Friday, February 27, 2009

the World Zoo Today

SoCal aquarium blames flooding on curious octopus
Posted: 26 Feb 2009 05:54 PM PST
SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) — Staff at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium in California say the trickster who flooded their offices with sea water was armed. Eight-armed, to be exact. They blame the soaking they discovered Tuesday morning on the aquarium’s resident two-spotted octopus, a tiny female known for being curious and gregarious with visitors. The octopus apparently tugged on a valve and that allowed hundreds of gallons of water to overflow its tank.
Aquarium spokeswoman Randi Parent says no sea life was harmed by the flood, but the brand new, ecologically designed floors might be damaged by the water.

Georgia Aquarium Adds Great Hammerhead Sharks
Posted: 26 Feb 2009 05:51 PM PST
Aquarium now has largest collection on display in North America
The Georgia Aquarium released two new great hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna mokarran) into the Ocean Voyager gallery, built by The Home Depot. The Aquarium now houses three great hammerhead sharks, giving it the largest collection of the species on display in North America and one of only two aquariums in the country to feature it.
A male and female shark, ranging five to seven feet in length and weighing between 44-89 lbs, were introduced into the 6.3 million gallon exhibit, where they join a male hammerhead shark that has been at Georgia Aquarium since 2005. The average length for an adult female is 8.2 to 18 feet (2.5 - 5.5 m), while a male is about 7.6 and 11 feet (2.3 - 3.4 m) long. The maximum size recorded for a great hammerhead is 19.7 feet (6 m). The hammerheads are an exciting addition to the various species of shark currently on display in Ocean Voyager including zebra sharks, black-tip reef sharks, tasseled wobbegongs, sand tiger sharks and the world’s largest fish, whale sharks.
The recently added great hammerhead sharks came from waters surrounding the Florida Keys and were brought to the Georgia Aquarium. The species is found worldwide in temperate areas, favoring coastal areas and continental shelves. In the Atlantic Ocean, they are found from North Carolina south to Uruguay including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.
Listed as globally endangered by IUCN, the great hammerhead shark is often subject to over-fishing. While their meat is rarely consumed, their skin is processed into leather and their liver oil is used for vitamins. With the addition of the two new hammerhead sharks, the Georgia Aquarium continues its mission to promote awareness and protection of aquatic animals.

Cute Alert: Meet LA Zoo’s New Meerkats
Posted: 26 Feb 2009 05:15 PM PST
By Olsen
LOS ANGELES — A new batch of meerkats has joined the Los Angeles Zoo, it was announced Thursday.
Four of the furry mammals came from the North Carolina Zoo and are housed in the meerkat habitat near the zoo’s flamingos.
“These four youngsters scurry around the habitat, dig for food and are extremely curious about all the sights and sounds of their new habitat,” the zoo said in a statement.
The fifth meerkat, Barky, was brought in from the Virginia Zoo as a companion to Chico, an older meerkat whose companion had passed away. Because the animals are highly territorial and rarely introduce new members to their gang, Chico lived at the LA Zoo as a solitary animal.
“As Chico is an older meerkat with some missing teeth and arthritis, he would not have been able to defend himself against a group. When zoo staff learned about Barky, an older male at the Virginia Zoo, the decision was made to bring Barky to Los Angeles as a companion for Chico. Barky and Chico live in the Children’s Zoo, where a special exhibit has been prepared for the two older animals with nest boxes and easier climbing opportunities,” the zoo said in a statement.
“As one of our older residents, Chico requires some special care, so we knew introducing him to a group probably wasn’t in his best interest. We were happy to work with the Virginia Zoo to provide a companion animal for him. Now we have two mobs and it’s a great opportunity for our visitors to observe meerkats,” said states zoo director John Lewis.
Native to southern Africa, meerkats inhabit complex systems of burrows in dry, open country. They either dig these burrows themselves or they acquire and share them with African ground squirrels or yellow mongooses.
Meerkats live in matriarchal groups called mobs. These mobs are comprised of an alpha mating pair, their pups and other adults. Each member has a special role. Non-alpha females baby-sit pups, protecting and nourishing them. Sentries stand on high ground and scan the surrounding area for predators while the rest of the mob forages for food. Teachers or mentors train weaned pups how to hunt, forage and protect themselves. Meerkats are omnivorous. Their diet consists of insects, larvae, ground-nesting birds, eggs, centipedes, small rodents, reptiles and scorpions.
The Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens is located in Griffith Park at the junction of the 134 and 5 freeways. Admission is $12 for adults and $7 for children (ages 2 to 12). The Zoo is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. For information, call 323-644-4200 or visit
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GIANT STINGRAY PICTURE: Largest Freshwater Fish?
Posted: 26 Feb 2009 04:49 PM PST
February 24, 2009–Fishers and scientists announced this week the catch, and release, of what is likely the world’s largest known freshwater giant stingray.
The giant stingray, weighing an estimated 550 to 990 pounds (250 to 450 kilograms) was reeled in on January 28, 2009, as part of a National Geographic expedition in Thailand.
The stringray’s body measured 6.6 feet (2 meters) wide by 6.9 feet (2.1) meters long. The tail was missing. If it had been there, the ray’s total length would have been between 14.8 and 16.4 feet (4.5 and 5 meters), estimated University of Nevada Biologist Zeb Hogan.
Hogan was in Thailand searching for giant fish as part of the Megafishes Project—an effort to document Earth’s 20 or so freshwater giants.
The new find gives Hogan hope that the giant stingray, once overfished, may be more abundant than previously thought. And it may confirm the giant stingray as the heavyweight champ of the Megafishes Project.
“Honestly, we just don’t know how much it weighed. But it’s clear that the giant stingray has the potential to be the largest freshwater fish in the world,” said Hogan, also a National Geographic Emerging Explorer. (National Geographic News is owned by the National Geographic Society.)
“The Thai populations were once considered critically endangered, although with the discovery of new populations the stingray’s abundance appears higher than previously believed,” added Hogan. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) currently lists the freshwater giant stingray as vulnerable.
Last March Hogan found a 14-foot-long (4.3-meter-long) ray near the Thai city of Chachoengsao. (See previous giant stingray news and video.)
Freshwater giant stingrays are among the largest of the approximately 200 species of rays. They can be found in a handful of rivers in Southeast Asia and northern Australia.
Much is still unknown about the mammoth ray species, including whether or not it can swim out to and survive at sea. The species was first described scientifically only in 1989.
Hogan and his colleagues are still looking for new varieties and populations of the giant stingray.
–Tasha Eichenseher
Photograph courtesy Zeb Hogan
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Love Match Results in Baby Joy for an Endangered Species at Bristol Zoo Gardens
Posted: 26 Feb 2009 10:17 AM PST
Keepers at Bristol Zoo Gardens are celebrating the birth of an unusual endangered species.
A baby Malagasy giant jumping rat has been born in the Zoo’s Nocturnal House - Twilight World - after a ‘love match’ was made to help boost the European captive population.
Bristol Zoo has not bred this unusual, rabbit-like species for more than four years, so a female jumping rat was brought in from a zoo in Prague in the hope that she would breed with the Zoo’s male.
The new pair was introduced in November and within weeks the female was pregnant, giving birth in a quiet, off-show enclosure in mid January. Now the new family has gone on show in Twilight World for the first time.
The sex of the baby is still unknown but keepers are monitoring the youngster’s progress. Katie Cummins, a small mammal keeper at Bristol Zoo, said: “The birth of this baby is great news for Bristol Zoo as well as for the European captive breeding population. The baby is doing very well, gaining strength and becoming more adventurous, but it still stays close to mum and dad who are proving to be very attentive new parents.”
Giant jumping rats are only found in Madagascar - a small island off the east coast of Southern Africa in the western Indian Ocean.
The species is listed on the World Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List for endangered species, with a decreasing population currently estimated at around 11,000.
At current rates of habitat loss and predation, it is predicted that the species could be extinct in the wild within about 24 years.
There are just 52 giant jumping rats in captivity in Europe, five of which are at Bristol Zoo Gardens.
For more information about Bristol Zoo Gardens, or to find out how to adopt an animal, visit the zoo website at or phone 0117 974 7300.

Reid Park Zoo’s king of the jungle gets new queen
Posted: 26 Feb 2009 09:03 AM PST
The king of the jungle is getting a queen at the Reid Park Zoo.
Kaya, a 16-month-old female African lioness, arrived at the zoo last week and will soon be joining male African lion Kitabu in his habitat.
She’s currently in quarantine, just to make sure she’s “super-healthy” before she’s introduced into the zoo’s population, education curator Vivian VanPeenen said.
The two lions will be more roommates than anything else, as Kitabu had a vasectomy in December.
Even though they won’t be mating, Kaya is expected to bring a playful bounce back into the habitat.
“She will challenge Kitabu to put pep back in his step,” VanPeenen said. Kitabu is still a young 16 years old, and he’s expected to become even more spry with a younger pal.
“She is full grown but still has that sort of baby look to her,” VanPeenen said of the lioness.
Kaya hails from the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park, where her keepers described her as “bold and independent.”
“They said she was incredibly inquisitive and very playful,” VanPeenen said.
A third lion at the Reid Park Zoo, old man M’bali who is 21, will not interact with Kaya.
He’ll stay in the large area behind the scenes when Kaya and Kitabu are in the main exhibit. The lions will be rotated, with the duo behind the scenes when M’bali is on exhibit.
“People will never see all three lions together at once,” VanPeenen explained.
The zoo’s previous female, A-Tatu, used to trade off spending time with both males. She was euthanized in October at age 21 because of her quality of life was diminished due to ailments like progressive arthritis.
Kaya, however, may be a bit much for M’bali to deal with.
“For geriatric animals, it’s too much of a challenge,” VanPeenen said.
She said Kaya should be out of quarantine in another two to three weeks.
Prior to Kaya, the most recent additions to the zoo were three little pigs - Visayan warty pigs, to be exact. Pearl, Dakila and Calaya came to the Reid Park Zoo in July.
A Pig Party is planned for the trio at 1 p.m. Sunday, which is National Pig Day.
“We never had pigs before,” VanPeenen said. “This is new for the zoo.”
The Pig Party will feature pig crafts, activities, a warty pig training demonstration and a pig parade for the kids.
The party is free with regular admission to the zoo.
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First Pics of Baby Camel at Detroit Zoo
Posted: 26 Feb 2009 08:15 AM PST
ROYAL OAK, Mich. (WXYZ) - The Detroit Zoo introduced its newest addition to the family Wednesday. A 9-month-old baby camel named Suren has arrived.
Suren is a female Bactrian camel. She can be seen in the camel yard along with 12-year-old Princess and 13-year-old Boris. The name Suren is Mongolian for “majestic”.
“Suren represents the new and younger generation of animals to join the Detroit Zoo,” said Curator of Mammals Bob Lessnau.
The calf stands 6-feet tall and weighs approximately 500 pounds. When she matures into an adult she could stand up to 7-feet tall and weigh

up to 1,500 pounds.
Bactrian camels grow thick winter coats to keep warm and shed them in the summer months. They have two humps compared to the dromedary camel which has one hump.
There is an easy way to remember this piece of camel trivia. Just turn the first letter of the camel’s name on its side. “B” for Bactrian has a double hump and “D” for dromedary has a single hump.
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Shedd Aquarium’s most popular sights to return in May
Posted: 26 Feb 2009 07:07 AM PST
By William Mullen Tribune reporter
Shedd Aquarium’s celebrated collection of marine mammals, missing in action since the aquarium shut down the Oceanarium in September to recoat its whale and dolphin pools, will be back on display beginning May 22.
The beluga whales, Pacific white-sided dolphins, sea otters and penguins will return from temporary homes in the next few weeks to repopulate the giant indoor pavilion. The popular marine mammal show, which is being totally revamped, will not debut until later in the summer, Shedd President Ted Beattie said Wednesday.
While the 3 million-gallon whale and dolphin pools will not change much in appearance, Beattie said many other spaces in the Oceanarium are being transformed.
The underwater exhibit area has been reconfigured as a play and learning area aimed at children ages 2 to 7. While all visitors will be able to view whales, dolphins, penguins and otters through the underwater viewing windows, the rest of the space will be taken up with a Polar Play Zone, where kids can learn about cold-water ocean environments, wear costumes, and view specially adapted animals such as fish, octopuses and sea stars.
In the Oceanarium amphitheater, workers have installed a stream that tumbles from top to bottom. A “River Mouth Habitat” will display salt-tolerant fish and invertebrates that live in the Pacific Northwest where freshwater rivers spill into the ocean.
Also later this summer, the Oceanarium plans to unveil a new exhibit in its whale pool where visitors will be allowed to meet and touch beluga whales in a behind-the-scenes look at how trainers work with the animals. A special fee will be charged.
Visitors will go through 90 minutes of training before donning waders to meet trainers and animals on a shelf in the pool. They will be able to touch the whales and perhaps even listen to their heartbeats through stethoscopes, said Shedd spokesman Roger Germann.
The $50 million renovation included redoing Shedd’s food services as well as remodeling its Oceanarium retail shop and temporary exhibit gallery.
Beginning Thursday the Shedd is offering a $3.95 discount on advance ticket sales for the opening, charging $25 for adults and $18 for seniors and children. The tickets, good through June 28, can be purchased online at or by calling 800-982-2787.
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Farewell to Sunita
Posted: 26 Feb 2009 06:04 AM PST
by Wild Animal Park Asian Elephant Team
Sadly, 60-year-old Sunita, the oldest elephant at the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park, passed away on Wednesday, February 25. She had lived at the Wild Animal Park since 1974 and had been receiving specialized care because of her advanced age. She will be much missed.
Nita was one of the smartest, most personable elephants around. Everyone loved her. And if for some reason you didn’t, she found a way to win you over. She did all sorts of things to get your attention: give you gifts of dirt or hay, make sounds like she swallowed a lion, or pick up her foot like she was injured. If you ignored all of that, you might receive a blast of water expertly aimed to soak you. But her antics were

always in good fun.
One of our favorite Nita quirks was her love of putting objects in her tusk sockets to look like she had longer tusks. We joked that she wanted to be an African elephant. We were always delighted when she removed the “tusk” and handed it to us as a gift. Nita loved being with people, and she regularly preferred our company to food.
At the Wild Animal Park, she charmed our guests in demonstrations and was always willing to show off for people. In her early days here, she played tug-of-war with thousands of wide-eyed school kids. She always won.
If Nita found an object that one of the staff wanted to retrieve from the yard, she knew she could bargain with us for an exchange. She also understood that if she broke it into several pieces, she had more to bargain with and could get several apples instead of just one.
In the past year, we knew that age was finally catching up with Nita. She slowed down a bit, and we even started chopping up her hay so she could chew it better. However, it became evident in the past week that she was really sick. We gave her everything that we could think of: special treats, extra love, attention, and care. But despite our efforts, we had to accept that the best thing for Nita was to let her go and humanely euthanize her.
Nita was an elephant ambassador for her species. She brightened all our lives and those of anyone else fortunate enough to meet her. We all feel lucky to have known her.
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