Posts Tagged With: rescue

Dallas Zoo helps lead international emergency rescue to save over 1,800 flamingo chicks in South Africa

Two of the rescued lesser flamingo chicks cuddle up at the SPCA in Kimberley, South Africa.

The most urgent, wide-scale rescue of wild lesser flamingo chicks in South Africa is underway after 1,800 chicks were found abandoned at their nesting grounds. The international zoo and aquarium community has joined forces to help save the chicks in a massive rescue operation, sending critical funds and avian experts from across the world to South Africa.

A severe drought has affected Kamfers Dam in Kimberley, the capital of the Northern Cape Province of South Africa, causing adult flamingos to abandon their nests, leaving thousands of eggs and chicks behind. With only four breeding colonies of lesser flamingos in Africa and one other in India, Kamfers Dam is one of the most important breeding locations for this species in the world.

Dallas Zoo’s Senior Zoologist Julie Farrington hand feeds a rescued chick.

The Dallas Zoo is leading an emergency rescue effort to funnel funding to South Africa in coordination with the Pan African Association of Zoos and Aquaria (PAAZA). The Dallas Zoo has contributed $18,500 to the rescue effort, and is sending multiple waves of support staff to Kimberley. Animal Care Supervisor Kevin Graham and Senior Zoologist Julie Farrington arrived in Kimberley last week, and Dallas Zoo veterinarian Dr. Marren Connolly and veterinary technician Cassandra Reid arrived Sunday and will remain there for three weeks.

Multiple accredited U.S. zoos and aquariums have also contributed nearly $20,000 to the rescue mission, with donations continuing to roll in. (For individuals who would like to donate to the recovery effort, please do so HERE.)

“If the zoo community had not stepped in to help, it is unlikely these chicks would have survived,” said Harrison Edell, Dallas Zoo’s Executive Vice President of Animal Care and Conservation. “Flamingos have rarely been treated in any significant numbers by wildlife rehabilitation facilities. Since we are backed with decades of experience in this, our animal care experts are uniquely qualified to assist in hand-rearing these orphaned lesser flamingos. The world’s accredited zoos and aquariums are no doubt at the forefront of lifesaving conservation work, and we will continue to send our experts to the frontlines when animals need help.”

“To see our worldwide community of wildlife conservationists come together to save these birds from near death is remarkable,” said John Werth, Executive Director of the Pan African Association of Zoos and Aquaria (PAAZA). “Zoos and aquariums have the resources and expertise to save species and our swift action to protect these flamingos is proof of that.”

The 1,800 chicks are being cared for at a number of PAAZA accredited zoos and aquariums, plus, certified partners like SANCCOB, as well as, by staff at the SPCA in Kimberley. An international team of conservationists, zoologists, vet staff, and more are working around the clock to bring the chicks up to good health. The ultimate goal is to release the birds that have been successfully rehabilitated back into their natural habitat by late May, so they can rejoin the flock.

“We’re working 12-hour shifts at the SPCA in Kimberley where the youngest and most critically ill flamingo chicks are being cared for,” said Kevin Graham, Dallas Zoo’s Animal Care Supervisor of Birds. “We hand feed the chicks every few hours, and are constantly monitoring their health. We are running on very little sleep but it’s extremely rewarding work knowing we’re keeping these incredible birds alive.”

With nearly 20,000 birds nesting at Kamfers Dam, a significant hit to the flock could pose long-term problems for the population without intervention. Conservationists are working to implement a detailed plan of action for the future, should a rescue mission like this occur again.

Lesser flamingos are currently listed as near threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Species (IUCN), primarily due to habitat destruction and climate change. It is the smallest species of the six species of flamingos in the world. They’re found primarily in sub-Saharan Africa and some parts of India.

The Dallas Zoo cares for more than 30 lesser flamingo chicks in the Wilds of Africa section of the zoo.

Categories: Africa, Birds, Conservation, Zookeepers | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Know when to help a baby bird

baby cardinals

Baby cardinal hatchlings patiently wait for food from their mother.

Spring is here! And with it comes blooming flowers, rising temperatures, debilitating allergies – and baby birds.

Those chicks may find themselves out of the nest and helpless on the ground, but knowing basic information can save the animal’s life and benefit the environment. Learn more with information from Dallas Zoo Bird Curator Sprina Liu, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and Audubon Texas.

(Consider this your first bird-keeper-in-training lesson.)

Know the bird’s stage of development

A hatchling is a recently hatched baby bird with little to no feathers and closed eyes. These birds are completely helpless and need help getting back into their nests, which should be nearby.

If the baby bird has open eyes and small tufts of feathers, it is likely a nestling, and needs some help. These birds are not mobile and need to be gently returned to the nest. Typically, the bird’s nest is directly above where the nestling is found.

A baby bird attempting to fly may be a fledgling. These young birds can be identified by short feathers and the ability to hop around, flap and grip onto your fingers. If you find a fledgling, the best plan is to step back and wait to see if an adult comes to tend to it. Despite being on the ground, most fledglings aren’t abandoned or helpless – they’re learning how to fly and move around!

Things to remember

• Before intervening with any bird, visually examine it to see if it’s hurt or injured. If you believe it is injured, contact your local wildlife rehabilitation specialist.

• Baby birds can be delicate and quick action on your part to return the chick to the nest or to a rehabilitation specialist can make the difference.

• It is OK to move a fledgling out of harm’s way if it’s found on a road or busy path.

• If you find a baby bird, it’s always a good idea to restrain, crate or put inside any domestic pets while you deal with the bird.

• When in doubt, leave the bird alone and contact an expert.

Baby bird fast facts

• It’s myth that parents will reject a baby bird handled by a human. Birds have a poor sense of smell.

• Nests aren’t the safe, cozy homes that humans envision. Birds are quick to leave the nest for safety and survival.

• The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 made it illegal to capture and raise any wild migratory bird.

Categories: Birds | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Zoo is forever home to bobcat Rufus

It’s a story that hasn’t been told in more than 13 years. (If you know it, here’s an update; if you don’t, you can share this little piece of history with your family and friends.) Bobcat Rufus had a long journey to get here — one that saved his life and gave him a forever home.

Rufus' photo on the cover of Dallas Zoo's ZooKeeper magazine in 2001.

Rufus’ photo on the cover of Dallas Zoo’s ZooKeeper magazine in 2001. Dallas Zoo/Cathy Burkey

In spring 2001, the wild bobcat made headlines after he killed three of our small antelope, known as dik-diks. Stories began running nationwide on the “unwanted zoo visitor,” and the media even updated the public daily on attempts to capture the elusive bobcat.

At one point, Dallas County Animal Control employees hid in bushes waiting for Rufus to appear, armed with tranquilizer guns. Finally, months later, the wily fellow was snared in a trap on August 21, 2001.

However, his fate was unclear. The Texas Department of Health recommended he be euthanized to test for rabies, but Zoo officials argued that the Zoo was a perfect isolation facility, which meant the risk for infection was low.

We prevailed, and Rufus was given a place to live out his life with daily meals, medical care, enrichment items and a lot of attention.

“We’re all animal lovers at the Zoo, and these cats have to eat in the wild. Unfortunately, he chose to prey on our animals, but he didn’t know better,” said Lora Baumhardt, mammal supervisor. “Prey is

Rufus today, now estimated to be 14  years old.

Rufus today, now estimated to be 14 years old. Dallas Zoo/Ashley Allen

prey, and if it was easily accessible to him, I don’t blame him for getting that.”

Now estimated to be about 14, Rufus is in very good health for his age. “We’ve been able to provide a good life for him here, as opposed to him being euthanized back then. I feel good about it,” Baumhardt said.

Staying out of the headlines today, Rufus lives what his keepers say is a spoiled life. His favorite treat is licking condensed milk out of a spray bottle, and he eats a special rabbit meal on Tuesdays.

“If we never caught him, he probably would have passed away by now in the wild, because he’s 14, and they don’t generally live that long,” Baumhardt said.

She says the sneaky little guy will never play with his favorite green ball in public, but when his keepers return in the morning, it’s always in a different spot than where they left it the day before.

Living out his life in a safe environment is all we ever wanted for Rufus.

Categories: Conservation, Mammals, Zookeepers | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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