Brahma and Imara certainly have their paws full now! With 10 (6 males, 4 females) little mouths to feed, the new parents are extremely busy. At a little over 6 weeks old and around 3 kilograms each, they have become little eating machines. When they reach 28 weeks, the pups will be able to consume as much as 12 pounds of meat a day (each)!
They are still nursing, although not as frequently, maybe 4-5 times a day. Now that the puppies are much larger than at birth, you can hardly see Imara nursing underneath the giant puppy pile. At around 4 weeks of age, puppies will start showing interest in the adult diet. In the last couple of weeks, they have been trying out the Nebraska. Nebraska is a nutritionally complete meat source that is the main staple of Brahma and Imara’s diet. In order to make it more appetizing, keepers have been mixing some of the meat with a milk replacer for domestic puppies. Normally Painted Dogs wean at around 10 weeks of age, but with 10 teeth-filled mouths to feed, making the meat more palatable takes some of the burden off of Imara.
Brahma continues to regurgitate to them and the puppies are loving it. In the wild, adult Painted Dogs can fill their stomachs with 20 lbs each of food from a kill. They then will regurgitate some of this meat back at the den for the adults that are guarding it and the puppies they protect. Brahma and Imara’s puppies have also starting investigating some of the other diet items that they receive. A few of the little ones were observed helping Imara eat a neck bone and on another day were seen playing tug of war with a small chunk of rabbit. These food items are encouraging lots of natural behaviors like how to cooperatively feed and even play. Some of them have also gotten brave enough to take small treats from their keepers at the mesh barrier.
The puppies are continuing to venture out of the nest box for longer periods of time, but if Brahma or Imara vocalize a certain way or a stranger comes into the building, they quickly race back to the box. As each day passes, they seem to get more comfortable with their care givers and building relationships with them is extremely rewarding. In a couple of weeks, the puppies will receive their first official exams and their first set of vaccines. As they continue to grow, we will keep you all up to date on what is happening and how things are changing for our new pack of painted dogs.
February 19, 2015 3 Comments
Meet Minnow, the Cincinnati Zoo’s first and only fishing cat ambassador. Minnow helps spread awareness about fishing cats at the Zoo, and she has inspired her trainer, Linda Castenada, to support research and conservation of the endangered fishing cat in the wild.
The fishing cat is a medium-sized cat from the wetlands of Southeast Asia that feeds on rodents, birds, frogs, fish and other aquatic species. Good swimmers, fishing cats have been observed to dive into water after fish as well as to scoop them out with their paws.
During the Cat Ambassador Program’s summer show at the Zoo (called the Cheetah Encounter), Minnow shows off her expert hunting and fishing skills. As far as we know, she is the only current fishing cat ambassador working on stage in an AZA-accredited zoo. Fishing cats are shy and secretive by nature, which makes it challenging to get them comfortable in front of an audience. Linda, who has worked as the Coordinator and Lead Trainer with the Cat Ambassador Program since 2007, was up for the challenge. Since the age of four when she got her first pet cat, Suzi, Linda has always been a cat person.
With Minnow, it took a lot of patience and paying attention her natural behavior to condition her to display her hunting skills successfully in front of an audience. Following a very set routine is one of the keys to maintaining her comfort. And rewarding her with her favorite fishy treats!
After several years of working with Minnow, Linda decided she wanted to do more to support fishing cats in the wild where the conversion of natural wetlands for aquaculture and the persecution of fishing cats for raiding fish and shrimp farms threaten their survival. Linda recently took on a new role as the Education Advisor to the Fishing Cat Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program managed by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums to conserve species through research, breeding, education and conservation. Her mission is to increase awareness and raise funds for fishing cat conservation. To this end, Linda established the Fishing Cat Fund as well as a Fishing Cat SSP page on Facebook.
She also secured support from the Cincinnati Zoo’s 2014 Internal Conservation Grants Fund for the Fishing Cat Conservancy’s program to conserve the fishing cat and its mangrove habitat around the Krishna Wildlife Sanctuary in India. Through the use of questionnaires, camera-traps, and in-field tracking with local communities, the Fishing Cat Conservancy and the Eastern Ghats Wildlife Society documents fishing cats in the region and involves local people in conservation education and awareness programs about fishing cats and their habitat.
This summer, I encourage you to catch Minnow in action during a Cheetah Encounter show and learn more about wild cats and their conservation around the globe.
February 18, 2015 3 Comments
As we prepare to introduce our visitors to John and Imani’s cubs – Uma, Kya and Willa – this spring, we are also celebrating the success of our efforts to support wild lion populations. We work with the Maasai communities in Kenya’s South Rift Valley to promote the coexistence of lions, people and livestock. A partnership with SORALO (South Rift Association of Land Owners), the Rebuilding the Pride program is based out of two communal ranches, or conservancies, called Olkirimatian and Shompole.
In 2014, the lion populations on Olkirimatian and Shompole continued to grow and thrive with 16 cubs born in 2012 and 2013 surviving to adulthood. Two radio-collared lionesses that the program monitors, Nasha and Namunyak, also recently gave birth to new litters of cubs. Just like Imani, Namunyak has a trio of cubs tagging along behind her. Namunyak’s cubs have not yet been given names as it is Maasai tradition to wait until they are at least a year old.
As the lion population grows, so does the area across which they range, resulting in reports of lion sightings in new areas. In response, the Rebuilding the Pride team has added two new local Maasai resource assessors and a mobile monitoring unit. This allows the program to expand the area it covers and reach even more remote regions. The role of the mobile monitoring unit, equipped with tents, cameras and GPS, is to track lion and livestock movements, identify conflict hotspots, share this information with livestock herders and report cases of lost livestock to the rapid response team, which then addresses the situation.
In 2013, the team began developing a lion identification (ID) database, allowing for photographic documentation and identification of individual lions based on whisker spots. Much effort was put into updating and improving the ID system over the past year. To date, the team has created individual photographic IDs for 35 of the 60-70 lions, which is about half the population in the Olkirimatian and Shompole regions. Being able to recognize individual lions greatly enhances the team’s ability to gain new insight into the lion population.
Rebuilding the Pride isn’t just about increasing the number of lions, however. Improving the livelihoods of the local people is critical to promoting coexistence. In addition to building local capacity as resource assessors, the Olkirimatian Women’s Group continues to manage the Lale’enok Resource Center that serves as Rebuilding the Pride headquarters. They also sell beadwork and solar lanterns and have begun a new enterprise this year – beekeeping. Several apiaries were established and the first harvest took place in November.
These are just a few highlights from the past year. WCPO.com recently interviewed me about Rebuilding the Pride so check out the article, if you’d like to learn more.We look forward to continued development and success in 2015, and can’t wait to watch both Imani’s and Namunyak’s cubs grow over the coming year.
February 12, 2015 No Comments