zoos queues

You know a lot of people don’t know this but…

A new chapter in the wild began today for 26 eastern indigo snakes reared at the Zoo in the latest milestone in a conservation partnership to restore a native species to its original range. In a collaboration between Zoo Atlanta, the Central Florida Zoo’s Orianne Center for Indigo Conservation and Auburn University, the snakes were released into the Conecuh National Forest near Andalusia, Alabama, on July 14, 2017.

Previously to the beginning of a reintroduction effort, the eastern indigo snake had not been sighted in the wild in Alabama in around 50 years. The snakes are a keystone species of the longleaf pine-wiregrass and sandhills ecosystem, and their reintroduction carries significant positive ecological benefits for the national forest.

Zoos are known for their conservation work on other continents around the world, but conservation begins in our own backyards. This is a notable example of a project that continues to have a direct impact on re-establishing an iconic species in its native range.

Our Zoo has reared more than 80 eastern indigo snakes for the reintroduction program, which is a cooperation among stakeholders throughout the Southeast. Additional project partners include the Alabama Department of Natural Resources, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and The Nature Conservancy.

The newest group of reintroduced snakes had been reared here since 2015. As they had been designated for release into the wild, the young snakes received care and feeding in behind-the-scenes facilities where they had limited interactions with humans. In this environment, the snakes were able to grow to a size capable of avoiding many of the predators that feed on juvenile snakes.

Prior to their release, the snakes received passive integrated responder tags (PIT) for identification. Preliminary results from tracking efforts have shown that previous groups of reintroduced snakes are surviving, thriving, and reproducing.

To date, more than 100 eastern indigo snakes have been released into Conecuh National Forest, a majority of which have been reared at the Zoo. The goal of the project is to release 300 snakes over a 10-year period at an average of 30 snakes a year.

The largest nonvenomous snake species in North America and a native of southern Georgia, Florida, Alabama, South Carolina and Mississippi, the eastern indigo snake has declined across its historic range with the destruction of its ecosystem. This decline is also observed in Georgia’s state reptile, the gopher tortoise, which creates burrows that are often used by eastern indigo snakes and other species.

Eastern indigo snakes play an additional valuable role in their environment by keeping other snake populations in check, as they are known to eat venomous species, including copperheads. These snakes are not constrictors; instead, they overpower their prey using the crushing force of their jaws.

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Zoos Queues

You know, a lot of people don’t realize this but….

The animals at the zoo represent so many opportunities for biologists around the world to learn basic information about, well, animals! We get research proposals all the time from researchers, both among our own staff and globally, seeking permission to include the animals in their research. We approve the proposals that are of the greatest scientific value, that have potential to help us even further improve our qualities of animal care, and that are certain to cause no harm of any form to the animals. Recently two papers were published in major academic journals by scientists from regional universities that contribute some fascinating information to the global body of knowledge about animals.

Dr. Bonnie M. Perdue (Department of Psychology, Agnes Scott College) published: Perdue, B.M. 2016. The effect of computerized testing on Sun Bear behavior and enrichment preferences.            Behavioral Sciences 6, 19; doi:10.3390/bs6040019

The field of comparative cognition investigates species’ differences and similarities in cognitive abilities, and sheds light on the evolutionary origins of such capacities. Dr. Perdue realized that, while cognitive studies commonly are conducted with animals such as dogs, elephants, primates, and even giant pandas, many animals have never been studied. So, she applied some standard methods, using an ingenious rugged computerized touchscreen apparatus, to our sun bears. Bears typically use their tongues to explore and manipulate their environment and, she found that the bears actively engaged the touchscreen menus with their tongues.



The screens had dabs of honey on them in the earlier trials, to draw the bears’ attention to these novel objects. Once familiarized with the screens, the bears proceeded to learn to interact with specific color- or shape-targets on the screen in exchange for treats. Soon, the bears were preferring to interact with the computer screens more than any of the other enrichment items available to them. This study discovered a new method by which bears can be studied and showed that the experiments were preferred by the bears who actively involved themselves at every opportunity. This is fascinating stuff!

Alexis Noel (a graduate student in Mechanical Engineering, Georgia Tech) and her colleagues published: Noel, A.C., Guo, H-Y., Mandica, M., Hu, D.L. 2017 Frogs use a viscoelastic tongue and non-Newtonian saliva to catch prey.           Journal of the Royal Society Interface 14: 20160764.           http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsif.2016.0764

Frogs can capture insects, mice and even birds using only their tongue, with a speed and versatility unmatched in the world of synthetic materials. How can the frog tongue be so sticky? In this multi-faceted study that included some frogs here, used high-speed films of frog feeding to understand the behaviors involved in tongue-feeding. Then they used high-tech measurements and characterizations of frog tongues at Georgia Tech to investigate the structural properties of frog tongues and saliva.



They found that the tongue’s unique stickiness results from a combination of an incredibly soft and stretchable anatomy soft and a saliva that simply does not follow the normal rules of how liquids respond to pressure. The tongue acts like a car’s shock absorber during insect capture, absorbing energy and so preventing separation from the insect. The unique saliva spreads over the insect during impact, grips it firmly to the tongue, and yet it slides off easily once it is back in the mouth. This combination of properties gives the tongue 50 times greater work of adhesion than known synthetic material (such as everyone’s favorite, the sticky-hand toy). These insights offer many new ideas and models for applications in industry and engineering. Yet more proof that frogs are the coolest animals on Earth!
To learn more things people dont realize about zoos here ~>  Zoos Queues

Have you ever wondered what happens when Zoos receives a new animal? Where does that animal go? How do we introduce it to its new friends?

A lot of people don’t know this but…

We get most of our birds for our collection from other zoos. Most of the time, we are getting these birds due to recommendations from other zoo professionals for those animals to breed, but sometimes it is because they may no longer have space for them, or they have lone birds that need some friends.  For example, we have a single male Guira cuckoo that lives in our Living Treehouse habitat. While this bird lives with almost 40 other birds, he no longer lived with another of his species, so we needed to find him a companion. Luckily, another Zoo had a female cuckoo that they were willing and able to send to us.

So the paperwork begins! Once we get the correct permits and permissions from both zoos

Not a lot of people know this but transporting an animal is hard

Besides getting approval from each of the vets saying that the bird is healthy enough to travel, we all have to agree on travel arrangements. Then, due to exotic laws being state regulated, we have to get permission and permits from every state we drive through!  On her arrival, the first step that any animal goes through is to go through a 30-day quarantine. This is to ensure that the new animals are healthy, while keeping it away from any other collection animals, just in case they have anything that can spread to other animals.  As you can imagine, most animals make it through quarantine without any problems.

Once released from quarantine, there are a few different ways that we can introduce birds to each other, and they all depend on the personalities of the animals involved. Because our cuckoo lives in The Living Treehouse with many other birds, we decided to put our lone male into our indoor space for this introduction. This space is divided into two aviaries with a connecting door between them. So we placed the female on one side and the male on the other, allowing them visual access but not physical access. This gives the two birds time to get used to each other and gives the keepers time to assess how they are going to act.

After 24 hours, and no negative interactions through the mesh, we opened the shift door. Usually these introductions are uneventful, birds get along, or they don’t mind each other and sometimes they bond immediately. Rarely do we have issues, but we are always prepared for them. Because these cuckoos are so social, we were confident that he would be very agreeable to meeting a girlfriend. But when we opened that shift door, the male flew over to the female, the female fluffed up all of her feathers, and the male landed on the perch right next to her. They sat about six inches apart, then four, then two, then right next to each other! Within hours the male started grooming the feathers on his new girlfriend’s head! Today, at any moment, we can walk into the indoor space and see these two sitting very close to each other, and preening. It’s a very good match!

To learn more things people dont realize about zoos here ~>  Zoos Queues

You know a lot of people dont realize this….

But All animals dont make the best of parents…Sometimes animals say to us “Hey this isnt what i signed up for” and then we have to raise the baby for awhile until she comes to her senses or the baby can take care of itself.  This baby Milky Eagle Owl is just one such example. Owl hatchlings are somewhat in between two main categories of hatchlings know as precocial and altricial know as “semi-altricial. Which means that although they maybe covered in down feathers and can stand(more like wobble then fall) they still need parental rearing…

"Precocial” and “altricial,” two words describing the degree of development in young birds at hatching, are good examples of useful scientific jargon. A precocial bird is “capable of moving around on its own soon after hatching.” While Altricial means “incapable of moving around on its own soon after hatchling.” It comes from a Latin root meaning “to nourish” a reference to the need for extensive parental care required before fledgling. 

With most animals we keep, we like to leave as minimum of an impression as possible. To allow nature and instinct to be the main factor in mental development. The best way(well 3rd best technically) to handle that is whats know as puppet rearing(seen here). This is a way of feeding and imprinting so little old man fluff fluff here learns he’s an owl

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You know a lot of people don’t realize this but 

When feeding animals one thing we have to take into account is manducation and dexterity. Depending on how the animal eats will determines how we cut it and serve it to them and sometimes what type of food we give. 

The cuts and shapes have been figured out over years of experiment and observations to figure out what’s the perfect way to get an animal to eat all its food comfortably. Individual personality can also play a role as some animal might enjoy tiny cubes to just pop in there mouth. Some prefer big circles to chew on…

 I know many of you are like

because an animal eats the food in the wild so why would they need food cut up? well what a lot of people also don’t realize is, animals can be very inefficient eaters. We all were technically taught this a roundabout way in grade school.

Animal eat certain thing and then another animal will come along and eat the thing that other animal doesn’t then the bugs clean up the mess. Circle of life.. But that’s more based on ecology. In reality one animal on an individual bases in a controlled setting is pretty much just leaving food on his plate by being messy or being sloppy or being picky or just being plain out gross with the food and completely wasting it. because it’s not out in the wild so there isn’t someone coming behind them to eat the thing they wont. Then we have to just throw it away. So as you see we take great care and consideration in caring for our coworkers

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You know a lot of people dont realize this…. There’s a lot of work that goes into making sure gorillas stay healthy and lean. We manage their weights through a combination of close observation, strict dietary guidelines and encouraging active behavior. The temptation to spoil our gorillas with all of their favorite foods is very hard, especially with faces like these
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 But we resist because we know that it is better for them in the long run. Keeping gorillas at a healthy weight helps avoid many potential health problems including heart disease, arthritis, high/low blood pressure and diabetes. Sound familiar? It should, because gorillas are susceptible to almost all the same weight-related illnesses that humans are!    A typical adult male gorilla weighs between 300 and 400 pounds, while females are usually between 150 and 250 pounds. We have trained all of our gorillas to station on scales so we can record their weights every month and track any significant changes. We do generally target the average weights listed above, but we also take into account the different body types from one gorilla to another. Just like humans, some gorillas are built heavier or lighter than average, and that does not necessarily mean that they have a problem with their weight. For cases like this, we use what we call the “eye test,” which is simply an assessment of how they look to keepers, veterinarians and other staff. If we determine that an individual is having issues with weight, then we have to deviate from the standard weight management plan and create a new plan to better fit their needs.   Gorillas all receive standard diet amounts determined by the nutrition experts(me :P), and their diets are delivered on a daily basis. The complicated part for keepers is ensuring that every animal gets his or her fair share. Most of our bachelor gorillas are housed separately overnight, so it is easy to give them their specified amount of food. But our family group, is housed together, and due to some how do you say “personality differences”, certain gorillas cannot be confined to small spaces together. So we have to split the group into sub-groups in order to get food to every individual. As you can imagine, feeding time can sometimes be a bit frenzied! But once you learn the tendencies of each individual, you can anticipate where they feel safe and provide them a clear pathway to where they want to go. It takes a lot of time and experience to learn the dynamics of the group and make feeding time as smooth as possible.   In combination with our dietary guidelines, we also try to keep our gorillas active throughout the day. Obviously, we cannot force them to exercise if they don’t want to, but we can give them good reason to exercise. One way we do this is by chopping their food into small chunks and scattering it throughout their habitat. This keeps them busy moving around and also encourages natural foraging behavior, which takes up a large portion of gorillas’ time in the wild. Another way we encourage active behaviors is by giving them browse. Browse is simply a word for any edible vegetation. For gorillas, this includes bamboo, elm, willow, hibiscus, dogwood, oak, mulberry and many more. Giving them browse once again keeps them busy and also encourages muscle use as they strip the bark and leaves from the branches.  
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  One might assume that we are always worried about gorillas being overweight, but that is not the case. Certain animals are pickier than others and will not eat their allotted amounts of the standard diet, so we must alter their diet to be sure that they are getting enough calories to maintain a healthy weight. In these cases, we may add extra starch such as corn, potatoes and sweet potatoes. Then, we have to be very careful to ensure that only the underweight animal is getting extra food. When isolating him or her from the rest of their group is not possible, we have to keep the other animals distracted long enough to allow the underweight gorilla to finish his or her extra diet. Doing this takes practice, because you have to be able to read the animals’ body language well enough to prevent any aggression from occurring.   So as you can see, it takes a lot of consistent effort to maintain healthy weights for our gorillas, but it’s rewarding to know that our work will extend their lifespans and keep them happy and healthy throughout!

 To learn more things people dont realize about zoos here ~> Zoos Queues

An anon once asked if we have to feed exotic animals exotic(natural for them) foods. Well I told them sometimes and I’d go into more details later for my next zoos queues. So while making some bird diets i thought now would be the perfect time to dive in this a bit

You know a lot of people dont realize this, but there more feeding categories than just Carnivores and Herbivores.

A lot of our birds are technically carnivores but actually insectivores or piscivorous. Now I’m going to let you guises use your context clues to figure out those two subcategories… if you’re true erudites you’d know or just google it. I’ll wait   

Yep thats right! Because of limiting factors like cost, availability, shipping and handling, etc., we end up feeding animals the same basic foodstuffs. But with eating different types of protein sources also comes with different levels of vitamin and mineral content that we also must now mimic. 

Things like Alpha-tocopherol is the form of vitamin E that is preferentially absorbed and accumulated in the body and is one of eight forms of Vitamin E. And dietary iron oxide powder which promotes muscle development. I wont give you all a OChem lesson… We ALL know how much we love OChem around here.

But with the right amounts of vitamins and minerals mixed with a certain amount of meat we can easily replicated an insectivore like a blue bellied roller’s diet of big meaty beetles!

To learn more things people dont realize about zoos here ~> Zoos Queues

anonymous asked:

So you are an animal nutrionist yes? So you know what EVERY animal is suppose to eat? even the new ones you get?

LOL! you give me way too much credit!

Yes I am an animal nutritionist but i dont know what EVERY animal eats. In school you learn what certain types of animals eats and the different types of digestion. For instance you learn that although horses and cow both are graminivores(which means they eat grasses), Horses are hindgut fermenters while cows are foregut fermenters. So i can apply that to similar animals i work with like bongos or giraffes. I also need to learn nutritional content of foods like knowing starch content of fruit, protein levels of meats, and vitamin content in fish. 

Now as for new animals we get from other zoos, fortunately for me most come with a diet sheet of what they already eat so we just feed them that unless we feel its not in they’re best interest or if they are joining a preexisting group we slowly switch them.

BUT I’ll admit sometimes we get animals and they’re just like “so we’ve got this rare bird coming, what do you think we should give it?" 

welp GIANT mix up in the order today… Majority of our animal are herbivores and so one of the biggest staples besides hay is lettuce. But you cant feed just any kind of lettuce. So when ordering six cases of romaine lettuce they sent us four cases of green leaf instead. Now I’m sure many of you know something about lettuce. I’d like to think this is a college level blog….right?…just go along with it.

But You know a lot of people dont realize this…

Lettuce does have some significant difference. Especially when feeding to mega fauna such as giraffes. Because most people who have researched lettuce are feeding small mammals or herps, when googling it the consensus is there isnt a big difference so either would be fine. Which is technically true to some degree. The difference between 1 cup of romaine and green leaf lettuce(roughly about 60g for the sake of discussion) for a bunny is about .005g of each vitamin found(again humor me with these numbers). Now if we were to increase that amount for a giraffe which is around 350 cups the gap between the required vitamins would start to enter deficiency ranges. Now you’ve got a problem! Not too mention animals can taste the difference. So if you think you can trick an ape with some lettuce he didnt order you are in for abad day…

And this goes for certain reptiles as well. Herps can be very sensitive to vitamin deficiencies. So to all my erudites with turtles as pets be knowledgeable about what you are feeding you little ones     

To learn more things people dont realize about zoos here ~> Zoos Queues