World Elephant Day

Asian elephant

It’s World Elephant Day!

Today is World Elephant Day, a day focusing on the conservation of elephants across the globe. The two main species of elephant are African elephants and Asian elephants. Both species are in danger of becoming extinct in the wild due to poaching and habitat loss.

Although many countries have banned the killing of elephants, the illegal ivory trade has skyrocketed in recent years. Decreasing the demand for ivory is essential. Never buy, sell, or wear ivory. Write to your politicians to speak out against poaching. (Americans can write a letter to the Secretary of State on the Wildlife Conservation Society website.) For information on organizations that combat the illegal ivory trade, see National Geographic’s page, Blood Ivory: How to Help.

In addition, you can help provide captive elephants with the best possibly life. Boycott circuses, whose unethical treatment includes chaining elephants up by their feet and trunks, as well as beating them frequently. Encourage zoos to create environments similar to African elephants’ native habitat. They should be able to encompass elephant families and their travel patterns, and they should be located in a warm climate so that the elephants can spend all year outside.

A recent study of zoo elephants found that the best way to promote elephant well-being in captivity is to ensure they can spend time in groups, and not be socially isolated. Human interaction was also beneficial. The study, titled Epidemiological Investigations of North American Zoo Elephant Welfare, is available online and is accessible to the public. (See

Baby Grevy’s Zebra Born at Lincoln Park Zoo

Grevy's zebras

Adia and her new foal, born June 18. Photo by Lincoln Park Zoo.

The Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago celebrated Father’s Day weekend with the arrival of a female Grevy’s zebra foal. It was the first zebra birth at the zoo since 2012! The baby zebra is the third foal for mother Adia and the first for father Webster.

In the wild, Grevy’s zebras are considered endangered due to hunting and habitat loss. They are native to eastern Africa, ranging from Ethiopia to Kenya.

Lincoln Park Zoo participates in the Grevy’s Zebra Species Survival Plan, a shared conservation effort by zoos throughout the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

“Research tells us that fostering an emotional connection between humans and animals is key to creating a real commitment to wildlife conservation,” said Lincoln Park Zoo Vice President of Education and Community Engagement Dana Murphy. “Species like zebras, with which we are relatively familiar—and become so at an early age—help us forge that connection and inspire our guests to care about their future.”

For more about Lincoln Park’s baby zebra, visit their website.

Grevy's zebras

Photo by Lincoln Park Zoo.

Grevy's zebras

Photo by Lincoln Park Zoo.

Bison Officially Named America’s National Mammal

American bison

President Obama signed a law on Monday declaring the bison as America’s national mammal. For those bald eagle fans, don’t worry! The bald eagle remains the national animal (and national bird) of the United States.

Bison-National-Mammal-SealThe new law, called the National Bison Legacy Act, creates an additional designation for a special native mammal in America. Animals are classified as mammals when:

  • they are warm blooded vertebrates
  • they possess hair or fur, and
  • they nourish their young with milk produced by mammary glands

The bison is an excellent choice for the honor of national mammal. Bison once numbered in the millions in the United States. Their range stretched from Canada to Mexico.

Many Native American tribes relied heavily on bison as a source of food and clothing, and they considered it of great spiritual significance. When white settlers spread into the Great Plains, they decimated the bison population, and the bison nearly went extinct.

Due to conservationist efforts starting in the early 20th century, the bison was saved from extinction. But they are still classified as Near Threatened by the IUCN. You can help in their preservation by adopting a bison via the Defenders of Wildlife or donating toward the purchase of prairie land for reserves at the American Prairie Foundation.

To learn more about bison, see our American bison facts article.

Bison Return to Montana Homeland

Bison calves

Bison aboard a truck waiting to be transported to Montana. Photo by Jeff Morey/WCS

In a collaboration between the Blackfeet Nation, Elk Island National Park in Alberta, Canada, Oakland Zoo, and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), 88 bison were transferred from Elk Island to the Blackfeet Nation Reservation near Browning, Montana.

This transfer marks a truly historic occasion for the Blackfeet people, whose cultural identity is strongly wrapped up in the icon of the buffalo (or bison, as they are known scientifically).

“The Blackfeet People were a buffalo people for thousands of years,“ said Harry Barnes, Chair of the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council. “The buffalo provided everything the people needed in the way of food, clothing, and shelter. It provided for so much of our physical needs that it filled our spiritual needs. It connected us to our animal and plant relatives in a way nothing else could provide. The elders have long believed that until the buffalo returned, the Blackfeet would drift. We have started the return.”

In 1873, bison from the Blackfoot land were captured  and formed the “Pablo-Allard” herd. They were sold to to the Canadian government in the early 1900s. The Elk Island bison are the descendants of that herd.

“Today marks the long-awaited return of these buffalo to their original homeland,” said Ervin Carlson, Bison Program Director and President of the Intertribal Buffalo Council. “The Elk Island Buffalo originated from Blackfeet territory and their homecoming enhances the restoration of Blackfeet culture. These animals are culturally and spiritually connected to our people and I believe their homecoming will begin a healing of historical trauma to the Blackfeet people. These buffalo will begin the longstanding efforts to restore buffalo to their historical mountain front rangelands.”

To learn more about bison, see our American bison facts article.

Baby Rhinoceros Arrives at Taronga Western Plains Zoo

White rhino baby

Kamari, a white rhinoceros, was born on December 19 to mother Kopani. Photo by Taronga Western Plains Zoo.

Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo, Australia recently welcomed a baby white rhinoceros to their family. The female calf was born in the early hours on December 19 to experienced mother Mopani.

Zoo keepers named the baby rhino Kamari, which is Swahili for “moonlight.”

Baby white rhino

Photo by Taronga Western Plains Zoo.

Baby white rhino and mother

Photo by Taronga Western Plains Zoo.

Taronga actively supports conservation efforts for wild rhinos in Africa, Indonesia and India, including providing funds and support for habitat protection and reforestation, anti-poaching and rhino protection units and reduction of human-rhino conflict. They’re also a founding member of the International Rhino Foundation.

To learn more, see

Orphaned Tree Kangaroo Saved in World First

Tree kangaroo at Adelaide Zoo

World conservation first: An orphaned tree kangaroo was cross-fostered by a rock wallaby and survived! Photo by Adelaide Zoo.

The keepers and veterinarians at Adelaide Zoo have saved the life of an orphaned Goodfellow’s tree kangaroo by using a surrogate wallaby mother! This exciting achievement is a world first for conservation.

One morning in November of last year, zoo keepers discovered that a tree branch had fallen and killed the zoo’s three-year-old tree kangaroo overnight. She was carrying a five week old joey. Since the joey was so young, hand-rearing was not an option. They decided to use a technique called “cross-fostering”, which involves transferring the joey to the pouch of another animal.

Tree kangaroo joey being transferred.

The orphaned tree kangaroo joey was transferred to the pouch of a rock wallaby. Photo by Adelaide Zoo.

In the 1990s, Adelaide Zoo pioneered this cross-fostering technique on endangered wallabies. In this situation, zoo keepers would transfer the endangered wallaby joey to the pouch of a surrogate wallaby of another, non-endangered species. The original endangered wallaby female would then be able to restart her breeding cycle, increasing her reproduction rate up to six or eight times.  This allowed the zoo to build up the endangered population much more quickly.

According to Adelaide Zoo veterinarian Dr David McLelland, “We’ve had great success over the years’ cross-fostering between wallaby species, but the specialized breeding technique has never been used on a tree kangaroo. Not only are tree kangaroos distant relatives of wallabies, they also have many behavioral and physical differences. We had no idea if the yellow-foot rock wallaby would accept the tree kangaroo joey, but if we wanted to save the joey we had to try our luck.”

The gamble worked, and the orphaned tree kangaroo thrived in the pouch of his surrogate rock wallaby mother. The joey, named Makaia, spent about three and a half months in the pouch until being hand-reared by zoo staff.

Tree kangaroo joey in rock wallaby pouch

Makaia, the tree kangaroo joey, can be seen here inside the pouch of his surrogate mother, a rock wallaby. Photo by Adelaide Zoo.

The amazing rescue story of Makaia will be featured in the July/August edition of Australian Geographic, available July 3.

Watch a video of Makaia below:

Can You Spot Them? Clouded Leopard Cubs on View at Nashville Zoo

Clouded leopard cub at Nashville Zoo.

Photo by Mary Brenna Corr / Nashville Zoo.

Two clouded leopard cubs born in March are making public appearances at Nashville Zoo every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 10:30-11:30am. Visitors can view the cubs, named Sip Saam and Natida, at the lynx exhibit.

“It’s been several years since we have exhibited clouded leopard cubs, so I know the public is anxious to see them,” said Karen Rice, carnivore supervisor at Nashville Zoo. “At nearly four months old, Sip Saam and Natida enjoy exploring the habitat, climbing trees and chasing one another around.”

Clouded leopard conservation and captive breeding is difficult because the cats are reclusive (or solitary) and male clouded leopards have been known to attack and kill potential female partners. At Nashville Zoo, animal care staff hand-raise cubs and introduce them to mates at a young age. These practices help improve the success rate of the program. Since 2009, the zoo has successfully raised 24 clouded leopards who have gone on to zoos worldwide.

In the wild, clouded leopards are considered vulnerable of extinction due to deforestation, poaching, and the pet trade.

Help Save Cholita the Circus Bear


Cholita, an abused spectacled bear and former circus animal, waits for her trip to the United States, where she can live out the rest of her life in a sanctuary. Photo provided by Animal Defenders International (ADI).

Cholita has had a hard life. She is an Andean/spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus), a species considered vulnerable of extinction in the wild. She was kept illegally at a circus in Peru.  There, she was severely abused.

Due to the gruesome abuse she suffered at the circus, Cholita now has no claws, teeth or hair. She is barely recognizable as a spectacled bear.  But there is hope for Cholita, to live out the rest of her days in a United States sanctuary.

Animal Defenders International (ADI) has worked with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Peruvian authorities to get Cholita on a special ‘Spirit of Freedom’ flight to Colorado scheduled for April 20.  The huge rescue mission, which also includes the rescue of 70 other circus animals, is expected to cost ADI over $1.2 million.

Please donate to help save Cholita and the other animals saved during Operation Spirit of Freedom: or call 323-935-2234.

To learn more, visit ADI’s website.

Baby Cheetahs at Busch Gardens

Cheetah cubs at Busch Gardens.

Aww! Busch Gardens Tampa welcomed a pair of cheetah cubs!

A pair of cheetah cubs have joined the ranks at Busch Gardens in Tampa, FL. The cubs, named Tendai and Thabo, weighed 12 pounds when they were born on November 22, 2014. Once old enough, they will start their own coalition of cheetahs at the Cheetah Run habitat.

Cheetah cubs at Busch Gardens

Zzz… These cheetah cubs are all tuckered out.

Watch a video below:

Learn more about cheetahs at our cheetah facts article.