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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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.


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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.


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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.


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APRIL 7, 2016
Jackson MS

Animal staff at the Jackson Zoo were proud to announce the birth of two healthy kittens to their female Fishing Cat on the morning of March 10, 2016. Both have been identified as males.

Fishing Cats are listed on the International Union of Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species, due to habitat loss and hunting. They originate in Asia, specifically southwest India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Thailand, Burma, China, and the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra. Unfortunately, local communities have drained many wetland areas to make room for farmland and roads, and pollution from industries has poisoned rivers and streams where fishing cats feed.

Aside from their extremely small remaining population, they have a very low rate of reproduction, only two to four kits born annually in the last 10 years. As of 2012, there were less than 100 cats in AZA institutions, and less than half those could be safely bred. Without human intervention, it is projected that the species will become extinct in less than two human generations.

The Jackson Zoo is a proud member of the AZA SAFE initiative (Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Save Animals From Extinction), which is a program set up to safely breed species that are dwindling in the wild and captivity. The new kittens are joining a growing list of endangered births here in Jackson, such the Red wolves, Eko the Sumatran tiger (sponsored by JSU), and most recently, the male Bornean Orangutan.

This is the first live birth for Iris, who came to join the Jackson Zoo from Columbus, Ohio, as a one year old in April of 2009. The kits have opened their eyes, and are un-named aside from their assigned personal numeric identification within the International Species Database. In the coming months, the kittens will be taken care of behind the scenes by their mother, and animal staff will follow her lead when it comes to introducing them to public view.

For more information about the AZA Fishing Cat Animal Program, please visit www.aza.org.


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