This week at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, one of the new additions to the rhino family, Wallis, a Southern White Rhino from South Africa, revealed a harsh reality of what is happening to her species throughout Africa. Wallis has been at the Park for just over a year and since her arrival has been exhibiting a wound that just wouldn’t heal. This week keepers noticed something sticking out of her skin at the site of the wound. Vets were called in and removed a bullet casing! Discovery of the bullet suggests a botched poaching attempt. Based on the angle of the wound, vets speculate that the rhino turned toward her shooter before being shot saving her life but leaving her with a stark reminder of the current plight of her species.
Park staff tried to determine the extent of the wound and find the lead from the bullet but traditional equipment wasn’t strong enough to penetrate the rhino’s thick skin. The San Diego Fire-Rescue Bomb Squad was called in and using a device used to conduct investigations of explosive devices, they confirmed the presence of a metal fragment (likely the bullet). The next step will be removing the bullet but, in the meantime, the casing will be sent to a forensic lab to be included in investigations to aid in the fight against poaching in Africa.
Wallis is a very special addition to the Park’s rhino family. She is as part of the Park's White Rhino breeding program planned to be a surrogate for the critically endangered Northern White Rhino whose only remaining females are all too old to breed.
This story has been floating around the interwebs for the past week or two and I understand why it keeps being re-posted on social media.... its seemingly hilarious!
Ai Hin, a 6 year old panda at the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Research Center, the same place some of our San Diego pandas now call home, is said to have faked a pregnancy to get special treatment, including more food, air conditioning and increased attention. Chengdu reported Ai Hin was showing signs of pregnancy in the form of reduced appetite, less mobility and a surge of progestational hormone. But, it could be possible she was pregnant but reabsorbed the fetus. Surges in hormones are hard to fake and it is fairly common for pandas to lose a pregnancy, reabsorbing the fetus so it appears as if there was no pregnancy at all. Reabsorption could happen because there is a fetal defect or death, the mother has a disease which affects her ability to properly care of the fetus, there is a hormonal disruption, or environmental conditions are not conducive to caring for the baby. At the San Diego Zoo, they have seen this phenomenon with the use of thermal imaging and ultra sound. Bai Yun was suspected to be carrying twins on more than one occasion but has only ever given birth to one cub. This kind of fetal reabsorption is called "prenatal litter pruning". The mechanism isn't exactly known but could be an adaptive result of pandas not being able to care for more than one cub in natural, wild conditions.
Who knows. Maybe Panda McLiar Pants wasn't lying after all but her body decided this just wasn't the time. She's only 6 and has never been a mother. Maybe she just wasn't ready yet!!
Big News from the San Diego Zoo! Yun Zi, the fifth cub mothered by Bai Yun and fourth to Gao Gao, will be following in the footsteps of his four siblings before him and making the journey back to his homeland next week. His arrival in China marks the beginning of his genetic contribution to the Panda species as a member of the breeding program. His siblings have had great success in the breeding program bringing more than 10 cubs into the world.
I am so proud of that little guy (well, not so little anymore). I was there when he was born and saw him almost every week until I moved to Texas. He is a gorgeous bear with a lot of personality and will be a great addition to the breeding program. I will miss him as I miss Mei Sheng, Su Lin and Zhen Zhen and hope that some day I might be able to make my own journey to China to visit.
No, this isn't a unicorn, although it has been mistaken for one for centuries. In fact, lost ancient Greeks wandering the deserts of Northern Africa, drunken by dehydration from the intense heat may be the ones responsible for the myth of the magical one horned stag-like creature. The unicorn can't be found within Greek mythology, but is found in accounts from Greece's natural historians, which explains why people were so convinced of their reality. Ctesias, a Greek physician, wrote of white, one horned "wild asses as large as horses" in India. Even Aristotle wrote of the oryx as a unicorn in On the Parts of Animals (Book 3, Chapter 2) stating that they have one horn in the center of their head. The oryx, however, is simply a type of antelope which has two symmetrical horns on its forehead oriented in such a way that they appear to have one horn oriented in the center of its head when it turns to its side.
There are four species of oryx – the Arabian, scimitar, East African and gemsbok. While there are plenty of East African and gemsbok out there roaming the African deserts (in fact, I have about a lb. of gemsbok meat in my freezer. It's delicious!), the Arabian and scimitar oryx have both been extinct in the wild. The Arabian oryx went extinct in the wild in 1972 primarily due to poaching but has since been reintroduced across the Arabian Peninsula. As of 2011, the wild population is over 1000 animals with a majority having come from a herd at the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park.Photo By: Klaus Rudloff
The scimitar oryx had a similar fate to the Arabian oryx but, until now, without the recovery efforts. Due to extreme conditions made worse by many years of repeated wars in Chad and Sudan, the scimitar oryx has been considered extinct in the wild since the 1980's. Luckily, the many small populations of this species being kept on private game reserves and in zoos all around the world are keeping them from going completely extinct, but, political unrest has made reintroduction efforts impossible. Things are looking brighter for the scimitar oryx though. After a restoration of harmony agreement was signed by the Chadian and Sudanese governments on January 15, 2010, organizations such as the Sahara Conservation Fund (SCF) took action. Surveys done by SCF and the Chad National Parks and Wildlife Services revealed the potential of the Ouadi Rime-Oudi Achim Game Reserve, an expanse of African desert the oryx once called home so many years ago, to act as a reintroduction site. And, after a stakeholder workshop facilitated by the IUCN's Conservation Breeding Specialist Group held earlier this month, SCF, with the backing of the Chadian president Mr. Idriss Deby Itno, is planning to start a reintroduction program which will be accompanied by protected area management (Wildlife Extra). If run correctly, because of the locations’ past history with oryx and an improving political climate, this program has the potential to be even more successful than the reintroduction of the Arabian oryx allowing people to once again lay eyes on the majestic "unicorn" on the sands of the Sahara.
I am a biologist and my life is crap!