Archive for 2008

Snub-nosed Monkeys: Meetings

Posted at 10:40 am December 31, 2008 by Maren Peterson

San Diego Zoo staff members Bryan Endress and Maren Peterson are currently in Vietnam to help put together a conservation plan for critically endangered Tonkin snub-nosed monkeys. They are keeping us posted on their progress. See Maren’s previous blog, Tonkin Snub-nosed Monkeys.

Yesterday was a series of meetings with the local conservation organization to discuss their proposed efforts. We had lunch – where we’re getting better at using chopsticks – and then braved the traffic to visit the University of Hanoi’s Forestry Department. They welcomed us with great kindness and excitement about potential collaborations. A number of professors gave presentations, and we toured their experimental forest. We then went to dinner and discussed conservation and research opportunities over many glasses of rice wine.


Tonkin Snub-nosed Monkeys

Posted at 11:51 am December 30, 2008 by Maren Peterson

What a way to end the year and begin a new one! Bryan Endress, division head of the San Diego Zoo’s Applied Plant Ecology Division, and I traveled to Vietnam yesterday; it’s a long 19+ hour flight. We will be meeting with collaborators from another conservation organization, governmental officials, university researchers, and local communities to discuss increasing our involvement in a Tonkin snub-nosed monkey (TSNM) conservation program. TSNMs were thought to be extinct; however, a few populations were discovered, and it is estimated there are around 200 to 300 left in the wild.


That Right-Hand Exhibit

Posted at 5:35 pm December 29, 2008 by Ellie Rosenbaum

Astute watchers of Panda Cam will have noticed that Su Lin has replaced Gao Gao in the right-hand viewing area at the San Diego Zoo’s Giant Panda Research Station; but what is it about that place? During the recent cold rains, not two days into her tenure there, we were treated to a wild round of rain romping. Since it was a holiday week, there were lots of visitors there in spite of the rain, and her antics even brought the keepers out to watch the fun. It has been a while since Su Lin was inspired to this kind of swinging, climbing foul-weather play, and as she continues to get bigger and stronger, it becomes more elaborate and enjoyable for all of us.


Rainy Days in Sensory Ecology Lab

Posted at 1:04 pm December 29, 2008 by Matt Anderson

The arrival of heavy rain in San Diego County brought about many changes in animal behavior at the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park. Some species enjoyed the change in the weather and became more active, while others took advantage of the shelter provided by well-designed enclosures and large tree canopies within the exhibits.


Meerkats: Heat Seekers

Posted at 3:51 pm December 26, 2008 by Laura Weiner

This time of the year is my favorite with the meerkats. Our group is getting along well and all of the kids are growing nicely (see Laura’s previous blog, Meerkats: Scent-Marking). The weather is cold and sometimes wet, which means the meerkats don’t do as much digging. Most of their day is spent basking in the sun and standing on their tippy toes trying to get their bellies warm.


Panda High Jinks

Posted at 2:42 pm December 26, 2008 by Ellie Rosenbaum

Thursday, December 18, was certainly a momentous day for panda fans in San Diego and elsewhere as the new loan agreement was signed, insuring that the pandas would be in residence at the San Diego Zoo for another five years. In anticipation of this day, lots of new plantings were placed in both of the viewing areas, in addition to the previously described modifications to the “lair” in the left-hand enclosure (see Ellie’s previous blog, New Digs for Pandas). And yes, Zhen Zhen is already demolishing some of the plantings, even as more have been added over the last week.


Harpy Eagle Chick Doubles Size

Posted at 10:32 am December 26, 2008 by Beau Parks

Harpy eagle chick, day 8Since hatching three weeks ago, the Zoo’s harpy eagle chick has grown from a helpless little ball of fluff to, well, a significantly larger ball of fluff. (Read Beau’s previous blog, Harpy Eagle Chick.) The chick doubled in size in just about a week and now (at almost three weeks) weighs nearly a pound.

At day 15Its little legs, barely wider than a toothpick at hatching, have grown wider than a Bic pen. They’re not even strong enough yet to support the rapidly growing chick, but as the talons grow in and begin to curve downward, the feet are becoming weak, miniature versions of the adult harpy eagle’s lethal killing tools. The adult harpy eagle’s foot can have a span as large as a man’s hand and is capable of exerting over 500 pounds (225 kilograms) per square inch of pressure. That’s more pressure than a gray wolf’s bite and about five times the grip of an average man’s hand!


Favorite Jaguar Moments

Posted at 10:36 am December 24, 2008 by Karen Barnes

I am privileged to work the exhibits in Cat Canyon. Each species has its own mind set; its own management challenges, its own beauty. Each individual, its own personality.

We have two jaguars. Orson, a magnificent black jaguar, and Nindiri, a small female with the more normal coat pattern of black spots on a golden coat. They are placed on exhibit, one at a time, during the day. Each seems to enjoy their time on exhibit and the admiration of guests and staff alike. When I think of them, several moments come to mind:


The Next Stage

Posted at 6:38 pm December 23, 2008 by Anastasia Horning

While watching Zhen Zhen and Bai Yun, it shows that we’re getting close to a new stage for the panda youngster. In just a few months we will see Zhen Zhen and Bai Yun begin to separate. This would normally happen in the wild anywhere from 18 months to 2 years old. Although Zhen Zhen does still nurse from mom, Bai Yun will ween the cub completely soon. Zhen is actually eating a very good amount of bamboo already. She has shown a lot of interest in the stalk of the bamboo, and has shown all of us that she can maneuver the bamboo to eat the same thick part as mom. Panda cubs first begin eating solids around 10 months, usually starting on the leaves and smaller parts of the stalk. As they grow older, they will be able to break through bamboo quickly, and efficiently.


Andean Bear Country

Posted at 1:38 pm December 22, 2008 by Russ Van Horn
Looking back at four hours of hiking

Russ Van Horn has been studying Andean bears in Peru. Read his previous blog, Andean Bears: Still Elusive.

By the time you read this I’ll be back in San Diego, trying to stay disciplined enough to practice my Spanish and begin learning a few phrases in Quechua. My Spanish is still weak, but my Quechua is limited to a dozen words, which I probably mispronounce.

During the time I spent in the area above Quince Mil, Peru, I repeatedly heard that every year the people living in the village of Quico have trouble with Andean bears raiding their maize. I’d also heard that the people of that area were much more traditional and conservative than people living closer to the main road. For example, the first, and preferred, language of the people of Quico is Quechua, not Spanish. So, it didn’t seem wise to just show up there before establishing a connection to the community.