Last ticket sold at 4:00 PM
“Dalip,” an Asian bull elephant, celebrated his 55th birthday today at Zoo Miami with a variety of special enrichment items that included a massive custom, multi-layered popsicle that consisted of frozen Gatorade, fruits, flowers and vegetables. In addition, he received a special sheet cake made of flour and carrots.
Weighing well over 10,000 pounds and standing over 10 feet tall, he is considered one of the largest Asian elephants in the country and is a far cry from the 700 pound, 4 foot tall calf that arrived at the Crandon Park Zoo on Key Biscayne in August of 1967. Dalip, which means “King” in Hindi, was born on June 8th, 1966 at the Trivandrum Zoo in Kerela, India and was brought to the United States as a gift to the Crandon Park Zoo by benefactor Ralph Scott. At 55 years old, this magnificent elephant is the oldest Asian bull elephant in North America and is one of the last remaining “founder” animals at Zoo Miami. Having been here since the zoo opened in 1980, he has experienced several major hurricanes including the devastation of Hurricane Andrew which required him to be sent to another facility for nearly 3 years while the zoo was being rebuilt. Dalip sired a male calf back in 1980 named, “Spike,” who lives as part of the elephant herd at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. As a “senior citizen” of elephant society, he now serves as a mentor for “Ongard,” a 10 year old Asian bull who arrived from Australia in 2018.
With less than 50,000 individuals left in the wild, the Asian elephant is listed as an endangered species. The main threats to their population are habitat fragmentation, poaching for ivory and conflicts with farmers. Found in small herds in isolated forested areas of 13 countries on the Asian continent, it has had a history with humans for thousands of years as a cultural icon in the Hindu religion where the elephant-headed deity, Lord Ganesh, is honored before all sacred rituals.
In the wild, Asian elephants can each eat over 200 pounds of leaves, grass and other vegetation while drinking over 50 gallons of water daily. They are matriarchal with older females leading the herds and older males being found in small bachelor groups or becoming solitary as they mature. They play a major role in seed dispersal and the health of the forests where they are found.
On Monday, May 17th, “Binti,” Zoo Miami’s 12 year old Red River Hog, gave birth to three piglets. Born at the Los Angeles Zoo, she is an experienced mom that has successfully raised several litters prior to arriving at Zoo Miami in 2017.
“Pua” is the 9 year old father and he was born at the Oklahoma City Zoo. He has also sired serval offspring prior to arriving at Zoo Miami in 2019.
This morning, the three piglets received their neonatal exams where they were weighed, microchipped, received iron supplements, had their eyes and oral cavities checked as well as having their umbilicus cleaned. It was determined that there are two males and one female. Though they appear to be in generally good health, small heart murmurs were heard in two of the three which could be a normal result of being separated from their mother for the exam but will be closely monitored in the future. The piglets were quickly returned to mom following the exams which only took a few minutes.
Red River Hogs are considered a species of least concern and are found in patchy forested areas of western, central, and eastern Africa. They are a highly adaptable species and will on occasion leave the refuge of the forest to feed on agricultural crops sometimes causing conflict with farmers.
They get their name from their red coat and tendency to be found close to rivers where they enjoy wallowing in the mud and adjacent streams. They are sometimes called the tufted pig in reference to their long ear tufts and are the smallest of Africa’s wild pigs ranging in size from 100 – 275 pounds. Males will develop large cartilaginous protrusions on the sides of their face as well as pronounced tusks used in battles with other males.
Red River Hogs are opportunistic omnivores feeding on a wide variety of fruits, roots, invertebrates, eggs, nuts, grasses, reptiles and even carrion. Like most pigs, they use their snouts to root up the ground in constant search of food and have a normal lifespan of 15-20 years.
As we head into Mother’s Day weekend, Zoo Miami’s newest mother is a critically endangered Orinoco crocodile.
On February 5th, she laid 45 eggs in a carefully excavated nest located in an off-exhibit holding area. To prevent any loss due to predation or extreme weather events, the eggs were carefully collected by zoo staff on February 12th and placed into incubators.
On May 2nd, 85 days after being laid, the first egg pipped and soon the hatchling had fully emerged from the egg. Since that time, 6 other individuals have also fully hatched while several others have pipped and are still in the process of hatching. Zoo staff expects that hatching will continue through the weekend and into next week. The hatching period is spread out because the eggs have been incubated in two separate incubators kept at different temperatures. The reason for this is because the sex of all crocodilians is determined by the temperature that the eggs are incubated at. Generally speaking, cooler temperatures produce females and warmer temperatures produce males. By incubating the eggs in separate incubators with warmer and cooler temperatures, the hope is to have an even ratio of males to females.
Orinoco crocodiles are one of the world’s most critically endangered crocodilians due to extensive hunting for their skin and meat. Found in isolated pockets of the Orinoco River basin in Venezuela and the Meta River basin in Colombia, they are the New World’s southernmost species of crocodile. Very similar in appearance to the American crocodile, the Orinoco crocodile gets slightly larger with historical records of huge males approaching 20 feet in length. They are opportunistic hunters, feeding on a wide variety of fish, birds and small mammals with capybaras being a favorite.
For the second time in Zoo Miami’s history, a Cinereous vulture has hatched and is successfully being raised by its parents! The hatching occurred on April 12th in a secluded area of the zoo where the monogamous pair had built a nest on a platform and had been incubating the single egg for approximately 50 days. Because of the parent’s sensitivity to any external activity, the pair was not disturbed for the first several days and zookeepers only approached the area to provide food and then quickly left. It wasn’t until recently that staff was able to get a good look at the chick in the nest and determine that it appears healthy and growing.
The father’s name is “Valentino” and he hatched at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in California in 2009. The female’s name is “Tessa” and she hatched at the Buffalo Zoo in 2010. This is the second surviving chick for the pair. Cinereous vultures are part of the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) which Zoo Miami participates in and is designed to maintain a healthy, genetically diverse and demographically stable population for the long-term future of the species.
Cinereous vultures are the largest of the Old World vultures with females growing larger than males. With a wingspan that can exceed 9 feet, a large female can weigh over 20 pounds. They are found in various parts of Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Because they have a special type of hemoglobin in their blood, they can reach extreme heights while soaring to find their food and have been observed on Mount Everest at over 20,000 feet.
Though their main diet consists of carrion, unlike most other vultures, Cinereous vultures have relatively powerful talons and have been known to sometimes kill smaller prey. They are considered “Near Threatened” and their numbers have been greatly reduced over the last hundred years due to poisoning, habitat loss and the reduction of their food supply. They have become extinct over several parts of their previous range. Fortunately, recent conservation and education programs have resulted in a small population increase over the last several years.
Today is International Flamingo Day and Zoo Miami is committed to the conservation of Florida's American Flamingos - one of the state's most iconic and charismatic birds. Florida’s historic flamingo flocks amazed naturalists in the 19th century but were ultimately decimated by overhunting for food and feathers. Through the 20th century, flamingos in Florida were so rare that biologists believed any flamingos spotted were merely escaped birds from captive populations. Flamingos were ultimately classified as a non-native species, which would preclude any active conservation efforts to help them return to Florida.
In 2018, Zoo Miami and conservation partners published a landmark study to correct the record on flamingos’ status in Florida – showing strong evidence for large historical flocks, evidence for historical nesting, and surprising evidence for slow growth in Florida’s flamingo population since approximately 1950. With this data in hand, biologists led by Zoo Miami petitioned Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to review newly available data to determine whether flamingos warrant inclusion on Florida's list of endangered species. FWC conducted a nearly 3-year Biological Status Review (BSR), involving FWC staff, external conservation biologists and wading bird experts. Last week, FWC released a draft BSR which does not recommend listing but affirms that flamingos are a native species with historical presence. The BSR states a need for more research and monitoring for flamingos within Florida, and encourages their return to south Florida.
Zoo Miami is using cutting-edge research to understand the origins of Florida’s flamingos. In 2015, Zoo Miami and partners outfitted an American Flamingo, “Conchy,” with a satellite transmitter in an effort to understand the origins of Florida’s flamingos.
While the team expected Conchy to leave Florida quickly for Cuba, the Bahamas, or Mexico, Conchy remained in Florida Bay for nearly two years before his transmitter failed. This ultimately provided no information on his origins but suggested flamingos may find Florida a suitable home. The Zoo’s research team is currently working with partners on genetic analysis of flamingos through their range to better understand origins of Florida’s birds.
Today, Zoo Miami is happy to announce the creation of the Florida Flamingo Working Group (FFWG). The FFWG is a coalition of scientists and conservationists who share a mission to promote conservation and awareness of American Flamingos in Florida and throughout their range. Its goals are to help Florida’s native flamingo population recover, to ensure healthy habitats for flamingos everywhere, to help coordinate research and management needs for flamingos, and to raise awareness of flamingo conservation in Florida and beyond.