Meet our new ambassadors

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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.

 

 

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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

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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

 

SSP

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The Wildlife Safari has the second most successful cheetah breeding program in world but we would not be able to do it without the help of the Species Survival Plan, or SSP. Many of the animals born at the park, including our 11-month old cheetah cubs, 4 month old giraffe calf, and 3 year old lions are the result of breeding specified from SSP.

So what is the Species Survival Plan and how does the Wildlife Safari participate?IMG_7460

The Species Survival Plan is a set of  nearly 500 different breeding plans for endangered or vulnerable species. It is run by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, or AZA. Wildlife Safari is one of 232 facilities accredited by the AZA. Most of the zoos and aquariums that take part in the Species Survival Plan are AZA facilities. SSP has groups of people who study the genetics of each species and determine the best matches. Theyrate breeding pairs on a scale of 1 to 6, with 1 being the best possible match and 6 advising against breeding because the individuals are too closely related. It is very important for zookeepers to follow these recommendations because we want to improve and keep the genetic diversity of a population in captivity. This diversity could also help wild populations in the future!

IMG_1031Visiting the Wildlife Safari helps make it possible for us to have successful breeding programs! Every dollar that you spend at the park goes right back into the park and helps pay for animal-related necessities like food and enrichment! We hope to see you soon!

What are Charismatic Megafauna?

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“Charismatic Megafauna” is a term straight out of a J.J. Abrams movie, describing some epic new robot. Charismatic Megafauna is a sort of model for conservation that came up in the ‘80s. The theory is that the general public will support conservation of animals they think are charismatic. Main examples are Elephants, Giraffes, Tigers, Rhinos, Zebra… the list goes on and on. Zoos will plaster images and facts of these animals all over their flyers, all over their websites, and even on their main entrance!

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One of our resident giraffes, Mate

It turns out that this system mostly works. The
zoos and safaris that have these animals as their flagship generally gain attendance and, in proportion, funds to support the conservation of these flagship animals and the other animals in the zoo.

So why is this not a perfect system? Studies say this model creates real, quantifiable bias against  less charasmatic animals. In many cases, a smaller less cute animal can be more important that the big, cute ones that the people love. San Diego Zoo Global representative Christina Simmons said in an email interview with Howstuffworks.com, “… the global extinction crisis has changed how we look at extinction.” She explains that the San Diego Zoo’s model focuses on saving species critical to their environment. “We … work with species that we have the expertise and programs to support with the idea that if we can recover these species they can become agents in the recovery of their habitat.”

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Wildlife Safari’s hippos, “Blippo” and “Padron”

The Pacific pocket mouse and the Hawaiian crow the Alala are two examples of very important species that people have never heard of! In theory, the extinction of large charismatic animals like Rhinos or Pandas only effect themselves, however extinction of the Pocket mouse or the Alala will affect the entire ecosystem in addition to the species itself.

The facts above are harsh, but they are truth. However that doesn’t mean all zoos, aquariums, and safaris should stop using this model. Even the San Diego Zoo still uses this as advertising, showing Pandas, Polar Bears, and Leopards at the very top of their website. If everyone stopped using this model, it’s believed that actual attendance and tourism would drop, being detrimental to conservation as a whole.

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Wildlife Safari supports a wide variety of animals, but our big export is the cheetah. Cheetahs are an example of charismatic megafauna, but because of the advertising, tourism, and inherent amazement and cuteness of the cheetah, we have been able to breed two hundred and fourteen cubs in our facility alone. Along with our flagship Cheetah, Safari contributes funds, time, and research to the International Elephant Foundation and the Tiger Conservation Campaign.

Safari is a great example of what a zoo should be today. In addition to being the top Cheetah breeding facility in North America, Wildlife Safari supports more than 15 other species by participating in AZA sponsored SSP’s (Species Survival Plan). By participating in these SSPs, we help conserve animals that aren’t as charismatic as our cheetahs or tigers, like the waterbuck or the white-bearded gnu. Attending AZA institutions will always support the fight against extinction, so thank you!

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George enjoying the elephant’s water hole exhibit

 

The Importance of Research in Zoos

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When people think of research in zoos, they think of what zoos do for populations out in the wild. They do not think that reseIMG_E9091arch on the animals inside the zoos are just as important. However, they allow improvement of animal welfare for captive populations, findings can be used elsewhere, and the research that is conducted can be used as a teaching moment.

The research that is conducted can range from yard usage to behavioral studies. For instance, an animal can be relocated from one enclosure to a new one that is thought to be more suitable. A study over yard usage can show statistically which aspects of the yard are used more often than others. Those aspects that seem to be more favorable can then be supplied more often or at a greater quantity. Behavioral studies can be used in instances of introduction of a new member to the group.

These findings don’t have to stop at the observed population, they can be sent off to other departments, zoos, or even wild populations. Zoos are always striving to make their captive populations as comfortable and true to their species as possible. If one zoo finds something that agrees with their population they will often share it with others to better the whole. Especially with behavioral studies, the information can be used for wild populations in order for them to be able to flourish. For example, being able to understand the language between elephants is helping the fight against poachers due to the conversation elephants have amongst each other.

 

Welcome to Safari, Sally!

Behind the Scenes, Community, Creature Feature, Uncategorized, Ungulates

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On March 4, 2018, Wildlife Safari’s group of giraffes had a new addition – baby Sally was born! At birth, Sally was 5’10” tall and weighed approximately 147 pounds. Sally is the second giraffe born at Wildlife Safari and her parents are safari resident giraffes Erin and Mate.

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Sally’s mother, Erin, is a first time mom and is doing an amazing job raising Sally. Baby giraffes learn how to use their tongues from their mothers, and luckily Erin is an expert at using her 15 inch long tongue. Sally is quickly learning from her! Wildlife Safari Ungulate keepers hang up different types of enrichment to encourage Sally to start practicing using her tongue. Some of Sally’s current favorite enrichment items are boomer balls, Madrone tree branches, and even a metal kitchen spoon! As seen in the above picture, Sally likes to take short naps throughout the day while laying down on a hay bed that keepers set up for her. Typically, adult giraffes only sleep around 4 hours a day in the form of short naps and stand up while they sleep, but it’s normal for baby giraffes to sleep more as well as sleep laying down.

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On average, female giraffes are pregnant for around 15 months. Since our keepers knew Erin was pregnant, they were able to keep a close watch on a video feed from cameras set up in our giraffe barn. They were also able to watch the birth live! Giraffes give birth while they are standing up so their baby drops about six feet down to the ground. While this may seem like a big drop to us, it helps break the umbilical cord and gets the baby to start breathing. Within a few hours of being born Sally was up and walking around, and within the first 24 hours she was able to run. Baby giraffes nurse from mom for about 12 months even though when they are a few weeks old they are able to start eating leaves as well.

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Recently, Sally was able to explore our outside yard for the first time. While the outdoors was a little overwhelming for Sally at first, luckily she had her mom with her as well as some fun enrichment toys to make her feel more comfortable. Sally was also recently introduced to one of our other three giraffes, Miya. The introduction went amazing – Miya is the mother the first giraffe calf born at the park- Kelley. Miya is used to babies running around and was very gentle with Sally.  Once the weather starts improving as we go into summer, Sally will be able to be introduced to our other giraffes and eventually go out into the drive-through. Next time you come visit Wildlife Safari look for Sally as she continues to grow and explore!

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The Fastest Land Mammal on Earth

Cheetahs, Creature Feature, Uncategorized

If there is one thing almost anyone could tell you about a cheetah is that they are fast; the fastest land mammal on the planet in fact. Reaching top speeds of 70 mph, cheetah’s can go from 0-60 mph in less than 3 seconds. That is faster than almost any sports car on the market! Running speed is made up of two things: stride length and number of strides taken. A cheetah’s stride length is between 20-25 feet. This makes them airborne for a distance more than 5 times their length. Their feet spend more time in the air when running than on the ground. At top speed they can have up to 4 strides per seconds. But what is it exactly that make cheetahs so fast?

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The short answer is that their entire bodies are literally build for speed, from head to tail. Their long and slender build is aerodynamically purposeful, constructed to cut through wind with minimum resistance. This, along with a lightweight frame, allows for their impressive acceleration. A cheetah’s head is the smallest size relative to their bodies of any cat. This not only contributes to the aerodynamic design, but also allows them to keep their head completely still while running at full speed. The black markings found under their eyes are called “tear marks” and serve like the black paint under an athlete’s eye. This helps to reflect the sunlight out of their eyes while hunting at dawn and dusk. These markings also act like the sight on a riffle, allowing the cheetah to “aim” and further focus on its prey while hunting. In addition to these tear marks, cheetahs also have what is known as binocular vision. This useful feature enables them to see up to 3 miles away, allowing for the ability to spot and stalk prey from great distances.

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Another similarity to athletes are their semi-retractable claws, which act like cleats to dig into the ground while running. Cheetahs also have fused ankle bones which function like braces, along with extended Achilles tendons for better shock absorption. The tail of a cheetah is long and flat which acts like the rudder on a boat to help steer and balance while at full speeds.

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Although slender, cheetahs have a large chest cavity with sizable lungs and heart to pump air and blood to muscles while running at full force. Their shoulder blades are reduced and free floating which act like tiny axles for sharp, tight turns, even in mid air. This, along with pivoting hips, allows the legs to stretch farther apart when fully extended and closer together when the feet come back under the body, increasing their stride length.

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Many similarities can be drawn between the cheetah and another notoriously fast human companion; the grey hound. However, one key difference between the two is where the power source of their speed comes from. In grey hounds their power comes from where most people would guess: their hind legs. In cheetahs, the main power source for their speed comes from their spine. A cheetah’s spine is proportionally the longest and most flexible of any large cat. When running, the spine flexes and stretches like a coiled spring, which increases stride length. This long flexible spine carries about 60% of the cat’s muscle mass. As a result, the cheetah can out run a grey hound at full speed by 25-30 mph. However, a cheetah can only hold these high speeds for very short sprints of only 30 seconds or up to about 500 meters. So, in a long distance race the grey hound would have the edge. Another fascinating comparison is a cheetah vs. a human. The fastest man in the world is Usain Bolt who holds the 100m world record at 9.58 seconds. At top speeds a cheetah could cover a similar distance of an entire football field in just over 3 seconds. Although cheetahs have the ability to reach these incredible speeds, they only have use for it while hunting. Here at Wildlife Safari our cheetahs don’t have to hunt for their food, so most days you will find them perfectly content being at rest!

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Sounds of Safari

Uncategorized

With around 100 animal species at Wildlife Safari, you are sure to encounter some unique sights and sounds when you visit! From elephants and big cats to primates and birds of all sizes, each of our animals has their own ways of communicating that may seem strange at first. Here’s a list to help you identify some of the more surprising sounds you might hear while exploring the Safari!

Cheetah: Chirp – Khayam, one of Wildlife Safari’s ambassador cheetahs

cheetah chirp

One sound you may hear in our Cheetah Drive-Through is a loud, bird-like chirp. Do not be fooled though – it may actually be a cheetah! Cheetahs have over 30 different vocalizations, including chirps, stutters, growls, meows, yowls, hisses, purrs, and more. Their loud chirp can be heard from a mile away and is often used as a call between family members; such as a mother and her cubs. If a mother cheetah is trying to locate her cubs in the tall grasses of the African savannah it is useful for them to sound like birds so they are disguised from any nearby predators looking for a snack!

Elephant: Rumble – George, one of our African elephants

Elephant rumble

Aside from the noisy trumpet blasts, roars, and snorts elephants are known for, low-frequency vocalizations like rumbles actually make up a pretty large part of elephants’ communication. Rumbles can have many different meanings and uses such as greeting, bonding, threatening, soliciting a mate, soothing, or coordinating group movement. These sounds may be a bit more difficult to detect though, since many elephant rumbles are too low for us to hear! Elephants often use infrasound (sound with frequencies below 20 Hz; the lower limit of human hearing) because it travels well through dense underbrush and across long distances.

Lion: Caroling – Upepo, one of our two and a half year old lions

lion caroling

Some of the loudest animals at Wildlife Safari are the lions. Lions have the loudest roar of any big cat and can be heard from 5 miles away! In the mornings and evenings we often hear our lions ‘caroling,’ which is when they all roar together as a group. It is similar to a roll call, with one lion starting and all the others eventually joining in. Lions can identify each other’s voices within their chorus.  This makes it a good way for the pride to communicate and figure out where everyone is.

Maned Wolf: Roar-Bark – Sabara, our female maned wolf 

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Native to South America, maned wolves are not actually wolves at all, and are not closely related to any other canid species. One of their most unique features is a vocalization known as the ‘roar-bark.’ It sounds nothing like the howls you may hear from a wolf, coyote, or your own pet dog, and instead sounds, as you may expect: a cross between a roar and a bark! A maned wolf’s roar-bark is loud and clear and can carry over long distances, and is most likely used for marking their territory.

Red Ruffed Lemur: Mob Roar – Leland, one of our red ruffed lemurs enjoying a delicious watermelon

mob roar

One sound that might surprise you is the ‘mob roar’ from our red ruffed lemurs! Ruffed lemurs have a wide range of unique vocalizations such as the roar/shriek, mob roar, pulsed squawk, wail, bray, quack, growl, growl-snort, chatter, whine, grunt, huff, mew, cough, grumble, squeak, and squeal, and each has a distinct meaning. The mob roar usually consists of a repeated low roar with occasional high chatters, and is used for group coordination and spacing. Even though these lemurs aren’t very big, they definitely make a huge noise!

Sumatran Tiger: Chuff – Riya, one of our beautiful Sumatran tigers

Tiger Chuff

Tigers are part of the big cat family, which means they can roar like a lion, but one of the quietest sounds they can make is a chuff. This sound is usually a friendly way for tigers to say hello, and our tiger sisters Riya and Kemala often chuff to each other in greeting. They make this noise by keeping their mouth closed while exhaling through their nose. It’s not very loud, but you might hear it if you are lucky!

White-cheeked Gibbon: Duet – Benny (blonde) and Mel (black with white cheeks), our white cheeked gibbon pair

White cheeked gibbon duet

The white-cheeked gibbon duet is one of the most complex calls you will hear at the park, if you visit early enough in the morning to hear it! Gibbon pairs, like our own Benny and Mel, sing this complicated duet every morning to establish their territory and let other pairs know where they are. The duet is made up of two parts: rising notes sung by the female that start slow but increase in speed, followed by a series of modulating and staccato notes sung by the male. Young white-cheeked gibbons typically learn the duet from their parents by copying the female’s song until they reach maturity, at which point males will switch to the male’s part of the duet.

Now that you are familiar with some of the unique sounds of the animals at Wildlife Safari, see how many you can hear the next time you visit!