A top-of-the-food chain predator, this enormous bird is not abundant anywhere in its vast range from the Mexican States of Veracruz and Oaxaca south to Argentina, Bolivia, and Southern Brazil. A specialist in eating sloths and monkeys, it depends on extensive forest, so is considered Near-Threatened due to habitat loss. Females may exceed 20 pounds in weight. Probably kept by Montezuma, it was displayed in Europe as early as 1778. The first successful captive breeding did not occur until 1981. The female displayed at the DWA hatched at the San Diego Zoo.
The Spotted eagle ray is named for the spots on the dorsal side of its body, and for the way that it appears to “fly” underwater. It is also known as a Duckbill ray because of the unique shape of its nose which is used to locate its prey in sandy sediments. Spotted eagle rays can be found in large schools in bays or coral reefs, but spend a great deal of time in open water. When being pursued by a potential predator, it can be seen leaping from the water. The Spotted eagle ray possesses a venomous spine at the base of its tail and can inflict a serious wound. It is protected by law in the State of Florida, but is not considered an important commercial fisheries species.
Standing 16 inches in height and weighing three pounds, this is the smallest penguin species. It is estimated that over a million live in Southern Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand, sometimes not far from large cities. “Penguin parades”, where they march across the beach from the surf to their burrows in the sand, are popular tourist attractions. Several Fairy or Blue penguins have been hatched at the DWA, where they have been kept since 2002.
Unknown to science until 1912, this gorgeous starling was first bred in captivity in 1931. Since the 1960s, thousands have been bred in zoos around the world (including the DWA), resulting in a self-sustaining genetically healthy population. On its native island of Bali, in Indonesia, its population fell to a dozen by 1999, due to illegal trapping. Recent attempts to reintroduce it to the wild have been encouraging.
The largest members of the pigeon and dove family, the three species of crowned pigeons are found only in New Guinea and small nearby islands. All have powder-blue feathers and red eyes, but this species is distinguished by the unique “tabs” on its crest. Though capable of flight, it is usually found on the ground. It does well in captivity and has been bred in many collections.
One of the world’s more brightly colored mammals, this marsupial is found only in the Huon Peninsula in Eastern New Guinea. It has only occasionally been exported for zoos, so that the North American zoo population of around fifty animals is carefully managed to make sure that, despite a limited gene pool, coming generations continue to be bred. One born at the DWA in 2007, was welcomed as particularly genetically valuable, and is now on breeding loan to the Calgary Zoo.
This bird is dependent on the continued existence of old growth forests in Southeast Asia. Outside the breeding season, it eats a wide variety of fruits, supplemented with small animals while it raises chicks. The nest is a deep hole in a tall tree into which the female is sealed by the male, with a cement-like mixture of mud, feces and fruit; she remains inside for weeks. Except for their eye color (males have red eyes and females have white eyes), males and females look alike. Not bred in captivity until 1986, this species is now managed as an international zoo population.
This beautiful tortoise was listed as an endangered species by the US Government in 1973. In the last decade, its status has deteriorated from being classified as vulnerable to extinction, to critically endangered. People who traditionally live in its dry spiny forest habitat have a taboo against harming them. Recently, people from other parts of Madagascar have collected tens of thousands each year to eat or sell, and much habitat has been destroyed. A captive breeding program was established in the 1970s, and more than 400 live in US collections.
Living on both coasts of South Africa, as well as Namibia, this engaging bird was encountered by Vasco da Gama and his crew, as they rounded the Cape of Good Hope in 1497, becoming the first penguin known to Europeans. Also known as the African or Jackass penguin, this is the first penguin bred in zoos, in London in 1907, as well the first in the US, at the Bronx Zoo in 1915. Almost all of the more than 2,000 kept world-wide are captive-bred; more than 700 live in North America. With only 50,000 in the wild, this is an important resource.