Its Father’s Day and at Zovargo we want to give a shout out to all of those amazing fathers out there. At Zovargo we have an animal ambassador who is a pretty good dad in the animal kingdom, although he may not compare to your dad who has the best jokes this animal is still an exceptional father especially for its kind. This animal is quite large and is incredibly aggressive. It would come to a surprise to know that this animal would even possess good dad qualities. This animal is none other than the African Bullfrog!Read More
There are lots of summer camp choices for children these days. When deciding what your child will do with all that free time there are so many decisions to make! How much do I want to spend? How far will I drive? Will they really enjoy it? We know this can be filled with doubt and questions. Hopefully this blog will make it easier for you if you are trying to find an ANIMAL CAMP for your kiddos this summer.Read More
Once in a while you hear a story that really moves you. You may read an article on social media or watch a video that reminds you of the compassionate actions people are capable of. Sometimes those stories foster inspiration to take action, and sometimes they serve to promote warm and comforting emotions. But within the San Diego community there is an organization that embodies these stories in everything they do.Read More
Happy Cinco De Mayo! We’re kicking off the month of May with a very special animal ambassador: Chico. Chico is a Sun Conure (Aratinga solstitialis) who came to us in July of 2015 after being surrendered from his previous owner. In their native habitats, these beautiful birds are found in the tropical forests of South America and especially in the countries of Brazil and Guyana.Read More
There are lots of ways to save the planet. Are we really doing them> Can we really make a difference by the little things we do each day? We sure can make a difference! Check out these 12 ideas on how we can make a change in our daily habits and make a change for the planet! At Zovargo, Earth Day is Everyday!Read More
Assembling into April for this month’s ambassadors are our Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches! The Madagascar Hissing Cockroach can grow up to 7.5 cm (~ 3 inches) in length as they are one of the largest cockroach species. These “hissers” are brown in color, wingless and have long antennae. They also differ from some other cockroach species in that the males possess horns! As their name suggest these insects are native in Madagascar and live in forest and other moist, tropical regions. Like 99% of all cockroach species, hissers live on forest floors, where they hide amongst the leaves, logs, and other debris. However, at night they become much more active and scavenge for meals which primarily consist of vegetables, fallen fruit and decaying organic matter which allows them to live as long as five years!Read More
Marching into March this month’s ambassadors are the hermit crabs! At Zovargo we recently adopted a small group of Caribbean hermit crabs just a few months ago. They all have their own personalities, much like many other animals, and we have been enjoying the opportunity to get to know them better. While we have been getting to know them better individually we have also been learning more about their species and the struggles that they face in the wild.Read More
There are many layers to the work that we do at Zovargo. We are educators, animal lovers, naturalists, animal caretakers, trainers, community partners, and a group of people that just care about a making a difference in the community. Read more about five specific reasons you should love Zovargo this Valentines Day.Read More
Zovargo's February Ambassador of the Month is the domestic Call Duck, Boba! She's a perfect ambassador to help connect with ducks and help spread the word about how YOU can help wild ducks. We are super proud to have such a wonderful feathered friend on our team!Read More
Bengal Cats are amazing felines that can bring excitement into any home! Zovargo's rescued Bengal Cat Leo has settled into his important role as an Animal Ambassador for all his wild cousin species. Being part Asian Leopard cat, Leo has rosettes or spots that look much like his "wild" side of the family. He has the energy level of a wild cat but he thrives in the enriching world of being an educational animal ambassador at Zovargo!Read More
Zovargo had an amazing year providing animal educational programs throughout San Diego and beyond. We wanted to celebrate and share some of our favorite moments, programs, and partnerships from this year. Enjoy!Read More
Zovargo's November Animal Ambassador is a Walking Stick! These insects are amazing at utilizing camouflage and are great animals to have as a short-term pet or classroom animal ambassador. The Indian walking sticks are interesting to watch and easy to care for which also makes them an interesting addition for anyone looking for an easy-to-care for insect.Read More
There's lots of "creepy" animals that come to mind this season. From bats, spiders, rats, and more! Let's discover some interesting animals that may creep us out but actually aren't that creepy when you think of it!Read More
See what they are saying about animals in the classroom. Choose Zovargo for your next educational animal program. Our program is perfect for after school, girl scouts, birthday parties and much more. call fore reservations - (619) 618-0745Read More
It’s a new month which means a new Animal Ambassador! The lucky one for this month is…Peepers! Peepers is our adorable European House Sparrow. She came to Zovargo in March 2015 from Project Wildlife after being raised by people for about a year. She was a relinquished bird that was given to the wildlife rescue in hopes of rehabilitation and release. However, she had already imprinted on humans which made her a poor candidate for release into the wild. We also suspect that she has a wing injury because she has some trouble getting lift when she flies, this is why she only makes appearances at super special Zovargo events that suit all of her needs.
European House Sparrows have a cool super power, and that is that they are really adaptable and have learned to live in various climates and locations throughout the world! This means even though they are European in name you can find a large abundance of these sparrows through-out the Americas. This resilient little bird first made it's way to the America's in the early 1850's. The first hundred or so birds were released in Brooklyn, NY and in the years following, they quickly spread to the Rocky Mountains and beyond! Absent from extensive woodlands, forests, grasslands, and deserts - the House Sparrow makes their way by living by living near humans. In the Americas they live near farms, and residential areas where they can easily find food such as grains, weed seeds, insects, other items left behind by people.
The oldest known House Sparrow living in the wild was...13 years, 4 months old! They truly are amazing, hardy little birds that have adapted so well to thriving across the globe. The House Sparrow is found on every continent across the globe, excluding the North and South poles.
Because of these large, wide spread populations, house sparrows are of ‘Least Concern’ as rated by the IUCN so they are not close to extinction. Changes in some countries that have moved away from raising livestock and have grown into commercial industries have impacted the sparrow's population due to the decrease in livestock grains as a food source. Competition with other nest box using species has also impacted the populations of the House Sparrow. While they are not endangered, it's still important to avoid keeping them as pets.
If you come across a baby bird or an injured bird, turn to the expert rehabilitators rather than trying to care for it yourself. Peepers was raised by people her whole life, so she doesn’t have a chance in the wild now. She helps Zovargo to educate about how important wildlife is and that all birds should belong in the wild – flying free.
Cornell Lab of Ornithology, BNA Database
Walk in to any bookstore and it is clear to see that from children’s books to young fiction to adults – animals feature heavily. We find them in fiction, as cartoons, with the ability to speak, with superpowers and also real life stories about pets, farm animals and wildlife.
A 2013 study found that reading literary fiction improved empathy. This combined with the well-established links between caring for living things and having high levels of empathy suggest that when children’s early memories form around reading books featuring interesting and intelligent animals characters this can help children develop their ability to empathise.
This ability to relate to and care for other individuals and species is incredibly important in developing positive social relationships throughout life. Zovargo loves animals, AND the education of reading. Here are some of our favourite books featuring amazing creatures:
Peter Rabbit (and the full Beatrix Potter set)
The Velveteen Rabbit
Marley and Me
A Dogs Purpose
Clifford the Big Red Dog
Where the Red Ferns Grow
A street cat named Bob: And how he saved my life
Cat in the Hat
The Just So Stories
Babe: The Gallant Pig
Winne the Pooh
The Wind in the willows
The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
His Dark Materials
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Jungle Book
Water for Elephants
Zovargo believes in providing the younger generations with connections to animals. Those connections are often made through books or live animal interactions. You can find Zovargo at the San Diego Festival of Books on Saturday, August 26th! We'll be on stage at 5pm in the children's area: http://www.sdfestivalofbooks.com/schedule.html
Let us know your favorite animal characters in books and why!
Our August animal ambassadors are our two Uromastyx lizards, Petrie and Little Foot! They are cousins who came into our lives in January of 2016. We searched high and low for Uromastyx (also known as ‘Uros’) which were captive bred and not wild caught. The search was difficult as the majority available in the US are caught and imported. Just as we were about to give up on the search, we found our two animal ambassadors! These little ones were captive bred by a responsible US breeder and we are so happy to give them a permanent home here at Zovargo. With any pet it is super important to ensure it is either a rescue or from a responsible breeder who can provide proof it was not wild caught. This is crucial for two reasons, firstly it is very unethical to simply take an animal from the wild as it will contribute to population disruptions and will be a very distressing change for the individual animal. Secondly, for your own safety and enjoyment the behaviour of a wild animal is likely to be more unpredictable and dangerous, which means interactions with the animal will be stressful for both owner and animal.
The name Uromastyx is derived from ancient Greek words meaning ‘tail’ and ‘whip’. This is likely due to their distinctive large tails which they are known for whipping around when stressed or in defensive action. There are at least eighteen recognized species of Uros, and many subspecies which live across the globe, strictly north of the equator. Our Uros are the Saharan species, which as the name suggest hail from the Saharan Desert. Being from of the hottest places on the earth, these reptiles require a hot environment. They thrive in temperatures up to 130 degrees and they enjoy basking on rocks under the heat. Despite their love of hot, dry temperatures, Uros can still overheat (resulting in the behaviour of breathing with their mouths open), and will need a burrow, shady spot or cooler area of their enclosure to chill out in.
Their diet is 100% fresh spring mix salad and leafy greens. For many species of Uromastyx healthy specimens typically get all the water they need from their vegetable diet, they have special glands near their nose which excrete mineral salts to help conserve the small amounts of water they take in. However, some species drink more than others, and some life events (such as pregnancy) may lead to increased drinking requirements. Uromastyx are not an easy pet to keep, primarily due to their specific habitat requirements. Only once you have truly read up on the care they need, and understand they may live to thirty years old, and grow more than thirty inches long (in the case of the Eygyptian Uro anyway!) should you begin seeking a Uromastyx pet.
This month’s animal ambassador is our slithery snake friend, Gabe! Gabe is a rosy boa (Lichanura trivirgata) who we adopted last summer. The rosy boa species is part of the family boidae, which is a non-venomous snake family with species all over the world. One of the most famous family members is the boa constrictor which can be found in South and Central America. However here in North America there are only two native species from this family, the rubber boa and our very own – rosy boa.
The rosy boa is one of the smallest types of American non-poisonous snakes. Usually they grow anywhere between 17 and 44 inches long, and females tend to be larger than the males. It is unknown how long rosy boas can live for in the wild, but the average life span for captive rosy boas is over 20 years, however some have been documented to live for up to 50 years!
Rosy boas are known to make excellent pets as they typically have nice temperaments and handle well. They eat a diet primarily of mice which are easy to get from exotic pet shops (and as an occasional treat they do also enjoy small lizards or geckos!). One thing to be aware of is that rosy boas can be escape artists so it is very important to have a good and secure cage! Also as with most reptiles the rosy boa also requires a carefully controlled environment with a temperature gradient ranging from 65˚F to 90˚F which adjustment based on your rosy's preferences.
Rosy boas are beautiful snakes to look at, and they also have a lot of variation in their coloration depending upon its locale/ subspecies. They are called rosy boas because many from San Diego and Baja Mexico have a rosy color on their belly – however, other rosy boas aren’t rosy at all! As you can see in the below photo, the different subspecies can even look like different snakes.
It's important to note that Gabe is an educational animal ambassador at Zovargo and many people enjoy meeting him and learning how important in our world. Children of all ages are interested in holding and touching a snake. While he is a small/medium size snake, his docile nature makes him great for interactions. One can specially request Gabe for their school event or even their birthday party! Below are some images of Gabe interacting with some Zovargo event guests.
Gabe is a subspecies from the San Gabriel Mountains in California. If you happen to stumble across one of these uniquely marked snakes, remember that you are in its home. To not disturb them, you should stay on the marked trails and leave it be. Another tip on how to keep rosy boa’s and other animals safe is to not use any poison, pesticides or rodenticides as when these enter the food chain they can be very harmful to more than just the targeted pest. The State of California has listed the species status as “sensitive” and this is due to the negative impact from habitat fragmentation, roads and urbanization on the rosy boa populations, even inside natural reserves. This means they are stable for now but may need protection in the future.
Our animal ambassador for the month of June is our little quail, Zeta! Zeta is a female Italian quail who came to Zovargo in the summer of 2016. She was donated from a friend of Zovargo and has been a great addition to the team ever since!
Zeta's story is quite interesting! She was originally suppose to hatch as a Japanese Quail. She was part of a clutch of Japanese Quail eggs yet, she popped out as little white quail which was quite the surprise to the lady raising these birds. Japanese and Italian quail are "cousins" - closely related by family line but they are not the same type of quail at all. See the image below of the Japanese Quail and compare!
Quail’s are tiny birds who live for approximately 3-5 years. They usually spend their lives alone or in a pair with just one other quail. Quails tend to live in woodland and forest areas. They are considered to be omnivores, which means they eat plants and animals. Occasionally they eat worms and grasshoppers, but primarily they eat seeds, flowers, and fruits.
You’ll know when you hear a quail because it sounds like a cross between a duck and a rooster. They make their calling noises to alert that there’s a predator, for mating and basic communication.
If you are looking for a pet, quail’s can be a wonderful option. They are small in size and have a simple diet. There are benefits of owning a quail. They are inexpensive and easy to house and care for. If you decide to have a small group of quail, you could also get the benefit of having several eggs a day.
At Zovargo, we value all animals small and large. While Zeta may be small - she's full of personality and heart. Her super calm personality is very rare to see in quail. Her personaility makes interactions with her easy and stress-free (for educators and her).
During education programs and sharing Zeta with Zovargo program attendees, we make sure everyone knows to be careful where they might buy their quail if they are thinking of getting a quail as a pet. One can never be too careful as sometimes these birds could be raised in poor conditions. Quail do have a lot of personality and can be fun to have as a companion. It's important to do lots of reasearch on proper housing and diet before getting any new animal.
Zeta is a super special member of our ambassador team and we're so thankful to have her! She's our special June Ambassador of the Month.
For anyone considering welcoming a new dog or any pet into their life ADOPTION should be your first choice. However, shelter animals unfortunately suffer from misconceptions which can be a deterrent for future dog parents… here is why they are nonsense:
Misconception 1: Most shelter dogs will have bad behavior from being treated poorly by previous owners
Firstly, dog behavior is decided by many factors; genetics, their socialization period, innate nature, nurture throughout their life, nutrition and simply their current circumstance. They are individuals, and this means that a dog from ANY avenue of life may have ANY personality. A puppy born in a shelter is likely to be incredibly well adjusted due to meeting so many other animals and people at a young age. Furthermore, if a shelter dog does have behavioral issues, they will not let you adopt it without preparation and understanding. Instead they will use positive reinforcement training to help the dog become a great candidate for re-homing.
This also makes an assumption that most dogs in a shelter have come from negligent backgrounds – which simply isn’t true. There are hundreds of reasons dogs come to a shelter– and it typically is from owners simply not being able to have the resources to keep a dog anymore, whether it be time, space or money (Salman et al 1997).
Misconception 2: I want a puppy! All shelter dogs are old
Shelters have a huge variety of animal ages, from puppies to senior citizens. By simply visiting your local shelters a few times this will become clear. It is also worth bearing in mind that while puppies are absolutely adorable – they also are a LOT of work. Puppies require a very specific regime for socialization and training them will require you to be home most hours of the day, to have a lot of patience, to be okay with shoes getting chewed up and to be happy cleaning up a variety of puppy bodily fluids on a regular basis. Puppy personalities can develop into unpredictable adult personalities even if you are very dedicated with your training, as they are individuals with their own nature!
Older dogs can be an amazing option as they will already have stronger more settled personalities – so you will be able to find a dog that fits in with your lifestyle and expectations for having a dog (e.g. are they happy staying at home a lot, do they need a lot of exercise, do they love kids). Whatever age dog you want to adopt, most adoption centers will encourage you to come and meet the dog a few times to get to know it before committing. This is a great opportunity to be certain you can provide a suitable home, and to avoid any risk of making a quick decision resulting in re-homing.
Misconception 3: I want a really cute dog but most shelter dogs are pit bulls…
Firstly, pit bulls can make brilliant pets. But if you do specifically want a certain breed. Guess what! Shelters receive all kinds of pedigree and mixed breed dogs; you may just need to be patient and get to know your shelter before you meet a dog you feel you can provide a great home for.
And if you aren’t convinced yet, here are some celebrity endorsements with their beautiful rescue dogs… It is no longer fashionable to spend $1000s on the latest trendy hybrid or pedigree dog, instead greater recognition of pedigree health problems is leading the rich and famous to go to their local shelter. If it’s good enough for Selena Gomez etc, it's good enough for me!
Misconception 4: Shelter dogs are unlikely to be in great health compared to a new puppy…
For centuries, humans have carefully bred dogs to fill specific roles: Chihuahuas to retrievers to spaniels and more have all been artificially selected to be lap dogs, hunters or guard dogs etc. An unfortunate by-product of this intensive breeding is that inbreeding a small pool of genes inevitably leads to health problems. Without going into too much detail; this is why cute dogs like pugs have such a hard time breathing and why German Shepherds suffer from painful hip dysplasia. By making different breeds fashionable we have created breeds which from birth are sentenced to pain, discomfort, and shorter predicted life spans. By choosing to adopt you are avoiding contributing to future pedigree breeding, and if you choose a mixed breed dog you are vastly reducing the chance of seeing a genetic disorder such as epilepsy or cataracts develop in your pet.
It is also true that the cost of adopting a shelter dog is typically MUCH less than buying at a pet store or going to a breeder. When you go to a breeder you are paying a premium to understand the genetic history and pedigree of that animal – however unless you are planning to show your dog or breed from it yourself, this is completely unnecessary. Also as a bonus – typically when you adopt from a shelter, your adoption fee will include vaccinations up to date, micro chipping and they will already be neutered.
After all the reasons listed above, it boils down to, that if you adopt: You will literally, be saving a life. Each year, millions of dogs are euthanized due to over-crowded shelters, with a huge proportion of them being suitable for adoption – but with nowhere to go. True numbers are hard to obtain, but in 1997 a comprehensive study found that 64% of cats and dogs relinquished to a shelter were euthanized rather than re-adopted. By simply adopting a dog, you are making a decision to not make a dog a commodity in a business exchange. You are rejecting puppy mills, backyard breeding and propagation of unhealthy pedigrees. Also by adopting even just one animal, you are helping 100s more, by making space at a shelter to house another family-seeking pup.
Lastly, while this blog is primarily about adopting a dog, it should be considered for ANY new pet. Zovargo endorses and has always supported adoption of animals. There are lots of organizations in San Diego that provide rescued animals a place to find a new family! Below is a sample list of animal adoption shelters in San Diego for a large variety of animals.
Wee companions for rodents - hamsters to guinea pigs!
Asher L, Diesel G, Summers JF, McGreevy PD, Collins LM. (2009). Inherited defects in pedigree dogs. Part 1: disorders related to breed standards. Vet J. 2009 Dec;182(3):402-11.
Dr. John G. New, Jr. and Dr. M. D. Salman , et al. (1998) “Human and Animal Factors Related to the Relinquishment of Dogs and Cats in 12 Selected Animal Shelters in the United States.” Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 1, no. 3: 207-226.