Dallas Zoo hatches the only perentie monitor lizards in the AZA

What hails from Australia, runs as fast as an Olympic sprinter, and is the fourth largest lizard species in the world? The perentie monitor. And who is the only AZA-accredited zoo in North America to successfully hatch them? We are.

Our world-class herpetologists are welcoming three new babies. Weighing about .13 pounds at hatch, these lizards could grow to be 33 pounds and 6.5 feet long.

These little ones are our first perentie monitor hatchlings since 2001, when we became the first AZA facility outside of Australia to reproduce them.

“I am proud of the staff and excited to see hatchlings again,” said Ruston Hartdegen, Dallas Zoo’s curator of herpetology and aquatics. “It’s been a very challenging project and continues to be so. This is the culmination of many years of effort, dedication, and hard work. I look forward to seeing many more hatchlings in the years to come!”

Housing these lizards can be extremely difficult, and you can’t find many outside of Australia. In fact, only two other North American AZA-accredited zoos care for perentie monitors: Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and the Los Angeles Zoo. While housing accommodations are challenging, it’s even more challenging to breed them in human care.

One of our newly hatched perentie monitor lizard babies.

“To successfully hatch this species, it takes a lot of time, attention, and care from reptile staff,” said Hartdegen. “Females also need a ton of space to nest. We actually built two large indoor habitats capable of deep nesting just for them.”

The Dallas Zoo has a lot of experience with monitor lizards, which is one reason we’ve been able to successfully reproduce perenties. Up next: Our herpetologists plan to focus efforts on crocodile monitors, a species that hasn’t been bred in North America in 20 years, mostly because of pairing issues with the animals. Dallas Zoo currently cares for ten crocodile monitors, putting us in a good position for success.

“Zoological expertise has been lost for crocodile monitors,” said Bradley Lawrence, reptile and amphibian supervisor. “We’re hoping to lead the zoo community in that soon, too.”

On your next Zoo visit, stop by the Herpetarium to see one of our crocodile monitors and congratulate our reptile keepers on their new perentie monitor babies. (We don’t have plans to make the hatchlings viewable to the public right now, but promise to let you know if that changes!)

Categories: Reptiles and Amphibians | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment
 
 

Help Zoo Corps teens tackle urban wildlife issues

Dallas Zoo’s youth-led Zoo Corps conservation club guest-blogs on ZooHoo! Our teens worked together to select a conservation issue, develop a solution, and will put it into action on March 31!

Stop by the Zoo Saturday, March 31 to not only experience more than 2,000 animals, but to also help local teens and their wildlife conservation efforts! Right past the entrance, Zoo Corps will have booths set up for guests to participate in animal-themed activities to benefit urban wildlife. It’s a great family-friendly way to learn more about Texas’s environment and native species. Zoo visitors can make bird feeders from recycled materials; pledge to protect snakes; and decorate planters for native seedlings.

Zoo Corps is a teen-led Zoo conservation organization that strives to make a lasting impact on wildlife while engaging the community to take action. Our conservation issue is focused on birds, pollinators and snakes and how people can help these species in their backyards. These species serve a valuable role to humans and the ecosystem. For example, a single purple martin bird can eat 2,000 pesky mosquitoes a day; a scarlet tanager bird can eat 35 harmful gypsy moth larvae in a minute; snakes control rodent populations like nothing else can; and pollinators are vital for 75-perfcent of crops and flowering plants. Because these species help us out so much, it’s time we help them, too.

Songbirds suffer from loss of habitat and food sources because of human expansion and development. Building bird feeders is a simple way we can help provide them with sustenance. We can also make pledges to not use pesticides in our yards, and to leave snakes alone when we come across them. Snakes are a feared and misunderstood group of animals, but in reality, they fear us more than we should fear them. More people are actually killed by lightning in Texas than by venomous snake bites. Lastly, native pollinator populations continue to decline due to habitat degradation and loss. One easy step we can take is planting native plants to provide a safe migration route for monarch butterflies, and other critical pollinators.

These are easy steps to take, so come take them with Zoo Corps on March 31!

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

A Swingin’ Success for Chimp Conservation

Conservation and Community Engangement Intern Alicia Moreau guest-blogs about Chimpanzee Action Awareness Week on Zoohoo! 

As we wrap-up our “Swing Break” Saving Chimps Week, we can’t believe what an extraordinary, record-setting time it was. Our community’s passion for wildlife conservation is truly amazing. We had an awesome week with beautiful weather and a Zoo full of people, hitting a spring break record of 103,000 guests visiting us in nine days!

Volunteers and interns started the month with ambitious plans for chimp conservation. Our goal was to raise $14,000 for the Jane Goodall Institute, collect 3,000 personal pledges for conservation action, and receive 300 recycled mobile phones. We set up booths in the Zoo and at various off-site events to help reach these goals.

A little boy gets up close and personal with chimp Missy.

After spreading awareness about the importance of recycling cell phones and paper products, 223 phones were donated—just shy of our initial target. However, we surpassed our pledge goal by getting 3,980 total personal pledges for pro-environmental behavior that will benefit chimps and other forest-dwelling animals.

Finally, after selling custom-made chimp conservation T-shirts, wristbands, art pieces, and various other items, it gives me great pleasure to announce that we hit our financial goal of $14,000 to care for two orphaned chimps rescued from the bushmeat and illegal wildlife trade! This money ensures that the two chimps will be well-taken care of for at least one year in a Jane Goodall Institute sanctuary in South Africa.

We could not have done it without everyone’s continued support. Thank you to all of our guests, staff, and off-site friends (Deep Ellum Brewing Company, Kendra Scott West Village, Summit Dallas, Starbucks Cedar Hill, and Lilly Pulitzer)! Our collective commitment to conservation shows how much we can accomplish when we all work together for the greater good of our beloved animals.

Categories: Conservation, Volunteers | Tags: , , | Leave a comment
 
 

Saving chimps: Help protect one of our closest relatives

Little Mshindi and female Koko share a moment. (Photo by Jackie Smith)

Conservation and Community Engangement Intern Alicia Moreau guest-blogs about Chimpanzee Action Awareness Week on Zoohoo! 

“When you meet chimps, you meet individual personalities. When a baby chimp looks at you, it’s just like a human baby. We have a responsibility for them.” ~ Jane Goodall

Chimpanzees are more closely related to humans than we may think. We share 98% of our DNA with chimpanzees and quite a few personality traits.

In 1962, virtually nothing was known about chimps in the wild. Jane Goodall changed all that. She dedicated her life to researching and observing chimps by sharing a special bond with them — she says, “One touch started a revolution.” Goodall is the reason we know so much about chimps and the personalities they possess. They share our emotions of pleasure, joy, and sadness.

Chimpanzees are very social animals and thrive in communities of about 15-20 consisting of both genders. However, they tend to feed, travel and sleep in a smaller community consisting of six or fewer. One may say that this is related to humans due to our nature of establishing close knit groups of friends and/or family we surround ourselves with on a regular basis.

Chimps are also related to us in their ability to communicate through complex systems of vocalizations, gestures, body postures and facial expressions. Grooming is an important example of their social nature. They participate in grooming for two main purposes: cleaning and establishing bonds between family and friends. It’s a critical action that helps them maintain friendships and comfort each other after a hard time or disagreement.

Mshindi hangs from a tree branch in the Kimberly-Clark Chimpanzee Forest. (Photo by Jackie Smith)

The use of tools was first observed by Goodall when she witnessed a chimp use the stem of a branch to collect termites for food. After this groundbreaking discovery, more evidence has been found all throughout Africa. Chimpanzees use rocks as hammers; anvils to open nuts; leaves as napkins or sponges; sticks to open beehives for honey and create spears to kill small mammals.

It’s a Chimp’s Life

Chimps are actually great apes and not monkeys. An easy way to distinguish between the two is to look for a tail. Monkeys have tails, while apes (gorillas, orangutans, bonobos, chimpanzees, and humans) do not.

Chimpanzees are omnivores. Their diet consists mostly of fruit and leaves. However, they also tend to eat insects, bark, eggs, nuts and even smaller monkeys or other animals for meat.

Chimps are highly intelligent when it comes to foraging for food. They are capable of remembering where food is located and when a particular fruit is ripe. They will also coordinate their efforts and share the meat amongst the group. It has also been observed that some chimpanzees may consume certain plants for medicinal purposes, like soothing an upset stomach or getting rid of intestinal parasites.

Chimps are Declining

  • Chimpanzees are among the most threatened primates in Africa for many reasons (Goodall 2001).
  • Fifty years ago, one million chimps were living in Africa. Today, it’s estimated that number has decreased to 170,000-300,000 wild chimps.
  • The Ivory Coast revealed that chimp population had decreased 90% in the last 20 years.
  • Chimpanzees are listed as “Endangered” according to the IUCN Red List.
  • 250 individuals are cared for in zoos throughout the United States.
  • Central chimps are the most abundant (80,000 found in Gabon & Congo); Eastern chimps ~ 13,000; Western chimps ~ 12,000

Habitat Destruction, hunting and disease are some of the primary threats to chimpanzees. Ultimately the major risk to chimpanzees and their habitats is human encroachment.

Thanks to Dr. Jane Goodall and her research, The Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) was established to spread the conservation message by raising public awareness, advocating and promoting healthy habitats and sustainable livelihoods. JGI works to protect chimps and other great apes against disease transmission, illegal hunting and poaching, as well as human-wildlife conflict. JGI also uses the triangle approach, which relies on the cooperation between law enforcement, environmental education programs and sanctuaries. (Educate. Protect. Rescue)

Female Ramona grooms male Mookie.

Jane Goodall Institute’s Tchimpounga sanctuary has taken in hundreds of rescued, confiscated chimps since it was founded and provides them with lifetime care. During our Swing Break event, the Dallas Zoo is partnering with The Jane Goodall Institute to raise much-needed funds to feed and care for two rescued chimps.

 How YOU can help

Choosing sustainable forest products, recycle (especially cell phones), help stop the bushmeat trade, and support local farming are all major ways you can help protect chimps and their habitat.

Educating those around you about environmental issues and promoting conservation are simple yet effective actions you can take, too. Goodall strongly believes that it is our responsibility as humans to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.

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 18 to help us create a better world for animals.

We’ve set ambitious goals for chimp conservation and we need your help to reach them:

  1. $14,000 for chimpanzee conservation – food and care for two chimps rescued from the bushmeat and illegal wildlife trade
  2. 3,000 personal pledges for chimp conservation action
  3. 300 recycled mobile phones

Please support our efforts of raising funds for chimpanzees and the Jane Goodall Institute, so we can continue making a positive impact for the lives of great apes!

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

Former Dallas Zoo camper turns passion for marine life into ‘ReefLove’

Mary Katherine Futrell shows what a healthy coral reef looks like (left jar) opposed to coral bleaching (right jar).

We feel like we’ve won Olympic gold when we learn about kids who grew up going to the Dallas Zoo and turned their passion for animals and nature into conservation projects and careers. Bishop Lynch High School sophomore Mary Katherine Futrell is doing just that.

When Mary Katherine was six years old as a camper in Dallas Zoo’s summer camp, she met Mango, an African penguin she still remembers today. Interacting with Mango helped shape what kind of work she wanted to do as she got older. Now, she’s teaching our community to protect marine life.

“All of the animal encounters we got to do during camp were just so crazy awesome,” said Futrell. “We got to see what’s in the wild and what we need to help protect. The staff was so passionate and engaging. We got to do so much hands-on stuff that I was like, ‘Wow, I really want to work with animals when I grow up.’”

When our famous Texas heat rolls in, most people will put on sunscreen before heading out to enjoy the sun. But did you know you could actually help the environment by avoiding sunscreens that contain certain chemicals? We recently invited Mary Katherine out to our affiliated Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park to teach guests about her ReefLove project, something she created for her Girl Scout Gold Award. ReefLove is an initiative that spreads awareness about coral bleaching. One way coral bleaching happens is when sunscreen chemicals wash off of people, land on coral reefs, and kills them.

“It’s a huge problem, but we can actively do something about sunscreen coral bleaching,” said Futrell. “The fact that you can cover yourself up with special sun-protective clothing, or use reef-safe sunscreens and help protect coral reefs is amazing. We can easily make a difference.”

Her website, reeflove.org, shares more about the solutions to coral bleaching, and about how we can protect the reefs at the same time we protect ourselves.

Zoo Education Supervisor Tonya McDaniel said she’s proud of seeing a former Zoo camper grow up and make a platform to help protect species. Tonya believes any camp member can become inspired and help evoke change.

“From our Zoo Corps teens initiating a cell phone recycling program to save gorillas, families recording frog sightings and calls for citizen science projects, to an educational activity like what Mary Katherine developed, the possibilities are endless to inspire change with everyone we interact with in education,” said McDaniel.

To meet Futrell, hear more of her story and learn about ReefLove, come out to our Safari Nights concert series this spring and summer. She’ll be there to present her project and answer your questions. Check out DallasZoo.com for more information about the 2018 Safari Nights concert series coming soon.

 

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

Brought to you by the Dallas Zoo