Posts Tagged With: zoo

Winter is naptime for some reptiles and amphibians

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Reptile and amphibian supervisor Bradley Lawrence guest-blogs on taking care of our diverse collection during hibernation months.

Bradley L bundled up

Reptile and amphibian supervisor Bradley Lawrence

Another North Texas winter is in full frigid effect — which means I layer on my warmest clothes, boots, gloves, scarves and – yes – my big, fluffy hat to keep warm. But for our reptiles and amphibians, when the temperatures drop, so do their body temperature, heart rate and digestion.

In the wild, these guys would need to find a temporary home underground or in a sheltered area where they can protect themselves and go into hibernation. Here at the Zoo, even though our reptiles and amphibians are in climate-controlled homes, we still need to take them through the motions of winter. Seasonal changes like temperature and rainfall are crucial cues to let them know when it’s time to reproduce.

Amphibians typically will lay eggs during rain events. This ensures that the eggs and tadpoles will have enough water to last through metamorphosis. Many temperate reptiles will take advantage of warm months to feed while resources are abundant, then go through a period of hibernation through the winter months. Some reptiles will breed prior to hibernation, then gestate through winter and lay eggs or give birth in the spring. Some reptiles will breed in the spring following hibernation.

At the Zoo, we have a “hibernaculum” that we use to house and carefully control the winter temperatures for those temperate animals that need a period of hibernation.  We start by gradually lowering the temperature of the animal’s enclosure and reducing the amount of food they receive. Reptiles generally need warm weather to digest food properly.

Texas horned lizard/Dallas Zoo

Texas horned lizard/Dallas Zoo

Once they have reached a low temperature, they’re taken off of food to let their bodies completely digest and process the food already in their system. Then, after a veterinary exam to ensure they are healthy enough to hibernate, they are placed in the “hibernaculum.” Here, the temperature for some of our snakes can be taken down to as low as 45 degrees.

The Texas horned lizard, a very high-profile lizard in our collection, is one reptile that requires a period of hibernation in order to reproduce. They are all in the hibernaculum now at about 49 degrees. We’ll slowly raise the temps in March to bring them out of hibernation. Then the males and females will be put together for breeding, helping to ensure the survival of this iconic Texas species.

Categories: Conservation, Reptiles and Amphibians, Veterinary Care, Zookeepers | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Saving Marvin, with a gift of heart

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Marvin resting after his heart surgery at Children's Health in Dallas

Marvin resting after his heart surgery at Children’s Health in Dallas

A little boy from a small Pacific island, struggling to hold onto life and in desperate need of heart surgery, came to Dallas and left with a new future – and a love of some new animals.

Two-year-old Marvin was in desperate need of a cardiac surgery procedure that he couldn’t receive in his small village of Tabwakea, on Christmas Island. On this remote island in the Republic of Kiribati, nearly eight percent of children die before age 5.

Marvin giving a thumbs-up at Lacerte Family Children's Zoo

Marvin giving a thumbs-up at Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo

Thanks to the Dallas chapter of the nonprofit HeartGift Foundation, Marvin and his mom made the long journey to receive the promised gift of healing. He left his father, Nanai, and his 5-year-old sister, Daisy, behind to come to Dallas with his mother, Teaekaki (Tea) Tebeebe.

And after a skilled surgeon’s hands fixed the hole in the toddler’s heart, it was time for a special heart-filled adventure at the Dallas Zoo. After all of the health struggles, Marvin’s face lit up with excitement, courage and a love for animals.

He and his mother had never seen such a diverse collection of wildlife before, having lived all of their lives on the Pacific island with birds, crabs, dogs and cats. Marvin’s favorite animal was the giraffes in the Giants of the

Marvin and his mother with their Dallas host family

Marvin and his mother with their Dallas host family

Savanna. He and his mother had a wonderful time feeding them, and visiting the monkeys, spending time in the Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo and exploring all 106 acres of the Zoo.

Back on the Christmas Island, Marvin, now 3, has a new chance at life with a healthy heart, and he and his family are doing well.

We’re honored that HeartGift gave us the chance to be a part of his visit. To learn more about HeartGift, visit www.heartgift.org.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Greening the Zoo

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Rain, rain…come our way!

Horticulture manager, Randy Johnson, next to rainwater collection tank

Horticulture manager, Randy Johnson, next to new rainwater collection tank

What do rainwater harvesting tanks and reforestation have in common? They’re just a couple of the many environmentally friendly ways we create a self-sustaining ecosystem at the Dallas Zoo.

Conservation has been a pillar at the Zoo for some time now. And we aim to maximize the conservation of plants and wildlife by leading the way in sustainability and green initiatives. Through water conservation and reforestation, the Zoo reduces its ecological footprint. We hope it will encourage visitors to actively incorporate sustainable living into their own lives.

“We encourage people to lessen their ecological footprint on the earth,” said Randy Johnson, Dallas Zoo horticulture manager. “This positive impact can be a leading example for generations to come. We’re not only saving the environment, but also future generations.”

Water conservation

We’ve installed two stainless steel tanks to retain about 70% of water runoff at the Zoo. These tanks hold up to 3,125 gallons of harvested rainwater, which can be used for irrigation and other purposes, such as exhibit maintenance, throughout the Zoo.

This rainwater harvesting system reduces demand on the existing water supply and saves thousands of gallons of water over a single year. The system helps cut down on the amount of rain that washes into rivers and sewers, preventing flooding, erosion

Recently planted tree in Wilds of Africa

Recently planted tree in Wilds of Africa

and pollution. Think about it: water is a precious commodity, and rainwater tanks are an inexpensive and low-maintenance way to conserve.

Reforestation

We know trees absorb carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, and help offset the negative effects of climate change. As a result, the Dallas Zoo is committed to planting more native trees onsite. We’ve already planted 50 trees around the 106-acre Zoo, many in the Giants of the Savanna habitat.

Most importantly, plants and trees make up the backbone of all habitats, where animals depend on them for food and shelter. We want to use as many native plant species as possible to ensure a healthy ecosystem for the Zoo’s biodiversity.

In fact, you might say that green’s our favorite color!

Categories: Conservation, Horticulture | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

$5 admission during Penguin Days through Feb.

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African black-footed penguin

African black-footed penguin

That’s right – through January and February the price of admission is dropping with the temps. Until Feb. 28, guests can visit the African penguins (and all the other animals) for just $5 per person. Children age 2 and younger and Dallas Zoo members are always free.

The special pricing is our way of thanking our incredible community for support throughout 2014. Even if it’s chilly, the lower admission offers a chance to enjoy the warmth of the nation’s most venomous Herpetarium, the creepy-crawlies of Bug U!, facts about great apes at the Jake L. Hamon Gorilla Conservation Research Station, and to hear the trumpeting of an elephant in the Simmons Safari Base Camp at the Giants of the Savanna.

Here’s 30 seconds of our 11 African black-footed penguins waddling, torpedoing and plunging their way through winter.

Categories: Birds, Events, Guest Services, Media, Penguins | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2014 Feathers, Fur and Scales Photography Contest Winners

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In our 11th year of the Dallas Zoo’s Feathers, Fur and Scales Photography Contest, we’ve finally gone completely digital! This year’s contest brought in 95 total entries in our three categories: Youth, Teen and Adult. As usual, the judges couldn’t believe the level of quality they saw in the entries. Our judges included Dornith Doherty, distinguished research professor at the University of North Texas in Denton; Tom Rubeck, videographer/producer for AMS Productions; and Nathan Hunsinger, photo journalist for The Dallas Morning News.

As the Zoo’s staff photographer, it has always been my intention to include judges with various backgrounds and careers in the photography industry, which, by the nature of this variety, makes selecting winners very subjective. A photo journalist sees images differently than a fine artist or a commercial videographer. But the thread that ties all of these judges together is their interest in images that tell a story.

So take a look at this year’s winning entries. I’m sure you’ll find some you love and some you question. But that’s what makes art, art. Enjoy!

Adult Category: Taeil Kim, First Place
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Categories: Photography | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

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