Disappearing Stripes

Carnivores, Uncategorized

Illegal poaching is a direct cause of decreasing population size for multiple animal species. One of the main reasons for poaching is due to a variety of animals having what is called high “market value.” This is when a species has value as an item and there is, in turn, a high market demand for a supply of these “exotic” animal parts. The demand for animal parts can be anything from elephant ivory to a lion’s pelt.

Here at Wildlife Safari, we have two Sumatran Tigers named Riya and Kemala. These girls and their conspecifics (members of the same species) are listed as critically endangered under The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species with fewer than 400 remaining individuals in the wild. All sub-species of tigers and other cats such as lions and leopards are sought after and exploited due to the increasing market for valuables such as their fur, teeth, bones, organs, as well as being continually hunted because they are considered “trophies.”

Riya enjoying her afternoon

Kemala enjoying the cooler weather

 

 

 

 

 

 

World Wildlife Fund conducted a study on population viability of Sumatran Tigers and found that close to 80% of wild tiger deaths within the past few decades have been due to an increase in poaching because of a high market demand for tiger parts with an increasing portion of deaths stemming from a recent trend of palm oil production (“Sumatran Tiger”, n.d.). Harvesting palm oil can be such a destructive process to natural ecosystems and is often an unsustainable practice; this can severely hinder wild tiger population growth and cause isolated patches of habitat and even complete habitat loss. Tigers need large patches of territory because they are solitary animals, but the palm oil industry has been wreaking havoc on the surrounding ecosystem leading to increased competition for dwindling resources among tigers. This trend of habitat loss decreases genetic diversity and causes a higher probability of inbreeding amongst genetically similar tigers which makes it difficult to increase healthy wild tiger populations.

Conservation is an effort made by multiple disciplines that work together to bring the best in research, education, and management. Here at Wildlife Safari, we adhere to this sentiment with great pride. Wildlife Safari is a non-profit organization as well as being an AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) accredited institute. Through the AZA, we work with multiple other programs, such as the SSP (Species Survival Plan), to pair genetically diverse animals to create successful breeding initiatives for healthy captive populations. Wildlife Safari is currently working on a Sumatran Tiger breeding program to increase the captive population genetics of Sumatran Tigers. Lastly, one dollar from any encounter that you partake at Wildlife Safari goes to support one of three conservation campaigns we are partnered with this year: International Elephant Foundation, Cheetah Conservation Botswana, and finally, Tiger Conservation Campaign! We thank you for your donations and your continuous support. Riya, Kemala and all the animals here at Wildlife Safari also thank you for giving them a voice to be heard!

Kemala posing for a photo

“Sumatran Tiger.” World Wildlife Fund. n.d. Retrieved from

https://www.worldwildlife.org/species/sumatran-tiger

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“Can I Pet It?”

Carnivores, Cheetahs, Community, Uncategorized

This question is asked daily to our Cheetah and Carnivore keepers.  Children and adults alike ask it, some with hesitation, and others with excitement.  However, the answer is always the same: “You may not pet the animals.”

“Why am I not allowed to pet the animals but you are?”

In reference to the lions, tigers, and bears: they have large teeth and claws making it dangerous to touch the animals.  Keepers practice “protected contact” with these animals, meaning there is a barrier between us (the keeper) and them (the animal) at all times.

In regards to the cheetahs, we are “free contact,” meaning that we can go in with these wild animals.  We are able to do this because cheetahs run away from danger instead of challenging danger.  However, the only cheetahs you will see the Cheetah and Carnivore keepers petting are our hand raised ambassadors.  This is to help strengthen the bond between keeper and cat since the ambassadors must be comfortable with them.

“I have been to a place where the keepers go in with their lions, tigers, and bears.”

Places that do not have protected contact with their large carnivores are unaccredited institutions.  Wildlife Safari is accredited through AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) which is designed to hold zoos and aquariums to the highest standard of animal care, safety of the animals, guests, and staff.

“My friend got to hold a cub when she was at another zoo.”

This is an example of unaccredited institutions using people’s love for animals to their gain.  Cubs can be adorable and it is overwhelming for us to touch and cuddle them.  However, these cubs are taken from their mother at a young age which stresses both mother and cub.  These cubs are then held for up to 12 hours a day during their time of crucial development.  After these cubs get too large to be held they are sold to private owners, hunt ranches, or onto the black market. Some of these cubs end up at certified sanctuaries but will not make their way into accredited facilities because most cubs are mixes of multiple subspecies.  Accredited facilities are unable to accept mixed subspecies to be apart of the captive breeding population.

It is tempting to want to pet wild animals that are cute and rare.  However, in the case of large carnivores, it is simply not a good idea for the animal or human.  Instead, try transferring those affections to your domestic doggie or kitty at home or donating to reputable conservation organizations.

 

Opening of Our Tiger Oasis

Behind the Scenes, Carnivores, Uncategorized

 

Wildlife Safari is proud to announce the unveiling of our new Tiger Oasis expansion!  This project allowed the remodeling of our tiger huts, current tiger enclosures, and the addition of a new enclosure.  The Tiger Oasis will allow Wildlife Safari to become a Sumatran tiger breeding facility through AZA and the SSP (Species Survival Plan).

tiger yard 1

Room 5 tigers

Why will this new breeding program be important?

Sumatran tigers are critically endangered with less than 400 in the wild.  Their main threats are deforestation, mainly from palm oil plantations, and poaching.  The oil palm industry grows at about 9% per year with 80% of all palm oil coming out of Indonesia and Malaysia (where the Island of Sumatra resides).  Sadly, only about 10-15% of this palm oil is sustainable; meaning that it does not affect the tiger’s survival.

Riya & Mala

Our new breeding program will allow the captive population of Sumatran tigers to become genetically diverse and prevent inbreeding from occurring.  This new expansion will also aid in us keepers providing better health check-ups and educate the public on the plights that these animals face every day.

It’s Time for Zoobilee!

Uncategorized

Zoobilee Lights

Wildlife Safari is hosting its annual Halloween celebration, Zoobilee, October 27th and 28 from 5-8pm. Zoobilee is the biggest family friendly Halloween celebration in town! Come join our village animals for children’s activities, animal presentation, cake walks, treats, trick or treating, and more!

A guest favorite from past years is our spooky Haunted Hay Ride where guests get to take a ride through our cheetah drive through. Can’t make it to Zoobilee? Come check out our animals this October enjoying their fun festive treats around the village and in our drive through!

Lion Pumpkin

Paper bag lunches!

Behind the Scenes, Uncategorized

It’s that time of year, and while kids are heading back to school, the animals of Wildlife Safari celebrated with packed lunches! Delivered to them in brown paper bags, our animals had a blast opening their lunches!

Bandit the American Badger enjoys his packed lunch

Our badger and skunk particularly enjoyed them! As well as being a different way for them to eat their meal, the paper bags help them to work their brains a little bit – they have to think about how to open them or how best to tear them!

Thistle the Striped skunk found her way inside her bag. It was a great hiding spot even after her lunch was finished!

So if you see bags, boxes, or strange items in our animal enclosures, it may be something that we gave them to play with or eat from! Of course, everything is safety checked first to make sure the animals won’t hurt themselves. If it all checks out, then it’s play time!

Enrichment like this is also a great way for keepers to use recycled materials to make the animals’ lives interesting! Instead of these bags or boxes going straight to the trash, they are used to make our animals happy!

Mistaken Identity: Brown bear or black bear?

Carnivores, Uncategorized

How can you tell a black bear from a brown bear? Well, it may not be as easy as you think. In fact, both species of bears can range in color from deep black to blonde! Brown bears are typically larger than black bears, but again there is variation in size across subspecies. The best way to tell apart the two species of bear is to look at the anatomy of their shoulders and claws.

Brown bear

Brown bears are diggers, so they have powerful muscles between their shoulders forming a large, prominent hump. They also have 4-6 inch long curved claws that are dulled to help them forage and dig dens for hibernation.

Black bears, on the other hand, are climbers. They do not need the excessive shoulder muscle or long claws. They have shorter and sharper claws for climbing trees in which they use to forage above the forest floor, and will often hibernate up in the trees as well.

Black bear

Black bear

Carnivore Foot Care

Behind the Scenes, Carnivores, Cheetahs, Uncategorized

The most important part of a Keeper’s job is making sure the animals are happy and healthy. One of the things we look for every day is the health of their feet!

Everyday, the carnivore Keepers at Wildlife Safari will get a good look at paws to make sure everyone has beautiful feet.

We look for any peeling, abrasions or cuts and if we need to we can disinfect them. We do this through their training – if they show us their paws in exchange for a treat its a very low stress check up!

 

One of our female lions showing her “sit up” behaviour

While we check this through the fence with our larger carnivores such as lions, tigers and bears, we can get much more hands on with our ambassador cheetahs. These guys will hand keepers their paw so we can not only visually check, but also feel for anything sore or tender.

Khayam the cheetah gives his keeper his paw during a training session

Keepers will also regularly put moisturizing oil on the floor of the huts where the animals sleep at night. As they walk through, this oil helps paw pads stay supple and healthy.

If keepers notice anyone with dry paw pads, they will increase how often this moisturizing oil is used. This helps our animals’ feet to stay healthy in all weather!

 

                                      

Mistaken Identity – Turtle or Tortoise?

Creature Feature, Uncategorized

What is the difference between a tortoise and a turtle? All tortoises are in fact turtles—that is, they belong to the order Testudines or Chelonia, reptiles having bodies encased in a bony shell—but not all turtles are tortoises. The two have habitual and physical differences: that is, they look and act pretty differently.

Cali the tortoise

Tortoises only live on land, whereas turtles live in, or in association with, water. Turtles also have webbed feet and flipper-like forelimbs for easy swimming, while tortoises have stumpy non-webbed feet for walking on land. Their carapace (the bony shell on their back) also differs between species. Turtles have smooth and flatter carapaces to glide effectively in water, while tortoises have bumpier and more rounded carapaces. Another big difference between the two is their diet: tortoises are generally herbivorous, while turtles are omnivorous.

 

Don’t Feed the Bears!

Carnivores, Uncategorized

Nearly everyone is familiar with the warning: “don’t feed the bears.” Signs with this message are posted around popular hiking grounds, state parks, and campsites with the hopes to inform people of the dangers of feeding wild bears.

The biggest problem that arises when people feed wild bears is that the bears become accustomed to human food and human contact, which can lead to them being classified as “problem bears” by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. The exact specifications of a “problem bear” can vary from state-to-state, but the repercussions are the same nearly everywhere.

“Problem bears” are typically black or brown bears that have come in contact with people roughly three times, and if they are determined a threat to public safety they may be legally euthanized or relocated by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. When this does occur, the department is not always aware of cubs that the bear may have had, which often leaves them orphaned to fend for themselves. But if these cubs are found and discovered unfit to be re-released into the wild, zoos will often take them in and give them a second chance.

Wildlife Safari is dedicated to helping bears that needed a second chance, and is currently home to seven bears: two grizzly bears- Mak and Oso; two Alaskan coastal bears- Claire and Russell; and three black bears- Takoda, Chochmo, and Donna.

(Left to right: Black bear Takoda, Alaskan Coastal brown bear Claire and Grizzly bear Mak)

All seven of our bears live very comfortable, enriched lives at Wildlife Safari. They receive daily enrichment in the form of food to forage for throughout the day, ice treats on hot days, toys in huts, climbing structures, and pools/ponds to swim in- just to name a few.

(Bear climbing structure; black bear Chochmo enjoying a popsicle)

Unlike the cheetah breeding program that Wildlife Safari is best known for, we do not have a breeding program in place for our bears. Since black and brown bears are not endangered or vulnerable to extinction in the wild, breeding bears in captivity would be simply adding to the problem. So rather than bringing more bears into the world, we prefer to provide a home for bears in need. Every visit you make to Wildlife Safari helps support our bears by helping us give them the second chance that they all deserve!

Always remember to keep all food properly stored whether you are camping, or at home, and please do not feed the bears!

 

Gussie the Great Horned Owl

Ambassador Days, Creature Feature, Uncategorized

Gussie is Wildlife Safari’s resident Great Horned Owl. Her species is common throughout north, central and south America – one of the most widespread species of owl.

These guys get their name from the plumage on their heads that resemble horns, although they are actually just feathers (called plumicorns), not horns at all. These plumicorns are also often mistaken for ears, however, their real ears actually cannot be seen from outside the feathers, and unlike humans, these ears are holes with no outer fleshy part. Unlike most animals, their ears are not symmetrical. Instead, they are slightly off set to create more of a surround sound effect. This allows them to pinpoint where a sound came from – an important skill for a predator that hunts at night from above.

They have an incredibly strong grip, much stronger than a human’s, which makes them extremely effective predators. They catch pretty much everything with their feet and talons, which are razor sharp, and they are so strong they can even catch things that are up to 3 times their size or body weight.

“Gussie likes to act big and bad when shes in her enclosure – but she’s a great training animal,” shares Jennifer Wiles, one of Gussie’s Keepers. She says Gussie is not as tough as she thinks, though. “Once she’s out she can be a little bit of a scardy-owl.”

The reason Gussie is not so tough once outside of her house may be because her eyesight is not the precise, incredible eyesight she once had. Before she came to Wildlife Safari she was in an accident that left her mostly without sight in her left eye. “She can fly but her depth perception is off, so she’ll only fly short distances,” says Jennifer – and that is exactly why Gussie lives at the park. As a predator, she would not be able to hunt and survive in the wild without full vision. “All our birds of prey have been rehabilitated and can’t be released back into the wild because of either eye or wing issues.”

Gussie now has a happy life here at the park with her keepers. Here she acts as an ambassador, helping people learn about owls and their amazing senses.