Co-written by Dana Burke & Shasta Bray
Here at the Zoo
It’s been six months since our African painted dog boys made their way south, and they are doing great. They especially love watching all of the different hoof stock they get to see while on exhibit. Their keepers tell me they really enjoy watching the waterbuck, but I digress.
Imara and the girls, who are now 15 months old, have been doing well as an all girl group. Imara still tends to let them rule themselves, but will step in if she feels it is necessary. There have been some rumblings among the ranks within the juveniles (as you would expect with all females), but nothing major. Selina is still the alpha with Quinn as her second. These two have been the top two dogs since the females developed their hierarchy when they were very young. Next is Ivy and Lucy follows as the bottom dog.
The plan to move three of the juveniles is finally moving forward. As per the African Painted Dog Species Survival Plan, Selina and Quinn will be transported to the Wilds in Columbus. It is our hope that Selina will breed with a male that they are getting from another zoo. Ivy will be shipped to Honolulu to breed with a male that they house. That leaves Lucy here with Imara.
The reasons why we are shipping which dogs where is a well thought out process that takes into account the status, relationships and personalities of the individuals. Since Selina and Quinn have been bonded for most of their lives, we feel that their best chance for success is to move them together. Quinn has the capability of being a great helper and babysitter if Selina produces a litter. Of course, moving the dogs to a new facility could cause change between the sisters, but with Selina being a true alpha, we expect her to retain her status. Quinn has never really challenged her and moving to a new space will most likely result in her looking to Selina for guidance. All of these factors should lead to a smooth introduction to the male in a best case scenario.
We chose to move Ivy as a single dog because of her personality as well. In the last few months, Ivy has become a more confident dog. That being said, with her increase in confidence, she has also become more of a trouble maker and has challenged all of her sisters at some point. Ivy likes to stir the pot so to speak. Again, because of these traits, we feel that she would make a great alpha all on her own with a single male.
That leaves Imara and Lucy here in Cincinnati. Imara, who did a beautiful job raising the 10 pups we had in January last year, is not the most confident when it comes to being alpha. Lucy on the other hand, even though she is the bottom dog at this point, has the potential to be a pretty good alpha herself. Truth be told, Lucy is a bit of a wild card.
Within the next couple months, we will be receiving two male dogs. They will be quarantined and then we will set up for introductions. This is where things can get tricky. An introduction with two males and two females is one of the more challenging scenarios you can encounter with this species; however, the pay-off is a truly social pack that reflects those in the wild. Still, this is where things can get tricky. The keepers and animal manager will plan out each step of the process in order to set up the dogs for ultimate success. There will most likely be some fighting, whether it’s between the males or the females or each other, is impossible to guess. There’s even a chance that Lucy could end up alpha over Imara. Genetically, she is technically more valuable than her mother due to being Brahma’s offspring so we are fine with any outcome.
We collected information about the males from their current keepers, but it will be very important to observe them while in quarantine to confirm their hierarchy with each other. The introductions themselves will be done inside the building and once started will be complete in just a few hours. It may take them minutes or days to settle their social structure, but once they do, only the alphas will breed and produce pups. We have a lot of changes coming and are all really excited for what the future holds for this species. We will be sure to keep everyone updated on what is happening and how things are progressing.
Across the Globe in Tanzania
We may be wrapping up with our April showers here in Cincinnati, but they were nothing like the rains that El Nino dumped on our field partners with the Ruaha Carnivore Project (RCP) over the past few months. Flooding of the Ruaha River caused all kinds of transportation problems.
The good thing about using remote-triggered cameras to monitor wildlife in the region is that the cameras continue to take pictures even when you have trouble reaching them. Fortunately, only a few of the cameras floated away during the heavy flooding.
RCP works to secure a future for large carnivores such as African painted dogs, lions and hyenas in and around Ruaha National Park in Tanzania. This region is home to the third largest population of painted dogs in Africa. Check out RCP’s latest update from the field to learn more.
May 4, 2016 2 Comments
Guest blogger: Kristina Meek, Education/Wild Encounters
The bright plumage of a peacock is so unmistakable that we use it as a metaphor for showing off to prospective romantic partners. When a male peacock unfurls its brilliant tail feathers, you can’t help but stop and stare. When you walk through the Zoo, you’ll almost certainly encounter one of our male peacocks, crooning his relationship status or proudly displaying his colorful fan. He might even try to distract you from other, less colorful animals, by inserting himself between you and them! (If you’d like to learn the cool way that the structure of the peacock’s feathers produces the glorious colors, check out these findings from 2003.)
It’s spring, which means mating season for many animals, so it’s a great time to notice how animals preen, prance or patter in hopes of propagating their species.
We talked about mating signals during a recent Zoo Troop session for 6th through 8th graders called “Be Mine.” The students observed birds, fish, and other creatures, learning about physical traits, actions, sounds, and scents that animals use to say, “Relationship Status: Available.”
We giggled a bit at the similarities between the human animal and some of the others out there. Humans choose clothing, hairstyles, perfumes, and workouts often with the goal of attracting a mate. Is a rock star strutting and belting a song so different from a male bird calling to passing females? Are our fashion choices so different from scales or plumage? We even studied the bower bird, which spends weeks building an elaborate “bachelor pad” complete with bling that he painstakingly gathers from his environment. Do you know anyone like that? There’s no doubt, we have a lot in common with wild animals.
An animal’s tools of attraction indicate that animal’s fitness, meaning the quality of its genetic material. Picking a mate who is strong, capable, and beautiful tends to mean their offspring will be the same. A lion with a lush mane is better protected during battles with rivals. A brighter pink flamingo has chowed on more shrimp. Some animals, from spiders to penguins, bring each other gifts, which may demonstrate the hunting prowess needed to feed young.
Lucky for humans, we’re able to see beneath the surface. What if you could only choose a partner based on outward signs or on what might be considered an ideal physical appearance? That would limit your choices considerably, and think of all that you might miss out on. We get to consider a person’s values and personality, likes and dislikes. We also have differing ideas about what is attractive. You might think someone is adorable who your friend finds positively plain.
As you explore the Zoo this spring, notice the mating rituals going on among the animals — even the human ones. Take a minute to consider how we’re alike and different from our fellow residents of planet Earth. And keep an eye out for the results of all this mating… Zoo babies!
May 2, 2016 No Comments
Guest blogger: Kristina Meek, Education Intern
Visiting the Zoo can leave you feeling refreshed, happy, and enlightened. Tap into that energy and think about how you can keep that excitement going for yourself and your family once you go back home. It can be a simple everyday act or a lifestyle change. Give these ideas a try and share your own suggestions in the comments.
Share what you learned. Don’t just share your photos on Facebook; share something more. Sit down with your family while the visit is still fresh in your minds and try to recall a “fun fact” about an animal. Then share that in a post. For example, share a picture you took of a giraffe with something like “Amazing — a giraffe has the same number of vertebrae in its neck as a person!” If you have a child in Zoo Troop and you’re sharing photos from class, remember to use the hashtag #cincyzootroop.
Learn more. Connect with the Zoo on social media and follow the Zoo blog to keep up with what’s going on with our animals, exhibits, events and conservation efforts. We are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and Google+.
Appreciate the “wild” side of your pets. If you have a family dog, remind your kids that their pooch is related to the Mexican grey wolves you saw in Wolf Woods. Make similar connections for cats, birds or fish. Kids learn to respect nature when they see it reflected in their everyday lives.
Recycle and compost. You and your family have the power to keep the planet healthy for all animals… including humans! Curbside recycling has made reducing your trash a no-brainer. This website lets you search by ZIP code to find facilities to recycle items that can’t be put in your bin. Arguably even easier than recycling is composting. Here’s one source of information on how to do it. By disposing of food or yard waste in this responsible way, you’ll reduce the amount of greenhouse gases coming from landfills.
A.D.O.P.T. a Zoo animal. For as little as $30, you and your family can symbolically adopt anything from a meerkat to a manatee. You’ll get a color photo and fact sheet about the animal, plus additional benefits at higher giving levels. Your children will learn not only about animals, but about philanthropy and the great feeling you get when you give back.
Encourage backyard research. You can’t visit the Zoo every day, but if you have a backyard or a nearby park, there’s probably plenty of wildlife there doing its thing. Let your kids explore, on their own, or with you. They might identify birds, spot tadpoles in a creek, look for deer tracks, or learn to imitate an owl. Think of your surroundings as your own mini-zoo.
Volunteer. The Zoo offers volunteer opportunities for ages 13 and up, in a variety of roles that fit your talents. Likewise, park districts, nature centers, and museums need and appreciate the contributions of people like you. Start Googling and see what you discover close to home.
Thanks for visiting the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. We hope you’ll take a little piece of the Zoo with you wherever you are!
April 5, 2016 1 Comment