You heard recently from Dr. Ann Duncan, Director of Animal Health for the Detroit Zoological Society (DZS), about a female red panda cub born at the Detroit Zoo on July 6. Keti, the offspring of 4-year-old mother Ash and 3-year-old father Ravi, is being hand-reared. Ash was a young first-time mother, just learning what it meant to take care of a newborn. Using remote cameras, staff observed attempts at good maternal care, but Ash didn’t have all of the skills needed to raise a newborn cub. At two days of age, for Keti’s health and welfare, the decision was made to move her into the hospital nursery; where she spent her first four months being cared for by the DZS’s expert veterinary and animal care staff.
As Keti grew she graduated from incubator, to play pen, and then a section of the nursery. When old and mobile enough, she was able to go outdoors into a small grassy yard. Red panda mothers will often carry cubs with their mouths up into trees for “climbing school”. To mimic this natural behavior, staff placed Keti up onto the logs and higher branches and added logs and large branches arranged in such a way for her to practice climbing. Keti’s human caregivers stood watch and made sure she was safe while she took her first steps. She soon became confident and enjoyed spending time outside. She seemed to enjoy watching the leaves blow in the wind, and on several occasions took short naps in the grass after a long day of play.
When Keti turned four months old, it was time for her to leave the nursery. She is now building upon the climbing skills she learned in the nursery yard with access to a much larger and more complex space that includes taller trees. This enriching habitat is a great place for a young panda to learn and develop skills she will need for the rest of her life. The yard is filled with grass, bushes and plenty of trees to climb. Keti is also learning to eat the adult red panda diet which includes specially formulated biscuits and bamboo. She loves to eat the buds and munches on the few leaves remaining on the trees. She was even able to experience her first snow storm in November when Mother Nature surprised us early this season with several inches of fresh fluffy snow. She jumped through the snow piles and became all snowy herself. Although the snow has melted, Keti loves to go outdoors each day. The animal care staff spends time with her, watching as she explores the higher branches with increased skill and confidence. Soon she will be ready to join Ash, Ravi and “aunt” Ta-Shi in the Holtzman Wildlife Foundation Red Panda Forest.
– Betsie Meister is an Associate Curator for Mammals for the Detroit Zoological Society.
Maroo, a male red-necked wallaby, passed away on November 11, 2019. Although this may seem like a sad way to begin a blog entry, this is a celebration of Maroo’s life for the almost 10 years he lived at the Detroit Zoo. He was part of the wallaby mob living in the Australian Outback Adventure, and seemed to enjoy exploring this expansive space and sharing his time with others of his species. He was cared for by dedicated zookeepers and observed by attentive volunteers as well as visitors. Maroo will be missed. His story could have had a much different trajectory, had it not been for the intervention of the Detroit Zoological Society (DZS).
In December of 2009, six DZS animal curators and supervisors travelled to Texas to provide expert care for more than 27,000 animals seized by authorities in the largest exotic animal rescue in the history of the United States. We were contacted after an investigation revealed inhumane treatment of these animals – including spiders, reptiles, amphibians and numerous exotic mammal species – by an exotic animal dealer who was selling them. Our staff members spent almost two months at a temporary care facility in Dallas, helping to triage and care for these animals who had been kept in dismal conditions. Not only did this include basic care, such as proper food, water and medical treatment, but it was also the first time any of these animals were treated with the respect they deserve. Unfortunately, many did not survive due to the illnesses and injuries they sustained during the time they spent as part of the exotic animal trade.
Hundreds of these animals – 961 to be exact – about two-thirds of which were amphibians, came to the Detroit Zoo to spend the rest of their lives in comfort and receive the care each one deserved. Although many of these animals have passed due to old age over the past decade, some are still at the Detroit Zoo and Belle Isle Nature Center. Two ring-tailed lemurs were among the animals rescued, and the female was actually pregnant at the time. She gave birth to healthy twins, and all four still live in the group you can observe at the Zoo. Four Linne’s sloths were cared for by our staff and have gone on to live good lives at other zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. Of the four matamata turtles who arrived here, one can still be seen at the Holden Reptile Conservation Center. You can also visit two tiger salamanders at the Belle Isle Nature Center. In total, there are about three dozen of the rescued animals still living in our care. Five wallabies originally joined the mob at the Detroit Zoo as part of this important rescue effort, and Maroo was the last of this group.
Maroo’s story is a great example of the impact the DZS has on the lives of individual animals. The exotic animal trade is not only having drastic impacts on populations of wild animals, it is also an industry that creates and promotes severe animal welfare issues for individual animals. Our mission is Celebrating and Saving Wildlife, and our efforts to assist with rescues and provide sanctuary for animals are a critical part of this mission. The next time you visit the Detroit Zoo, look for signs identifying rescued animals and learn more about their stories.
– Dr. Stephanie Allard is deputy chief life sciences officer for the Detroit Zoological Society and oversees the Center for Zoo and Aquarium Animal Welfare and Ethics.