploring. Believe us, she’s more entertaining than any internet cat video.

2. Get wild on a Backstage Safari

Sign up for a behind-the-scenes tour filled with up close encounters to make any animal lover swoon. This 90-minute tour lets you feed an elephant and a penguin as well as interact with some of our dynamic animal ambassadors (yes – that tamandua does like avocado as much as you!). All proceeds from Backstage Safaris go directly to our wildlife conservation efforts, helping to protect species and restore habitats around the world. Win-win!

3. Photo Ark photo op

We have an entire tunnel and dozens of kiosks with selfie-sized photos from the National Geographic Photo Ark, captured by photographer Joel Sartore. We promise you’ll score some likes if you snap a selfie with one of these animals. Use hashtag #SaveTogether. (Photo credit: Caitie Thrower)

4. Giraffe feeding

Have you ever touched a giraffe? We know some people with a bunch of lettuce and kale that can make that happen. You may even get a lick from Tebogo. #Goals.

5. Amazing monorail views

Take a rest. We’re the largest zoological park in Texas, and that means lots of walking. Grab a seat on our newly renovated Adventure Safari monorail, and travel on a one-mile loop that takes you to five African habitats you can’t see by foot. In addition to bird’s-eye animal views, you’ll also get a few glimpses of the Dallas skyline.

6. Hippo hype

If you haven’t met our new hippos Adhama and Boipelo, you’re missing out. Check out a keeper chat at 11:15 a.m. or 2:30 p.m., and you might even see them in action during a training session. Trust us – you’ll wanna ‘Gram it when their mouths are hope wide or they wiggle their ears. Not to mention, the underwater viewing window will bring you face-to-snout with these barrel-rolling hams – have your camera ready!

7. Two words – chicken fingers

Our new Coop on the Fly food truck is serving up some serious down-home, fried goodness, and you don’t want to miss out on chicken fingers and tater tots.

8. Cheers and chill

If that isn’t enough, we’ve got cold beer on tap from 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. at locations near the flamingo pond in ZooNorth and by the monorail station in the Wilds of Africa, as well as the craft beer garden and brand new lounge on Cat Green. So sit back, relax, and have a sip of local flavor or a classic favorite.

9. Safari Nights

Safari Nights Powered by Breeze Energy means live music at sundown on shady Cat Green – you bring the lawn chair, we’ll bring the tunes. This Saturday at 7 p.m., we’ve got The O’s playing some catchy, acoustic pop tunes that anyone can dance to – don’t worry, the animals won’t judge! Concerts are every Saturday through July 15.

10. Cabana life

It’s Texas, and it’s hot! Avoid the back sweat, and spend a steamy summer night chilling out with your crew in one of our reservable cabanas, complete with chairs, fans, and water during Safari Nights!

And the very best part is that your adventure helps support conservation efforts around the world! That’s right, a portion of your admission goes to our conservation partners in order to save wildlife and protect the environment. So, have some fun and do some good this Saturday!

Categories: Conservation, Lion, Monorail Safari, Photography, Safari Nights, Simmons Hippo Outpost, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

World-famous giraffe Katie welcomes baby boy

We are elated to share that our beloved giraffe Katie gave birth to a healthy male calf on Tuesday, May 30, at approximately 1:45 p.m. As of Thursday morning, when the zoo’s veterinary team conducted a well-baby checkup, the almost 6-foot baby weighed in at about 150 lbs.

Katie and her new bouncing baby boy are doing very well, following what was a by-the-book, hour-long delivery. The calf has spent his first few days learning how to nurse and following mom around their area.

Katie lovingly nudges her new baby boy, born on Tuesday afternoon.

“We consider ourselves so lucky to get to welcome this (big) little guy to the world here at the Dallas Zoo,” said Harrison Edell, the Dallas Zoo’s vice president of animal operations and welfare. “Katie brought this calf into the world like a pro, and we continue to be amazed at how quickly this baby giraffe is taking to his surroundings and learning his way with Katie there to guide him.”

Now, at 9 years old, Katie has welcomed three calves with ease – two females, and now her first male. An excellent, proven mother, Katie will remain with her calf for the next few weeks as they bond behind the scenes.

The baby will then meet the truest gentle giant of them all – Uncle Auggie. Our oldest and most patient giraffe, Auggie is typically the first to meet new calves. And eventually, the calf will join the rest of the herd in the giraffe feeding yard.

We’re giving the honor of naming the baby giraffe to the zoo team that took such stellar care of mom during her pregnancy and are now caring for the newest addition to our giraffe herd. We’ll announce his name prior to the calf making his public debut.

The calf’s father, Tebogo, is one of the most popular giraffes at the Dallas Zoo. Matched with Katie on an Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan (SSP) breeding recommendation, the two were paired together to ensure appropriate breeding and genetic diversity in North America.

“Welcoming this baby giraffe to the Dallas Zoo is yet another milestone in what has been a very exciting year for us,” said Gregg Hudson, Dallas Zoo’s president and CEO. “We look forward to sharing the adorable awkwardness and cute baby face of the giraffe calf with our visitors. But we also want our guests to know how critical a role accredited zoos have in conservation efforts, as we try to help maintain the species’ existence given the numbers in the wild are diminishing so rapidly.”

Unfortunate news hit the giraffe population in late 2016 – the International Union for Nature and Conservation downgraded the species status from “least concern,” skipped the “near threatened” classification, and moved giraffes directly to the “vulnerable” category.

In the past 30 years, the giraffe population has suffered a nearly 40% drop due to human encroachment, poaching and habitat loss. It’s believed there are fewer than 97,000 individuals in the wild – scarcer than even African elephants.

And for reticulated giraffes, the subspecies we care for here at the zoo, only 4,700 remain. This all amounts to what researchers are calling a silent extinction for the tallest and longest-necked animal in the kingdom.

The Dallas Zoo proudly supports the Reticulated Giraffe Project and the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) by funding efforts to monitor giraffes and remove snares in Uganda. We also help GCF raise anti-poaching awareness in African communities.

 

The more you know…

The Dallas Zoo’s new giraffe calf has been active and exploring since just after his birth on Tuesday.

We know you’ll have questions, so we thought we’d try to answer a few here –

  • How are Katie and the baby doing?  Both are healthy and doing very well. The calf has been right on schedule with his activities, standing, nursing, and showing a curiosity to explore – just as we want to see.
  • Was it an easy delivery?  Yes, Katie was in labor for less than an hour and all went as expected.
  • When will you be able to see the calf on exhibit?   It will likely be several weeks before he’s out on exhibit. Watch the zoo’s social channels for updates.
  • What is the calf’s name?  We’ll let you know soon! Once the team here at the zoo decides on the name, we’ll announce it.
  • Will the public have a chance to help name the baby giraffe?  We’re going to give our giraffe team the honor of naming the calf.
  • What has the zoo done to the exhibit to make sure it’s safe given what happened with Kipenzi?  We have modified the entry gate system and enhanced the fencing within the exhibit for additional protection for the whole giraffe herd. We believe these measures will help mitigate the possibility of an inadvertent injury in the exhibit.

Katie captured hearts in 2015 with first-ever “Giraffe Birth Live”

Katie received worldwide attention in 2015 when she delivered calf Kipenzi during a remarkable, first-ever live streamed birth on Animal Planet and Animal Planet L!VE web cameras. Millions of people around the world fell in love with Katie and her calf – the birth drew more than 2 million streams on APL.tv, and the “Giraffe Birth Live” TV special drew 1.4 million viewers.

The live project turned millions into devout, loyal giraffe fans. From admirers making their support permanent with giraffe tattoos, to flying across the world to meet Katie and Kipenzi in person, the impact this mother-daughter duo had was immeasurable.

This time around, we decided to not live stream Katie’s delivery. While some of Katie’s fans were sad to not be able to tune in for 24-hour access to the birth, we didn’t want to try to recreate the magic of the first “Giraffe Birth Live.”

Sadly, Kipenzi passed away in July 2015 following a tragic accident. After Kipenzi’s death, the Dallas Zoo and Animal Planet received hundreds of thousands of messages of sympathy and gratefulness for the unprecedented project. An outpouring of support from her fans led to nearly $100,000 in donations for giraffe conservation and other wildlife conservation efforts around the world.

Come visit our now 10-member giraffe herd, which roams the award-winning Giants of the Savanna, the only U.S. zoo habitat where giraffes and elephants mingle alongside other African species. In 2015, the habitat was named USA Today’s No. 3 “Best Zoo Exhibit” in the nation.

 

Categories: Africa, Conservation, Giraffe, Mammals | Leave a comment

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