Pygmy Three-Toed Sloths……

(repost because this is the most common blog to turn up in search engines and my friend just became head vet at DWA)

Isla Escudo is home to this pygmy sloth, one of four species of three-toed sloths. These folivores (suborder: Folivora), also known as Escudo sloths are not only smaller than mainland species, but they are considerably more docile. They are  threatened by the loss of mangrove habitat, and are  consumed by local fisherman. The fisherman will camp out on the island and cut down mangroves for fire. They feed on these xenarthrans when fishing is deemed unsuccessful. By the way, the brown-throated three-toed sloth may still be the only publicly displayed three-toed sloth in the US.  You can see one at the Dallas World Aquarium and Zoo, Texas.  Although sloths are known for their menacing claws I do remember a colleague who was seriously bitten by a two-toed sloth.

Dr. Jordan Schaul, Zoo Keeper Emeritus

Waldo, the Bear Who Died In His Sleep

Even though advances in veterinary preventive and clinical health care have extended the captive lifespan of so many animals, it’s kind of touching to hear that an animal ambassador that brought so much joy to visitors and staff, passed on to bear heaven in his sleep. We all would like to go as peacefully as this magnificent animal did. I don’t know the individual bear, but when you consider what awaits us as humans and animals alike as we enter the fourth quarter (so elegant) , we as humans at least, recognize, hopefully, how lucky we are to live in an era where our quality of life is likely to be sustained beyond what nature ever intended.   Today, zoo medicine is much about geriatric veterinary medicine and it’s most impressive how zoos delicately handle issues concerning aging collections. I don’t have much to add except that I may cross -post this on the The Bear Keepers Forum.

CBC News, Manitoba- "Waldo" (1974-2010)

Re-Painting the Spotted Dog, Spectacled Bear & those Siberian/Manchurian Felids

Short Note: A friend just shared this article with me and it is particularly timely following my post concerning the branding of uber-iconic mega-fauna. The African Wild Dog has been “re-branded” by conservationists as the painted hunting dog or painted dog in hopes of drawing more attention to the plight of this endangered canid which is also known as the Cape Hunting Dog, the Spotted Dog, and the Painted Wolf, among other names. This is not unlike the practice of re-branding  Spectacled Bears as Andean Bears. Both names have been used, but it may enhance conservation efforts to use a name that conveys a zoogeographic or faunal group designation.  These bears were formerly called spectacled bears in most zoos, but now “Andean bear” is the preferred common name among conservationists, collection managers, and educators. Similarly, the Siberian tiger is now referred to as the Amur tiger, along with other species whose range is now confined to an area along the Amur river in Eastern Siberia & Northern China (Amur-Ussuri region) such as the Amur leopard formerly known as the Manchurian leopard. Likewise, the Amur falcon (formerly called the Eastern Red-footed Falcon), breeds in the Amur region. Although the raptor may not be particularly endangered (Least Concern- IUCN), the bird that winters in Southern Africa may benefit from the zoogeographic descriptor.  Perhaps the Manchurian brown bear will be re-branded as the Amur brown bear.

For more about painted dog conservation visit

Dr. Jordan Schaul, Zoo Keeper Emeritus

Facebook, Social Butterflies, & Social Networking in Herds of the Exceptionally Rare Visayan Spotted Deer


Termites, gorillas, orca, and grey wolves are considered “social butterflies” according to one random website that surfaced on my browser. I was looking for a list of nature’s most social animals in the context of very fundamental sociobiological parameters. I must say that I was rather disappointed that this was top ranked web resource on the topic. I was not looking for empirical evidence or a peer review assessment. I just wanted a simple, but comprehensive list of social animals.  I wasn’t looking for species with highly evolved cultures or any thing too sophisticated beyond a list of species which would not be classified as solitary by nature.   I’m not a behaviorist or sociobiologist, but  the one thing that I wanted to convey is that although animals can be quite social, new reports always emerge that suggest that some relatively unknown species also engage in more advanced social networking. Social networking theory describes a more advanced construct than the social dynamics that describe interactions as basic as informing a harem of “who the new girl is” or mechanisms involved in the mediation of kin recognition.  Some of our social interactions as humans are quite primitive and distinct from our highly evolved ability to network.

To share how complicated it can be to measure this advanced social phenomenon, I provide you with the following abstract. I don’t know if you will find this study to be  as riveting as I do, but it exemplifies social networking in a taxon that has been intensively examined with respective to natural history, population structure and social dynamics.

Animal Behaviour
Volume 75, Issue 4, April 2008, Pages 1221-1228

Social networking in the Columbian ground squirrel, Spermophilus columbianus

Theodore G. Manno

Department of Biological Sciences, Auburn University U.S.A.

Abstract: Networks are collections of units that potentially interact as a system. Electronic power grids, human societies, the Internet, food webs and metabolic pathways are examples of networks that have emergent properties that allow all vertices (viz. individuals, components, species, etc.) to be linked by a short chain of intermediate vertices. My field observations on a colony of 65 free-ranging Columbian ground squirrels suggest that their society also exhibits these characteristics via social interaction. On average, any dyad of squirrels in the colony can be connected via amicable interaction with three intermediate individuals. The connectivity of individuals (viz. the number of individuals to which an individual is directly connected) decays following a scale-free power law distribution. Individuals that have similar age, reproductive status and number of associates (viz. the number of individuals to which the individual is connected via social interaction) interact amicably with each other more than other squirrels. The network is robust to the removal of random individuals. However, simulated removal of individuals that are connected to many other squirrels increases the number of intermediates between two random individuals and fragments the network into smaller clusters when removals exceed 10% of the individuals in the colony. Thus, certain individuals appear to play more central roles than others in the cohesion of the network. My results reinforce previous studies showing that network theory can be used to determine the roles played by individuals in the cohesion of animal societies, thus providing a framework for studying sociality across species.

Did you get all that?

Unfortunately my intentions were not to address social networking in the animal kingdom, Grevy’ s zebra stallions on Facebook or anything of the kind. I just didn’t have time today. I do like to preface posts with relevant links to the topic at hand.  A lot of you have joined the Facebook group which hosts the global zoo directory. I have ceased to accept requests to join because the directory, as I have mentioned before, is now available at .  If you want to sign up for the free registry, update a profile, and gain access to resources and contacts, this site will serve your networking interests and purposes as a member of the greater zoo professionals’ community. There are over 50 groups, and applications for a diversity of captive wildlife specialists from veterinary pathologists to guest service personnel, marketing specialists and nutritionists, etc.

Dr. Jordan Schaul, Zoo Keeper Emeritus


“Spheniscid Screening”

I wasn’t not aware that flipper/wing bands impeded motion in these temperate penguins, but perhaps the bands used in field research are different than the “plastic” ones that I’m more familiar with. I really would like to know. I suspect that perhaps wild marine birds require more durable bands and much greater mobility. I admit to total ignorance on this as I have never worked with wild spheniscid penguins in the wild. My bird banding skills are limited to psittacines and migratory and resident passerines. I have to throw in these scientific terms for tagging purposes. If you blogged you would know this.

The new technology reported in article  sounds expensive, but it’s cool and quite reliable, I think.  I remember having to ID a colony of 40 African penguins to monitor feeding. I relied on color bands and am not sure that I performed at a rate as strong as this technology. I will leave it up to those of you who are Antarctic, sub-Antarctic, and temperate penguin experts to decide.

Journal Watch Online