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Category — Photos

Saving Red Pandas

Co-written by Shasta Bray and Crissi Lanier

What is this frosty-faced beauty of ringed tail and rust-colored fur? A raccoon? A bear? Actually, the red panda is neither of these and is indeed a PANDA!  It is its own species unrelated to the others. This beautiful auburn-colored mammal is native to Central Asia and is designed for a life in the trees. Pandas are expert climbers with sharp claws and hair on the bottom of their feet that keeps them from slipping. They are great jumpers, too, able to jump up to five feet in one leap.

Check out the claws on one of our male pandas, Rover.

Check out the claws on one of our male pandas, Rover. (Photo: Crissi Lanier)

Currently, the Zoo is home to six red pandas – three males named Homer, Rover and Toby and three females named LiWu, Bailey and Lin.  Lin, daughter of Bailey and Toby, is the youngest and recently celebrated her first birthday on June 16th, which she shares with Rover who turned nine years old.

Lin has small white tufts sticking out of the bottoms of her ears, making her easy to identify among our pandas. (Photo: Crissi Lanier)

Lin has small white tufts sticking out of the bottoms of her ears, making her easy to identify among our pandas. (Photo: Crissi Lanier)

We breed our pandas in accordance with the Red Panda Species Survival Plan (SSP) managed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The SSP keeps a studbook of all the red pandas in North American zoos, determines which animals should be mated, and develops long-term research and management strategies for the species. Our very own Zoo Registrar, Mary Noell, is the Program Leader for the studbook.

Baby Lin soon after she was born

Baby Lin soon after she was born

The red panda exhibit is just beyond the Children’s Zoo entrance in the center of the Zoo. Two yards sit side-by-side so make sure to look on both sides, especially high up in the trees where they spend much of their time hanging out. Red pandas tend to be more active at dawn and dusk, and at the Zoo, during the 2:15pm Red Panda Animal Encounter when they get yummy treats like apples and other fruits. In the wild, they eat mostly young tender bamboo shoots and leaves, as well as some grasses, roots and fruits.

Lin receives treats from her keeper, Lissa, during an Animal Encounter (Photo: Crissi Lanier)

Lin receives treats from her keeper, Lissa, during an Animal Encounter (Photo: Crissi Lanier)

Want to meet our pandas up close and personal? Sign up for an Endangered Excursion where you’ll get to watch our talented red pandas create a one-of-a-kind canvas painting for you to take home and enjoy. That’s right, our pandas are painters! And you can purchase these unique masterpieces in the Zoo gift shop as well. Here’s a sneak peek of LiWu painting.

Red pandas are classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, which means they face a high risk of extinction in the wild. Proceeds from the Endangered Excursions and the sales of red panda paintings support the Red Panda Network’s efforts to protect red pandas and their bamboo forests in the wild through the education and empowerment of local communities. The Red Panda Network’s immediate goal is the creation of Panchthar-Ilam-Taplejung Red Panda Protected Forest, located in Eastern Nepal, which will be the world’s first protected area dedicated to red panda.Red Panda Network

Next time you’re at the Zoo, be sure to stop by and visit our fuzzy faces!

See you soon, says Rover! (Photo: Crissi Lanier)

See you soon, says Rover! (Photo: Crissi Lanier)

July 31, 2014   1 Comment

Celebrate International Tiger Day and Meet our Malayan Tigers

July 29 is International Tiger Day and we invite you to come celebrate with us at the Malayan tiger exhibit in Cat Canyon. We will have special activities and presentations occurring throughout the day from 10:00am to 3:00pm, including opportunities to learn about tigers and conservation from our zookeepers and interpretive staff.

Taj and Who-Dey lounging in the sun (Photo: Michelle Curley)

Taj and Who-Dey lounging in the sun (Photo: Michelle Curley)

Meet our Malayan tiger brothers, Taj and Who-Dey! When Cat Canyon opened in 2012, the Zoo teamed up with the Cincinnati Bengals to help conserve these beautiful animals. Who-Dey was named by Cincinnati Bengals fans and Taj was named by Zoo supporters. The brothers, who turn seven on July 30, often come up close to the viewing glass at their exhibit. They enjoy relaxing in the pool, especially on sunny days, and getting meaty treats from their keepers during daily presentations for the public.

Through the glass (Photo: Kathy Newton)

Through the glass (Photo: Kathy Newton)

Taj and Who-Dey lounging in the pool (Photo: Kathy Newton)

Taj and Who-Dey lounging in the pool (Photo: Kathy Newton)

The Malayan tiger is one of the smallest of the six tiger subspecies, ranging from about 220 pounds to 400 pounds. Native to Malaysia and southern Thailand, it preys on deer, wild pigs and cattle, and has been known to travel up to 20 miles in search of prey. The orange-and-black stripes provide excellent camouflage in the forests where they live. Tigers also have white spots on the back of their ears, which are surrounded by black fur and give the appearance of false eyes.  This is another form of camouflage, giving the impression that they are staring right at potential intruders when its back is turned.

White spots on back of tiger's eyes

White spots on back of tiger’s eyes

The Zoo is committed to ensuring the survival of endangered tigers of which there are fewer than 3,200 remaining in the wild. Over the next three years, we have pledged to support the tiger conservation efforts of Panthera. Panthera is the leading international wild cat conservation organization with a mission to ensure the future of wild cats through scientific leadership and global conservation action. 

Panthera logo

To ensure the tiger’s survival, Panthera works across Asia with numerous partners to end the poaching of tigers for the illegal wildlife trade, prevent tiger deaths due to conflict with humans and livestock, and protect tiger prey species and habitat. Through their program, Tigers Forever, Panthera works to protect and secure key tiger populations and ensure connectivity between sites so that tigers can live long into the future.

Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, CEO of Panthera, a global wild cat conservation organization, installs a camera trap in Bhutan. (Photo: Steve Winter)

Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, CEO of Panthera, a global wild cat conservation organization, installs a camera trap in Bhutan. (Photo: Steve Winter)

“When it comes to saving tigers, nobody gets results like Dr. Alan Rabinowitz and his team at Panthera. It is a crying shame that tigers are being illegally poached for their skin and bones, but by inspiring our visitors to the Cincinnati Zoo and partnering with Panthera, we remain dedicated to our belief that there is still room in this world for great cats.” – Thane Maynard, Cincinnati Zoo Director

Taj and Who-Dey hope to see you at the Zoo on International Tiger Day!

July 27, 2014   No Comments

Another First for CREW: Indian Rhino Posthumously Fathers a Calf

CREW has done it again! We are excited to announce the birth of a female Indian rhino calf produced by artificial insemination (AI) conducted by CREW Reproductive Physiologist, Dr. Monica Stoops, and born on June 5 at the Buffalo Zoo. From a historical standpoint, this is the first offspring for a male rhino who never contributed to the genetics of the Indian rhino population during his lifetime – a major victory for endangered species around the world and a lifetime of work in the making.

Rhino calf Monica

Rhino calf Monica

The father, “Jimmy,” died at the Cincinnati Zoo in 2004.  Over the course of those ten years, Jimmy’s sperm was stored at -320°F in CREW’s CryoBioBank™ in Cincinnati, before it was taken to Buffalo, thawed and used in the AI.

Jimmy the Indian Rhino

Jimmy the Indian Rhino

“We are excited to share the news of Tashi’s calf with the world as it demonstrates how collaboration and teamwork among the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) organizations are making fundamental contributions to rhino conservation,” said Dr. Monica Stoops. “It is deeply heartening to know that the Cincinnati Zoo’s beloved male Indian rhino, Jimmy, will live on through this calf and we are proud that CREW’s CryoBioBank™ continues to contribute to this endangered species’ survival.”

“Tashi,” the Buffalo Zoo’s 17-year-old female has previously conceived and successfully given birth through natural breeding in both 2004 and 2008.  Unfortunately, her mate passed away and the Buffalo Zoo’s new male Indian rhino has not yet reached sexual maturity. Because long intervals between pregnancies in female rhinos can result in long-term infertility, keepers at the Buffalo Zoo knew it was critical to get Tashi pregnant again and reached out to Dr. Stoops for her expertise.

In February of 2013, Dr. Stoops worked closely with Buffalo Zoo’s rhino keeper Joe Hauser and veterinarian Dr. Kurt Volle to perform a standing sedation AI procedure on Tashi. Scientifically speaking, by producing offspring from non or under-represented individuals, CREW is helping to ensure a genetically healthy captive population of Indian rhinos exists in the future.  This is a science that could be necessary for thousands of species across the globe as habitat loss, poaching, and population fragmentation (among other reasons) threaten many with extinction.

The Buffalo Zoo staff monitored Tashi’s pregnancy over the 15-16 month gestation period and at 3:30 p.m., on June 5, she gave birth to a healthy female calf, weighing 144 pounds.

Rhino calf Monica,  Lead  Rhino Keeper Joe Hauser, CREW Reproductive Physiologist Dr. Monica Stoops

Rhino calf Monica, Lead Rhino Keeper Joe Hauser, and CREW Reproductive Physiologist Dr. Monica Stoops with CryoBioBank

“Without Dr. Stoops’ dedication to the species, and to the development of AI science, there is no doubt this calf would not be here today,” said Hauser. “She has spent countless hours spear-heading research and technology for Indian rhino conservation and the Buffalo Zoo is excited to acknowledge that dedication and announce that the name of the calf is “Monica.”

Tashi’s calf demonstrates that AI science is a repeatable and valuable tool to help manage the captive Indian rhino population. With only 59 Indian rhinos in captivity in North America and approximately 2,500 remaining in the wild, being able to successfully introduce genetics that are non or under-represented in the population is critical to maintaining the genetic diversity necessary to keep a population healthy and self-sustaining.

“We are always thrilled to welcome a new baby to the Buffalo Zoo, but this birth is particularly exciting because the science involved is critical to saving endangered animals,” said Dr. Donna Fernandes, President of the Buffalo Zoo. “This type of professional collaboration among AZA Zoos is vital to the important work we do as conservation organizations and we are honored to play a critical role.”

July 3, 2014   No Comments