Random header image... Refresh for more!

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   2 Comments

Breeding North American River Otters

north_american_river_otter_ faceCharismatic and curious North American river otters are so much fun to watch, but to get them to breed? That’s a whole lot trickier! North American river otters, as their name would suggest, live as far south as the Florida everglades, throughout most of the lower 48 states all the way north to the sub-arctic regions of US (Alaska) and Canada.  For these otters, when to breed and give birth needs to be timed so the pups are born when it’s not too cold and there are plenty of resources for mom and pup(s) to thrive.  Basically, otters in the south give birth and breed much earlier in the season than otters living further north.

In addition, female otters undergo a process known as delayed implantation. Fertilized otter eggs start developing into embryos, but stop developing for 7-10 months until they are eventually triggered to implant into the uterine wall and develop once again. The female otter gives birth (litter size 1-4 pups) approximately 70 days after implantation starts. Delayed implantation is what, in part, helps river otters time when they give birth.  So how does one know when implantation has occurred and when their otter may give birth? — By monitoring the hormones in their poop!

Each year starting usually November through January/February, US Zoos send otter fecal samples to CREW hoping to figure out if their otter may be pregnant and when she may be due. This season we monitored fecal samples from 11 river otter females and we were able to determine 8 of these females were possibly pregnant and 6 of those have already given birth {for example: pueblo zoo, buffalo Zoo}, making it a banner year for river otter babies!

Pueblo Zoo Otter Pup

Pueblo Zoo Otter Pup

However, the story doesn’t end there. Our research has shown that female otters born further south and moved to another zoo much further north, don’t always respond to the environmental cues encountered at their new latitude and adjust when they should breed and give birth – making it hard to know when to pair otters for breeding – but those fecal hormones have also proven useful in determining when to pair up otters as well {North Carolina}.

Publeo Zoo Pups – On Zooborns

Buffalo Zoo Pups – On Facebook

North Carolina Pups – News Article

March 28, 2014   No Comments

Zoo Volunteer Observers

Our Zoo Volunteer Observers (ZVO) are a great asset to the Zoo &  our Carl H. Lindner Jr. Family Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) – being our eyes (and ears sometimes) when keepers go home at night.  They have been busy lately monitoring polar bear breeding activity and watching our pregnant giraffe via web cam 24-hrs-day for signs of labor.

nancy_donna.jpg

Volunteers Nancy W. and Donna M. watching the polar bears.

The ZVOs have been monitoring the polar bears daily to look for signs of impending estrus/breeding behavior. Their diligent observations are helping CREW researchers learn more about polar bear reproduction and reproductive behavior.

Thank you ZVOs!

March 21, 2014   2 Comments