Posts Tagged With: birth

Public gets to name Dallas Zoo’s baby giraffe

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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

There’s just no such thing as a ‘typical’ day for zoo vets

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On any given day, the Dallas Zoo’s three veterinarians might work on a tiny frog who weighs a few grams and then examine an elephant that weighs 10,000 pounds. That’s the irony of “specializing” in zoo veterinary medicine: one must be a generalist for hundreds of mammal, bird, reptile, fish, and invertebrate species.

Vets must know how to recognize different digestive, vascular, and reproductive systems; infectious and chronic illnesses; pharmacological needs; and animal behaviors in order to develop courses of care.

MEDICATIONS: Administering drugs isn’t simple as picking up a ‘script from Walgreen’s. Zoo vets often have to improvise when calculating drug dosages, because pharmaceutical companies don’t publish formulations for every species. The vets know that a published dosage for a horse would be good for a zebra, or that antibiotics effective on lizards would probably work with snakes. Compounding pharmacies may be used to create concentrated volumes for large-animal needs.

“But you can’t just increase the dosage of some drugs because the animal is bigger,” explained Christopher J. Bonar, V.M.D., Dipl. A.C.Z.M., director of animal health. “Sometimes we have to do metabolic scaling to formulate dosages based on an animal’s metabolic rate. Large animals like rhinos have a slow metabolism.”

SPECIALTY EQUIPMENT: When necessary, veterinarians must be creative with equipment to accommodate everything from tiny poison dart frogs to long-necked giraffes. They’ve turned urinary catheters into endotracheal tubes. Anesthesia masks have been made from pop bottles and construction cones.

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Dr. Maren Connolly examines koala Tekin while he’s under anesthesia as part of his annual checkup. Dallas Zoo/Cathy Burkey

ANESTHESIA: Like with humans, putting an animal “under” and performing surgery are last resorts. That’s why zookeepers train animals to demonstrate behaviors that make it easier to draw blood, administer shots, and conduct exams.

There are a few times when anesthetizing an animal is risky – for the vets! Herpetologists noticed that a red spitting cobra wasn’t eating or defecating, and had a swollen abdomen. The snake had a history of kidney problems, common to this species. The challenge was to sedate the venomous snake.

“Our very skilled snake keepers helped on this one,” Bonar said. The dangerous end of the cobra was drawn into a plastic tube so the vets could pump gas to anesthetize it. “We inserted a tube into the trachea to ventilate it during surgery and confirmed that the snake had a renal tubular carcinoma. After testing the other kidney to make sure it was functioning well, we removed the affected kidney.”

BIRTH DAYS: It’s exciting when babies are born – or hatched. Newborn antelopes and other herd animals are often checked and tagged 48 hours after birth. Although recognizing newborns may seem simple, herd animals often deliver at the same time of year, and the babies look strikingly similar. Vets check the mother’s lactation and the baby’s suckle response and hydration. During difficult labors, vets may manually assist with breech births or perform C-sections.

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Keepers trained Ramona chimp to allow an ultrasound during her pregnancy to check on the fetus. Dallas Zoo/Cathy Burkey

Vets monitor hormone levels or perform ultrasounds for some expectant mothers, such as Marge warthog and Ramona chimpanzee. Both mothers were trained to allow vets or a veterinary ultrasonographer to apply a jelly-like substance to their bellies for the test to check the fetus’s health and estimate due dates. Ramona even learned to hold on to the bars of her bedroom to make the job a little easier. After babies are born, vets usually wait to do well-baby exams until mom is ready to eat away from the baby or share care with others in the group.

Zoo populations often use the same methods as humans to limit or facilitate pregnancies. Many animals are on birth control so the population doesn’t get out of control or inbreeding doesn’t occur. In cases where there is a need to increase the population or genetic diversity of a species in the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Program (SSP), vets may use assisted reproduction.

“We always prefer natural reproduction,” Bonar said. “Techniques that work with a horse or cow won’t necessarily work with a rhino or cheetah. We work with the SSPs and a company that does hormone analysis and makes reproductive recommendations for us. But basically we watch to see if the females are coming into estrus. Are the males fertile? Are the animals compatible? Sometimes absence makes the heart grow fonder, and we recommend a simple change in environment for a short time.”

Zoos with expertise in breeding certain species often serve as consultants. The Dallas Zoo advises on okapi breeding at other facilities.

Advanced Diagnostics: Bonar and his team of vets routinely test blood or tissue samples, but they often send them to more than a dozen pathology labs, each one specializing in a certain species or test. When an animal passes away; vets perform necropsies to determine the cause of death so that information can contribute to the body of knowledge among scientists and zoo professionals. When possible, tissue and bones are donated for educational purposes.

In the wild, many animals don’t exhibit obvious signs of illness because other members of its group may perceive it as weakness or because the animal may become easy prey. Diagnosing challenging cases may require the services of offsite computed-tomography (CT) or magnetic-resonance imaging (MRI) facilities.

Outside medical specialists allow the hospital team to extend their resources. The Dallas Zoo routinely works with specialists on cases requiring ophthalmic or dental surgery, CT or MRI scans, pathology results, and hoof trims. That’s why the Zoo is assembling a Medical Advisory Committee. The depth of knowledge of the Zoo’s veterinary team, combined with the expertise of several specialists, will help provide even better care.

Categories: Chimpanzee, Elephant, Giraffe, Mammals, Okapi, Reptiles and Amphibians, Veterinary Care | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Little Obi mandrill’s won the heart of his first-time mom

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blg_ObiSaffronDon’t expect to see our new mandrill mom letting her baby out of sight. To keep 4-month-old Obi out of trouble, 14-year-old Saffron watches over his every move – and that’s not easy, given his high energy level. Keepers say Saffron has embraced motherhood. “Primates protect their babies with their lives. Their baby is their status, and their status can rise if they have a baby. They’re better moms than humans,” said Sarah Villarreal, mammal supervisor. “This is Saffron’s first baby, and she’s doing phenomenally.”

Obi is the first mandrill born at the Dallas Zoo in 24 years. His birth March 28 was exciting, but nerve-wracking, too. “Saffron’s never been around a baby, and she’s never seen a baby be born,” Villarreal said. “Just like a human, if you haven’t seen it, you might not necessarily know what to do. But she’s terrific. She’s doing everything she’s supposed to be doing.”

Because mandrills are “precocial” animals, meaning they develop quickly, Obi is growing fast. He’s eating solid food and bouncing around the habitat. Mandrill babies typically become independent from mom around six months old, but you never really know how independent they’ll be. “Every mom is different,’’ Villarreal said. “Some moms are overbearing. We see that with primates — some end up as mama’s babies for life.”

Loving attention from guests, Obi and Saffron often hang out at the main window into their Wilds of Africa habitat. Obi, a jumping ball blg_Obiof energy, is incredibly responsive, putting his hand up to guests’ hands when they touch the glass or playing peek-a-boo. He’s vocalizing now, and he smiles a lot. Plus, he’s beginning to develop the beautiful coloring of a male mandrill, with his facial ridges turning dark blue and his rear turning red. (See video.)

The name “Obi” is a Western Africa Igbo word meaning “heart,” and this mother-son relationship definitely melts the heart. In the future as Saffron has more babies, she’ll most likely loosen the reins, but for now she stays close to Obi. Your best chance to see them is early in the morning as they eat their breakfast, usually in front of the window.

Obi’s birth is part of the Dallas Zoo’s participation in the Species Survival Plan for Mandrills, a conservation and breeding program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums that manages efforts to ensure survival of the endangered species. With fewer than 100 mandrills in North America, the Dallas Zoo works with other zoological parks through the SSP to ensure that the gene pool remains healthy and genetically sound.

Mandrills are the world’s largest monkeys, close relatives of baboons and drills. They’re native to tropical rain forests of central and west Africa, including Congo, Cameroon and Gabon. The species is vulnerable due to hunting and habitat loss.

Be sure to share this special video with your friends!

Categories: Africa, Mammals, Mandrill | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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