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!

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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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Wildlife Safari’s Safe Haven for the Scimitar-horned Oryx

Community, Creature Feature, Uncategorized, Ungulates

While Wildlife Safari is one of the foremost cheetah breeding facilities in the world, our mission is focused on conservation for many different animals. In addition to our favorite big cats, the park is home to hundreds of animals, including the majestic Scimitar-horned Oryx! Currently Safari is home to three Oryx: Romeo, Juliet and Stubs! Originally, this species was found in abundant herds of over 10,000 individuals in the early nineteen hundreds. As a result of various environmental and anthropogenic factors, sadly the species recently endured a period of complete extinction in the wild. But with the help of conservation programs, new populations of Scimitar-horned Oryx are gradually being reintroduced.

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Pictured left to right, Romeo, Stubs, and Juliet enjoy resting in straw piles when they are not busy grazing.

While natively found within the Sahel region of Northern Africa, summers in Oregon share similar characteristics with this dry, arid grassland. Extreme heat and long periods of little rainfall are the very things a Scimitar-horned Oryx’s body is built for. The typical internal body temperature for any species of ungulates is around 101 degrees Fahrenheit, with 105 to 106 degrees rendering the animal’s brain dead. But the Scimitar-horned Oryx can withstand an internal body temperature of up to 116 degrees! A network of fine blood vessels carries blood from their heart to their brain but first makes a pass across their nasal passageway. This allows the blood to cool by up to five degrees before reaching the most heat sensitive organ in the body, the brain.
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An adorable Scimitar-horned Oryx poses for her closeup.

With a high tolerance to the heat, their bodies can conserve water by perspiring very little. Despite the drinkers and ponds found all throughout the park that allow our animals access to as much water as they please, the Scimitar-horned Oryx’s body is built to go months without it. Primarily stripping moisture from the plants they eat, the production of dry fecal pellets and highly concentrated urine helps their bodies to retain every possible drop.

The Scimitar-horned Oryx isn’t the only genus of Oryx found at Wildlife Safari. The park is also home to Gemsbok. Both native to Africa and roaming together within the park, the species are still easily distinguishable. The Scimitar Oryx, named for its scimitar-like horns, reach up to three to four feet in length and are slightly curved. Their primarily white pelage works to reflect the heat of the sun while the skin beneath their fur is black, aiding against sunburn. A Scimitar-horned oryx also bears a unique reddish-brown neck, while the Gemsbok is primarily tannish grey in color.
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While global efforts continue to help reintroduce the Scimitar-horned Oryx back into the wild, Wildlife Safari is proud to help aid in the care and conservation of such a unique species. Be sure to keep an eye out for Romeo, Juliet, and Stubs on your next adventure through the Safari!

Kelley’s first adventures!

Uncategorized, Ungulates

Wildlife Safari’s first baby giraffe, Kelley, has started adventuring further afield, taking his first trips into the main park! In the months since his birth, Kelley has stayed in the giraffe yard, staying close to the barn and getting used to people and the sight of cars.

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Baby Kelley explores his new surroundings – Photo courtesy of Erica Sherrow

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Kelley sticks close to Aunt Erin while he checks out his new surroundings – Photo courtesy of Erica Sherrow

It’s going to be a slow transition, just short trips out to start with, especially with cold weather meaning little Kelley will need to stick close to the barn (and the heaters!). Kelley’s keepers are very excited about this new step for the not-so-little guy.

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Kelley and Aunt Erin – Photo courtesy of Erica Sherrow

“Kelley has been such a joy for all his keepers and guests!” Shares Erica Sherrow, Lead Ungulate Keeper and one of the keepers that gets to spent time with Kelley. “It has been an amazing experience to watch him grow and for his mom, Miya, to be a great first time mom. We are excited to start bonding with Kelley through some training which he loves. He is his mother’s son and loves all things orange (carrots and yams)!”

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Kelley, Miya and Erin get a snack while on their morning outing – Photo courtesy of Erica Sherrow

As he gets used to it, Kelley will be able to spend longer periods of time playing in the main drive through – so keep an eye out for him!

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Healthy Happy Hippos

Behind the Scenes, Uncategorized, Ungulates

Meet Wildlife Safari’s resident hippos! Blippo and Padron, like many of the animals at the park, have regular training sessions with their keepers. As they are such large animals, these sessions are vitally important for their care – being able to ask them to show their teeth allows keepers to make sure they’re healthy everyday, and catch any issues before they become a real problem.


Without using behavioral training for health checks, keepers and veterinarians would need to sedate these large animals to do any kind of check up. This can be stressful for the animal. 

While being able to move the hippos is helpful, it is the open mouthed dental checks that are particularly important. The keepers have captured a behavior to allow for voluntary tooth trims. A drummer has also been slowly introduced to trim their teeth down for a natural wear. Blippo seems to take delight in the vibrations of the drummel, its almost like a tooth massage! Padron is a bit more shy, but is becoming braver every day.

Hippos have large incisors that dig up the grasses and vegetation they eat, with the help of incredibly powerful jaws. Since hippos are quite tough on their teeth, regular dental checks can catch cracks or damage before they become too serious.

The biggest little one at Safari

Keeper Chats, Ungulates

This month is a very special time at Wildlife Safari as we celebrate the birth of our first giraffe calf born here since the park began. Little Kelley came into the world at over 6 feet tall, though he looks small next to mother, Miya, our 4 year old reticulated giraffe, and even smaller next to father, Mate, our 17 year old Rothschild giraffe who is our tallest at 18 feet.

 

Baby Kelley and mom Miya – photo courtesy of Erica Sherrow

The birth has been much anticipated. Since giraffe gestation is around 14 months, keepers have had a while to get excited for this spotted little one! Katie Graves, one of the giraffe keepers and trainers at Wildlife Safari talks about the anticipation through the pregnancy. “Gestation is typically 13-15 months,” she says, and with such a wide window for the due date, keepers were carefully watching for signs of labor long before the birth. “They’re big babies so they have a little longer to bake. They usually come out around 6 ft tall and anywhere from 100-200 lbs at birth. At birth, Kelley was about 6 foot 3 inches and weighed 175 lbs. So he’s very robust and healthy.”

 

Baby giraffe, Kelley -photo courtesy of Tanda Schmidt

Unlike many other animals, herd animals like giraffes need to be able to move by themselves soon after birth to escape predators. “He stood up just a couple of hours after birth and shortly afterwards took his first steps,” says Graves. “He was very strong, he even caught himself when he stumbled.”

 

Photo courtesy of Taylor Sherrow

Kelley’s birth is cause for celebration at the park as he is the first giraffe to be born here. “For all of us this is the first time we’ve been through a giraffe pregnancy and birth, so we’re all excited,” says Graves. “Being there for the birth was an amazing experience, and a huge learning experience.”

 

Kelley nursing – photo courtesy of Taylor Sherrow

At the moment, Kelley is mostly spending time in the barn with his mother, but he has been meeting lots of new friends as guests of the park can sign up to meet him! It’s very special to be able to see a young giraffe, so come see his while he’s “small”! Encounter times may change as he grows, so check with Guest Services before signing up.

 

 

Little Ones Springing into Summer

Uncategorized, Ungulates

As summer approaches, so does one of the best seasons at the park: baby season! Pretty soon babies will start dropping at Wildlife Safari, and our drive through will be full of small Bison, Rhea, and more! It’s a wonderful season, full of new life, but it does get the keepers on their toes a little more than usual. Here at Safari we count and check on every single one of our animals every day, so when little ones start appearing, making sure they have the correct count gets interesting!

A mother wildebeest with her baby

A mother wildebeest with her baby

 

Erica Sherrow, Lead Ungulate Keeper, tells us a little about it. “Baby season is crazy!” She says. “But its a good crazy. It’s a surprise every morning!”

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Little blackbuck

The Ungulates department looks after 253 animals, and around 20 species. “It’s very hard to find the babies,” says Sherrow. “The Bison are a little easier to see, they look like little cheeto puffs, they are bright orange.” The Fallow deer fawns, however, pose more of a challenge. “The moms do a really good job of hiding them – same with the Blackbuck.”

Fallow fawn

Fallow Fawn

We hope to have babies born from Fallow deer, Blackbuck, Wildebeest, Scimitar horned Oryx, and Bison, however, you can never tell how successful a breeding season has been until the count at the end, or how many young will survive to maturity.

Baby Zebra

Baby Zebra

It is definitely a good time to visit the park, as you never know when babies will arrive. “We’ve had guests come through the park and observe a lot of bison births, and people who have seen the wildebeests,” says Sherrow. “People just get super excited about it. I mean, how often do you get to see a wildebeest give birth?”

Baby wildebeest

Baby wildebeest

For the rhea and emus, however, it’s still breeding season. Alison Trout, who is also a keeper in the Ungulate Department, says the birds are still actively seeking out mates. “They’re still a little flirty,” she says, which can make for some comical behaviors. “The rheas will have their wings out displaying, the emus walk around with their necks super puffed out.”

Rhea and chicks

Rhea and chicks

Of course, our visiting Canadian Geese who migrate in and out of the park with the seasons, are also a part of baby season, with dozens of little goslings running around!

Whether you love baby puff-ball birds or prancing fawns, this spring and summer is definitely the time for a Safari!

A Tower of Giraffes

Creature Feature, Keeper Chats, Ungulates

Last year Wildlife Safari added another member to our group of giraffes (called a tower). Erin has joined our other two giraffes, Miya (4 years old) and Mate (17 years old), and is getting along great! A very curious and adventurous young female, Erin (2 years old) is often the first to greet keepers.

Erin and Miya, our females, are both Reticulated giraffes, and Mate, our resident male, is a Rothschild giraffe – much darker in color.

Miya, Mate and Erin, Wildlife Safari’s three resident giraffes – photo courtesy of Erica Sherrow

Erica Sherrow, Giraffe Keeper and one of their primary trainers, says they all have their distinct personalities and are loveable in their own ways.

Erin and Miya trying for some keeper attention (or some snacks...) - photo courtesy of Erica Sherrow

Erin and Miya trying for some keeper attention (or some snacks…) – photo courtesy of Erica Sherrow

Erin and Miya get along great, as seen by their snuggle time - photo courtesy of Erica Sherrow

Erin and Miya get along great, as seen by their snuggle time – photo courtesy of Erica Sherrow

Giraffes are sometimes called the ‘watchtowers of the Serengeti’, since their height lets them be the first to spot danger and alert any other animals nearby. If they start running, so do any other animals nearby, even if they can’t yet see the danger – no one wants to wait to find out if there really is a lion nearby or not!

Giraffes going for a stroll - photo courtesy of Erica Sherrow

Giraffes going for a stroll – photo courtesy of Erica Sherrow

Giraffes have no vocalization that is audible to humans, they use body language to communicate. Keepers enjoy their expressions when working with them. “They give a lot of sass,” says Sherrow.

During the winter, the giraffes spend more time inside their heated barn. Giraffes are built to live in hot environments, so if it gets below 50 degrees they stay close to their barn.

Our giraffe keepers do training sessions just like with many of our other animals. The giraffes are trained to do some behaviors that make it a little easier to look after them. For example, presenting their feet for checks, or going into their barn and over to the scaffolding that allows keepers to stand at eye level with their tall, spotted friends. This training is mostly to get them used to being handled so that veterinary procedures, checkups and hoof trims can be conducted easily and without stress to the animals. Mate is entirely comfortable being worked on and touched, while Miya is a little more wary, and Erin has been making leaps and bounds with her training. “Erin has been moving through our training program like lightening,” says Sherrow. “We’ve already had her in the chute and been able to touch her.” Keepers use a chute that giraffes stand in, with panels that open to allow keepers to reach through and handle where ever needs attention, keeping a barrier between keepers and those long, strong legs.

Numbers in the wild are dwindling. There are about 80,000 giraffes altogether left in the wild, with less than 1,100 Rothschild and 4,700 Retuculated giraffes. “Mostly through habitat fragmentation and poaching,” says Sherrow. “They’re poached for their hide and tails.” Both poaching and habitat fragmentation are serious threats. If their habitat is lost, they end up having nowhere else to go, since the closest habitat for them may be too far away.

Giraffes in their feeder - photo courtesy of Erica Sherrow

Giraffes in their feeder – photo courtesy of Erica Sherrow

They have extremely long tongues (1 inch for every foot they are tall) designed to reach up into branches and grab leaves. These tongues are tough, so they can eat much tougher, spinier foliage than other grazers, including the leaves of the Acacia tree, a spiky plant that is one of their favorites.

For a little while, our Tower had an honorary member, and a stripey one at that! Ruckus, our new Damara zebra took his time finding his way into our zebra herd, choosing instead at first to find some taller friends. He followed the giraffes around for about a week before deciding to join his fellow zebras.

Mate, Miya and Erin with their friend Ruckus the Zebra

Mate, Miya and Erin with their friend Ruckus the Zebra

 

Giraffes with their Zebra friend - photo courtesy of Erica Sherrow

Giraffes with their Zebra friend – photo courtesy of Erica Sherrow