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While Zoo Miami prepares for the official ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new Sea Turtle Hospital scheduled for July 6th, a huge female loggerhead sea turtle that was likely injured by a shark, has necessitated emergency care to help save the life of this threatened species.
On May 22nd, Zoo Miami received a call from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), that a large female loggerhead turtle had been rescued from the Port St. Lucie Power Plant with a severe wound to its left front flipper, leaving only exposed bone and torn flesh, the apparent victim of a shark attack.
Because Zoo Miami’s newly constructed Sea Turtle Hospital had recently passed inspection and received its permits to accept sick and injured sea turtles, it was decided to transfer the injured animal to the zoo for treatment and rehabilitation.
Upon arrival, the massive reptile weighed 388 pounds and was missing most of her left front flipper except for the exposed humerus bone. The turtle also had scars on its shell that indicated it had possibly been struck by a boat and bitten by another shark earlier in its life. In addition, after a close examination that included ultrasound, it was discovered that she was laden with eggs.
The Animal Health staff immediately stabilized the turtle in one of several special tanks designed to house sea turtles during treatment and rehabilitation to prepare them for release back to the wild. Once stabilized, she was given fluids as well as vitamins and food that included squid and crab.
On Monday, the turtle was carefully transported from the recovery tank to a special pen that was filled with sand in hopes that she would be encouraged to deposit her eggs so that they could possibly be salvaged. In order to assist in this endeavor, she was given calcium and oxytocin to help stimulate her egg-laying. By Tuesday morning, she had deposited over 100 eggs which were carefully collected so that they could be transported by the Miami-Dade Parks Sea Turtle Conservation Program staff with the approval of FWC and inserted into a man-made nest for incubation. Though some eggs were initially deposited in water and unlikely to hatch, there is hope that some of the eggs are fertile and will successfully hatch.
Back on April 21st, “Jiwa,” a 7 year old male Bornean Orangutan, arrived at Zoo Miami from the Phoenix Zoo as part of an “arranged marriage” with “Bella,” a 9 year old female who, since the death of her mom last September, has been the only Orangutan at Zoo Miami. Though both individuals are still a bit young to be consummating a relationship, it is important that the introduction process start early so that zoo staff can evaluate whether or not the pairing will be successful. Though these two individuals may be genetically compatible, if they don’t like each other, getting them to successfully reproduce would be a major challenge.
Once Jiwa passed his initial quarantine, he was transported to a holding area that was within sightline of Bella but separated by barriers to prevent any potential aggression. After several days, zookeepers were encouraged by the interest that each individual seemed to have in the other without showing any signs of aggression. After careful observations, it was decided to give both individuals access out onto their large habitat together so that they could not only interact with each other should they choose, but they would be in a large enough area to be able to avoid aggression should it arise.
Yesterday afternoon, both Bella and Jiwa were given access to the Orangutan habitat while staff carefully observed them, hoping that they would indeed get along. At first, Jiwa went off on his own exploring his new surroundings while Bella watched from a distance while she did her own thing. Eventually, they would get closer to each other with Jiwa stretching out his long arm in an effort to connect. They each seemed curious about what the other was doing but they never displayed aggression.
Then, as they sat across from each other, Bella slowly leaned in and gently placed her lips on Jiwa’s chin while he tilted his head back. Soon after, at a different location, facing each other again, Jiwa gently leaned his head against Bella’s as they both exchanged what appeared to be a truly tender moment.
Throughout the afternoon, both individuals appeared to gradually spend more and more time with each other without any indication of aggression. Though this is not a guarantee that this pair will be able to successfully reproduce, it is a very positive sign that they will bond as they sexually mature and be able to contribute offspring to this critically endangered species.
Both Bella and Jiwa will be out on the Orangutan habitat together moving forward so we encourage everyone to come see them!
Back on June 30th of 2018, “Bella,” then a five year old Bornean Orangutan, made her public debut at Zoo Miami with her mother, “Kumang” after arriving from the Seneca Park Zoo in New York. The two were a crowd favorite until the sad death of Kumang in September of last year from complications following a veterinary procedure.
Since Kumang’s death, Bella has adjusted to being independent but the plan for her has always been to pair her with a mate with the eventual goal of having her contribute to the carefully managed population of endangered Orangutans under human care. This population is managed by a Species Survival Plan (SSP) cooperatively through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). There are nearly 500 SSPs managed through the AZA focusing on rare, threatened and endangered species with the goal of maintaining a genetically diverse population under human care for long term sustainability. In very simple terms, it serves as a “computer dating service” to pair up animals that are genetically best suited to produce the healthiest offspring. Each SSP is led by an expert advisor who directs those pairings.
As it turns out, the Orangutan SSP has recommended that Bella, now 9, be paired with a 7 year old male named “Jiwa,” who is from the Phoenix Zoo in Arizona. Yesterday, after a great deal of careful planning, Jiwa was placed on a special FedEx flight accompanied by a staff member from the Phoenix Zoo and Zoo Miami that arrived at MIA yesterday evening. The flight went smoothly and upon arrival, Jiwa was transferred to Zoo Miami where he was brought to the Orangutan area and will remain in quarantine for approximately 30 days to ensure that he is free of any parasites or illness that he may have contracted in transit from Phoenix.
Once he clears quarantine, the very careful process of introducing him to Bella will begin to take place. Though their genetics say that they are well suited for each other biologically, there is no guarantee that they will like each other and become a successful couple. A great deal will depend on the process of introduction where the Animal Science team will take every possible step to slowly and patiently introduce them to each other. Our hope is that once Bella sees Jiwa, she will “swipe right!”
On Monday, April 11th, a critically endangered addax antelope was born at Zoo Miami. With a maximum of only a few hundred left in the wild, the addax is one of the most critically endangered animals in the world. Though it once ranged throughout much of the Sahara desert in North Africa, it has now been reduced to a small reserve in Niger. Their main threats are poaching and habitat destruction due to petroleum exploration.
They are nomadic and live in small herds ranging from 5-20 individuals led by a dominant male and are strict herbivores specially adapted for life in the desert. They have wide padded hooves for walking in the sand and produce dry feces and concentrated urine enabling them to get all of the water they need from the vegetation that they eat. In addition, their white to tan coloration aids in blending in with their desert environment while helping to keep them cool by reflecting heat.
This is the 72nd addax born at Zoo Miami. The male calf weighed just over 14 pounds at birth after a pregnancy of approximately 8 ½ months. The neonatal examination showed the newborn to be in good health and it has since been introduced back to the herd on exhibit where its mother is taking excellent care of it.
The careful breeding of addax populations under human care serves as an insurance policy against a very dire situation in the wild where many experts believe that they are soon headed for extinction. Thanks to the closely managed herds in zoos like Zoo Miami, this critically endangered species has a much better chance for survival for future generations.
Today, two endangered giant river otters underwent wellness exams as part of a carefully managed preventative medicine program at Zoo Miami.
“Kara,” is a 17 years old female and weighs approximately 50 pounds. She was joined by “Matata,” a 7 year old female that weighs approximately 58 pounds. Together, they were brought to the Zoo Miami Hospital where they underwent a series of procedures that included ultrasound exams, blood and urine collection, X-rays and vaccinations, as well as general eye, ear and dental exams. In addition, they both also received birth control implants as part of a carefully managed birth control program.
These procedures play a critical role in maintaining the overall health of the animals at Zoo Miami. Because wild animals will instinctively disguise any symptoms of being ill or injured in order to avoid exposing themselves to predation or attack, it is important that these exams take place so that any potential health issues can be diagnosed and hopefully treated before they become serious.
Today’s procedures were managed by Zoo Miami Associate Veterinarians, Dr. Rodney Schnellbacher and Dr. Gaby Flacke, along with the Zoo Miami Animal Health Team. Both otters appear to be in generally good health and have since been successfully returned to their habitat where they can calmly recover from the day’s events.
Giant otters are the longest of the world’s 13 otter species with males reaching a length of 6 feet. They are extremely endangered and are naturally found in isolated and remote areas within some fresh water lakes, creeks, rivers, and reservoirs of Tropical South America. Zoo Miami has one of the country’s most successful captive breeding programs with several litters having been born here.