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Category — Exhibits

Have you heard about the new Kea Encounter?

Written by Crissi Lanier, Advanced Inquiry Program Graduate and Interpretive Media Volunteer, and Shasta Bray, Interpretive Media Manager

Guests make a new friend at the Kea Encounter

Guests make a new friend at the Kea Encounter

If you’re like me, your first question might be: What is a kea?

Meet the Kea

Ground-nesting parrots native to the Southern Alps on the Southern Island of New Zealand, keas have adapted to survive through bitter cold and little food during harsh winters, feeding mainly on bulbs, leaves, seeds, worms and insects, and even Hutton’s Shearwater chicks and eggs when other food isn’t available. Males are slightly heavier than females weighing about 850 to 1,000 grams (around 1.5 to 2 pounds) and have noticeably larger upper mandibles.

Female kea

Female kea

 

Male kea

Male kea

Keas have beautiful olive green feathers that become slightly darker at the end. If you look closely when they spread their wings, you will see a brilliant orange color on the under part of their wings. While keas are strong fliers, they spend a great deal of time on the forest floor foraging for food.

Antonio (male) shows off the beautiful colors on the underside of his wings.

Antonio (male) shows off the beautiful colors on the underside of his wings.

These clever parrots are considered to be as intelligent as primates. They regularly engage in play behavior and display play signals much like canids and primates do. They can also learn and adapt very quickly when presented with new situations such as the new Kea Encounter!

Keas are listed as Nationally Endangered in New Zealand and as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.  This means it faces a high risk of extinction in the wild. They have been considered a threat to livestock and 150,000 birds were killed as part of a government bounty system. They have also seen a decline in numbers due to invasive species, habitat loss and lead poisoning. Only in 1986 did they finally receive legal protection. Clearly, they are in need of our help.

Keas at the Zoo

The Cincinnati Zoo is home to over 40% of the entire kea population in North America with 16 keas, include 10 adults (five males and five females) and six juveniles. The juveniles hatched in April and are growing rapidly, already weighing as much as a young adult. Juveniles can be spotted by the yellowish coloring around their eyes and beak, which fades to dark brown after several years.

Kea chicks that hatched at the Zoo

Kea chicks that hatched at the Zoo

Come Play at the New Kea Encounter!

At the new kea exhibit (formerly Lorikeet Landing), there is large window through which guests can view the birds. Here, guests can play an interactive game with the keas to move a quarter through a puzzle by taking turns at turning gears and flipping levers.

Guests work with the kea to move a coin through a puzzle.

Guests work with the kea to move a coin through a puzzle.

 

There is also an interactive that challenges guests to be clever like a kea and move a ball around a track by working together. Keepers are on hand each day at 10:30 AM to chat with guests (check the daily animal encounters schedule for confirmation).

Guests work together to move a ball along a path to see if they are clever like a kea.

Guests work together to move a ball along a path to see if they are clever like a kea.

During the special Kea Encounter on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 4:00 to 5:00 PM, visitors are invited to enter the kea habitat. During that time, you can get up close views of the birds as they fly over your head and hop on the ground around you. With keeper assistance, the birds will accept donations for kea conservation; taking your dollar in their beak, they fly to a donation box and drop it in.

A kea collects a dollar donation from a guest.

A kea collects a dollar donation from a guest.

 

A young guest meets a kea up close.

A young guest meets a kea up close.

Supporting Kea Conservation

Funds raised by the Zoo support the  Kea Conservation Trust (KCT) in its mission to protect keas in the wild through nest monitoring and tracking kea movements. KCT is also testing a non-toxic repellent spray that would keep keas away from livestock and, in return, protect keas from farmer retaliation.  (Keas have been known to peck at and feed on the backs of sheep with their sharp beaks.)

Kea Conservation Trust studying keas in the wild (Photo: Nigel Adams)

Kea Conservation Trust studying keas in the wild (Photo: Nigel Adams)

Next time you’re at the Zoo, be sure to stop by and participate in our new Kea Encounter!

 

June 20, 2014   No Comments

Cincinnati Zoo Recognized by American Alliance of Museums

The American Alliance of Museums has chosen the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden for two exciting new awards in excellence: the Sustainability Excellence Award and the Excellence in Exhibition Award.  These award competitions were chosen by a committee from the American Alliance of Museums and in the midst of a competitive lineup between other zoos, museums, and aquariums.

The first award obtained by the Cincinnati Zoo is the Sustainability Excellence award.  The purpose of this award is to educate, facilitate, and encourage green practice and to acknowledge and celebrate leaders in environmental sustainability.  The Zoo has been made a model for environmental sustainability based on this award.

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The second award given to the Cincinnati Zoo was the Excellence in Exhibition Award.  This award was given to the Zoo on behalf of their Jungle Trails exhibit for “Special distinction, exemplary model of creating experiences for social engagement.”  The judges on the committee for this award were impressed with the Zoo’s social engagement and listening to their visitors’ voices in creating a multi-sensory experience.

balance family with sign

 The photos above show a few examples of the interactive experiences that guests can explore in the Jungle Trails Exhibit. The Swing like a Gibbon interaction, on the left, is two parallel sets of monkey bars – one at kid height, one at adult height. This encourages guests to race as well as to collaborate to get their whole troop across without touching the ground like a family of gibbons would do in the wild.  The Balance like a Lemur interactive experience is two parallel ropes that are suspended a few inches off the ground.  The main goal is to get across, walking on the ropes and holding onto the dangling ones for balance – our most popular with guests!

The Cincinnati Zoo is very pleased to have been awarded these honors, and will continue to strive for award-winning exhibits as well as sustainable facilities around the Zoo as they continue their “Greenest Zoo in America” campaign.  For more information about the American Alliance of Museums and their awards, please visit http://www.aam-us.org/.

June 12, 2014   No Comments

Successful Fixed Time Artificial Insemination in the Fishing Cat

CREW continues to make progress in improving the success of artificial insemination (AI) for propagating endangered
cats. In recent research, we incorporated treatment with oral progesterone (Regumate) into our AI protocol for domestic cats to down-regulate ovarian function prior to ovarian stimulation. This approach allows us to control ovarian activity more precisely and conduct AI procedures on a fixed time schedule.

Dr. William Swanson performs an AI procedure.

Dr. William Swanson performs an AI procedure.

Our first attempt using this method in exotic felids involved our fishing cat named Ratana,who was incapable of breeding naturally after losing a front leg due to injury. Ratana was fed a small amount of oral progesterone daily for one month to suppress her ovarian activity and then treated with gonadotropins to induce follicular growth and ovulation. Laparoscopic AI of both oviducts with freshly collected sperm from our resident male, named Gorton, resulted in conception and the birth of a male fishing cat kitten after a 69 day gestation.

Ratana and her kitten in her nest box

Ratana and her kitten in her nest box

This kitten was the first non-domestic cat born following the use of oral progesterone for fixed time AI, and represents the fifth cat species (fishing cat, ocelot, Pallas’ cat, tiger, domestic cat) that we have produced with oviductal AI. This new approach could greatly advance our capacity to use AI for the genetic management of endangered felid species.

Fishing cat (Photo: Connie Lemperle)

Fishing cat (Photo: Connie Lemperle)

April 11, 2014   1 Comment