Jackson, Miss.—  Jackson Zoological Society animal care staff sadly announced the death of their elder Southern White rhinoceros, “Ronnie,” during the night of August 2, 2017.  Well past the life expectancy of his relatives in the wild, Ronnie spent nearly 45 years representing the majesty and power of five species of rhinos here in the United States.

Born in South Africa in February of 1973, Ronnie came to the Jackson Zoo in March of 2011 from the White Oak Conservation Center in Yulee, Florida. Since then, he was often the pinnacle of the Jackson Zoo experience, being the largest living creature in the park, until younger “Big Mike” arrived in 2013.

“He was a very special animal to work with, and keepers found him very easy to care for,” said Animal Care Supervisor Willie Bennett. The past few years had seen a major increase in his needs as he got into his forties (the median age of a White or wide-lipped rhino is 34 years). Careful watch over his diet and exercise was required, as well as daily medication for arthritic joints and skin issues caused by his more limited mobility. “Even as his health was declining, Ronnie’s spirit stayed strong,” said Bennett. “He never gave up.”

Keepers described Ronnie as a gentle giant who was not shy about his love of grain or getting “a good scratch behind the ear.”  Also known to be a big fan of sweet potatoes, he loved creating and wallowing in mud ravines in his exhibit, twitching his ears around when his name was called. He was a favorite “adoptee” of members throughout the years, including a special relationship with a six-year-old rhino advocate named Mary Gayle. Every year on his birthday since 2012, her family would donate to the park, getting a special visit behind the scenes. Ronnie would come to greet the little girl when she sang to him.

 “It is with great sorrow that we share the loss of one of our rhinos, ‘Ronnie,’” Executive Director Beth Poff said. “He has been a part of the zoo for over six years, and was a big part of our special behind-the-scenes experiences for donors. His gentle impressiveness will be missed.”

In the whole world, only about 30,000 rhinos exist today. Southern White rhinos were brought back from the brink of extinction, going from 50 animals in the early 1900’s to current number of about 21,000. Although internationally banned in 1977, the resurgence of illegal poaching in 2012 keeps all five species of rhinos on the IUCN critically endangered list. There are less than 6,000 black rhinos, about 100 Sumatran rhinos, nearly 65 Javan rhinos, and only three Black rhinos remaining in their respective territories. Support for their conservation can be given by visiting or joining the Jackson Zoological Society, giving to conservation and anti-poaching organizations like savetherhino.org, or by simply spreading the awareness of plight of these amazing creatures.

 

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Jackson, Miss.—  The Jackson Zoological Society is proud to announce that they have raised the number of critically endangered red ruffed lemurs in the world by two. On Saturday, May 27th, zookeepers arrived at work in the early morning hours to discover two newborn males in the lemur night house.

The mother, “Nekena,” arrived at the Jackson Zoo in December of 2016 from Wildlife Safari in Winston, Oregon. She joined father and son, “Timmy” and “Phoenix,” respectively, as part of the red ruffed lemur Species Survival Plan.

“The 2017 Breeding and Transfer Plan was published this past February. At that time we had 187 red ruffed lemurs in the Species Survival Plan®(SSP), where we recommended 18 males and 16 females for breeding,” said Christie Eddie, Red ruffed lemur SSP Coordinator at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo. “We are in the midst of birthing season and these offspring are among birth reports from five SSP institutions.  I expect more to come!”

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the red ruffed lemur (Varecia rubra) as Critically Endangered. Found only in a small area of Madagascar, they are the most endangered type of lemur in the world due to increased cyclones, illegal logging, and the illegal exotic pet trade. According to the IUCN, there are only approximately 35 lemurs on average per square kilometer in their native habitat and declining rapidly. Less than 65% of newborn young survive to three-months of age in the wild, and there are less than 600 in zoos or refuges in the world.

 “We are absolutely delighted to see these two little ones arrive, both for our park and the species as a whole” said Jackson Zoo Executive Director, Beth Poff. “More than a third of the animals at the Jackson Zoo are either endangered or threatened, and although every birth here is special to the staff, adding numbers to an endangered species is that much more precious.”

The Jackson Zoological Society participates in Species Survival Plans for many other animals, including successful births for the Pygmy hippo and the Sumatran tiger. The Jackson Zoo also regularly submits information and samples to dozens of ongoing international studies.

It will be several months before the baby lemurs are out on exhibit, and viewing times at the Jackson Zoo Veterinary Hospital are still to be determined. Visitors and Jackson Zoo members can visit the adult lemurs during regular zoo hours (seven days a week from 9 am to 4 pm), and follow the Jackson Zookeepers on Instagram (@JacksonZoo) for close-ups and behind-the-scenes photos of all the park residents. People can also “adopt” the baby lemurs (or their parents) for twelve months by contacting EJ Rivers at ejrivers@jacksonzoo.org.

For more information about the red ruff lemur, visit the Lemur Conservation Foundation online at lemurreserve.org.

 

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Sunday, May 27, 2017 – Red Ruffed Lemur babies


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Jackson, Miss.—  The Jackson Zoo is once again bringing the pre-historic era back to “life” inside the park on April 1, 2017 so people can “See the Past and Protect the Future.” Thanks to Regions, United HealthCare Community Plan of Mississippi, and M3A Architecture, dino fans of all ages will see nearly life-sized and moving replicas of the ancient creatures during a three-month event that will help raise funds and awareness for endangered species.

Dinosaurs first visited the the Jackson Zoo back in 2004, and it was exciting for both staff and guests alike. With the advancement of technology in the past decade, a new generation will get to witness more than twelve free-standing exhibits that move, breathe, and even spit water within sight of guests.

 “People have always mentioned how much they loved the dinos when they were kids,” said Executive Director Beth Poff. “We saw an opportunity to bring them back – with an upgrade – that’s both fun and educational regarding currently endangered animals. The Red pandas, Sumatran tigers, and the White rhinos are all animals that might end up like the dinosaurs if humans don’t intervene.”

Not only will the replicas from The Dinosaur Company (Billings Productions) be taking over a large section of the zoo, but they will also be over-shadowing the events between April 1 and July 2. Members will get a special preview with Doughnuts & Dinos with Dunkin Donuts; the 10th Annual Zoo Brew beer festival with Capital City Beverages will be HUGE; plus there will even be Dino Zoo Camps, Dino Night Hikes, Dino Birthday Parties, and special days highlighting conservation and endangered species.

In addition, several local attractions will be sharing the pre-historic experience. With the Visit Jackson Pre-HisTOURist Pass, people can go on a DINO TOUR in the Metro and finish with a free treat! Guests who visit The Jackson Zoo AND the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science (“Be The Dino”), plus either the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame OR the Clinton Community Nature Center, can get a free “Dino Dessert” with purchase at either Sal & Mookie’s, Broad Street Bakery Café, or the Manship in the Belhaven. The special rack cards will be available at all locations starting March 10th.

There will be special admission charge at the Jackson Zoo during the limited time event, which will be an additional $2 per entry for daily admission or member visits between April 1 and July 2 of 2017. Members will have an opportunity to purchase a special Dino Pass at a discounted rate during March and April to add to their annual membership account.

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Press Release 
January 27, 2017                                                                                                                                                               

Jackson, Miss.— The Jackson Zoological Society is excited to formally announce the birth of an endangered Pygmy hippopotamus in the zoo’s African Forest area, offspring of four-year-old male, “Ralph,” and eight-year-old female, “Clementine.” Listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature List of Threatened Species (or IUCN Red List), this particular offspring has been anticipated for years. Jackson Zoo staff has named the young female “Zemora,”which means “praised” or “song.”

Jackson Zookeepers practice non-invasive animal care protocol with almost all the resident species, allowing them as natural an existence as possible. There were indications that Clementine was pregnant, but there are no current testing methods available. Most experts theorize gestation is anywhere from 190 to 210 days, any time of year. Keeper suspicions were confirmed when they arrived in the early morning hours of December 25th (the only day the zoo is closed to the public), and discovered the infant female resting comfortably with its mother.

“Births at the zoo are always exciting, and we are especially excited about the birth of a Pygmy hippo,” said Executive Director Beth Poff. “This species is one that breeds well in captivity, which means the survival of the species is more assured than in the wild. This is an example of zoos making a difference!”

Zemora weighed 11 lbs. at birth, and now registers at 31 lbs. going into her second month. She is already imitating her mother in foraging behavior, is very inquisitive regarding her surroundings, and swimming at every opportunity. Animal care staff do not believe that Clementine will want to bring her young out into the exhibit with Ralph for a couple of months, hoping to have her visible to guests mid-spring.

Native to the forests and swamps of West Africa (primarily Liberia), Choeropsis liberiensis is one of only two extant species of hippo, the other being their more common larger cousins. Pygmies are semi-aquatic like their kin (using water to moisturize their skin and regulate their temperature), but they are far more nocturnal and reclusive. They are difficult to locate in the wild, much less study. In fact, most of what humans have learned about this species is primarily via research in zoos and sanctuaries.

Both of the parent Pygmy hippos at the Jackson Zoo have been part of this research effort. They are subjects of an ongoing project directed by Dr. Gabriella Flacke of the University of Western Australia, who collects samples from zoos all over the world. Her study is focused on the overall health of pygmies in captivity, with special emphasis on kidney disease and reproductive health. Dr. Flacke visited the Jackson Zoo staff in February of 2016 to see Ralph and Clementine after many years of receiving scientific data, and discussed her most current findings with keepers and zoo guests. The details of Zemora’s birth will be entered into the Jackson Zoo’s next data submission to further all studies.

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The Jackson Zoo is accredited by the Zoological Association of America, and certified by the Better Business Bureau.

The mission of the Jackson Zoo is to provide visitors with a quality recreational and educational environment dedicated to wildlife care and conservation. For more information, visit The Jackson Zoo at http://jacksonzoo.org/.

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For more info, contact EJ Rivers, Membership and Media Specialist. 601-352-2580 ext 228 or ejrivers@jacksonzoo.org.


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Jackson, Miss.— The staff of the Jackson Zoological Society, Inc.,  invites zoo members, guests, and media to join them in saying “bon voyage” to their beloved male Bornean orangutan this Saturday and Sunday, November 12 and 13. Animal care staff will be providing extra enrichment to the ape during regular park hours (9 am to 4 pm), talking to guests in front of his exhibit, and a goodbye card will be placed nearby for the public to sign. The public is also encouraged to share their favorite stories of “Pumpkin” via social media, using #JxnZooPumpkinTales.

Pumpkin is scheduled to be moved to the Houston Zoo before the end of the month to reside with a larger orangutan group. Listed in the SSP to help rebuild the species, he will hopefully mate with their resident Bornean female and continue to increase the numbers of this critically endangered species. Currently, there are less than 1,500 northern Bornean orangutans remaining in the wild, according to the World Wildlife Fund, with their numbers declining by more than 50% over the past 60 years.

The female, “Kimmie,” was successfully relocated to the Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center at the Indianapolis Zoo in September. She and her infant son with Pumpkin, “Max,” were sent to the state of the art facility after it was determined that the baby was showing signs of slow development. According to Judy Palermo, Public Relations with the Indianapolis Zoo, “Kim and Max continue to enjoy their time outdoors in a large area away from public view. Baby and mom continue to acclimate to their new home.”

Although the Jackson Zoo has had orangutans for almost 20 years, the Species Survival Plan of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums made the decision in August to move the orangutans due to the breeding challenges created by the aging exhibit. The orangutan exhibit is due to be completely redesigned and replaced in the Ten Year Plan (adopted in 2015), but the needs of the animals were more time sensitive than the availability of the funds.

Jackson Zoo Director Beth Poff said, “While it is sad to bid farewell to ‘Pumpkin,’ we are at the same time happy for him to have an expanded home amidst other orangutans.  Even with the exhibit expansion in 2007, the Society always knew it was a temporary fix and not the best for a breeding situation. As always, we want what is best for the animal, and this move is a good thing.”

The Jackson Zoo staff and Board of Directors are currently conducting a feasibility study of a major funding campaign which would enable the Jackson Zoological Society to complete the Ten Year Plan. Along with new and renovated exhibits in the expanded park, the plan includes a larger, more up-to-date orangutan exhibit, which would bring the animals back into the collection.

 

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