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Wild Earth Preschool is growing the next generation of wildlife ambassadors

It’s been a WILD ride since August, when class was officially in session at the Wild Earth Preschool! As the only full-time nature-based preschool in South Dallas, this was a big deal for us. These pint-sized zoologists have truly proved how important incorporating nature into our kids’ lives really is.

“We want to grow the next generation of wildlife conservationists,” says Marti Copeland, Dallas Zoo Director of Education. “We want to guide children in early experiences in nature so that they can grow up to love and care.”

It hasn’t even been a full season yet, but just check out all the things we’ve accomplished:

  • Wild Earth Preschool is the only nature-based full-time preschool in South Dallas.
  • We’ve got one fully enrolled class for this year and interest lists forming for every season until 2021!
  • Our flexible schedule meets the needs of parents working both in and out of their homes.
  • Families from all over the Metroplex, from Oak Cliff to East Dallas and Arlington to Argyle, have made us their preschool-of-choice.
  • And we had some SERIOUSLY awesome developmental gains for our students, like:
    • Building an environmental-STEM vocabulary with words such as habitat, predator, compost, protection, shelter, larvae, life cycle, and more. The students are using these words in correct contexts unprompted.
    • Developing an empathetic, responsible, connected classroom family. Students learn self-regulation skills, conflict resolution, and have classroom jobs such as conservationist, gardener, navigator, librarian, and song-selector.
  • Our students are becoming Zoo and wildlife ambassadors, doing things like picking up discarded Zoo maps to recycle and even educating guests about our animals.

We couldn’t be more proud to help raise the next generation of wildlife conservationists though this special nature-themed preschool. Learn more about what we offer, and contact us for an enrollment meeting at: bit.ly/WEPreschool

Categories: Conservation, Education, Uncategorized, Wild Earth Preschool | Leave a comment

Recycle your old string lights at the Dallas Zoo, and help protect wildlife this holiday season

Reduce your impact this holiday season by recycling your old string lights!

Collection bin is located at the Zoo’s front entrance throughout Dallas Zoo Lights and will remain until January 13.

Are you tangled up in holiday lights? Don’t know what to do or where to turn? Fear not! Bring us your old string lights, and we’ll keep them out of landfills by recycling them responsibly. Many string lights are made with copper and other precious metals, which are harvested through mining in places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo where critically endangered gorillas and okapi live. Recycling these metals reduces the need to mine for new materials, which causes animal habitat destruction and other harmful effects to our environment.

There are so many reasons to recycle, but here are a just few ways that recycling benefits the environment and will help us Create a Better World for Animals:

  • Less waste sent to landfills provides more habitat space for wildlife.
  • Reduces the risk of waste making its way into places it shouldn’t, like the ocean, where animals can accidentally ingest it or become tangled.
  • Allows us to reuse materials without having to harvest new ones, including copper and plastics.
  • It takes less energy to recycle materials than to create new ones.

What do we do with these old lights? They go to our trusted metal recycler where they’re broken down and the parts are recycled individually.

 *Only string lights will be accepted for recycling; please do not bring other items like flood lights, extension cords or light hooks.

Categories: Conservation, Dallas Zoo Lights, Green Team, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Beyond exercise: The adventurous animals in the Lacerte Family Children Zoo go exploring

Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo goats explore the tiger viewing area on a recent adventure!

Animal Care Supervisor Lisa Van Slett Guest Blogs on ZooHoo!

For most people, taking your dog for a walk is a common event. It feels natural to say that your dog (and you) need exercise to stay in shape. Beyond good exercise, these walks are also a way for you to bond with your four-legged best friend.

But what about other animals? While we are limited by species at the Dallas Zoo (I would not recommend walking your giraffe around Oak Cliff), the Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo has room to roam. On any given day you may find the keepers walking goats, sheep, pigs, chickens or our longhorn!

Upon first glance walking these animals may seem straight forward, but there is more to it than meets the eye. Our keepers start training the animals with the basics, like getting comfortable with wearing a harness, halter, or collar. Just like people, individual animals have different levels of confidence. Sometimes we get lucky, and a goat is comfortable wearing a collar right away! Other times we have to build up to it, which is when the relationship between animal and keeper is vital. We use positive reinforcement to build those strong relationships and earn the animals’ trust. Once they are dressed and ready to go, we can start exploring the Zoo!

Penny and Oliver say hello to the Komodo dragon in the Herpetarium.

Another less obvious benefit of walking our animals around different parts of the zoo is how enriching it is for everyone involved. The animals get to see and explore something new, and it’s also fun for guests at the Zoo! Although you can go into our contact yard with the animals, there is something very special about bumping into them somewhere unexpected. The keepers get just as excited and request that we call them to tell them when the goats are coming for a visit! We also love seeing the reactions of the other species. The penguins and otters are always curious. Killa, the harpy eagle likes to watch the goats, and the Komodo dragon comes to the glass to see the pigs up close.

Keepers have a lot of factors to consider when deciding which animals to take out and what destination to pick. For instance, our goat herd contains 11 goats! As fun as that would be to walk the whole herd, we mix and match within the group, and only take out two or three at a time. Our Kune Kune pigs, Penny and Oliver, are always a big hit too. They are both halter training and can usually be seen walking within the Children’s Zoo, but occasionally you might find them out in ZooNorth. They have even made appearances in the Herpetarium! The sheep are our most adventurous animals. They have gone through the tunnel to the Wilds of Africa to visit the lions, cheetahs, mandrills, and penguins.  Everyone comes out to take a look!  Bahati the lion took a seat at the window, sitting as close as she could to the sheep. Mshindi the chimp likes to look at the chickens and watch as they walk around.

There are endless possibilities for adventure and exploring with our contact animals.  If you would like to see our animals in action, there are several options. You can come for a visit on Monday, Thursday or Saturday around 10-11 am (weather dependent) when we have our scheduled goat walks.  You may also see the sheep greeting guests as they come into the Zoo during our monthly Dallas Zoo Member Mornings. However, on the nicer days you never know what (or who) you may see around the Zoo during your visit!

Categories: Children's Zoo (Lacerte Family), Uncategorized, Zookeepers | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

African elephants Nolwazi & Amahle settling into new home at Fresno Chaffee Zoo

Mother/daughter pair Nolwazi and Amahle moved to their new home at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo in California this week.

A small task force from our animal care team has been hard at work for months preparing to relocate elephants from our herd to a new home. Those months of thoughtful preparation, diligent training, and a 32-hour trip are now over, and we’re happy to report that Nolwazi and Amahle have safely arrived at Fresno Chaffee Zoo in California.

The pair are getting acclimated to the zoo’s expansive, naturalistic mixed-species African Adventure habitat after arriving in Fresno on Tuesday evening, October 16.

The unique situation in Fresno presented an exciting opportunity to move Nolwazi (approx. 24 years old) and her daughter Amahle (approx. 9 years old) to an AZA-accredited zoo that shares our same philosophy of animal welfare and approach to animal care. The Fresno elephant team cares for one bull and one young female, and we hope the move will allow Nolwazi to assume a matriarchal position, leading a herd of her own – a role for which we believe she is well-suited. This also gives Amahle a similar-aged female with whom to socialize and play.

“We have been looking to grow our African elephant herd,” said Amos Morris, Deputy Director/Chief Operating Officer at Fresno Chaffee Zoo. “Having Nolwazi and Amahle join us accomplishes that, and will hopefully create a successful family group that may lead to breeding in the future.”

Fresno Chaffee Zoo’s herd now consists of four elephants, and Dallas Zoo remains home to an eight-elephant herd, including our four “Golden Girls,” and four elephants that were a part of the Swaziland rescue in 2016.

Planning for a massive move

Animal moves are complex, meticulously planned endeavors – particularly when they involve animals as intelligent and social as elephants. This move has been months in the making, and our team has worked closely with staff from Fresno to ensure a successful move and safe introduction to the new home for the elephant pair. Members of Fresno’s elephant team have visited Dallas multiple times over the last few months to work with our staff and to familiarize themselves with Nolwazi and Amahle’s routines and personalities.

During their visits, Fresno’s team observed both elephants were curious about them but did not appear nervous, and the team was able to start working with and have positive experiences with both Nolwazi and Amahle almost immediately. They also noted how critical it was to begin forming relationships with both elephants ahead of the move, which should help ease the transition now that they have arrived at their new home in California.

Dallas Zoo’s elephant team created and followed a comprehensive training plan in the months leading up to the move to ensure Nolwazi and Amahle would be as comfortable as possible with the transport crates that would house them during their trip to Fresno. Both crates were equipped with video cameras so the travel team could monitor the pair throughout the journey.

Four Dallas Zoo team members, along with a curator from Fresno Chaffee Zoo, two veterinarians, and two expert consultants, traveled with Nolwazi and Amahle during the drive from Dallas to Fresno, providing updates every few hours on progress and ensuring the animals’ comfort throughout the trip. By all reports, the trip went off without a hitch.

Dallas Zoo staff members will remain in Fresno for several days to work with the team and the elephants to help ensure a successful transition to their new home, where we are excited to see them continue to thrive!

A quick history lesson

Nolwazi and Amahle came to Dallas in March 2016, along with bull Tendaji, and females Mlilo and Zola, as part of a multi-zoo rescue project to save elephants from being culled (killed) in drought-stricken Swaziland, Africa. When these elephants arrived, they were underweight and in need of TLC, so our dedicated animal team immediately began administering round-the-clock care. Becoming comfortable with their new home and feasting on a well-maintained diet, the entire Swazi herd soon began to gain weight and bond with keepers.

Just two months later, our Swazi herd of five grew to six with the unexpected arrival of adorable baby Ajabu to mom Mlilo. Over the course of almost a year, Dallas Zoo’s elephant team carefully orchestrated introductions of the Swazi elephants to our “Golden Girls” – Jenny, Gypsy, Congo, and Kamba.

We’ve loved watching Nolwazi and Amahle’s personalities develop and grow over these last two years within our dynamic herd. While we’re sad that Nolwazi and Amahle have left our herd, we know the opportunity for them to be a part of a growing family herd at Fresno Chaffee Zoo will allow them to flourish. That’s what we want for every animal in our care – and that’s why we do what we do every day.

We know you’ll join us as we wish Nolwazi and Amahle well in their new home in Fresno!

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Dallas Zoo continues to score conservation victories in the Herpetarium

The Herpetarium is buzzing with the news of several recent hatchings! You may have seen a few of these cold-blooded babies in the nursery, but our reptile team also cares for dozens of other animals behind the scenes.

Anytime we pair animals together to encourage breeding, it’s all done based on recommendations from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP). This means the animals are facing serious threats in the wild – so we hope to breed them to help support population numbers and promote genetic diversity.

“Our reptile team is very excited to be working with these highly threatened animals,” said Ruston Hartdegen, Dallas Zoo’s Curator of Herpetology & Aquatics. “We are proud of the fact that we’re making a significant contribution to the survival of these species.”

Check out all of our recent hatchlings! Which do you hope to see on your next visit?

Leaf-tailed geckos
We care for three different species of leaf-tailed geckos: satanic leaf-tailed geckos, giant leaf-tailed geckos, and mossy leaf-tailed geckos. These unique lizards are found only in Madagascar and face a constant threat of extinction due to habitat destruction. We’re one of the only AZA-accredited zoos to have such success in breeding these lizards.

Burmese brown tortoise hatchlings

Burmese brown tortoise
Sadly, pressures like the illegal pet trade and loss of habitat threaten most reptile species in Southeast Asia. The Burmese brown tortoise is the largest tortoise in mainland Asia – they can grow up to 100 pounds in human care. We welcomed our first hatchlings last year, so we’re thrilled with this continued success!

Forsten’s tortoise hatchling

Forsten’s tortoise
Found only on the single island of Sulawesi in Indonesia, the Forsten’s tortoise is commonly hunted both for the meat and pet trade industries, which has left this species in desperate need of help. We’re one of only a handful of AZA-accredited institutions to hatch this species.

Grand Cayman rock iguana hatchling

Grand Cayman rock iguanas
Also called “blue iguanas” because they can turn blue while basking in the sun, Grand Cayman rock iguanas are the most endangered species of iguana in the world. In 2003, a survey indicated there were just 5-15 individual iguanas left in the wild. Populations have since increased due to an aggressive recovery program, and there are now approximately 750 in the wild. So we are proud to have added five to the overall population.

Green tree skink hatchling

Green tree skinks
Although this species is not considered threatened in the wild, much of their natural habitat has been lost to deforestation. We’ve had a lot of success with breeding green tree skinks, which is great for promoting the genetic diversity in populations under human care.

Samar cobra hatchling

Samar “spitting” cobras
We are the only AZA-accredited U.S. facility to handle and reproduce Samar cobras. Although they’re not able to spit their highly potent venom immediately after birth, they do hatch with miniature “hoods” at the ready. Click HERE to watch one of our clutches from 2015 hatch in real time!

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