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Category — Animals

Florida Manatee, Abigail, Returns Home

On Friday, October 2, the Zoo bid farewell to its youngest manatee, Abigail, in preparation for her release back into the wild. Upon her arrival to the Cincinnati Zoo back in 2013, Abigail weighed just 295 lbs. At three-and-a-half years old, Abigail was rescued from the Indian River system near Merritt Island in Brevard County, Florida. Suffering from cold stress, Abigail received critical care at Sea World Orlando before coming to Cincinnati.

Abigail (Photo: ChengLun Na)

Abigail (Photo: ChengLun Na)

Now up to healthy 630 lbs, Abigail is ready to go back to the wild. “The departure of Abigail brings both sadness and joy to our hearts. We will miss her but are happy to see her return home, fully recovered. She plays a vital role in the recovery of this endangered species,” said Zoo manatee keeper James Vogel. Veterinarian Dr. Mark Campbell and manatee keeper Megan O’Keefe accompanied the manatee on her overnight journey on a DHL flight to Miami Seaquarium, where she will stay until she is ready to be released into her native habitat. She will be released back into the waters in Brevard County once she becomes acclimated (at Miami Seaquarium) to the natural diet and brackish water found in that region. Her movements will be tracked via satellite for one year.

Manatee rescue team ready to pick up Abigail

Manatee rescue team ready to pick up Abigail

Abigail is the 14th manatee to be rehabilitated at the Cincinnati Zoo and will be the 13th to be released back into Florida waters. The Cincinnati Zoo is one of two U.S. zoos outside of Florida that participate in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Manatee Rescue, Rehabilitation and Release Program. The goal of this program is to rescue and treat sick or injured manatees and then release them back into the wild.

The Manatee Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP) is a cooperative group of non-profit, private, state, and federal entities who work together to monitor the health and survival of rehabilitated and released manatees. Information about manatees currently being tracked is available at www.ManateeRescue.org. The endangered Florida manatee is at risk from both natural and man-made causes of injury and mortality. Exposure to red tide, cold stress, and disease are all natural problems that can affect manatees. Human-caused threats include boat strikes, crushing by flood gates or locks, and entanglement in or ingestion of fishing gear.

Abigail’s companion at Manatee Springs, 25-year-old Betsy, will remain in Cincinnati long term and will be joined by another manatee in need of rehabilitation in the next few months.

Betsy (Photo: DJJAM)

Betsy (Photo: DJJAM)


October 12, 2015   No Comments

Keeper’s Tribute to a Turtle

Earlier this week, the zoo lost one of its iconic animals. Our large alligator snapping turtle housed at Manatee Springs, Capone, passed away Tuesday evening.


As his keepers, one of our favorite things to do was feed Capone with large crowds present. He would open that giant mouth and chomp his fish, quickly swallowing it whole. The collective gasp from the visitors could be heard from the keeper area and would always put a smile on my face. Capone was also a phenomenal teacher for our Zoo Academy students. We would let students offer his food, and the teenagers would nervously take the feeding pole after being told, “don’t drop the tongs”. Capone would come barreling toward the surface for his juicy herring. Sometimes the students would drop the fish (never the tongs), but eventually they would successfully give our massive turtle his dinner. It was such a boost of confidence for them, and Capone was infinitely patient.


I’ve found conflicting information about the longevity of alligator snapping turtles, but most often have read that they can live to be anywhere from 50-100 years old. The keepers always considered him to be the old man of Manatee Springs. His ancient, dinosaur-like look also made him a favorite with our guests. One of the most common questions we would be asked was “how old is he?”. We weren’t ever really certain how old Capone was, but zoo lore told that he was one of the oldest animals in the zoo. He came here in 1998 for the opening of Manatee Springs.


Capone always impressed visitors with his massive size. He weighed around 150-160 lbs., which is average for male snapping turtles. Some, however, can reach 200 lbs. This makes them the largest freshwater turtle in North America and one of the biggest freshwater turtles worldwide. Despite his size, he could really blend in which gave guests a huge surprise when they finally found him.

Everybody who worked around Capone came to really love him. What he may have lacked in the “cute and cuddly” department (unless you ask me because I thought he was adorable), he made up for in charisma. He often would beg from keepers as they were working around his tank. In previous years he had been fed through some of the holes in the exhibit rockwork. Even long after he was fed that way, he would peak his massive head through one of the holes hoping for a treat.

We will all miss Capone.


October 8, 2015   11 Comments

#GoodnightZoo – A Routine Night With Wild Animals

On June 12, 2015, the Zoo’s Twitter team accompanied Night Keeper Mike on his evening rounds and shared our animals’ bedtime routines with followers using hashtag #GoodnightZooIn case you missed it, here’s a recap of that night plus extra photos and content provided by Mike.  (See #GoodnightZoo article on WCPO)

Please note that all images were taken from a distance and from behind barriers. It is not safe to own wild animals as pets or to share space with them.

Mike Kroeger, aka “Night Keeper Mike,” has been at the Cincinnati Zoo since May of 1996. That’s 19 years! He’s worked in the Bird House, Rhino Reserve, and the Children’s Zoo before moving to Night Watch.

We met Night Keeper Mike at 4pm at the Animal Hospital. He starts his rounds there after speaking with the vet on duty. Tonight it happened to be Dr. Jenny Nollman. She lets Mike know of any special instructions for the night and then he’s on his way. Goodnight Dr. Nollman!


Night Keeper Mike & Dr. Jenny Nollman

First stop: Galápagos tortoise! Night Keeper Mike has no issues getting these turtles inside. They gladly followed his trail of veggies. Goodnight Galápagos tortoises!


Galápagos tortoises follow Night Keeper Mike’s trail of veggies inside.

Mike keeps up a fast pace around the Zoo in order to get everything done. We quickly walk over to Night Hunters to check on Prosperity and Gracious, the white lions. White lions are a rare color mutation of the African lion. They are not albino; they are leucistic, which means they lack dark pigmentation. Prosperity, the mother, is always brought inside first, followed by daughter Gracious. They are given their nighttime meals separately (as is the routine with all the cats, so the dominant one doesn’t eat all of the food) and then they’re brought back together for the night.


Prosperity’s dinner!

While feeding these two, Night Keeper Mike got a call on the radio that the  alarm in Night Hunters was going off. Off we went! He says each night is different from the next. This was a good example! Luckily, it was a false alarm and everything was okay.


Tiger Enrichment Notes

The manatees were next on his list. Night Keeper Mike takes us behind the scenes to get a view of the massive sea cows from above. As part of the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP), the Cincinnati Zoo is a second stage rehabilitation facility that provides a temporary home for manatees until they are ready for release back into the wild. Mike checked the environmental systems including pumps and ozone and they were functioning properly and the manatees were good to go. Goodnight manatees!


After checking on the manatees, Mike takes a look at the other animals in Manatee Springs to make sure that all is well. Goodnight snake!


Next was a trip to the Rhino Reserve. Black rhino Seyia and Indian rhino Manjula live there, as well as okapi, bongosGrevy’s zebras and yellow-backed duikers. Night Keeper Mike is especially fond of Seyia and usually gives her one or two grain biscuit treats!

Seyia's ready for snacks & playtime!

Seyia’s ready for snacks & playtime!

Indian rhino Manjula chomps on her dinner.

Indian rhino Manjula chomps on her dinner.

Yellow-backed duiker and her calf.

Yellow-backed duiker Lilly and her calf Stanley.

Zebra's Buster & Lainey  are ready for bed.

Zebra’s Buster & Lainey are ready for bed.



Bongo heading inside.

Beau the 3yr old bongo heads inside.

Bedtime for baby bongo calf Stevie!

Bedtime for baby bongo calf Sukari!

Wildlife Canyon, home to the only Sumatran rhino in the Western Hemisphere, Harapan, was next on the list. This stop included a variety of animals. Mike’s job is to bring them inside and make sure they have food for the night. Some animals like Harapan have access to their outdoor exhibit all night (weather dependent).

Sleepy hogs.

Sleepy pot-bellied pigs.

Przewalski's Horse

Przewalski’s Horse

Warty Pigs get a bedtime snack.

Visayan warty pigs get a bedtime snack.

Capybaras decided they didn't want to come in yet.

Capybaras decided they didn’t want to come in yet.

Harapan interacting with his enrichment before bedtime.

Harapan interacting with his enrichment before bedtime.

Time to check on the Andean bear (Chester), black bears (Mato & Yona) and polar bears (Little One & Berit). They also have access to their outdoor exhibits all night long!

Caught snoozing with his arm straight up!

Caught Chester snoozing with his arm straight up!

Polar bear!

Polar bear!


The American black bear waiting patiently for a bedtime snack.

Time to venture to Africa! Mike has to get all of the savannah animals to their indoor exhibits. Tonight Africa Keeper Dan was there to help. Together they corralled the kudu, ostrich, cranes and the rest of the hoofstock inside (the animals made them work for it).  Dr. Nollman noted to Mike that cheetah “Savanna” is experiencing indigestion. Mike makes a meatball and hides medicine to ease her stomach inside.

Night Keeper Mike prepares the cheetah's diet.

Night Keeper Mike prepares the cheetah’s diet.


Savanna the cheetah getting her meds.

Animals in Children’s Zoo were already in bed!

Three little pigs sleeping in their bed.

We head back over to Africa so Night Keeper Mike can talk to the Nocturnal Adventure kids about the lion cubs.

Night Keeper Mike talks to Nocturnal Adventure overnight kids about the lions.

Three tired cubs with their dad, John on the monitor.

Three tired cubs with their dad, John on the monitor.


#CZBGLionCubs woke up! Dad John is still sleepy.

Back to the nursery!

Goodnight nursery dog Blakely!

Goodnight nursery dog Blakely!

Goodnight wallabies!

Goodnight wallabies!

Night Keeper Mike heads back to Night Hunters to bring in the cougars (Joseph & Tecumseh), white tigers (Akere & Popsey), Malayan tigers (Taj & Who Dey), snow leopards (Renji & Nubo) and to check on the other cats.


Night Keeper Mike has the meat for the tigers!


Goodnight Pallas’ cat


Goodnight Josie (caracal)


Goodnight snow leopard Nubo


Goodnight Malayan tiger brothers Taj & Who Dey


Goodnight Malayan Tiger


Goodnight White tiger

We only spent four hours with Night Keeper Mike when we had to check out, but he still had a lot of work to do!


4 hours and 15,000 steps later and we were done for the night!

Another #GoodnightZoo is planned for late fall, so follow along on Twitter!

October 7, 2015   3 Comments