While they look much like our beloved household pets, African painted dogs are also very different—and not just because of the painted dogs’ big mouse-like ears. These medium-sized pack animals are native to Africa, but cover much less of the continent today then they have in the past. Not long ago, more than half a million painted dogs lived in packs of 100 or more all across sub-Saharan Africa, but now their populations have dropped to less than 5,000, most of them living in Eastern and Southern Africa. Those dogs that still roam the savannas and grasslands today are threatened most by habitat loss—these open areas are no longer so open, and the dogs are often killed by vehicles.
We at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium are responding by working to conserve these now-endangered animals. We have a research-based partnership with a Painted Dog Bush Camp in Zimbabwe, Africa, but we also have partnerships here in Pittsburgh that help educate the public and raise money for more research.
Through the African Painted Dog Project, Greg Rasmussen and his team at the Painted Dog Bush Camp in Zimbabwe are providing the Zoo with the latest knowledge, gained through extensive research in the field. They use collars to track populations and they screen each of the dogs to prevent the spread of diseases. One of the biggest threats to the painted dogs, however, is other people—the team uses cutting-edge technologies and the best practices to minimize poaching, reduce accidents between vehicles and the dogs, and to keep farmers and ranchers from killing the dogs in defense of their own livestock.
To keep up our end of the partnership, we use our Painted Dog Bush Camp here on Zoo grounds as an education-hub to help get the word out about painted dog conservation. We also provide expertise on caring for dogs outside of Africa through our own keepers and graduate students. These experts help with our breeding efforts here at the Zoo. We have had several litters of puppies in the past few years, but possibly the most trying of these litters was in 2009 when the pups’ mother died just after their birth. Keepers stepped in and found a domestic dog from a shelter to act as a surrogate to nurse the pups—the first surrogacy of its kind.
One of our Pittsburgh partnerships is with Project Destiny, a nonprofit dedicated to educating and inspiring at-risk youth. The Project Destiny kids have adopted our African painted dogs as the symbol of their program. We have taught them about the dogs, and they are helping to educate the general public about conserving African painted dogs both here at the Zoo and in the wild.
Come to the African Savanna at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium to visit the dogs up-close at the viewing window or to learn more about conserving these unique animals.
Like sea otters, sea turtles are animals who always seem cheerful and carefree, so you might not know what kind of danger they face. All seven species of sea turtles are listed in the Endangered Species Act, six of them being categorized as “endangered” and one as “threatened.” Though you may see many small sea turtles together, only around one in a thousand actually survives to reproduce.
At the Zoo, we are dedicated to protecting sea turtles—our primary goal being to re-establish wild populations and to maintain them long term. To achieve this, we developed several programs that focus on giving compromised sea turtles a second chance. Some of these sea turtles are being affected by everyday habitat destruction and pollution; others are victims of large environmental disasters. In both cases, we rescue, rehabilitate, and return the sea turtles to their natural habitat if possible. [click to continue…]
It’s easy to be mesmerized by our elephants, especially when the little ones are playing out in the yard or the big ones are getting a bath. It’s an unforgettable experience seeing elephants up-close, their size alone being breathtaking. But in the next 40 years there will be fewer and fewer chances to get up-close with elephants in North America and around the world. The Zoo population in the U.S. is aging and losing genetic diversity, while elephants in Africa are disappearing because of illegal hunting and habitat destruction. In order to conserve these massive, unique animals, the Zoo collaborates with other organizations around the world to conduct research and ensure that the population remains stable or even grows. We also have developed our own innovative breeding program that has led to multiple elephant births in the last 13 years. [click to continue…]
The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, working with our partner, the Alaska SeaLife Center (ASLC), is providing a safe home for a newborn sea otter pup found stranded along an Alaskan coastline. Visitors can see the little pup in a special nursery in the lower level of Water’s Edge beginning Friday, April 27.
Residents of Port Heiden found the little pup lying next to other sea otters, all who had died from exposure. The sea otters were cut off from the ocean by a frozen bay and, in an attempt to get to the ocean, accidentally beached themselves off the coast of Port Heiden. “Residents along the Alaskan coastline have helped to rescue stranded sea otters before, but this was a first for the residents of Port Heiden,” says Brett Long, husbandry director at the Alaskan SeaLife Center. “We told the caregivers how to keep him alive until we could arrive.”
The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is proud to announce that Azizi, our black rhino, is expecting! This calf will be the first born at the Zoo in 47 years. The birth of a black rhino at the Zoo is additionally significant because black rhinos are critically endangered and Azizi’s calf will introduce new blood lines into the Zoo population.
“We are so excited,” says Dr. Barbara Baker, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. “For a while, we weren’t sure Azizi and Jomo would mate at all. Rhino breeding is intricate. It depends on the breeding cycle of the female and the mood of the rhinos. They both have to be interested at the same time. That may have to do with the fact that rhino breeding is anything but romantic. Rhinos chase each other, roar, and even hit each other before they mate.” [click to continue…]
Stop by the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aqurium’s tropical forest to see proud first-time mom Moka and her three-week-old baby. You might be lucky enough to catch moments like the ones captured in these photos by Sage Ross. [click to continue…]
It’s the first baby for our new mom, Moka, but she has proven to be a natural when it comes to taking care of a little one. Here they are in front of the gorilla viewing window, one of Moka’s favorite spots.
The Zoo welcomed a new baby gorilla last week. The baby, the first born here in more than a decade, arrived early in the morning on Thursday, Feb. 9.
It is the first baby for the new mom, Moka. Since giving birth, she is often found sitting near the indoor viewing window in the gorilla area, offering visitors a fantastic view of the baby. Zoo docent Lorri Courtright snapped these pics of the pair bonding.