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Category — Keeper’s Komments

A Tale of Two Mantises

Praying Mantises, insects in the order Mantodea were so named because of the prayer-like posture of their folded front legs. In the eyes of their prey there’s nothing divine about mantises. There are more than 2,300 species of mantises worldwide and while they vary in size, shape and color they all have one thing in common, they are voracious predators. Cincinnatians can encounter two remarkable mantis species; the native Carolina Mantis (Stagmomantis carolina) and the introduced Chinese Mantis (Tenodera sinesis).

The Carolina Mantis varies in color from light-green to medium-gray and is normally between 1-1/2″ and 2-1/2″ long. These mantises range from the eastern and central United States south through Central America and into northern South America. Carolina Mantis nymphs have the ability to alter their color to match their habitat each time they molt. Adult male Carolina Mantises are strong fliers and will actively stalk their prey. Adult female Carolina Mantises have shortened wings and are heavier bodied; they cannot fly so they lie in wait to ambush their prey.

Carolina Mantis

Carolina Mantis

The Chinese Mantis varies in color from light-green to brown and is normally between 3-1/4″ and 4-1/4″ long. Native to Eastern Asia the Chinese Mantis was allegedly introduced to the United States late in the 19th century to control agricultural pests. By most accounts the Chinese Mantis has done little to control pests despite having become established throughout most of the United States. In some areas the presence of the larger Chinese Mantis has negatively impacted the smaller Carolina Mantis.

Chinese Mantis

Chinese Mantis

Both Carolina and Chinese mantis hatchlings emerge from egg cases in spring and are so small they can be dispersed by strong winds. As the young mantises grow so too does their choice of prey; tiny fruit flies are replaced by increasingly larger flies, bees and moths. Adult Carolina Mantises can capture medium-sized butterflies while adult Chinese Mantises can capture hummingbirds. Both species will mate in late summer or early autumn, leaving their egg cases on the stems of shrubs or bushes. These egg cases will endure even the harshest winters to deliver the next generation the following spring.

Mantises are among the world’s most recognizable and beloved insects. Their grace and ferocity have inspired poets and martial artists. Children the world over have marveled at them in backyards and kept them as pets in quart jars. If you see a mantis this summer please take a few minutes to observe and appreciate one of Cincinnati’s most amazing insects.

Winton Ray / Curator of Invertebrates, Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

July 1, 2014   1 Comment

John the Lion Meets His Match

Zoo guests may have noticed that John the lion has not been in his yard for the past couple of days. He’s been absent for a very good reason! On Wednesday, we opened the doors that separated John and Imani and introduced the male and female lions to each other for the first time!

John and Imani

John and Imani

This introduction has been a long time coming; several months of close monitoring and careful preparation have led up to this big moment for our young lions. For the last year, John and Imani have been living in separate enclosure areas. Typically John was housed in 2 indoor enclosures and had access to our exhibit yard. Imani was being housed in 3 indoor enclosures (across the hall from John), and had access to her own private play yard as well. Though the lions could see, hear and smell each other on a daily basis, they’d never met in the same space until now.

john_imani

John looks at Imani.

 

In order to ensure a successful first meeting, keepers wanted to be sure that both lions were fully grown, sexually mature, and confident and comfortable in their new homes at the Cincinnati Zoo before the lions began to share a territory. Additionally, keepers had to plan an introduction timeline that would be conducive to the potential birth of cubs (since John and Imani are a recommended breeding pair within the African lion SSP). An SSP, or Species Survival Plan, allows different zoological facilities to cooperatively manage specific, and typically threatened or endangered, species populations. In order to receive a breeding recommendation for two animals, SSP coordinators assess the representation of each animal’s genes within the captive population. If the genes of both individuals are not overly represented among the captive population, and if there is a zoo with the space to house the offspring, then you get the “okay” to breed the pair.  Utilizing SSPs allows zoos to ensure that we are maintaining as much genetic variation as possible among captive populations, and also avoiding inbreeding and unwanted pregnancies.

With warmer weather on the horizon and both lions showing positive indicators that they were ready to meet, the keepers determined that the time was right to introduce John and Imani. Initially, both cats were a little shy and hesitant to say hello, but after a few minutes of awkward, sideways glances, John came through the door for a sniff.  Some grumbles, barks and swats ensued (perfectly normal and expected behaviors), and then both lions quickly settled down and even made some attempts at breeding!

The two have been spending time together behind the scenes ever since, and the keepers are absolutely thrilled with their progress. John and Imani will slowly be introduced to the exhibit yard together according to their comfort level. While John is perfectly at home in the exhibit yard, Imani has not been out there yet, so we will respect her need to move forward slowly. Her comfort level will likely dictate when our lions will be publicly on exhibit together, and we appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding during this transition period.

On behalf of our lions, and all the keepers and staff involved, thank you all for your support and well-wishes! Our zoo guests have been so great about accepting John into the Zoo family, and we can’t wait for you all to meet Imani and see our newly bonded pair out on exhibit together soon!

 

May 2, 2014   7 Comments

Getting Ready For Summer With New Black Rhino Seyia!

At the end of last summer I wrote about training Klyde, our male black Rhino, to happily enter a crate, so he could travel to his new home and hopefully produce a bouncing baby rhino calf.

But when Klyde left he also left us with an empty exhibit and a hole in our heart.  He would come down to our encounter area each and every day allowing visitors to have an up close experience, watching him do his training behaviors. All could appreciate how strong and intelligent he was, how all 3,450lbs of him moved effortlessly, and how truly magnificent he was.  He was after all the mascot of the zoo, the rhino in our logo, who could ever fill this void or even come close to replacing him?!

Seyia

Black rhino Seyia target training.

Enter Seyia!  This three year old adolescent and southern bell came to us from her birth zoo in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Leaving her mom and the only keepers she has ever known, this brave little lady arrived at the Cincinnati Zoo in late Aug of 2013.  In a few short weeks she went from being timid and little nervous, of all that was new, to her to relishing her keepers and exhibit.  When she found the mud wallow for the first time you could physically see the joy and excitement on her face.

Seyia enjoying the mud

Seyia enjoying the mud

Adjustment period flew by for her and quickly she was ready to learn more than just her exhibit and keepers.  She was ready to start training!  Marjorie, her main keeper, had a list for us to begin training from.  The first was for Seyia to lean her body against the poles of her enclosure, so she could be bathed, skin checked and oiled, and just for an overall good evaluation of her health.  We couldn’t believe how quickly she caught on to asking her to move over.  Then we added asking her to place her front foot on a block so we could begin doing foot care, she figured this out rapidly too!  The first time the “light bulb” went on, she lifted her foot so high we were laughing about her overzealous nature to please. The next hurdle was teaching her to lie down. Imagine asking a 2,400 lb animal to place herself in the most vulnerable position, in front of hundreds of visitors. She is now doing this reliably out on exhibit during her training sessions!

Smart Seyia has mastered the "lie down" behavior.

Smart Seyia has mastered the “lie down” behavior.

Smart is not all Seyia has going for her, she is also very sweet natured and craves attention from her keepers.  So much so she began calling to them, something black rhino’s are NOT known to do.  Marjorie and I decided it would be an incredible experience for patrons to be able to hear this animal actually make a sound.  So we began capturing the behavior and now she will “speak” on command.  She is still a little unsure how loud we want her be outside, but inside she is quite happy to be loud all day!  Her vocal call is such a different sound.  Some compare it to a whale, others to a bird, and some say it sounds like a child’s kazoo.  The best part is this spring and summer you will be able to hear her, see her, and watch her train with Marjorie in her exhibit!

April 7, 2014   3 Comments