(repost because this is the most common blog to turn up in search engines and my friend just became head vet at DWA)
Isla Escudo is home to this pygmy sloth, one of four species of three-toed sloths. These folivores (suborder: Folivora), also known as Escudo sloths are not only smaller than mainland species, but they are considerably more docile. They are threatened by the loss of mangrove habitat, and are consumed by local fisherman. The fisherman will camp out on the island and cut down mangroves for fire. They feed on these xenarthrans when fishing is deemed unsuccessful. By the way, the brown-throated three-toed sloth may still be the only publicly displayed three-toed sloth in the US. You can see one at the Dallas World Aquarium and Zoo, Texas. Although sloths are known for their menacing claws I do remember a colleague who was seriously bitten by a two-toed sloth.
Dr. Jordan Schaul, Zoo Keeper Emeritus
Posted in zoo
Tagged algae, animal, biology, brown-throated three-toed sloth, Central America, claws, conservation, Dallas World Aquarium and Zoo, endangered, Escudo sloth, fauna, folivore, mangroves, pygmy sloth, slow, South America, three-toed sloth, two-toed sloth, wildlife, xenarthra, xenarthrans, zoo, zoo keeper, zoology
In my recent post on celebrity menageries I mentioned the fate of Pablo Escobar’s hippopotamus herd. I had no premonition that the New York Times would address this topic in a much more compelling piece than what I provided, much less a few days later. It’s merely a timely coincidence. I applaud the director of the sanctuary featured in the article for taking in so many animals that were confiscated or in need of a good home. It’s a lot of dedication that often goes unrecognized.
Alaska Fisheries Science Center (NMFS)
But I also want to commend zoos, aquariums, and marine parks for displaying imperfect specimens. This wasn’t always the case. If you have worked with free-ranging wildlife you may consider any animal in a zoo to be fairly close to meeting the criteria for a perfect physical specimen. Many of them are. They don’t all bare the wounds of battle from aggressive conflicts with con-specifics, predators, or even prey that managed to inflict some damage. Many of the animals that I have seen in the wild have scars to prove that indeed they live there. In particular, I think of wild sea lions. From studying activity budgets of California sea lions hauled out just meters away on a rookery in the Sea of Cortez (Baja, California Sur) or from sailing by a colony of Steller sea lions near Benjamin Island (Southeast, AK), I would be hard-pressed to say that I’ve seen an adult or subadult animal that would meet the criteria of a perfect specimen by historic standards. It always surprises me a bit when patrons take pause at the sight of an animal that may well have been injured. In fact, when I think about it, I’ve probably witnessed just as many wild sea lions that have been branded for research studies as I have seen that have not been. Branding was a common and safe practice for marking wild animals for census work and demographic studies. I couldn’t imagine a branded animal on exhibit, but maybe there are some.
Today, zoos are very candid, often sharing this kind of information regarding research and clinical case work with the public. Living institutions treat these issues with more tact and sensitivity than ever before. It’s amazing how we can genuinely shape perception if concerns are addressed thoughtfully. It’s effective micro-crisis management.
I remember watching an Allen’s swamp monkey at the San Diego Zoo. Among this fascinating troop of guenon monkeys was a female with a juvenile. She was obviously missing a limb, but was able to get along just fine and tend to her parental responsibilities. In the background visitors were sharing their sentiments and most appreciative of the zoo for providing information about this individual animal’s health status. As I recall, one of the zoo’s interpretive graphics conveyed the message that just like people animals are imperfect. It was quite refreshing verbiage, and almost touching. Instead of eliciting great concern, cause for alarm, or unnecessary speculation, the language provided an explanation and message that was well-received by the guests. I thought this was very nicely done.
I think it is important to share with people that there is nothing wrong with animal ambassadors in captive facilities that fall short of perfection. They may better represent their wild counterparts and perhaps they convey to the public that although they may be different, they are offered great care and attention just like every other animal in the zoo collection.
Taxidermists, collection managers or curators at museums of natural history may speak of perfect specimens. Likewise researchers in systematics and taxonomy may also place value on perfect specimens, but not for purely aesthetic reasons. They may have studied newly described species or been working with various biological types (e.g., holotypes) as referenced by the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature.
Their objectives are more likely aimed at providing reference data for scholarly publications (for the benefit of colleagues working with related taxa) and teaching.
Dr. Jordan Schaul, Zoo Keeper Emeritus
Posted in branding, curation/management, education, primatology, public relations, veterinary, zoo, zoo exhibits, zoo visitors
Tagged Alaska, Allen's swamp monkeys, amputated limb, aquarium, Baja, biology, branded, California sea lions, celebrity menageries, census studies, collection manager, conservation, curator, demographic studies, emeritus, guenons, herd, hippopotomus, imperfect specimens, interpretive graphics, Jordan Schaul, living institutions, marine mammal, marine park, mico-crisis management, mounted specimen, museum of natural history, National Marine Fisheries Service, New York Times, Pablo Escobar, pachyderm, perfect specimens, population biology, primate, San Diego Zoo, sanctuary, scholarly publications, Steller sea lions, systematics, taxa, taxidermists, taxonomy, veterinary health, wildlife, zoo, zoo keeper, zoology
http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Animals/Amazonia/default.cfm………(link to Andean bear cub cam)
Web cams are not new to zoos. They have broad appeal among the generation of people born after Al Gore invented the internet. Hopefully you agree that it is pretty amazing to see live feeds of spheniscid penguins and sun bears on display (separately, of course).
It’s even cool to see the charismatic mini-fauna on your computer monitors. Who is not captivated by watching the eusocial naked mole rats (also known as sand puppies) on exhibit. Fossorial and arboreal web viewing is also very popular for zoo and wildlife enthusiasts. You can visit the zoo while you are drinking a Cappuccino (sometimes confused with a ‘capuchin’) at Starbucks. The remote monitoring of captive wildlife is not new. Panda research units in zoos often remind people of something out of a NASA spacecraft with more monitors accessible to behaviorists than actual animals . Aviculturists have carefully studied condor chicks sequestered in nests and neonatologists have observed a host of species through the use of these unobtrusive surveillance tools. However, today’s animal keeper can leave the zoo and make it home just in time to watch the crepuscular activities of their charges.
Some of our most prominent living institutions designate webcams for use by husbandry and health care staff- cameras that are not intended to provide footage for patrons. Keepers simply login to their respective accounts and chose what camera angle they want. Well before a press release of new offspring, animal keepers may have been watching webcams from remote locations immediately following parturition.
If a zoo has the resources to install web cams, it’s possible to monitor individual animals in zoo collections from any place at any time as long as one can find an internet connection. When you think about it this is pretty amazing. Just like camera traps have provided footage of the most rare and elusive carnivores in the densest jungles on earth, zoos now have the capability to observe behaviors 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from a laptop or a cell phone. This greatly enhances the potential to carry out collection-based studies on our most imperiled species.
Internet technology progresses at lightening speed. Zoological parks are now embracing these technological developments to expand our knowledge of zoo biology and improve upon their high standards for animal welfare. I can’t imagine what tools will be available to study wildlife in the next decade. We just need to remain committed to saving vanishing species and our natural heritage for generations to come.
Dr. Jordan Schaul, Zoo Keeper Emeritus
Posted in behavioral sciences, branding, carnivorans, ecology, education, marketing, media training, mega-fauna, mini-fauna, public relations, research, small mammals, zoo exhibits, zoo keeper
Tagged AAZK, Akron Zoo, American Association of Zoo Keepers, Andean bear, Andean bear cam, Andes, animal, Aquarium of the Pacific, arboreal, Asian bears, Asiatic bears, Audubon Zoo, aviculturist, AZA, Baltimore Zoo, Barcelona Zoo, behavioral ecology, biology, Bronx Zoo, Brookfield Zoo, Budapest Zoo, Buffalo Zoo, Busch Gardens, Calgary Zoo, camera trap, capuchin monkey, Central Florida Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Chaffee Zoo, CHeyenne Mountain Zoo, CITES, coffee, Columbia, condor chicks, condors, conservation, cubs, Dallas Zoo, Denver Zoo, Detroit Zoo, Disney's Animal Kingdom, EAZA, ecology, Ecuador, Edinburgh Zoo, Emmen Zoo, ethogram, ethology, exotic animal, Fort Wayne Children's Zoo, Fort Worth Zoo, Fossil Rim, fossorial, Front Royal, Georgia Aquarium, giant panda, Great Ape Trust, Henry Doorly Zoo, IMATA, incubators, internet, internet technology, IZE, Jackson Zoo, jacksonville Zoo, Jordan Schaul, Jungle Jack Hanna, Kansas City Zoo, Knoxville Zoo, Las Vegas Zoo, Lincoln Park Zoo, Little Rock Zoo, living institutions, London Zoo, Los Angeles Zoo, Louisville Zoo, Madrid Zoo, Melbourne Zoo, Memphis Zoo, Mexico City Zoo, Miami Metrozoo, Milwaukee County Zoo, Minnesota Zoo, Montgomery Zoo, Moody Gardens, Moscow Zoo, Mystic Aquarium, naked mole rat, National Zoo, neonates, neonatology, New England Aquarium, Newport Aquarium, Oklahoma City Zoo, Oregon Zoo, panda research, Paris Zoo, parturition, penguin, Peru, Philadelphia Zoo, Phoenix Zoo, Pittburgh Zoo, Point Defiance Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, Queens Zoo, Reid Park Zoo, remote camera, RIo Grande Zoo, Riverbanks Zoo, Roger Williams Zoo, Rotterdam Zoo, San Diego Wild Animal Park, San Diego Zoo, Santa Barbara Zoo, Santa Fe Teaching Zoo, Sedgwick County Zoo, Smithsonian, spectacled bear, spheniscid, spheniscid penguin, St. Louis Zoo, starbucks, Staten Island Zoo, sun bear, Taronga Zoo, technology, temperate penguin, Tokyo Zoo, Toledo Zoo, Topeka Zoo, Tulsa Zoo, ursid, ursine, Vancouver Aquarium, vanishing species, Venezuela, virtual zoo, Warsaw Zoo, Washington D.C., web cam, White Oak, wildlife, Woodland Park Zoo, zoo, Zoo America, Zoo Atlanta, zoo biology, zoo keeper, Zoo Keeper Emeritus, Zoo Montana, Zoo New England, zoo patrons, Zoo Peeps, Zoo Photography, zoo visitors, Zoo webmaster, zoology
Congratulations to the St. Louis Zoo. The zoo recently celebrated the birth of a Bactrian camel calf.
I remember as a young keeper being tasked with exercising a Bactrian camel calf in the early mornings of a typically hot Midwestern summer. Just like many neonates of large ungulates, this animal was pretty big despite his age. You may not realize this until you have one on a lead and he’s running you to exhaustion.
If you have ridden or worked with dromedary camels and/or have experience working with Bactrians camels you can well appreciate the differences between these two true camel species, and their special adaptations for the environments they inhabit. Notice the humps of course. The smaller New World camelids are also sometimes referred to as camels (e.g., guanacos, alapacas, etc). Hybrids of Old World (true camels) and New World camelids also exist (e.g., Dromedary X Llama = Cama).
With the exception of approximately 700,000 feral dromedary camels in Australia (introduced by the Afghans in the 19th century), the greater majority of these animals living today are domesticated. The majority of Bactrians are also domesticated. However, the declining wild population of Bactrian camels may number as few as 800 or less. This remnant population from the Gobi desert (Mongolia/China) has drawn much attention from conservationists making the Bactrian camel a species of special concern. Bactrian camels were listed as one of the top-10 “focal species” in 2007 by the Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) project.
Working with Bactrian camels in captivity can be quite dangerous and hence, precautions may be taken to work these animals in a “protected contact” environment such that keepers and handlers train and care for the animals, but do not enter the enclosure with them. Bactrians may not look that big until you stand next to one.
I recommend a colleague’s site for ungulate resources:
Dr. Jordan Schaul, Zoo Keeper Emeritus
Posted in zoo
Tagged alpaca, animal science, animal trainer, Australia, Bactrian, biology, calf, camelid, camelids, China, conservation, dromedary, endangered, fat, Gobi desert, guanaco, humps, hybrid, llama, meat, milk, Mongolia, neonates, preserve, research, St. Louis Zoo, Toronto Zoo, ungulate, vicuna, wildlife, www.ultimateungulate.com, zoo, zoo keeper, zoology