Once a month I have the great honor of visiting the children’s ward at the Kaiser Permanente hospital in San Diego as part of the San Diego Zoo’s outreach program. It is truly a heartwarming experience for my colleagues and me. One month we had a great time and some extra help from our friend, Yvette McClain, who works in the Zoo’s Merchandising Department.
See Kim’s previous post, Reindeer Baby Boris Grows Up.
The next big step in Boris’ social introduction was encouraging him to live in the main exhibit with the herd. To help make his move successful, we set up a “creep” for Boris. A creep is a small, safe pen, similar to a “howdy pen,” where a young animal can go to escape the herd and also meet his keepers for bottles.
It is not always easy for me to convince people that what we are doing is hard work. Our island site is warm and pleasant at this time of year, surrounded by beautiful ocean and inhabited by wonderful koalas. Fortunately, I am having many visitors to my study site, which means I have many more hands on deck, which means we can do even more!
It’s hard to believe summer is a distant memory, and fall is quickly passing. Can we already be into the middle of November? Six months ago we were all so sure our Chinook would be caring for cubs. We’ve not yet given up, but the wait and uncertainty is almost un”bear”able. We will just have to wait a bit longer to know if we will be welcoming any cubs to our family.
Here is what we do know: as of the last analysis of hormones, October 12, Chinook had not yet had any embryos implant, but her levels were still close to what we would expect of a potentially pregnant polar bear. So if she is pregnant, we would now not expect to see any cubs until late November or early December. We must still keep in mind that these tests are not a perfected science, and we still have many things to learn.
The next time you travel down Big Cat Trail at the San Diego Zoo, be sure to check out our upgraded mountain lion, or cougar, habitat. Thanks to a generous donation, we were able to add features to the exhibit that should stimulate the lives of our cougars while improving the experience of our guests.
Our cougar exhibit is home to two animals: a male, Yakima or “Kima,” and a female, Koyama, or “Koya.” They both came to the Zoo after they were found orphaned in the wild at an age where they were much too young to care for themselves. Now they give our visitors a chance to experience cougars, which frequently roam the hills just east and north of San Diego.
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park has two new, adorable additions to our cat family! In the wee hours of October 5, two 4½-pound Sumatran tiger cubs were born to our female, Delta. This is Delta’s third litter, and she continues to show us what an excellent mother she is.
What if San Diego Zoo polar bear Chinook gives birth to a beautiful healthy cub? What if the cub is sick or hurt just after it is born? What if Chinook doesn’t know what to do with her tiny squawking bundle? What if she can’t produce enough milk? What if the confusion of first-time motherhood is too much for Chinook to handle? How could we help? What should we do? What would we do?
Why would we even entertain such horrible thoughts? What’s with all the doom and gloom?
Tuesday, November 9, was “crane day” at the Giant Panda Research Station. No, not the feathered kind; they’re all waiting in the wings, so to speak, for our four-day Festival of Flight, November 11 to 14. Instead, it was heavy equipment day, starting in the wee hours of the morning. A large crane was moved into position in the panda canyon to do the heavy lifting for the panda exhibit renovation before the Zoo opened, and heavy lifting it was.
When Jay Parker and his wife, Lauren, visited us here at the San Diego Zoo, they hardly thought that the trip would launch them into celebrity status. But that’s exactly what happened when they took these photographs in front of the Zoo’s river hippo exhibit. The Parkers each took a turn posing in front of the glass, with Otis, our 34-year-old male hippo, right on the other side. Zoo visitors take similar photos every day, but at this particular moment, Otis was facing the glass, exposing some teeth, and actually looked like he was smiling! The picture has since gone “viral,” and people all over the world have gotten a kick out of Otis and his goofy grin.
See Kim’s previous post, Reindeer Baby Boris Comes Home.
As Boris grew older, physical changes in him became more and more obvious. He was getting taller and more muscular. His thick velvet coat was getting even more dense, and antler buds were beginning to grow on top of his fuzzy black head. Every once in awhile Boris would delicately balance on three legs in order to scratch an antler bud with his hoof, as if satisfying a little itch. He also began growing the thick patch of skin and hair that reindeer display under their throats. Boris was beginning to look more like a reindeer and less like a Holstein calf!