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Q&A: GIRAFFE BIRTH LIVE

Keepers say giraffe Katie is one of the most beautiful girls in the herd. /Dallas Zoo

Keepers say giraffe Katie is one of the most beautiful girls in the herd. /Dallas Zoo

You have questions, we have answers! We couldn’t be more proud to team up with Animal Planet television network on a remarkable project, as we live-stream and televise a giraffe birth for the first time. Our Katie, already a mom to calf Jamie back in 2011, is a special girl, with gorgeous looks and a sweet personality.

We’re answering your questions on Twitter and Facebook, but we’ve also put together this Q&A to help you understand everything about “Giraffe Birth Live.”

Q: What’s happening, and why? We are partnering with Animal Planet to show you the birth of a new calf to Katie, one of our 12 giraffes. The animal husbandry expertise of our giraffe keepers and veterinary team are superb, and we’re proud of the incredible work they do. We’ve chosen to pull back the curtain a bit so you can see how much our staff cares about our animals, and how dedicated they are to caring for them.

Q: What will we see? Right now, you can watch Katie in her maternity stall on the web at apl.tv/giraffe. When she goes into labor, you’ll be able to watch the birth unfold there. Animal Planet also plans to interrupt their live TV network if possible.

Q: How has Katie reacted to the cameras? We have taken great pains over the past several months with this process. Giraffes are very inquisitive and have excellent eyesight, so they see even the smallest changes in their world. And our animal staff are not shy about protecting the giraffes! They oversaw all installations and had veto power over any part of the process that they felt might cause stress to the giraffes.

We installed all equipment – from the 10 cameras down to single cables – very slowly and gradually and gave the herd time to get used to them well before the birth window hit. Katie was curious about some of the cameras at first, but never seemed stressed, and now she just ignores them.

Q: When is Katie’s due date? The window for birth is now to early May, but we think it will be before May. She could have the calf any day now.

Q: How long is a giraffe’s gestational period? About 15 months.

Q: Where is Katie when she’s not on camera? She’s outside enjoying the Texas sun and walking around, which is really good for her. This outdoor area isn’t in public view or on camera.

Q: Why aren’t there cameras outside? The eight special cameras installed by Animal Planet are focused solely on the maternity stall, since that is where the main event will occur. These multiple cameras allow Animal Planet to show several angles of the birth.

Q: What if Katie goes into labor outside? When she’s outside, our keepers monitor her constantly. If they see signs of labor, the keepers will move her back into the maternity stall.

Q: Can I see Katie right now in the Giants of the Savanna habitat? No, Katie is not out in the exhibit. Now that she’s so close to delivering, she’s no longer in those public areas so we can keep a closer eye on her.

Q: How much notice will you give viewers so we can see the birth? As much as we can! Giraffe labor can take several hours, or it could happen quickly. We’re hoping to give you several hours of notice before the calf arrives, but it depends on Katie! We recommend signing up for text alerts on the Animal Planet website, at apl.tv/giraffe. Look to the right under “Birth Alerts and More.”

Katie and her first calf Jamie share a sweet moment in 2011./Dallas Zoo

Katie and her first calf Jamie share a sweet moment in 2011./Dallas Zoo

Q: What happens if Katie delivers in the middle of the night and we miss seeing it? Animal Planet plans to air a special show later, which will show you the prenatal care Katie received, how her keepers care for her and the other giraffes, and how the birth unfolded. We’ll share on our social media when we find out when it will air (most likely very soon after the birth).

Q: What time does Katie come in for the night? Katie is usually in her maternity stall each evening around 5 p.m. CDT for dinner.

Q: Is anyone monitoring Katie in the middle of the night? Yes, the keepers are watching her around the clock. Our nine-member giraffe team takes turns monitoring the Zoo’s overhead cameras from their homes via their cellphone or computer. Night keepers also check on Katie in the giraffe barn. (And actually, we’re all so excited about this that many other staffers are watching, too!)

Q: What if something goes wrong during the delivery? With any birth – people OR animals – that’s always a risk, although our teams have performed much prenatal care to minimize it. Our veterinarians are on call 24/7, and they and the keepers stand ready to assist if needed. In that case, Katie is trained walk into the giraffe restraint device (GRD), a special padded, custom-built chute where the team will be able to safely help with the delivery. There, keepers can help her without using anesthesia, a risk we always try to avoid for the health of both mom and calf.

Q: Why is Katie in her own stall? Katie needs her own space to safely deliver the calf, since we have a large (and curious!) herd. While they won’t try to hurt the calf, some of them weigh up to 2,500 pounds, and we don’t want to risk them stepping on it. The maternity stall is specially equipped with extra layers of soft sand for Katie’s comfort and as a cushion for the baby when he/she drops 6 feet at birth. (You’ll notice her dedicated keepers cleaning her stall daily on the webcam.) After the birth, the separate stall also provides a safe space for mother-calf bonding.

Q: Who are the other giraffes next to Katie’s stall? There are 11 other giraffes who could be checking on Katie – including our youngest, Kopano, who was born in October. All are curious, especially her pal Jade, who’s often seen peeking over.

Q: Who is the baby’s father? The proud papa-to-be is Tebogo. He’s our only breeding male under the Giraffe Species Survival Plan’s (SSP) program to ensure genetic diversity within this threatened species. Tebogo also is the father of Kopano as well as 4-year-old Jamie, who was Katie’s first baby.

Q: Why does the Animal Planet webcam periodically go black? It goes off now and then while Animal Planet makes technical updates or switches between camera feeds.

If you have other questions, please post them and we’ll do our best to respond. We’re thrilled to show you the effort, skill and dedication our staff provides. This partnership with Animal Planet will give the world a better perspective on the responsibility we shoulder as an accredited zoological park. We’re seeing your support on social media and we thank you for taking such great interest in this special birth.

Q: When did you start this project? We first began talking about it last September, so it’s been a very involved process.

Q: How does the staff like it? The keepers and supervisors in the animal department have been amazing. It’s certainly added to their workload, and many people wouldn’t like having cameras on them as they do their daily work. However, they are so dedicated to giraffes and to conservation efforts on their behalf. And they realize that by showing this type of program, we can help people understand the need to support conservation efforts in Africa, as we do, and the need for the work done at zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. So the team has been incredibly cooperative. They’re the best!

As for our PR team… well, don’t ask about the PR team.

Please click HERE for Animal Planet’s Q&A. (And don’t forget to sign up HERE for the “Katie’s about to have her baby” text and email alert.)

Categories: Africa, Conservation, Education, Giraffe, Mammals, Media, Social Media, Veterinary Care, Zookeepers | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

Palm oil debate: Saving rainforest homes

On the other side of the world, orangutans, tigers and many other animals are losing their rainforest homes so we can eat food and use products that contain a special ingredient that grows in their habitats – palm oil.

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. Conflict palm oil production is connected to major issues, including habitat loss, climate change and more, as rainforests in countries like Indonesia and Malaysia continue to be wiped out to make room for new palm oil plantations. In fact, palm oil production is now one of the leading causes of rainforest destruction worldwide.

But there’s something we can do. With the help of one of the Dallas Zoo’s own zookeepers, big snack food companies are starting to change how they produce palm oil.

Tiger keeper Stacy Lupori supports the #InYourPalm campaign with Sumatran tiger Melati

Tiger keeper Stacy Lupori supports the #InYourPalm campaign with Sumatran tiger Melati

Tiger, primate, and otter keeper Stacy Lupori is an action team leader for Rainforest Action Network (RAN). Right now, Lupori is helping coordinate a social media campaign called “The Last Stand of the Orangutan.” With only about 60,000 orangutans left in the wild, one of humankind’s closest kin are on the brink of extinction if their homes continue to be destroyed.

“We’re not asking these companies to stop using palm oil – that’s not going to happen. We’re pushing them to be sustainable,” Lupori said. “A lot of companies choose to go in and slash and burn the rainforest and all the animals that live there, but there are much better ways to do it.”

So far, more than 300,000 people from all over the world have flooded the Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages of what RAN has dubbed the “Snack Food 20.” These 20 major U.S. companies were selected by RAN for harvesting conflict palm oil. The campaign lets people submit a photo of their hand, labeled with the hashtag #InYourPalm. Through increased consumer pressure, the goal is to get the Snack Food 20 to change how they grow palm oil.

RAN is asking the Snack Food 20 to implement a palm oil procurement policy to ensure that the oil it sources is fully traceable, legally grown and from verified responsible palm oil producers not associated with deforestation.

Some of the companies already have agreed to change their policies to eliminate conflict palm oil. However, those steps won’t be taken until 2015. “We all know just because a company says they are going to do something doesn’t mean they will,” Lupori said. “Until these policies are put into effect and are traceable, we still need help putting the pressure on them.”

RAN’s campaign won’t end until all 20 companies have responsible palm oil polices in effect. For Lupori, it’s a lifelong commitment. “As a zookeeper, it’s not just about taking care of these tigers. It’s mostly about conservation,” she said. “This means nothing if I’m not doing something to preserve them in the wild. I look at them, and it breaks my heart to think that if conflict palm oil doesn’t stop, they may not be around in 10 years. And that’s why I’m not going to stop.”

This Halloween, we ask you to buy sustainably produced candy. And we challenge you to post your #InYourPalm photo to Instagram and Facebook, along with a photo of your conflict-free Halloween candy. Our colleagues at the Woodland Park Zoo have put together a great candy list, and it includes many of the most popular ones: http://www.zoo.org/document.doc?id=1423

Lupori and RAN officials are working to create a “sustainably made” product logo to help consumers detect traceable palm oil products. Until then, Lupori suggests downloading the free Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Palm Oil Shopping Guide App. It’s a great tool to help identify sustainably produced products in the meantime.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) is also standing behind efforts toward deforestation-free palm oil production. The AZA encourages guests at AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums to help break the link between palm oil production and deforestation.

Learn more about the #InYourPalm campaign: http://inyourpalm.org/

Categories: Africa, Conservation, Education, Social Media, Tigers, Zookeepers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Dallas Zoo speakers present at top conferences

Zoological and aquarium professionals from across the U.S. are gathering this month at the top professional conferences in the country to share ideas, network and learn from one another – and the Dallas Zoo is well-represented.

Keepers Russell Pharr and Heather Seymour train Grant zebra Stewart to accept voluntary vaccination injections. Dallas Zoo/Ashley Allen

Keepers Russell Pharr and Heather Seymour train Grant zebra Stewart to accept voluntary vaccination injections. Dallas Zoo/Ashley Allen

At the American Association of Zookeepers (AAZK) national conference in Orlando, Fla., hoofstock keeper Russell Pharr presented a paper he co-authored with lead giraffe keeper Heather Seymour. His presentation focuses on two years spent training Grant’s zebras to accept voluntary hand injections for their semi-annual vaccinations.

Also at AAZK, lion keeper Rebecca Wolf presented a paper she co-wrote with keeper Sara Squires, discussing training our female lions to accept voluntary ultrasounds to monitor potential pregnancies.

Other speakers are featured at the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) annual conference, also in Orlando. Our coordinator of elephant behavior science, Nancy Scott, will present data collected since 2009 to compare how our five elephants’ behavior and activity patterns have changed after moving into their world-renowned Giants of the Savanna habitat in 2010.

Gypsy and Jenny's playful behaviors are noted during observations by researcher, Nancy Scott. Dallas Zoo/Cathy Burkey

Gypsy and Jenny’s playful behavior is observed in their Giants of the Savanna habitat. Dallas Zoo/Cathy Burkey

Our director of communications and social media, Laurie Holloway, will discuss how we listen and respond to guests on consumer review sites, such as TripAdvisor and Yelp. (Thanks to your positive comments about the Dallas Zoo, we just earned our second straight TripAdvisor 2014 Certificate of Excellence award!)

Sharing successes and knowledge with our zoo and aquarium colleagues showcases the expertise of the Dallas Zoo team, and also provides them with the opportunity to learn from others.

Categories: Conservation, Education, Elephant, Lion, Mammals, Social Media, Zookeepers | Leave a comment

Feathers, Fur & Scales Photography Contest

To our photography enthusiasts: We’ve seen you armed with your photography gear, snapping photos in the Zoo, and we’ve also seen a sneak-peek of the pictures you’ve posted on Instagram for our annual Feathers, Fur & Scales Photography Contest. We are ecstatic to review all of the incredible animal shots you’ve captured since April at the Zoo, and the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park. And just to keep you on your toes, here’s a look at the winning photos from last year. Photo submission ends Sept. 30. Please continue visiting, snapping, and inspiring us with your remarkable photos.

For more info on the photo contest and how to submit your photos, click here.

Arno Goetz
Arno Goetz
Grand Prize
« 1 of 10 »
Categories: Exhibits and Experiences, Photography, Social Media | Leave a comment

Family of 11 hits the jackpot by winning Instagram #ZooHoliday photo contest

It’s been eight months since the Rowland family won a one-year Zoo membership, and they can’t stop visiting.

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The Rowland family: Becca, 15; Abby, 14; Elizabeth, 12; Anna, 10; Daniel, 9; Naomi, 6; Leah, 4; Esther, 2; and Lydia, 10 months.

In our first Instagram photo contest last December, we asked guests to tag us with a holiday photo shot at the Zoo. We couldn’t help but choose this family of 11 as the winner after they gathered around our iconic bronze giraffe statue, then creatively added a winter scarf around her neck to make their photo picture-perfect.

The family membership couldn’t have gone to a more appreciative family. Matthew and Jane Rowland homeschool their nine kids, ranging in age from 10 months to 15 years. It’s a special day when they can take their children out to our interactive classroom.

“Several of our children have participated in the Junior Zookeeper program,” Jane Rowland said. “They’ve learned so much about science and taking care of farm animals. It is so awesome that we can make learning fun and an adventure whenever we come to the Zoo.”

A typical day at the Zoo for the Rowland family starts with rides on the carousel, followed by a stop at their favorite exhibit, the Giants of the Savanna.
They like to finish the day by cooling off at the Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo. “The little ones especially love dipping their feet in the pond,” Jane said.

Our #ZooHoliday contest was the first Instagram contest the Rowlands have ever entered. And they’re loyal Dallas Zoo guests, having had a membership for the past 12 years. We appreciate that the Rowlands are active members, and that they help spread the word about the great things we’re doing.

And this spring, we had nearly 250 guests enter our #DallasZooStatues Instagram contest, tagging their favorite photos posing with our bronze animal statues found across the zoo. Congratulations to Teresa Miranda for her winning photo!

Watch our Instagram feed at @dallaszoo for more contests, and you may win something cool, too.

Categories: Children's Zoo (Lacerte Family), Education, Media, Membership, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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