Dallas Zoo closes its Australia section ahead of TxDOT’s Southern Gateway project

We’re saying farewell to our Australian animals ahead of TxDot’s Southern Gateway I-35/US 67 project that will improve 11 miles of highway, including part of I-35 adjacent to the Dallas Zoo. The three Australian habitats, located within ZooNorth’s Koala Walkabout, are in the closest proximity to the construction project.

As you know, the comfort and welfare of our residents comes first, and we’ve found new AZA-accredited homes to ensure the interstate improvements cause no disruption to the animals. 

The closure includes the koala habitat, Lorikeet Landing, and the kangaroo, wallaby, emu and kookaburra habitats. The last day you can visit these animals will be Monday, Sept. 4. And we hope you’ll join us this Saturday and Sunday (Sept. 2-3) as we host “Farewell Australia Weekend.”

Here on loan from San Diego Zoo since March 2012, koalas Tekin and Gummy will head back to their Southern California home. Our male and female Western gray kangaroos will also be moving to San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park.

Staying in Texas, our flock of lorikeets are moving to the San Antonio Zoo, and two wallabies will call the Ellen Trout Zoo in Lufkin home. Our brother-sister kookaburra pair will move to the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo.

“The safety and well-being of our animals is always our top priority,” said Gregg Hudson, Dallas Zoo president and CEO.  “We’ve been working with TxDot on the highway improvement plans for a while now, and appreciate TxDot addressing some of our concerns. As part of the construction, TxDot will install a high sound barrier that will reduce noise, dust in other parts of ZooNorth, and will benefit our guests and animals in the area.

“Thankfully we had plenty of time to find great homes for these animals. We know the public will miss them as much as we will.”

“Farewell Australia Weekend” activities from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Sept. 2-3 include:

–          Special keeper chats at 10 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. at Koala Walkabout

–          Sign a card to wish koalas Tekin and Gummy farewell

–          Participate in a “Can you jump as far as a macropod?” activity

–          Enjoy a coloring activity featuring the Australian animals

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Dallas Zoo welcomes first-ever rare Somali wild ass babies

 

For the first time in Dallas Zoo’s 129-year history, we’re proudly welcoming two extremely rare Somali wild ass foals. Born 10 days apart, the little girls and their moms are doing great and bonding beautifully behind-the-scenes.

The first foal named Kalila, meaning “dearly loved” in Arabic, was born July 9 to 13-year-old mom Liberty. This is dad Abai and Liberty’s third foal together – the pair previously welcomed two babies at their former home, the St. Louis Zoo.

One-week-old Naima explores her behind-the-scenes habitat.

The second foal named Naima, meaning “calm” in Arabic, was born July 19 to dad Abai, and first-time mom Hani, who turns five years old next month. And just like her older half-sister, Naima was standing, walking and nursing within minutes.

“This is a big moment for our hoofstock team. Somali wild asses are critically endangered with less than 600 left in the wild,” mammal curator John Fried said. “Only nine institutions in the U.S. care for this rare species, and to be able to welcome two babies is truly one of the highlights of my career.”

Native to the arid regions of the Horn of Africa – Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea – there are many reasons the Somali wild asses’ numbers have dropped drastically in the wild. Locals hunt this species for food and traditional medicine – some believe their fat treats tuberculosis. Somali wild asses also directly compete with livestock for limited land and water sources. Plus, wild asses are crossbreeding with domestic asses, hurting the genetics of this species.

With unique zebra-striped legs, a soft gray upper body, a white belly, and a spikey black-and-gray mane, Somali wild asses are the smallest of the wild equids (horses, asses, and zebras). Standing about four feet at the shoulder and weighing roughly 600 pounds, these animals also have the smallest hooves of any equid, which help them navigate rocky slopes.

The Dallas Zoo is working with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Somali Wild Ass Species Survival Plan (SSP) to increase their numbers in human care and keep the North American gene pool genetically sound. In 2005, father Abai arrived from the Basel Zoo in Switzerland to bring a new bloodline to the U.S. Since then, he’s sired multiple foals.

Kalila nurses behind-the-scenes from mom Liberty.

“These little girls have brought so much excitement to our hoofstock barn,” mammal supervisor Christine Rickel said. “Although they were born 10 days apart, they look vastly different. We joke that Liberty has super milk because Kalila’s already a big girl. She was born weighing 65 pounds – 14 pounds heavier than Naima.”

Liberty, Hani and their foals were introduced to each other last week behind-the-scenes, but the protective mothers are hesitant to allow the little ones to play together, who just want to run in circles to their hearts’ content.

The babies will soon venture into the arid habitat off the Wilds of Africa Adventure Safari monorail. And, in time, they’ll meet the gemsbok, addax and ostriches, with whom they’ll eventually share the habitat.

Stay tuned for more updates as these precious girls continue to grow.

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An inside look into hatching Caribbean flamingo chicks

Hatched just before Dollar Day in 2011, chick Buster was our first Caribbean flamingo baby in more than two years.

Bird keeper Marnie Bacon guest-blogs on Zoohoo! 

Dallas Zoo’s summer Dollar Day in 2011 was a hot and crowded one — and one our bird department will never forget. Spotted in the ZooNorth flamingo pond was a hours-old Caribbean flamingo chick. The little one hatched that day, making it the second Caribbean flamingo chick to hatch at the Dallas Zoo in more than 20 years. We named the first chick Buster, and our Dollar Day girl Georgia (after George Washington on the dollar bill, of course). We were so proud to have hatched these chicks, and today, they’ve come a long way.

Today, Buster is fostering his own chick.

This year’s Caribbean flamingo breeding season started the same as previous years — with a lot of hard work by the keepers to get the birds’ nesting area ready. Our close observations of the flamingo flock’s behavior year after year resulted in the knowledge of the ideal conditions needed for a successful season: building a moat, tilling the soil, and keeping the area desirable for flamingos to nest build.

This year, the birds built 30 nests and laid more than 20 eggs. To safeguard the eggs, we carefully collected all of them to be artificially incubated and provided the adults “dummy” or artificial eggs to incubate.

With colonial nesters, like flamingos, we have the opportunity to allow pairs that may otherwise lay infertile eggs, the chance to foster rear chicks. This year with our flamingo flock, there were four fertile eggs produced, two of which came from the same biological pair. Flamingos will only rear one chick at a time, so one pair that laid infertile

eggs was selected and provided the opportunity to raise a chick. But there are more than 60 flamingos in our habitat — so how do we choose?

Dallas Zoo’s successful breeding season has brought four new chicks to the Caribbean flamingo pond!

There are various factors that go into the decision process. Whether or not the pair is incubating a dummy egg, the timeframe in which the egg is hatching, and the behavior of the adults are all the main factors. It always makes us a bit nervous providing the opportunity to new parents, as we don’t know how they will do — but careful monitoring and proper surveillance by keepers ensures that the process goes smoothly!

This year, after weeks of relentlessly defending their nest mound, Georgia and her mate welcomed a very special chick who, coincidentally, hatched on Dollar Day. Buster and his mate were also carefully selected as a foster pair and are also now the proud foster parents to a chick that hatched on July 6.

Six years after that fateful Dollar Day, things have come full circle and these two birds now have chicks of their own! Come out to the Dallas Zoo and see these babies, and our two other chicks, grow up in the Zoo North flamingo pond.

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Dallas Zoo sets attendance mark early with 1 million visitors

 

For the third straight year, the Dallas Zoo has welcomed 1 million visitors. Thursday’s Dollar Day crowds pushed attendance over the 1 million mark, making this the earliest point we’ve reached the exclusive milestone.

“Once again, more than a million people have turned out to support our mission of engaging people and saving wildlife,” said Gregg Hudson, Dallas Zoo president and CEO. “Our community knows how hard we’ve worked to make the Dallas Zoo one of the nation’s best zoological parks, so it’s appropriate that we broke the million mark this year on a day when we look to give back to that community.”

We welcomed our millionth visitor early Thursday morning with the first wave of Dollar Day guests. More than 19,000 people braved the Texas heat yesterday to enjoy our annual summer tradition of $1 admission.

This is the third time Texas’s oldest and largest zoo has welcomed 1 million visitors in a fiscal year (ending Sept. 30). We hit the previous million milestone on Aug. 27, 2016. Of the more than 230 facilities accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), the Dallas Zoo joins only 38 other zoos to reach more than a million visitors annually.

We credit the increase to several key factors:

  • The April opening of Simmons Hippo Outpost, our new $14 million, 2.1-acre exhibit which is an immersive African waterhole habitat featuring two hippos and okapi. It includes a 24-foot by 8-foot viewing window that brings guests eye-to-nostril with the Nile hippos as they explore their 120,000-gallon waterhole.
  • The April opening of the National Geographic Photo Ark Here through Oct. 1, the outdoor exhibition showcases more than 80 stunning images from world-renowned photographer Joel Sartore, featuring some of the most endangered animals on earth.
  • The zoo’s much-celebrated baby boom, including the arrival of Bahati in March, the first lion cub born at the zoo in 43 years; beloved elephant Ajabu turned 1 in May; and the May birth of giraffe calf Tsavo, born to world-famous mother Katie.
  • Earning our sixth consecutive Certificate of Excellence award as one of the world’s best businesses by TripAdvisor, the largest travel reviewing and planning web site, and maintaining a four-star rating on Yelp.
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Tips for making the most of Dollar Day!

Our annual summer Dollar Day is always one of the most exciting days at the Dallas Zoo. But most importantly, it’s our way of giving back and saying “thank you” to this amazing community that supports us year-round. Dollar Day draws big crowds, so we wanted to share the few tips to help you get the most out of your visit to the Zoo!

  • GET HERE EARLY. Parking lots open at 7 a.m. and gates at 9 a.m., but lines will begin forming at the entrances well before that.
  • TAKE THE DART RED LINE RIGHT TO OUR DOOR. Parking is limited, and with the attendance we expect on Dollar Day, public transportation is so convenient.
  • COME WITH A PLAN. Take a look at a map of the Zoo before you come and figure out your plan for the day. Consider which half of the Zoo you want to visit first: Wilds of Africa (hippos, giraffes, elephants, lions, Gorilla Trail) or ZooNorth (Children’s Zoo, reptiles, tiger, monkeys, Australia animals, etc.).
  • PREPARE FOR THE WEATHER. The forecast calls for sun, with temps near 100 degrees. Don’t forget to slather on the sunscreen and stay hydrated throughout the day!
  • CHECK THE DAY’S SCHEDULE OF EVENTS LOCATED NEAR EACH ENTRANCE. These schedules for the day will help you plan your adventure and ensure you don’t miss out on a keeper chat about your favorite animal!
  • ALSO – BABIES! This is a great chance to see our lion cub Bahati or giraffe calf Tsavo, plus all the chicks that have hatched this year, including our penguin and flamingo babies!
  • PACK YOUR PATIENCE. The Zoo is going to be crowded. It’s just a fact. Be patient if you encounter lines and be nice to your fellow visitors.
  • SPEAK UP IF YOU NEED HELP. If you have a question, problem, or just need directions, please find a uniformed staffer and ask for help. We’re here to make sure you have the best experience!

Don’t forget, we’ll have $1 snacks available for purchase, including hot dogs, chips and drinks. Sponsored by Oncor, MetroPCS, and Children’s Health, Dollar Day is going to be a busy Thursday full of excitement, and we can’t wait to see you!

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