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MAYOR OF LOS ANGELES Eric Garcetti
LOS ANGELES ZOO COMMISSION Karen B. Winnick, President Bernardo Silva, Vice President Margot Armbruster Nicole Chase Christopher Hopkins Richard Lichtenstein, Ex-Officio Member
LOS ANGELES ZOO ADMINISTRATION John R. Lewis, Zoo Director Denise M. Verret, Deputy Director Beth Schaefer, General Curator Lisa Naples, D.V.M., Chief Veterinarian Mei Kwan, Director of Administration and Operations Tom LoVullo, Construction and Maintenance Supervisor Dan Keeffe, Director of Education Darryl Pon, Planning and Development Division Denise Tamura, Executive Assistant
GLAZA OFFICERS Richard Corgel, Chair Brian Diamond, Beth Price, Lori Winters Samuels, Laura Z. Wasserman, Vice Chairs Phyllis Kupferstein, Secretary Gregory D. Fuss, Treasurer Connie M. Morgan, President
GLAZA TRUSTEES Peter Arkley, James K. Bray, Michael Bustamante, Tracy Cohen, Robert J. East, Nick Franklin, Paulette Heath, Cassidy Horn, Tyler K. Kelley, Diann H. Kim, Anthony Kitchener, Richard Lichtenstein, Alan G. Lowy, Betty White Ludden, Mare L. Sallus, Patricia Silver, Slash, Jay Sonbolian, Erika Aronson Stern, Madeline Joyce Taft, Ellia M. Thompson, Dana Walden, Jennifer Thornton Wieland, Angela Yim-Sullivan
TRUSTEES EMERITI Willard Z. Carr, Jr., Richard Corgel, Ed N. Harrison, Mrs. Max K. Jamison, Lloyd Levitin, Mrs. John F. Maher, William G. McGagh, Dickinson C. Ross, Shelby Kaplan Sloan, Thomas R. Tellefsen, Polly Turpin
GLAZA ADMINISTRATION Eugenia Vasels, Vice President, Institutional Advancement Hugh J. Miller, Vice President, Chief Financial Officer Kait Hilliard, Vice President, Marketing Lisa Correa, Director of Membership Dawn Petersen-Amend, General Counsel Sara Rodriguez, Director of Special Events ZOO VIEW (ISSN 0276-3303) is published quarterly by the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association, 5333 Zoo Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90027. Periodical Postage paid at Los Angeles, CA. GREATER LOS ANGELES ZOO ASSOCIATION ANNUAL MEMBERSHIPS: Individual $55, Individual Plus $84, Family $146, Family Deluxe $186, Contributor $300, Wildlife Circle $500, Conservation Circle $1,000, Safari Society $1,500. Each membership category includes unlimited admission to the Los Angeles Zoo, a one-year subscription to ZOO VIEW, and invitations to special events. For more information, call (323) 644-4200 or log on to www.lazoo.org. Copyright Â© 2018 Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction of the whole or any part of the contents of this publication without written permission is prohibited. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to ZOO VIEW, 5333 Zoo Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90027-1498.
A female okapi calf was born at the Zoo in November. Native to central Africa, this reclusive species is rarely seen in the wild. PHOTO BY JAMIE PHAM
SPRING 2018 THE QUARTERLY MAGAZINE OF THE GREATER LOS ANGELES ZOO ASSOCIATION
A unique grant allows three animal keepers to travel across the world to study and protect exotic animals.
A grant sends condor keeper Chandra David (right) on an adventure to remember. PHOTO BY JAMIE PHAM
VOLUME LII NUMBER 1
NEW IN THE ZOO: BINTURONGS These new arrivals are among the oddest creatures you’ll ever meet!
EDITOR Brenda Posada
ENDANGERED SPECIES DAY
EDITORIAL COMMITTEE Kait Hilliard, John Lewis, Connie Morgan, Beth Schaefer, Eugenia Vasels, Denise M. Verret, Dan Keeffe
As we commemorate Endangered Species Day, the L.A. Zoo pays tribute to a true zoo icon, “Jungle” Jack Hanna.
For animal advocate Jack Hanna, conservation begins with caring.
PHOTO EDITOR & PHOTOGRAPHER
DESIGN & PRODUCTION Lisa Brink, The Brink Creative
PHOTO BY RICK PREBEG
ZOO-M IN Get tips from our expert photographers— and find out how to submit your photos to Zoo View.
PROOFREADER Lynne Richter
IN BRIEF FRONT COVER Six-year-old Zainabu (“Boo” for short) is one of five Masai giraffes currently in residence at the Los Angeles Zoo.
Recent zoo news includes rare reptile hatchings and a donation drive to benefit the homeless.
After more than a 30year absence, binturongs are back at the L.A. Zoo!
MEMBERSHIP MATTERS Important updates for GLAZA members.
PHOTO BY JAMIE PHAM
BACK COVER The Zoo’s meerkat mob includes four males transferred from Quebec’s Zoo de Granby last summer. PHOTO BY JAMIE PHAM
N U R T U R I N G
DONOR PROFILE A lifelong love of the Zoo prompted Brian Diamond to deepen his commitment to its cause. W I L D L I F E
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INTREPID TRIO Each year, the ORNATO ANIMAL KEEPER ADVANCED STUDIES FUND— named for its benefactor, longtime Zoo supporter Dominic J. Ornato—offers professional development grants to L.A. Zoo animal keepers. This funding enables our animal care staff to participate in conservation initiatives and other educational opportunities around the globe. In this issue of Zoo View, three recent Ornato grant recipients recount their experiences—and the impact these projects have on wild populations and the animals in their care.
H GH & by MIKE BONA Lead Giraffe Keeper
DESERT DWELLERS Despite receiving only two inches of rainfall annually, the northwest Namib Desert supports numerous species of wildlife, including Angolan giraffes. Though well adapted to their harsh environment, these desert dwellers are threatened by environmental degradation and other factors. The Giraffe Conservation Foundation’s Northwest Namibia Programme focuses on monitoring and supporting longterm conservation of giraffe in this region. PHOTO BY MIKE BONA
Giraffe populations have decreased by 40 percent in the last 30 years. There are fewer than 100,000 individuals left—far less than the number of African elephants (approximately 450,000). These statistics are alarming—and what’s more alarming is that few people are aware of this population decline. The giraffe’s status in the wild was recently downgraded from “least concern” to “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). That’s one step closer to endangered. The lack of public perception of their true plight is why giraffes are facing what legendary conservationist Sir David Attenborough called in 2016 a “silent extinction.” Z O O V I E W SPRING 2018
Studying giraffes in the world’s oldest desert may be the key to their survival
ll giraffes today are grouped into a single species (Giraffa camelopardalis), but recent genetic studies show there may be as many as four distinct giraffe species. If these four species gain recognition by the IUCN, most giraffes would be classified as endangered— or perhaps even critically endangered. Luckily for giraffes, the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) is making great strides toward reversing this trend. Founded nearly 15 years ago, GCF is the only non-governmental organization focused solely on giraffe conservation. They work in 14 of the 21 countries inhabited by giraffes. In September 2017, thanks to a grant from the Ornato Animal Keeper Advanced Studies Fund, I had the good fortune to travel to Namibia, Africa, to participate in the GCF’s longest running project.
Found in the northwest Namib Desert—the oldest desert in the world—are the Angolan giraffes, a subspecies of the southern giraffe. Here there are an estimated 13,000 individuals surviving in an environment where you wouldn’t expect to find much life at all, let alone megafauna such as giraffes, zebras, rhinos, and even elephants. This region averages only 50 millimeters (less than two inches) of rainfall annually. Life is dependent on the riverbeds that run through the deserts. Dry for the majority of the year, it is the underground water supply that allows the trees and other vegetation to thrive here. This is what these animals depend upon for their survival. Our task on this expedition was to take a census of the giraffes in the research area near Namibia’s Skeleton Coast, a region totaling about 4,470 square miles. Each day, we would venture out to look for groups of giraffes. They weren’t too difficult to find, since they tend to congregate near the riverbeds. Once we located a group, we would record the number of individuals, their GPS location, and their behavior. If giraffes were browsing
CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT TO RIGHT A desert plant desperately seeks water deep down in the arid ground; A cell phone-sized GPS unit has just been fitted onto one of this giraffe’s ossicones (the horn-like structures atop a giraffe’s head); A dramatic perspective of a giraffe’s release as captured by a GoPro camera; The team works quickly to attach a GPS unit and obtain measurements. PHOTOS COURTESY OF MIKE BONA
(eating foliage), we would take note of what type of tree they were browsing on. During the 10 days we spent out in the field, we were able to identify 145 individuals. There are approximately 300 giraffes known to inhabit this research area, and most have been catalogued and identified by their spot patterns. When a giraffe is spotted that hasn’t previously been observed by a researcher, it is added to the catalogue. Another one of our tasks was to collect DNA samples from as many giraffes as possible. This involved locating a giraffe and identifying it to see whether its DNA had previously been collected. If not, we would dart the giraffe using a specialized device that grabs a small tissue
sample from the giraffe’s skin. The dart immediately pops out and falls to the ground for us to retrieve. The samples are sent to GCF’s partners at the Senckenberg Institute in Frankfurt, where researchers are working on assembling a genetic pedigree of the entire giraffe population in this area. With this information they will be able to determine the relationships between each of the giraffes. This data will be useful toward gaining a better understanding of giraffe social networks. For me, the highlight of the trip was placing GPS (global positioning system) monitors on seven giraffes in this region. GPS data allows researchers to track giraffes and analyze their patterns of
movement. Over the years, the tracking devices used on giraffes had evolved from a box attached to massive straps that were wrapped around the animal’s shoulders and back, to smaller units strapped around the head, which were still cumbersome and would rub against the animals’ skin. On this expedition, we were thrilled to be using the latest technology—solar-powered GPS units about the size of a cell phone, which attach to one of the giraffe’s ossicones. (Ossicones are the horns on top of the giraffe’s head. They are bone covered with skin and hair). Before we could place the devices, the giraffes had to be darted with a sedative. Every time the team immobilizes a giraffe, the animal’s safety
is the number-one priority. In most cases, the sedative prescribed by the project’s veterinarian is sufficient for the giraffe to go down on its own. However, in a few instances, the team had to intervene to help the animal to the ground. We did this by positioning ourselves in front of the moving giraffe and stretching out a rope to wrap around its legs (imagine Luke Skywalker wrapping the cable around the ATAT walker in The Empire Strikes Back). I am very pleased to say that all seven units were attached without any injuries sustained by the giraffes. The team members, on the other hand, suffered our fair share of scrapes and bruises—but that’s all part of conservation.
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CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT TO RIGHT Animal keepers from three continents joined the GCF team to conduct field research in the Namib desert; A female Angolan giraffe blends in with her desert background; Individual giraffes are identified by their unique spot patterns; After being released, a large male looks back at the team. PHOTOS COURTESY OF MIKE BONA
The information collected from these GPS units will provide valuable insights into giraffe movement patterns and allow GCF researchers to analyze where (and hopefully why) giraffes move—hourly, daily, seasonally, and annually. This key information will help to deepen our understanding of how giraffes use their environment in Namibia. It will also be interesting to see how the movement of these giraffes in the desert compares to giraffe populations in other parts of Africa, where there is typically a wider variety of food and water sources. Knowledge gained from field research is shared with local communities and used to develop conservation strategies. For the Angolan giraffe and the other species
that inhabit this arid region, a question of growing concern is how climate change will affect future availability of food resources. This trip not only gave me firsthand experience with field conservation but also allowed me to meet and work with some amazing people. Julian Fennessy, the executive director of GCF, has been a friend of mine for eight years. It was a thrill to finally get to work with him out in his element in the Namibian desert. The project’s veterinarian, Dr. Pete Morkel, is a very well-respected conservation vet who works throughout Africa. He has a wealth of knowledge and great stories. Conservationist Ivan Carter, the host of Carter’s W.A.R. on the
Outdoor Channel, has a lifetime of experience living with wildlife in the African bush and a keen understanding of animal behavior. Lars Markgren, part of the team that created the hit mobile game Candy Crush, helped fund the expedition I took part in. I also had the opportunity to work with animal keepers from Australia, the United Kingdom, and the Como Park Zoo in Minnesota. The whole team got along great, and we still keep in touch with each other. This was certainly the adventure of a lifetime for me, and I hope to return again soon to do what I can to help prevent these magnificent giants from going “silently” extinct.
LASTING BONDS The Ornato Grant enables the Zoo’s animal care staff to broaden their understanding of the species they care for—and to build connections with conservationists working out in the field. Bona (shown bonding with a newborn giraffe at the Zoo in 2015) applied his extensive zoo experience to the field project. PHOTO BY JAMIE PHAM
HORSE POWER Without horses or skilled riders, establishing an equine anti-poaching unit in this South African reserve seemed like a pipe dream. But through passion and perseverance—and with support from the Zoo and other conservation partners—keeper Roxane Losey became the driving force to making the dream a reality. On the first active patrol, horse and rider glimpse the rhinos they’ve been trained to protect. PHOTO BY ROXANE LOSEY
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by ROXANE LOSEY Los Angeles Zoo Animal Keeper
A keeper’s quest to protect rhinos takes her to South Africa to train horses and rangers for a new mounted patrol unit
s a lifetime equestrienne, former rhinoceros keeper, and founding board member of the nonprofit Global Conservation Force (GCF), it was an absolute certainty that I would head to Amakhala Conservancy when renowned South African veterinarian Dr. William Fowlds requested assistance in developing a new equine-based antipoaching unit to protect rhinos. What was uncertain was just how I would get myself to Africa—and how I could afford to take time away from my animal keeper duties at the Los Angeles Zoo. Fortunately, timing was in my favor. Applications for the annual Ornato Animal Keeper Advanced Studies Grant were being accepted, and I was
delighted when I was chosen as one of three recipients of this exceptional grant offering. In a day’s time, the trip I’d originally planned on behalf of GCF became an exciting collaboration between many entities—the GCF, the Los Angeles Zoo, and Dr. Fowld’s nonprofit, the African Rhino Conservation Collaboration (ARCC). In the early stages of planning my trip, I reached out to my local chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK/LA) about another possible collaboration—a fundraising event on World Rhino Day, September 22. We organized a fun evening at Burbank’s Viva Cantina featuring food, drinks, and a silent auction—with all the proceeds going to fund the new equine unit. I am utterly humbled and grateful to AAZK/LA and the other members of the L.A. Zoo community who came out and supported the event.
Because of that effort I was able to arrive in South Africa a mere four days later with a gamechanging $2,700 to launch the fledgling conservation effort. My time there would have been significant and worthwhile even without the funding, but the community’s generous support quite literally supplied the building blocks to make this unique effort take flight.
The vast majority of the world’s rhinos live in South Africa, where the top threat to their survival is poaching. We’re not talking about subsistence hunting, where locals kill animals to feed their families. These poachers are part of a vast organized crime network. Black market demand for rhinoceros horn (whether for its purported medicinal properties or ornamental value) is what fuels this widescale slaughter. In 2017 alone, 1,028 rhinos were killed in South Africa. Anti-poaching units (APUs) are the frontline in guarding against poachers at Amakhala and other area reserves. These well-trained, armed rangers patrol on foot or in vehicles. At Amakhala they also utilize drones, tracking dogs, and an ultralight aircraft that flies over the entire reserve. The project I was embarking on would add another tool to the anti-poaching arsenal: horses. Rangers can cover more ground on horseback than on foot. To a poacher, a mounted ranger has a more commanding presence. Horses also have
many advantages over vehicles. Rangers on horseback have greater maneuverability; they can go off-road, basically anywhere on the reserve, just like the wildlife. Horses are quieter than vehicles and can move at night without lights. They are also ecologically kinder than vehicles and cheaper to maintain. For these reasons, wildlife veterinarian Dr. Danni Jackson had proposed starting an equine unit at Amakhala. Prior to my arrival, the horse project had languished due to lack of funding. That was about to change.
When I arrived at Amakhala on that dreary, windblown day, even I could not have foreseen the magnitude of the ripples that my presence would cast. While my main focus was on the horse project, I also had many opportunities to attend field veterinary procedures with Dr. Fowlds. My first day on site, before heading out to meet the project’s horses, I was allowed the unique experience to partake in a giraffe relocation. (Two giraffes were being moved from one area of the reserve to another for breeding purposes.) I had, of course, promised Dr. Fowlds I would stay out of the way if he let me ride with him in the darting vehicle. But in those first instinctual moments when my feet hit the ground and the chase was on, I knew I was perfectly in my element and hoped that Dr. Fowlds would forgive my impetuous assistance.
I don’t know if much will ever top racing behind a recently sedated giraffe, running stride for stride with the bushmen and helping loop the rope across the giant’s chest to gently bring him down to his knees before he slowly sank to the earth. Watching Dr. Fowlds and his team process the animal, get him upright again, and expertly guide him into a waiting trailer is one of the most incredible experiences I have ever known. Soon afterward it was time to meet the horses—and their owner, Giles Gush. Giles, an Amakhala partner and member of the ARCC, was instrumental in getting the horse unit up and running. He agreed to lend us some of his Amakhala safari trail horses to get the pilot project moving. He will also allow future APU horses to train at his location. When I arrived at Giles’ farm I was unnerved to see no stables, corrals, round pens, or any of the comforts that the average American horseman would like to have when working horses. With such meager “tools” at my disposal, I realized the enormity of the task at hand and wondered if I would really be able to accomplish all I intended. Things took an even more alarming turn when we went to meet the horses. Imagine my surprise when it required a safari jeep ride through 350 acres of bush to go collect them. Deep doubt and a silent scream lay just beneath my smile as we careened through the bush and rounded them up—a task I would have to perform every morning until
we managed to relocate some of the horses to the APU base. Once I got the lay of the land and a better understanding of the vision for the equine unit, I dove in head first. My original objectives were to identify a few older horses for APU use and to begin teaching the rangers all that I could about horses. Two young rangers had volunteered to take part in the program, and neither had any prior experience with horses! Because Giles’ safari trail horses had already been exposed to much of the African wildlife surrounding the reserve, it was determined that using them would be the most effective way to get competent, rideable horses quickly ready for use by the rangers. As time allowed, I also chose a few young horses to start training. The APU base in Amakhala is located about four kilometers from Giles Gush’s farm. The distance made logistics of the project challenging. A few weeks into my stay, Dr. Danni Jackson (the project’s original coordinator) and I discussed the prospect of moving the horses. Having the horses on-site for training would be beneficial for the rangers. The idea of moving the horses had previously been a mere pipe dream. The APU base wasn’t outfitted for horses, and there had been no funding available for this purpose. That’s why the money raised from World Rhino Day was a game changer. Danni and I quickly set to making a real-time budget. We drove to the local farm store and bought water troughs, water lines, food for the horses, fencing and grooming supplies,
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and other items needed to prepare for the horses’ transfer to the APU base. Everyone on Amakhala Conservancy, including Dr. Fowlds, was awestruck by the speed at which the project was now catapulting forward. With successful movement of the chosen APU horses to Amakhala, our next goal was to get the horses and the rangers out onto the main reserve where the rhinos and elephants are located.
23 strong—silently joined up with us and began to mirror our movements. I won’t soon forget their newfound ease with us, or the smile on one ranger’s face as he excitedly exclaimed, “This is unbelievable; we can never get this close to them!” I knew then that the horses’ usefulness to the anti-poaching unit would be far greater then we had ever anticipated. We had several more rideouts onto the main reserve to
the village were especially excited by the horses’ presence and would eagerly follow us when we went out with them. Seeing the kids’ faces light up whenever they saw the horses made me realize that these animals will be instrumental in bridging the gap between the project and the community. While I experienced many wonderful and successful days in Africa, I also experienced one of the most soul-crushing.
My resolve is simple: We cannot give up on the dark days or fall into despair when we hear the horrific numbers of rhinos poached in the last year or decade. We must keep hopeful sight of the unknown and intangible numbers of rhino that are most certainly saved nightly by strong, wellequipped APU forces on patrol. I am so proud to have represented the Los Angeles Zoo and remain grateful to Dominic Ornato for allowing
On October 24, Dr. Fowld’s team was called out to save a poaching survivor—a female rhinoceros who unfortunately succumbed to her injuries during our long journey to reach her. When we arrived at the scene there was not one but—horrifyingly—three white rhino, all shot the previous night, their horns callously removed. It was too late for veterinary assistance. Instead, we morosely took to performing post-mortem and crime-scene duties. The darkness of that day still lies heavily on my spirit and always will, but it also keeps me focused on helping the people in the field who are trying desperately to protect our iconic African species.
me to use my unique skill set to enhance the Amakhala AntiPoaching Unit with the added protection of horses on patrol. I will be returning in early April to teach rangers more advanced riding skills—and I invite you to once again follow the project’s progression.
IN 2017 ALONE,
RHINOS WERE KILLED IN SOUTH AFRICA.
On a perfectly iconic African day with a bright blue sky and pillow-puff clouds overhead, we rode out onto the reserve and immediately encountered a large herd of giraffe. While the horses had seen giraffe in the distance during safari trail rides, it was clear that the giraffe didn’t know what to think about us. They were curious and watchful but quickly sank back into the protection of the veldt, leaving only their heads and necks visible to us. As we slowly moved on, one of the most transcendent moments of my trip occurred. The giraffe herd—at one point
acclimate the horses to animals they hadn’t yet encountered— notably the very rhinos they would one day protect. We were able to approach a herd of white rhino, inclusive of a cow and three-week-old calf. These distant cousins—horse and rhinoceros—showed great curiosity toward one another but no unsettling behavior. This aspect of species acclimation is of great importance and is being handled with meticulous care at Amakhala, since a misstep— especially with carnivores such as lions—could spell disaster for the entire project. An unforeseen but very important advantage of moving the horses to the APU base involved the local community. Children from
LEARN MORE For more information and updates about the equine project, visit www.equineantipoaching.com or follow @RhinosGCF on Facebook or Twitter. Watch videos of Roxane training the horses for this project on the Zoo’s website: www.lazoo.org/ridingforrhinos
PICTURED ABOVE The two rangers who volunteered for the unit had little prior experience with horses. PHOTO BY MACY BROWN
CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT TO RIGHT The breeding center in Passy Haute-Savoie is set against the breathtaking backdrop of the French Alps PHOTO BY CHANDRA DAVID; The bearded vulture gets its rusty hue by bathing in iron oxide–rich soils PHOTO BY HANSRUEDI WEYRICH; A birdwatchers’ paradise: the mountains and
gorges of Escuaín in northern Spain. PHOTO BY CHANDRA DAVID.
b rds of a feather A passion for conservation leads a condor keeper to Europe to study another rare bird by CHANDRA DAVID Los Angeles Zoo Condor Keeper
years ago, the Los Angeles Zoo provided an opportunity for me to work with one of the most endangered species in the world, the California condor, and since that day I was hooked. But my passion for vulture conservation didn’t stop there—the California condor opened the door for other species to work their way into my heart. One such species is the bearded vulture. Found in some of the most beautiful mountainous areas in Africa, Asia, and Europe (including the French Alps and the Spanish Pyrenees), the bearded vulture is currently the rarest vulture in Europe. In the Alps, the mistaken belief that these birds would hunt and kill children and livestock led to their
persecution. By 1913, the species had completely disappeared from the region. An international breeding program launched in the 1970s resulted in the reintroduction of captive-bred birds. Today, there are 20 wild breeding pairs in the Alps. The total European population is estimated at 600 to 1,000 pairs. Like other scavengers, vultures consume the remains of dead animals. The bearded vulture specializes in eating bone, which is the main component of its diet. I was fascinated to learn that these birds will carry bones up to great heights and drop them onto rocky areas with the intent of shattering them into smaller pieces that can be swallowed whole. Its circular grip (different from other birds of prey) makes carrying bone easier.
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WORLD CONSERVATION The more I learned about bearded vultures, the more intrigued I became by the species and the efforts to save it from extinction. I had never worked with them before—indeed, this bird cannot be found anywhere in the United States—but there are many similarities between it and the California condor. Biologists working to save each species face many of the same struggles and employ some of the same strategies. I hoped that meeting with European vulture experts would give me new ideas or perspectives that I could bring back for the benefit of the California condor program. Thanks to funding from the Ornato Animal Keeper Advanced Studies Fund, in November 2017, I was able to travel to Spain and France to learn more about conservation efforts aimed at protecting this endangered and incredible bird. During my trip, I visited vulture breeding centers and wild territories, and attended the 2017 Annual Bearded Vulture Meeting. Before the meeting, I met up with two experts in Figueres, Spain. Getting there was no easy task, since Spain was in the midst of upheaval due to Catalonia’s independence effort. My train out of Barcelona was prevented from traveling north due to protesters, and I was forced to find a taxi willing to take me to Figueres. The 90-mile journey ended up being a six-hour trip as these transportation routes were also blocked. Eventually, I met up with Dr. Alex Llopis Dell from the Vulture Conservation Foundation and Shannon Hoffman from African Bird of Prey Sanctuary. Shannon is actively working to conserve this species in South Africa. She has permission to collect eggs from wild nests in her region to increase the population, so she has an incredible task ahead of her. The three of us drove north along the rugged coastline of Spain and France, accompanied by a young Egyptian vulture. The bird was being transferred to Parc des Oiseaux, a zoo in the Rhône area of France. When we arrived, zoo personnel were eagerly awaiting their new vulture
addition. They treated us to a tour of their expansive facility that specializes in birds (Parc des Oiseaux means “park of birds”). Next, we drove into the night to Passy Haute-Savoie, the site of the bearded vulture meeting. Organized by the Vulture Conservation Foundation, the meeting brought together 175 people, including Europe’s top vulture biologists. I was honored to be among the speakers at this year’s meeting and shared details about the conservation role the Los Angeles Zoo has played in bringing the California condor back from near extinction. The conference attendees showed great interest in and support of our program. Other speakers discussed bearded vulture breeding, reintroduction, and veterinary issues. My favorite part of this experience was visiting the new breeding center in Passy. The landscape in this region took my breath away. This alpine meadow is set between snow-covered peaks hovering over the region. We were surrounded by green grass, autumn-colored leaves, and lots of sheep! I have a special fondness for sheep and was in absolute bliss listening to the beautiful music their bells made as they dashed across the meadows to see us. We left Passy in the early morning after a night of snow and hoped the roads would be safe on our way down from the Alps. We arrived at night in Lleida, Spain, where I spent a week at the bearded vulture breeding center at the Centre de Fauna Vallcalent, which is run by the Catalan regional government. The first morning at Vallcalent started with freezing temperatures. With icy fingers and toes, I sat staring through binoculars at vulture breeding pairs while Dr. Dell explained the breeding program and pair behavior. After morning observations, I was asked to assist with veterinary procedures. Due to my experience with condors, I felt right at home as I helped medicate a wild bearded vulture recovering from a swollen leg and restrained another for a
bandage change. I also observed a broken wing repair on a wild griffon vulture. Hoping to see bearded vultures in the wild, I spent a day traveling the northeastern part of Spain and into the Pyrenees with a couple of dedicated Vallcalent staff members. We stopped in Riglos, where we saw numerous Eurasian griffons. We then traveled to Escuaín, an abandoned village in the middle of the mountains, where just one or two people oversee the entire site. The mountains above and the massive gorges below make this an incredible spot to view birds. We saw a few more griffon vultures but, unfortunately, we did not spot the one bird we came for—the bearded vulture. Ultimately, when the sky grew too dark to continue our search, we headed back to Lleida. Conservation biologists around the globe communicate with one another all the time—but being able to meet in person was a great opportunity to exchange ideas and one that will facilitate future information sharing. We were able to discuss our approaches to common issues and conservation challenges, including egg incubation, chick-rearing, reintroduction, and protocols for entering wild nests to perform health checks. I showed them how we radiograph condor eggs to monitor chick development and positioning, which allows us to intervene if a chick needs assistance in hatching. They showed me an experimental incubation technique they are trying with bearded vulture eggs, which one day may prove beneficial to condor eggs. I am grateful to the many people who took the time to explain the details of bearded vulture conservation to me. I discovered that the people working with this species have the same heart and passion as my colleagues and I do for the California condor. Although I was able to see so many incredible things in France and Spain, I still have yet to see the one thing I had hoped for on this trip—a bearded vulture in the wild. I just may have to try one more time.
NEW IN THE ZOO The bizarre-looking binturong is at ease in the trees thanks to sharp claws, a prehensile tail, and rotating rear legs. PHOTO BY JAMIE PHAM
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NEW ZOO IN THE
binturongs by KATHERINE SPADA
Visitors to the Los Angeles Zoo now have a chance to observe one of the planet’s more unusual creatures—the binturong. Sometimes called “bearcats,” binturongs are neither bears nor cats. They belong to the family Viverridae, which also includes many species of civet. A pair of binturong arrived at the Zoo in November. They occupy a roundhouse near the hippopotamus exhibit, between the East African crowned cranes and the African crowned eagle. You may smell these animals before you see them. Among the binturongs’ unique adaptations is the uncanny similarity between the odor emitted by their scent glands and the smell of buttered popcorn! The popcorn scent is not a figment of your imagination— according to a 2016 study published in The Science of Nature, binturong urine has been found to contain the same chemical compound (2-acetyl-1-pyrroline or 2-AP) that forms during the popcorn-popping process. For wild binturong, the distinctive aroma likely aids individuals in locating mates and marking territory. (Anyone who’s ever tracked the smell of fresh popcorn to a coworker’s cubicle can probably relate.) What makes a binturong even more special could be its unusual physiology. Predominantly arboreal (tree-dwelling), it can rotate its hind legs, making it easier to climb up and down trees. “It’s amazing that this huge animal can walk down a vine, all because they can turn their feet backward,” remarks Curator of Mammals Joshua Sisk. A prehensile (grasping) tail adds stability and acts as an extra hand when climbing. The same features that make the binturong at ease in the trees result in an awkward gait on land. The rare sight of a binturong ambling on the ground can be amusing to observe. The Zoo’s new arrivals came from Zoo Boise, though the male is on loan from the Brookfield Zoo. Born in 2014, his
name is Lemuel, but his keepers affectionately refer to him as Lemmy. His female companion, Raine (born in 2009) can sometimes be heard vocalizing to assert her dominance. “Raine is definitely in charge,” says Animal Keeper Jennifer Gruenewald. “She is the boss.” The binturongs’ keepers had never cared for this particular species and are still getting to know the individual personalities and preferences of their charges. Combining research with experience shared by keepers at other facilities makes the learning process go smoother. Gruenewald is working toward the goal of training the binturongs to “target,” or move to a specific part of the exhibit when prompted, and to present various body parts for examination. Teaching the animals to remain still while letting keepers examine their mouths, ears, or paws makes veterinary check-ups easier and less stressful for animals and staff alike. Wild binturong populations are decreasing, and the species has been classified as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). With Raine and Lemuel, the Los Angeles Zoo is participating in the Species Survival Plan, and Sisk hopes the pair will breed. Don’t miss the binturongs during your next visit to the Zoo. Just don’t be surprised if you find yourself with a sudden craving for popcorn afterwards! And continue your trip to see animals native to southeast Asia by visiting the babirusa— another uniquely adapted animal—in the cul-de-sac adjacent to the zebra exhibit.
ENDANGERED SPECIES DAY
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT Blue-billed curassow, African painted dog, Geoffroy’s spider monkey, Sumatran tiger, Madagascar radiated tortoise, California condor, ring-tailed lemur, mountain yellow-legged frog, Grevy’s zebra, and Asian elephant. The animals pictured are among the dozens of endangered species currently in residence at the Los Angeles Zoo. PHOTOS BY JAMIE PHAM, MATT CAREY, IAN RECCHIO
n 2006, a San Diego resident named David Robinson came up with the idea of dedicating a day to endangered species awareness. He reached out to Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who had a well-earned reputation as a champion for the environment. Feinstein sponsored a resolution (Senate Resolution 431 of the 109th Congress) designating May 11 of that year as the first national Endangered Species Day. The resolution—which passed the senate by unanimous vote—encouraged Americans to “become educated about, and aware of, the threats to species, success stories in species recovery, and the opportunity to promote species conservation worldwide.” “We know these programs can be successful,” Feinstein said in a statement. “You have no further to look than the efforts to increase populations of the California condor and the California gray whale. What we need is more recovery programs like these to preserve our planet’s rich biodiversity. More than 300 species classified as either endangered or threatened currently call California home, and efforts to protect them will ensure that they continue to do so.” Usually held on the third Friday in May (this year it falls on May 18), Endangered Species Day is an opportunity for zoos and aquariums, conservation groups, museums, and educational facilities throughout the country to celebrate programs aimed at preserving endangered species. But who determines what species are endangered? The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) maintains a comprehensive global database of imperiled species. Based on field surveys and population analyses, the IUCN’s “Red List” classifies more than 60,000 species on a spectrum ranging from “least concern” to extinct. The United States has a separate legal process through which it classifies threatened species. Enacted in 1973 and administered through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Endangered Species Act lists protected species in two categories: “endangered” and “threatened.” As of February 2018, there are a total of 1,391 animal species and 950 plant species listed as endangered or threatened under the ESA.
Z O O V I E W SPRING 2018
ENDANGERED SPECIES DAY
Welcome Back, Jack!
© COLUMBUS ZOO AND AQUARIUM
by BRENDA SCOTT ROYCE
This year, the Zoo is celebrating ENDANGERED SPECIES DAY in a big way. Our annual fundraising gala—the bigger-than-life Beastly Ball—is being held the following day: Saturday, May 19. The event’s honoree, the bigger-than-life Jack Hanna, has worked for decades to educate the public and advocate for animals around the world. Hanna’s hands-on approach has earned him widespread acclaim, but he says it’s his heart that leads the way. “I’m not an animal expert,” he explains. “I don’t use that word. I’m a person that speaks from the heart. I have a saying, ‘Touch the heart to teach the mind.’ We live by it at the Columbus Zoo. If you can’t touch the heart of zoo visitors or other people around the world, then you haven’t got a chance.” Despite downplaying his expertise, Hanna has decades of animal care experience—starting with boyhood summers spent cleaning cages for a veterinarian in his hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee, and leading to his current post as director emeritus for the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and The Wilds. He is familiar to television audiences from countless appearances dating back to the 1980s, including Good Morning America, The Late Show with David Letterman, Larry King Live, The Late Late Show with James Corden, The View, Ellen, and
ENDANGERED SPECIES DAY many other programs. He hosts Jack Hanna’s Wild Countdown and the Emmy Award-winning Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild. His books, lectures, and television appearances are all part of his efforts to educate people about animals and the threats to their survival. Conservation is the guiding principle of modern zoos, he believes, but it should not be the start of the conversation. It has to begin with caring. “Conservation is our final goal, there’s no doubt about that. But you can’t get there unless you educate people first.” Hanna, who will accept the 2018 Tom Mankiewicz Leadership Award at the Beastly Ball, says his long association with the Los Angeles Zoo lends the award special meaning. In 1978, when Hanna was hired to take over the helm of the Columbus Zoo, Warren Thomas (then director of the L.A. Zoo) was the first to call and offer congratulations. Early in his career, Thomas had been a keeper at Columbus Zoo.
“We were this little zoo in the middle of Ohio, and a lot of people in the zoo world at that time wouldn’t even give me the time of day,” Hanna recalls. “But Warren called me, and said, ‘Jack, I was there at your zoo. I worked at that zoo.’ I’ll never forget his kindness as long as I live.” Hanna credits his friendship with Betty White as another reason the Los Angeles Zoo is close to his heart. He first welcomed the actress and fellow animal advocate to Columbus in 1979, and she visited a few more times over the years, most recently cutting the ribbon at the grand opening of the Heart of Africa exhibit in 2014. “You are so lucky,” he says of White’s long tenure as a GLAZA trustee and overall zoo booster. “No one can ever top Betty White as an animal ambassador. Nobody.” In the earliest days of his zoological career, Hanna visited other zoos—including ours—for inspiration. “The Los Angeles Zoo—even 25 or 30 years ago—was like the Taj Mahal to me. What
we had in Columbus at the time didn’t even compare. I’d walk around and take pictures and notes and come back from there with ideas.” Hanna is widely credited with transforming the Columbus Zoo—which now attracts more than 2.3 million visitors annually—into the one of the country’s finest. In 2010, Hanna visited Los Angeles to voice his support for the Zoo’s elephant program when construction of the new Elephants of Asia habitat had been stalled in the face of protests from anti-zoo activists. He cites its completion, along with the Zoo’s role in saving the California condor from extinction, as accomplishments that elevate the entire zoological profession. We are pleased to honor Jack Hanna and welcome him back to Los Angeles for an unforgettable evening under the stars. For information about the Beastly Ball, visit www.lazoo.org/beastlyball
THE GREATER LOS ANGELES ZOO ASSOCIATION’S
SATURDAY, MAY 19, 2018 at 5:30 P.M.
Honoring JACK HANNA Director Emeritus, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium Tom Mankiewicz Leadership Award Recipient
Commemorating National Endangered Species Day
Honorary Chair Mayor Eric Garcetti
Honorary Committee Lance Bass, Jackie Chan, Heather Mycoskie and Slash
Featuring an with a Guest Appearance by
TICKETS AND INFO lazoo.org/beastlyball Z O O V I E W SPRING 2018
Zoo View has long been known for its stunning photography of the Zoo’s animals and environs. So we decided to launch a new photo section in which our staff and volunteer photographers share tips, techniques, or the story behind the featured image.
PHOTO BY JAMIE PHAM
Eye to Eye
SUBMIT YOUR PHOTOS
Future installments of Zoo-m In will also include a gallery of photos taken by our members. To be considered for inclusion, submit your best images taken at the L.A. Zoo to email@example.com. No more than two images per member per month, please. Do not send images that include people unless you will be able to provide a signed release form from all parties pictured in the event your photo is selected for publication.
Many often wonder how I avoid the fence in front of the exhibits in my images. Making the fence not visible in the photograph involves two important factors. The ﬁrst is the distance the animal is to the fence. The farther away from the fence, the better. Generally speaking, several feet away from the fence (at minimum) is necessary. The second consideration is whether the fence itself is lit. Try to shoot through any area of fence that's in the shade and not lit by the sun. Using a telephoto lens, if the animal is far enough away from the fence—and the portion of fence you're shooting through is in shade—you can make the fence invisible in photos! — JAMIE PHAM, GLAZA Photographer & Photo Editor
Spectacular Succulents by SANDY MASUO
ucculents have long been popular among plant collectors, but in recent years they have become a bona-fide trend. Available everywhere from supermarkets and specialty websites to big box stores, they were even honored with a U.S. international postage stamp last year. Some of this interest is likely spurred by concerns about water conservation, but there’s much more to these plants’ appeal than drought tolerance alone. Native to arid regions, succulents have evolved to survive in extreme conditions. Their ability to store water in their fleshy tissues is their signature feature, but that’s only one of many fascinating adaptations. To avoid being consumed by thirsty animals in a dry habitat, some succulents hide in plain sight, having developed cryptic coloration and forms that make them look like the surrounding stones. These features help conceal them in the wild but make for a showy display on a windowsill or patio. Other succulents take the offensive and are armed with spines, teeth, and irritating sap. PHOTO BY SANDY MASUO Like the animals who share their home biomes, succulents need protection from sun and exposure, so many produce their own sunscreen (called “epicuticular wax”) or shade themselves
with layers of hairs or dense spines. Deserts, especially those at high elevations, are subject to dramatic temperature fluctuations that can dip below freezing. Furry, fuzzy, or felted leaves protect these plants from frost as well as sun. Despite growing popularity in the nursery trade, many succulent species are rare in the wild. They face extinction for the same reasons that so many animals are endangered—habitat loss, human development, over-collection, and climate change. Because our climate in Southern California is amenable to succulents, you’ll find a variety of them—including cacti, which are unique to the Americas—throughout the Zoo, notably in the Baja Garden (between the Winnick Family Children’s Zoo and the meerkat exhibit), along the hillside behind the chimpanzee penthouse, and bordering the okapi, ostrich, kudu, and red river hog exhibits. At this year’s Wild for the Planet celebration (April 21 through May 18, visit www.lazoo.org/wildfortheplanet for information), be sure to stop by the Succulent Station, where you can learn more about the natural history of these remarkable plants, their distinctive adaptations, and the role they play in their native habitats. You can also take home a succulent cutting and grow one of your own!
Disaster Preparedness by BRENDA POSADA
ith earthquakes and wildfires an ever-present danger, Angelenos are all too familiar with the importance of preparing for natural disasters. At the Zoo, planning for emergencies is a particularly daunting challenge. In addition to worrying about structural damage and personal injury to staff, volunteers, and the visiting public, Zoo officials must also safeguard the lives of more than 1,100 animals. “Zoos are unique places. We deal with potential problems that don’t arise in other locations,” says James P. Edwards, Safety Officer for the L.A. Zoo. PHOTO BY JAMIE PHAM Edwards oversees the Zoo’s preparedness program, which includes regular training sessions, emergency drills, and safety committee meetings. He also ensures that the Zoo’s safety equipment—including fire extinguishers, first aid kits, and emergency defibrillators—are maintained and regularly inspected. At the Zoo, a series of written procedures outline steps to be taken in the event of a natural disaster, animal escape, personal injury, or other emergency. They include criteria and protocols for evacuating patrons, personnel, volunteers, and animals. These written procedures form the basis of tailgate safety training sessions that are held throughout the year.
Further training takes the form of safety drills. Zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums must conduct at least four drills annually. Each simulates a different scenario, Edwards explains. “One is a natural disaster—for us, that’s usually an earthquake. One is a fire scenario. The third is a personal injury of some sort. And the fourth is an animal escape.” (In addition to these four, the Zoo also participates in the statewide earthquake drill, the Great California ShakeOut.) Animal escape drills are planned and executed by the Animal Care division, while the other exercises are organized by the Zoo’s safety committee. This committee meets monthly to plan and evaluate drills; review reports of incidents, injuries, or safety hazards at the Zoo; and suggest corrective action. They also discuss feedback from other zoos regarding their action plans or actual experiences—such as the impact of recent wildfires on the Santa Barbara Zoo or hurricanes on zoos in Florida. Despite spending so much time dwelling on disaster, Edwards maintains a calm demeanor. “We know that emergencies will occur. But due to our training, when a situation arises our staff knows how to respond. Rather than panic, they can feel, ‘Okay, we’ve done this in an exercise; we’re ready.’”
Z O O V I E W SPRING 2018
Caring for the Community by PHOEBE LI
uring Thanksgiving week, in partnership with L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti’s homeless strategy, the Los Angeles Zoo hosted a donation drive to benefit the new Skid Row Community ReFresh Spot. The mayor’s homeless strategy is built around three main pillars: expanding street outreach, building permanent supportive housing, and balancing health and safety concerns with the rights and needs of people who are living in unacceptable conditions. The newly opened ReFresh Spot serves unhoused Angelenos with safe access to showers, toilets, and other basic amenities. “We have to do everything possible to help people stay healthy and live with the dignity that each one of us deserves,” Mayor Garcetti said in a statement commemorating the center’s opening. “Homelessness is a crisis of housing and PHOTO BY KATHERINE SPADA public health—and the ReFresh Spot shows that when the community and the City work together, we can help the most vulnerable Angelenos meet their most basic human needs.” To encourage donations, the Zoo offered guests a generous discount in exchange for new personal care items (such as packages of socks,
towels, washcloths, diapers, feminine hygiene products, personal care kits, laundry detergent, sweatshirts, or sweatpants). For every item donated, visitors received a Zoo admission ticket for $10. GLAZA members who donated received a pair of complimentary carousel tickets. The community rallied around this important cause. A total of 817 general admission and 24 member discounts were redeemed over the course of four days. Zoo employees and volunteers also got in on the giving, dropping off donations at the annual staff holiday party and at collection bins located in the Zoo’s administrative offices. These donations continued into the new year and prompted a second delivery to the Skid Row facility. Zoo Director John Lewis (far left) was on hand at the opening ceremony on December 4. He says, “Zoos are for people, because people are the ones that are going to make a difference for wildlife. Likewise, all Angelenos have a personal responsibility to the growing crisis of homelessness in Los Angeles. The outpouring of Zoo visitors and staff to provide these hygiene items is greatly appreciated.”
Butaan Babies by SANDY MASUO
hough the butaan (sometimes called the Gray’s monitor) bears a distinct family resemblance to its imposing cousin, the Komodo dragon, it leads an elusive, largely arboreal existence in dense forest habitat. It is known to inhabit only three islands in the Philippines, where its secretive ways make it a challenging species to study. Few zoos house them, and in 2014, the L.A. Zoo became the first in the U.S. to successfully breed and raise a litter of butaans. In February, the Zoo’s herpetology staff celebrated its fourth litter of butaan. Butaan eggs need to incubate for roughly nine months before they hatch. Because Zoo staff wanted to ensure the best possible conditions, the eggs were carefully placed in a state-of-the-art incubator and closely monitored by keepers. The hatching process can take up to two days. Unlike the hard shell of bird eggs, many reptile eggs are soft PHOTO BY IAN RECCHIO and leathery. But each baby lizard, just like a chick, is equipped with an egg tooth. This small sharp point on the tip of the nose helps the baby hatch. Its job done, the egg tooth later falls off.
After initially breaking through the shell (a process called “pipping”), the baby lizard slits the shell in several places. Breathing air is a new experience for the baby, so it periodically rests with its nose poking out of the opening. Inside the shell, the lizard is refueling by absorbing the yolk attached to its belly. Ideally, by the time the baby hatches completely, the yolk is gone, and all that remains is a bit of the umbilicus—though babies sometimes emerge with some yolk still in the sac. By early March, all eight butaans had hatched and were being tended by the Zoo’s experienced reptile staff. These little hatchlings will eventually grow to nearly six feet in length. (The species ranks as one of the world’s ten largest lizards.) When they are old enough, these offspring will be sent to other AZA zoos that have been waiting for this clutch to hatch. “We even have preliminary plans to send some of our zoohatched butaan to the Philippines to act as educational ambassadors,” Curator of Reptiles Ian Recchio explains. “Of our herpetology staff’s many accomplishments, the successful hatching of multiple clutches of butaan is really our crowning achievement.”
IMPORTANT UPDATES FOR GLAZA MEMBERS
ur members report that one of the benefits they value most is the Members’ Express Entrance, which gets you into the Zoo without waiting in the long line at the admissions booth. To keep things moving at the Express Entrance, we ask that you remember to always bring your photo ID along with your membership card. Memberships are nontransferrable, and valid photo ID is required (for adults 18 and over) to gain entrance to the Zoo. GLAZA is a nonprofit organization that relies on membership and attendance to support our daily operations and conservation programs. This policy prevents misuse of membership cards and protects our members if their cards are lost or stolen.
PHOTO BY JACQUE HESTON
Beginning with the Summer Issue, Zoo View will feature a gallery of photos taken by our members. See page 19 for details.
PLANNING A TRIP? Don’t forget that your membership card entitles you to free or discounted admission to other zoos across the nation—including several in the state of California. For a full list of participating zoos and aquariums, please visit: www.lazoo.org/membership/ reciprocal/
PHOTO BY TAD MOTOYAMA
Member Jacque Heston shared this photo of her son, Rupert, attentively perusing his favorite publication, Zoo View. “He really does love it,” she says. We hope that Rupert’s love of the Zoo—and Zoo View— continues for many years!
Two Member Appreciation Mornings — June 16 and August 5—will take place this summer, giving members a special opportunity to explore the Zoo before it opens to the general public. The third annual Zoorific Picnic is scheduled for Friday, August 24, from 6 to 9 p.m. More details will be available closer to the event dates. For now, be sure to mark your calendar so you won’t miss out on the fun! Thank you to all of our members for supporting the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association. In buying a membership, you’ve helped make the Zoo’s achievements in animal care, conservation, and education possible. Your membership matters— and we thank you!
Z O O V I E W SPRING 2018
Zoo Donor Profile
This Diamond Is a Zoo’s Best Friend PHOTO COURTESY OF BRIAN DIAMOND
“The Zoo has always been a part of my life. Growing up in the San Fernando Valley, as a 13-year-old, I would ride my bike to the Zoo almost every weekend.” — TRUSTEE BRIAN DIAMOND
To learn more about the many ways GLAZA supports the Zoo and its programs—and to find out how you can get involved— visit www.lazoo.org/support.
he Los Angeles Zoo is a transformative place—a place for family memories, community growth, and scientific progress. Through the years, as the City grows and changes, so does its Zoo, with a little help from its friends. One such friend is Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association (GLAZA) Trustee Brian Diamond, who has been visiting the L.A. Zoo since he was three years old. “The Zoo has always been a part of my life,” he says. “Growing up in the San Fernando Valley, as a 13-year-old, I would ride my bike to the Zoo almost every weekend.” When he and his wife, Arpita, welcomed their first child in 2004, it was only natural for the third-generation Angeleno to return and share the experience. As his daughter grew, so too did Brian’s involvement with the Zoo. The family joined GLAZA’s Safari Society, which gave them wider access to special events, tours, and Zoo experiences. He and Arpita began attending the Beastly Ball, the Zoo’s annual gala fundraiser. After they had their second child in 2011, Brian was recruited for the GLAZA Board of Trustees. For more than six years, his grounded personality, business savvy, and community connections have benefitted GLAZA and the Zoo, and in that time, the Zoo has grown with new exhibits and spaces, events, educational programs, and conservation initiatives. Brian has engaged more than his time and talents at the Zoo—he has involved his business as well. “We provide family memberships to all employees,” he explains. “I urge all my employees to go out and take advantage of all life experiences, and the Zoo is one of the best places in the City you can go and have such an experience, especially for a family of all ages.” With the assistance of enthusiastic community leaders, the Zoo continues as an accessible and educational oasis in the middle of Los Angeles. This is important to Brian, as he explains: “Zoos do amazing work introducing children to wild animals, educating and creating connections with wildlife in persons of all ages, and providing support and information on numerous conservation issues. Without city zoos, all wild animals would be at a serious disadvantage. Not to mention millions of human beings would never experience being in the presence of these incredible animals. Many of us are unable to afford an African safari. “It’s important for every major city to have a world-class zoo,” he continues. “I’m proud of ours—the diverse animal collection and our dedicated zookeepers and staff. They are the most loving and caring people you will ever meet; I cannot say enough about the hard work they put in every day.” — MEGAN RUNQUIST HOLMSTEDT
Quarterly magazine of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association