August Amassadors - Our Uromastyx Lizards!

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.

Photo Credit: Jorge Ibarra

Photo Credit: Jorge Ibarra

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.

Photo Credit: Jorge Ibarra

Photo Credit: Jorge Ibarra

Reference:
http://www.reptilesmagazine.com/Care-Sheets/Uromastyx-Lizard/

Animal Amba'sss'ador of the month - Gabe our Rosy Boa!

Gabe enjoying a slither. Photo: Jorge Iberra

Gabe enjoying a slither. Photo: Jorge Iberra

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!

A non rosy, rosy boa! Photo: Chris Mattison

A non rosy, rosy boa! Photo: Chris Mattison

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.

Albino - Anerythristic - Snow Coastal Rosy Boas                                                 Photo: R.Limburg

Albino - Anerythristic - Snow Coastal Rosy Boas                                                 Photo: R.Limburg


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. 

Photo: Marc Lorence

Photo: Marc Lorence

Photo: Marc Lorence

Photo: Marc Lorence

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.

References

http://snake-facts.weebly.com/rosy-boa.html

http://www.reptilesmagazine.com/Care-Sheets/Rosy-Boa-Care-Sheet/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/probreeders/1354389776/in/album-72157601949498570/

http://www.arkive.org/rosy-boa/charina-trivirgata/image-G28504.html

Ambassador for June: Zeta the Italian Quail

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, Italian Quail Ambassador. | Photo Credit: Nancy Canty

Zeta, Italian Quail Ambassador. | Photo Credit: Nancy Canty

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!

Japanese Quail. Source: http://orientalbirdimages.org

Japanese Quail. Source: http://orientalbirdimages.org

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.

Zeta | Photo Credit: Jorge Ibarra

Zeta | Photo Credit: Jorge Ibarra

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.

Make the best decision of your life - Adopt a pet!

Image from https://emmanuellechaix.com/2015/11/29/be-cool-adopt/

Image from https://emmanuellechaix.com/2015/11/29/be-cool-adopt/

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

Image from: http://www.lovewagsatail.com/please-consider-rescuing-a-shelter-dog/

Image from: http://www.lovewagsatail.com/please-consider-rescuing-a-shelter-dog/

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. 

Amanda Seyfried & her adopted pup Finn 

Amanda Seyfried & her adopted pup Finn 

Kristen Bell with her furry family: Lola and Mr. Shakes

Kristen Bell with her furry family: Lola and Mr. Shakes

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!

Parrot rescue

Reptiles

Farm animals 

Specifically labradors

References

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.

http://www.thepuppyplan.com/my-puppy-plan?week=4#.WEH6B8fScb0

http://stories.barkpost.com/celebrities-with-rescue-dogs/

 

The Unfortunate Resting Place of Plastics

With summer comes the heat, and there’s nothing better to ward off the powerful, unrelenting rays of the Sun than an ice-cold lemonade, or margarita - for the fun-loving crowd out there. But once the sweet delicious nectar is finished, and thirst satiated, what is done with the cup and straw with which you used to so thoroughly enjoy your tasty treat? 

Many would assume that they would be properly disposed of and buried - that our trash and recycling infrastructure fully takes care of our waste. Unfortunately, they would be mistaken.

Of the 275 million tons of trash that we humans generate per year, around 5-12 million tons of that trash makes its way into our oceans - and as more people create and use more disposable products, the problem is only getting worse (Jambeck et al., 2015). Though most trash disintegrates and decomposes in short periods of time, plastics do not. They take decades, sometimes centuries to fully decompose (Teegarden, 2004).

Being so durable and pervasive, plastics occupy large pollutive patches in our oceans and coastlines. But they’re not just an eyesore, they disturb the natural order of our marine ecosystems. Animals often become entangled in the large jumbles of nearly-indestructible waste. Thankfully, there are a number of conservation organizations that work to detangle and rescue creatures that find themselves trapped. However, most victims never receive such assistance, and ultimately die.

But large plastics aren’t the only danger, smaller pieces of plastic are frequently mistaken for food and ingested by marine biota. In a 2012 study of plastic ingestion by Albatross, as many as 83% of specimens were found to contain plastic in their digestive tracts (Gray, Lattin, & Moore, 2012). This ingestion can mechanically impair and even kill its host, but that’s just the beginning of the issue. Ocean plastics are especially toxic (Gregory, 2009).

It is well known that many of the chemicals we use to create plastics are harmful in and of themselves, but plastics can also serve as sponges for other kinds of chemical toxins (Andrady, 2011). When left to rot at sea, plastics begin to break up into small pieces called microplastics, which embrittle, and fracture over time. In the small cracks and fissures along the surfaces of these microplastics, dangerous chemicals called persistent organic pollutants, or POP’s, begin to congregate (Andrady, 2011).

When properly dispersed, POP’s are harmless and insignificant. However, when found in high concentration, they can be deadly (Andrady, 2011). Over time, microplastics become so contaminated with POP’s, that they are essentially floating death pills for marine creatures – creatures that are then eaten by other creatures, and so on and so forth (Andrady, 2011).

Scientists worry that the proliferation of POP’s through the marine food chain can affect ocean ecosystems, and even us humans (Andrady, 2011). After all, we do enjoy some lovely fresh tuna sashimi from time to time.

But why should this frighten us? We already know the chemicals within plastics themselves travel through our skin, into our blood streams – affecting the way our bodies function, our general health, and even our children in the womb (Thompson, Moore, Vom Saal, & Swan, 2009).

With all this information, it is difficult to understand why we still use plastics. Unfortunately, plastics are cheap to make, transparent, extremely durable, and lightweight. This makes them great candidates for disposable goods – especially in the food industry (Thompson et al., 2009).

But even if we consciously know that we need to use less plastics, and better dispose of them, it isn’t always easy to do. Sometimes they are extremely convenient, or even necessary.

 Cutlery Knife Plastic Cutlery Plastic Blue Fork

Hopefully one day we can have the proper technology and infrastructure to replace all plastic products. But for now, it’s up to us to determine if the plastic products we use are absolutely necessary, or just convenient. Only we can make that distinction.

Instead of plastic bags, cups, or straws, try to seek out paper alternatives. Consider whether or not a particular plastic item is necessary, or just convenient. Find companies, products, and technologies that work to reduce and replace plastic use, and support their efforts.

These changes may seem small, but one less straw or bottlecap in the ocean could mean one less marine life taken, one less shore polluted, and one less infant with a health complication. Together we can help to mitigate this problem.


References Cited

Andrady, A. L. (2011). Microplastics in the marine environment. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 62(8), 1596-1605.

Gray, H., Lattin, G. L., & Moore, C. J. (2012). Incidence, mass and variety of plastics ingested by Laysan (Phoebastria immutabilis) and Black-footed Albatrosses (P. nigripes) recovered as by-catch in the North Pacific Ocean. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 64(10), 2190-2192.

Gregory, M. R. (2009). Environmental implications of plastic debris in marine settings—entanglement, ingestion, smothering, hangers-on, hitch-hiking and alien invasions. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 364(1526), 2013-2025.

Jambeck, J. R., Geyer, R., Wilcox, C., Siegler, T. R., Perryman, M., Andrady, A., . . . Law, K. L. (2015). Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean. Science, 347(6223), 768-771.

Teegarden, D. M. (2004). Polymer chemistry: introduction to an indispensable science: NSTA Press.

Thompson, R. C., Moore, C. J., Vom Saal, F. S., & Swan, S. H. (2009). Plastics, the environment and human health: current consensus and future trends. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 364(1526), 2153-2166.

 

 

Ambassador for May: Biscuit the Guinea Pig!

Biscuit the guinea pig!

Biscuit the guinea pig!

 

Our animal ambassador this month of May is one of our mammals – Biscuit the Guinea Pig! Biscuit is a male guinea pig that Zovargo were lucky enough to adopt from Wee Companions in 2015

Guinea pigs (Cavia porcellus)  are a hugely popular pet in the Western world, and with good reason – they are really easy to look after, don’t require a huge amount of space and typically have friendly and curious dispositions which make them a very engaging pet. They can live up to 8 years old However, the oldest recorded Guinea Pig was 14 years old!!

Biscuit enjoying some outside time on delicious grass!

Biscuit enjoying some outside time on delicious grass!

Here in the USA, we only know guinea pigs as domestic pets. However, they are found in the wild in South America! It is thought that in the 20th century, already domesticated Guinea Pigs were released into the wild and adapted to their outdoor life, becoming feral (behaving like wild animals, and no longer suitable as pets). In the wild, they live in grassy plains in small groups consisting of many females, one male and young pups.

If you have ever met Biscuit or another Guinea Pig you will know they make distinctive sounds – their high pitched squeaking, and lower vibrations. One way to hear a guinea pig’s squeaking is to show them some of their favourite food (even chopping broccoli in another room can be enough to get them vocalising!)

Biscuit being held securely
Biscuit out at a Zovargo event 

Biscuit out at a Zovargo event 

If you want to get a Guinea Pig as a pet there are a few things worth considering. Firstly, they are social creatures, so it is great if you can adopt two to give them the company that makes them happy. Females are the best pairing, as males can sometimes fight (however this can be avoided if males are introduced at a young age and have no females to fight over). If you can’t have more than one guinea pig you need to ensure you have time to spend handling and interacting with it to keep it happy. Another important thing when getting a guinea pig is to have a suitable cage for it. They are animals which need easily accessible hiding spots to run between, constant hay, suitable flooring (like recycled paper bedding, fleece or aspen shavings) and ideally – access to fresh grass via a covered run.

 

Lastly, guinea pigs have specific diet requirements and if they eat something bad for them they can get ill very quickly. It is important to have a specialised guinea pig pellet diet in addition to their unlimited hay access. As they also can’t make their own vitamin C, this either needs to be part of their diet and additional fresh vegetables should be offered daily as well! If a guinea pig sounds an ideal pet for you - Wee Companions based in San Diego are a great organization to learn more from and adopt your new pet from!

 

References: 

http://animals.mom.me/flooring-guinea-pigs-6288.html

http://www.readersdigest.ca/home-garden/pets/worlds-oldest-pets/2/

http://weecompanions.org

 

Interview with an Amphibian

Recently I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Zovargo’s Ambassador of the month, Mr. Ripley.  Ripley is an Ornate Horned frog, also known as a Pacman Frog.  It was truly a pleasure to chat with this mild mannered and enthusiastic amphibian.

Photo Credit: Jorge Ibarra

Photo Credit: Jorge Ibarra

What is a typical day like for Mr. Ripley?

My days are booked solid, for I am an extremely busy frog! I start off by claiming a corner of my enclosure and digging a nice deep hole and burying myself in substrate.  Ah, relaxing.  I keep my eyes peeled for any prey that might scamper by.  After napping for a few more hours, sometimes I get invited to go to school or be a special guest at a birthday party!  I represent all frog-kind and help teach about conservation of my wild relatives! Thankfully I don’t have to move a muscle as Zovargo does all the heavy lifting and transporting.  Once I’m home, I’ll take a nap, and wake up just in time for dinner! Once the sun goes down, my inner party animal comes out!  I enjoy chilling in my water dish and quench my thirst by absorbing water through my skin.  So refreshing! Afterwards, I half-hop back to my corner (tiny legs only take you so far) and I slip into another slumber as the sun awakens.  I’m living the dream.

What is it like working with Zovargo?

Frog-tastic! Zovargo serves me food on silver tongs and my heart leaps for joy!  I love being chauffeured to school assemblies and birthday parties.  While I’m a little too shy to participate in feeding demonstrations for the kiddos, I have no problem putting on show at home for Amanda and Larry!  I appreciate how Zovargo brings attention to the sensitivity of our skin and encourages people not to handle frogs like me for extended periods of time and shares the importance of frogs as an indicator species to help preserve my home.

Are you more of a hunter or gatherer?

Definitely a hunter! It’s in my nature! I am an ambush hunter, meaning, I wait for prey to come my way and then I attack!  How do I accomplish such a brilliant feat without exerting much effort?  I ingeniously burry myself with only my eyes popping out above ground level.  As an added bonus, I cleverly disguise myself among the dirt and moss with my bumpy green and brown skin. 

What is your favorite food?

Mr Ripley Eats Worms

Believe it or not, I can eat a whole lot! Being an ambush hunter, I prefer meals that come to me.  I like to chow down on crickets, roaches, and a variety of worms.  I’ll even indulge myself with a pinkie mouse from time to time.  I have yet to try fish, but I’m excited to try one! My favorite kind of food is anything I can get my chops around!  If it fits in my mouth, it’s not coming out! I may be passive, but I’m not too picky.

If you could be an animal what animal would you be and why?

As an amphibian, I’m able to thrive in both terrestrial and aquatic environments.  Talk about living the best of both worlds!  Sometimes I dream about being a tree frog like Mr. F and Buddy, just to see what it would be like to view the world from such a high perspective and jump 50 times my body length!  Then I remember how glorious it is being a pacman frog and the mere thought of jumping just twice my body length is exhausting.  If I had to be another animal, I think I would be an American Pigmy Shrew, who eats three times their body weight daily! Man can those guys eat!

What’s the funniest thing that happened to you recently?

I was lounging in my water dish at a school event and the kiddos were walking past my display and peering in with shinning eyes.  I locked eyes with a little girl and slowly shifted my gazes to a yummy bright pink bug holding her hair out of her face. I mustered up my strength and leaped toward her to snatch the bugger from her head and she called me a toad! A TOAD!? How absurd!

What two organization outside of Zovargo do you support the most and why?

Save The Frogs! They are the world's most effective amphibian conservation organization. I truly believe in their mission to protect amphibian populations and to promote a society that respects and appreciates nature and wildlife. They work in California, across the USA, and around the world to prevent the extinction of amphibians, and to create a better planet for humans and wildlife.

Project Wildlife does a commendable job at making sure injured wildlife is safely returned to their homes. Like Zovargo, PW provides public educational programs to promote conservation and preservation of our planet and all who inhabit it! What more could you ask for?

Tell me and our readers something about you that most people might not already know.

Well, if you haven’t noticed already, I am mostly all mouth and stomach.  To help swallow my snacks I suck my eyeballs into my head to help direct the food down my throat.  Don’t believe me? Check out Zovargo and see it with your own eyes!

Is it true that touching your skin will give people warts?

Just about as true as frog’s having extremely long tongues—which is entirely false!  Stick out your tongue and look in the mirror; frogs’ tongues are as proportional to their bodies as ours is to us.  So no, having skin to skin contact with frogs does not give you warts, but it is not recommended to handle frogs. Due to our ability to breathe and drink water through our skin, we will absorb all the natural oils on your hands, even if you wash them thoroughly! *croaks* Do frogs give you warts? Humans are so gullible. How ridiculous!

What other Zovargo Animal Ambassador is your closest friend?

The Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches! They are delicious—I mean delightful—friends to have! 

 

Comment

Larry Miller

Coming from a family that would go out of their way for any stray animal; the concepts of care, rescue, and rehabilitation for all animals was instilled within Larry’s core values as a young child. As a way to connect with the world and give back to the planet he is an advocate for conservation.

Larry studied Microbiology at the University of California Santa Barbara before pursuing a career in the IT field. Having held numerous Information Technology (IT) support roles throughout his profession; interacting and mentoring individuals are common daily tasks. He is also an active volunteer for multiple wildlife organizations.

When not implementing new technologies, Larry spends his free time tending to wildlife rehabilitation patients, volunteering at booth events, giving presentations, speeches and talks for various audiences. You’ll find him researching and studying in an effort to support the continuous development of new education programs. Zovargo is the ideal platform that allows him to combine his skills and devotion to conservation awareness. 

Zovargo School Animal Educational Programs, San Diego

“In the 21st century, scientific and technological innovations have become increasingly important as we face the benefits and challenges of both globalization and a knowledge-based economy. To succeed in this new information-based and highly technological society, students need to develop their capabilities in STEM to levels much beyond what was considered acceptable in the past.” (National Science Foundation)

STEM is an education curriculum encompassing Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. The STEM definition of Science is the study of the natural world. Technology includes any product made by humans to meet a want or need. Computers are technology, just as much as a chain link fence, or even a pencil. Any product created to solve a problem can be regarded as technology. Engineering is the design process students use to solve problems. Math is the language of numbers, shapes, and quantities. (Source: http://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2014/06/17/ctq_jolly_stem.html)

photo credit: joge ibarra 

photo credit: joge ibarra 

Zovargo aims to raise student achievement by inspiring and preparing them to seize opportunities through innovation, inquiry, collaboration, and creative problem solving. Unique animal encounters and themed educational programs offer a blended learning environment that trigger the use of scientific method in everyday life. Zovargo Animal Education Programs San Diego encourages productive teamwork. Students are inspired to become true problem solvers, innovators, creators, and collaborators.

If you are a school, home school, informal education provider or just looking for an exciting and unique learning opportunity to bring Science to LIFE in San Diego County, then look no further! Zovargo brings science to life with the study of the natural world. Zovargo School Animal Education Programs San Diego focus on real-world issues and problems. Aligning with STEM curriculum Zovargo School Animal Education Programs San Diego encourage the engineering design process by getting students to understand and identify problems. Students are encouraged to lead the way by creating and developing ideas for a solution.  Zovargo School Animal Education Programs San Diego are immersive, engaging and hands on. We bring along several of our 'creature teacher' animal ambassadors to help make learning fun, educational, and completely interactive.

We can provide live Animal Educational Programs San Diego in a variety of settings:

  • School Assemblies (groups of 100+)
  • Individual Classrooms (any size)
  • Multiple Classrooms during a single visit! 

When: Anytime! We are flexible with your schedule! 

Where: We bring our programs and animals to YOU! 

How: Click HERE or Email us and we'll get back to you in 48 hrs! 

Cost: Our animal educational Programs San Diego cost varies per size of group and length of program. We design a package that is complimentary to most any school budget!

Photo credit: Jorge ibarra

Photo credit: Jorge ibarra

NATIONAL PARKS WEEK!

Grand Canyon - South Rim. Photo Credit: Jennifer Hayward

Grand Canyon - South Rim. Photo Credit: Jennifer Hayward

America is known for having some of the most beautiful park areas in the world. With 417 designated national parks in the country there are so many to choose from. From the huge internationally well-known ones like Yosemite, Death Valley and the Grand Canyon to lesser known gems like Acadia, Congaree and Capitol Reef there are options covering all climates, altitudes and activities.

Luckily for us, one week a year IT IS NATIONAL PARKS WEEK – that means that for this weekend (April 15th and 16th), and next weekend (22nd and 23rd) parks are open to the public for FREE! Which is a great incentive to take a weekend for camping, or just pack a bag and go for a fun day  hike. A great way to find what you are looking for is the ‘find your park’ website

Locally in California we are fortunate to have access to the most densely packed corner of parks in the US.  We have Yosemite, Joshua Tree, the Channel Islands, Death Valley, Sequoia and Kings Canyon, and many, many more – perfect for a long weekends camping. These parks have amazing, well maintained hiking trails which allow fantastic access to wild flora and fauna. In Sequoia in just one day we were lucky enough to see two different types of deer, many squirrels, hundreds of interesting birds AND two black bears! Most parks also offer lead nature hikes and great information centres and well informed signs – meaning you can really make the most of your hike and learn about the wildlife.

Black Bear sighting in Sequoia! Photo credit: Jennifer Hayward

Black Bear sighting in Sequoia! Photo credit: Jennifer Hayward

However, if you can’t take the whole weekend off there is an excellent, very local opportunity - Cabrillo National Monument. Not only does it provide amazingly beautiful 360˚ views of San Diego, there is also interesting history on the light house and its inhabitants AND an awesome opportunity to go tide-pooling. The phenomenal views also mean it is worth taking your binoculars – with a huge panoramic of the Pacific Ocean, keep your eyes peeled for the Pacific Grey Whales who are currently migrating from Alaska to Mexico. Dolphins are also a common sighting and always great to see!

Cabrillo National Monument - View from the top. Photo credit: Jennifer Hayward

Cabrillo National Monument - View from the top. Photo credit: Jennifer Hayward

If you can’t make it to a National Park in the next two weekends, you can buy an annual ‘America the Beautiful’ pass for $80 per car. With 113 of the parks charging up to $30 entry, it is great value if you plan even three trips in one year. And once you have the pass – what a great excuse to go and visit even more parks!

References:

National Parks Free Entry Days

https://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/fee-free-parks.htm

Number of National Parks

https://www.nationalparks.org/connect/blog/how-many-national-parks-are-there

Find Your Parks:

https://findyourpark.com/your-parks

April is Frog Month! Meet our Frog Animal Ambassadors

This month we have THREE special ambassadors we want to introduce you to: Mr. Ripley, Buddy and Mr. Frog!

 

Mr. Ripley

Mr. Ripley our Pac-Man Frog - His famously beautiful patterned skin on display

This is Mr. Ripley, an Ornate Pac-Man (or Ornate Horned) frog from the genus Ceratophrys. Zovargo adopted Mr. Ripley in January of 2016 and he forms an important part of the family.

The name Pac-Man comes from the round shape of their face and their ginormous mouth, which is always ready to eat – just like in the game Pac Man! They enjoy meals of crickets, cockroaches, worms and even small mice. They have small teeth-like structures (odontoid projections) on their lower jaw which gives them power to catch and eat very large prey for their body size!  

Pac-Man frogs are available in pet stores and they are an easy to care for pet. However, they can live a really long time – up to 15 years! So if you are considering adopting one as a pet it is worth making sure you can commit to that length of time. Also, as with all frogs, their skin is highly sensitive to touch, so they are not a pet for cuddling! Pac-Man frogs like to spend a lot of their time burrowing in moist and cool substrate, like coconut or moss and this environment needs to be carefully monitored to keep the frog comfortable. As babies you can buy Pac-Man frogs when they are very small – approximately only as big as a quarter! It then takes them about a year and a half to reach their full adult size which for males is up to 4.5 inches and females up to a giant 7 inches.

Their conservation status with the IUCN is currently ‘Near threatened’, and with a significantly declining population it is important that as many people as possible learn about them and help to try and halt this declining population before they are categorized as ‘vulnerable’. In the wild they are found in Argentina (where they are rare), Brazil and Uruguay (where they have reportedly disappeared in at least two sites). As with most animals facing issues of conservation their main problem is habitat loss from human construction and agriculture. They also suffer from water and soil pollution from agriculture.

Photo from CyberStill.com

 A Pac-Man frog showing his teeth-like projections on his lower jaw! Source: CyberStill.com

Buddy & Mr. Frog

Buddy and Mr. F are White’s Tree Frogs, Litoria caerulea (AKA the Dumpy Tree Frog). In the wild they are found in Australia and New Guinea, but are kept as pets all over the world. In captivity, White’s tree frogs have been known to live over 20 years which is really long for a frog! Zovargo rescued these two from local owners who could no longer care for them in October 2014.

As you can tell from the name – one special thing about these frogs is that they live in trees! To maneuver through their tree-top homes, they can jump really far – 7x as far as their body length. That’s like a human jumping all the way across a whole street! Most of their jumping through the trees occurs at night as they are nocturnal - they have special large eyes which help to see in the dark and to find food (including cockroaches, crickets and worms – yum!).

You may not know that most frogs do much of their breathing through their skin. This means that their skin needs to be moist to help the oxygen be absorbed (this is why they are so sensitive to touch!!). One of the coolest things about these guys is that due to their moist skin, they naturally produce antibacterial and antiviral secretions to deal with any mold or bacteria which would normally thrive in a moist environment.  Not only does this keep them from getting sick, it has also helped us humans to research how to keep ourselves from getting sick too – understanding how the secretions work has helped with knowledge on preventing major human diseases.

The conservation status of the White’s tree frog is ‘Of least concern’ which is fantastic news – this means the species is currently doing well with no population decline. We love having Buddy and Mr. Frog with us and can’t wait for you to meet them at one of our events!

Eco-Challenge Yourself!

Earth Day is around the corner and while it's the time of year many people start thinking about how they can help reduce, reuse, and recycle - at Zovargo Earth Day is Everyday!

We are always trying to spread the message of conservation through our educational animal encounters. We work to connect people to animals and hope everyone will want to make a change in their lives to help SAVE the all animals (and their habitats). There are several ways we hope to inspire our program attendees to make a change. They may consider: 

  • Becoming a better pet owner by really thinking new pet decisions through
  • Adopting their new companion animal rather than going to a pet store
  • Recycling items rather than throwing them away
  • Reducing their consumption of items that are not bio-degradable or reusable 
  • Choosing to use recycled items rather than items made from the original source
  • Giving their time to organizations that support conservation
  • Considering the type/source of items they purchase before buying (i.e. buying recycled paper)

 

 

One thing we do everyday is EAT, right?

"Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks?" #zovargogreen

"Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks?" #zovargogreen

Many of us are so busy and don't have time to cook every meal. It's a true and difficult fact that many are consumers of food on-the-go. One thing to consider is HOW we eat on-the-go. Quick meals have a huge impact on our green footprint. Did you know that some plastic takes up to 1000 years to break down? Did you know that it never really disappears but becomes micro-plastic? Our consumption of straws alone is unimaginable.

To help make an end to our wasteful habits of on-the-go dinning, we want to help eliminate plastic and reduce the amount of trashed plastic straws, to-go containers, and plastic cutlery that ends up in landfills.

This April, Zovargo is challenging our friends, followers, and their families to take this eco-challenge and try to be more earth-minded. Let us know what you actively do to be "green" and SHOW US by posting a picture to your own social media page and tagging (@zovargo) Zovargo along with using our hashtag #ZovarGoGreen. Pictured to the left is our own Educator, Marissa showing us how she is earth-minded. 

Entering the contest will put your name in the drawing for a ZOVARGO ECO-STARTER PACK! We will be running this competition via Facebook the week of April 10th (1 Eco-pack winner) and Instagram the week of April 17th (1 Eco-pack winner). During the San Diego Science Educators Conference on April 29th, we'll be giving attendees at the conference a chance to enter a drawing for our final Eco-pack. 

Zovargo Eco-Starter Pack 

Zovargo Eco-Starter Pack 

This Eco-Starter Pack ($45 Value) Contains:

  • 100% Recycled Cotton Zovargo Lunch Bag
  • Reusable Bamboo To-Go Ware packs with a case that is made from recycled plastic bottles
  • A Snack Time pack with Fabric made from 100% Recycled plastic  
  • A Bottle Sling made from rePete, 100% post-consumer recycled plastic bottles
  • Not pictured but included: a reusable Stainless Steel straw and some Recyclable Paper straws (Use both and see which one you like best) 

We'd like to thank our sponsors and partners supporting this challenge!

Big Frog T-shirts in Claremont for printing our bags with non-toxic plant-based ink! 

Aardvark paper straws for partnering with Zovargo to make a difference in the way we drink! 

Private donations from our Supporters 

Ambassador of the Month: Dimitri, our Panther Chameleon!

Dimitri is our beautiful adult Panther Chameleon (Furcifer pardalis), one of the largest Chameleon species in the world (with males reaching up to 23cm). He is around 2 and half years old and may live as long as 7 years! We brought Dimitri into our team in 2015, from a local breeder. As he is captive bred a lot is known about his family blood line, and they are well known for being relaxed and easy going – perfect for a Zovargo animal ambassador! You might meet him at one of our many Zovargo education programs or even at our upcoming Summer Camp - CAMP ZOVARGO

DIMITRI. Credit: Jorge Ibarra

DIMITRI. Credit: Jorge Ibarra

Dimitri’s family are captive bred, but wild Panther Chameleons are from Madagascar where they are a hybrid of two types of chamelon – the Ambanja and Sambava chameleons.

Chameleons are primarily known for their ability to change color – often thought to be as a form of camouflage. However, the real reason for their color change is actually mood and temperature! Dimitri can subtly change color about once a minute, this is particularly obvious when he is experiencing some stress, i.e. too cold or hot, frustrated, or scared.

COLOR CHANGES IN TWO MALE CHAMELEONS. SOURCE: www.slashgear.com/chameleon-color-changing-abilities-unlocked-by-science-10373151/

COLOR CHANGES IN TWO MALE CHAMELEONS. SOURCE: www.slashgear.com/chameleon-color-changing-abilities-unlocked-by-science-10373151/

Another important use of color in Panther Chameleon’s is that their color can tell you where they are from in Madagascar. Their coloration can be so different that 21 ‘types’ of Panther Chameleons have been defined. For example, Panther Chameleons from the area of Nosy Be have bright blue coloration , while other areas produce types colored red, green and orange.

EXAMPLES OF PANTHER CHAMELEONS FROM DIFFERENT MADAGASCAN LOCATIONS. SOURCE: http://bluechameleon.org/Photo%20&%20Image%20Stockpile%20-%20BCV/Pardalis%20collage%20WITH%20captions.jpg

EXAMPLES OF PANTHER CHAMELEONS FROM DIFFERENT MADAGASCAN LOCATIONS. SOURCE: http://bluechameleon.org/Photo%20&%20Image%20Stockpile%20-%20BCV/Pardalis%20collage%20WITH%20captions.jpg

Chameleons are also known for their long tongues! Dimitri’s tongue is so long, it is actually 2 x as long as his whole body and he can rapidly extend it when he is hungry! Dimitri loves to eat crickets, cockroaches and worms.

Do chameleons make good pets? It is important to note that Chameleons can be difficult to care for. Firstly, they need specialized equipment and food. Like all other chameleons, Dimitri is cold blooded. Thus, he is unable to maintain a healthy body temperature without an external heat source. It is therefore important to make sure his environment is always a comfortable temperature for him. Specifically, Dimitri likes to be kept at 85˚F with 60% humidity. It is also worth considering that they are not a pet that you can cuddle! Great for observations, but if you want a more hands on pet, a Chameleon isn’t the answer. Furthermore, you must be really careful to find out where they come from. Rescuing a Chameleon from a previous owner or a shelter is a fantastic thing to do, but if it has been caught from the wild this will support the pet trade which has terrible consequences. 

Credit: Jorge Ibarra

Credit: Jorge Ibarra

 

References:

www.arkive.org/panther-chameleon/furcifer-pardalis/

Andreone, F.; Guarino, F. M.; Randrianirina, J. E. (2005). "Life history traits, age profile, and conservation of the panther chameleon, Furcifer pardalis (Cuvier 1829), at Nosy Be, NW Madagascar" (PDF). Tropical Zoology. 18

 

 

Zovargo Eco-News: The Impact of Plastic Waste on Sea Turtles

This article was written for everyone's enjoyment. We aim to educate all generations about animal conservation and environmental protection any chance we get, so please share this with others.  We suggest while you're waiting in line for something, during dinner, or before bed! 

On November 8, 2016, Proposition 67, a referendum asking voters to either vote yes to preserve the law or no to reject the plastic bag ban, was approved by 52% of the voters. (Source: LA TImes)

On November 8, 2016, Proposition 67, a referendum asking voters to either vote yes to preserve the law or no to reject the plastic bag ban, was approved by 52% of the voters. (Source: LA TImes)

Plastic bags are a huge problem, not just for the environment but for the sea turtle population as well. Sea Turtles love to snack on jellyfish, which are also appear white, semi-translucent, and amorphous (lacking form). It’s astonishing how similar a plastic bag and a jellyfish look in water, even to the human eye. The picture below shows a jar of jellyfish and a jar with a plastic bag, can you tell the difference? Like all animals, sea turtles weren’t made to eat plastic so a bag can get trapped in the digestive systems, causing death. A plastic 6-pack ring can also cause life-long deformities if they get caught in them; cutting your 6 pack rings before you throw them away can help prevent entanglement.

A Plastic Bag in a Jar (left) and 3 Jellyfish in a Jar (right).  Can You Tell the Difference?(Source: One Green Planet)

A Plastic Bag in a Jar (left) and 3 Jellyfish in a Jar (right).  Can You Tell the Difference?(Source: One Green Planet)

According to National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, there is an estimated 100 million tons of plastic in the ocean worldwide currently killing 100,000 marine mammals, sea turtles, birds, and fish annually (Source: www.ConserveTurtles.org). Hopefully, the ban on single-use plastic bags will reduce the amount of plastic bags that eventually end up in the ocean.

The video below shows a team of snorkelers rescuing a sea turtle, which has a straw stuck in its nostril. The team thinks it’s some sort of worm at first but to their dismay, they were wrong. The video is graphic as the turtle begins to bleed but it is an example of plastic’s effect on our environment. You might not want to show it to your child.

Half of the sea turtles in the world have eaten plastic, according to a new study by Qamar Schuyler of the University of Queensland. His research led him to conclude that approximately 52% of the world’s sea turtles have eaten some sort of plastic debris in their lifetime. (Source: Washington Post)

The problem with plastic is that it doesn’t break down or decompose naturally. Plastic’s inability to break down means it will stay in nature for hundreds of years, creating harmful problems for unsuspecting animals. The best thing you can do is decrease your plastic consumption or plastic footprint, omitting unfortunate opportunities for your trash to hurt an animal.

A Sea Turtle Trapped in Several Plastic Bags (Source: Daily Mail)

A Sea Turtle Trapped in Several Plastic Bags (Source: Daily Mail)

There is a clear and distinctive problem at hand and solving the problem begins with us. Doing your part has a tremendous impact on the world. We at Zovargo will do our part by creating Zovargo reusable totes and other products that will help you reduce your plastic footprint.  Not only will you help save the environment but you will save money at the same time!

Some other ways you can reduce the amount of plastic waste produced is by using reusable products such as reusable bottles, cups, reusable cutlery, metal straws, and of course, reusable bags. Every little bit counts and saving the environment starts with you. Don’t forget that this is your planet, your ocean, and your forests; you are the future for a sustainable earth.

Can you think of any other ways we can decrease our plastic footprint? Let us know in the comment section!

An Inforgraphic About Plastic Bags and the Environment (Source: Reusethisbag.com)

An Inforgraphic About Plastic Bags and the Environment (Source: Reusethisbag.com)

Girl Scouts and Zovargo - The Perfect Pair!

Here at Zovargo, we LOVE working with the girl scouts of San Diego – we can (and have!) conducted sessions with all ages, from Daisies to Seniors! While we can adapt our presentation to any topic your group is interested in learning about, we have also developed specific programs for a huge variety of badges and projects already tried and tested with success. In 2016 alone, we did 31 Girl Scout events!

Why does Zovargo work so well with Girl Scouts?

The Girl Scouts mission is to build “girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place”. And this ties in perfectly with the themes and values Zovargo holds dear, and wants to share with the community.  Zovargo’s key values are centered around loving and respecting all animals, being genuine and honest, self-improvement and being an active steward in protecting our environment. As we are an approved community partner with the Girl Scouts of San Diego we can apply our awesome values to many relevant Girl Scout badges and projects.  So, in addition to covering anything related to animals (pets to wildlife and everything in between) we have also covered badges such as: inventor, home scientist, public speaking and entrepreneur. The possibilities are almost endless!

Another reason we are a great partner is that we are truly flexible at Zovargo – we can come anywhere in San Diego at practically any time convenient to you and your group. We understand that organizing fun and engaging meetings takes a lot of work. By being flexible, dependable and creative we help to minimize the effort in organizing a session with us, leaving you the fun and memorable activities on the day to enjoy.

Lastly, our events for Girl Scouts are priced very affordably. This is simply because we really do love working with the organization and engaging with so many ambitious and creative groups. So, if you help run a Girl Scout unit, are a GS parent or even a Scout yourself please get in touch to discuss how we can help make your next GS program super engaging and fun!

Click here to see more information and to use our request form.

 

7 Really Good Reasons You Have To Attend The San Diego Bird Festival

Discover something new with Zovargo!  We are honored to partner with The Audubon Society to help throw their San Diego Bird Festival at Marina Village Conference Center, Mission Bay, San Diego, CA, on February 26, 2017! 

You know that saying, "Birds of a feather, flock together"?  Well, it's true!  This idiom means that people who have similar interests and tastes will be found together.  What is our common interest? The answer might not surprise you, it's BIRDS!!  We are bird advocates and want to share our love of birds with everyone, especially you.  The Zovargo flock has partnered with The Audubon Society to throw the biggest bird festivals in San Diego, The San Diego Bird Festival at the Marina Village Conference Center in Mission Bay, San Diego, on Family Day, February 26, 2017.  There will be hundreds of different creatures from parrots and reptiles to owls and scorpion and more.  Best of all, Family Day is FREE!!  

Family Day Flyer.  (Source: San Diego Bird Festival)

7 Really Good Reasons You Have To Attend The San Diego Bird Festival:

1. Zovargo: We've been planning this for months and have a lot of cool and interactive activities for you!  Baby Bird, Peepers, Zeta and the rest of the flock will be attending, giving you some great photo opportunities.  Have any questions? We'll try our best to fill you in on anything related to birds!

2. Birds:  There will be so many birds varying from hawks, sparrows, woodpeckers and much much more!  if you love birds, you have to come see the variety at The San Diego Bird Festival!.

3. Field Trips: There will be plenty of field trips that cover every corner of San Diego on diverse topics.  Some of the field trips include but are not limited to, the Anza-Borrego Desert Trip with expert bird watchers, Parrots at their Roost: Morning Edition I, Laguna and Cuyamaca Mountains Trip, and more! Some are free, some have a fee, and some even come with a meal but ALL of them are going to be super fun and memorable.

4. Workshops: Ready for some hands-on experiences? There will a wide variety of workshops that will teach you anything about birds and let you handle them too.  Want to play in nature or explore local habitats? There will be several workshops that will take you to some of the coolest locations in San Diego.  There's going to be something for everyone!

5. Games and Activities: Games, contests, prizes, arts and crafts, face painting, nature walks, bird watching, giveaways, music and more!  It's going to be hours of fun; there will be so many games and activities that you won't be able to play in all of them, so choose wisely!

6. Bird Experts: Have a question about birds? This is your opportunity to ask an expert.  There will be a ton of bird experts that will share valuable information and teach you anything you want to learn about birds.  

7. Food: San Diego is known for its food and craft beer selection, so it's fitting that there will be a variety of each every night!  Some will be free, others will cost money, and some will be $1.

Adventure, discover, and explore! The San Diego Bird Festival will have everything you can think of about birds plus more.  With hundreds of birds, hands-on activities, field trips, workshops, activities, games, food, beer, wine, and much more, do you really need another reason to go?  If you love birds, YOU HAVE TO COME! It's going to be AWESOME!  Check out the Audubon Society's website for more details: San Diego Bird Festival.  We'll see you there!

A Field Trip with a Bird Expert. (Source: San Diego Bird Festival Facebook Page)

A Field Trip with a Bird Expert. (Source: San Diego Bird Festival Facebook Page)

Zovargo Partners with Award-Winning Carlsbad Art Farm!

Carlsbad Art Farm is a privately operated 10-acre outdoor art instruction facility in north coastal San Diego County offering classes, workshops, school field trips and award-winning summer camps. Art Farm's mission is to inspire and encourage a deep connection to animals and the natural world through traditional studio art education.

Situated in a hidden valley near the Village of Carlsbad, Art Farm offers visual arts instruction centered on animal life and explorations of their unique woodland habitat. Art Farm was voted "Most Awesome Camp for Kids in Southern California" in 2014, 2015, and 2016. Zovargo and Carlsbad Art Farm Farm are excited to partner this summer, offering local students a unique opportunity to connect to animals, art and nature.

 

Read More about all our Zovargo partners here:

 http://www.zovargo.org/partners/

A Birds Eye View of Valentine's Day

Shops are currently filled with heart shaped chocolates, stuffed toys that say "I wuv you" and bouquets of flowers, encouraging us to shower our significant other with gifts in an annual declaration of love and appreciation. Whether you are going all out with extravagant plans, or not you will definitely be aware that it's Valentine's Day! However, humans are not the only species that have evolved special courtship behaviors to woo a partner - from gift giving, to dazzling dances, birds all over the world have developed elaborate tactics to compete for the affection of someone special. Here are some of the more interesting displays that we think you might enjoy (and who knows, maybe to pick up some tips for your February 14th plans...!)

Great Hornbills

Just looking at a Great Hornbill with its large, brightly colored casque (the protuberance above the bill) it is an easy assumption to make that this display is important for attracting a mate. However, the most identified mechanism used in the breeding season is a little more romantic – they sing!

The males become very vocal – making a loud and repetitive “kok” sound. If interested, the female then begins to join in, forming a rauchous duet with the male. To keep the romance alive, the male makes gifts of food to the female which continues throughout her nesting period.

Adelie penguins

Adeline penguins have quite a practical way of wooing their future beloved… alongside some head bobbing and wing flapping, they also make a more practical contribution– the gift of rocks to build, elevate and secure the nest. Some accounts show the penguins can be very choosy about what pebbles they bring to the female; scouring a whole beach to find very special ones. More commonly observed though is when males resort to stealing from other nests or just picking up the nearest rock available - slightly less romantic than the idea of a long search for the 'perfect pebble'...

Bower birds

Bower birds are a family of 20 species which are well known for their ability to build intricate and decorated constructions (called Bowers) to try and attract a mate.

They use decorations that nature has to offer like sticks, feathers and shells, but will also use anything brightly colored that they can find. It areas close to humans this can mean anything from scraps of plastic bags to discarded toys or cardboard. Males will also often be sneaky and sabotage their competition's Bowers - making their own efforts look more impressive and to steal some extra decorations.

The Superb Fairywren

The superb fairywren is a small bird from Australia which is socially monogamous, but also seeks extra pairing matings. It is when this occurs they use a special beautiful gift – a flower petal. It seems that sometimes this is given to the female directly to woo her, and other times given to a more dominant male to avoid any confrontation and to recognize his superiority and rights to the female in question. We would probably stick to the traditional whole flowers/ bouquets if you have a human Valentine - the single petal might not quite cut it..

Love Birds

Last but not least, we have the aptly named: Love Birds. A term commonly used to describe a loved up couple, it actually is the name of a group of birds (9 species within the genus Agapornis) known for their monogamous relationships and romantic courtships. 

Love birds have such close relationships, they sit very closely together, they feed each other, and seem to become depressed if separated and almost constantly preen each other. It is also believed by some that the poem "Parliament of Foules" by Chaucer is about Love Birds. As this is one of the first known connections between St. Valentine and romance, this could mean that these little birds are the reason we celebrate love on February 14th at all! 

 

 

Sources

Diamond, J. (1987), Bower Building and Decoration by the Bowerbird Amblyornis inornatus. Ethology, 74: 177–204. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0310.1987.tb00932.x

KL. Bauman, CA. ASA (2015) Reproductive behavior of the great hornbill (Buceros bicornis). Zoo Biology

McKee, M (2005).   “Mating In A Material World.” National Wildlife

Rowley, I.,  Russell, E. (1997). Bird Families of the World:Fairy-wrens and Grasswrens. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University PressISBN 0-19-854690-4.

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/14-fun-facts-about-lovebirds-180949742/

 

Animal Ambassadors for February: Our Parrots!

This month, our Zovargo animal ambassadors are our beautiful parrots: Baby Bird and Chico!

Baby Bird (left) and Chico (right) being fantastic ambassadors at a Zovargo Girl Scouts event

Baby Bird (left) and Chico (right) being fantastic ambassadors at a Zovargo Girl Scouts event

Red-Crowned Amazon: Baby Bird!

Baby Bird our Red-Crowned Amazon (so named for her beautiful Red crown feathers)

Baby Bird our Red-Crowned Amazon (so named for her beautiful Red crown feathers)

Firstly Baby Bird, she is our Red-crowned Amazon Parrot (Amazona viridigenalis) and she comes to lots of events with us so you may well have already met her! Red-crowned Amazons are primarily found in the wild in North Eastern Mexico, however there are some more, growing populations in Texas, Florida and California. Right here in San Diego County you can find a small population in Point Loma! It is well worth taking a trip to go and spot some of Baby Bird’s wild relatives up in the palm trees.

Baby Bird used to live in Point Loma in the wild as a baby, but was not strong enough to grow and survive with her flock. She was rescued by a local wild parrot group who fed and cared for her until she was back in good health. At this point she was so used to being around humans, it was decided she couldn’t be safely released, so instead became an education ambassador – going to events with Zovargo to teach the community about parrots.

Baby loves to meet people, climb on their arms and will sometimes even talk (she likes to say her name and to imitate noises!) however she does like her personal space and doesn’t like being stroked too much. She likes to eat a lot of fresh vegetables and fruit and extra vitamins to keep her healthy. As a treat, she will eat seeds and nuts which she finds just delicious.

When she is feeling good, Baby Bird sometimes bows her head down to receive a head scratch!

When she is feeling good, Baby Bird sometimes bows her head down to receive a head scratch!

Sadly, Red-crowned Amazons are officially endangered. This means their population sizes are decreasing to the point where the species is in trouble. Currently wild native populations (in Mexico) are not estimated to exceed 2,000 mature individuals which is incredibly low considering in 1950 it was 100,000 strong (according to a Bird Life International study). The reason for this decline is thought to be due to many birds being trapped and transported from Mexico to the USA for the pet trade. Habitat loss is another cause for the decline.

So do they make good pets? Yes and no. Firstly, as these birds are endangered – you should never buy one as contributing to the pet trade will only act as a further stressor on the wild population. However, occasionally parrots are rescued either from breeders or injured from the wild (like Baby Bird was), in these special cases they can make a wonderful and engaging pet. But it is always worth remembering that adopting a parrot is no small task - These parrots can live for up to 60 years if they have great nutrition and health so it truly is a life-long commitment.

Reference: BirdLife International. (2013). Amazona viridigenalis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2013: e.T22686259A48048745 doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2013-2.RLTS.T22686259A48048745.en Downloaded on 10 February 2017

Sun Conure: Chico!

Chico the Sun Conure

Chico the Sun Conure

Our Sun Conure (Aratinga solstitialis), who goes by the name Chico, is a young parrot around the age of 3. Chico loves being in human company and likes to be gently pet low down on his back, but can be a little overwhelmed if there are loud noises or very busy areas. He sometimes speaks too, saying ‘Chico’ and ‘no’!

Sun Conures are quite a small species of parrot -  typically around 12 inches long. They are native to South America (largely Guyana and Brazil) and they are known for their beautiful coloration and excitable personalities.  When the birds are young they are primarily green, as they mature they develop their beautiful yellow and orange colors – which give them their sunny name.

Currently it is believed that numbers in captivity are larger than the wild population. This has resulted in IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) classifying the Sun Conures as Endangered. Similarly, to the Red-crowned Amazon, this unfortunate situation is ascribed to historic wild trappings for the pet trade and habitat loss.  

Do they make good pets? Like other parrots they have a relatively long life span (up to thirty years!), so it is a big decision to adopt a Sun Conure. Also, as they are very intelligent birds who love human attention they cannot be left alone for too long. They need social interactions and mental stimulation every single day. One thing also worth considering is they can be very noisy, often known for ‘screaming’ when excited or scared. Many owners are not aware of this trait when they buy or adopt their new pet, and the disruption causes them to give it up a few months later which can be very distressing to the Conure. But if you have the time, space and commitment to owning a Sun Conure, then adopting a rescue can be a fantastic thing to do. 

Ref: BirdLife International (2016)  Aratinga solstitialis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T62233372A95192947. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T62233372A95192947.en. Downloaded on 10 February 2017.

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Chico at an event!