February 21, 2020
One of my favorite things about Kali, and polar bears in general, is their large paws. They are so massive in size, measuring up to 11.81 inches across! Their paws are specifically designed for traveling in the Arctic. The size of their paws allows them to evenly distribute their body weight on thin ice. In between their paw pads, they have tufts of fur that help with warmth and stability on the ice. They also have small bumps called papillae on their paw pads, as well as thick, sharp claws that help them to grip the sea ice and not slip. Polar bear paws aren’t only designed to help on land, but also while swimming. Their forepaws act like large paddles and hind paws serve as rudders while navigating throughout the water.
I stay informed on local and global issues that may impact my community as well as the Arctic. I am sure to make my voice heard on matters that are important to me. – Mary Witucki, Carnivore Keeper
February 18, 2020
By Sydney Oliveira, Zoological Manager of Birds
We often use the term “lovebirds” to describe an openly affectionate couple in public. The term could probably be traced to the bird species as they are known for being extremely caring toward one another; lovebird is the common name of a small genus of parrot, Agapornis.
We do not have lovebirds at the Saint Louis Zoo, but we do have several pairs of birds that you could call “lovebirds” for the affection and care they give one another.
Crested Wood Partridges: Big Red (male) and Little Green (female)
Crested wood partridges have a strong bond between their partners. The males are nothing but gentlemen. With this pair of birds at our Zoo, we often see the male offering the female food items. When they are fed their daily diet or treats, he offers her food until she is full and then will eat some himself. If they wander too far away from one another, they will vocalize and then one quickly returns to the other.
Photos: JoEllen Toler
Bali Mynahs: Several Pairs
It is very common to see this species allopreen, which is when birds will preen one another. To preen is when birds clean their feathers with their beak. This species is also not shy about showing their affection for one another. They have a unique courtship display: they point their bill to the sky, raise the crest of feathers on their head, and bob up and down on the perching. While doing this, they also make unique vocalizations.
Photo: JoEllen Toler
Trumpeter Swans: Charlie and Marilyn
Talk about couple’s goals! This pair takes the cake. Though Charlie and Marilyn are a newly formed pair, only having been together for one year, they already have a strong bond. Usually they are seen moving around the lake, side by side. They often engage in a courtship display where they spread their wings and shake them, sometimes while bobbing heads and trumpeting in unison. In the future, when eggs are laid, we predict that Charlie will be very protective and will defend Marilyn and their offspring by charging at any threat while hissing and smacking his wings. This can be very intimidating due to the size of trumpeter swans. It is dangerous to any threat; the force of the birds’ wing smack is strong enough to break bones.
Photo: JoEllen Toler
These birds are very devoted to one another. We often hear them calling back and forth to each other. They also like to mirror each other’s behaviors. If one is bathing or preening, the other will then start bathing and preening. When one is eating, the other usually joins at the feed site. The males will often feed the females as part of their courtship. Once the female has laid an egg, she will seal herself into a log with mud and food items. She relies solely on the male to feed her while she is incubating the eggs and caring for the young chick(s). As the chick(s) grow, the space in the nest log gets tight, and the female will then break out of the log. She and the male will seal the chicks back in and continue to feed them until they are adult-sized and able to break out of the nest on their own.
Photo: JoEllen Toler
Humboldt Penguins: Cabo and Loca, Juan Thomas and Pequena, Argus and Coco, Selma and Paco
These couples can all be seen preening one another on habitat. These couples like to hang out near one another for most of the day. When the sun is out, you might even see them basking next to one another. To keep their bonds strong, they also stand upright and vocalize back and forth while fluffing their feathers up around their face and neck.
Pictured: Cabo and Loca
The male loves to serenade his female with low humming noises. He picks a nice open area to stand, then bends his head down, and puffs his chest up while making this low humming or booming vocalization. If that does not get his mate’s attention, then his treat sharing sure does. These birds love shelled peanuts as a treat. When offered these items, the male promptly breaks them open, holds them in his beak and runs over to feed his mate while making a high-pitched whistling noise. It is quite a sight to see.
February 13, 2020
Valentine’s Day is this Friday, and one of the most popular valentine’s candies is Conversation Hearts. This week, we are switching up Conversation Hearts with our “conservation” hearts – highlighting some of the Zoo’s many conservation efforts. You can learn more about our efforts and how you can help here.
Wild 4 U
At the Saint Louis Zoo, we are dedicated to caring for animals. We care about animals here at the Zoo, and we care about their wild counterparts around the world. Our commitment to saving endangered species and their habitats is exemplified through the work of the Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Institute and Saint Louis Zoo Institute for Conservation Medicine.
The WildCare Institute consists of 17 centers and 11 conservation programs. With the support of its partners, the WildCare Institute takes a holistic approach to troubled ecosystems by addressing three key pillars in conservation success: wildlife management and recovery, conservation science, and support of the human populations that coexist with wildlife. From the streams of the Missouri Ozarks to the Sahara desert in North Africa, the Zoo supports critical initiatives in places where animals are threatened by shrinking habitats, poaching and disease.
The Institute for Conservation Medicine takes a holistic approach to wildlife conservation, public health and sustainable ecosystems to ensure healthy animals and healthy people. The Zoo's conservation medicine research focuses on diseases that affect the conservation of threatened and endangered wildlife species. Scientists study the origin, movement and risk factors associated with diseases. This helps them to better understand the impact of diseases on the conservation of wildlife populations; the links between the health of zoo animals and free-living wildlife populations; and the movement of diseases between wildlife, domestic animals and humans.
Save birds with a blooming backyard! A bird-friendly backyard may include: a water source (such as a bird bath), which gives a place for birds to bathe and drink; native gardens that attract hummingbirds as well as insects, which birds can then eat; and fruit trees to provide birds a place to nest.
After habitat loss, another significant threat to wild birds is glass. Estimates show that up to 988 million birds are killed each year in the U.S. when they hit glass windows. Decorate your windows so that birds can see and avoid them. The reflection in windows can be confusing for birds, and they can accidentally fly into the windows and hurt themselves. Make it a family project and decorate your windows with beautiful suncatchers! At the Zoo, we have put striping on many of our windows to help keep birds safe.
Bye, Bye Love
We encourage people to break up with plastic bags and make the choice to switch to reusable bags instead. #byetobags was designed and organized by our Zoo ALIVE teen volunteers in January 2016 through a partnership with The Ocean Project. Subsequent support for the project has been provided by generous donors to the Saint Louis Zoo. The project highlights our ability to impact ocean health, even from the Midwest, through a simple, solution-oriented action—using reusable bags instead of plastic. #byetobags reminds us that individuals are the forces of change. It’s been estimated that one person switching to reusable bags can keep about 500 plastic bags out of the environment every year! As of December 2019, 13,249 Saint Louis Zoo visitors have pledged to make the switch to reusable bags. Join us today by pledging to say goodbye to plastic bags!
Did you know that one out of every three bites of food you eat depends on pollinators? Insects like honeybees and bumble bees, as well as birds and small mammals, pollinate over 90 percent of the planet's flowering plants and one third of the human diet. Our world would be a lot less colorful and flavorful without pollinators! Of the estimated 1,330 crop plants grown worldwide for food, beverages, fibers, condiments, spices and medicines, approximately 75 percent are pollinated by animals. In the U.S., honeybee and native bee pollination accounts for approximately $19 billion worth of crop production. You can help native pollinators, especially bees, by planting a pollinator-friendly garden.
Sustain 4 Ever
Orangutans and many other animals are in danger due to unsustainable palm oil plantations, which destroy their forest homes. Palm oil plantations are not a natural part of the rainforest. Palm oil is an introduced agricultural crop. Over 30 million tons of palm oil are produced in Indonesia and Malaysia per year. This demand is increasing rapidly due to recent trans-fat health concerns and bio-fuel development.
Palm oil can be found in many products—even candy! We are dedicated to caring for animals, so we encourage you to consider purchasing candy that contains sustainable palm oil. Visit this link to print out your cheat sheet, or download the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo's palm oil shopping guide app.