January 07, 2016

#10 The Zoo studied a strange animal indeed—humans!

A Saint Louis Zoo research team worked with academic partners to check out heart rates and visitors' psychological health after they touched stingrays and sharks at Stingrays at Caribbean Cove. The findings showed decreased mental stress. It's not too much of a stretch to say that this proves reconnecting a visitor with nature creates a happier person.






#9 American burying beetles got their "ticket to ride" in the wild.

2015 marked the fourth reintroduction for our American burying beetles—Mother Nature's ultimate recyclers. In 2012, the insect became the first endangered species to be re-introduced in the state of Missouri. To date, nearly 1,500 Saint Louis Zoo-bred American burying beetles have been reintroduced.






#8 How many people does it take to do a pelican round-up? A dozen.

November 5, with the help from staff across the Zoo, 21 American white pelicans were given thorough health assessments—including a first—a complete eye exam. Dr. Jacqueline Pearce, a veterinary ophthalmologist at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, joined the animal health staff to establish baseline parameters for eye health in these birds. Little is published about the eyes of aquatic birds. These animals just won't go get their eyes tested! Findings from this assessment will advance the medical care of pelicans and other aquatic birds.



#7 Jet-setting snails.

First to London—then Tahiti! In 2015, 30 years after going extinct in the wild, Partula snails were returned home to the Papehue Valley in Tahiti. In 1984, three scientists put out a call to save the remaining species by breeding them in zoos. In 1988, the Saint Louis Zoo became a leader in creating a breeding plan to save these snails. This summer the Zoo contributed 140 individual snails to the shipment of 243 that went to the London Zoo, where they received health screenings before some were placed on a flight to Tahiti. In Tahiti, the snails were greeted with fanfare and a ukulele tune as field scientists headed to a reserve, where they were released. We were particularly pleased to learn that of all the species shipped, our Zoo’s snails were the ones that fared best on the journey from London to Tahiti and that researchers are finding baby snails that are offspring of the ones that were reintroduced.



#6 Party animals ruled! 

A turkey with a party hat is the best description of one of the rarest birds in the world, the horned guan. From 1,000 to 2,000 horned guans remain in the wild in the cloud forests of Mexico and Guatemala. The only place in America where you can see them is at the Saint Louis Zoo. The August 7 birth of two horned guan chicks marked a first for the Zoo and just the second recorded breeding of this species in the United States. One of the two chicks has survived and is thriving. Two small bumps on the top of its head have slowly begun to twist together, and over the course of the next year, will form a single horn—party on!

#5 A polar bear was FedExed to St. Louis.

Kali the polar bear, a 2.5-year-old, 850-pound male that was orphaned in Alaska as a cub, came to St. Louis May 5 from Rochester, New York by a FedEx Express flight from Rochester to Memphis, and a temperature-controlled truck transport via FedEx Custom Critical from Memphis to St. Louis. FedEx donated the transportation. A special delivery, indeed!

#4 A red kangaroo's pouch saw double.

It gets a little crowded in the pouch when your brother from another mother jumps in. We applaud this red kangaroo super mom Roomer who had two joeys—not twins—taking residence in her pouch simultaneously in spring 2015. Joey #1 was her offspring and was still nursing from her, but Joey #2 had been weaned from its mother Daisy and recently moved out of her pouch. It's probable that Daisy had another tiny joey growing in her pouch and encouraged her oldest to give up its room to its younger sibling. Clearly, Joey #2 was not ready to leave the comfort of the pouch and knocked on the door of Casa del Roomer. Roopert is the father of both joeys. And thus ends the latest episode of Keeping Up with the Kangaroos.


#3 J-Lo the green anaconda goes hog wild!

Our large female green anaconda—rescued from a bush meat market in Guyana—is a picky eater! She turned her nose up at rabbits and other food items for nearly a year after arriving to the Zoo, until her keepers tried offering her something a little bigger—a pig. She took one whiff of it and has never looked back. Now J-Lo is fed a 35-40 pound thawed frozen pig every 10 weeks, which averages out to five pigs per year. It takes her about 20 minutes to swallow the pig and a week to digest it. The Zoo's diets for snakes are based on the animals' activity and metabolism. In general, boas, pythons and most vipers are "sit and wait" predators. They tend to have lower metabolisms and spend considerable time in one spot, so they don't need much food to survive. But when that 10-week mark hits, J-Lo is ready to pig out!

#2 Come out to the Zoo for the Vulture Vomit Toss!

On September 5, the Saint Louis Zoo conducted a "Vulture Vomit Toss" where visitors took a small piece of artificial vulture vomit and tossed it at pictures of predators and other scavengers. The goal was to educate visitors on vultures' defensive behaviors for International Vulture Awareness Day. Vultures are in big trouble in the wild—several species are in extreme danger of extinction. The problem is cattle contaminated with a veterinary drug that is lethal to the vultures whose job it is to clean up livestock carcasses. That's not good news for humanity—we depend on vultures to be the clean-up crew that protects us from diseases spread by dead and decaying animals. They take care of carcasses infected with anthrax, cholera, botulinum toxin, rabies and more.

#1 A female crocodilian finally got her man.

Eighteen years ago, Singapore Zoo sent what they said was a male Malayan gharial—a freshwater crocodilian with a very thin and elongated snout. This Indonesian crocodile is listed as "vulnerable" with a population estimated at less than 2,500 mature individuals. A female also came in at the same time from the Singapore Zoo, and we were hoping breeding would begin! Until, that is, our staff found an egg in the male's pool. (At first, we thought someone was playing a joke—but no, the male was a female.) 2015 marked the departure of one female and the arrival of a real male—let the fun finally begin!