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.

Jackson Zoo Announces Birth of Endangered Fishing Cats

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.

The Day Creativity Saved the Crane

Zoo animal care staff doesn’t only provide daily feedings and exhibit upkeep, and veterinary medical staff does a lot more than annual physicals. Taking care of exotic animals often means quick action and innovative solutions in emergencies, which can mean the difference between life or death. With so many endangered animals in the care of the Jackson Zoo, the death of a creature can also have grave consequences for a species.

The Jackson Zoo received two mated White Naped cranes in 2010, a seven-year-old male hatched in Cincinnati, OH, and a female hatched the Bronx, NY. These particular cranes are native to Asia, summering as far north as Mongolia and wintering as far south as Taiwan. Due to habitat loss, however, they are considered Vulnerable on the IUCD endangered status scale. (Although not “Critical,” steps are now being taken by conservationists to ensure their status does not degrade further.) Keepers discovered upon their arrival one morning that the male crane had broken his beak at some point during the night (how the injury occurred is still unclear). It was a severe break, with the upper portion of the bird’s bill (the maxillary rostrum) almost completely severed above the midpoint. The bird was obviously in a state of trauma, shaking it’s head back and forth. Mississippi State Senior vet student Megen Cummings said it was pretty gruesome. “When I first saw the crane’s beak, I thought it was impossible to fix.”

A bird’s beak is more than just keratin, the substance also in horses’ hooves, rhino horns, and the human hair and fingernail. The bill is also made of skin, thin capillaries, and nerve endings, and continuously grows and sheds throughout a bird’s life. The presence of those nerves makes the bill more sensitive than other keratinous features. A precise measure of the bird’s pain could not be established, but its level of agitation indicated it was definitely in some discomfort. Even if it hadn’t been an issue of pain, the injury was life threatening, as it was impossible for the bird to eat or drink.

However, long-time Jackson Zoo Veterinarian Dr. Michael Holifield (known to all staff simply as “Doc”) was on the case. Vet Technician Donna Todd was totally confident that he could save the animal, saying, “He is a genius. He is always coming up with innovative ways to help our animals.” The staff knew they had to act quickly, and had the bird in surgery within 24 hours.

“After Doc examined the beak, he knew exactly how to fix it,” vet student Cummings said. “He grabbed his orthopedic tools and went to work.” She assisted him as he reattached and reinforced the bill with a surgical grade metal plate and screws, plus some epoxy along the edges for stabilization. Cummings had seen metal plates used with regular fractures, but never a beak. “This proves that veterinary medicine is universal,” she said.

Only an hour after coming out of anesthesia, Mr. Crane was back in the yard with his mate, eating, drinking, and generally adjusting to the feel of his new “nose.” As the beak grows and heals, the plates should be able to be removed, leaving the bill stronger than before. Keepers are keeping an extra close eye on the bird, apprising Doc of any changes.

Thanks to the staff of the Jackson Zoo, in partnership with Mississippi State University, the now “bionic” crane will live and continue to represent his species at the Jackson Zoo.

Jackson Zoo Mourns JoJo the Chimpanzee

MARCH 21, 2016

Jackson MS

Jackson Zoo animal care staff was deeply saddened by the death of JoJo, the chimpanzee patriarch, on Wednesday, March 16, 2016. He was to turn 52 this year.

JoJo was born September 20, 1964, at the Taronga Park Zoo in Sydney, Australia. After a very natural challenge to his father for dominance of the chimp colony there, caretakers decided he needed his own. He joined the animal family of the Jackson Zoo on October 18, 1986, with his mate, Belle. Over the next 30 years, he was father to four, and grandfather to three. Still residing at the Jackson Zoo are his offspring Maebell and Mojo, and his granddaughter, Binti. Son, Pablo, is on loan to Sacramento.

Chimpanzees are a favorite with most people, and he will be missed by staff and guests alike. “It’s hard to imagine him not out there,” says Zoo Director Beth Poff, who views Chimp Island from her office window. “You can watch them for a long time. There is a sense of wonder about their relationships and interactions.”

JoJo had a very active and inquisitive demeanor. He will be remembered as being both a definitive leader and yet still a “gentleman.” He was generally cooperative with his caretakers, and also tolerant of his pack’s antics. His youngest, son Mojo, inherited his father’s mischievousness, and tests the troop on a regular basis.

Not surprisingly, JoJo’s favorite food was the classic banana. According to one of his keepers, “He LOVED them.”

Chimps have a normal lifespan of approximately 45 years, so JoJo’s overall health and activity level beyond 50 was impressive. In the days preceding his death, however, he lacked his usual personality when being cared for by his keepers. One of them said, “Even though it wasn’t really unexpected, it still felt sudden.”

A full necropsy has been ordered, and the results will be recorded into the extensive records kept by Jackson Zoo staff.