Jackson Zoo Resigns from Association of Zoos & Aquariums

The Board of Directors of the Jackson Zoological Society voted unanimously to resign its membership in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), sending a resignation letter on Friday, August the 19th. Zoo staff, with the support of the Board, will work over the next two-three years to identify a funding structure that supports its recently completed facility master plan and strengthen its organizational and financial model. The Zoo anticipates that it will  re-apply to be a member of the AZA once the integrated funding, organizational and financials models are in place.

Over the past 25 years, zoo staff has worked diligently to address the needs of an aging facility, while ensuring the highest standards of animal care. Going forward, Zoo staff will continue to focus on upgrading and transforming the zoo, working to broaden and strengthen its relationships with the philanthropic community, as well as its partnership with the City of Jackson.

Jackson Zoo and its staff have tremendous respect for all of its great colleagues representing AZA-accredited institutions across the country. Zoo staff will continue to work with them in the future, ensuring that the animals that call Jackson Zoo home continue to receive the highest standards of care, which have always been central to the Zoo’s efforts. The Jackson Zoo remains regulated by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Mississippi State Department of Fish & Wildlife (MSDFW).

Species Survival Plan to Relocate Bornean Orangutans

AUGUST 23, 2016 Jackson MS

Over the weekend, Jackson Zoo Deputy Director Dave Wetzel was informed by the  Orangutan Species Survival Plan of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums that the longtime Bornean orangutan residents would be permanently moved to other AZA properties.

The call was the end result of a Jackson Zoo requested consultation of this endangered species due to the birth of a baby boy in November of 2015. The female “Kimmie” (or “Sabah”) has been attentive in her care of her offspring, but despite supplemental feedings and additional multivitamins, the keepers felt that the baby was not developing as expected. They requested input from the Orangutan SSP of the AZA, who sent representatives from Chicago, Illinois, and Fort Wayne, Indiana, for a day long evaluation on August 8th. The infant, was indeed developing a little slower than normal.

Also discussed was the behavior of the adult animals, which had changed since the arrival of the much-anticipated newborn. Kimmie lost interest in the male, “Pumpkin,” and discouraged his attention towards the baby. The age and layout of the exhibit itself made “shifting” (moving the animals from their holding rooms to the outdoor area) challenging, especially with the addition of an infant.

After concluding the visit, the SSP took their findings back to the group and held further discussions. In the end, they decided it was in the best interest of the animals that they be permanently relocated to zoos with more current exhibits. Animal care staff at the Indianapolis Zoo (with a brand new state-of-the-art exhibit) will welcome the female with her baby, and the male will be relocated to the Houston Zoo, effective immediately.

Jackson Zoo has had orangutans for almost 20 years. In 2007, the zoo was able to fund a revamp of the exhibit, increasing size and amenities of both the night holding suite and the outdoor exhibit. In the Jackson Zoo Ten Year Plan (unveiled in 2015), the orangutan exhibit is due to be completely redesigned and replaced, as the current structure is too old and outdated to be adjusted with upgrades. Unfortunately, such a project is unlikely in near future.

As the Jackson Zoo animal care staff prepare for the departure of the animals, they are confident in the positive outcome for all three, and look forward to working with the receiving zoos and keeping up with their progress. Jackson Zoo Director Beth Poff and the Zoo Board hope that the future of the Ten Year Plan will see the return of orangutans.

For more information about the Species Survival Plan of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, please visit their site online at http://www.aza.org/species-survival-plan-programs.

Jackson Zoo-born Red Wolf Gives Birth to Pup in St. Vincent’s Reserve

AUGUST 5, 2016 Jackson MS

US Fish and Wildlife Services recently contacted the Jackson Zoo to announce sightings of a Jackson-born female red wolf and her new pup within the boundaries of St. Vincent National Refuge in Florida. “Little Red Wolf” has been seen with a male born at the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, NY. Both were reintroduced into the free-range refuge as part of the Red Wolf Coalition Species Survival Plan.

This is exciting for the species, as red wolves (Canis rufus) have been on the brink of extinction for almost 40 years. In the 1920’s, red wolves ranged from southern Texas eastward up the US coastline as far as Canada, and were honored by Native Americans. Due to equal parts habitat loss and indiscriminate extermination by farmers and hunters, less than 100 pure red wolves were rounded up by wildlife officials in 1980. Those have been the foundation for the population of 182 that exists today in protected reserves in the southern US, predominantly North Carolina.

St. Vincent National Refuge is an undeveloped island located just offshore from the mouth of the Apalachicola River, in the Gulf of Mexico, in Franklin County, Florida.  The protected reserve is a haven for endangered and threatened species, such as bald eagles and sea turtles, and also serves as a breeding area for the endangered red wolves.

Bradley Smith of the US Fish and Wildlife Service sent an email on Tuesday, August 2nd to Rebecca Bose of the Wolf Conservation Center and  Jackson Zoo Deputy Director Dave Wetzel with news that the free-ranging family “seem to be doing very well.”

Red wolves have been at the Jackson Zoo since 2002. The current breeding pair, male “Kanati” (Cherokee for hunter) and female “Taladu” (Cherokee for cricket), joined the animal collection in 2012. He was born in Connecticut at Beardsley’s Zoo in 2003, but transferred from Chattanooga Nature Center. Seven-year-old “Taladu” came to Jackson from USFW Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. They had their second litter of pups in March of 2014, which were blessed by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw. With the help of Will Wydell, a coordinator for the Species Survival Plan, “Little Red Wolf” (female 2050) was sent to St. Vincent to try and increase red wolf numbers. Red wolves are believed to bond for life, so hopes are high that the pair will continue to thrive and produce in the years to come.

“We are so excited to hear of the success of the release of this female, and her addition of young to the Red wolf population at St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge,” said Jackson Zoo Director Beth Poff. “It is so rare to be able to give back to a free-range breeding program, and the Red Wolf program is one of these special groups.”

The fight for red wolves continues, as some landowners still view them as a threat, and push to stop the protective laws with regard to the capture and killing of red wolves. The Red Wolf Coalition is one of the four conservation programs supported by the Jackson Zoo “Change for Change” program. In addition to the automatic allocation of 25 cents of every admission going to conservation, there are separate boxes for donations near the entrance to the zoo that also include Ape T.A.G., Raptor Rehab, and AZA S.A.F.E.

For more information, contact EJ Rivers at ejrivers@jacksonzoo.org, or use the following links for the individual programs involved in the continuation of saving red wolves:

The Red Wolf Coalition http://www.redwolves.com US Department of Fish and Wildlife Services http://www.fws.gov St. Vincent Wildlife Refuge (USFWS) http://www.fws.gov/saintvincent Wolf Conservation Center http://www.nywolf.org The Jackson Zoo Change for Change http://www.jacksonzoo.org/conservation Species Survival Plan http://www.aza.org/species_survival_plan_programs

People can also keep up with the Jackson Zoo keepers, who run the Jackson Zoo Instagram page from behind the scenes: http://www.instagram.com/JacksonZoo.

Missy the Chimpanzee Matriarch Will Be Missed

AUGUST 12, 2016 Jackson MS

Animal care staff at the Jackson Zoo sadly announced the death of “Missy,” the chimpanzee matriarch, during the evening hours of Tuesday, August 9th. Born on August 10th, 1980, keepers would have celebrated her 36th birthday in the following days.

Missy was mate to the late Jojo, mother to Pablo (born 1990, currently on loan to the Sacramento Zoo), and mother to Mojo (current Jackson Zoo visitor favorite, born 2009). Missy was the second chimp ever born at the Jackson Zoo, and was named “Miss” in honor of her home state.

Animal care staff says she had a serene demeanor, and was the primary peace keeper of the chimp colony. Whether calming her rambunctious son, or breaking up squabbles between the other female chimps, her island companions showed her great respect. She was also normally first in line for treats, and was known for blowing “raspberries” at keepers when treats were not handed over immediately. Getting misted by the water hose on hot summer afternoons was also high on her list of favorite activities.

Average age for a chimpanzee is anywhere from 30 to 40 years. Missy had been under veterinary watch for some routine medical issues, but her death was unexpected. A full necropsy will be performed to determine the exact cause.

Animal Curator Willie Bennett, working for over 40 years at the Jackson Zoo, cared for her throughout her life. “Miss was very observant at a very early age. She was very inquisitive about anything new she came across. There were a lot of traits she picked up from her parents that made her a great mother, also,” said Bennett. “She will be missed by everyone that worked with her over the years.”

Visitors can still see her son, Mojo, and the female chimps, Binti, Maebell, and Arby, every day from 9 am to 4 pm except December 25th.

For more information about chimpanzees, check out http://www.worldwildlife.org/species/chimpanzee.

Trustmark Inaugurates Experience Zoo! Initiative Benefitting Public Service Workers

JULY 25, 2016 Jackson MS

Longtime partners Trustmark and the Jackson Zoo have expanded their relationship with the Experience Zoo! Initiative. This new sponsorship opportunity expresses gratitude to hardworking local families of public servants, who often face challenges created by limited interaction or even distance. Funded by businesses and organizations, this program acknowledges the dedication and sacrifice of both the individual and their loved ones by giving them opportunities for healthy quality family time whenever their busy schedules allow.

Trustmark has always been a leader in its efforts to find new ways to support organizations and programs in the communities they serve. All donations are pooled into a fund that purchases annual family memberships for recipients selected by department heads.

Each membership allows two adults and four children unlimited admission during regular business hours for one year, a $65 value. The membership also allows discounted educational programs and recreational rentals, discounted purchases at the zoo’s Trading Post gift shop, plus discounted dine-in orders at local Mangia Bene restaurants (Sal & Mookies, Broad Street, and Bravo!) and Iron Horse Grill.

“Trustmark values being involved in community initiatives that recognize and reward the commitment of public servants in our marketplace,” Trustmark Director of Marketing and Communications Melanie Morgan stated. “We are delighted to be part of this program that provides these honorable men and women with an opportunity to enjoy spending time with their families in an educational and recreational environment.”

Jackson Zoo Development Director Trey Jones spearheads Experience Zoo!, and talked to many people about the need for such a program. Current and former military, first responder, and civil service members (or their spouses) expressed common difficulties in keeping a healthy connection with their children and each other. The Jackson Zoo, one of the oldest and most well-respected family- friendly venues in the state, is well-suited to this kind of engagement.

“We see groups experiencing joy, wonder, and laughter together every single day,” said Jones. “Knowing how beneficial this can be for traditional families, imagine the positive results for those who face the challenges of the ongoing or extended stress of community service.”

At this time, the 40 annual passes resulting from Trustmark’s generosity have been allotted to employees of the Jackson Police and Jackson Fire Departments. A list of other civic departments, active military, and educators still grows, but the Jackson Zoo’s confidence in the program is high.

Director Beth Poff said, “Our community has a need, and Trustmark has once again stepped up to answer the call, encouraging others to do the same.”

The community is encouraged to join Trustmark and their recipient families of the Jackson Fire and Police Departments at the Jackson Zoo for a welcoming ceremony at Fire Station 6 located at 101 Livingston Park Drive in Jackson on Tuesday, August 2 at 10 a.m.  City of Jackson Police Chief Lee Vance, City of Jackson Fire Chief RD Simpson, Trustmark’s Director of Marketing Melanie Morgan, Jackson Zoo Director Beth Poff, and Jackson Zoo Development Director Trey Jones will all be available for comment.

The Experience Zoo Initiative is open to individual donors in addition to organizations and businesses. For details and donations, please contact Development Director Trey Jones at 601-352-2850 Ext 225 or tjones@jacksonzoo.org.