Category — Exhibits
Do you know Moe? You should! She is the star of the Discovery Forest exhibit in our Education Center. As a two-toed sloth, Moe spends her days hanging out in her favorite tree. While she does rest a lot (she is a sloth, after all), Moe can be quite active at times and she is very curious.
Moe has become a favorite with the thousands of kids and families that participate in Education programs and camps. You can’t come and go to Summer Camp without passing by to say hello and good-bye to Moe. At the end of the day, Moe climbs down a special ladder made just for her into the arms of one of her keepers, who carries her to a behind-the-scenes suite for the night.
These days, Moe is doing more with her celebrity status beyond inspiring our guests. She and her keepers are helping to save sloths in the wild. Between April and October, guests can schedule a private, up close 30-minute encounter with Moe and her keepers. A portion of the proceeds from the ‘Moe’mentous Sloth Encounter support The Sloth Institute Costa Rica (TSI) and its mission to ensure a peaceful coexistence between sloths and people.
The Sloth Institute (TSI) was established in August of 2014 by Sam Trull and Seda Sejud to enhance the well being of captive and wild sloths through research and education. In collaboration with Kids Saving the Rainforest (KSTR), TSI helps to rescue, rehabilitate and release the sloths of Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. In the area near Manuel Antonio National Park, one of Costa Rica’s smallest yet most popular tourist destinations, roads and development have fragmented the natural forest habitat, increasing the threats to the very wildlife people come to see. The most common injuries to sloths are electrocutions from touching electrical wires and orphans separated from their mothers. Sloths are also vulnerable to vehicle strikes and dog attacks when they descend from the trees. In addition, TSI helps KSTR hand-rear baby sloths that are orphaned because the mother abandoned them or the mother was injured or killed. Sloths can be very difficult to raise due to their sensitivity to infection and incomplete information on what wild sloths need to survive.
When possible, the goal is to rehabilitate and release the sloths that are healthy and capable enough to survive and thrive again in the wild. In order to monitor each individual’s success post release, TSI plans to fit each sloth with a tracking device that will allow them to be monitored post-release and contribute to knowledge about sloth ecology and how to successfully raise and release orphaned and injured sloths.
TSI is beginning its first release project of 2 two-toed and 2 three-toed sloths. The release process involves selecting and obtaining permits for an appropriate forested area for the release that is safe from development, electric wires and cars. Once a site is secured, the sloths will be transferred from the KSTR rescue center to a soft-release enclosure in the forest to let them get used to their new environment. During this time, TSI will provide leaves from the forest to get the sloths more used to the diet found at the release site while still supplementing them with captive food. After about a month, TSI will open the door, allowing the sloths access to the surrounding forest. They will be able to choose when to explore the outside world. This “soft release” gives the sloths as much time as they need to get used to their new environment and learn how to find food before going off completely on their own, which is the most appropriate method for hand-raised orphans that require a lot of maternal investment.
With funding from the Cincinnati Zoo, TSI was able to purchase four of the VHF tracking collars for this project. Fitted with the collars, the sloths can be tracked around the clock to collect behavioral data, locational data and health status information. Simultaneously, TSI will also track wild sloths for comparison and to provide parameters for evaluating the success of the release.
Furthermore, TSI will also start a long-term field station for studying wild sloths in Manuel Antonio. They hope to learn more about sloth ecology in this region of Costa Rica, including information on diets, home range, carrying capacity, health status and social structure.
Keep up with the latest happenings at TSI through its Sloth Diaries blog, and consider supporting sloths in the wild by booking your own Sloth Encounter at the Zoo. And next time you’re at the Zoo, be sure to stop into the Education Center to say hello to Moe.
June 15, 2015 1 Comment
Hello! My name is Ke’Yasha Lumaine and I am a senior at the Zoo Academy. That’s right, the ZOO ACADEMY! I have been fortunate enough to actually go to school at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden my junior and senior years of high school. It has been an amazing life experience. There is a particular memory at the Zoo Academy that I will always think of fondly – my first encounter with the kea.
During my senior year, I had the chance to do a lab rotation in the Aviculture (bird) department. It was the coolest experience that I have had with any department at the Zoo. Lab is where we spend two hours every day taking care of animals or maintaining Zoo grounds. I’ve had lab in Night Hunters, Maintenance, Commissary, Conservatory, Manatee Springs, Reptile House, Education and Education Interpretive Collection, yet no lab compared to the Aviculture department. At the time of my lab rotation, I had the chance to go into the Flight Cage which has kea, lorikeets, pigeons, and geese that are free to fly around the whole exhibit. To me, the most exciting birds in the exhibit were the kea. When Kim (an Aviculture keeper) and I walked into the enclosure, they all came wobbling towards us. They can look very intimidating with their long, sharp beak, strong claws and are pretty big in size for a parrot. I was a little uneasy about this at first but I felt sort of safe since Kim was there. They just swarmed around and played with us, climbing on my boots and following me around. They were like puppies, just with large beaks and wings! After my lab rotation, I learned that kea are the world’s only alpine parrot, that they live in the mountainous regions of South Island, New Zealand and that they were almost hunted to their extinction. Between the years of 1870 and 1970, it is estimated that 150,000 kea were killed by hunters who were paid bounties by the local government. Keas were hunted because their actions indirectly killed sheep. They would bite the backs of sheep and eat the fat stored near the kidneys. The sheep would often die later of an infection. The kea did this because, in the harsh winter months, the food that they would normally eat it is hard to find. One hundred years after the hunting began, a wildlife census found that there were only 5,000 birds left in the wild. After this, keas were granted partial protection until 1986 when they were given full protection under the Wildlife Act of 1953. Now, there are estimated to be 1,000-5,000 keas in the wild, making them a nationally endangered species. The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden has teamed up with the Kea Conservation Trust (KCT) with the hope that they can successfully increase kea populations. They use population research using vhf video tracking, nest monitoring devices and kea repellents to reduce human-wildlife conflict. The Zoo also sponsors KCT staff attendance at Human Wildlife Conflict Collaboration which enables the KCT personnel to enhance their skills of first response human-wildlife emergencies. In addition, the Cincinnati Zoo has the largest collection of keas in North America and is committed to their conservation. At the time of my lab rotation, the keepers had successfully bred a pair and their chicks were a few months old. After learning about kea and interacting with them, I wanted to find out what I could do to help them. I learned that there are numerous ways that we can help spread awareness and conserve their natural habitat. It can be something as simple as telling someone about kea, donating money to the Kea Conservation Trust, or placing change in the interactive enrichment puzzle at their exhibit. Every small contribution adds up to make a huge impact. Next time you come to the Zoo make sure that you make a stop by the flight cage and visit the kea. They really love interacting with new people!
June 11, 2015 4 Comments
It is easy to be distracted by our thirteen new (and adorable) babies in the Africa exhibit, but don’t forget to check out the awesome antelope and birds living in our savannah area! They are all interesting in their own way and below you can find more information and helpful hints on how to identify each one.
Lesser Kudu are a grayish-blue colored antelope with large ears and white stripes going down their sides. Females do not have horns and are a reddish color. They are wonderful at blending in with their surroundings and prefer bushy scrubland areas where they stand really still to hide from predators when necessary. They are most active at night, making them nocturnal. They can run up to 60 miles per hour. Male Lesser Kudu are typically solitary, while females will live in small groups of 2 to 3 or with their calves.
Our kudu, Calvin and Hobbes, are often toward the back of the exhibit behind the foliage. Even though they spend parts of their day hiding, they are our most tractable hoofstock and will greet their keepers in hopes of getting yummy treats. Hobbes tends to be the braver and the first to approach his keepers, however he is a pickier eater and will sometimes spit out treats that he is offered. They have physical characteristics that help visitors tell them apart. Calvin is larger, weighing around 155 lbs, with longer eyes stripes and an ear notch in the middle of his left ear between his face and the tip of his ear. Hobbes weighs around 135 lbs, has shorter eye stripes and has an ear notch at the very tip of his left ear.
Conservation Status: Near Threatened
Habitat: Dry, flat, and densely thicketed areas, woodlands
Diet: Twigs, leaves, fruits, grasses
Captive: up to 23 yrs
Wild: 7-8 yrs
Male: 202 – 238 lb
Female: 123 – 154 lb
Impala are one of the more familiar antelope to most zoo visitors. The males have large horns and beautiful, fawn colored bodies. Females do not grow horns. They are incredible jumpers and can leap about ten feet high and thirty feet in distance in a single bound. In the wild they are typically found in the savannah with short grasses and a water source nearby. Impala adjust their diets according to what is available and therefore are both grazers and browsers.
Our impala came to us with very shy personalities and are slowly, but surely, warming up to us. We have two males, as you can tell by their horns, named Hofu and Ndizi. They can be difficult to tell apart from far away, but Hofu is a little bit smaller than Ndizi, and Ndizi has black on the inside border of his ears. Out of all of our antelope in the exhibit, the impala are the most likely to be near the moat when the pelicans allow.
Conservation Status: Least threatened
Habitat: Found in savannas, areas of short grass with medium, or dense stands of bush and a permanent water supply
Diet: Grasses, flowers, fruit and foliage of bushes and trees, seed pods
Lifespan: 12-15 years
Weight: 100 – 154 lbs
Thompson’s gazelle are the most abundant species of gazelle on the African savannah. Both males and females possess horns, unlike the kudu and impala. They live in small herds, but are flexible socially and will merge with other herds, especially females. They have scent glands below their eyes and if you have time to watch them for a while you may see them mark the bushes or browse in the exhibit with a black secretion from those glands. Males will use this scent to mark their territory. If necessary, Thompson’s gazelle will travel ten miles or more to find water.
We have three male Thompson’s gazelle (aka Tommys). Both males and females of this species have horns. They are the smallest antelope in our exhibit and a lot of the time visitors assume that they are babies. All of our males are young, but they are full grown. They may get a little more muscular and their horns may continue to grow, but overall they will not get much larger. Jared and Farley are new to us this summer. Jared, our largest gazelle, has a crooked and broken horn. It is most likely the result of a fight with another gazelle when he was younger and his horn grew in at an odd angle with the tip missing. Farley is the smallest, with a noticeably smaller tail and horns that form a “Y” or “V”. Jasiri came to us with the two impala and has been out on exhibit since last year. His horns are very close together like an “11”. Despite the fact that he is one of the smallest, he tends to be one of the biggest trouble makers.
Conservation Status: Near threatened
Diet: Grass, herbs, leaves and seeds
Lifespan: 10 to 15 years
Weight: 33 to 77 lbs
**You may see all of our antelope species sparring (hitting their heads and horns together) a lot this season. They are still figuring out who is boss, sometimes having fun, and most often doing what they would naturally do during the spring-which is try to win the rights to breed with females and protect their territory.
You can tell the difference between male and female ostrich by the color of their feathers. Males will actually help incubate the eggs throughout the night, so they are black in color to camouflage from predators in the dark. Females are lighter in color and more of grey color to camouflage while incubating the eggs during the day. Ostrich lay the largest eggs in the world and can lay up to eleven of them at a time. They are very heavy birds and, therefore, cannot fly. Instead, they get around using a powerful forward kick (they cannot kick backwards) and can run up to 40 mph on just two toes!
If you check out the color of our two ostrich you will notice that they are not black, because we have two females-Pam and Rose. They are a favorite among visitors and keepers. Pam is a little bit smaller than Rose weighing in at 237 lbs. Rose is a very large female weighing in at 307 lbs! One of our keepers, Dan, is currently training our ostriches to stand still for a blood draw. Rose has already successfully gone through a blood draw procedure, and Pam is participating in the procedure as well, especially because it means she gets her favorite treat-duck food (a nutritionally complete diet made for waterfowl)! It is very helpful for keepers to have animals trained to participate in their own health care.
Conservation Status: Least concerned
Diet: Seeds, leaves, grasses, roots, insects, and sometimes even carrion
Lifespan: 40-50 years
Weight: 200-350 lbs
East African Crowned Cranes
Crowned cranes are interesting looking birds. They have long, thin, golden feathers on top of their heads that give the illusion of wearing a crown. They will typically live in pairs, but sometimes can be found in large flocks. A breeding pair will lay two to three eggs and then raise the family together for about a year, before they young go off on their own. They have excellent vision and with their long necks and legs can spot predators from far away. Crowned cranes are the only cranes that can perch in trees, thanks to a very well developed hind toe!
Kahawia and Kijani, our two male cranes, are difficult to distinguish unless you can see their ankle bands. Kahawia’s is brown and Kijani’s is green. They will often approach keepers and take up a little bit too much of our personal space, especially during breeding season. One of their favorite things is when we toss them live crickets and mealworms. They spend a lot of their day looking through the grass for insects and other yummy things to eat. It is fun to see them lying down and getting comfy in the hay that we feed our antelope.
Conservation Status: At risk
Habitat: Wetlands and grasslands
Diet: Grasses, seeds, lizards, insects, and other small animals
Lifespan: Up to 25 years
Weight: 6.5- 9 lbs
Pink-backed Pelicans can hold up to two gallons of water in their throat pouch at once! They have a hook at the end of their beak to help them grip fish that they scoop up out of the water. They are the smallest of all pelican species and have pink on their backs and rumps that can only be seen when their wings are out. They breed all year round and can be found nesting in small groups or large colonies of between 20 and 500 pairs!
The Cincinnati Zoo has two males that live in our African Savannah exhibit, where you can typically find them defending their territory along the water’s edge. Our boys are named Skipper and Gilligan. Skipper has a yellow bracelet on his right leg to help us identify him. Their favorite fish food is herring. Even though they typically eat fish, insects, and small amphibians, they have occasionally been spotted catching birds that make the unfortunate decision to sit along the moat! Next time you visit, check out their fun, cartoonish-looking eyes and enjoy their graceful movements through the water that make them appear to be ice skating.
Conservation Status: Least Concern
Habitat: Slow-moving, fresh water, wetlands
Diet: Fish, small amphibians, insects
Life Span: 30 years
Weight: 12-16 pounds
Lappet-faced vultures are the largest vulture found in Africa and have the ability to strip the carcass of a small antelope to the bone within 20 minutes! They have brown feathers and bald heads that can turn red. Just like other vultures they typically eat carrion (dead animals), but uniquely, they sometimes also hunt small mammals and birds! Smaller scavengers depend on Lappet-faced vultures to break through the tough hides of bigger carcasses. Lappet-faced vultures will even eat the skin and bone of a carcass, which is not typical for other raptors. They will even stand up to a jackal if it tries to steal their carcass!
We currently have two Lappet-faced vultures, Ogra and Ishtar. Ogra is a female and you can tell her apart from Ishtar because she is bigger and has very few white feathers on her back. Naturally (being female and all), Ogra is the boss out of our three vultures and chooses to steal the others food rather than eating from the perfectly good plate laid down for her. Ishtar is male, smaller, and his back is speckled with white feathers. You will often see them with their wings stretched out soaking up the sun.
Conservation Status: Vulnerable
Habitat: Savannah, desert
Diet: Carrion, small mammals and birds
Life Span: Up to 50 years
Weight: 9-19 pounds
Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture
Ruppell’s vultures are able to soar for over 6 hours at high altitudes thanks to their 7.5 to 8.5 foot wingspan. They can fly over 3 miles in six minutes and will fly as far as 90 miles from their nest in search of food. They have a ring of feathers that goes around the base of their necks and small, white fluffy feathers covering their heads. The rest of their body is covered in mottled brown and white feathers, with white fluffy feathers on his legs. Pairs will mate for life and will join large flocks of up to 1,000 breeding pairs. The females collect sticks and grasses and the males will help build the nests, as well as incubate and feed the chicks.
Bubba is our Ruppell’s vulture and my personal favorite bird of the bunch. He is very inquisitive and loves to get into trouble. As a highly social species, Bubba enjoys the company of Ogra and Ishtar very much, but the love is not necessarily reciprocated. He tags along wherever they go and entertains himself by playing with branches and browse that he finds in the yard. If you do not see him hanging out with Ogra and Ishtar, chances are you can find him on the island in the moat. He spent most of his summer last year perched up on the log found on the island, but he now prefers to be wherever his new buddies are.
**Tragically vulture populations are declining quickly due to habitat loss, hunting for trade, as well as the carcasses that they feed on are being poisoned by poachers and farmers. Poachers do not want to be tracked down by rangers after they have killed a large mammal and vultures are a good indicator of where the carcasses can be found, so by poisoning the dead carcass, fewer vultures will come and they have a better chance of getting away. Farmers will sometimes poison large predators such as painted dogs and lions, because they do not want them to kill their livestock, and this is killing vultures by the thousands.
Conservation Status: Endangered
Life Span: 40 to 50 years
Weight: 15- 20 pounds
May 28, 2015 5 Comments