The day started in the perfectly normal manner. Hopping out of bed at 3 a.m., I cruised on through the morning schedule. Pack? Check. Water? Check. Sunblock? Check. As I walk out the door, my cat yawns and glares at me, implying “You DO know the sun’s not up yet, right?”
Once out in the field, I greet the sun rising over the Spring Mountains with the usual smile. Week after week, I track the movement of transmitter-wearing desert tortoises for the San Diego Zoo’s Desert Tortoise Conservation Center. In short, I hike a lot. However, don’t let me fool you; it’s anything but dull. That’s the beauty of working with living creatures—you never know when you’ll experience something extraordinary. And that’s just what happened that perfectly normal day in the field.
On Thursday, August 29, our beloved pandas at the San Diego Zoo will receive approximately 30,000 pounds (13,600 kilograms) of snow as part of a special enrichment surprise. Starting around 6 a.m. on Thursday, Arctic Ice Company will begin the process of blowing snow into the two main viewing exhibits.
I spoke with long-time panda keeper Kathy Hawk to get an update on our youngest panda, Xiao Liwu, who is now one year old. She described him as a gentle soul—at least so far! “He’s different from his siblings. He’s very mellow around us.” Keepers are still able to enter the exhibit when he is in there, and he doesn’t treat them like a toy to play with or a tree to try to climb like our previous cubs have done.
Now that everyone has settled in at the San Diego Zoo’s new Australian Outback habitat, which opened in May 2013, we are absolutely thrilled with all of the positive feedback we are getting from our Zoo visitors. In fact, over in our koala harem yards we have some exciting news: one of our females, Tonahleah, has a joey in her pouch! This is the first confirmed birth in our Australian Outback. Koala joeys stay in their mom’s pouch for about six months, so we will not likely see the baby until early 2014.
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s African elephants are very creative in the summer as they beat the heat. There are pools in both yards that the elephants swim in often. Swazi usually has a small parade of calves following her wherever she goes, usually Macembe, Qinisa, Kami or Khosi, and Emanti. It is fun to watch little Qinisa try to keep up with the bigger calves.