Birthday Parties and Easter Fun

Ambassador Days, Carnivores, Cheetahs, Community

This week was a fun and eventful weekend for the carnivores here at the park. On Friday, our two tiger girls, Riya and Kemala turned 7! We celebrated with the girls by giving them one of their favorite summer treats, blood popsicles. They even got some fun birthday decorations with some of their favorite meat snacks hidden inside.

On Saturday, our two ambassador cheetahs, Khayam and Mchumba celebrated their 7th birthday with tons of guests and their keepers. Our wonderful docents provided a cat friendly birthday cake (which they loved) and tons of fun paper mâché (all safe for the animals) and birthday decorations to play with. We shared the love with some of the other cheetahs, including KJ and Rhino.

On Sunday, we celebrated Easter with all our animals by providing Easter baskets, made by our docents, and giants Easter eggs filled with snacks. Check out some pictures of our animals enjoying their enrichment! And a special thank you to all our wonderful volunteers who created all these specials treats and enrichment.

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Meet our new ambassadors

Uncategorized

Meet our newest ambassador duo. Khayam jr. is our cheetah cub, and his partner Rhino is our friendly new pup. Khayam Jr. was born at the San Diego Safari Park on November 29th. His mom had shown that she was an unsuccessful mother, so keepers stepped in to raise them. Two of them, a male and female, remain at San Diego and are also being raised to be ambassadors at their park. KJ was given to Wildlife Safari to be our new ambassador.

 

 

We currently have two ambassador cheetahs, Khayam and Mchumba but they are starting to get close to the age of retirement so we decided to get a new recruit.  Often times, when cheetahs are raised alone, keepers will decide to pair the cheetah with a companion dog. Guests often ask, why dogs? Depending on the breed, dogs often have the same life expectancy and are a similar size of their cheetah companion. Another reason is to help calm the cheetah. Cheetahs are a very high stress animal and can get very nervous, while dogs typically are the opposite. When entering new environments, or meeting new people, the cheetah will see their dog companion being relaxed and start to relax themselves. Lastly it gives them a sibling to play with and grow up with. The dog and cheetah will live together throughout their lives. OHF1n0sQRzCayX4OkxC16Q

Wildlife Safari decided to switch things up when it came to picking the right dog for the job. Instead of going to a breeder, we went to our local shelter. Saving Grace helped us contact shelters all over the state, to help us find the perfect match. Rhino and his brother Gator were found and were a great match. Wildlife Safari kept both dogs in their care, until the cheetah cub was fully vaccinated. Keepers put both dogs in with Khayam jr to see which dog’s personality would mesh the best. Rhino was the winner but don’t worry, Gator was adopted by the cheetah/carnivore supervisor and is in great hands.

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KJ and Rhino are already the best of friends and spend all their time together. They love to wrestle and chase each other around. Khayam Jr. (KJ) is very independent while Rhino is very social and loves to hang out and snuggle with his keepers. They balance each other out very well. They even started going on outreaches together. They are working at getting used to people other than their keepers and new environments.  As ambassadors, they have an important job. They are here to teach the public about the importance of cheetahs and all about their wild counterparts. By having a cheetah come to a school event or a conference, the general public is able to experience something they normally wouldn’t. They get an up close encounter with an animal they will never forget. People want to help animals they love and care about, and the best way to do that is to meet one up close. KJ and Rhino will play a vital role in this mission. Once the weather warms up, the two will be on display at the cheetah spot in the always free village! Until then, you can meet the two on our daily encounter where you get a behind the scenes look at our vet clinic and see these two up close.

 

 

Meet Dumai

Carnivores, Creature Feature

Say hello to Wildlife Safari’s newest Sumatran Tiger, Dumai. Dumai came to us in January from Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma, Washington. He was born and raised at PDZ and stole many hearts there over the last six years. Dumai is such a great new addition to our team and we are very excited to have him.  He is such a loveable guy and very easy going.

He was brought to us as part of the Species Survival Plan (also known as the SSP). He was recommended as a mate for our two female Sumatran tigers, Riya and Kemala. What is the SSP? It is basically like match.com for endangered or vulnerable species. This programs has each individual’s genetics on file and pairs them with a match that will produce the most unique genetics. This prevents any in breeding or one male or female from producing all the offspring. This is helping save wild populations. The Sumatran tiger is one of the most endangered living species of tigers. They only live on the island of Sumatra and are facing many challenges. One of these challenges is small population size, in turn leading to in breeding. This leads to many other health concerns. Zoos can help save this species by having a backup genetic pool. By making sure our population is healthy and diverse, the goal is we can possibly AI females in the wild with our genetics in order to prevent more inbreeding from happening, which will help keep the wild population healthy. Come see Dumai and our two females in the cheetah drive through.

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Snow Zone!

Carnivores, Cheetahs, Elephants, Ungulates


This past week, Wildlife Safari was transformed into a winter wonderland when the park experienced the most snow in recent history. Although the park had to close for the time, the animals sure had fun experiencing some snow and enjoying extra browse from fallen trees. Animals that are more sensitive to cold temperatures were not left out for the full day, only in short segments in order for keepers to clean inside holdings and for them to enjoy the snow. All animals in the park have access to heat lamps and covered shelter if needed. Even our smallest cheetah and dog duo got to pop outside for a few minutes to experience their first snowfall! The park is working hard to clear snow and any debris and getting ready to reopen the park!


Are zebras white with black stripes, or black with white stripes?

Creature Feature, Ungulates

Among the Herd

As you enter the park, you are immersed into the world of North Africa where you are sure to encounter Eland, Watusi, an Ostrich, Hippos and Zebra. As you come to the first peak of your drive, looking to your left off in the distance, you will commonly see a picturesque view of the white and black striped stature of the Zebra watching the world go by or grazing on the grassy hills. While the zebra may seem a little shy to park goers, they are in fact social animals when it comes to their own kind. Our herd is made up of both males and females who are likely to be seen within close range of one another. A behavior common among many herd animals. To an untrained eye it is difficult to differentiate an individual among the herd. However, the zebra’s stripe patterns are unique to specific individuals, much like that of our own fingerprints. This allows us as keepers to identify each of the herd members. For the zebras, the stripes serve as an evolutionary protection mechanism. When clumped into a herd it becomes difficult for their predators to target a specific zebra and therefore increasing the likelihood of survival.

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The great debate

Are zebras black with white stripes or white with black stripes? Upon close inspection, it is most likely the latter. This determination comes from the fact that the black striping typically comes to an end along the back of their legs and their underbellies, which are solid white.

Another striking feature of the zebra is the tall stiff mane that runs from the top of the head and along the back of their neck. A layer of fat beneath the mane is what allows the hair to stand straight and stiff. It is thought that the mane serves as an added protective layer for the neck.

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The Species

Zebras are classified as equids which also includes the horse and donkey. Not all zebras are genetically the same and within the species there are 3 subspecies. These include the Grévy’s zebra, the mountain zebra, and the plains zebra also known as the common zebra. The Zebra who wonder among the safari’s hills are of the Plains subspecies.

Like other species of the equis family, zebra use vocalizations to communicate with one another. Some of these sounds include snorting, braying, nickering and barking or yipping, the last being unique to the zebra. The barking or yipping is thought to be used to find or call out to one another, while the nickering is commonly a greeting reserved for familiar individuals. Some sounds can have multiple meanings and in order to determine these meanings one must also consider the body language being presented with the sound. Important body language to watch for includes ear position, head angle and how wide their eyes are.

 

Conservation

The Plains zebra population is on the decline and they are classified as near threatened according to the IUCN Red list. This list indicates the endangerment status of all species. Some of the major threats to the zebra come in the form of habitat loss, competition with agricultural livestock, and poaching. As the human population continues to expand, so does our land use, causing us to continually encroach on the zebra’s habitat. The beauty of the iconic striped coat also threatens the species because it unfortunately makes them a target for poachers who will then profit from the sale of the well-known hide.

We continually strive to encourage conservation efforts being made for a vast array of species. We do so by bringing awareness to the threats and challenges that affect the beautiful and majestic creatures that we share this earth with.

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Update on little Corey

Cheetahs, Community, Uncategorized

Some of you may be familiar with little Corey’s story. For those that don’t know, Corey is one of our 15 cheetahs here at Wildlife Safari and was part of our most recent cheetah  litter that were born in August of 2017. Corey currently lives with his two brothers, Rowdy and Zig-Zag and his sister, Amani.

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Corey, in front, hanging with his siblings.

Corey had a rough start at life.  From the start he was the runt of the group. At about 5 months, he began showing symptoms of some spinal and neurological problems. Keepers noticed he had a slight head tilt, and was having some coordination problems. He was having trouble walking straight, was turning in circles and seemed to be having trouble seeing. Wildlife Safari’s vet staff did a full physical on the cheetah, doing blood work and x-rays. The x-rays revealed that Corey had a fractured spine. Everyone was shocked at how well he was doing for having a broken back.corey 07-16-181

 

He was placed on some medications and keepers monitored him daily, looking for any changes, big or small, in him. Keepers and vet staff wanted to get a more in depth look at Corey’s head and spine so in June of 2018, Corey underwent an MRI, thanks to the generous help from Mercy Medical in Roseburg. Thanks to the MRI, we were able to find that Corey also had brain lesions, but they had calcified. This meant they were no longer growing, meaning he probably wouldn’t get any worse, but was not going to be a “normal” cheetah like his siblings. Keepers started using a cold laser on his neck and back twice a week to try and promote the healing process.

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Corey has surprised us all, and has continued to improve despite his hardships.  His head tilt disappeared, he has significantly reduced his circling and is often walking and running straight! His vision has also seemed to return to normal and he currently does not require any medication.  He still is a “tiny” cheetah, about half the size as his siblings, weighing 53 pounds, but he is energetic and playful. His big personality makes up for his little size.  Keepers and interns have even started to train him.

 

Cougar Conservation

Uncategorized

Here at the Wildlife Safari we devote a lot of time and effort to promote conservation all around the world. From the tigers of Sumatra and the Asiatic cheetahs of Iran there are small pockets of animals all over the world in need of conservational help. Far too often we think of conservation as something that people are doing in far off exotic lands but in reality it’s closer than you think. In the tip of Florida’s peninsula there is a population of cougars once thought to be genetically distinct from their mountainous counter parts. Cougars, pumas, mountain lions and the Florida panther are all different names for essentially the same animal.  In the past, we thought that there were many different subspecies of cougar but recently, through genetic research, we found out that they are all genetically the same. The Florida panther is losing its habitat at a staggering rate; they now occupy around 5% of their historical range and male cougars can protect a territory of up to 200 square miles!  Much like the Sumatran tiger, they are facing many issues associated with a dwindling habitat. Due to its small habitat range there has been a lot of inbreeding which has resulted in many of the issue associated with it. The inbreeding has caused many of the cougars to have notched ears and kinked tails. These physical traits are nothing compared to the issues that are not visable. The Florida cougar is extremely susceptible to diseases because of their lack of genetic diversity; their cubs also have many birth defects that reduce their chance of reaching maturity. Habitat loss, inbreeding and negative human interactions have reduced the cougar’s population to around 200 in Florida. Hope is not all lost however; there are a few groups of people working to help conserve the Florida panther.  One such organization is the Nature Conservancy. They are working with local governments to add legislation that increases the protected lands of the Florida panther. Their efforts have allowed the Florida panther to roam freely in their natural habitat without human interaction. In fact, they recently spotted a mother and her cubs crossing the Caloosahatchee River, a place that has not seen cougars in 40 years!  With the continued efforts of the Nature Conservancy and other similar groups, there is a strong chance that we can provide the Florida panther with enough habitat to bounce back from the troubles caused by inbreeding. Some scientists have even taken a more hands on approach to correcting the genetic issues caused by inbreeding. The Florida Fish and Wildlife arranged for 8 female cougars to be transplanted from Texas to Florida. While this is an extreme measure and should only be repeated if absolutely needed it did produce some fantastic results. They found that the cubs from these mothers were 3 times more likely to survive when compared to 118 cubs that were monitored in the same time period. However controversial, this type of transplanting can greatly increase genetic diversity should we fail to increase their habitat range. Regardless of the method of conservation the future is looking brighter for the Florida panther already, its numbers have increased from 30 to around 200 since the 1980’s. Conservation is something we all should be mindful of in our daily lives and it really does happen closer than you think. Take time to research species in your area that are in need and see if it’s feasible to help by donating to trusted organizations like the Nature Conservancy. Together we can all work towards a brighter future of endangered species all over the world. If you are ever in Winston Oregon come visit the Wildlife Safari Park village and see our resident cougars Tasha and Johnny.

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Know Your Spots

Carnivores, Uncategorized

Whenever I am at a zoo I always hear kids and adults alike call animals by the wrong name. The most common mistake I hear is whenever they see a cheetah, leopard, or jaguar, people assume it is a cheetah. The hardest ones to tell apart are the leopard and jaguar because they have very similar spots and body build. Though in the wild it is easier because they live on different continents. These cats have many features and behaviors that differentiate them from each other, although, in the case of the cheetah and leopard, they live in the same place. In this post I have listed out key differences between these three beautiful big cats so you can educate those around you while visiting your favorite zoo.

 

Cheetah

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  • Body: lean and lanky
  • Weight: 80-100 lbs
  • Speed: 70 mph
  • Hunt during the day and solitary
  • Life span: 8-10 years (in the wild)
  • Largest cat that purrs; can’s roar
  • Lives in Africa
  • Circular spots

Leopards

  • Body: more stalky than cheetah; less than jaguar
  • Weight: 66-176 lbs
  • Speed: 36 mph
  • Hunt at night and solitary
  • Life span: 12-17 years (in wild)
  • Roars; can’t purr
  • Lives in Africa
  •  Rosette spots

 

Jaguars

  • Most stalky of the 3
  • Good swimmer/enjoys the water
  • Life span: 12-15yeas (in wild)
  • Lives in South America; solitary
  • Weight: 100-250 lbs
  • Rosette spots with spots in them

 

Is it a brown bear or it is a grizzly?

Carnivores

To really answer this question, let’s start by looking back at some brown bear taxonomy (the branch of science concerned with classification, especially of organisms) history, shall we?

Bear taxonomy went through many revisions before scientists recached the conclusion of Ursus arctos.In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, taxonomists frequently lumped and split brown/grizzly bears into many different species and subspecies. In 1918 the separation peaked with the publication of C. Hart Merriam’s “Review of the Grizzly and Big Brown Bears of North America.” Merriam proposed around 80 species and subspecies of North American brown bears existed. Merriam’s nuanced classifications of brown and grizzly bears were based on differences in skull morphology and dentition, which he examined in painstaking detail. Merriam classified on southeast Alaska’s Admiralty Island alone, there was 5 distinct subspecies and in the Katmai region, 2 distinct subspecies as well as other living in the Cook Inlet area and on the Kenai Peninsula. But most of the species or subspecies described by Merriam were later regarded as local variations or individual variants. As of the mid 1980’s as many as 9 extant or extinct subspecies of U.arctoswere recognized in North America.

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Russell, our resident Alaskan Coastal Brown Bear!

Which brings us to the age old saying “All grizzly bears are brown bears but not all brown bears are grizzlies”. Now even with all the research done by Merriam this saying still has some backing to it. Now a days there are only 3 main subspecies of brown bears recognized by most of the scientific community, Kodiak brown bears, Alaskan Coastal brown bears and Grizzly brown bears. These bears are very similar but still have their differences to classify them as different subspecies. The 2 big determining differences are size and location. Each of the subspecies are geographically and genetically isolated from the other subspecies of brown bear.

Kodiak brown bears (Ursus arctos middendorffi) which main populations are only found on Kodiak Island in Alaska are the largest of the brown bear subspecies. Now these bears are not genetically different enough to be classified as their own species but are distinct enough that they can be classified as their own subspecies because they been isolated from mainland bears for over 12,000 years. Now these bears can get up to 1,500lbs and stand up to 10ft tall. Kodiak brown bears can get this big because they live on islands and they have access to a marine-driven food resource all year round with their favorite being salmon!IMG_9376

The next subspecies, very similar to Kodiak brown bears, are the Alaskan Coastal Brown Bears (Ursus arctos gyas). These bears are known as the ABC island bears  because their populations are only found on Admiralty, Baranof, and Chichagof island in southeast Alaska. Alaskan Coastal brown bears can reach large sizes as well, they can reach up to 1,200lbs and stand around 8 ½ to 9ft tall. Just like the Kodiak brown bears, Alaskan Coastal brown bears can reach this size because of their access to marine-driven food resources all year round with their favorite being salmon too! Alaskan Coastal brown bears are unique because they are the most genetically different compared to all other brown bears. Alaskan Coastal brown bears actually share more genetic information with polar bears than other brown bears. This could be due to interbreeding with a small isolated number of polar bears during the last ice age. As more recently, scientists have found more Alaskan Coastal brown bears with polar bear DNA in the northern parts of Alaska suggesting that there has been more interbreeding recently and possibility creating a new bear species, currently known as a “Prizzie”!

The final subspecies is the most common of the three and the reason for the main question of this post, Grizzly brown bears (Ursus arctos horribillis). Grizzlies are considered the smallest of the 3 brown bears subspecies. On average, grizzly brown bears only reach up to 900lbs and 7ft tall. Grizzly brown bears are much smaller because they are inland bears with there main populations found in southwestern Canada and the lower 48 states, they do not have easy access to a marine-driven, high calorie food resource. So Grizzly brownbears must work a little harder for their food, so they don’t build up as much fat as compared to the other 2 subspecies of brown bear. Grizzly brown bears are also known for that distinct hump on their backs. That hump is pure muscles from their shoulders as is usually used as a key morphological identifier for Grizzly brown bears. Grizzly brown bears are also found to be a bit more reactive to humans being around in the distance. This doesn’t not mean they are more aggressive than the other brown bear subspecies, but it is a behavior picked up because Grizzly brown bears are in more human populated areas compare to the other subspecies who live on mostly unpopulated islands. All three subspecies have about the same temperament.

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Now that you have the facts, what do you think? Is it a brown bear or is it a grizzly? Do you agree with the statement of “All grizzly bears are brown bears but not all brown bears are grizzlies?” or do you think more research needs to be done? Let us know by leaving a comment

What are Blackbuck?

Creature Feature, Ungulates

The blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra) is a small antelope species that is found in open woodlands and semi-desert areas of Pakistan and India. The species received their name due to the coloration of the mature males, which is primarily black with a white underbelly. This coloration varies greatly from immature males and females who are more reddish-yellow. Male blackbuck have twisted horns that form into a “V” shape.

Wildlife Safari is home to a large herd of blackbuck. The most distinguishable of the group is Ra, a 5-year-old male that stands out among the herd due to his darker coloration. As the male blackbuck at the park become mature and their horns grow, animal care staff put acrylic balls on the tip of each horn. This is to keep the blackbuck from harming others in their herd while sparring or playing as their horns are very pointy and sharp!

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Female blackbuck become mature at 15 to 16 months old. Their gestation lasts from 5 to 6 months and then they give birth to one calf that weighs around 8 to 9 pounds. All blackbuck are herbivores, meaning they eat only plants. They are ruminants, which means they have a specialized digestive system that allows them to obtain essential nutrients from the plants they consume.

When I began my internship at Wildlife Safari I met Dayami, a 5-year-old female blackbuck with a small yellow tag in her left ear. She stood out to me among the crowd due to her persistence in chasing my car down so she could get the most feed cup food from me. She sure does love her feed cup food! It is because of her feistiness that I fell in love with blackbuck.

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One of our female blackbuck “Dayami”

Come by soon and visit our blackbuck herd in the Asia section at Wildlife Safari!