Posts Tagged With: Africa

Saving African penguins with a new home

 

Two penguins standing in front of one of the artificial nests.

“Penguins have been decimated by what people have done to them,” said Kevin Graham, bird supervisor at the Dallas Zoo. “We’ve done everything we can to wipe African penguins off the planet. We’ve stolen their eggs by the hundreds of thousands, we’ve polluted their environment, we’ve taken all their fish, we’ve taken their nest area, we’ve introduced predators and we’ve introduced disease. It’s about time we do something to help them.”

Kevin on Dyer Island installing the nests.

African penguins burrow and nest in guano, a term for their poop. About 110 years ago, there were over a million guano nests for African black-footed penguins. But South African natives started stealing the guano to use as fertilizer. Right now, there are only about 27 natural guano nests left. This has left the critically endangered African penguin population in serious trouble.

For the past three years, Kevin has been trying to resolve that problem. In addition to working with birds at the Zoo, he is also the artificial nest development project coordinator for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). He studies, builds and installs artificial guano nests for African penguins to lay eggs in. And after three years of research and testing, he was finally able to install nests in South Africa along with the help of our incredible partners, Dyer Island Conservation Trust and Pan-African Association of Zoos and Aquaria (PAAZA).

Over the course of two weeks this past February, Kevin and our Association of Zoos and Aquariums partners built and installed 200 nests in two South African penguin colonies. (Thanks to our Invest in the Nest Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign that helped AZA-accredited zoos raise the funds for this project!) And great news — the penguins seemed to settle into their new homes very quickly. At the end of February, 40 percent of the nests in one colony already had eggs in them, and 25 percent of the nests in the other colony had eggs! Kevin gets updates frequently on more and more eggs being laid.

African penguins will no longer have to incubate their nests in the open sun, and their eggs will be more protected from predators.

Over the next few months, Kevin and his team will be collecting environmental data from the nests. Once they’ve analyzed the data to ensure the nests are in tiptop shape for the penguins, they will start building 3,000 more nests to install. Long-term, he hopes to have 6-7,000 installed nests in total.

“If everything goes well and these nests continue to work, then we can keep giving them homes,” said Graham. “Each one we build is in an environmentally friendly deposit. We can’t solve the population decline with just the nests. Over-fishing, climate change, marine pollution, introduced pests, human incursion, habitat degradation—all of that has to be addressed. But at least if nothing else, we can give them a place to raise kids.”

Categories: Africa, Penguins | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Dallas Zoo partners with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund to foster change in Rwanda

Every morning, more than 100 trackers set out from the Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda to protect nearly half of the nation’s mountain gorilla population. The trackers monitor the gorillas round-the-clock, serving as the first line of defense against poachers. Each individual tracker is assigned a gorilla group; it is their job to locate group members and record data used to study the species. This continued daily commitment is what it takes to ensure the survival of critically endangered mountain gorillas.

Dallas Zoo based Fossey Fund board members at headquarters in Rwanda with Tara Stoinski

The Dallas Zoo and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International are in this battle together, pledging resources, time, and efforts toward gorilla conservation. Established in 1978, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund has dedicated nearly 50 years to protecting mountain gorilla populations. As a result, mountain gorillas are the only species of ape whose numbers are slowly increasing; how ever, with less than 900 individuals remaining, this species is still critically endangered. And at the Dallas Zoo, we’re honored to support the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund as one of our conservation partners.

In January, Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund President and CEO/Chief Science Officer Tara Stoinski spoke during a Dallas Zoo Wild Earth Conservation Lecture held at the Angelika Film Center here in Dallas. In addition, she gave an inspiring talk for Dallas Zoo keepers and staff about the Fund’s latest developments and updates on the animals they protect. But the story doesn’t stop there.

Gregg Hudson, president and CEO of the Dallas Zoo, currently is the immediate past chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, in which he’s been a member since 2007. In celebration of the organization’s 50th anniversary, he and the rest of the board of trustees traveled to Rwanda in late February to meet the partners of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund who are working in the wild. This group also included two of the Fossey Funds newest Trustees – Dallas Zoo board member Diane Brierley and the Zoo’s Special Counsel Bill Evans.

Tara Stoinski speaks to staff at the Dallas Zoo

“It’s amazing to take what we do at zoos, our special talents, and apply them to other meaningful organizations. Zoos are a conduit from our communities to these important, large-scale projects. We have a responsibility to go beyond our gates and be involved in wildlife initiatives outside of the Zoo,” explained Hudson.

Once in the heart of the Virunga Mountains, the trustees embarked on treks through the Rwandan bush to see both gorillas and golden monkeys.

This amazing experience also highlighted the Fund’s numerous health, education, and economic development initiatives, which encourage Africans to become conservation leaders. The trustees visited community education and health projects in Bisate Village and spent a gratifying afternoon with the Karisoke trackers.

Dallas Zoo President and CEO Gregg Hudson hikes through the African bush to see gorillas

“I am just blown away by what the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund does. It’s one of the longest, continuous field projects in the world. On top of that, it’s connected to this incredible community in Rwanda where they have helped build a health clinic and create educational programs at local schools. Gorillas are fascinating animals, but the impact of the Fossey Fund on the community is incredible, too,” Hudson said.

The trip culminated with a reception at the home of U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda Erica J. Barks-Ruggles, an eminent supporter of gorilla conservation, fostering hope for the future of a troubled species.

Hudson’s trip emphasizes the importance of partnerships like those between the Zoo and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund as they bring together conservationists from around the world to collectively further research and prevent species extinction.

“The Rwandan people see gorillas as part of what makes their nation special. I feel a lot of personal pride for helping with each new sustainable, long-term initiative. It’s a rare and fulfilling chance to create a legacy project that will help gorillas in the future,” Hudson stated.

Learn more about how you can support the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund’s conservation efforts by symbolically adopting a gorilla.

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

Adopting a lot of (furry, scaly, feathery) love

David with his now adult children, Amanda and Ryan.

David with his now adult children, Amanda and Ryan.

It was December 1985, and Oak Cliff resident David Luther was about to celebrate his daughter Amanda’s first Christmas. He wanted to give his little girl something special, something she’d have for years to come that would never be the same. David gave her the intangible gift of adopting a Dallas Zoo animal.

“It was like eating potato chips — once you did it, it just made sense to do it again and again,” David said.

And he did. The following Christmas he adopted another animal for his newborn son, Ryan.

“It wasn’t until they were 3 and 4 that they started understanding the adoption,” David explained. “When we adopted the red panda, it was always the first place we would stop, to find them in the trees. Then when baby gorilla Jake became the adoptee, the kids would say, ‘That’s our gorilla!’ It made each visit a little more special and personal.”

It’s a present David has continued to give for almost 30 years now, making him one of our longest-running adopters in the Adopt-An-Animal program. While we’re incredibly grateful for his decades of generosity, David says it’s nice to have one Christmas gift in the bag he never has to worry about.

“Adopting these animals is just another way we can support the Zoo,” he said. “It’s fun, and it gives us something to look for every time we go. Their wellbeing is important to us, and to know we have a special connection to that Zoo resident.”

Baby gorilla Wakub (nicknamed Jake) born in 1998.

Baby gorilla Wakub (nicknamed Jake) born in 1998.

Luther says to this day, his daughter remembers baby Jake. “My kids are grown up, but we’ll still come to the Zoo, and my daughter still says Jake was her favorite. I think it’s a lifelong commitment for us. I’ve made it this long, I might as well continue.”

Adopting one of 50 available animals helps provide care and feeding for that resident, habitat improvements, enrichment items and zookeeper training. Your adopted animal will remain at the Zoo, where we can give it the expert care it deserves with the help of your support.

All adoptions are valid for one year and include a personalized package. For more information and to see the list of available adoptees, click HERE.

 

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

Public gets to name Dallas Zoo’s baby giraffe

Mom Chrystal shares a touching moment with her new calf, whose name will be chosen by a public vote, thanks to a generous donor. Cathy Burkey/Dallas Zoo

Mom Chrystal shares a touching moment with her new calf, whose name will be chosen by a public vote, thanks to a generous donor. Cathy Burkey/Dallas Zoo

The donor who paid $50,000 to name the Dallas Zoo’s baby giraffe is opening the choice up for a public vote! Starting Wednesday, Nov. 5, we will launch a voting contest on our website bit.ly/DZName, where participants can select from three names chosen by the donor.

For the first time, we put an animal’s naming rights up for bid during a live auction at our annual fundraising gala, Zoo To Do, last Saturday. After a spirited auction, the winning bidder paid $50,000 to name the male calf, born Oct. 26.

“We’re very grateful to this special donor, and are happy to set this up to involve the public and local schools,” said Gregg Hudson, chief executive officer and president of the Dallas Zoo. “There is very high interest in this new calf and we can’t wait to see what his name will be.”

Mom Chrystal nurses her calf in the giraffe barn. Dallas Zoo/Cathy Burkey

Mom Chrystal nurses her calf in the giraffe barn. Dallas Zoo/Cathy Burkey

The generous donor, who is a longtime zoo supporter and animal lover, wishes to remain anonymous, but has requested that the public be involved in the naming of the giraffe. The voting contest also will benefit Dallas/Fort Worth area children. Voters will be asked to nominate a DFW-area school they’d like to win a free animal visit from our Animal Adventures team. The winning school will be randomly selected.

The donor has selected the three following African names:

  1. Kopano – from Botswana, meaning “united”
  2. Usawa – “equality” in Swahili
  3. Shingo – “neck” in Swahili

Voting ends Sunday (Nov. 9), at 5 p.m. The winning name and school will be announced Monday, Nov. 10.

The entire $50,000 will go to conservation groups helping giraffes in the wild. Fewer than 4,700 reticulated giraffes remain in Africa, and the Dallas Zoo has long partnered with various groups to help protect endangered species around the world. The zoo’s animal welfare team is currently working to determine which groups will receive money from the donation.

Born just over a week ago, the Zoo’s energetic 6-foot-tall giraffe calf is doing well. Over the past few days, he’s had brief introductions with the rest of the zoo’s 12-member herd. His first-time mother, Chrystal, is embracing motherhood tremendously, keeping a watchful eye over her calf at all times.

Categories: Africa, Conservation, Giraffe | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Training inquisitive meerkats

They’re incredibly cute, vicious at times, very smart, and extremely inquisitive. Meet our five meerkats: Huxley, Twig, Orbee, Widget and Poppet. These small predators recently learned a new behavior that’ll help vets and keepers easily perform health checks and administer annual vaccinations.

Because the speedy meerkats dig and travel in underground tunnels, it’s difficult for keepers to catch them. So for the past few months, keepers have trained the meerkats to station themselves inside a wire box. The lure? Smashed bananas on a spoon. Once the meerkats are inside the box, they can be transported to the veterinary staff at the hospital.

“Once the boxes are brought into the habitat and positioned in a row, they come right over because they know they’re getting a treat,” said mammal supervisor John Fried. “They’ve done really well. Something clicked in their heads, and now they enter no problem.”

They’re only inside for a short amount of time during training sessions. The next step is to latch the doors and see if they’ll eat the spoon full of bananas while closed inside. We’re confident this bonded clan will nail it!

Check out these photos from a recent training session.

The meerkats look on as keeper Sara Squires sets up the wire boxes.
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Categories: Africa, Mammals, Zookeepers | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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