Blogs From The Field


Conservation is at the heart of what we do every day at the Philadelphia Zoo and our focus is both local and international. Here at the Zoo, we work to make a difference, personally and through our guests, for animals around the world. At the same time, our staff are active internationally on behalf of wildlife. See what Zoo staff are doing to save animals:

Big Cat Blog

African Lion In celebration of the Year of the Big Cat, our keepers and other staff are blogging about big cats here at the Zoo and in the wild. Learn everything you need to know about these majestic but threatened species.

Read their blog

Rodrigues Fruit Bats

Rodrigues Fruit Bat Vice President of Conservation Kim Lengel and veterinarian Tim Georoff travel to Mauritius to accompany 30 Rodrigues fruit bats back to Philadelphia Zoo.

Read their blog

Dr. Baker Visits China

At the invitation of the Animals Asia Foundation, Philadelphia Zoo Chief Operating Officer Dr. Andrew J. Baker traveled to Chengdu, China, to speak at the China Association of Zoological Gardens conference about Philadelphia Zoo's innovative first-in-the-world, multi-phase animal travel and exploration trail system, which debuted in 2011 and will continue in development through 2020.

Read Dr. Baker's blog

Frog Blog

 
Dr. Carlos Martinez Rivera, Philadelphia Zoo's Amphibian Conservation Biologist, returns to Haiti on a mission to save critically endangered amphibians and their habitat through field research, capacity building and management.

Almost two years ago to the date, the Zoo rescued some of the world's most endangered amphibians found only in Haiti.

Read Carlos's blog

Life on Ice

 
Tammy Schmidt, the Philadelphia Zoo’s Curator of Carnivores and Ungulates, went to Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, to observe and learn about the effects of climate change on polar bears in their wild habitats with the Zoo’s conservation partner Polar Bears International via the Leadership / Communicator Camp. The goals of this program are for zoo professionals around the country to become effective advocates, both personally and through our individual zoo facilities, for conservation and sustainable lifestyles.

Read Tammy's blog  

Ongava Pride

 
Big cat keepers Kay Buffamonte and Jennifer Robertson will travel to Namibia to assist Zoo conservation partners at the Ongava Wildlife Reserve with their long-term study of pride dynamics and dispersal in the lions living at Ongava.

Kay and Jen will share their expertise and experience working with lions with biologists at Ongava.

They will also learn about the various techniques field biologists use to track lions in the wild – techniques that may be applicable at the Zoo once we connect Big Cat Falls to our expanding animal trail system.


 

08/27/2014 : Bon appetit!

Tajiri is still nursing her little ones, but the cubs are developing a taste for meat.

By Kay Buffamonte, First Niagara Big Cat Falls Lead Keeper

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08/20/2014 : Getting ready

The keepers must make a lot of preparations before the cubs can make their public debut.

By Kay Buffamonte, First Niagara Big Cat Falls Lead Keeper

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08/15/2014 : Project Update

Two years into trying to save Hispaniola's endangered amphibians, Santo Domingo has become like a second home to me.

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08/15/2014 : Bonding with Babies

From the minute that the first cub was born, Tajiri has been clear about her role as a lion mother. 

By Kay Buffamonte, First Niagara Big Cat Falls Lead Keeper

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08/08/2014 : Natural Instincts

Get the inside scoop from the night of the birth of Tajiri's first litter and the days leading up to it.

By Kay Buffamonte, First Niagara Big Cat Falls Lead Keeper

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08/01/2014 : Big Cat Connections

They're a pair now, but it wasn't love at first sight between Tajiri and Makini.

By Kay Buffamonte, First Niagara Big Cat Falls Lead Keeper.

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07/24/2014 : Curator's choice

Find out what makes jaguars so special to our curator of carnivores.

By Tammy Schmidt, Curator of Carnivores and Ungulates

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07/18/2014 : A Rocky Road for Tigers

Before you scream for ice cream on National Ice Cream Day on July 20, help make a roar for big cat conservation.

By Marina Stuart, Conservation Associate

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07/09/2014 : The Americas' Biggest Cat

Jaguars have the strongest jaws of any cat.

By Jen Robertson, First Niagara Big Cat Falls Keeper

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07/03/2014 : Jutai

Get to know Jutai, the Zoo's jaguar.

By Kay Buffamonte, First Niagara Big Cat Falls Lead Keeper

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06/25/2014 : Get to know our pumas

Our three puma siblings look a lot alike, but who better than a keeper to help you tell them apart?

By Jen Robertson, First Niagara Big Cat Falls Keeper

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06/18/2014 : Pumas reach new heights

Pumas enjoy jumping and climbing and being up high, so naturally, they've taken to Big Cat Crossing pretty quickly.

By Kay Buffamonte, First Niagara Big Cat Falls Lead Keeper

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06/10/2014 : Deforestation Doughnuts

Last Friday was National Doughnut Day, and many companies were offering free doughnuts to their customers. But what a lot of the people eating their free doughnuts do not know is how much the doughnut industry is affecting deforestation due to palm oil harvesting. 

By Marina Stuart, Conservation Associate

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06/04/2014 : Pumas all over

Taking a look at how much range pumas cover and how that's changing.

By Jen Robertson, First Niagara Big Cat Falls Keeper

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05/28/2014 : How to spot an Amur leopard

Many cats have spots, but here's how you can pick a leopard out of the bunch.

By Jen Robertson, First Niagara Big Cat Falls keeper.

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05/22/2014 : Hard to spot

Amur leopards are the most endangered of the big cats, with fewer than 40 remaining in their native Russian habitat. 

By Kristen Waldron, Director of Conservation Education/Integration

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05/15/2014 : Amur leopards on the move

It has been a week of moves and changes for the Amur leopards in Big Cat Falls!

By Kay Buffamonte, First Niagara Big Cat Falls Lead Keeper

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05/08/2014 : Talking scents with our Amur leopards

Amur leopards might ignore a new toy or paper product, but sprinkle a dash of clove or a drop of mint extract and you’ve got a very happy excited cat!

By Anna Ryan, First Niagara Big Cat Falls Keeper

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04/30/2014 : Fun facts about our Amur tigers

Get to know the biggest of the big cats at Philadelphia Zoo. 

by Jen Robertson, First Niagara Big Cat Falls keeper

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04/23/2014 : Will You Fight Like a Tiger to Help Save Them?

Learn how the the expansion of oil palm plantations is hurting Sumatran tigers and what you can do to help.

By Kristen Waldron, Director of Conservation Education/Integration

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04/15/2014 : Exploring Big Cat Falls with the Tigers

While our tiger habitat is under construction for the next couple of weeks, the keepers have taken this opportunity to encourage Wiz and Dmitri to investigate the other habitats.

By Kay Buffamonte, First Niagara Big Cat Falls Lead Keeper

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04/09/2014 : Welcoming Wiz and Dmitri

This week, we focus on the newest residents of First Niagara Big Cat Falls, tiger brothers Wiz and Dmitri.

By Anna Ryan, First Niagara Big Cat Falls Keeper

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04/03/2014 : Getting to know Kira and Changbai

The spotlight of this week is on our two female Amur tigers, Kira and Changbai. 

By Jen Robertson, First Niagara Big Cat Falls Keeper

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10/02/2013 : Back in the States

It’s 6:30 a.m. New York time and we’re here. Our job now is to get back to the Zoo as quickly as possible.

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10/01/2013 : Heading back

We checked the bats and they all looked alert. They had eaten well during the night – a good sign that they were settled in.

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09/30/2013 : Catching spiders

Tim, an avid kayaker, was determined not to leave Mauritius without kayaking in the Indian Ocean.  So he was up very early on Monday for a sunrise kayak on the bay.  He and his guide had a great hour, kayaking with a group of spinner dolphins! 

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09/29/2013 : Tourist Time

We took a long bus ride to Quatre Bonnes for the weekly market where we had a chance to pick up some souvenirs for family, friends, and coworkers. 

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09/28/2013 : Getting ready for the move

Back in our rooms after dinner, I heard the distinctive sound of fruit bats breeding.  I pinpointed the noise to a nearby mango tree and using a flashlight, I picked up the eyeshine of two Mauritius fruit bats – Pteropus niger – in the tree.

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09/28/2013 : Rare birds in Mauritius

The aviary is only a short ride away from our hotel and houses some of the rarest avian species in the world. The aviary used to be a big center for captive propagation and reintroduction but now currently houses mostly injured or non-releasable specimens, with the exception of the bats. 

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09/27/2013 : Seeing an old friend

On Friday morning, I was finally able to see Mary Jane Raboude. During her ten years as the first REEP, MJ and I had spent a lot of time together. She had visited the US 4 times for continuing education, to spend time at the Zoo, and to present at conferences.  She always stayed at our home so our family had become close to MJ. 

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09/26/2013 : Anse Quitor and Francois Leguat Tortoise Park

This site is more challenging, in some ways, than Grand Montagne.  While it’s generally easier to access – no cliff faces to deal with –because it’s so dry and because wandering domestic animals are more of a problem, reforestation is slower going here.

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09/26/2013 : Touring Rodrigues

Very proud to be a part of an organization that has played such a major role in saving a species.

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09/25/2013 : Off to Rodrigues

Some more background on how the Philly Zoo became a champion for endangered bats half way around the world. 

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09/24/2013 : Some background on Mauritius

The Republic of Mauritius is an island nation located about 1200 miles off the southeast coast of the African continent in the Indian Ocean, which includes the principal island of Mauritius, Rodrigues (the only home of the Rodrigues fruit bat), and several smaller outlying islands and archipelagos.

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09/24/2013 : Arriving in Mauritius

I'm so excited to return the island where I did my graduate work almost 20 years ago.  It's hard to believe I've been working to conserve Rodrigues fruit bats for that long.

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09/23/2013 : Traveling to Mauritius

Veterinarian Dr. Tim Georoff and I left Monday morning from JFK airport in NYC for our flight to Mauritius by way of Johannesburg, South Africa.  We're travelling all this way for the primary purpose of accompanying 30 Rodrigues fruit bats back to the Zoo from the long-time captive colony of bats at the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Center in Mauritius.

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09/14/2013 : Forest reserves near Hong Kong

Last full day in China, spent at one of the forest reserves near Hong Kong. Hong Kong has quite a bit of green space, both inside and outside the main urban area. And with Hong Kong subtropicalcloser to the equator than Havanathe forest is luxuriant.

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09/13/2013 : Ocean Park Hong Kong

Arrived in Hong Kong from Chengdu last night local time. Spent most of today at Ocean Park, a zoo and aquarium here that is a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

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09/12/2013 : The Moon Bear Rescue Center

After speaking on the Zoo's trail system yesterday morning, I went with the rest of the conference attendees to the Moon Bear Rescue Center outside Chengdu.

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09/11/2013 : The final speaker at the 2013 CAZG meeting

Official role today as the last speaker for the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens 2013 meeting.

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09/10/2013 : Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens Dinner

 There's also a very appealing protocol in China at dinners or gatherings like this of repeated toasts to each other's health. One can make one at your own table, or wander over to another table to toast an individual or the entire table. Results in a very congenial and interactive atmosphere, and opportunities to be introduced to and exchange cards with Chinese colleagues.

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09/09/2013 : Arriving in Chengdu

Arrived in Chengdu today. Chengdu is the 2000-year-old capital of Sichuan Province, in south central China. Sichuan Province is home to most of the world's remaining giant pandas, and tomorrow is likely to be all about pandas, with plans to visit the Chengdu Panda Base, one of the leading organizations in giant panda conservation. 

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09/08/2013 : Beijing

Spent a good part of the day at the Beijing Zoo. The zoo reports more than 6 million visitors a yeareasy to believe with the crowds on this Sunday.

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09/06/2013 : Traveling to China

I've been asked to speak about our animal trail system at meetings of the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens, which are in Chengdu next week. Currently in the O'Hare Airport in Chicago, waiting for flight to Beijing.

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10/31/2012 : Day 10 Blog Entry

We all remember the movie Finding Nemo and we all feel sorry for wildlife that is illegally and unsustainably harvested. Yesterday we set out from Port-au-Prince to look for frogs and ended up all the way down in Anse-a-Pitre, a small fishing village in the border with the Dominican Republic. We had an excellent time teaching our assistants how to look for frogs and catch frogs without harming them. We also taught the assistants new fieldwork techniques.

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10/30/2012 : Day 9 Blog Entry - Part 2

Road distances in Haiti can be relatively short, but it takes effort to travel anywhere, especially in the countryside. We’ve been meandering our way in a 4x4 vehicle up the dry riverbed sections of the Solie River inching closer to Thiotte, a rather large village in Haiti’s southeast mountains and quite possibly the country’s coffee capital.

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10/26/2012 : Day 9 Blog Entry

Everything in Haiti takes at least twice the effort. The lack of adequate infrastructure, poor road systems, and lack of proper government support to say the least, means that everything here will cost you more, will take longer and might not come out right on the first try.

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10/25/2012 : Day 8 Blog Entry

Wildlife conservation has many aspects and fieldwork is only a small part of it. True conservation is achieved when we effect change on those that are most closely involved with the plants and animals we are trying to save. One way of doing this is by bringing endangered wildlife and the pressing issues affecting them to the people. This is what many zoo and conservation institutions like us at the Philadelphia Zoo do routinely.

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10/13/2012 : Day 7 - Last Day of Meetings Blog Entry

There is a lot of planning and logistics involved in field expeditions, especially when you are starting from scratch in a place where only a few scientists have been and their research is far and between. Joel and I traced the route that would take us out of Port-au-Prince through Route National #1 and in to Route Haiti 8 east towards the Dominican Republic and then up the eastern pass over Massif de la Selle through Route Departmental 102 which is dirt road fit for the best off-road rally.

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10/10/2012 : Day 5 - The real flavor of Hatian Creole Blog Entry

After a long week of planning meetings and workshops, I get to spend some time at the guesthouse where I’m staying so I can do more planning and writing...

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10/09/2012 : Day 4 - A UNIQ opportunity to effect change from the ground up! Working with students from Université Quisqueya, Haiti

Quisqueya University is one of the main centers of higher learning in Haiti. It is a private university that emerged from the earthquake with a vision to rebuild itself with an international scope.

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10/09/2012 : Day 3 - There’s still hope for Haiti’s biodiversity, meeting Masani Accimé and Evanita Sanon

Yesterday’s meeting was very interesting. It followed the classic line of discussion that occur when you have to many people in the same room. Quickly the group was divided into what was the best strategy.

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10/08/2012 : Day 2 - Attending the ‘Lancement du Groupe de Travail et de reflexion sur les Aires Protegees’

Working with Société Audubon Haiti has its advantages. The group is very well connected with the local and international conservation community working in the country.

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10/07/2012 : Day 1 - Welcome to the Land of the High Mountains

Ayiti means the land of the high mountains; at 8,793 feet (2,680 meters) above sea level, Pic la Selle, which is the tallest peak in Haiti along with Pic Macaya and Morne Kadeneau, which rise to above 7,000 ft, many mountains here are taller than Mount Mitchell, the highest peak in the Appalachians.

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