Oakland, CA...July 14, 2016 – Oakland Zoo’s elephant program contributed to a special collection of peer-reviewed scientific research articles resulting from a comprehensive study on North American zoo elephant welfare. The collections is available today in the scientific journal PLOS ONE. It includes nine research papers, an overview and formal commentary explaining the significance of the work and its importance to better understand and enhance zoo elephant welfare.
“Oakland Zoo applauds AZA for taking on such a massive institutional study to work on improving the livelihood of elephants in captivity. Being involved in elephant research and data collection in and out of the field for twenty years, Oakland Zoo is committed to continuously improving the lives of elephants, a sensitive, highly intelligent, sentient, and complex being. We understand that the more we learn about this species in the wild and in captivity, we can manage them appropriately to encourage species typical behaviors. This study is one step toward that goal,” said Gina Kinzley, Co-Lead Elephant Manager at Oakland Zoo.
This is the first and only multi-institution study to comprehensively identify and measure variables that significantly contribute to North American zoo elephant welfare, thus allowing science to inform management practices, according to Anne Baker, Ph.D., one of several principal investigators of the project. “Many AZA-accredited zoos are already using knowledge we’ve learned from the research to improve the welfare of their elephants.”
The collection, titled Epidemiological Investigations of North American Zoo Elephant Welfare, is available online and is accessible to the public. (See journals.plos.org)
The research is the outcome of work by a 27-member study team, which includes independent consultants, zoo professionals, and faculty from three universities. The study was funded by an $800,000 leadership grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) awarded to the Honolulu Zoo Society and administered by Kathy Carlstead, Ph.D. Team members and dozens of research assistants from widely varied disciplines developed quantitative measures to assess multiple elephant-welfare indicators as well as a large variety of housing and management practices.
“Zoo elephant welfare is a topic of public interest, but the lack of available data on this specific population made it difficult to differentiate fact from opinion, ” said Cheryl Meehan, Ph.D., the study’s consulting project manager and director of AWARE Institute, in Portland, OR. “The collection provides a scientific perspective on a number of issues that are important to the conversation about elephants in zoos, and it is forward-looking as a resource that can help shape and inform the future of elephant care.”
The collection resulted from a comprehensive study analyzing the daily lives of 255 Asian and African elephants in 68 North American zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Data were collected in 2012 and preliminary results presented at AZA conferences in 2013 and 2014. Research focused on factors related to the wellbeing of elephants that can be scientifically observed, measured, and analyzed, including: behavior, body condition, foot and joint health, female reproductive function, and walking distance - Oakland Zoo's elephants were also part of the behavior studies which measured stereotypic behavior performance, walking distances and recumbence behavior. Nearly 96 percent of North American AZA-accredited zoos with elephants participated in the study.
Results showed that the elephants’ social lives play the biggest role in supporting behavioral health. For example, primary importance is for elephants to spend time in groups, and not be socially isolated. Human care takers also can play an important role in an elephant’s social life through husbandry, training and interactive sessions.
Although space is often linked to welfare in public discussions about elephants in zoos, researchers did not find evidence that the amount of enclosure space supports greater amounts of walking, decreased stereotypic behavior, improved body condition, or better foot and joint health.
The study did find that the quality of the space and management practices is important to elephant welfare. For example, the research demonstrated that decreased time spent on hard flooring significantly reduced the risk of foot and joint problems, which were found to be important health concerns for the population.
And the research team discovered a previously unknown link between the quality of enrichment and feeding programs and female reproductive health. This result indicates that day-to-day management practices could be an important tool in addressing the reproductive issues that are particularly common among female African elephants.
“This groundbreaking approach provides a model for measuring welfare in managed animal populations with the potential to conduct similar studies to benefit many different species cared for in zoos and aquariums,” said Meehan. “And this research can be extended to inform elephant conservation efforts given that only a minority of free-ranging elephants exists in large undisturbed protected areas, while many “wild” elephants are managed in small reserves.”
ABOUT OAKLAND ZOO
The Bay Area's award-winning Oakland Zoo is home to more than 660 native and exotic animals. The Zoo offers many educational programs and kid's activities perfect for science field trips, family day trips and exciting birthday parties. Oakland Zoo is dedicated to the humane treatment of animals and wildlife conservation onsite and worldwide; with 25¢ from each ticket donated to support conservation partners and programs around the world. The California Trail, a transformational project that more than doubles our size, opens in 2018, and will further our commitment to animal care, education, and conservation with a focus on this state’s remarkable native wildlife. Nestled in the Oakland Hills, in 500-acre Knowland Park, the Zoo is located at 9777 Golf Links Road, off Highway 580. The East Bay Zoological Society (Oakland Zoo) is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization supported in part by members, contributions, the City of Oakland and the East Bay Regional Parks. For more information, go to: www.oaklandzoo.org
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SAN FRANCISCO – From endangered Asian rhinos to nearly extinct mountain yellow-legged frogs, San Francisco Zoo & Gardens’ role in protecting and conserving wildlife was the theme of its signature fundraiser, ZooFest, on Saturday, April 30. Honored guest U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein spoke about her love of animals and decades of conservation work, including her latest effort to end poaching with the introduction of S. 27, Wildlife Trafficking Enforcement Act.
At the event, SF Zoo announced and unveiled the “Dianne Feinstein and Richard Blum Animal Wellness and Conservation Center,” one of the only dedicated facilities in the country to improving husbandry and well-being of Zoo animals.
SF Zoo President Tanya M. Peterson delivered remarks while holding a ball python snake, one of the Zoo’s many resident rescue animals.
“About 30 percent of our animals are rescued, which is more than most zoos in the country,” said Peterson. “Thank you to all the donors, members and guests who make it possible to not only save these animals, but communicate important conservation stories to the community for a multiplier effect.”
All funds raised at ZooFest benefit the care and comfort of the animals and help the Zoo accomplish its mission to connect people with wildlife, inspire caring for nature and advance conservation action. One generous and anonymous donor gifted $100,000 to the Mexican gray wolf exhibit. The habitat, under construction now, will help SF Zoo care for three incoming animals. Mexican gray wolves, which were nearly extinct, are part of a Species Survival Plan, and the wolves coming to the Zoo may someday be released back into the wild. Silent auction items included paintings from the inaugural Animal Artists in Residence project, which sold for nearly $50,000.
Event chairs, Elizabeth and Steven Revetria and Charlot and Gregory Malin, helped pay tribute to
the 40th Anniversary of the Zoo’s groundbreaking Nature Trail, an educational program which teaches young people to be wildlife conservation ambassadors. Attendees also viewed lions and tigers inside the Lion House and interacted with ambassador animals from the Koret Animal Resource Center, typically utilized for children’s educational purposes.
About the San Francisco Zoo
Established in 1929, the San Francisco Zoo and Gardens connects people to wildlife, inspires caring for nature and advances conservation action. An urban oasis, the Zoo and Gardens are home to more than 2,000 exotic, endangered and rescued animals representing more than 250 species as well as seven distinct gardens full of native and unusual plants. Located at the edge of the Pacific Ocean where the Great Highway meets Sloat Boulevard, the Zoo is open 365 days a year from 10 am to 5 pm (summer hours) and is accessible by San Francisco MUNI "L" Taraval Line.
SF Zoo gorilla meets the public on Saturday—and finally gets her name
DECEMBER 18, 2013, SAN FRANCISCO, CA – The San Francisco Zoo is thrilled to announce Saturday, December 21 at 10:00am as the first public viewing of our 5-month old female gorilla at the Jones Family Gorilla Preserve. Over the last month, the care of the infant has slowly and carefully been transitioned from Zoo animal staff to the infant’s western lowland gorilla family. These important introductions began with the matriarch of the six-member troop, 33-year old Bawang, who eagerly served as surrogate mother to five-year old male Hasani under similar circumstances. As predicted, Bawang instantly assumed the role of adoptive mother of the infant and they have been together ever since. Under Bawang’s careful supervision, each gorilla has made the little one’s acquaintance and each one has expressed their curiosity and affection in their own way. Big brother, Hasani, is particularly excited to have received a baby sister for his fifth birthday, which was on December 8. He is often seen playfully engaging with the infant under the watchful eye of the troop’s females. “Once again, Bawang has taken on the huge responsibility of motherhood and has set a positive tone for the troop” said San Francisco Zoo President Tanya Peterson. “We feel very blessed to be able to contribute to the population of this critically endangered species and we feel especially grateful to introduce the entire gorilla family to the public during this holiday season.”
For the benefit of gorilla care and feeding, the public has given $1 per vote toward their favorite of three finalist names (Malaika, which means "heavenly messenger" in Swahili; Kenura, which means "joy" in Kikuyu; Kabibe, which means "little lady" in Swahili). To celebrate the momentous occasion and to properly introduce the little one to the San Francisco Zoo community, the name of the infant gorilla will be announced during the Media Preview on Friday, December 20, at 8:30am.
About the birth
At birth on July 17, 2013, the female infant was 5-pounds, 1-ounce and healthy. Her parents are Nneka (Ni-NEE-ka) and Oscar Jonesy. The infant was born on Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. and is the first birth for mother Nneka and the second sired by silverback Oscar Jonesy. The previous gorilla birth at the SF Zoo was in 2008 when Hasani, the now five-year old male, was born to Monifa and Oscar Jonesy.
About western lowland gorillas
The western lowland gorilla (scientific name: Gorilla gorilla gorilla) is a critically endangered species. Found in Africa with populations in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and the Republic of Congo, the actual number of gorillas in the wild is unknown due to their habitation in some of the world’s densest and most remote rainforest regions. These gorillas can weigh up to 440 pounds and stand four to five feet when upright on two feet. According to the World Wildlife Fund, poaching, habitat destruction, and diseases such as the Ebola virus have contributed to the decline of the species by 60 percent over the past 25 years. The WWF estimates that if threats to western lowland gorillas were removed, it would take at least 75 years for the species to recover. A wild gorilla’s average lifespan is approximately 35 years and a gorilla in captivity is estimated to live for 40-50 years. There are currently 342 western lowland gorillas at 53 AZA-accredited zoos in North America.
Western lowland gorillas are the smallest of the four gorilla subspecies with a brownish-grey coat with red highlights. Adult males have silver-colored fur on their back and legs, which is the origin of the name silverback. They are herbivores and enjoy plant-based diets that include fruit, vegetables, leaf-based browse, bark, grain, and tubers. They live in family groups called troops of four to six members that are led by a dominant older male and consist of multiple females, juveniles, and young males. Females begin reproduction at age nine or 10 and do not produce many offspring. Female gorillas have a pregnancy term of nearly nine months and usually give birth to one infant. The infant will be held by its mother or ride on her back for approximately one year.
About the San Francisco Zoo
The mission of the San Francisco Zoo is to connect visitors with wildlife, inspire caring for nature, and advance conservation action. Nestled against the Pacific Ocean, the SF Zoo is an urban oasis. It is home to over 1,000 exotic, endangered, and rescued animals representing more than 250 species and lovely peaceful gardens full of native and foreign plants. The majestic Roberts African Savanna offers a multi-species landscape with giraffes, zebras, kudu, ostriches, and more. At Hearst Grizzly Gulch, visitors can get nose-to-nose with rescued grizzly sisters Kachina and Kiona. Lemurs leap through the Lipman Lemur Forest, the largest outdoor lemur habitat in the country. Penguin Island is home to the largest colony of Magellanic penguins outside of the wild. The Zoo’s troop of gorillas lives in the lush Jones Family Gorilla Preserve. Farm animals for feeding and petting can be found in the popular Fisher Family Children’s Zoo. The historic 1921 Dentzel Carousel and the 1904 miniature Little Puffer steam train are treasured by generations of visitors and the newly renovated $3.2 million Elinor Friend Playground re-opened in fall 2013 to rave reviews. The SF Zoo offers a rich history for its guests, including fun rides, educational programs, and exciting events for children of all ages. The SF Zoo is proud to be accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
SAN FRANCISCO, CA Its official: our 8-week-old Sumatran tiger cub will go on exhibit outside on Friday, April 12! At 14 pounds, the cub is now strong enough to venture into the outdoor enclosure. On Wednesday morning, animal staff supervised a trial run for the very excited mother, Leanne, and cub. A very attentive mother, Leanne immediately carried her to the safest spot, the lower grass moat area. There they were free to play and run back and forth until the cub was ready to explore a bit; Leanne was so happy to be outside with her baby, she frolicked just like a cub too! The cub was naturally drawn to the security of the hay bales below the rock area but she eventually allowed Leanne to lead her up the stairs several times for practice, proving once again that Leanne is a seasoned mother who knows whats best for her cub.
Providing the cub the opportunity to explore the outside world is a significant step in her development, says Curator of Carnivores and Primates Corinne MacDonald. The cub will build up her strength and confidence watching her mother, Leanne, and shell learn from her while navigating her new environment. We are thrilled to finally be able to show our tiger cub off outside to all of her fans!
Access to the outside enclosure will allow them freedom to enjoy the fresh air of the yard or snuggle in their indoor nest box for some quiet time. To provide visitors with full access to the adorable duo, The Lion House will be open from 2-4pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday this weekend. More information about the cub.
Out of respect for the animals and to support their emotional wellness, the Zoo asks the public to adhere to the following guidelines when viewing the Leanne and the cub:
- Keep voices low; walk and stand quietly.
- Do not bang on the glass of the outdoor enclosure.
- Follow the instructions of Zoo animal staff and security.
- Remain behind the provided barriers.
- If the cub and Leanne are in their nest box, feel free to watch their activity (mostly sleeping and nursing) on the live video feed that has been provided in the Lion House; do not make noises to attempt to wake them or disturb them.
- The Zoo provides no guarantee that Leanne and the cub will be on view during these hours.
- The Zoo reserves the right to close the Lion House at any time in order to provide a safe and peaceful environment for Leanne and the cub.
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About Sumatran Tigers
The Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris) is classified as Critically Endangered by IUCN and is on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The greatest threat to survival is destruction of habitat, followed by poaching. Currently the wild Sumatran tiger population is estimated at less than 400. As of September 2012, there were 74 Sumatran tigers in captivity at 27 accredited institutions of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) in North America.
From the island of Sumatra, off the Malaysian Peninsula, these terrestrial and nocturnal cats inhabit evergreen, swamp and tropical rain forests as well as grasslands. As the smallest of the remaining subspecies of Panthera tigris, the Sumatran tiger is particularly well suited for life in the deep jungle. The fur on the upper parts of its body ranges from orange to reddish-brown, making it darker in color than other tigers. This helps it to hide within its heavily wooded forest habitat. Also unique to this subspecies are distinctly long whiskers, which serve as sensors in the dark, dense underbrush. Males weigh between 200-350 lbs., and females between 180-300 lbs., with a head to body length of 7.2 - 8.9 feet, and a tail length of 2-3 feet. In the wild, the carnivorous Sumatran tigers eat mainly wild pigs and sambar deer. While at the Zoo, the tigers receive fortified horsemeat, chicken and rabbit. Sumatran tigers are usually solitary and prefer to live alone, except for courting pairs and females with young. Females are sexually mature between 4-5 years and give birth every 2-2.5 years. After a 102-112 day gestation, a typical litter of 3 or 4 is born.
Until recently, there were nine subspecies of Panthera tigris. Three subspecies, the Caspian, Bali and Javan tigers, were deemed extinct between the 1940s and 1970s. Estimates to the six remaining subspecies in the wild are as follows (according to IUCN Redlist): Bengal 1,706, Indochinese less than 2,500, Sumatran less than 400, Amur (Siberian) 360, Malayan less than 750, and the South China tiger is thought to be already extinct in the wild. These remaining subspecies are either listed as endangered or critically endangered.
About San Francisco Zoo
The mission of the San Francisco Zoo is to connect visitors with wildlife, inspire caring for nature and advance conservation action. Nestled against the Pacific Ocean, the San Francisco Zoo is an urban oasis. It is home to over 1,000 exotic, endangered and rescued animals representing more than 250 species and lovely peaceful gardens full of native and foreign plants.
The majestic African Savanna offers a multi-species landscape with giraffes, zebras, kudu, ostriches and more. At Grizzly Gulch visitors can get nose-to-nose with rescued grizzly sisters Kachina and Kiona. Lemurs leap through Lemur Forest, the largest outdoor lemur habitat in the country. Penguin Island is home to the largest colony of Magellanic penguins outside of the wild. The Zoos troop of gorillas lives in the lush Gorilla Preserve. Farm animals for feeding and petting can be found in the popular Fisher Family Childrens Zoo. The historic 1921 Dentzel Carousel and 1904 miniature Little Puffer steam train are treasured by generations of visitors. The San Francisco Zoo offers a rich history for its guests, including fun rides, educational programs and exciting events for children of all ages. The San Francisco Zoo is proud to be accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).