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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Exotic Pets

Community, Uncategorized

“I want one!”

Asanti's Family

It is almost impossible not to think this when seeing animals at a zoo or videos on social media of people with exotic pets. They might appear to be calm and sweet, but caring for exotics can be a lot more difficult and dangerous than many people realize. Although most people know the danger to themselves of living with a large exotic animal as a pet, it can also be very dangerous for the animal, and potentially have a negative impact on the survival of the species. That is why exotic animals belong in the care of zoos and parks with professionals.

Prehensile Tail Porcupine

Even though most exotic pet owners love their animals, they do not know the proper way to take care of them. Feeding these animals a proper diet can be complicated or expensive and many pets are either malnourished or overweight. Both of these can be damaging to their health and cause problems for them as they grow older. Sadly, animals that are viewed as dangerous, like big cats, are often declawed or can have their sharp canine teeth removed to make them less dangerous for their owners. These practices are harmful to the animals and can take away from their quality of life. Although most people are not intentionally harming their animals, they can still cause a lot of damage.  

Lion Cubs

It is not just the individual animal that can be harmed from being owned as a pet, but the species itself. When an animal is kept as a pet, whether it was taken from the wild as a baby or born in captivity, it looses it ability to hunt and survive in the wild. That means that the animal will never be able to return to the wild. Similarly, animals that are born to private breeders and sold as pets can not be a part of the species survival plan (SSP) which keeps a healthy population in accredited zoos to help increase their genetic diversity. Because the genetics of animals from private breeders is not often known, those animals can not become members of the SSP if they are ever given to a zoo. This means that every time an exotic animal becomes a pet, it is one less animal that can help increase their genetic diversity and help the species out in the wild.

Coati

Exotic animals are beautiful and even though you might wish you could own one, they are better left in the wild or in responsible zoos with people who know how to care for them in the safest and healthiest way possible. Exotic animals in accredited zoos have the best chance to live happy and healthy lives in captivity, and become part of diverse population that will conserve the species for many more years to come.

Carnivore Enrichment

Carnivores, Community, Uncategorized

To enrich means “to improve or enhance the quality or value of.” Therefore, at Wildlife Safari and similar facilities, enrichment can be defined as anything that enhances the daily lives of the animals living there. Enrichment comes in many forms: it can be a special treat, something different from an animal’s usual diet, or it can be a toy, a scent, a sound, or something for visual use. It all depends on the general interests of the targeted species and particular individuals of that species.

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One of our year old cheetah cubs enjoys foraging for meat chunks hidden inside a paper mache’ toy for their birthday.

Food-based Enrichment

           Our carnivores often receive special treats as enrichment. The bears receive fruit, biscuits, nuts, and other treats throughout each day except for the months when they are in hibernation and the weeks leading up to hibernation. Sometimes, we make them popsicles using crushed berries and water. Our big cats occasionally enjoy bloodsicles as something different and refreshing, especially on a hot day.

Claire

Claire, one of our Alaskan brown bears, chilling out with a berry popsicle.

Toys

             Large, heavy-duty plastic barrels and balls are a popular toy for our carnivores. They also enjoy logs and boxes, both of which can be used to hide treats in or be sprayed with scents. Our big cats especially love the smell of strong perfume or cologne; they will rub themselves all over something that has been sprayed with a scent! Our 2 year old lion “cubs” have a large rope that is used for tug-of-war sessions against keepers and interns. As soon as it is ready for them, they playfully run over and get to work, using their teeth and paws to tug on it! Shredded paper is also a favorite of our big cats. It is fun to watch them roll around in, though less fun to clean up.

blackbears

Large blue barrels like this one are often used to increase foraging time for our black bears. We like to hide some of their food inside them!

Natural Enrichment

       Our brown bears have access to built-in ponds in their outdoor enclosures, simulating nature. You can even catch Mak and Oso, our Grizzly bear boys, wrestling in the water when it’s hot outside! In October, we like to give pumpkins to bite, scratch, and play with. Our lions, tigers, and cheetahs enjoy receiving giraffe sand taken from the giraffe barn. It may sound gross to humans, but just like a nice perfume, they like to rub themselves all over the stuff; it is like catnip to them!

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!

 

                                      

Night and Day Predators

Carnivores, Cheetahs, Uncategorized

Night Hunters

Lions and tigers are both night hunters. A good way to tell how if they are night or day hunters is by their eyes.

Upepo the Lion – Photo courtesy of Melissa Moon

When looking at lions, you can see that they have white under their eyes, and so do tigers.The reason for this is to improve their night vision. The moonlight reflects off the white and in to their eyes so that they can see better in the dark.

Riya the Sumatran tiger – Photo courtesy of Melissa Moon

Day Hunters

Unlike the lions and the tigers, cheetahs actually hunt during the day. You can tell the same way you would for lions and tigers: looking at their eyes. Instead of having white under their eyes, cheetahs have those infamous black stripes down their face. Those stripes actually help them see during the day. The black does the opposite of what the white would do, actually absorbing the sun’s rays, so it won’t reflect in their eyes and make it hard to see.

Mchumba showing off her stripes – Photo courtesy of Melissa Moon

There’s always an exception…

One of the wild cats though is an anomaly. The cougar doesn’t hunt only during the day or only during the night. The cougar on the other hand hunts whenever, whether it is night time or day time. They don’t have a dominant color under theirs eyes like the cheetahs, lions or tigers do.

Johnny the cougar – Photo courtesy of Jessica Ludquist

While you can see these tell-tale signs from pictures, it’s much more fun to see in person! Come visit our lions, tigers and cougars next time you’re at Wildlife Safari!

Summer is Coming!

Community, Uncategorized

Summer is well on its way, and with it come a host of fantastic events at Wildlife Safari!

Roars and Snores –  24-25th June,12-13th August

One of our female lions having a snooze

Ever wanted to wake up to the sound of lions roaring? At Roars and Snores you can! Roars and Snores lets you help feed the lions dinner and learn more about them, then camp out in the lion’s day time enclosure and enjoy s’mores!

Sisters Serafina and Mtai

Run like a Cheetah 5k – 15th July

If you love running, there’s nothing better than running by the world’s fastest land animal! Wildlife Safari’s fun run event will take you past our cheetah pens. Run alongside Dayo, the puppy that works as a cheetah companion, and enjoy the chance to run on the wild side!

 

 

Summer Camp – 14-17th, 21-24th August

Animal encounters, games, crafts – do it all at Wildlife Safari’s summer camps! Camps are available to kids aged 4-11 and are a great chance for kids to learn and play over the summer break. Themes this year include ‘Rain Forest Expedition’, ‘Living with Wild Neighbors’, and ‘Animal Sleuths’ – check out our website for registration and more information.

Summer Camp fun!

 

Party at Bear Island – 17th June

Bear keepers will set up a bear friendly ‘camp site’ to play in, complete with toys and snacks, then watch as the bears explore! You can even buy feed cups so you can throw snacks to the bears yourself!

Oso the grizzly bear saying hello

Tsavo and Enzi

Uncategorized

All of our nine lions at Wildlife Safari are special, but our adult males have an extra special back story.

Male lions Tsavo and Enzi relaxing – Photo courtesy of Ashley Lane

Their parents were caught by poachers and given as a gift to a Sheikh (leader) in Qatar, a country in the middle east. Bred too young, the mother did not survive labor, and the prince soon found himself hand raising three boisterous lion cubs, our two boys and their sister.

Tsavo and Enzi at around 2 years old

While many animals in this position, who are caught up in the exotic pet trade, do not survive, these lion cubs got lucky. The prince realized very quickly that unless you have the training and knowledge required to meet their needs safely it can be very difficult and dangerous, for both the lions and the people, to care for them. He made the decision to give them to people who would be able to care for them well in a safe environment, so they went into the hands of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and were placed here with us at Wildlife Safari.

Tsavo and Enzi all grown up – Photo courtesy of Jordan Bednarz

Apart from having wonderfully endearing personalities, our boys, Tsavo and Enzi, are very special for another reason. We do not take animals from the wild for breeding programs – it can be counter productive to try to save a species by taking individuals out of the wild. We want to remain just that: wild!

As a result, the breeding program very rarely gets new genes introduced, we plan very carefully so we don’t ever end up breeding too closely or ‘inbreeding’. So the introduction of two new males is wonderful!

Despite their rough start, Tsavo and Enzi are healthy and thriving now! Each has fathered a litter of cubs and while other brothers would have separated by now due to disputes over who is boss, these two are very closely bonded and don’t have issues with aggression towards each other.

One of the boys enjoying a training session

Tsavo is typically the more docile of the two, with his dark mane he is quite the striking figure as he sits and watches his family play. His favorite activities include rolling in anything that smells interesting, playing with his brother, and hanging out with girlfriend Mtai.

Tsavo deep in thought – Photo courtesy of Ashley Lane

Enzi loves to talk, he also loves sitting up in his hammock with his girlfriend Serafina until his favorite time: dinner!

Enzi checking if the photographer has snacks

Turning 5 this year, the boys have come a long way since their humble beginnings, and we’re very happy they made their way to us!

 

Hunting How-To: Animal Hunting Styles

Carnivores, Uncategorized

Lions

Lions are nocturnal animals so they generally hunt at night. Most of the foods they consume include wildebeest, zebras, antelopes, gazelles, waterbuck, warthogs, and in riskier instances, giraffes and buffalo. Lions will stalk prey from a very close distance during the day and then wait until after dark to strike. Although they have reputations as apex predators, there are some deficiencies in their hunting tactics. Due to their reliance on eyesight, they often inadvertently reveal their hiding spot because they peak their head out to monitor the movement of their prey. They also do not pay attention to the direction of winds so their scent is easily detected. Finally, they can only get up to 50 mph, which is much slower than their prey.

Despite these hunting deficiencies, lions remain successful hunters because of the numerous prey in the area and the fact that lions hunt in groups. A lion only eats about 25 to 30 animals per year and their prey is highly abundant so they have plenty of options to choose from. Lions are the only cats that hunt in a group, which is the main reason why they are able to take down larger prey. They close in on their prey as a group and attack from the rear or side. The final kill is made by crushing their prey’s windpipe leading to asphyxiation or rupturing major arteries in the neck. The female lions do most of the hunting in prides but they only eat after the adult males, then its the cubs turn. Each lion consumes about 40 pounds of meat in one sitting and over the next couple days they will rest and recuperate to repeat the hunting process all over again.

Some of our lion cubs enjoying a rib cage together – Photo courtesy of Emilie Gupta

 

Tigers

As nocturnal animals, tigers mainly rely on their vision to help stalk their prey. Unlike cheetahs and lions, they mostly live in habitats that have a lot of vegetation making camouflage with their surroundings more effective. Tigers generally hunt alone and will silently stalk their prey nearby for a very long time. Once close enough, they will pounce and either snap their victim’s spinal cord or grab their throat, which contains essential arteries. Tigers are able to reach speeds of 30 to 50 mph and can jump 30 feet horizontally, which also helps them take down their prey. They will then drag their meal to an isolated area and will often hide the remnants to finish the next day.

A tiger can eat one fifth of its body weight in 24 hours and over a year they average 50 deer-sized meals. In terms of what they eat, tigers like to consume many different species, which vary depending on the region the tiger inhabits. Overall, their prey consist of moose, pigs, cows, horses, buffalo, goats, deer species, and occasionally tapirs, elephants, rhinoceros calves, small bear species, leopards, and wild dogs. Unlike other cats, tigers are great swimmers and occasionally they will hunt in the water and catch animals like fish and crocodiles.

 

Kemala the Sumatran Tiger showing off her exceptional jaw strength – Photo courtesy of Emilie Gupta

 

Cheetahs

Cheetahs are the only big cats that are diurnal, meaning they hunt during the day, especially in the early morning or late afternoon. They are also solitary animals so they hunt alone, however in some instances a few males will hunt together forming coalitions. Due to the fact that cheetahs don’t have the cover of night to hide them like most predators, they have had to adapt very unique hunting techniques. Cheetahs have binocular vision that allows them to see up to three miles away very clearly and spot prey long before their prey can see them. On top of their incredible sight, cheetahs also utilize stealth and camouflage when approaching their target. They will use the tactics of any good hunter such as moving low in tall grasses, approaching from downwind to conceal their scent, and using natural rises in the land like hills or termite mounds to hide behind.

Despite using all of these precautions, hunting remains a challenge because their prey live in herds, meaning they are constantly on watch for any potential danger. A cheetah’s diet generally consists of smaller hoofed animals like wildebeest, gazelles, and impalas. Although the cheetahs are excellent hunters, their greatest advantage in capturing prey is their speed. Cheetahs can run up to 70 mph, but they are only able to run at this speed for about 20-30 seconds. Since they are only able to run at fast speeds for around 500 meters, they must position themselves as close as possible to their prey before attacking. This is why it is essential for cheetahs to have both speed and superior camouflage. Cheetahs are successful in killing their prey 1 out of 10 tries, however most of the time their meal gets taken away by larger carnivores like lions, hyenas, wild dogs, and leopards. They might be predators, but they know when to walk away from a fight. An injury could be life threatening, so they are better off giving up their meal and trying again.

 

Mchumba licking up every bit of her mid-day snack – Photo courtesy of Emilie Gupta

 

Bears

Despite their reputation as bloodthirsty animals, the majority of a bear’s diet is actually herbivorous. Bears are generally omnivores, meaning they eat a variety of meats and plants. The two most common bears in North America are the black bear and brown bears. Although, black bears are not as well equipped as brown bears to dig, 85% of a black bears’ diet consists of vegetation including grasses, roots, berries, acorns, nuts, grass and other plants. Furthermore, they receive most of their protein from insects, especially bees. The idea that bears like honey actually originated from the fact that bears enjoy feeding on bee larvae because of the high nutritional value. In addition to insects and vegetation, some black bears will catch salmon, trout, suckers, and catfish depending on the availability in their habitat.

 

Donna enjoying the sunshine and waiting to get fed – Photo courtesy of Emilie Gupta

 

  Brown bears, on the other hand, are excellent diggers so almost 90% of their diet comes from vegetation. They eat a variety of plant life such as berries, grasses, flowers, acorns, nuts, pine cones, as well as mosses, fungi, and mushrooms. Similarly to black bears, brown bears feed on insects and most will get half of their yearly calories from moths alone. Brown bears also feed on fish more often than black bears, which is why they are a larger species. Despite the fact that both species mostly consume plant life, they still get some of their calories from meat. Although they are capable of and in rare cases do hunt, bears actually prefer to scavenge off other animals’ kills. Why catch your own when someone else has already done the work? In more recent years, as urban development has expanded, bears have been also using human-created food sources as a reliable meal, which has become dangerous to both parties. 

Mak eating his daily dose of greens while helping us with landscaping – Photo courtesy of Emilie Gupta

 

Not Always Majestic….

Behind the Scenes, Uncategorized

While we often think of animals as majestic figures, poised and ready to survive in their unforgiving wild environment, this is not always the case…. Keepers at Wildlife Safari often see our animals in a more relaxed state, looking – well… less than majestic.

Here are some of the adorable and ridiculous faces we see!

Our female lion, clearly more concerned about where the snacks are than about posing – Photo courtesy of Bryanna Bright

Bandit the American Badger caught doing his morning yoga – Photo courtesy of Bryanna Bright

One of our Sumatran tiger sisters cuddling the wall

Rhinos can be silly too – Photo courtesy of Katie Graves

Lion cub, Dunia, investigating her toy – Photo courtesy of Ashley Lane

Curious Sika deer – Photo courtesy of Katie Graves

Giraffe extreme close up – Photo courtesy of Katie Graves

One of our Sika males with his homemade hat – Photo courtesy of Katie Graves

 

Nature or Nurture?

Carnivores, Cheetahs, Uncategorized

Innate vs Learned Behaviors

In any discussion of animal behavior arises the question of nature or nurture. Some behaviors are built into an animal’s instincts – they never need to learn them, they just come naturally. Instinctual, or innate behavior, is defined as “behaviors that occur naturally in all members of a species whenever they are exposed to a certain stimulus.”

Other behaviors have to be learned for an animal to exhibit them (or at least, exhibit them successfully) – they’ll usually be taught these by their mothers. Learned behavior is defined as a behavior which “an organism develops as a result of experience.”

For example, cheetahs do not have to be taught how to hiss, it is an instinctual behavior. On the other hand, while bears are often known for their fishing ability, this is actual something their mother needs to teach them.

So now let’s put you to the test… How well are you able to tell which behaviors are instinctual and which are learned?

Do bears learn to hibernate or are they born knowing how?

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Russel, an Alaskan Coastal brown bear, snuggled up during hibernation – photo courtesy of Cori Pearson

Answer: It’s a learned behavior!

For a bear to be able to go through hibernation, they have to be taught by their mothers. Bears in the wild receive cues from the environment such as the changing of light, temperature and food availability to help signal the time to hibernate. If all the bears needed were the cues from the environment, then all bears in captivity would be able to hibernate, but that’s not the case. Because hibernation, or torpor, is learned, captive bears are often unable to hibernate because they were orphaned as cubs; they didn’t get to learn how to hibernate from their moms.  Our brown bear boys Mak and Oso are a great example of two cubs who weren’t able to learn how to hibernate before becoming orphaned. Fortunately for them, our brown bear girls, Claire and Russel, were able to learn before being orphaned and they have been able to help show Mak and Oso how it is done… and it only took three winters.

Are lions born hunters or do they have to learn to hunt?

Wildlife Safari's Lion pride playing outside - photo courtesy of Cori

Wildlife Safari’s Lion pride playing outside – photo courtesy of Cori Pearson

Answer: Lions have to learn to hunt!

Lions hit maturity at the age of two and from birth to the age of two, cubs are learning all they need to know to survive. They are born with the instinct to pounce but the actual act of killing and eating of prey is learned from the pride. We are often asked if we give live prey to our captive lions. The answer is no for a couple of reasons

  • It’s not much fun for the prey animal- we’re all animal lovers here and we never want to see an animal stressed.
  • The lions were not taught what to do with the live prey – they may never get to eat if they had to catch it!

Although it seems natural for them, if we put a live animal in with the lions they would pounce and play with it like a toy and because they are large animals, they may actually kill the prey. That being said, there is no guarantee of what would happen with the introduction of live prey because our lions weren’t taught to kill and then consume.

Last question!

Do cheetahs have to learn to to run?

One of Wildlife Safaris ambassador cheetahs out on a walk - photo courtesy of Cori

One of Wildlife Safaris ambassador cheetahs out on a walk – photo courtesy of Cori Pearson

Answer: It’s instinctual!

Cheetah’s, just like humans and many other animals, are born with the instinct to sleep, to walk, and to run. They don’t need to learn this from a parent. An orphaned cheetah in the wild, or a human raised cheetah cub in captivity will automatically do these things. At Wildlife Safari we have our very own hand-raised cheetah ambassadors: Pancake, Khayam, and Mchumba. We love taking them for walks!