Reptile Supervisor Bradley Lawrence guest-blogs on ZooHoo!
Unless you’ve been living under a rock (like our state reptile was during the winter months), you know how much we love Texas horned lizards here at the Dallas Zoo. Last weekend we began our 10th year of studying “horny toads” at the Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch in Fisher Co, Texas.
The population in this area of Texas is very healthy, and we
have been monitoring them for 9 years now. We are gathering as much data as we
can to help us learn what makes a habitat like this so good for horned lizards.
We hope to use what we learn to help conserve these fabulous reptiles both in
the wild and in our care here at the Dallas Zoo.
Over the next several months, we’ll be providing up-to-date notes from the field to give y’all a first-hand look at what we do. I hope that you will learn more about the Texas horned lizard as well as how they fit into the bigger ecological picture here in Texas.
The RPQRR is a 4700-acre ranch about 4 hours west of Dallas.
Along with horned lizards, we get to experience a rare glimpse of wild Texas
that is more and more difficult to find these days.
We start our lizard season in late April or early May, giving them a chance to wake up from their roughly 5 month hibernation. Once they’re awake they start looking for much needed food and also start to think about finding a mate.
We had a very productive first outing. We saw several very healthy looking horned lizards, even though we fought Mother Nature a bit. Spring weather in the rolling plains of Texas can be unpredictable and a little scary.
Stay tuned! We’ll give you more in a couple of weeks.
Conservation Interpreter Grayson P. guest-blogs on ZooHoo!
With a family tree that
began 300 million years ago, turtles have been around since the time of the dinosaurs.
There are 356 species of turtles, and they play an essential role in maintaining
our environment. Freshwater turtles keep our lakes and rivers healthy by
controlling aquatic vegetation; tortoises shape habitats for animals and plants
by grazing; and sea turtles’ infertile eggs fertilize coastal dunes. However,
while turtles have survived multiple mass extinctions, they are facing threats
like never before, and as many as one-third of turtles could be extinct in the
next twenty years. The Dallas Zoo is determined to change that.
This April, we are highlighting endangered turtles and how we can protect them through everyday actions as part of our Protecting the 12 conservation plan, and we hope you’ll join us. The Dallas Zoo has a long history of protecting turtles. We take a two-pronged approach: protecting endangered turtles in the wild and breeding them in human care. We provide funding to many turtle conservation organizations, including the Turtle Survival Center in South Carolina, home to breeding populations of thirty turtle species at the brink of extinction. And in turtle biodiversity hotspots such as Madagascar, Myanmar, and India, we facilitate boots-on-the-ground field research and conservation to protect these reptiles.
With our conservation partner, the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA), the Dallas Zoo is ensuring no species of turtle becomes extinct in the 21st century. One of the most significant threats facing turtles is the illegal wildlife trade. In April 2018, over 10,000 endangered radiated tortoises were found in a poacher’s house in Toliara, Madagascar without access to food or water. It is believed the animals were collected for the illegal pet trade. The TSA led an unprecedented rescue mission to get these animals safe and healthy. Along with other AZA-accredited institutions, the Dallas Zoo sent emergency funds, supplies, and reptile specialists to Madagascar. Our team spent weeks soaking the surviving turtles to give them water and keep them alive. Because of this collaboration, the majority of the turtles lived and were able to be returned to the wild.
addition to the illegal pet trade, one of the biggest threats to turtles is
plastic pollution. Every day, 8 million pieces of plastic flow through rivers,
creeks, and other waterways, and end up into the ocean, threatening sea turtles
who mistake it for jellyfish. As part of our movement to protect turtles, we
are asking Zoo guests to make a pledge to pick up ten pieces of plastic pollution
every Tuesday to keep the land and waters that turtles call home clean and
safe. We hope this pledge is just a starting point and inspires our guests to
reduce the amount of single-use plastic they use in order to protect turtles
and other species.
When you think of conservationists, you might picture biologists in the field. Here at the Dallas Zoo, we see our guests as conservation heroes because protecting our planet and the animals that call it home is a collaborative effort and everyone’s responsibility.
picking up plastic pollution, making sure our reptile pets are from reputable
breeders, and supporting the Turtle Survival Alliance, we can help protect
turtles from extinction. We can’t do it alone and will need everyone’s help to
save these magnificent animals which are essential to the wellbeing of our environment.
Visit our turtle conservation station at the Galapagos tortoise habitat in
ZooNorth through the end of the month to learn more about how you can help, and
join us in creating a better world for turtles.
Senior Zoologist Dana I. and Assistant Bird Supervisor Nathan C. guest blog on ZooHoo!
We arrived in Kimberley, South Africa on Tuesday, March 12, after a long journey from Dallas. We were greeted by our fellow AZA colleague, who’s been taking care of the flamingo chicks for the last few weeks. We were immediately taken to the Kimberley SPCA, where the chicks are being cared for, to jump in and quickly learn the ropes. The SPCA has the youngest of the 1,800 chicks rescued from the Kamfers Dam. All of the chicks are doing well!
first group of older chicks were brought in from the initial rescue. This group
is already feeding themselves and, because of the specially formulated food
they’ve been eating, they are starting to turn a bright pink/red a little bit
earlier than normal. We are continuing to weigh these chicks every few days to
make sure that they are continuing to gain weight and are staying healthy.
second set of chicks came from a later trip to the Kamfers Dam. After the
initial rescue, dogs disturbed the flamingo colony remaining at the dam and
caused more flamingos to abandon their nests. Volunteers went in and collected
the abandoned eggs, and now there is a group of 18 chicks. These chicks are
still being hand-fed three times a day at 8 a.m., 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. Every
morning the chicks are weighed so we can determine how much food to feed them
for the day. We also make sure the little chicks get plenty of time outside for
some all-important sunshine and exercise.
On Thursday we got a chance to go out to Kamfers Dam and see the flamingos that are still there. There is still a large colony of adults raising an estimated 5,000 chicks. They are being monitored but continue to do well.
Baby gorilla playdates will be endless this year at the Dallas Zoo! We are welcoming our second baby gorilla born in 21 years – and the second born in just the last year.
Our 13-year-old critically endangered western lowland gorilla Megan quietly delivered the infant in the early morning on Thursday, March 7. This is Megan’s first time raising a baby and both are doing well; Megan has been very attentive, and the baby is nursing often and is keeping a strong grip on mom.
This birth brings another new wave of excitement for the Dallas Zoo – this is the first time we’ve cared for two baby gorillas at the same time in almost 50 years. Nearly nine-month-old gorilla Saambili (born June 25, 2018 to mom Hope) now has a half-sibling playmate, and she’s already shown much interest in the newest addition.
“Gorilla conservation is a
huge part of Dallas Zoo’s mission – we’ve been unwavering in our commitment to
save them in the wild, and now we’re contributing more than ever to their
protection in human care,” said Gregg Husdon, Dallas Zoo’s President and
CEO. “We’ve gone from not having an infant
gorilla for two decades, to now having two babies back-to-back, and it truly
shows the dedication and perseverance of our world-class animal experts.”
Mom Megan was paired with silverback Subira (also the father to Saambili) on an Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan breeding recommendation in hopes of increasing the western lowland gorilla population in North America. Subira has proven to be an excellent father to Saambili, and he’s recently been observed giving her special attention and playtime during this quiet period for the troop.
the most ideal social situation for our troop – both of our babies will be able
to learn, grow, and play together,” said Linda King, Dallas Zoo’s Primate Supervisor.
“This is also a big moment for mom Megan who has been extremely interested in
Saambili since day one. She now has the wonderful opportunity to raise a baby
of her own.”
The Dallas Zoo cares for ten gorillas, including the bachelor troop who live on the south side of the Gorilla Trail, and the family troop who live on the north side. All six family troop members have remained behind the scenes so Megan and her baby can bond privately. Zoologists will take their cues from Megan on her comfort level and readiness to explore the habitat. A moniker and the baby’s gender reveal will come within the coming weeks.
to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, there are approximately 350,000
western lowland gorillas left in Africa. The population decline is contributed
to habitat destruction, poaching for bush meat, animal trafficking, and disease.
to the Congo Basin, western lowland gorillas are the smallest of the subspecies
and the least critically endangered. There are roughly 3,800 Grauer’s gorillas,
880 mountain gorillas, and 300 Cross River gorillas remaining in the wild.
Conservation and Management Intern Alisia Boyd guest-blogs on Zoohoo!
“They say an elephant never forgets. What they don’t tell you is, you never forget an elephant.“
In the early 1900s, an estimated 3-5 million elephants
thrived across a vast range in Africa. Today, there are only about 415,000
African elephants remaining in the wild, and their range has been reduced by
nearly half. They have suffered from massive amounts of poaching for their highly
prized ivory tusks. The demand for ivory was so steep that in 1989, an
international trading ban was put into place. However, illegal poaching
persists and results in the deaths of approximately 96 elephants every single
If current trends continue, it is entirely possible that they will be extinct in our lifetime, which is why we are on a mission to support elephants in the wild. This week, the Dallas Zoo has set a goal to raise $10,000 through grassroots fundraising to support conservation efforts in the wild. Read on to learn more about these amazing animals and what you can do at the Dallas Zoo to help!
Dallas Zoo’s herd
The Dallas Zoo’s award-winning Giants of the Savanna habitat is home to 8 magnificent African elephants. The “Golden Girls:” Jenny (42), Gypsy (37), Congo (41), Kamba (39) and the Swazis: Tendaji (approx. 15), Mlilo (approx. 15), Zola (approx. 15) and baby Ajabu (2).
The design of the Giants of the Savanna habitat was based
on field research and allows our elephants to be more active as they look for
food, water, and companionship, just as they would in the wild. Treats are
occasionally hidden in trees or in niches around the habitat, and elephants
exercise their trunk muscles to find those treats or to reach high-hanging hay
nets. They travel over small hills, into waterholes, and along an off-exhibit
pathway for additional workouts.
The Dallas Zoo elephants also have the luxury of their behind-the-scenes barn. The innovative barn is optimized for climate control – with radiant floor heating and padding in the winter months and movable walls that provide cross-ventilation in the summer heat. This barn also has a community room with 7-foot-deep sand floors used to bury food and toys, since the elephants are accomplished diggers.
An elephant’s life
are well-known for their intelligence, close family ties and social complexity,
and their capacity to remember other individuals and places for years. Elephants
have strong, individual personalities that affect how they interact with other
elephants and how others perceive them.
example of this at the Dallas Zoo can be seen among the Golden Girls. Jenny,
our oldest resident, is vocal and playful. Gypsy is mischievous, eager, and
loves attention. Congo is inquisitive and enjoys exploring. Lastly, Kamba is
friendly and cautious and enjoys being around the other elephants.
The position of head
of the family is held by a female known as the “matriarch.” Matriarchs express
their dominance in both competitive and cooperative situations. The most
successful leaders seem to be confident individuals who are able to command the
respect of others through both their wisdom and their charisma.
An elephant herd
consists of one or more (usually related) adult females and their immature
offspring who feed, rest, move, and interact in a coordinated manner and are
closely bonded. Members of a family show extraordinary teamwork and are highly
cooperative in group defense, resource acquisition, offspring care, and
Since January 2019, a group of dedicated conservation
interns has been learning all about African elephants – through interviews with
keepers, behind-the-scenes tours, and tons of research. It all culminates in
this special Conservation Week (March 9-16), when we will be engaging Dallas
Zoo guests to promote awareness about elephants and inspire conservation
This is an exciting time for us, as we get to show our months of hard work and dedication to the conservation of elephants. We have also worked countless hours ensuring that we are getting different departments of the zoo engaged and excited for the upcoming week of fun, information, and memorable experiences.
How YOU can help
way you can help elephants is to NEVER
purchase ivory or anything made from parts of elephants. Also share this
information with others around you so that you can help spread awareness and
begin the cycle of change.
A group of Dallas Zoo interns, including myself, have
organized a jammed-packed week full of fun events and conservation engagement.
We hope you join us at the Dallas Zoo during Swing Break through
March 17 to help us create a better world for animals.
We’ve set ambitious goals for Elephant
conservation, and we need your help to reach them:
$10,000 for elephant conservation – Help
us reach this goal by purchasing elephant swag from us at our Campaign Station
in the Zoo, or by attending any of the events during Swing Break.
2,500 personal pledges – Stop by
our Saving Elephants Campaign Station to take a pledge for pro-wildlife
behaviors that benefit elephants.
Please support our efforts of raising funds for elephants
so we can continue making a positive impact for the lives of the most majestic
There’s so much going on at the Dallas Zoo, we had to start a blog to tell you about it all. Have an idea for a story or a question for us? Email Info@DallasZoo.com and put “ZooHoo!” in the subject line.