New in the Zoo

HAPPY ZOO YEAR: Some notes of thanks to start 2019!
December 31, 2018

Avian arrivals for November included two black-necked stilts. These aquatic birds can be found in shallow wetlands from the western U.S. through Central America and into parts of South America. Living up to their name, these birds have long, thin legs and use them to wade through water in search of food that they grasp with bills that are also long and thin. They will sometimes herd groups of fish into shallow water to make catching them easier. At the Zoo, these birds share an exhibit in the North America section of the Zoo with scarlet ibis.

The L.A. Zoo provides veterinary care for wild California condors. Though treatments can range from setting broken bones to cataract procedures, most often it is chelation treatment for lead exposure. In November, the Zoo received a four-year-old female condor with high lead levels in her blood. She unfortunately did not survive despite the best efforts of the Zoo’s Animal Care staff. (Condors receive the same chelation treatment that humans receive for lead toxicity.) Restrictions on the use of lead ammunition within California condor range have existed since 2008. In 2013, Assembly Bill 711 was signed into law. It requires non-lead ammunition state-wide and will fully phase in on July 1 of this year. Hopefully it will help reduce the impact of lead in the environment.

Red rainbow fish are endemic to Lake Sentani in Indonesia. Like other rainbow fish, these are small, brightly colored, freshwater fish. Not much is known about their natural history and they are classified as “Vulnerable” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). A dozen of these vibrant fish arrived in November and they will eventually move into the LAIR.


Although red rainbow fish are threatened in their tiny native range, they are popular with aquarium enthusiasts. Photo by Jamie Pham

Three Santa Catalina Island rattle-less rattlesnakes returned from a breeding loan at the San Antonio Zoo. The Los Angeles Zoo was the first zoo in the U.S. to breed this unusual species, found on only one island in the Sea of Cortez in Baja California, Mexico. It is the only species of rattlesnake without rattles and biologists are still trying to understand the purpose behind this adaptation. Rattlesnakes are one of the most recently evolved groups of snakes and have many sophisticated adaptations, including their signature feature. In snakes, rattles serve as a warning device to defend against potential predators or larger animals that might unintentionally step on them. One theory is that, because there are no large mammals or predators on the island to threaten these snakes and because they prey heavily on semi-arboreal rodents, these rattlesnakes lost their rattles to make them stealthier hunters.

One of the L.A. Zoo’s Santa Catalina Island rattle-less rattlesnakes photographed by National Geographic’s Joel Sartore. Photo by Joel Sartore

Hatchings for November included three rock doves in the flock that’s part of the World of Birds Show cast, a poison dart frog (Ranitomeya uakari) that will eventually live in the Rainforest of the Americas exhibit, and three giant horned lizards.

The Los Angeles Zoo has long been home to one of the largest chimpanzee troops in the country. Groups that include multiple males and multi-generations can be challenging to manage, and our ape keeper team is exceptionally talented. As with human families, though, the time comes when some individuals need to strike out for new opportunities. On November 29, male chimpanzees Jake and Ben departed for Lion Country Safari in Florida. Senior Animal Keeper Nancy Bunn and Animal Keeper Kate Gilmore accompanied them. Tina Cloutier Barbour, curator of mammals from Lion Country Safari, flew out to L.A. and traveled back with them all.

“With the help of an amazing FedEx crew, Ben and Jake had a smooth trip across the country,” comments Gilmore. “They were very calm and had a big meal before napping on the airplane. They were happy to stretch their legs upon arrival at Lion Country Safari, where they were greeted happily by their future family of keepers and chimps. Ben was very curious about exploring his new space before settling quickly in to a huge meal of his favorite treats provided by his new keepers. Jake was slightly nervous, but nested down with his favorite browse by the end of the night. Both boys are very interested in their new space and, after completing quarantine with their new chimp family, will no doubt be eager to head out onto the islands of Lion Country Safari. Those of us who had the privilege of accompanying them to Florida have no doubts that Ben and Jake will flourish as the males of a new breeding group assembled just for them.”