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Archive for December, 2011

Happy Holidays from yours truly, Pico! I have several new sitatunga friends at the Zoo.  Read below to find out more! 

Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden is proud to boast the largest herd of sitatungas (Tragelaphus spekii) in the United States! This summer and fall, there was a population growth in the Zoo’s sitatunga collection due to our institutions successful breeding program. A total of seven sitatungas were born at the Zoo from late July through mid November, four being male and three female. These sitatunga babies all have the same father, but each have a different mother. The father was born on February 13, 2009 and came to Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden from the San Diego Safari Park, where he was born and hand reared. He is owned by the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore.  The herd is exhibited in the Zoo’s African Rift and can be viewed during all seasons.

According to Dr. Susan Lindsey, Animal Curator, “There are just a few institutions currently holding this species and even fewer with successful breeding programs. Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden is making an extremely significant contribution to the conservation of this species of antelope. Our ability to breed this number of females and produce these precious calves is made possible by the large natural exhibit that we have in place. The calves are certain to have an important impact on the future of this species.”

 Sitatungas are an African swamp-dwelling antelope and are called the most aquatic of all antelope species. The current 48 sitatungas in North America are managed by five participating Association of Zoos and Aquariums institutions. Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden boasts a total of sixteen sitatungas at this time and contributed seven of the fourteen sitatunga births in 2011. We invite you to enjoy these animals on your next visit to our Zoo.

Mother and baby in their exhibit.

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Hello! Pico, here! I have some very interesting, yet startling information for you to read about the palm oil crisis and how one of our very own zookeepers has helped out the cause.  I like treats as much as the next toucan, but reading this will really make you think twice before grabbing your favorite snack! It makes me glad I have a freshly prepared toucan diet every day! 

In July 2011, Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden was excited to help sponsor zookeeper Jessica McCauley’s travels to Borneo where she witnessed the effects of palm oil farming firsthand. The trip was under the auspices of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums® Orangutan Species Survival Plan®. Palm oil is an additive widely used in food and cosmetic products. In preparation for creating a palm oil plantation, the rainforest is cleared by logging and then by burning. The resulting land is not fit for animals to live. Although the most recognizable species affected by palm oil is orangutans, all rainforest denizens are affected, including clouded leopards, gibbons, hornbills, tigers, rhinoceros… the same kinds of animals which can be seen during a visit to Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden.

 

The startling difference between rainforest and a palm oil plantation.

 Jessica also visited an orangutan rehabilitation center. The orangutans found there are mostly orphaned babies whose mothers were killed for trespassing on palm oil plantations. Normally orangutans stay with their mothers for seven years before venturing off on their own. The rehabilitators raise the orangutan babies in such a way that they learn the necessary life skills that their mothers would have taught them, such as how to climb in the rainforest, what to eat, and how to make a sleeping a nest.               

 

A 3-year-old female orangutan learns to climb trees at Sepilok Rehabilitation Center.

Two other conservation initiatives in the part of Borneo that Jessica visited on the Kinabatangan River are tree planting and fire hose bridges. The area was clear-cut logged 40 years ago, but thanks to some caring local people was starting to regrow. Jessica helped plant 80 saplings that will eventually fill in a gap in the forest. Orangutans are able to live and thrive in secondary growth forest. The orangutans and other primates of the area (long-tailed macaques, leaf monkeys, and proboscis monkeys) also utilize fire hose bridges that cross the river. These bridges in effect give them access to a larger habitat and increase their opportunities to encounter a large number of species of their own kind. This increase in space helps encourage greater genetic diversity in their populations.

 

Zookeeper Jessica McCauley plants trees in Borneo.

There is no easy answer to the widespread issue of palm oil plantations, but the important thing to know is that it’s not too late to do something. Consumers can avoid purchasing products with palm oil, writing letters to companies asking them to use an alternative ingredient, or support companies that belong to the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden wants to promote palm oil awareness so we can continue to foster the preservation of the Earth’s diverse species.

 

 

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