Sunday, December 13, 2015

50 Shades of Cappy

Meet Cappy our fantastic resident Capybara! Cappy is typically overlooked by our interesting big cat and bear residents BUT Cappy is just as cool! 

What is a Capybara you ask?! They are only the largest rodent in the world! Want to know more, keep reading! 

They live in southern Central America and northern South America. Capybaras are semi-aquatic so we tend to see Cappy swimming happily in his pool :) He swims quickly around his pool and underwater with the help of his webbed feet. He can also press his ears against his head to prevent water from getting inside his ears while submerged. 

Rodents have continuously growing teeth which is why you will find Cappy chewing on grass and pumpkins when given the opportunity. 

Curious about that weird bump on his nose???? Male capybaras, like our handsome Cappy, have that bump to rub their scent and mark their territory. As seen in the pictures below, Cappy will rub his scent gland on everything, including his pool. 

Although capybaras are not endangered, conservation for these cute fellows is important! Capybaras are often killed and hunted for food.

Friday, December 4, 2015

You Got a Friend in Me

You Got a Friend in Me

If a random stranger not only approached your house but sat outside of it every day how would you react?

Almost every other afternoon, I go out and sit with two animals for my emotional enrichment journals. The two animals that I sit with are a male cheetah, name Mau, and a male lion, name Odin. Each and every time that I sit with them after work, I aim for twenty minutes a day.

As stated on the IEAS website, “Emotional Enrichment is a technique from improving and enhancing and animal’s emotional life and minimizing stress, agitation, and irritation within the context of the animal’s personality and biological instincts.” This program was started by Louis Dorfman, IEAS Animal Behaviorist. Emotional Enrichment is said to improve their quality of life while ensuring them the comfort and respect of knowing “You Got a Friend in Me”.

On a regular day after work, I go out and sit with Mau a good distance along his fence line. The unique thing about Mau is that he is gong blind so by him not being able to see he can only go off of what he smells and hears. As I walk up and approach Mau’s habitat I say “Hey Mau” and proceed to sit down. Since the cats are very sensitive to sound you sit with them in silence for however long or before it gets dark. During this time of sitting, the animals might groom themselves, lay around, or even play with their behavior enrichment items. Behavior enrichment items that are in their habitat are pickles, boomer balls, and tires that occupies some of their time throughout the day.
Mau and sitting companion Zakiya
 Providing companionship for these two animals has taught me a lot about observation skills. I have sat with Mau enough to notice that when he hears a mule driving around he relates it to feeding time since that is how we deliver his food to him. He even walks in the same pathway along the fence line only because he can feel with his feet the dirt that is there. Mau is comfortable in his habitat and knows it well. 

Odin and sitting companion Zakiya
At times sitting with these animals gives us interns as well as keepers a moment to unwind and get a breath of fresh air to relieve stress due to the daily tasks of the sanctuary. These animals here have interesting background stories to where it lures individuals in to want to know more about them.  Considering that animals can’t express themselves with words, emotions such as anger, sadness, and happiness play an integral role in capturing the natural essence of who they are and who they have become.

By signing up and making an appointment to take a tour here at the International Exotic Animal Sanctuary, you too can learn an awful lot about these animals along with their remarkable personalities!!

Pumpkin Playtime

Pumpkin Pie Playtime!

While the staff at IEAS join family and friends in celebration of Thanksgiving the residents at IEAS received pumpkins. The pumpkins given to the tigers, lions and cougars had a peek- a- boo hole where they could find some of their favorite treats inside including chicken necks inside. However, for the smaller animals at IEAS like our coatis, ring tailed lemur and capybara the pumpkins served as a desert platter where they could find marshmallows, peanut butter as well as their whole Thanksgiving feast. Our bears also got pumpkins with their diets, but our bears didn't need much encouragement to tear into their pumpkins.  They love to eat the insides and will shred and flatten their pumpkins to get the yummy insides. They also serve as behavioral enrichment for the animals as they get to play with them and destroy them to find their prize inside.

This is Duke, one of our handsome cougars, enjoying his first moments with his pumpkin. He seemed a little possessive of his new toy.

Upon receiving the pumpkins from Rainbow Plant Sales, Heritage Church of Christ and Dr. Randy Griffin we gave each resident a pumpkin and watched their interaction. We recorded various responses from excited and interested to indifferent or unconcerned reactions. For example, Cappy loved his pumpkin and upon receiving it began consuming it immediately and the bears tore theirs to shreds. But some of the older bengal tigers, including Caesar and Big John, seemed a little less interested and didn't care to interact. While others like Nala, afemale lioness, was more interested in saying hi to her visitors at the fence. You can watch the videos and get a glimpse at the experience up close through visiting and liking our Facebook  page or by following us on youtube.

Catch some of the action, live below!

This is Saphy, a 15 year old Cougar, interacting with her first pumpkin of the year. She still plays like a little cub. 

See the various reactions from all the different animals and how each one is different. 

This is Kodi, a white nosed coati, and her reaction to her pumpkin.

Watch Rasul make his own pumpkin pie. 

Odin on the other hand wasted no time tossing his pumpkin around to get his treats. To see the whole experience, visit our Facebook page where you will find a video of Odin and his pumpkin.

We are planning to do a second round of pumpkins with all of the residents soon, so be sure to stay updated on what is coming soon in order to plan a visit and potentially see the experience up close. We hold tours everyday of the week at eleven o'clock in the morning and offer a three o'clock evening tour on Saturdays.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

More Exciting News!

In addition to the cubs we posted about last week, we also received a few other new residents! Please welcome Wiki (pronounced wick-kai), a jaguar, as well as Romulus and Remus, two 6 month-old tundra wolf siblings. Their previous institutions no longer had space for them, but IEAS will now be their forever home.

Romulus and Remus are IEAS’s first wolves ever! They are named after the legendary twin brothers who founded Rome after being raised in the wild by a wolf. Tundra wolves are a subspecies of gray wolf and are native to Eurasian tundra and forests. Though gray wolves are considered a species of least concern, they are unfortunately subject to a number of human-caused threats that have extirpated them from much of their range. Contrary to popular belief, wolves are very timid animals. Romulus and Remus have definitely shown this more than our new tigers; however, they are gaining trust in IEAS staff through our Emotional Enrichment program and are settling in nicely in their new habitat.

Wiki is currently the sanctuary’s only jaguar resident. Because jaguars were prominently featured in Aztec mythology, Wiki was named after a type of legendary Aztec warrior. Jaguars such as Wiki are the only true big cats (genus Panthera) native to the Americas, defined by their ability to roar (mountain lions can’t!). Their native range extends from the southwestern U.S. to South America, throughout which they are considered a keystone species. Though they have been extirpated throughout most of their range in the U.S., one wild jaguar was photographed earlier this year in Arizona. They are a near-threatened species that are unfortunately on the decline due to human activity such as poaching, deforestation, and conflict with farmers.  Though Wiki is still adjusting to his new home, we hope that with the help of our Emotional Enrichment program that he will continue to gain trust in his human care takers!

We are very excited to share our new residents with you! Guided tours are available every day at 11 if you would like to come by and see them. Or, if you’re interested in helping out with the care of Wiki, Romulus, and Remus, please consider donating here. Keep an eye out for more updates on how our new guys are doing!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Welcome Home!


We've recently adopted a few new members into the IEAS family!  We have been so excited to take in two six month old cubs, a male and female, and two more cubs that are a year and half old, also a male and female.

These youngsters are getting adjusted into their new habitats and loving their new scenery.  The six month old cubs can often be seen playing with their toys or splashing in their water trough!  Kimberly, one of our resident white Bengal tigers, is now neighbored by the young cubs.  She enjoys their company and will play with them through the fence and chuff back and forth with the cubs.

The older cubs have taken a liking to their pool with the warmer weather lingering.  These two will often be seen playing with one another or exploring their new large habitat.  These cubs are also very friendly to keepers and interns, chuffing back and forth and walking along the fence with the keepers and interns!

We hope you are as excited about the new residents as we are!  Please consider helping out these adorable cubs by donating here!  We can't wait to see how these cubs grow up!

Can you Bare the Differences between our Bears?

Grizzlies are large bears that can be 6.6 to 9.2 feet  in length and can weigh between 175- 975 lbs. Typically males are larger than females, but their size depends on the location and food source available.  Grizzlies are more commonly found in mountainous regions where they have greater accessibility to a varied diet including: salmon, trout, carrion, mouse, elk, berries, nuts and other fruit. They can be found across the continental U.S ranging from Montana and Idaho to Wyoming.  They used to be found in Colorado as well, but have been inexistent since 1978.. Their hair can vary from a blonde to a dark brown and often times gives them a grizzled appearance and they can live for up to fifty years in captivity. 

Here at IEAS we have six Grizzlies. In 2007, we received four grizzlies from a previous facility that did not have the room to support the unexpected cubs.  They remain together in the same habitat here at IEAS and we wanted to see how well you guys could tell them apart? 
This is Willie, he is a 9 year old Grizzly. He is the largest of his siblings and can be found dangling his feet off of his perch while eating a melon. 

Meet Wendy!! Wendy is the smallest of her siblings and also shorter, but she can hold her own against her big brothers. 

Big Papa is the tallest and lightest Grizzly that we have. He is a very curious boy that will commonly follow you around to see if you have food or what you are doing.

However, due to road construction, railway systems, habitat destruction, and trophy hunting these bears have moved to much of Russia, and remain densely distributed in Canada as well as Alaska.  Therefore, they are considered to be endangered in the lower 48 states. 

In recent years, organizations have helped to increase awareness regarding the conservation of these  magnificent animals. They have implemented programs that promote the preservation of land, setting up natural breeding by influencing the linking of populations,  and built bridges that allow them to enter their native lands in the presence of road construction. 

How you can help?

Friday, October 30, 2015

Let's Get Meaty!

Ever wonder about the process of feeding exotic felines? Here is an inside look into how our interns here at IEAS prepare the diets every morning!

Overnight the Triple A meat is thawed in bins where blood is collected. The blood is used to help combine and mix the supplements into the meat. Each log of meat (as seen below) weighs 10 pounds and is divided and distributed among the 35 cats.

The next step is to lay the pans out, one for each cat. The sizes can range anywhere from a bobcat bowl (L) to a Nala bowl (R). 

There are a few selective cats who no longer get the privilege of having their pans. Shown below is the aftermath of a Jaguar and Tiger getting pans. 

Each cat gets a different amount of Triple A depending on their weight, activity level, and age. The chart shown displays each animal and their designated poundage. 

There are certain animals, like our lion Shauna, who receive chicken only. Sapphire, one of our resident cougars, receives a combination of chicken and Triple A. Once all of the meat is distributed the multi-vitamin "Missing Link" is mixed into eat diet.

Any other medications needed are also mixed in to the proper animals' diet. 

Finally, each animal is fed and there are happy bellies everywhere! 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Lions, Tigers, and Grizzlies?! OH MY!

Lions, Tigers, and Grizzlies? OH MY!

No one says it better than Judy Garland regarding the fear that comes along when picturing an 800 pound grizzly bear in your presence.

All of our lives, we are taught to fear bears, particularly the fearsome grizzly bear. Even though our society views this particular bear as a danger to the human race, one man questioned this perspective only to see otherwise for himself. The bear man, formally known as Charlie Russell, believed that there was an essential factor missing between both human and grizzly: trust. He did a research study on grizzly bears in Kamchatka, Russia on his ranch to see if grizzlies were a major problem to the ranching business because of the many claims of them eating cattle. Additionally, he started a feeding program in 1972 in which he gave the grizzlies a few cows that died of natural causes for spring time to help lessen their appetite, aiding in keeping them out of neighbors' yards. He also rescued ten brown bear cubs from a zoo in Kamchatka to live free on his land, strengthening his understanding of grizzlies not being unpredictable as everyone thought.

For eleven years, the bear man surrounded himself with  many grizzlies, allowing him to have many encounters with them going in and out of the front door to his cabin. While studying these bears, he soon realized that they weren't the problem; rather, it was the fear and distrust that we have towards them that was the true issue. The belief that the grizzlies were eating the ranchers' cattle was used to justify killing them and stereotyping them as unpredictable beasts was proven false by his studies, though this took years and years to understand.
Here at IEAS, we make sure to respect our grizzlies and, through our Emotional Enrichment Program, the staff members form relationships with them that strengthen their trust in us and aids in the overall quality of life and care of the bears. 
Our grizzly bears are loving, affectionate, and filled with so much personality YOU COULDN'T POSSIBLY WALK BY AND NOT CAPTURE THEIR NATURAL ESSENCE. If you have the opportunity, please visit our sanctuary to get a tour of these wonderful characters!!

Happy Birthday, Mork!

Happy Birthday, Mork!

On Thursday, October 8th, one of our three resident White-nosed Coatis, named Mork, will be turning 12 years old! Mork was brought to the Sanctuary in April 2012 with his friend Mindy by a nice couple in Glen Rose, Texas, who owned them for 10 months, but then wanted them to have a better, forever home. Now, Mork and Mindy enjoy a spacious, natural habitat together containing enrichment toys, hammocks, several perches, an encircling walking ramp and a water misting system to keep them cool in the summers or a heat lamp and bedding for when it gets too cold.

White-nosed Coatis are native to the United States (Texas, New Mexico and Arizona), Mexico, Central America and South America (Columbia). They are members of the raccoon family and the order Carnivora, but they are actually omnivores that eat fruit, insects, small vertebrates, carrion and eggs in the wild. Like raccoons, they are good climbers that are well-adapted to human influence and have been known to forage through trash and campgrounds for food. On the other hand, coatis are active during the day rather than at night like the raccoon, but they are capable of becoming more nocturnal if necessary.

At IEAS, Mork’s diet consists of canine kibble, Fig Newtons, fruit (Mork's favorites are grapes, cantaloupe and honeydew melon) and eggs. For your viewing pleasure, check out this adorable video of the first time Mork was given an egg:

Mork and all of the other IEAS animal residents are available for adoption! For only $50/month (all donations are 100% tax-deductible), you can adopt Mork and receive:

  • An 8x10 photograph of Mork
  • An adoption certificate
  • One accompanied visit with Mork every month during which you can sit by the habitat and get to know him! (You must give us 24 hours’ notice before coming to the Sanctuary)

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Story of White Tigers

The Story of a White Tiger:

This is Kumar. He is an eleven year old white tiger who was brought here with his two siblings from another facility so that they could avoid licensing issues. 

White tigers only exist in captivity as a result of inbreeding, which produces a double recessive gene. The white coloration is caused by a mutation in the SLC45A2 gene, restricting the expression of red and yellow pigments.

 The inbreeding of tigers began in 1951 with Mohan, who was captured from the wild in India, raised and inbred to his daughter leading to the existing population of captive white tigers. The recessive mutation was then discovered to be present in both male Siberian tigers and female Bengal tigers. As a result in the 1970’s many small zoos began breeding these two species to give rise to white tigers. 
However, many white tigers suffer from genetic disabilities including: crossed eyes, spinal problems, deformed kidneys, cleft palate, as well as club footedness. For example, Kim and Kumar at IEAS both have crossed eyes, which are the result of inbreeding that causes the optic nerve to connect to the opposite side of the brain.

This is Kim. She is seven years old and was given to IEAS with her sister Karen by her previous caregiver. As you can see her left eye is severely crossed due to the strong defects associated with inbreeding.

 Some studies suggest that white tigers can survive in the wild, considering they were found in the wild since the 1500’s, but the last white tiger to be found in the wild was shot in 1958. On the other hand, deleterious mutations such as those found in white tigers are highly disadvantageous for survival in the wild considering they do not blend in well in a tropical jungle environment causing them to be killed off. White tigers are also reported to live shorter lives due to their genetic complications, presuming they aren't rejected by their mothers and survive the birthing process. 

In June 2011 the AZA banned the breeding of white tigers, white lions, or king cheetahs and other species that express rare genetic traits due to the high correlation to debilitating genetic and physical issues. Therefore, the nine white tigers at IEAS are advocates for their species as their stories help to educate the public on how natural selection occurs and the large downstream effects that it can have on a population

Happy Birthday Prince!

On this day September 23, 2004 a handsome Prince was born. Prince was rescued from a property with over 300 other animals including our lovely Princess with whom he shares his habitat. He arrived at IEAS in 2011 and since then he has become a beloved part of the IEAS family. He enjoys getting in his pool even on cooler days and playing with his enrichment toys. Prince can usually be caught snuggling with Princess. 

Unfortunately, due to habitat loss and human wildlife conflict tigers, like Prince, are declining in numbers in the wild. Through conservation and education efforts IEAS aims to inform the public about the different ways you can help save magnificent animals such as Prince. 

Happy 11th birthday Prince!!! :)

Friday, September 11, 2015

Meet Mau!

Meet Mau!

Mau is our resident cheetah!  He is almost 12 years old and has been with us since he was only five months old.  Cheetahs are notably the world’s fastest land mammal and the most endangered African cat.

So how do cheetahs reach such high speeds? They have several adaptations that allow them to reach speeds up to 70mph. They have an extremely flexible spine, giving cheetahs the ability to take a longer stride.  Their shoulder blades are not attached to the collarbone, also enabling the shoulders to move more freely. Finally, the hips pivot to permit the back legs to stretch farther apart when the body is fully extended. Unlike other cats, cheetahs have only semi-retractable claws and have harder, less rounded paw pads to allow for better traction, like the cleats of a track shoe. The cheetah’s tail is long and powerful so it can act as a rudder, stabilizing and acting as a counterweight so the cheetah can make sharp, sudden turns. All of these features combined enable cheetahs to have strides up to 23 feet with about four strides a second. Now that’s fast!

Unfortunately, cheetahs face multiple conservation issues in the wild. Habitat loss and fragmentation is a major concern in developing areas of Africa, as is interaction with humans. Livestock owners often unfairly blame cheetahs for the kills made by other large predators, such as hyenas, leopards and lions, resulting in the farmers trapping or shooting the cheetah. Illegal wildlife trading also contributes to a depleted cheetah population because cheetah cubs are being captured from the wild and smuggled out of Africa to become pets. They also face extreme competition from other African predators, who can often overpower a cheetah. Sadly, the result of these factors has been a decreased population, with only about 10,000 cheetahs remaining in the wild.

Luckily here at the sanctuary, Mau leads a good life.  He can be found roaming around his habitat or lounging in the shade.  Please come out and enjoy a tour where you can learn all about our animals and hopefully you can catch a glimpse of Mau!