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ZOO NEWS: Looking toward spring, regardless of weather

This past week’s weather has had all of us wondering if it will be an early spring or just a tease before Mother Nature drops the other shoe. This winter has been a roller coaster ride for everyone. But the weather’s going to be what it is going to be and the zoo staff continues to ride the coaster, making the best of each day regardless of what she throws at us.

The zoo is looking toward spring and the potential for many of the animals ahead. Sometime in spring/summer we will be expecting calves from both the Scottish Highland cattle and the Bactrian camels. With the opening of the Amur leopard exhibit last year, we completed the large cat project that provided new habitats and facilities for the lions, tigers and leopards. The Amur tigers have already proven the new space works with the litter of cubs born in 2022. The SSP (Species Survival Plan) recommendation had us swap our male for another male that wasn’t breeding where he was. Since his arrival, Finn has been separated from our female, Zoya, but as both got comfortable, introductions were made and the two have been able to get to know each other in a deeper sense, if you get my drift. Staff will continue to monitor them for any signs that Zoya has been impregnated. If not, more introduction attempts will be made and if results still don’t prove successful, we would likely check Finn’s viability for breeding. The SSP is very interested in Finn breeding and has even recommended the zoo use artificial insemination, if necessary, but the first order would be to ensure he has what it takes to do the job.

At the lion exhibit, staff continues to monitor for any breeding behavior. It was noted last summer and fall while they were still able to spend their days on exhibit. They are all another year older now and if it takes a warm sun and space to get away from the others, we may be waiting until spring or even summer before they begin to breed again. And what about the Amur leopards? The pair were young when they arrived last year but are reaching that point where we will begin to take notice of any changes in behavior or actual breeding. Jordan and Anya have gotten along well in their new habitat and the staff is hopeful that this might be their year.

Most of the zoo’s breeding pairs are closely regulated by their specific SSPs. We have many groups that we hold as single sex groups or use birth control to prevent breeding. Breeding for most species is limited by the SSP programs to ensure there are enough animals to fill spaces for zoos needing animals, but not more than accredited zoos have homes for them. It is a delicate balance and so many factors that play a part whether its seasons, temperatures, or the facilities that make the difference, most are out of our hands. Much of a zookeeper’s role is to know and observe those changes in the animals they work with and regardless of the temperatures outside, this part of zookeeping never changes.

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