Endangered Pond Turtles Released to the Wild

Western pond turtles

Endangered western pond turtles about to be released to the wild. Photo credits: Kirsten Pisto/Woodland Park Zoo

The Woodland Park Zoo and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife released over a hundred endangered western pond turtles to their native habitat in an effort to restore the population.

Western pond turtles once commonly inhabited the western coast of the United States. But several threats, including predation by the non-native bullfrog, disease, and habitat loss, put them on the bring of extinction since the early 90s.

In 1991, the Western Pond Turtle Recovery Project was established. Each year, recovery workers monitor adult female western pond turtles during the nesting season. They protect nesting sites with wire cages to prevent predators from eating the eggs. Then in the fall, the eggs and hatchlings are transported to the Woodland Park and Oregon Zoos where they can grow in safety.

“We return the turtles to their homes every summer once they reach a suitable size of about 2 ounces, a safeguard against the large mouths of bullfrogs,” explained Dr. Jennifer Pramuk, Woodland Park Zoo’s reptile curator.

Western pond turtle being released

Over a hundred western pond turtles were released to the wild by the Woodland Park Zoo and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Photo by Kirsten Pisto.

For more photos, see the Woodland Park Zoo’s blog.

World Lion Day

Today, August 10, is World Lion Day!

Lioness with cubs

Here are five facts about lions:

  • The lion is the second largest cat in the world. (The tiger is slightly bigger.)
  • Lions spend 16-20 hours of the day sleeping or resting.
  • Female lions are the primary hunters of the pride.
  • Lions can go 4-5 days without drinking by obtaining moisture from the stomach contents of their prey.
  • Lions once roamed most of Africa and into parts of Asia and Europe. Now around 20,000-30,000 of these big cats live in sub-Saharan Africa, mostly in protected reserves.

If you would like to help lions, there are several things you can do. You can help save lions by writing a Letter to Lions that will be shared with African leaders. Share why lions are important to you and include a drawing if you like. You can also donate to charities like National Geographic’s Big Cat Initiative, Panthera’s Project Leonardo, or the African Wildlife Foundation.

To learn more about lions, read our Lion Facts article.

Galapagos Tortoises join Nashville Zoo

credit: Amiee Stubbs

credit: Amiee Stubbs

Bella and Darwin, two female Galapagos tortoises, will be making their public debut at the Nashville Zoo on July 27. The pair are both 20 years old, and Galapagos tortoises can live up to 150 years. Bella weighs 280 lbs and Darwin weighs 200, but they aren’t done growing yet! Fully grown, they will weigh 350 lbs.

Visit the Nashville Zoo.

Baby Gorilla Reunited with Mother

Nayembi and mama gorilla at the Lincoln Park Zoo

Nayembi and mama gorilla at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Photo by Lincoln Park Zoo.

Nayembi, a female western lowland gorilla, was recently reunited with her mother after she was separated to recover from an injury. They live together at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, IL.

Before the full reunion, the two were able to see and smell each other under the watchful eye of caregivers.

The pair will be given some privacy to bond before the public will be able to visit with them again.

Baby gorillas

Photo by Lincoln Park Zoo.

Happy Hippos at the Memphis Zoo

The Memphis Zoo welcomed Binti to join their hippo family. Binti is 15 years old and previously lived in Disney’s Wild Kingdom. She will share an enclosure with Splish, a 25 year old female.

BintiandSplish

Binti

For more about hippos, read our article.

For more information, visit the Memphis Zoo website.

Rare Zoo-Raised Turtles Released to Wild

The Lincoln Park Zoo in conjunction with the US Fish & Wildlife Service is working to repopulate prairie land with native wildlife.

Ornate box turtle

A zoo-raised ornate box turtle prepares for release into the wild. Photo by Sharon Dewar / Lincoln Park Zoo.

Their most recent release was 18 ornate box turtle hatchlings in the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge near Savanna, Illinois. The zoo is also recovering other prairie-dwelling wildlife including meadow jumping mice and smooth green snakes.

“Suitable habitat is being created, but many species have trouble accessing it due to fragmentation from roads and other physical barriers which makes re-colonization of restored sites improbable,” explained Allison Sacerdote-Velat, Ph.D. reintroduction biologist at Lincoln Park Zoo.

“These collaborative conservation partnerships are terrific because each agency brings a unique expertise. The zoo specializes in small population biology and animal care. We can successfully breed, hatch and care for these species until they are large and mature enough for release to the wild – a technique called ‘head-starting’ which gives them a greater chance of survival upon release.”

Ornate box turtle

An ornate box turtle taking its first steps in the prairie. Photo by Sharon Dewar / Lincoln Park Zoo.

Learn more about the release at the Lincoln Park Zoo website.

Jaguar to Name Cub for Father’s Day

r cubs at Woodland Park Zoo

Three jaguar cubs were born in March to father Junior and mother Nayla. Junior will name his son (pictured in the middle) for Father’s Day. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

At the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, new father Junior will have the opportunity to name his son on Father’s Day. Junior and his partner Nayla became proud parents of triplets back in March. The two female cubs will be named privately, but the male cub will be named in a special ceremony on Sunday.

Zookeepers selected three names original to the jaguar’s native South American range:

1. Cruz, in reference to Bolivia’s Santa Cruz zoo where Junior was born
2. Tlaloc, Aztec meaning “from the earth”
3. Kuwan, from the Hopi Tribe meaning “butterfly showing beautiful wings”

The three names will be individually paired with tasty, enticing piñatas and displayed for Junior in Jaguar Cove during the naming ceremony.  The piñatas will be stuffed with his favorite meats: chicken and ground turkey. Junior will decide his son’s name by selecting which piñata to open.

The piñatas are part of the zoo’s enrichment program, which stimulates the animals’ senses, promotes natural animal behavior and often rewards the animals with tasty, nutritious treats.

To follow the three cubs’ progress, visit the Woodland Park Zoo’s blog.

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UPDATE: After some deliberation, Junior chose the name KUWAN!

jaguar

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo

Baby Bonobo at Memphis Zoo

Bonobo and baby

Bonobo baby with mom Kiri. Photo credit: Laura Horn, Memphis Zoo.

A baby bonobo was born at the Memphis Zoo on May 12 to parents Kiri and Mofana. The sex of the baby is still not known, but zoo staff will determine the gender in the coming weeks.

According to Matt Thompson, Director of Animal Programs, “This is a species that needs a lot of help, so every birth is significant. Bonobos are still very rare in the wild and in captivity. They are a high conservation priority, and Mo and Kiri are a good genetic match.”

In the wild, bonobos inhabit the rainforests of the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa. Currently, the IUCN has categorized bonobos as endangered. Civil war in the Congo has hugely impacted bonobo society, fragmenting their population to isolated pockets and limiting their genetic diversity.

To learn more about bonobos, see our bonobo facts article.

Chimpanzee Personalities

ChimpanzeeA study published in the American Journal of Primatology this month revealed new information about chimpanzee personality traits. The five defining personality dimensions in chimps are: reactivity, dominance, openness, extroversion and agreeableness.

Researchers collected behavioral data for two years on 99 chimpanzees at the Michale E. Keeling Center for Comparative Medicine and Research in Bastrop, Texas. They rated the apes on behavioral descriptors such as boldness, jealousy, friendliness and stinginess.

According to lead author Hani Freeman, postdoctoral fellow with the Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes at Lincoln Park Zoo. “From an academic standpoint, the findings can inform investigations into the evolution of personality. From a practical standpoint, caretakers of chimpanzees living in zoos or elsewhere can now tailor individualized care based on each animal’s personality thereby improving animal welfare.”