Inca Tern Chicks

Spring was in the air for our Inca tern colony! Back in April, our two pairs of Inca terns had a total of three chicks- two males and one female! The male chicks are named “Lemmy” and “Sushie” and the female chick is named after one of our Human Resource Team Members, Candy Caldwell (“CeeCee” for short) as a thank you for all her help with observing them during their development! The chicks are now starting to fledge, or learning to become independent from their parents and learning to fly.

Inca terns are medium-sized sea birds that are related to gulls, terns, and auks.  Adult Inca terns are mostly grey, with red-orange beaks and feet. One of the most striking characteristics of the Inca tern is their mustache! The white mustaches that are on each side of their beak are actually made of feathers and signify maturity in adults. The chicks lack the white mustaches and will start developing them closer to two years of age, along with changing from a purple-brown color to grey.

The Inca terns are a colonial species which form large flocks of up to 5,000 birds when feeding! Inca terns are found on the coastlines of Peru and Chile, restricted to the Humboldt Current.  The terns usually nest on rock cliffs, in burrows, caves, cavities, and even use old Humboldt penguin nests- they’re not too picky! When nesting, the adult female will lay one or two eggs and both parents will take turns incubating for about 24-27 days.

At ZooTampa, we made special nest boxes for them to lay their eggs and feel comfortable raising their chicks.  While not endangered, the Inca tern is listed as near threatened due to overfishing of their favorite fish. ZooTampa also participates in the Inca tern Species Survival Plan to ensure the survival of this unique species. You can spot the Inca tern families in our Main Aviary!

World Parrot Day

Did you know parrots are among some of the most threatened groups of birds worldwide? Out of 398 species, 111 are classified as globally endangered on the IUCN Red List. The most widespread threats to these fascinating animals are habitat destruction, fragmentation and wildlife trafficking for the pet trade. Between 1990 and 1994 alone, nearly 2 million parrots were traded on the world market.

Since World Parrott Day began in 2004, the World Parrot Trust championed a petition to ban the trade of wild birds in Europe through the EU and in 2006 the petition was successfully passed. This has saved an estimated 30-40 million parrots that would have otherwise found themselves in the pet trade! Here at ZooTampa you can visit over a dozen different species of parrots and learn about their many unique adaptations.

Meet Ernie, a Palm Cockatoo. Male Palm Cockatoos use sticks to “drum” on trees to attract females.  They are the only animal species known to deliberately create a rhythm and use a tool to do so. You can visit Ernie, in the Wallaroo realm of the Zoo.

ZooTampa is the only facility in the United States to house Red-browed Amazon parrots, an endangered species endemic to east Brazil. These large, curious birds are often found exploring their habitat. You can visit the Red-browed amazons in the Main Aviary and if you’re lucky you will hear their distinctive ‘laughing’ call, particularly just before a big rain storm.

ZooTampa is also home to 5 species of macaws. These colorful and bright birds are considered endangered due to deforestation and illegal pet trade. You will be able to find Magoo, one of our animal ambassadors during animals mingles.

While there are many threats to parrots around the world, there is also hope! More research is continuing to be conducted to help scientists and conservationists learn more about issues to parrot survival and troubleshoot solutions.

Ways you can help at home:

Parrots are popular pets, but they have very specific needs that take a lot of work to care for.

  • Do you research: Make sure you and your family are fully prepared to care for these long-lived and complex species.
  • Adopt, don’t shop: Instead of buying from a breeder or pet store, consider adopting a parrot from a shelter or rescue organization.
  • Support parrot conservation: World Parrot Trust and American Bird Conservancy are great organizations to support
  • Visit the Zoo: By visiting the Zoo you are helping us in our mission to preserve and protect wildlife.

Seahorse Family

ZooTampa seahorse

By Tyson Facto, Animal Care Professional

Did you know that just like penguins, seahorses are monogamous and mate for life? Their love connection all begins with a dance.

Every day, the male lives in a small area of seagrass beds, patiently waiting for a female to find him. Once they make a connection, they will begin each day with a courtship dance that involves spinning around and twirling together, while interlocking their tails.

When they are ready to mate, the female impregnates the male with up to 1000 eggs! The male will stay pregnant for about two weeks, sometimes holding onto the same piece of grass the entire time. When ready, he will open his pouch and release all 1000 tiny fry into the ocean currents to settle throughout the seagrass beds. These little fry look and act just like their parents, except at about ¼ of an inch tall.

The pair of seahorses will then once again meet up to begin their courtship of dance.

ZooTampa is home to 2 out of the 45 different species of seahorses found around the world- the Dwarf seahorse, Hippocampus zosterae, and the Lined Seahorse, Hippocampus erectus. You can soon find our families of seahorses in Manatee Mangroves realm of the Zoo, in their newly renovated home. It's easy for your family to come back again and again with a Family Plus Membership - 2 adults, all dependent children + 1 free guest!

 

Tapir Family

Known as “living fossils”, tapirs are the most primitive large mammal in the world, dating back to 20 million years ago! Although sometimes confused for an anteater or pig, tapirs are actually related to rhinoceros and horses.

Four months ago, we welcomed the Zoo’s 12th Malayan tapir, Tiga. When a tapir calf is first born, they will have a distinctive coat pattern made up of a series of spots and stripes similar to a watermelon that helps camouflage the baby.  This coat pattern will slowly change over 6 months to the black and white pattern of the parents.

A calf is born with their eyes open, can stand one or two hours after birth, and can begin to swim at a very young age! Naturally the mother is very protective of their new calf. The animal care team developed a strong bond with mom, Ubi, which is why she trusts the team to be around Tiga.

Tapirs are also solitary by nature, which is why you will find dad, Albert by himself out on the habitat. Ubi and Tiga will stay together for a few years until Tiga is ready to move on to another zoo as part of the Species Survival Plan.

Sadly, Tapirs are considered endangered due to hunting and habitat loss. There are less than 50 Malayan tapirs in human care in North America, which is why Tiga’s birth was critical to securing a safety net for this species.

A Family Plus annual Zoo membership makes it easy for your family to visit our Malayan tapir family in the Asia realm of the Zoo! You can learn more about memberships here.

You can even symbolically adopt Tiga and join us on our mission to protect wildlife, here.

Save The Frogs Day

Written By: Spencer Schultz

Panamanian golden frogs, Atelopus zeteki, are highly important cultural representatives in Panama, somewhat of a national symbol; they are as valued as the Bald eagle is to the United States. Their likeness is culturally lucky, displayed on pottery and shown even on their lottery tickets; they even hold deep roots in local mythology.
The historic range of Panamanian golden frogs is around El Valle De Anton and Cerro Campana in Panama. They were found around sloping streams and waterfalls in Cloud forests of Panama, roughly 1,100 to 4,300 ft above sea level. Atelopid frogs (golden frogs and their relatives) are highly unique and secrete a skin toxin known as Zetekiton, which is named for the Panamanian golden frog specifically.
Living so close to the loudness of waterfall and fast moving rivers, they have done away with calling for main communication and have developed a hand waving motion known as semaphore. This hand wave is done on top of rock or along bare banks to maximize visibility. They use this as a warning to defend territory, as well as to attract mates.

Golden frogs are listed as critically endangered on the IUCN red list, but there has not been a sighting reported since 2009. While many conservationists hold some hope that there are still undiscovered populations, it is most likely that these gorgeous creatures are extinct in the wild. This is thought to have happened mainly in 2008 when a pathogenic fungal disease known as chytrid (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) came through Panama and caused most, if not all, of the frogs to die off. The fungus attaches itself to the semi porous skin of amphibians causing many health issues. Habitat loss has also contributed to population decline, mainly from farming and logging polluting their waterways. These frogs are considered a warning of what may happen to all frogs and other amphibians worldwide.

We are honored to be working with many other facilities in the Panamanian Golden Frog Species Survival Plan (SSP). This plan acts as an ark of sorts for the species. We work to develop the most genetically diverse frogs possible with the hopes of releasing them back into their native range. However before this is done, they need a healthy home to go back to.  This is something that can be done by working on preventing habitat loss and learning how to overcome chytrid.

Simple ways you can help are by not releasing pets into the wild, thus preventing disease spread, as well as preventing pollution by recycling and keeping our home waterways clean. Another idea is to join a citizen scientist program, such as FrogWatch, where you can help take surveys of native frogs in your area.

World Penguin Day

Written by Animal Care Professional, Micah Carnate-Peralta

 

Did you know African penguins are still considered critically endangered in their native home of South Africa?

Over fishing and pollution are the two main causes for the penguin population declining. To help learn more about making informed decisions on seafood, you can use a program called Seafood Watch, established by the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  This program provides recommendations on the best seafood to consume that have the least impact on the environment.

Plastic pollution plays an even larger role in the plight of penguins. According to National Geographic, scientists calculated that there are more than five trillion pieces of plastic floating in our oceans and that beaches all over the world are now tainted with plastic!  Unfortunately, African penguins live on beaches along the coasts of South Africa and are being affected by plastic too.

It is not too late to participate in conservation efforts and you can definitely make an impact in saving species around the world.

Not sure where to start? Here are a few simple things you can do to start on your own conservation journey:

  • Organize a clean-up day for your local watershed, river, and/or beach.
  • Recycle paper, plastic, aluminum at home or anywhere.
  • Limit the amount of plastic you use in your daily activities.
  • Take a pledge for Seafood Watch and making smart choices when eating fish.
  • Become an advocate for environmental change and be educated on the different issues facing our natural world today.
  • Learn about the different animals at your local zoo and help their fellow species survive in the wild!

Lastly, simply visit the Zoo! Your visit will continue to help us provide assistance to the global projects fighting against extinction. Guests can meet an African penguin with an up-close signature encounter! During this experience, a keeper will inform guests about African penguins, and receive a tour of their night house. Guest will even have the opportunity to touch one of our feathered friends.

 

 

 

 

 

Going Batty on International Bat Appreciation Day

By Tessa Giannini, Animal Care Professional 

There are over 1,300 species of bats in the world which means there is an amazing variety in how they live, eat, and reproduce. The vast majority of bats are immensely beneficial to humans by providing free pest control from insects, pollinating and/or dispersing seeds for over 300 plants! At ZooTampa we have two species of bats: African straw colored fruit bats and Malayan Flying foxes.

Here are my top batty facts:

African straw colored fruit bats:

  1. They have the largest mammal migration of any species in the world and the furthest migration of any African mammal.
  2. The females will undergo delayed implantation which basically means after breeding in April/May the fertilized egg doesn’t implant in the bats uterus until several months later to coincide with increased food sources found during migration in October. The pup is then born February/March of the following year.
  3. They are the second largest bat species in Africa, after the hammer head bat.
  4. They get their name, “straw colored,” from the ring of golden yellow fur around their necks.
  5. They have a wingspan of 2-2.5 feet wide.

Malayan Flying foxes:

  1. They are one of the largest species of bats in the world, with a wingspan of 5-6 feet wide!
  2. Although they are large and may look intimidating, these bats eat only fruit, nectar, and flowers. They provide important ecosystem services by pollinating or dispersing the seeds of many different plant species.
  3. They do not use echolocation to find their food, but instead rely on their excellent vision and sense of smell.
  4. This species often makes a variety of vocalizations to communicate with one another.
  5. Malayan flying foxes are considered Near Threatened by the IUCN, although in certain parts of their range they are Vulnerable. Much of this has to do with humans and clearing of the bats native habitat and food sources.

The more you know:

  1. Insect eating bats can eat up to 1200 mosquito sized insects in just one hour!
  2. There are 41 different species of bats in the United States, and of these nearly half are either endangered or threatened.
  3. One of the largest threats to bats is white-nose syndrome (a disease that affects hibernating bats and is caused by a fungus).
  4. The smallest bat in the world (and also the world’s smallest mammal) lives in Thailand and is called a bumble bee bat. It is only as big as a thumbnail and weighs less than a penny.
  5. The Florida Bonneted Bat is Florida’s largest bat species, but it is also Florida’s most endangered bat.
  6. Pups are often 1/3 of moms size, this is equivalent to human mothers giving birth to 40 pound babies!

All bats are protected species and it is illegal to kill them. If you find bats in your home you can hire a pest control company to humanely exclude the bats.

In Florida exclusion may not take place between April 16-August 14 because this is prime “maternity season.” Moms leave their babies while they hunt for food and if an exclusion device is put up while the babies are too young to fend for themselves, they could starve without their mother. Florida Bonneted bats breed year round, so make sure the bat species is properly identified before putting up an exclusion device. If you find a bat that needs help call a licensed wildlife rehabilitation facility to help out.

You can visit our bats during your next visit in Wallaroo!

Save the Elephant Day

Written By: Christi Reiter

Happy Save the Elephant Day!

Elephants are incredibly intelligent and strong, but did you know they also play a huge role in the African savanna ecosystem? Elephants are known as a "keystone species", which means they shape the ecosystem that other African animal friends, like bird, monkey and hoofstock species rely on for survival.

Elephants can knock down trees easily which provides necessary resources to smaller animals who can't clear the trees themselves. They can also cut paths into thick forest habitats with ease, transform landscapes and use their tusks to dig wallows which provide food and water to other animals. Without elephants in Africa, a lot of other animals living there would struggle to survive!

Right now, due to illegal hunting and human conflict in Africa, our elephant friends really need your help! There are lots of ways you can lend a hand (or trunk):

  • Be a smart shopper- do not purchase ivory!
  • Recycle
  • Educate others
  • Visit your local zoo
  • Donate time and/or resources to elephant conservation.

Organizations like 96elephants.org are great because they help support elephant-friendly initiatives. These initiatives include, funding beehives or solar powered lights for farmers who frequently have conflict with wild elephants raiding their crops, they also help provide monitoring systems and support to rangers on the ground.

Do your part and #BeHerd. For more information visit 96elephants.org.

Stinkin’ cute

By Jaime Vaccaro, Animal Care Professional 

ZooTampa is home to nine Striped skunks. This family group comprises of Mia & Marcellus (Mom & Dad), along with their seven skunk babies, or "kits". When first born, kits are deaf and blind and nurse from their mom for up to two months. Most of Mia and Marcellus' kits opened their eyes and started to crawl at one month of age, and they have not stopped moving since!

Striped skunks are found only in North America. They live in every state in the United States, except Alaska and Hawaii. They are easily recognized by the white stripe pattern that runs down their back, from head to tail. The stripes start as a triangle at the head and break into two stripes down the skunk's back. Each skunk has a unique stripe pattern just like our finger prints.

This nocturnal species usually lives in underground dens/burrows that have been abandoned by other animals, or sleep in hollowed logs. Skunks are omnivores and enjoy eating rodents, insects, nuts and berries. They use their long claws to dig into logs and into the dirt to uncover insects. During feeding time at the Zoo, guests can watch as our skunk family emerge one by one from their den. Each skunk is separated into their own eating space or chute to ensure they are eating their own diet and prevent them from eating extra snacks from siblings.

Many people may not know this, but during the colder months in Florida, skunks exhibit a wintering behavior. During this time, their food consumption decreases and they rarely come out of their dens. When they emerge in the spring, they are very active and hungry!

Although our skunk family is very curious and enjoy exploring new things they do not like surprises due to their awesome defense mechanism. They have scent glands near their tails that contain about a tablespoon of pungent spray that can hit a target 15 feet away! Typically, a skunk will try to run from a predator first, but if that doesn't work, it will try to frighten the predator by arching its back and raising its tail.  As a last resort the skunk will then spray.

A Family Plus annual Zoo membership makes it easy for your family to visit this striped skunk family in the Florida realm of the Zoo!

A pack that stays together

Written by: Ashley Gaia

One of ZooTampa’s newest growing families is the African painted dogs. This growing family is critical, as African painted dogs are an endangered species. For the month of February, we are giving you the inside scoop on how their pack works together and what makes them so unique.

Painted dog society is complex and cooperative. Packs range from around 6-12 individuals, however packs of 30-50 have been documented. Each pack has an alpha male and female, chosen by the pack for their ability to lead versus their size. The painted dog is one of the greatest predators in Africa. Working as a team, the pack brings down their prey, quickly fill their bellies and rush back to their dens. There, they will regurgitate some meat to feed any puppies or dogs that need extra care.

African painted dogs are genetically unique in the world of canids. One of the features that sets them apart from other canids is their feet, they have four toes per paw instead of five! They also have specially adapted carnassial teeth that help slice meat and bone more efficiently.  All painted dogs have big round ears, a dark muzzle, and white tipped tails. The rest of the coat is mottled in splotches of ebony, white, and golden tans. Every dog has a unique pattern, just as unique as our finger prints!

Our own painted dog family is excelling at parenthood. When the puppies were first born, Dad, Hatari quickly mastered his role of staying close to the den to be a literal “watch dog” while mom, Layla devoted all of her time into raising, and wrangling, their puppies inside their den.

Currently, the puppies are doing well and growing larger every day! At almost 5 months old, these guys are weighing well over 20 pounds each and they consume roughly 15 pounds of meat every single day. This family enjoys devouring shanks, whole rabbits, and whole chicks on a regular basis. The pups are quite playful at this age and are often seen chasing each other around their yard, wrestling, playing tug of war with palm fronds or sticks, or taking a quick dip in their pool. They are getting braver and more independent and can frequently be seen running or playing without mom close by.

Your own “pack” can have fun at the zoo and watch these puppies grow all year with a Family Plus Membership. For more information click here.