Oldest Andean Bear Living in North America Celebrates 35th Birthday at the Buffalo Zoo

Zoos and aquariums accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) are dedicated to providing exceptional care to animals throughout the duration of their lives. With advances in veterinary medicine, nutrition, and husbandry techniques to address unique needs, many animals are living longer in zoos and aquariums around the nation than ever before.

As keepers provide care to these animals, the bond between them often becomes quite strong. Diana, an Andean bear at the Buffalo Zoo, is especially loved by her keepers.

The only bear species native to South America, Andean bears are listed as vulnerable on the World Conservation Union’s Red List of Threatened Species.  Andean bears are cooperatively managed through AZA’s Andean Bear Species Survival Plan® (SSP) program, which is designed to help ensure a healthy, genetically diverse, and demographically stable population.

Currently, there are 58 Andean bears living at 28 AZA-accredited facilities in North America—and Diana is the oldest. In honor of Diana’s upcoming birthday, Buffalo Zoo keeper, Cheryl Chintella, has written a guest blog about her.

Diana, an Andean bear who will celebrate her 35th birthday at the Buffalo Zoo on Jan. 20, 2014, is the oldest Andean bear living in North America. (Photo by Melissa King, Buffalo Zoo.)

Diana, an Andean bear who will celebrate her 35th birthday at the Buffalo Zoo on Jan. 20, 2014, is the oldest Andean bear living in North America. (Photo by Melissa King, Buffalo Zoo.)

 Happy Birthday, Diana!

Monday, January 20, 2014 is a special day of celebration at the Buffalo Zoo. Diana, the zoo’s Andean bear, will ring in her 35th birthday with a day full of festivities planned by her keepers.

Known for her nest building skills and her busybody curiosity, Diana is one of the most popular animals among zoo staff. Visitors often mistake her for a baby due to her small stature, but what many don’t know is that Diana is the oldest Andean bear in North America and one of the oldest in the world. At age 35, she has already exceeded the median life expectancy for Andean bears, which is approximately 26 years.

Diana was born at the Lincoln Park Zoo on January 20, 1979. She arrived at her long-time home at the Buffalo Zoo on May 7, 1980. Many visitors who came to the zoo as children and are still living in the Buffalo area have, in a sense, grown up with her.

Diana with her cubs, Bronson, Bernard, and Bernadette. (Photo by Denise Lanz, Buffalo Zoo.)

Diana with her cubs, Bronson, Bernard, and Bernadette. (Photo by Denise Lanz, Buffalo Zoo.)

On January 23, 1991, only days after her own birthday, she gave birth to a trio of cubs named Bronson, Bernard, and Bernadette. Though Bronson and Bernard have never reproduced, Bernadette later became a mother to a single cub named Billie Jean. Now residing at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington, DC, Billie Jean has since made Diana a great-grandmother four times over with the birth of two litters of cubs.

Known for keeping her caregivers on their toes due to her exceptional climbing abilities and desire to explore, it is her day-to-day behavior and personality that truly make her a favorite at the Buffalo Zoo. She completely embodies the stereotype of the “nosy old lady.” Whenever one of her keepers is near, Diana moves throughout her off-exhibit area until she finds the one spot that affords her the best view of whatever her keeper is doing. She will turn her head to the side and practically pops her eyes out of her head while she keeps watch over a person on the other side of the room. This is especially true if it is time for her to eat or if she notices someone opening up the cupboard where she knows her favorite treats—cereal, animal crackers, raisins, and peanut butter—are stored.

Diana in one of her nests. (Photo by Caitlyn Bruce, Buffalo Zoo.)

Diana enjoying one of her nests. (Photo by Caitlyn Bruce, Buffalo Zoo.)

Whenever she isn’t being a busybody, Diana occupies her time by making larger-than-life nests that make her off-exhibit area look as though a tornado has just come through it. Though she is particularly fond of using hay and blankets to build her nests, she will use just about anything her keepers give her to make a comfortable resting spot. She has a patented technique for making any pile of bedding into a suitable nest for herself. Her preferred method usually involves sitting in the middle of the pile, flinging the nesting material forward with her front paws, then backward behind her, and then forward once again. Diana repeats the process over and over again until the nest is deemed suitable, though keepers often think it looks the same as it did when she started!

While we realize that the majority of you reading this post have not had the privilege of getting to meet Diana personally, we hope that it has given you the opportunity to feel like you have gotten to know this very special bear. Please join the Buffalo Zoo in wishing Diana a very happy 35th birthday!

Cheryl Chintella, Animal Keeper, Buffalo Zoo

Posted in Andean Bear, Buffalo Zoo, Conservation, Lincoln Park Zoo, Smithsonian National Zoo, Species Survival Plan, Zoo | Leave a comment

Two Southern White Rhinos Born at the Wilds in Ohio

One of two white rhino claves born recently at the Wilds in Cumberland, Ohio. Copyright the Wilds.

One of two white rhino claves born recently at the Wilds in Cumberland, Ohio. Copyright the Wilds.

Two healthy white rhino calves were recently welcomed at the Wilds in Cumberland, Ohio. The first calf was born on November 21, 2013 and the second entered the world on January 3, 2014.

The calf born in November is a female and a fourth generation offspring born in human care. The calf’s mother is Sally who was also born at the Wilds in 2006.  Her father is Fireball, born in 2002 at the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Glen Rose, Texas.  This is the second calf for Sally.

The second calf, born in January, is also a female and a fourth generation offspring. Her mother, Eve, was born at the Wilds in 2006 and Fireball is the father of this calf as well.  This is Eve’s second calf and Fireball’s eighth.

Both mothers and calves are doing fine and will be slowly introduced to the rest of the herd after the weather warms up in the spring.

The birth of these calves are the 19th and 20th rhinos (and 14th and 15th white rhinos) born at the Wilds since 2004. The last four rhinos born at the Wilds have been born in the last four months (Sep. 2013 – Jan. 2014). The Wilds is also the only place, outside of Africa, with fourth generation offspring and has one of the largest herds of white rhinos in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

White rhino calf and mother at the Wilds in Cumberland, Ohio. Copyright the Wilds.

White rhino calf and mother at the Wilds in Cumberland, Ohio. Copyright the Wilds.

There are five species of rhinoceros; black and white rhinos are found in Africa and the greater one-horned, Javan and Sumatran rhinos are found in Asia. Despite some conservation success stories all rhino species are in peril from poaching and loss of habitat.

About the southern white rhinoceros:

Southern white rhinos were almost extinct in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Effective conservation efforts in the 1950s led to the exportation of individual wild white rhinos to zoos in North America and Europe. The current wild population is estimated to be about 20,000 animals however rhino poaching in Africa has reached a record high in 2012.

Calves are born after a gestation of 16 months. White rhinos can grow to be 4,000 pounds and six feet tall at their shoulder. Their natural habitats are plains or woodlands interspersed with grassy openings. Through reintroduction efforts, their current range in the wild is in southern and eastern African countries.

Tim Lewthwaite

Posted in AZA, Black Rhinos, Conservation, Rhino, The Wilds, White Rhinos, Wildlife, Zoo | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Animals Inc. On Location: Dispatch #6 – Some Favorite Kenya Photos

Tim Lewthwaite was in Kenya where he had been traveling in search of the country’s diverse and beautiful wildlife. Here some favorite photos from Tim’s trip!

The baby elephants at the Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi were a heart breaking site. 28 of the 30 youngsters we saw were there because their mothers had been poached for ivory. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

The baby elephants at the Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi were a heart breaking site. 28 of the 30 youngsters we saw were there because their mothers had been poached for ivory. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

I just thought the child next to the statues in a curio shop would make an interesting image. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

I just thought the child next to the statues in a curio shop would make an interesting image. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

A black rhino and calf in Sweetwaters Game Reserve at the base of Mount Kenya. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

A black rhino and calf in Sweetwaters Game Reserve at the base of Mount Kenya. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

Rothchild's giraffe in Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

Rothchild’s giraffe in Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

Chrildren at Irura Primary School in Kenya eating their lunch. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

Children at Irura Primary School in Kenya eating their lunch. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

The Irura School choir performs outside one of the school buildings. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite

The Irura School choir performs outside one of the school buildings. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite

Female elephant in Sweetwaters Game Reserve. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

Female elephant in Sweetwaters Game Reserve. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

A large Nile crocodile basking on the Mara River in the Masai Mara. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

A large Nile crocodile basking on the Mara River in the Masai Mara. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

A common sight on the roads of Kenya. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

A common sight on the roads of Kenya. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

The hustle and bustle of town life in Kenya. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

The hustle and bustle of town life in Kenya. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

A white pelican. Copy right Tim Lewthwaite.

A white pelican. Copy right Tim Lewthwaite.

African crowned crane. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

African crowned crane. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

The Masai welcome us to their village at the edge of the Masai Mara. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

The Masai welcome us to their village at the edge of the Masai Mara. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

Like many people the world over, the Masai work to hold onto their traditions. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

Like many people the world over, the Masai work to hold onto their traditions. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

African elephant in early morning light in the Masai Mara. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

African elephant in early morning light in the Masai Mara. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

Two zebra foals in the Masai Mara. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

Two zebra foals in the Masai Mara. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

Lioness and cub in the Masai Mara. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

Lioness and cub in the Masai Mara. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

DSC_0247Be sure to visit the Animals Inc. website to view photos of Tim’s experiences in Kenya and to learn more about actions you can take to help protect the species that live there.

Posted in AZA, Black Rhinos, Conservation, Giraffes, Photography, Reptile, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Animals Inc. On Location: Dispatch #5 – Kenya’s Endangered Giraffes

Tim Lewthwaite reports from Kenya where he has been traveling in search of the country’s diverse and beautiful wildlife.

Rothchild's giraffe in Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

Rothschild’s giraffe in Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

Giraffes are one of the real African savanna icons, and I was hoping to see all three Kenyan subspecies while in the country. With only an estimated 80,000 giraffes remaining in Africa, it is a little known fact that they are an animal that is becoming increasingly rare.  This becomes more apparent when you realize that there are nine subspecies of giraffe, and some, like the Rothschild’s giraffe, have only a few hundred animals remaining. We came across a small group of the Rothschild’s giraffes  about half a mile away from the shores of Lake Nakuru as they browsed on some acacia trees.  Seeing these large and graceful animals peacefully working their way through the landscape, it is hard to imagine a similar scene without them.

A young reticulated giraffe in Kenya. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite

A young reticulated giraffe on the shores of Lake Naivasha. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

The second species we encountered was the more common reticulated giraffe.  When fully grown, giraffes have few predators.  The main threat comes from people who poach them for their skin and hair.   The reticulated giraffe, along with the Rothschild’s, are the two species you are likely to see in a zoo.

With the reticulated and Rothschild’s giraffe having been “spotted,” we went in search of the third Kenyan subspecies of giraffe–the Masai giraffe.  While we didn’t get very close to any Masai giraffes, we did have several sightings.  You can distinguish the Masai giraffe by the jagged edges they have around their spots.

Giraffes are one of those animals that, I think, people take for granted.  It’s worrying to realize that with only an estimated 80,000 left in the wild, there are actually far fewer giraffes than there are elephants on the continent.  And while the focus is rightfully on the rapidly-rising levels of poaching for elephants and rhinos, there are a number of other species (and sub-species) like giraffes that warrant our attention as well.

To learn more about the plight of giraffes in Africa, you can visit the Giraffe Conservation Foundation.

DSC_0247Be sure to visit the Animals Inc. website to view photos of Tim’s experiences in Kenya and to learn more about actions you can take to help protect the species that live there.

 

Masai giraffe in Kenya's Masai Mara. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

Masai giraffes in Kenya’s Masai Mara. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

Posted in AZA, Conservation, Giraffes, Wildlife, Zoo | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

2013 AZA Photo Contest Winner is Todd Stailey of the Tennessee Aquarium

Todd's photo of a spine-cheeked anemonefish on the cover of the December 2013 issue of CONNECT magazine.

Todd’s photo of a spine-cheeked anemonefish on the cover of the December 2013 issue of CONNECT magazine.

Todd Stailey began working at the Tennessee Aquarium in March of 1992, two months before it opened to the public. Originally hired to set up and manage the Aquarium’s mail room, his love of photography came into focus when he was noticed taking pictures of the new exhibits after hours. He was hired to become staff photographer and A/V technician after his talent was recognized. “At the time there wasn’t a network of ‘fish photographers’ in this region with experience photographing large aquariums. You couldn’t go online and ask for technical advice,” said Stailey. “So I had to experiment with a variety of lighting setups. I was shooting film and waiting a few days for processing to see if I got the shot in a challenging environment of reflections and refraction. That foundation helped me become detail oriented.”

Todd mixes art and photo-journalism. His beautiful shots help guests identify species within exhibits, while inspiring wonder and appreciation for a multitude of aquatic and terrestrial creatures. And, he enjoys opportunities to tell freshwater conservation stories through photography when covering the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute’s efforts in the field.

Todd Stailey of the Tennessee Aquarium is the 2013 AZA Photo Contest Winner.

Todd Stailey of the Tennessee Aquarium is the 2013 AZA Photo Contest Winner.

Todd is rarely seen without a camera in hand and enjoys getting out and off the beaten path. He relishes every opportunity to explore wild places independently, capturing stunning landscapes and pictures of reclusive animals such as bobcats and red foxes.

Todd feels privileged to have had some of his images published in scientific journals, conservation publications, educational books and magazines including National Geographic. “The Aquarium has given me a platform to become a better photographer,” said Stailey. “And I appreciate having such a rewarding career working with some truly marvelous animals.”

Todd’s image of the spine-cheeked anemonefish was taken on March 29th, 2013 using a Canon 7D with a 100mm macro lens. “This fish is usually quite shy, but for some reason he decided to come right out and pose for me. Sometimes, catching a great shot involves a little luck.”

To see more photos from the contest, visit CONNECT online, or keep an eye on your mail box for the delivery of your special Photo Contest issue of AZA’s CONNECT magazine.

Tim Lewthwaite

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Animals Inc. On Location: Dispatch 4 – Black Rhinos and Cheetahs

Tim Lewthwaite reports from Sweetwaters wildlife reserve near the foothills of Mount Kenya where he has been travelling in search of the country’s diverse and beautiful wildlife.

A black rhino and calf in Kenya. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

A black rhino and calf in Kenya. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

“A species that has long fascinated me is the black rhino, but in several trips to Africa I have only ever had fleeting glimpses of this elusive and shy animal.  That changed as we went on an early morning game drive and came across a mother with her young calf.  All rhino species are coming under a growing threat of poaching due to the mistaken belief in several Asian countries that their horns have medicinal value – as poaching soars, every encounter with these animals is something to be treasured.”

A cheetah on the prowl. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

A cheetah on the prowl. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

“As if the rhino wasn’t enough, we later came across a cheetah.  Like most big cats on safari, they tend to find you more than you find them.  Cheetahs are well known as the fastest animals on land and mainly eat gazelles, impalas and other smaller hoofed animals.  Needless to say, I was thrilled when this cat found me.”

DSC_0247Tim is traveling in Africa. Be sure to visit the Animals Inc. website to view photos of his experiences in Kenya and to learn more about actions you can take to help protect the species that live there.

 

Posted in AZA, Black Rhinos, cheetah, Conservation, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Animals Inc. On Location: Dispatch 3 – Nile Crocodiles on the Mara River

A large Nile crocodile basking on the Mara River in the Masai Mara. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

A large Nile crocodile basking on the Mara River in the Masai Mara. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

A Smaller crocodile is basking in the sun next to him. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

A smaller crocodile is basking in the sun next to him. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

They both slip into the water as we hear a splash underneath an overhang in the river, just behind where we are parked. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

They both slip into the water as we hear a splash underneath an overhang in the river, just behind where we are parked. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

A feeding frenzy occurs as more crocodiles enter the river. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

A feeding frenzy occurs as more crocodiles enter the river. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

A giant crocodile goes into a death roll and breaks off the lower half of a wildebeest. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

A giant crocodile goes into a death roll and breaks off the lower half of a wildebeest. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

He swims away to eat it by himself. You can see both hind legs coming out of each side of his mouth. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

He swims away to eat it by himself. You can see both hind legs coming out of the side of his mouth. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

He dwarfs another adult crocodile who is probably about 10-12 feet in length and is trying to get a hold of a leg for himself. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

He dwarfs another adult crocodile who is probably about 10-12 feet in length and is trying to get a hold of a leg for himself. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

The smaller crocodile swims off after failing to get a hold on the leg. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

The smaller crocodile swims off after failing to get a hold on the leg. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

The giant finishes off the meal as another crocodile approaches looking for scraps. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

The giant finishes off the meal as another crocodile approaches looking for scraps. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

Quite something to see this natural behavior on the Mara River - the power of the large crocodile was an awesome sight. The guide didn't think they had killed the wildebeest then, but rather that it had been cached and the dragged back into the river, drawing all the crocodiles in the vicinity back into the river. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

Quite something to see this natural behavior on the Mara River – the power of the large crocodile was an awesome sight. The guide didn’t think they had killed the wildebeest then, but rather that it had been cached and the dragged back into the river, drawing all the crocodiles in the vicinity back into the river. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

DSC_0247Tim is traveling in Africa. Be sure to visit the Animals Inc. website to view photos of his experiences in Kenya and to learn more about actions you can take to help protect the species that live there.

Posted in Conservation, Nile Crocodile | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Animals Inc. on Location: Dispatch 2 – Sweetwaters: In Search of Elephants

We left Nairobi and its surroundings to begin exploring the rest of this magnificent country with its diverse landscapes and hospitable people. We drove north to Sweetwaters Tented Camp, which lies in the heart of the privately-owned 22,000-acre reserve, where we enjoyed magnificent views across the bush to the snow-capped peaks of Mt. Kenya. Overlooking a floodlit waterhole, the Camp offers visitors an opportunity to watch and photograph wildlife in its natural habitat.

At Sweetwaters Tented Camp, visitors have the opportunity to watch and photograph wildlife in its natural habitat. Photo by Tim Lewthwaite.

At Sweetwaters Tented Camp, visitors have the opportunity to watch and photograph wildlife in its natural habitat. Photo by Tim Lewthwaite.

We arrived on Monday afternoon and quickly were out in the park on our first game drive. It didn’t take us long to find our first family of elephants–one of whom was a rather curious little youngster.  We stayed with them for a while, enjoying their peaceful grazing through the Kenyan bush.  Other animals we saw included the common zebra, impala, water buffalo, hartebeest, and reticulated giraffe.

Later, we are off on a night drive where we hope to come across either lions or leopards. With all the sounds of the African bush that are currently resonating around my tent, I can’t imagine that it will be anything other than a thrilling night!

DSC_0247

Tim is traveling in Africa. Be sure to visit the Animals Inc. website to view photos of his experiences in Kenya and to learn more about actions you can take to help protect the species that live there.

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Animals Inc. on Location: Introduction and Dispatch 1

Tim Lewthwaite, AZA’s Publications Manager, who contributes to this blog and serves as the editor of AZA’s CONNECT Magazine, is currently traveling through Kenya. We invite you to follow Tim’s experiences in Kenya through this series of “On Location” posts, as well as visit the Animals Inc. website to view his photos and learn more about actions you can take to help preserve these species.

Dispatch 1:  Out of Africa, Baby Elephants and Giraffes
After a briefing about the wonderful events ahead, we were ready for the adventure as we visited an elephant orphanage at the edge of Nairobi National Park. The facility is a nursery and rehab center for baby elephants, as well as rhinos, zebras, and other wildlife who have lost their families–often killed by poachers.

An elephant orphanage at the edge of Nairobi National Park cares for baby elephants, rhinos, zebras and other wildlife who have lost their families--often killed by poachers.

An elephant orphanage at the edge of Nairobi National Park cares for baby elephants, rhinos, zebras, and other wildlife who have lost their families–often killed by poachers. Photo by Tim Lewthwaite.

We saw 30 young elephants all told, and as cute as they are, there is a tragic story behind why most of them need to be brought up in the care of the keepers–almost all of the youngsters we observed were rescued after their mothers had been poached for ivory.

While we were there, the keepers brought the elephants to the waterhole and salt lick to be fed and to socialize. We got to see them eat, play fight, and interact with their keepers. These infants will be eventually released into the wild at Tsavo East National Park and end up in the care of other orphans, who have been successfully reintroduced to the wild.

Rothschild giraffe at the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife (AFEW) Nature Center. Photo by Tim Lewthwaite.

Rothschild giraffe at the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife (AFEW) Nature Center. Photo by Tim Lewthwaite.

Then it was on to the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife (AFEW) Nature Center near Giraffe Manor where visitors can hand-feed the Rothschild giraffes that live here. The giraffes were brought to the facility by Jock and Betty Leslie-Melville, who founded AFEW and built the Nature Center to help educate young African children about wildlife conservation. Rothschild giraffes are the tallest giraffe species and can reach 18 feet in height, but we were able to see eye to eye with them on the Center’s elevated walkway.

We then enjoyed lunch at Karen Blixen’s Garden Restaurant before visiting the Karen Blixen House, the former house of the Danish Baroness, Karen Blixen (1885-1962), author of the book Out of Africa. Karen lived in this green residential area from 1914 until 1931 when she left permanently for Denmark. The house was built in 1910 and when Ms. Blixen bought the property, it had 6,000 acres of land but only 600 acres were developed for growing coffee; the rest was retained under natural forest. The house was bought by the Danish Government, which offered it back to Kenya in 1963. In 1986, the house, formerly used as a school, was transformed to a National Museum. Much of the original furniture is on display in the house and most objects were either used by Karen herself or for the shooting of the film Out of Africa  or donated to the museum.

DSC_0247Note: One of the highlights of this post is Tim’s visit to an elephant orphanage, where he and other travelers observe young elephants that have lost their families due to poaching. In 2012 alone, poachers killed more than 35,000 elephants for their tusks.

Last week, to end a clear message to poaching and wildlife trafficking criminals that the U.S. will take all available measures to disrupt and prosecute those who prey on and profit from the deaths of elephants, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service crushed six tons of elephant ivory seized over the years by the U.S. government. Currently, the U.S. is one of the largest illegal ivory markets in the world, second only to China.

Here’s more information on what is being done to help elephants and how you can become involved:

Additional information about the ivory crush can be found on the USFWS website: http://www.fws.gov/le/elephant-ivory-crush.html. More facts can also be found in the Q&A section: http://www.fws.gov/le/pdf/Ivory-Crush-Q-and-A.pdf.

The 96 Elephants campaign, launched by the Wildlife Conservation Society and supported by AZA, asks people to sign a petition to the President requesting a ban on ivory trade in the United States.

The AZA/Animals Inc. page asks people to send a letter in support of an ivory ban to your member of Congress.

AZA members participate in more than 85 elephant conservation projects in 20 countries, providing more than $26 million in support.  There are 142 Asian elephants and 166 African elephants in the AZA Elephant Species Survival Plan® (SSP), providing a critical link to elephant conservation projects worldwide.

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Rodrigues Fruit Bats Come to the Philadelphia Zoo

By Kim Lengel

Veterinarian Dr. Tim Georoff and I left from JFK Airport in New York City for our flight to Mauritius, by way of Johannesburg, South Africa. We’re travelling all this way for the primary purpose of accompanying 30 Rodrigues fruit bats back to the Philadelphia Zoo from the long-time captive colony of bats at the Gerald Durrell Endemic Wildlife Sanctuary (GDEWS) in Mauritius.

Rodrigues fruit bats are actually not found in Mauritius but in the nearby Mascarene island of Rodrigues. In the 1970s, their numbers had dropped to fewer than 100, making this species among the most critically endangered bats in the world. In stepped the famous author and conservationist Gerald Durrell. He personally rescued some bats from Rodrigues and set up a colony on Mauritius as a hedge against possible extinction in the wild. The bat colony on Mauritius gradually grew, and eventually, some of these bats made their way to various captive breeding centers in the world, including the Philadelphia Zoo.   Thirty-five years after they were originally rescued, the Rodrigues fruit bat population in zoos is doing well, and the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation (MWF) decided they no longer needed to maintain such a large colony on Mauritius. Because these bats were born in captivity and would not be good candidates for reintroduction, and because the wild population is doing so well now—more on that later—our colleagues at MWF contacted us to see if we could absorb their bats into the U.S. zoo population. I manage the Rodrigues fruit bat population in Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited U.S. zoos, and I jumped at the chance to import some new genetic lines for our population and to help our long-time conservation partners at MWF.
Rodrigues fruit bat Rodrigues Fruit Bat (MWF photo)

Typically when we transport animals, even internationally, we do not accompany them, but this move was different. The bats would be travelling a long way—about five hours from Mauritius to Johannesburg, an eight-hour layover in Johannesburg, and then another 16 or so hours to JFK, followed by a two-hour drive south to Philly. We wanted to make sure the bats were well prepared for their journey, so we had their travel carriers shipped to Mauritus from Philly and will work with staff at the GDEWS to set up the bats for their trip. We will also make sure that the bats are as well provisioned as possible during their long journey by feeding them enroute. The Zoo’s Animal Collections Manager, Beth Bahner, has literally worked for months to gain permission for us to access the bats to feed them in the cargo area of the O.R. Tambo airport in Johannesburg.  With 30+ years of experience arranging animal moves around the U.S. and the world, Beth has experienced a lot, but even she was challenged by all the restrictions and regulations governing this animal move.

To read more of Kim’s blog postings about the Rodrigues fruit bat, click here.

Guest Blogger: By Kim Lengel, Vice President of Education and Conservation

Posted in Animal Health, AZA, Bats, Bats, Conservation, Education, People, Philadelphia Zoo, Wildlife, Zoo | Tagged , , | Leave a comment