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inside october 2013

Honey Badgers Do Care Toughness is more than skin deep for these crafty carnivores.


The Great Pumpkin These seasonal specialties send our animals out of their gourds!

A New Spin on Spiders Get to know and appreciate (really!) these spineless marvels. Hint: They dislike you walking into their web as much as you do.

Flying Colors: The Bold and Beautiful White-necked Jacobin Beyond its flashy feathers, this hummingbird is a thing of wonder.

Three Little Pigs The tale of the Park’s newest warthog trio has a happy ending.


Dholes: A Dilly of a Dog A “pack” of staff gathers for dhole puppies’ first health exam.

explore An Inside Look at Animal Imaging When an animal presents symptoms, it takes teamwork and technology to tease out the trouble.


What’s in Store


Through the Lens

Chairman’s Note

You Said It

From the Archives

on the cover: Honey badger Mellivora capensis ©Ken Bohn, SDZG Photographer

chairman’s note

Amazing Experiences


visit to the San Diego Zoo or Safari Park is a great experience. With our unparalleled animal and plant collections, beautiful grounds, and wonderful staff, guests are sure to make many discoveries and have fun doing it, which is, of course, one of the main goals of our organization. A trip to our parks is among the top 10 things to do for tourists coming to San Diego, and we are proud to offer them a rich and full adventure. But there is even more that the Zoo and Park can provide for visitors who want to delve further into the world of wildlife. On our website, these “Special Experiences” are listed and described so that people can plan ahead and choose what they would like to do while they’re here. These can be booked online, or by phone if you have questions or would like help from our planners. From one- and twohour tours to exclusive animal encounters and active adventures to camping overnight, there are a wide variety of options for individuals, families, and groups of all ages. These experiences take you behind the scenes, provide in-depth animal information, give you opportunities to ask questions and get to know some of our staff, and reveal even more about our facilities, our animal care expertise, and our extensive conservation efforts. At the Zoo, one of our most popular special experiences is Backstage Pass, a memorable 90-minute encounter with our animal ambassadors and their trainers; you’ll hear insider stories and even work with the trainers and pose for photos with our animal stars. The one-hour

Discovery Tour and the two-hour Inside Look Tour take a small group around the Zoo in an electric cart, accompanied by one of our knowledgeable guides, who can tell you great stories. And if you’ve ever wanted to sleep in the Zoo, we have a variety of different sleepovers that give you a chance to do just that, with all the fun of a camping experience and great activities. The sheer size and scope of the Safari Park lends itself to adventure, and the Park has plenty to offer. Travel inside the field exhibits to see the animals up close on a Caravan Safari; take the leap and soar on a zip line high above the Asian field exhibits on the exciting Flightline Safari; travel in style with a small group and a guide on a Cart Safari or Behind-the-Scenes Safari; or meet one of our beautiful and talented cheetahs up close after its daily sprint during a Cheetah Safari. Camping out is also the perfect experience at the Park, and a Roar & Snore Safari will give you a completely new, after-dark perspective as you spend the night in your tent at our campground overlooking the elephants. There are also options for guests who want to make their visit truly extraordinary: our VIP Exclusive Tour at the Zoo and the Ultimate Safari at the Park. These very special experiences are customized just for you, and our planners make sure you will see and do what interests you the most, all organized for you and your party alone. Whether you are planning a vacation to San Diego or you are a local member who wants to do and see even more at the Zoo and Park, we have just the ticket to make your visit remarkable. I hope you’ll visit our website and pick out the experiences that you’ve always wanted to try!

Rick Gulley Chairman

Do you have the digital ZOONOOZ?

ZOONOOZ is now available in three digital formats: for iPad, Kindle Fire, and desktop computer. At home or on the go, you can now have ZOONOOZ at your fingertips!

Download ZOONOOZ for your iPad Download ZOONOOZ for your Kindle

Members get up close FREE all year long! Start your membership today. Call 619-718-3000 or visit

you said it The San Diego Zoo [Safari Park] Elephant Cam has inspired

me to volunteer as a docent at our local Zoo.... I have been going there at least twice a week to observe our Asian elephant herd (newest calf born in April), and I thoroughly enjoy helping other visitors learn more about members of our herd (self-taught for now) and elephants in general. Thank you for

helping me find this rewarding work. Gram in St Louis

The new Australian Outback exhibit is really cool!

Thanks for giving these guys a better home to hang out in! Demi Dambrino

Who doesn’t love the zoo?

My year is never complete until I’ve been to SD Zoo at least once and I’m 66 yrs old. @ozwizard1947 Photo courtesy Demi Dambrino

I feel like a proud parent, that our baby Saticoy will soon be one of the wild condors flying free. Perhaps one of the

condors looking in [the flight pen] has her heart set on Saticoy as her future mate. Poppy

Been to many zoos in the world @sandiegozoo will always be the best.

Going as a kid is the main reason I conserve nature today. @MateNaynard

Gao Gao sounds like a wonderful, mellow, happy Panda! It

never ceases to amaze me what you have been able to train the animals to do for various medical checkups. Lots of gentleness, patience and trust go into that! Thank you for sharing updates on our sweet, handsome giant! Debi

Here it comes! Bill Eikeland

The Safari Park is one of my favorite places on Earth—changed my life, all for

Photo courtesy Bill Eikeland

good—I miss it! @riccafabulous

Although I grew up in Hawaii years ago, I don’t think I ever saw an alala.

There were many mynahs, however. The islands have lost so many endemic birds that it is wonderful to know that the alala has a great chance to repopulate the land, thanks to people like you! MaewasfromNJ

Habari stole her love today. David Whitaker

Definitely the BEST zoo ever! This #Pittsburgh family thanks you! #Amazing

#Impressed @Butler_Dad

All creatures great and small – kudos

to the zoo for preserving this [mountain yellowlegged frog] species!

Photo courtesy David Whitaker

Cheryl Merrill

Last year’s contest was such a hit that we’re doing it again! Document your kids enjoying the Zoo or Safari Park and tag your photos and videos on Instagram with #sdzkidsfree. Every week during October’s Kids Free, a new “phonetographer” will win a behind-the-scenes adventure for the whole family. Visit for more details.

through the lens Photos by Ken Bohn, SDGZ Photographer

Meerkat Suricata suricatta

Honey Badgers Do Care Meeting Our Tenacious Ambassadors

Anatomically speaking, the honey badger resembles weasels more than other badger species. By Peggy Scott ASSOCIATE EDITOR


er nose twitching incessantly, the honey badger tracked her prey. Closing in, the intrepid hunter struck, and her victim— in this case, a repurposed cereal box—was no match for the animal’s sharp claws and teeth. Poor ol’ Cap’n Crunch was a goner, and the meaty prize hidden inside was gone as well. Five-year-old Benzy, an animal ambassador at the Safari Park, had just demonstrated some of the skills that have helped earn her species its rapacious reputation. Given the legends that loom large about some creatures, it’s not uncommon for the real story to pale in comparison. But that’s not the case with the honey badger Mellivora capensis (also called the ratel). With its thick skin, tenacity, and infamously ferocious defensive abilities, the true tale of the honey badger is taller than any human could dream up. But its story is also one of survival, and the Safari Park, as one of only three facilities in the world to keep

honey badgers as leash-trained animal ambassadors, is a good place for Benzy to help share her species’ story about wildlife conservation.


Thanks at least in part to a certain Internet video that has received more than 62 million hits (you may have heard of it: “Honey Badger Don’t Care,” along with its many spin-offs; note—not G-rated), the honey badger’s bravery is a worldwide sensation. Its Terminator-like battle abilities have earned the honey badger the title of “most fearless animal in the world” from the Guinness World Records, and there is a South African expression, So taai soos a ratel, which means “tough as a ratel.” A tribute to their hardiness is even found among military vehicles. “African forces have Hummer-like vehicles that go anywhere and do anything, and they’re called ratels,” notes Kim Caldwell, animal training supervisor and Benzy’s main caretaker.

These claws are made for digging, and that’s just what they’ll do.


Native to sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and India, the honey badger is one of nine badger subspecies and is built to survive in almost any environment. Ratel is an Afrikaans word, possibly derived from the Middle Dutch words for rattle (the noise it makes). It was originally believed that the animal had a fondness for honey, but when ransacking honeycombs, the honey badger is really after the savory bee larvae, not the sweet stickiness of the honey. Despite its name, this mustelid is more anatomically similar to weasels than other badger species. The honey badger’s stocky, flattened body has short, strong legs and claws on the front feet that are perfectly suited for one purpose. “They are digging machines,” says Barbara Letton, a senior keeper at the Zoo whose duties include caring for Cookie, a 1½-year-old honey badger. “We work really hard to keep her busy, and we have to reinforce the area under her exhibit, otherwise she could dig her way out.” Despite the species’ reputation, Barbara prefers to catego-


rize Cookie as “not aggressive but curious, powerful—and very persistent. She is such a bundle of strength and energy that we affectionately call her Cookie Monster.” The honey badger’s coat is thick and coarse, and because of its coloring, it is often mistaken in zoos for another black-and-white critter, the skunk. “Their appearance definitely helps them warn off predators,” says Kim. “But they can also back it up with smelliness.” As unfortunate animals like lions, leopards, and hyenas often discover, there’s something ominously aromatic in the honey badger’s arsenal: the stink bomb. A gland emits a very potent, aerosol-like spray that keepers have likened to “burnt skunk.” Apparently, some honey badgers are quick on the trigger. “Benzy has been known to drop a stink bomb if she’s scared or gets mad at her toys,” Kim says. That telltale, two-tone coat covers skin that also helps the honey badger survive. “Not only is their skin tough, it’s loose enough that a honey badger can turn around in it and bite its attacker,” Barbara points out. Speaking of bites, another bit of honey badger lore rings true: an ability to withstand the venom of some dangerous animals. “They eat scorpions and snakes—they have an unusually strong immunity to venom,” Kim says. “There was an instance in Africa

Kim Caldwell, animal training supervisor, has studied honey badgers extensively, which aids in her work with Benzy.

where a honey badger went after a puff adder to steal the mouse it was eating, and then went after the snake and injured it. The honey badger was bitten, and it did pass out, but it woke up later and tracked down and ate that puff adder.”


Daily life with a honey badger is a never-ending adventure, according to Kim and Barbara. There aren’t many chances to see a honey badger up close, because, as Kim explains, there are only nine of them on exhibit in the US. “They are pretty rare to see in zoos, and people love them,” Kim says. “We’re hoping to renovate and improve our area here at the Park to make Benzy easier for people to see.” Currently, Benzy takes part in the Animal Encounters program near the Bird Show stadium; check the Park map for times. Guests

are amazed to see Benzy demonstrate her digging and object-opening skills. “She loves a challenge,” Kim says. “She’s really smart—like a little chimp crossed with an otter.” Benzy has learned commands such as “left turn,” “right turn,” and “leave it,” and even steps into her harness when it’s time to meet her public. Kim explains that Benzy relishes her role as an ambassador for her species, as long as everyone is on their toes. “Benzy is the center of the universe and wants to be the center of attention.” Kim is quick to point out that the 23-pound bundle of energy has high expectations of her handler. “Benzy has no patience for inconsistencies,” she says. “I tailor my schedule Benzy loves a good challenge. to meet her needs. She doesn’t appreciate noises like hammering, but she loves to go for romps in the former bonobo exhibit.” Cookie also makes sure her keepers are at the top of their game. “She keeps us busy,” Barbara says. “She chirps with excitement when she sees us, because she wants to see what we have for her. She loves to break stuff. She loves to dig in her dirt pit, and her favorite toy is this open ring toy that has a ball in it. When she’s not playing with that, she’s collecting rocks—she loves rocks, as well as her burlap sack, which she sleeps in like a sleeping bag.” But alas, even the mighty honey badger—or Cookie, at least—has one enemy that strikes fear in her heart. “She’s afraid of heights!” Barbara says with a laugh. “She once ventured to the top of her climbing structure and then was scared to climb down. We tried to lift her down, but she was so scared, she hung onto the trunk with both of her strong arms. Eventually we set up a little plank ramp so she could walk down.”


Honey badgers are, as Kim says, incredible “eating machines,” due largely to their high metabolism. They are constantly searching for food, which makes habitat loss and competition for resources a real problem for honey badgers in the wild. The honey badgers at the Park and Zoo

enjoy a diet of hard-boiled eggs, a special meat-based diet for zoo carnivores, chicken-flavored baby food, rabbits, mice, cat kibble, and mealworms. In the wild, the honey badger’s consumption of snakes, scorpions, reptiles, and sometimes birds doesn’t really concern the humans with which the animals share an environment. But their taste for bee larvae has caused conflict. “They work with birds called greater honeyguides to find honeycombs,” Barbara explains. “The honey badger follows the birds (or possibly the other way around) to where the hive is, and the honey badger Outings in the Park’s former bonobo exhibit help use up some of Benzy’s rips open the honeycomb to eat the bee seemingly boundless energy. larvae. Then the birds get their chance.” She adds that this is an agreeable arrangement for everyone—except the farmers who harvest honey for a living. They consider the honey badger a pest, and pests don’t fare well when competing with humans. The good news, Kim notes, is that efforts are being made in South Africa to produce “honey badger-friendly” honey products. “Honey badgers can’t jump up,” she says, “so the simple change of putting the hives up on trestles or stands helps reduce the negative effects the animals have on honey production.” Any efforts to ease tensions between humans and honey badgers are, of course, a boost to conservation efforts. Kim and Barbara want to point out that while honey badgers can be irascible little creatures, they are not “bad.” “They actually blunder into trouble rather than look for it,” Kim explains. “They are so busy with their nose to the ground that they can literally stumble upon a confrontation—like looking up to discover they’re surrounded by a pride of lions. Their immediate response is to pitch a fit and see who they can scare off. It’s their propensity for anger that keeps them going.” Which makes perfect sense, because, as Barbara adds, “Even a lion is going to think twice about taking on a honey badger.”

The Great


It’s a ball, it’s a treat, it’s a prize—and three tiger cubs will make short work of it. By Karen E. Worley MANAGING EDITOR



olled, kicked, batted, or pushed, they function like a ball— but when they’re bitten, clawed, pecked, or stomped, it’s no trick that pumpkins reveal a treasure of treats. The orange gourd has become a staple of fall enrichment programs in zoos, and a wide variety of animals react to them with playful enthusiasm. Pumpkins make great enrichment items, because animals can interact with them in so many ways. Plus, they typically only show up in the fall, so interest in them is high. Colorful, fun, tasty, and versatile—what’s not to love about pumpkins?

Smashing Pumpkins—the Animal Way According to animals, there’s more than one way to carve—or demolish—a pumpkin. Bear claws dig interesting patterns and create a shredded pumpkin “salad” with ease. A pumpkin’s tough outer shell is no match for a munching hippo, which can make short work of even fair-

Do I play with it or do I eat it? Decisions, decisions!

ly large ones. Gorillas have a more measured but no less enthusiastic approach: break the pumpkin apart before eating the flesh and seeds, preferably by hurtling it to the ground to smash it open. Tigers and lions can’t resist giving a pumpkin a good bat, roll, and chase before clamping onto it with their teeth and proudly carrying it off (especially if it’s been stuffed with a little meat). Pigs such as warthogs and red river hogs get excited when offered pumpkins, and it’s often a team effort of pushing, rolling, and biting before the fruit is broken up enough for them to settle down and eat. Elephants seem more nonchalant, investigating with their trunk before casually raising a foot and flattening the pumpkin. They make sure not to miss a morsel, though. The most enjoyable way to present a pumpkin to meerkats is to give them a carved jack-o-lantern to climb in, over, and through as they gnaw away. This is also a popular option with birds, since they can get directly to the treasure of seeds. And Galápagos tortoises? Well, you

“Back into your garden-beds! Here come the holidays! And woe to the golden pumpkin-heads Attracting too much praise. Hide behind the hoe, the plow, Cling fast to the vine! Those who come to praise you now Will soon sit down to dine.” –Grace Cornell Tall, To Pumpkins at Pumpkin Time The golden gourd is a tasty and prized treat for grizzly bears.

can guess—they take their time and savor their pumpkin.

A Local Fruit Gone Global Pumpkins originated in North and South America and have been cultivated for about 5,000 years. Since they are a specialty of the Americas, it may seem incongruous for animal species from Asia and Africa to be chowing down on them. However, pumpkins are such versatile plants that they are now cultivated on every continent except Antarctica. Some animals feed on other melons and squash in their own habitat, so becoming “Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater” isn’t much of a stretch. One of the early uses for pumpkins was to feed domestic livestock, especially cattle, goats, pigs, and horses, and the animals ate Red river hogs love to bat pumpkins about. It’s the way they roll.

A white pumpkin is appropriate for a black-and-white bear.

it up. Suburban wildlife is happy to partake as well, as many a Halloween decorator has discovered when pumpkins on the porch are defaced or whisked away—not by hooligans but by squirrels, raccoons, skunks, and deer. Apparently the animals know what’s good for them: pumpkins are high in nutritional value; low in calories, fat, and sodium; and high in fiber. They are a good source of vitamins A and B, potassium, protein, and iron. They also have admirable moisture content: pumpkins are about 90 percent water! For all of those reasons, pumpkins turn out to be an excellent food source and a healthful enrichment snack for zoo animals.

Pumpkins for the People People are partial to the great gourd as well. Native Americans were growing and making use of pumpkins long before Europeans showed up, recognizing the fruit’s versatility as food and animal fodder. Strips and chunks of pumpkin could be roasted over a fire and even dried,

making it easy to carry on journeys (pumpkin jerky, anyone?). Dried and pounded strips were even used to make mats and textiles. When the early European colonists arrived, they were introduced to the pumpkin and its uses. Some accounts even say that the pilgrims might have starved during harsh winters without a store of pumpkins to get them through. In early New England, halved pumpkin shells were sometimes used as a template for haircuts to ensure a round and uniform finished cut—which led to the nickname “pumpkin head.” The pilgrims also baked the first pumpkin “pie,” although we wouldn’t recognize it as the Thanksgiving staple we have today. They cut the top off of a pumpkin, scooped the seeds out, and filled the cavity with cream, honey, eggs, and spices. Then they put the top back on and buried the pumpkin in the hot ashes of a cooking fire. It was finished when they lifted the blackened shell from the coals, ready to scoop out and eat the contents like custard.

Happy Halloween One of the most widely recognized images of the pumpkin, of course, is the jack-o-lantern. But pumpkins are relative newcomers to this autumn

art form. The tradition started long ago with the Celts of northern Europe, who hollowed out and carved scary faces into turnips or beets, then placed a burning coal inside. These were carried in festivals or left on the doorstep during Samhain, a celebration of the autumnal equinox, in order to scare spirits away in the dark. Those who immigrated to America discovered that the much larger, brighter, and easier-to-carve pumpkin made a perfect lantern—and we’re still using them. Today, you can find more than 50 varieties of pumpkin. Although the iconic orange version will always be popular, pumpkins also come in white, cream with orange Almost seems like this gorilla is going treat-ortreating! flecks, slate green, forest green, bright red, gold with green stripes, and even deep blue-green. There are also a wide variety of sizes, from the massive giants seen at state fairs to diminutive minis and everything in between. And with varietal names like Casper, Jack-Be-Quick, Baby Bear, Cinderella, Hooligan, Wolf, and Red Warty Thing, just to name a few, no wonder this gourd has such appeal. The usefulness of the great pumpkin and our fondness for it seems to know no bounds. When you’re carving your fall pumpkins, remember that with all its uses, the humble pumpkin is a squash superstar, popular with everything from gorillas, tigers, and hippos to squirrels, cattle, and deer—and trick-or-treaters and pumpkin-pie eaters, of course.

With such bright hues and astonishing aerial abilities, it’s no wonder hummingbirds seem bold in more ways than one.

By Wendy Perkins STAFF WRITER


erched on a branch, a male white-necked jacobin Florisuga mellivora surveys the activity in the Hummingbird Aviary at the San Diego Zoo. He stretches his wings out to either side, spreading and lifting his tail, so that his bright, white undersides provide a crisp contrast to his cobalt-blue head and emerald-green back. In the blink of an eye he is airborne, zigzagging toward the nectar feeder. Hovering to eat, every slight movement reveals a new flash of iridescence in his feathers. If he notices the eager Zoo visitors that hurry over to snap pictures, he doesn’t show it, sometimes maneuvering to within a few feet of the gathered group. Seconds later, he returns to his

perch and watches the world while flicking his long, bifurcated tongue, unperturbed by his audience. With such bright hues and astonishing aerial abilities, it’s no wonder hummingbirds seem bold in more ways than one.

A Flash of Color A major feature of hummingbird plumage is the shifting, shimmering colors of crests, gorgets (a patch on the throat), and other feather structures. And the composition of those structures is both intricate and impressive. A feather consists of many tiny subfeathers, called barbs, and the barbs are made up of another layer called barbules. Some colors on a hummingbird’s feathers are created by melanin pigments, but the iridescence is caused by the structure of the stacked platelets in the feather barbules and how they reflect light. These platelets are only up to 18 microns thick. About one third of the feather is modified for iridescence; the overlapping arrangement of feathers creates the unbroken shimmer. As the bird moves or changes position, different lightwaves are reflected, making hummingbird watching a kaleidoscopic experience.

A Tropical Treasure Beyond the beak: When fully extended, a hummingbird’s tongue can be twice as long as its bill.

By hummingbird standards, white-necked jacobins are large, measuring about four inches long. Adult males have a brilliant blue head and chest, while females are mostly green. Inhabiting the humid forests in southern Mexico through Central America to Colombia and the Amazon and Orinoco basins, white-necked jacobins tend to feed mostly in the forest can-

Hummingbirds display sexual dimorphism—a difference in appearance between males and females. As in many other bird species, the male (left) is more brightly colored than the female (right).

opy but nest in the understory. They can also be found in more open habitats, like woodlands, as well as coffee and cacao plantations. Like other hummingbirds, they are almost always looking for a meal.

Hungry as a Hummingbird When dining, white-necked jacobins never hold their tongue—they make the most of it! Hummingbird tongues are bifurcated, with the tip divided lengthwise to form two separate troughs. Recent studies using high-speed, high-magnification video of hummingbirds drinking have revealed the feeding mechanics. When the tongue hits the nectar, the sides of the troughs open, allowing the liquid in. As the bird retracts the tongue, the tubes close and carry the nectar to the mouth. To ladle enough nectar, the feeding bird may flick its tongue 3 to 13 times per second. Talk about fast food! Hummingbirds also eat insects, which they “hawk” while in flight over clearings and streams. At mealtime, a hummingbird is hardly shy. Even a human standing near a nectar-rich blossom or feeding station usually doesn’t deter a hungry hummingbird. And that gives visitors to the Zoo’s Hummingbird House an up-close look at these dazzling birds.

The Art of Hovering When it comes to exploiting a nectar resource, hummingbirds have perfected hovering to an art form. These wee wonders can remain seemingly motionless in mid-air for extended periods of time, their wingtips executing rapid figure eights. During a foraging flight, 10 to

When hovering, a hummingbird moves its wings in a figureeight motion. Swipe back and forth between this picture and the next one and compare the bird’s wing position.

80 wingbeats per second are the norm, although up to 200 beats per second have been recorded during courtship and territorial displays. Unlike other birds, hummingbirds use both the upstroke and the down stroke to power their flight.

This Bird’s-eye View Not only do hummingbirds have an eagle eye, so to speak, but they are particularly good at spotting each other. Researchers have discovered that hummingbird eyes include a visual pigment that is sensitive to ultraviolet (UV) light. This may be important when identifying flowers in their fertile phase, which are known to exhibit UV-specific color patterns. The hummingbird’s iridescent plumage also reflects UV wavelengths, and it is believed that the fanciful feathers of a hummingbird are a way the birds identify others of their species. Being dazzled by a potential mate takes on new meaning when you’re a hummingbird.

The Call of the Colorful Hummingbirds aren’t just visually appealing. Listen carefully when they are near, and you might be surprised by all of the sounds they

Stark white belly and tail feathers provide a crisp contrast to the color on a male white-necked jacobin. The white markings that this bird is named for are on the nape of its neck.

make. At times, the hum of their furiously beating wings plays rhythm to high-pitched chirps and whistles. And while they don’t vocalize with their tongue full (nectar is precious—they can’t afford to waste a drop), they may give quick calls between drinks. When a source of nectar has been claimed, the “owner” advertises—and warns—other hummers with a series of chatterings. And because hummingbirds are so small and skillful in flight, they don’t have many predators, such as terrestrial carnivores. The biggest threat to these little beauties is other birds—jays and toucans—and arboreal reptiles that eat eggs or nestlings. Luckily, the hummingbirds at the Zoo are safe from harm, and the Hummingbird House is the perfect place to see the amazing aerial acrobatics of our colorful whitenecked jacobins. Come check it out for yourself—your visit to see the hummingbirds will go by in a flash!

A large viper digesting a meal.

An Inside Look at

Animal Imaging

A different view of the same bat, which reveals different internal issues.

By Karyl Carmignani STAFF WRITER

Images by San Diego Zoo Global


an Diego Zoo Global is deeply committed to the health and well-being of all the animals in its collection. From a tiny poison frog to a formidable two-ton rhinoceros to the finely boned fruit bat to a lumbering sea lion, veterinarians of exotic wildlife are tasked with gathering information about an animal’s history and health to diagnose and treat maladies. When an animal presents symptoms, keepers, veterinary technicians, and veterinarians work together to solve the mystery.

An Aplomado falcon has a metallic foreign body (BB pellet or bullet) in its gizzard region.

San Diego Zoo Veterinarian Geoff Pye, B.V.Sc., M.Sc., Dipl. A.C.Z.M., likened the process to putting together pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. “We have several diagnostic tools, including the physical exam, blood samples, and observing the animal,” he said. “Imaging technology like radiographs, CT scans, and MRIs provide us with extra pieces of the puzzle to make a diagnosis.” Not all the animals at the Jennings Center for Zoological Medicine at the San Diego Zoo are ill; the center is also the quarantine area for animals added to the collection. These “newbies” must be adequately screened for health problems. Digital imaging is used every day to ensure all creatures great and small are in optimal condition.

Baseline Basics Quarantine ensures new animals are not bringing any diseases into the Zoo. Part of their stay includes complete medical exams, including radiographs (also called x-rays),

so the hospital has baseline medical information about each animal. Sometimes this routine procedure can be life saving! For instance, the radiograph of an African spotted-necked otter revealed a large mass next to its heart. Fortunately, it was discovered in time and was successfully removed; the radiograph taken after the surgery shows only the surgical clips where the mass had been. “We’re like a PPO with HMO funding,” quipped Geoff. “Since virtually any medical A spider monkey presents a normal lateral procedure is stressful for an aniskull film. mal, we lump all the tests together when they are warranted, in order to gather the most puzzle pieces to make an accurate diagnosis and boost that animal’s overall health.” Koalas also have baseline radiographs taken, so veterinarians can monitor their bone and teeth health over time. Sometimes imaging equipment goes out into the field, like on St. Bees Island, off the coast of Australia. Geoff is working with researchers in Australia to increase the dental documentation of tooth wear in different koala populations. For that, a nifty hand-held, battery-operated dental x-ray unit with sharp, reusable phosphor plates documents the condition of the koalas’ teeth. There is also a portable ultrasound unit: the veterinarian wears a head plate with goggles that present the scanned images right into his or her eyes. “It’s an important diagnostic tool and provides great images even under glaring sunlight conditions,” said Geoff—even if he does look like a character from Star Trek while using it.

“Since virtually any medical procedure is stressful for an animal, we lump all the tests together when they are warranted, in order to gather the most puzzle pieces to make an accurate diagnosis and boost that animal’s overall health.”

An Allen’s swamp monkey is pregnant with a late-term baby!

Hold Still According to Geoff, 95 percent of the animals that require radiographs are anesthetized to ensure the images are clear. But some animals, like polar bears and giant pandas, are trained to accept an ultrasound. For safety reasons, vets stay outside the enclosure and use a probe extender to roll over the animal’s abdomen while watching the images on a screen. After a bonobo injured her hand, she was trained to place the sore extremity on a flat surface and hold still while a radiograph was taken to ensure it was healing properly. Smaller animals like frogs, lizards, hedgehogs, and some birds are tricky to get in detail, so the little guys are put on a mammography machine. It takes highly detailed images of bone, muscle, tissue, and organs while exposing the animal to less radiation. On the other end of the size scale, elephant foot health is monitored using a portable radiograph machine; the mighty giants are trained to place a foot on a reinforced platform and hold still while the radiograph is taken. Their willing participation is reinforced with delicious rewards. Of course, even the sharpest technology has its limits. For MRIs,

which work without radiation but require the patient to lie motionless on a table that slides into a tube-like scanner, the weight-limit cutoff is about 400 pounds. “We have managed to get a polar bear inside and squeaked a gorilla through,” said Geoff. But sometimes other options are needed; exploratory surgery is a last resort.

Skeleton Key

A nine-year old parma wallaby has pneumonia affecting the left lung lobes.

Our radiograph technology went digital in 2005. Prior to that, films were taken, and these archived radiographs are catalogued in the film library, which is about the size of a walk-in closet with floor-to-ceiling shelves full of alphabetized manila folders. Given the huge variation among species, it’s a great resource to have, and some of the older animals in the collection have images of their younger skeletons on file. For instance, if an animal had a strange-looking larynx, a vet could go back through the individual animal’s archived images to see what its normal baseline looks like. The scores of aged folders, lined up like sentinels, serve as a reminder of how things were done old school. The staff hopes to one day secure funding to digitize this x-ray film library. There’s no denying that advances in technology have benefited animal medicine. Software and digital imaging enable staff to amplify details

What’s the difference between all these high-tech imaging techniques?

An American alligator has a bone infection in its middle digit on the right front foot.

by increasing contrast, switching dark and light areas, and measuring and comparing images, and they make it possible to bring more diagnostic tools out into the field. The images can also reveal some surprises, like a dollar and some change in the belly of a sea lion or a metal bolt in the gizzard of a bird. Some radiograph surprises are happy, like a gently sketched outline of a growing baby inside a monkey or a foreign growth that is successfully removed due to early detection. The faces of veterinary medicine are diverse and complex, and using modern technology means we can keep our animals healthy and, most likely, happy.

Radiographs are detailed images of bones and soft tissues. “X-rays are actually the type of radiation used to produce the radiographs,” explained Meg Sutherland-Smith, D.V.M. “Despite its entrenchment in popular language, the correct name for the images is radiographs, not x-rays.” It’s a distinction that was emphatically ingrained in Meg during vet school. Bones and calcium appear white, or radiopaque, while the less dense, dark gray areas are said to be radiolucent. Ultrasound is used to see organs in motion, like looking at blood flow or leaky heart valves, as well as guiding a tiny needle into a cyst or tumor. The fine-needle aspiration or biopsy can provide a great deal of information, such as if the tissue is infected or cancerous. Ultrasound images are like a video, while a radiograph image is a still photo. MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, uses magnetic fields and a sophisticated computer to take high-resolution pictures of bones and soft tissue while the patient lies still in a tube-shaped scanner. It is best suited for detecting soft-tissue injury to ligaments, tendons, and the spinal cord, or to detect brain tumors. CT or CAT scan stands for computed tomography and uses radiation with computer technology to produce a detailed cross-section image of the body. It is well suited for examining bone injuries, lung and chest imaging, and detecting cancers. It is widely used in emergency situations, as the procedure takes less than five minutes. As with radiographs, the patient may be given a liquid “contrast agent” orally to enhance the images.


Tusk, tusk: Disagreements are rare and usually quickly settled.




nce upon a time (May 20, 2013), in a kingdom not so far away (the Safari Park), three little pigs (southern warthogs) were born, and everyone in the land (the Park’s African Outpost) rejoiced. The tale of the warthog exhibit had just become much cuter—and busier! “We are really pleased, because this is our first successful in-exhibit litter at the Park,” explains Aja Kase, a keeper and one of the warthog family’s caretakers. “They are so adorable and growing and exploring!”

ThE CaSt oF ChArAcTeRs The as-yet-unnamed piglets, a male and two females, are the offspring of Nyah and Rocky. The family shares the exhibit with another charismatic clan—a family of bat-eared foxes. The two groups coexist just fine, Aja says, with only occasional bouts of drama, which are brief and often the result of treat envy. “Both species are omnivorous, and

The southern warthog is built to survive often-harsh conditions.

The protrusions on a warthog’s face aren’t warts but rather fleshy nubs that serve as a fat reserve and protective padding when males fight.

sometimes the other guy’s snack looks good,” Aja says. “But we always work it out.” Aja notes that the piglets’ personalities were forming almost from day one. “The male is the leader of the group. He is the first to explore and investigate new things,” Aja says. “One of the females is a little mama’s girl, and the other is a tomboy, always wanting to wrestle with her brother.” Aja adds that the little male is already sporting tiny nodules on his face that will grow to become his protective “warts.” The swine siblings, who are currently still nursing, are eager to branch out. “They’re trying the acacia browse. If

Rocky and Nyah are attentive, protective parents.

Few morsels escape a warthog’s tough but flexible snout.

Mom’s chewing on something, they want it, too.” Aja says. On a recent visit, the three little ones couldn’t wait to get their snouts on some of Nyah’s apples. “They sleep and nurse a lot but will try to eat just about anything.”

ThE BaCkStOrY The youngsters’ hardiness is a typical warthog trait. The southern warthog Phacochoerus africanus sundevallii lives in grasslands, savannas, and woodlands in sub-Saharan Africa and has to be able to survive often harsh conditions. While warthog Pumbaa from The Lion King found much to sing and prance about, real life for a warthog is much less “animated.” Given that this species is neither particularly graceful nor, some say, beautiful, its survival is more a matter of adaptability and street—or, more accurately, savanna—smarts. Warthogs cannot count on the cute factor that makes other animals

the poster creatures for conservation—although we think they’re quite fetching in their own way. So they make the most of their strength, intelligence, and flexibility. Unlike many other African species, they are not endangered, because they are so skilled at adapting to new threats. For instance, most warthogs like to forage during the cool temperatures of early morning and evening. But if they live in an area where they are hunted by people, which is often the case, they switch to foraging at night to avoid their two-legged predators.

HeRoIc DeFeNsEs Warthogs have built-in protection from other foes as well. A thick hide and bristly-yet-sparse hair shield them from the fierce African sun, and frequent trips to the mud wallow apply a sunscreen of sorts. Their legs are on the long side for swine, helping them elude potential predators by reaching speeds of up to 34 miles per hour. They aren’t easy to catch, either, since they are adept at dodging and swerving. And warthogs won’t shy away from a fight. They use their sharp lower

canine teeth (which look like straight tusks) as weapons while squealing at the top of their lungs. They make the most of those tusks even when at rest: when they tuck themselves into a burrow, they back in, so any predator that comes slinking up to attack will find itself at the business end of those sharp defenses. Warthogs have a long, thin mane of coarse hair that runs from the nape of the neck to the middle of the back, where it is broken by a bare space, and then continues on the rump. The hefty hogs can weigh between 110 and 330 pounds as adults (females are smaller than males), and measure 3 to 4.9 feet long. Considering that the Park’s new piglets barely moved the scales at about one pound each at birth, it was clear they had a lot of growing to do!

BeAuTy aNd tHe BeAsT—AlL In OnE The warthog’s common name comes from the four large, wart-like, nubby protrusions found on the animal’s head. These aren’t warts at all but rather fleshy protrusions that serve as a fat reserve and as protective padding when males fight. While some may say the warthog isn’t classically beautiful, the animal has a charm and charisma all its own. The tusks and almost comically large head give the warthog a kind of cartoonish cuteness, but when you consider its intelligence and industriousness, this pig becomes the perfect whole package. “They are interesting animals and can be friendly,” Aja says. “Nyah and Rocky can be hand-fed by keepers, and they even like belly rubs.” She adds that along with being personable, Nyah has taken to motherhood. “She’s very protective of them,” Aja says. “She’s being a really good mom. It’s nice to see.” You can stop by the warthog exhibit at the Park and see for yourself how the warthog family is doing. And the piglets are doing plenty! “They live to dig,” Aja says. “Nothing is better than playing in the dirt or the mud.” Romping and wallowing—it’s a dirty job, but these little piggies are up to the challenge. It appears their story is well on its way to a happy ending.

A New Spin on


This fishing spider is enjoying its meal on a floating leaf, but members of this spider group can also walk across the surface of still water.

By Karen E. Worley, Managing Editor, and Wendy Perkins, Staff Writer Photos by Ken Bohn SDZG Photographer


hen she was frightened away, Little Miss Muffet missed out on getting to know an amazing animal: that spider that sat down beside her. While many people might wholeheartedly agree with her decision to leave, spiders are wondrous animals that are worthy of our admiration and respect, if not always our affection. Do you know these spider facts? ■■ There

are about 43,000 identified spider species—and only 200 of those produce venom harmful to humans. ■■ Females of many species care for their young, carrying them or sharing food with them. ■■ All spiders make silk, but not all spiders spin webs. ■■ A single spider eats about 2,000 insects a year.

Tarantulas are the largest and hairiest of all the spiders. This Mexican fireleg tarantula is named for its vivid markings.

There’s an old saying that “If you want to live and thrive, let the spider run alive.” Found on every continent except Antarctica, spiders contribute to the health of nearly every habitat on the planet. They are essential to keeping insect populations in check, and scientists are discovering interesting chemical properties in their venom—plus, engineers are still baffled by their ability to make a substance that starts as a liquid and hardens into a material stronger by weight than steel. Love them or fear them, there’s just something special about spiders.

Looming Large in Myths and Legends Few animals figure as prominently in myths, superstitions, and cultural lore as the spider. The ancient Greeks considered spiders to be the weavers of human fate, connecting the past with the future, and in some Native American legends, a female spider created the universe. In African lore, the spider is either a trickster or a great god, and in an Asian legend, the gods made the spider a symbol of wisdom, labor, cunning, and prudence. Then there are the more modern depictions: Shelob in The Lord of the Rings, Spiderman, Aragog in the Harry Potter series, and the unnamed terrors in the film Arachnophobia. One way or another, spiders continue to have a hold on our imagination.

Sum of the Parts

Above: Tarantulas molt their covering in a single piece. The exoskeleton separates and the animal begins expanding the fluid in its tissue to force the old covering off, leaving a perfect replica in its place. Below: Swathing silk is used to create a water-resistant cocoon for spider eggs.

Eight legs, six spinnerets, two fangs, zero antennae, and up to eight eyes: add it up, and it equals a spider. Thanks to movies, game shows, and crossword puzzles, most of us know that spiders are arachnids, not insects. What you might not know is that spiders aren’t the only creatures to claim that name. Scorpions, ticks, mites, and harvestmen are also included in the Class Arachnida, and each group has its own set of distinguishing traits. For spiders, the ability to produce silk and inject their prey with venom, along with their unique method of reproduction, are key characteristics. Size wise, spiders are an eclectic group, ranging from tiny as a pinhead to as large as a dinner plate. Tarantulas are the largest type of spider; with legs fully extended, a Goliath or bird-eating spider can measure more than nine inches diagonally. Typically, male spiders are smaller than females, and they also tend to have a shorter lifespan. No matter how big the spider is, its body is made up of 18 individual segments arranged in 2 groupings: the cephalothorax (the conjoined head and body) and the abdomen. You could say that the cephalothorax is where the action is, since it holds the eyes, fangs, venom glands, sensory appendages called pedipalps, and all eight legs. The abdo-

Spider Anatomy Claw Tarsus Metatarsus




Patella Femur

Prosoma Pedicel Opisthosoma


Trochanter Coxa

men (also known as the opisthosoma) contains the vital organs, including the heart, respiratory structures, and reproductive organs, as well as the silk glands and spinnerets.

By a Silken Thread

Above: An orb spider makes a new web each day; but first it deconstructs and eats yesterday’s structure! Below: Once prey is snagged in the silk, a spider’s real work begins. It must subdue the insect with a venomous bite before the meal can wriggle free and escape.

Spiders can produce six types of silk, each used for a different purpose. The four main types are: cocoon silk for shelter and lining nests; swathing silk, used for wrapping prey and making sperm webs (males) or egg sacs (females); attachment silk to anchor threads; and safety line or frame thread silk for a web’s sturdy foundation. In addition, orb weavers have two more types used to create the structure of their spiral web and make certain parts of it sticky for snaring prey. While the beautifully constructed web of orb weavers is wellknown, only about half of spider species use a web to capture prey. The others actively hunt their prey or burrow underground, and they use silk primarily to line nests and create egg sacs. In some species, like tarantulas, males create sperm webs, a woven sheet of silk on the ground. They deposit sperm on it and then absorb the sperm into their pedipalps, which are used as appendages to transfer the sperm to the female to fertilize her eggs.

Web Engineering


Hub Strengthening Zone Free Zone

Radial Y-Structure

Sticky Spiral


Turning Point

Arachnid Architects

Spider webs are a source of fascination. We marvel at the structure, complexity, and effort that go into building them. Scientists think that the skill is innate in spiders, since newly hatched orb weavers can already make a miniature version of a spiral web. Nonetheless, webs are one of nature’s wonders. Here are examples of the main types of webs spiders weave. Funnel web Members of the Agelenidae family make funnel webs, a slightly concave sheet of silk with a tubular retreat at one end. The spider shelters in the tunnel portion. When an insect walks on the flat portion, vibrations carry through the web’s structure to the spider, which rushes out from its shelter to grab and bite its prey. Photo by Stephen Dalton/ Minden Pictures

Tangle or Cob web These are the kinds of webs you are likely to find inside your home. Created by both the harmless cellar spider as well as the infamous black widow, these webs are made up of what seem to be haphazardly arranged strands. There doesn’t seem to be any sort of symmetry at all, but the web works quite well, trapping insects that blunder into the tangle of silk.

Sheet Web Sheet web weavers construct flat sheets of silk anchored to leaves and branches. The spider then hides on the underside of the web. When an insect lands on the surface, the spider delivers a paralyzing bite from below. Photo by Stephen Dalton/ Minden Pictures

Orb Web The orb web is what most people think of as the classic spider structure. Not all parts of an orb web contain sticky silk. An insect that lands on frame strands or radial threads (the “spokes”) may be able to escape. But silk used for the spirals is coated with a sticky substance that stalls the insect’s getaway long enough for the spider to race out and deliver the deadly bite. The adhesive fluid also adds elasticity to the spiral threads, making them better able to handle the energy of struggling prey without breaking.

Net web The gladiator spider creates a net web by coiling strands of silk around its front legs. It backcombs the silk with its hind legs, creating tiny, irregular loops in the threads. When an insect passes beneath, the spider descends quickly and drops the net over the prey. Bristles on the insect’s legs get tangled in the silk; while the prey struggles to get free, the spider delivers a deadly bite. photo by Reg Morrison/ Auscape/ Minden Pictures

Where There’s a Web There’s a Way The creations of web-weaving spiders come in many forms, including orb, sheet, tangle, mesh, triangle, funnel, and dome webs (see the Arachnid Architects sidebar for more about the world of webs). While building a web can be an elaborate and time-intensive undertaking, spiders are efficient about recycling their material. Before building a new web, spiders eat the old one, and the body processes the proteins to produce new silk. Some webs are sturdy and last a long time, while others are more delicate and can be torn by wind, leaves, or other animals— including the occasional unsuspecting human who It takes an orb spider about walks through them face first. 20 to 30 minutes to construct Scientists have discovered that webs also have otha web. While the framework er useful and rather cool features. Some orb weavand radial spokes are laid ers create a zig-zag design called a stabilimentum down quickly, the sticky threads that make up the in the center of their web using a thicker silk. It’s spiral take the most time. been shown to reflect ultraviolet light, which attracts insects, allows birds to see and avoid the web, and hides the spider. In addition, some webs can even “reach out” to help capture prey. As insects fly, they build up static electricity. Recent studies have shown that certain strands in a spider web are attracted to statically charged objects, and they flex as much as two millimeters toward an insect, increasing the chances that the insect will contact it and get stuck. Have you ever wondered why spiders don’t get caught in their own webs? It’s not because they have an oily coating to slide along the strands, as some people think. Instead, spiders are just very careful! They pick their way along the threads using tiny claws at the end of their legs, and they raise their body slightly so as not to touch the strands. They travel mostly along the non-sticky parts of the web, and they also clean their legs frequently to remove any filaments that might build up and increase adherence.

“Spidey” Senses Tingling Like other animals, spiders use their senses to find food and mates and avoid predators. Which senses they use depends on the particular species’ lifestyle. The spiders that are active hunters stalk and pounce on

The hairs, called setae, on a spider’s body (in this case, a tarantula’s leg) are somewhat sparse but super sensitive to even slight air movement. Nerve endings at the base of the hair carry information to the arachnid’s central nervous system. A spider can feel the subtle vibration created by a cricket landing nearby.

Don’t Call Me an Insect! SPIDER



8 legs

6 legs

No wings

4 wings

No antennae


their prey, relying on their eyesight. Spiders can have two to eight eyes (or none, for some deep cave dwellers), and the number and arrangement of the eyes can help identify species. Hunters usually have six eyes, with two large ones that face forward and give the spider depth perception to determine how far away a prey item is. Some can also see in color, because they hunt during the day. Web spiders, on the other hand, hang around waiting for their food, so they usually have four eyes that are much more sensitive to light and movement and don’t recognize much, if any, color. An important sense for spiders is touch, especially awareness of vibrations and air currents. What makes spiders so sensitive is one of the things many people dislike about them: they are really hairy. While the hairs serve various purposes, a main role is to detect movement: the air vibrations that an insect makes with its wings and by buzzing are picked up by the spider with the help of those hairs, and the spider then moves in to capture the prey.

Spiders have been shown to be able to sense smells and tastes, but not the way we’re used to. Their hairiness comes into play again here: spiders have chemosensitive hairs, largely on their front legs, which contain receptors that can determine chemical properties. A spider can touch a fresh fly with its leg and it’s bon appétit, but if the fly is old and dried up, a leg touch can relegate it to the discard pile. Imagine giving the leftover pot roast a nudge to see if you wanted to eat it or not!

Love Them or Leave Them Not everyone can feel comfortable with spiders, but recognizing their role in habitats, even our urban ones, can lead to acceptance. If a spider trundles into view, vacate your tuffet if you must—but perhaps now you can forego the swift wielding of a newspaper or shoe. n

Who’s Your Daddy? Misconceptions and misunderstandings abound about the creature called the daddy long legs. Is it a spider or an insect? Is it venomous or not? And just what is that thing hanging out in my bathtub? Much of the confusion comes from the common name: there are two different animals that are called daddy long legs. One is Pholcus phalangioides, a true spider, which is also known as the cellar or house spider (seen at left). It produces silk and has fangs and venom to capture its prey, although it is harmless to humans. This is the thin, long-legged, pale-colored fellow that you’re likely to see hanging out in tubs, sinks, and corners in your house, doing you a favor and consuming small insects. The other is not a spider, although it IS an arachnid. It’s the harvestman Phalangium opilio. One of its key features is a small, round body that appears to be all one piece without segments (but it’s not). It has slender, delicate legs that can be several times longer than its body, and it has no fangs and cannot make silk. These arachnids live in dense vegetation, so while you might see them in the woods, they aren’t likely to make a home in your kitchen.

Dholes A Dilly of a Dog

Ever vigilant: Dholes are wary of strangers and are always on the lookout for danger.

By Karyl Carmignani staff writer

Photos by Ken Bohn sdzg photographer


s the sun clears the trees and the temperature inches higher, the breeze barely brings relief. There’s tussling and youthful growling coming from four fuzzy balls of energy in the brush. In the pen next to them, the adults of the pack walk the fence line, ever watchful over the youngsters. “They know something’s up,” said Kelly Casavant, a senior keeper at the Safari Park. “Nothing gets past a dhole.” Indeed, this shy, athletic species native to eastern and southern Asia is skittish and fiercely protective of its young. As an outsider, my presence has them on high alert, and when the veterinarians and other healthcare staff arrive, it’s sure to raise their hackles. “Once the dholes trust you, they’ll forgive you,” Kelly said. “But the pups don’t know us yet.”

The little auburn-furred pups are oblivious to the prospect of their first health exam. They are too busy dashing around chasing each other and being rambunctious puppies. Born on April 13, 2013, this will be the first time the pups have been handled by humans. The puppies need their vaccinations, and they will get a quick physical exam: weight taken, blood drawn, health assessed, and fecal sample collected. It’s a lot to ask of a squirming little pup, but the staff is prepared…and patient. Living in groups of 5 to 12 dogs, there is one breeding pair, and the rest help tend to the pups.

Those Darling Dholes

Also called the Asiatic wild dog, Indian wild dog, or whistling dog, the dhole (pronounced About the size of a border “dole”) Cuon alpinus occurs from southern Siberia to India. collie, this handsome Though found in a wide variety of habitat types, from despecies is highly social ciduous and evergreen forests and cooperative. to alpine steppe areas, its range is seriously reduced and fragmented. Dholes also enjoy open spaces and can be found on jungle roads, riverbeds, and clearings where they rest during the day. Suitable habitat requires a persistent water source and medium to large ungulate species on which to prey. About the size of a border collie, this handsome species is highly social and cooperative. Its rusty-red coat, white underbelly, and dark muzzle and tail make it quite striking to look at. This species of the Canidae family is in a genus all its own, Cuon. Dhole females have more teats than other dogs, and all have a shorter jaw with one less molar on each side of the lower jaw. Dholes live in tight-knit, wolf-like packs of 5 to 12

There are only two other facilities in the US that have dholes. Our dhole pack numbers 17 individuals.

members, with a breeding alpha pair and the rest of the pack helping tend to the youngsters. The mother is protective of her pups, not even letting the father into the den for the first few weeks after they’re born. Finally, she allows him access, and he happily provides regurgitated meat for her and the puppies. When hunting as a pack, the dholes can bring down prey over 10 times their body weight, thanks to the power of cooperation. They communicate with a series of whistles that are so distinct they can be used to distinguish individual dogs. This is useful for re-assembling the pack should they get separated in dense forest.

Dog Days The dhole is classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. It is estimated that fewer than 2,500 dholes remain in the wild, with that trend likely to continue. Main threats to the species include the backlash of human activities resulting in chronic habitat loss, depletion of prey base (deer, wild pigs, and goats and other hoofed mammals), persecution following dholes that take livestock, and possible disease transfer from domesticated dogs to wild

Dholes are social wild dogs classified as endangered largely due to loss of habitat and lack of available prey.

Dhole puppies are curious and rambunctious...and cute!

dogs. One study on prey selection and activity of dholes in northern Laos suggested that prey selection appeared to be more influenced by the social behavior and terrain use of ungulates rather than by body size or activity of the prey. The study pointed out that the management of muntjacs (a type of small deer) and sambar deer (a hefty animal weighing 220 to 700 pounds) may be important for conserving dhole populations in the region. Since few people are familiar with dholes, “The best thing people can do to help this species is to protect tigers, since their habitat overlaps with dholes—and everyone loves tigers,” explained Kelly. Indeed, protecting habitat for charismatic megafauna can help a plethora of other animals within the same ecosystem.

Never a “Dhole” Moment Meanwhile, back at the off-exhibit area where the dholes live, the team led by Safari Park Veterinarian Russell Burns, D.V.M., discussed who would do what and in what order. Once organized, we all entered the pen, and puppies scattered. A white blanket was spread out and medical supply kits opened. The keepers skillfully rounded up each pup for its exam. The two males got a little shaved patch on their rump (one on

the right side, one on the left), and the two females each got a shaved patch on their shoulder (one on the right side, one on the left) so that keepers can tell them apart at a distance. The team calmly worked together under hot, fly-buzzing, fur-flying conditions, examining each puppy. In the pen next door, the adult dholes were keeping a close eye on things, with one nervously dipping himself in the water vat to calm his anxiety. Dholes tend to internalize stress, so keepers go to great lengths to keep their environment calm, but today, there was no way around the stress. “Our biggest concern is overheating,” said Kaaren Burke, a senior keeper. “That’s why we caught ‘the runner’ first so he wouldn’t get too stressed out.” Once the pup’s exam was completed, they let him go in the pen with the adults. The whole process went smoothly, and all the pups appeared healthy and thriving. “Next time [in four weeks] will be more challenging, as the pups will be bigger and faster,” she added. With all the challenges surrounding keeping the sensitive dhole, there are only two other organizations in the US that have them: The Wilds in Ohio and the Minnesota Zoo. “We have been working with dholes for over 10 years,” said Kelly. “We are happy to have our pack up to 17 individuals.” Indeed, the dynamics of dholes are something to behold! n

what’s in store

c stumed

s e r u t a e Cr

Plush Parrot Costume $39.95

Plush Panda Costume $39.95

Tiger Mask (set of 5 animal masks) $11.95

Visit our shops at the Zoo and Safari Park to purchase these featured items. Items and prices may vary based on availability. Available in select stores.




Looking Back and Looking Ahead By Mary Sekulovich SENIOR EDITOR, DEVELOPMENT DEPARTMENT


ention Kicks for Critters to longtime San Diego Chargers fans, and they’ll remember 1980s placekicker Rolf Benirschke, who conducted a wildly successful campaign with the San Diego Zoo. To support wildlife conservation, he pledged $50 for every field goal he kicked during a game and challenged San Diegans to pledge at least $1 for every field goal he executed. By 1987, Rolf and thousands of football fans had helped raise more than $1 million to help endangered species!

SAN DIEGO ZOO GLOBAL OFFICERS Richard B. Gulley, Chairman William H. May, Vice Chairman Sandra A. Brue, Secretary Robert B. Horsman, Treasurer BOARD OF TRUSTEES M. Javade Chaudhri Berit N. Durler Clifford W. Hague Nan C. Katona Patricia L. Roscoe Steven G. Tappan Judith A. Wheatley David S. Woodruff, Ph.D., D.Sc. TRUSTEES EMERITI Frank C. Alexander Kurt Benirschke, M.D. Weldon Donaldson Thompson Fetter Bill L. Fox Frederick A. Frye, M.D. George L. Gildred Yvonne W. Larsen John M. Thornton Albert Eugene Trepte Betty Jo F. Williams William E. Beamer,General Counsel Douglas G. Myers,President/CEO Charles L. Bieler, Executive Director Emeritus

Rolf’s Kicks for Critters campaign led to Cans for Critters in 1988, another “wildly” successful program that ran for 25 years and raised more than $1 million! PHOTO BY RON GARRISON, SDZG

This unusual partnership was a personal crusade for Rolf to help save endangered wildlife. In 1975, his father, Kurt Benirschke, M.D., had created the San Diego Zoo’s research department, known then as the Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species (CRES). Today it is known as the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research and is the world’s largest zoo-based, multidisciplinary

The Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global OFFICERS John E. Gartman, Chair Murray H. Hutchison, Vice Chair Margie Warner, Secretary Maryanne C. Pfister, Treasurer Mark A. Stuart, President Richard B. Gulley, Ex officio Douglas G. Myers, Ex officio BOARD OF DIRECTORS Christine L. Andrews Richard A. Baldwin Joye D. Blount Rick Bregman Lisa S. Casey Douglas Dawson Berit N. Durler, Ex officio U. Bertram Ellis, Jr. Arthur E. Engel Fran Golden Craig L. Grosvenor Judith C. Harris Richard M. Hills Craig A. Irving Susan B. Major Susan N. McClellan Michael D. McKinnon George A. Ramirez Joyce Summers Thomas Tull

conservation science team. Our staff works on over 125 global projects in 35 countries on 6 continents. Since Kicks for Critters began more than 30 years ago, it’s not surprising that this fund-raising campaign has seen a few changes along the way. When Rolf retired from professional football, Kicks for Critters became the popular annual event Celebration for the Critters, which was held at the Zoo each fall. Today, that event is known as the San Diego Zoo Food & Wine Celebration, still held in the fall and still very popular. An offshoot of Rolf’s campaign was Cans for Critters, which involved schoolchildren and encouraged them to recycle bottles and cans for wildlife. Since its first event at a school in Del Mar in March 1988— when one of our elephants made an appearance to help students crush cans!—the Cans for Critters program has gone through many changes. We eventually took it to a national level so children from all over the country could participate. It was a great way for kids, schools, youth groups, and companies to help protect wildlife around the world while they reduced, reused, and recycled at home. In the 2013 program, which concluded this summer, our Cans for Critters participants raised more than $14,000. Generous support from the Coca-Cola Foundation brought the total to $39,182.51 for wildlife conservation. The participants have helped conservation efforts for elephants, cheetahs, giant pandas, California condors, golden frogs, and many more species. Since the 1980s, this program has raised more than $1 million! And, as always, all proceeds benefit San Diego Zoo Global’s wildlife conservation programs. Now, this wonderful program moves to a new level. Through the Wildlife Conservancy, which comprises San Diego Zoo Global’s worldwide conservation efforts, we are excited to offer a new challenge: I

Where there’s a WILL there’s a WAY. To request a complimentary brochure about including the Zoological Society of San Diego in your will or trust, please call 619-744-3352 or tap here to visit

______ for Wildlife. In this new adventure, participants, called Wildlife Champions, have unlimited possibilities to help wildlife. All you need to get started is your imagination—just fill in the blank! It’s simple: decide on a favorite activity, create a fund-raising campaign (with our help), and then ask your family, friends, and co-workers to support you. Some of our Wildlife Champions have held a bake sale for wildlife, blogged for wildlife, gone skydiving for wildlife, recycled for wildlife—just like Cans for Critters!—and even run 50 miles through the Arizona backcountry for wildlife. This is an exciting opportunity to turn your conservation passion into action! Our team appreciates all the contributions over the years to help save wildlife. Whether it was Kicks for Critters, Celebration for the Critters, or Cans for Critters, what matters most is that thousands of people have cared about endangered species. And now we have new Wildlife Champions, determined to end wildlife extinction. Go, team!

from the archives

Camels on Film Not many people could say they had acted in both a Hollywood silent film and a “talkie”—let alone a camel! But some of the San Diego Zoo’s camels had that claim to fame. They took part as “extras” in the 1926 silent film Beau Geste and also in the 1939 motion picture remake that starred Gary Cooper. Since much of the film’s story took place in North Africa, the producers wanted camels to lend an air of authenticity to their set. Naturally, they turned to the Zoo. Our founder, Dr. Harry Wegeforth, and then executive director, Mrs. Belle Benchley, were willing to help—especially since the camels earned an actor’s fee, a sum that “at that time

seemed like a fortune,” wrote Belle. Luckily, the camels and their keepers didn’t have far to go, since the film set, for both the original and the remake, was built in the desert near Yuma, Arizona. The producers felt the area had the right ambience and proper sand dunes. For the 1939 production, Belle even got to be a guest on the set one day, along with her sister and one of the Zoo’s head keepers. They drove out to Yuma with special location passes in hand. As Belle wrote in ZOONOOZ, “Arrival at the fort was most exciting to me and to see all of the principles, including Egypt and Fatima [the dromedary camels] in costume, was almost as thrilling as it was to have Gary Cooper peer around the corner to see who had arrived and was being greeted so cordially by all of the directors and assistants.” Although many other camels were later brought in for the production, Belle and the Zoo staff were “particularly elated” about the good reports they received about their star camels (waiting for their scene in the photo above, taken on the set in 1939) and pleased that they would have a “good long run” in their brush with Hollywood fame.











The Zoological Society of San Diego was founded in October 1916 by Harry M. Wegeforth, M.D., as a private, nonprofit corporation. The Zoological Society of San Diego does business as San Diego Zoo Global. THE DIGITAL VERSION OF ZOONOOZ® is currently published bi-monthly and is available for the iPad and Kindle Fire. Publisher is San Diego Zoo Global, at 2920 Zoo Drive, San Diego, CA 92103, 619-231-1515. Copyright® 2013 San Diego Zoo Global. All rights reserved. “ZOONOOZ” Reg. U.S. Pat. Office. All column and program titles are trademarks of San Diego Zoo Global. Annual Memberships: Dual $114, new; $99, renewal. Single $94, new; $82, renewal. Each membership includes unlimited entrance to the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

SAN DIEGO ZOO HOURS October 1–6: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; October 7–31: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. SAN DIEGO ZOO SAFARI PARK HOURS October 1–31: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information about our animals and events, visit or call 619-231-1515.

ZOONOOZ October 2013  

Honey Badgers Do Care

ZOONOOZ October 2013  

Honey Badgers Do Care