Posts Tagged ‘African Lion’

Fragile Felines!

by | July 9th, 2015

world lion day3

 

Lions are the top predators within their territories; however, even they are not exempt from the pressures of the changes taking place in the world. As human encroachment into nature’s last wild places continues, the everyday struggles for lions increase. While some game parks in Africa appear to have thriving lion populations, spotting a lion in Africa outside one of these areas is increasingly rare. Without extensive human management of lion populations, these iconic cats will disappear.

Uganda Carnivore Program, located in Queen Elizabeth National Park, is one organization that is fighting to preserve African lions. Dr. Ludwig Siefert and his research assistant James use radiotracking collars to keep tabs on the small population of lions remaining in the in park. They also work with local villages to mitigate the human-lion conflicts that arise from cohabitation of lions, humans, and the cattle they both use as food.

 

world lion day2

 

Here in California, “America’s lion,” the mountain lion, continues to be a misunderstood and feared predator. However, recent legislation is beginning to positively affect mountain lions. Now, with the help of Oakland Zoo, the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife may be able to relocate some mountain lions from urban areas to remote wilderness locations. Oakland Zoo’s Veterinary Hospital is approved as a temporary housing location for such mountain lions, and the veterinary staff works closely with officers when “nuisance” mountain lions are spotted.

 

world lion day4

 

On Saturday August 22, Oakland Zoo will celebrate World Lion Day with our own special Lion Appreciation Day. From lion keeper talks to lion paw prints, there will be a myriad of activities to help you appreciate and learn more about all lions! For a preview of World Lion Day, visit www.worldlionday.com

 

 

 

 

 

Oakland Zoo Veterinarian in Africa – Conclusion

by | March 3rd, 2015

March 1 and 2

 

Parting thoughts…

 

The journey home from QENP and Uganda takes three days, which gives me ample time to reflect on all I have seen and learned in the past 16 days. I am deeply grateful for this opportunity to travel to Uganda, work in the field alongside conservation experts, discover exotic cultures, and begin a project that may ultimately aid in saving a critically endangered ecosystem. Dr. Siefert and James will continue the fight for tomorrows, while we help from home until we return. I hope that my words from Uganda have been educational, entertaining, and maybe even a little inspirational for those of you who have followed our journey. If that’s the case, or even if it’s just because lion cubs are one of the cutest things on the planet, please be sure to visit UCP’s webpage often www.uganda-carnivores.org – maybe you, too, can give them a chance for tomorrow. Until the next visit…Cub with kob

Papa resting

Oakland Zoo Veterinarian in Africa – Part 6

by | March 3rd, 2015

Thursday / Friday Feb 26 / 27

 

Lights out, Africa time…

 

There is a bit of a time delay for this blog. As of Wednesday evening, electricity became variable: in fact, mostly non-existent, especially after dusk. No problem, I thought – my computer is fully charged and illuminated, so I can still write in the evening. Enter those pesky little insects called lake flies. The tiny, buzzing critters don’t bite or sting, but they fly around in packs of thousands, are attracted to the slightest bit of light, and are apparently generally meant to cause extreme annoyance to any human caught nearby. I dove under the mosquito net surrounding my bed in hopes of fending them off…alas, they were persistent and soon my computer screen was covered. Thwarted by microscopic insects, I gave up and attempted to fall asleep to the symphony of whirring wings around my head!

 

letterEven during the day, the lack of electricity renders sample processing impossible, and prevents Dr. Siefert from printing the letter of support for the community Chairman to sign. Africa time again. Nobody knows when the electricity will return, so Dr. Gottfried and I spend Thursday at the lodge, taking advantage of its’ electricity (the lodge is the only building nearby with a generator). After several hours of surfing the web and reading, we begin chatting with Ugandan waiters Morris and Daniel. They are interested especially in the American system of government and American marriage customs. We learn that there are many language dialects spoken in Uganda, each so unique that tribes living only a few miles apart cannot understand each other. Marriage is a bit different as well. Apparently if a woman in a marriage is infertile, the man immediately takes a new wife!

 

At 5pm, James calls. “Where might you be?” he asks, as he is suddenly ready to go lion tracking. This evening, we track in the burned crater area and, not surprisingly, find no lions. With nothing to eat, the lion prey have vacated this large part of the park. James again discusses Ugandan politics as he drives toward a village. Apparently we are meant to look at crafts in the village this evening. We are ushered into a small, dark brick building containing several women, a sewing machine, and yards of beautifully patterned cloth. The women here are also partially supported by UCP, so we purchase 12 yards of fabric, at the bargain price of 35,000 shillings ($13). At least we have made a monetary contribution to the community today, despite the electrical setback!lots of crafts

 

We think we know “Africa time,” by now but Friday redefines this phrase. Dr. Siefert and James arrive at 9:30 with grand plans for the day. We are to pick up crafts from the women’s group, take the letter to the Chairman to sign, take another letter to the UWA Conservation Manager to sign, run a few errands in Kasese town, and try to get some more lion and kob samples. Simple, right?

James calls a representative of the women’s group, “the old lady,” who tells him that the crafts are in the village. Meanwhile, Dr. Siefert speaks with a different representative of the village, Jane, who says they are at her home. Several more phone calls ensue, agitation becoming evident, and it is finally decided that we are to meet in the village. Crafts are finally picked up and bought…2 hours later. And thus the day will go. By 4pm, the outside temperature has risen to the mid-90’s and we have been in the vehicle for 6 hours, still awaiting the two letters of support for UCP grant funding. There will be no lion tracking today.

 

At the end of the day, exhausted, dusty, and sweaty from 8 hours in a truck, we have accomplished most of the objectives and feel thoroughly indoctrinated into Ugandan cultural habits. Our hostel waitress, Kyria, serves us our final Ugandan meal of grilled whole fish, matoke (plantain), posho, boiled potatoes, rice, and tomato sauce, a perfect end to an imperfect day…then, surprise… the electricity is off and the whirring wings begin again…

Oakland Zoo Veterinarian in Africa – Part 5

by | February 27th, 2015

Wednesday Feb 25

Communication challenges…

 

This Wednesday morning we accompany a young American couple on their lion tracking adventure. Dr. Siefert is not available for this trek, so while Dr. Gottfried and I narrate and answer questions, James looks for the lions. Obviously we have learned much about the lions and the park ecology – maybe we have a future in eco-tourism?Cub and yawn

 

We return to the sight of the water buffalo kill, where we have again picked up Sharon’s signal. The buffalo carcass is reduced to mere bones with tiny bits of flesh, and no fewer than 15 white-backed vultures are scavenging the remains…there is no waste here in the park. Sharon and the cubs have moved up the hill and are out of sight in the thick tangle of thorns and low brush. It has become too treacherous for navigation by 4-wheel drive and we must turn back.Vultures

 

Though the morning has yielded no samples for our study, we have successfully located several more lions. More importantly, we have conveyed a wealth of information to some very receptive park tourists. Hopefully this morning has had an impact on them – now they can not only say they have seen lions, but they understand a little more about complex conservation issues.

 

This afternoon’s communication challenge seems more daunting. We return to the community visited a few days ago, where we paid part compensation for a calf killed by a leopard. Today, Dr. Siefert will present his ideas to move the community forward, and solicit a letter of support from them to apply for grant funding for these improvement projects.

 

The community meeting takes place on a few rickety wooden benches placed on the dusty ground underneath a tree. The chairman of the community, Eliphaz, and 10 other high-ranking community members are present. Several other men wander in and out, standing quietly behind the benches as Dr. Seifert talks. He attempts to establish himself as “not the police, not the UWA,” but someone who has the interests of wildlife and the community in mind. He describes how his own family in Germany re-established their financial stability following the “misery” of WWII using a combination of agriculture, animal products, and forest eco-tourism, including a pub and restaurant. His point is that this community can also be more successful financially by utilizing similar ideas.

 

The most pressing need is for construction of proper corrals for the livestock – made 9 meters tall, with wire fence material and weather-resistant poles, surrounded by a second bio-fencing barrier made of the invasive thorny bushes so prevalent throughout the park. Dr. Siefert introduces the concept of “zero grazing” by which livestock are fed on smaller fenced pastures with grasses cultivated by the community, leaving the park grasses available for wild prey species. Not wanting to leave anyone out, he proposes creating sport-fishing eco-tours for the fishermen in the community, and describes accommodations necessary for that industry.

 

Finally, one man breaks his silence, and Eliphaz translates for us. The community members would like to comment and are becoming impatient! I have the impression that Dr. Siefert’s ideas are a bit overwhelming. They agree that proper livestock pens are essential, but balk at the idea of shared community pens. They argue that people need to be able to check their livestock throughout the day while at home, there is too much potential for disease transmission, and someone would have to be paid to maintain the outside perimeter wire and bio-fence. Dr. Siefert nods, as if understanding, but reminds the group that community pens are more reasonable given UCP’s limited funds.Tail

 

After a lively discussion, the community decides that they will only agree to support construction of a separate pen for each family, even if that means waiting indefinitely until the funding is available. Dr. Siefert reluctantly consents, requesting cost estimates to be available tomorrow when we return with a letter of support for them to sign. We close the meeting with my statement as a representative of Oakland Zoo, and shake hands again. A woman who has been silent throughout the meeting speaks up, saying that she is happy for the help, unless we are the ones who brought the leopard to the village.

 

We drive away with mixed emotions. Dr. Siefert’s ideas have been received and discussed honestly, yet in the end, there is always suspicion. He is baffled by the accusation that he (or we!) moves leopards around the park. I try to understand the resistance to change and improvements in the community, and wonder how best to resolve this communication challenge…

Stepping Through ZAM: Day 3, Savannah Module

by | March 8th, 2012

Franette Armstrong is reporting on her progress through Zoo Ambassador Training.

 

 

You think you know Lions? Well, so did I until tonight. This is the first class of the Savannah Module for those of us who have already taken either the Children’s Zoo or Rainforest Module, or both.

If you’ve been following along, you know I just finished with the Children’s Zoo training. Brand-new Zoo Ambassadors started this module last week and you can read about what they learned in my Day One and Day Two blogs for the Children’s Zoo under the Volunteering tab on this website.

 

We have two lions here at the Oakland Zoo, brother and sister, rescued from a bad situation in Texas when they were just cubs. Here’s a quiz to test your knowledge about African Lions:

1.    Are Lions the largest cat on the planet? A) Yes  B) No

2.    Do Lions chew their food? A) Yes  B) No

3.    Does the color of a male Lion’s mane tell his age? A) Yes  B) No

4.    Are Lions loners? A) Yes B) No

5.    Are male Lions the hunters in their pride? A) Yes  B) No

If you answered A to all of the above, Stacy Smith, one of our Keepers, has news for you: None of those statements is true.

Lions are the second largest cats with Siberian Tigers being first. They live in grasslands or woodlands, not jungles, so I don’t know where they got the King of the Jungle rep. If anything, Tigers are the Kings, but that’s another story.

Lions, like all cats, have scissor-like  teeth that cut food so they can swallow it without chewing.  The color and size of the male lions’ manes are determined by their genes, not their age, and help protect their necks and make them look bigger and more threatening to other Lions.

 

Docent Carol Kerbel shows us that cats have pointed teeth for cutting and tearing instead of the flat molars for chewing that we have.

Unlike most other cats, Lions live in social groups, and the females are usually the hunters. They bring home the bacon, assisted by the males, but the males dine first. Cubs last. Go figure.

How can you tell a Lion is upset? Tail twitches, roaring and growling are hints that this is a Lion is not to be messed with. If you come across one lying on its back, with its ears flat and making puffing sounds…that one is mellow. A lion’s roar can travel five miles, which comes in handy when moms are calling their cubs home for dinner.

There are only about 20,000 Lions left in the wild because of hunting, poaching, and habitat loss. Keeper Stacy recommended we all go to www.lionconservationfund.org to learn more about how to help African Lions.

Mountain Lions here, like their African Cousins, hunt at the beginning and ends of the day, so we can protect them by staying off hiking trails at those times and keeping our pets protected to minimize human/Lion conflict.

The African Village

Next Lorraine Peters, one of our Primary Keepers, introduced us to the animals in our African Village.

Lorraine Peters, Primary ZooKeeper

Spotted Hyenas are fascinating and unique among the African species. Let’s see how much you already know about them:

1. Spotted Hyenas are scavenger animals because they have weak jaws.
A) Yes   B) No

2.  It’s easy to tell the males from the females by looking at them.
A) Yes  B) No

3.  Males dominate Hyena packs. A) Yes   B) No

4.  Hyenas laugh when they are: A) Amused  B) Anxious

If you answered A for all of the above, you and I have a lot in common! But Lorraine set us straight. Hyenas are fearsome, fast hunters who can take down animals as large as wildebeests. Their jaws are more powerful than the Lions’, exerting up to 1200 pounds of pressure.  And they are crafty: sometimes when they catch a large animal, they will hide it in water to cover up its smell so they can feast off it over a few days without losing it to others.

Lorraine engages our Hyena in a training exercise. Photo credit Steve Goodall

Hyenas get their reputation as scavengers because they eat the bones that other animals leave behind, but they are not like vultures: they prefer live prey and eat mostly meat.

It’s hard to tell the males from female hyenas by looking at them because both have similar-looking external sexual parts. Females dominate the males.

If you hear one of our hyenas laughing it is probably because a visitor is being too noisy: they make a laughing sound when they are worried agitated or upset, so keeping quiet is definitely the rule for visitors to our Hyena territory.

If you want to see our Hyena, look in one of the round plastic barrels, because that’s where they like to sleep in the daytime.

Hyenas always face out when they are in their dens so they can be the lookout for predators. Photo credit Steve Goodall

 

A Merry Mob of Meerkats

When Life Magazine first printed a photo of Meerkats I thought “Moon Mice,” they looked so strange. But Meerkat Manor brought them home to all of us so we feel we know all about them. Do you? Test yourself:

1.The black around Meerkat eyes is most like:

a) a raccoon’s   b) a panda’s   c) a football player’s

2. Meerkats are:

a) carnivores  b) herbivores  c) omnivores

3. Meerkats are conservation role models because:

a) they purify their own water   b) they recycle their food   c) they use solar energy for heat

4. Meerkats are most closely related to the:

a) Prairie Dog  b) domestic cat  c) mongoose

Meerkats are very social. You seldom see one alone.

If you answered C to all of the above, you’ve been watching too much Animal Planet!

Flashmobs

Living in large groups we call “mobs,” Meerkats have a social structure that could make ants stand up and take notice. Each one has a vital role to play. The Sentries watch the sky and ground—if they see a hawk or snake, one call from them sends all the others underground. There are Babysitters and Wet Nurses and they work in shifts so that pups are protected while everyone gets a chance to loll around in the sun. Meerkats use their sharp claws to dig for insects and their favorite is scorpions. By eating those, they do all the other mammals a favor.

This Meerkat is Acting Sentry, alerting all the others to any danger. Photo Credit: Steve Goodall

 

The black circles around their eyes protect them from glare, like the smudges football players wear. In the morning and late afternoon they stretch out on their backs in the sun to collect heat, because after dark when they are in their burrow, their body temperatures drop and they need this solar energy.

Did you know that most of the Meerkat collections in U.S. Zoos started with pups from one female who lived in our exhibit?

Dark eye circles are built-in sunglasses. Photo credit Steve Goodall

Verdant Vervets

Vervets, or Green Monkeys, mostly live in Africa although there’s a large population in the West Indies that started when some were brought there on slave ships. The ones in our Zoo came from St. Kitts via a research lab, but now they are safe with us. Ours are yellow, white and black but when the sun hits them just right they do have a bit of a greenish cast.

I’m not going to give you a quiz because these monkeys were new to me and might be to you.

Vervets are Old World Monkeys which use their tails for balance, not gripping, and have long faces like baboons. Photo credit Steve Goodall

 

Vervets eat insects—although ours are afraid of mealworms—birds, eggs and tropical fruit, but we also give them some veggies for the nutrients. Though they sleep in trees, they spend most of their time on the ground gathering food and hanging out with each other.

In Vervet society, the females rule their large troops (this is getting to be a theme among African animals, isn’t it?) and you can tell who’s dominant and who’s at the lower level of the society by how they hold their tails. Over their backs? Give them space. Dragging on the ground? They’ll be eating last. In our exhibit, the ones closest to the fence are on the lowest-rung of the Vervet ladder while the leaders get seats in the back where it is quieter and more private.

Vervets, like most monkeys, use social grooming as a bonding activity. Photo credit, Steve Goodall

 

Monkey Talk

Lorraine told us that Vervets, like all primates, have a complex language of calls, body positions and behaviors that speak volumes to them, but mean nothing to most of us. For example, if one Vervet turns her back on another, that means trouble, so if we turn our back on one of them, that can seem very threatening, as can emulating the sounds they make.

Vervets have over 60 different calls. For example, their Leopard warning call will send the troop scurrying to the ends of branches where heavier  Leopards can’t go. If one issues an Eagle call, they all run into the bushes. And a Snake warning? They stand their ground and get ready to fight it.

When we visit monkeys and apes in a Zoo we have to be careful that  we don’t send out signals with our voices or body language that could upset the animals.  It’s best to stand back a little, try not to make eye contact, and just be quiet so we can see them as they really are, and they can live calmly in their home here.

Homework tonight was an essay question on how pets are different from wild animals and what makes a good pet. Since I wrote on this during my last module, I decided to write about how to stop the pet trade in wild animals which is responsible for the death and abuse of thousands of animals every year. The heartbreaking events in Zanesville, Ohio in October, 2011, where nearly 50 beautiful wild animals had to be shot, was a vivid example of why we need laws preventing the sale and ownership of nondomesticated animals to private parties.

Saturday, we’re going out to the African Village to learn about these animals from experienced docents. What a treat.

See you then,