Saving the White Abalone Exhibit Opens at Santa Barbara Museum Sea Center on Stearns Wharf

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Saving the White Abalone Installation Opens at Sea Center

New display offers chance to see endangered species revitalization project up close

The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center on Stearns Wharf recently unveiled a new installation entitled “Saving the White Abalone” that highlights its conservation work to bring the local species back from the brink of extinction.

White Abalone were the first marine invertebrates to be listed as endangered in the United States (2001). Overharvesting by humans led to the dramatic decline of the White Abalone, which now exist in such small numbers that they can no longer reproduce in the wild. Where once there were perhaps millions, several thousand White Abalone remain, and it is no longer legal to harvest them. The best hope for saving the White Abalone is to spawn them in captivity, with a long-term goal of releasing large numbers back into their native habitats.

As a member of the White Abalone Restoration Consortium (WARC), the Sea Center plays a helpful role in the recovery of this species. For the past thirteen years, the Sea Center has been home to a cohort of mature White Abalone. These endangered marine snails have participated in induced spawning events, releasing gametes that conservation scientists at partner intuitions mix with eggs to create larvae. Through coordinated induced spawning events, WARC members increase the abundance of White Abalone in captivity.

Following several successes, in 2014, the Sea Center received a cohort of young snails to rear, the progeny of captive snails. If all goes to plan, the new installation will soon host a third generation of microscopic White Abalone larvae, raised in trough enclosures like those used by commercial abalone farmers. This most recent addition gives the Sea Center a unique opportunity to illustrate the abalone life cycle and explain conservation efforts to the public.

Fostering genetic diversity among a dwindling population is a major challenge for the WARC, who have a limited number of animals to crossbreed due to the rarity of the species and restrictions on collecting wild animals, even for conservation purposes. The new generation is an exciting development for all WARC partners. Sea Center Live Collections & Husbandry Manager Thomas Wilson explains: “The most recent spawning at WARC partner UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory was exciting because it was the first time since the program’s inception that new genes were introduced.” The abalone larvae in the Sea Center’s new installation are the result of a cross between a wild female that conservationists were recently permitted to collect, and a captive-bred male.

The new display will educate the public by raising awareness of White Abalone’s endangered status and efforts to save them. The installation’s aim is to explain how human activities can harm—and help—endangered species.

Wilson shares, ”This new installation spans several years of work and collaboration with the WARC. It is the first time that we have ever tried to raise recently settled, juvenile white abalone, and they will need lots of attention. This is an exciting, albeit, stressful time for the Sea Center. I am hopeful that, as we move forward, we can continue to increase our participation with the WARC to save this species.”

WARC members include National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), California Department of Fish and Wildlife, UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory, Aquarium of the Pacific, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center, University of California Santa Barbara and the Marine Science Institute, The Cultured Abalone, The Abalone Farm, National Park Service, UCSD – Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Occidental College, The Bay Foundation, CICESE – Ensenada Center for Scientific Research and Higher Education, and California Science Center.

The new installation can be viewed on the 2nd floor of the Sea Center which is open daily from 10:00 AM–5:00 PM. For more information visit sbnature.org/seacenter.

About the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center

Discover the wonders of ocean life at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center. Located on historic Stearns Wharf, this highly interactive aquarium and marine education facility offers visitors close encounters with marine animals, and exploration of the Santa Barbara Channel on the Wet Deck. In addition to permanent exhibits, the Sea Center hosts unique events and special educational programming, including Underwater Parks Day, World Oceans Day, and its Live Dive series.

SoCal Museums Announces New Creature Crawl Summer Activity For Families

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SoCal Museums announces its summer Creature Crawl, an activity for kids and families that lets them explore the many museums that currently have animal-themed exhibitions on view. Participants can collect puzzle pieces at each of the five participating museums and use them to create a mythical beast that kids can design and color. Families can upload their creations to www.socalmuseums.org and win prizes for their work at the end of the summer.

Creatures featured include fabled unicorns in medieval manuscripts at the Getty Center, a beautiful garden of butterflies at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, dinosaurs from Antarctica at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, and much more.

With support from UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital, kids at the hospital who are unable to travel to the museums will receive their own package of activities so that they can also participate in the fun.

UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital is the Presenting Sponsor for Creature Crawl. PBS SoCal is the Media Sponsor for Creature Crawl. Check museum websites for individual hours and admission.

On view at Creature Crawl museums this summer:

Getty Center

Book of Beasts: The Bestiary in the Medieval World

Through August 18, 2019

Getty.edu | @GettyMuseum

Explore the throngs of animals that tumble, soar, and race through the pages of the bestiary, a popular medieval book that describes the beasts of the world. Through vibrant and fascinating images, the pages of these bestiaries will bring creatures to life before your eyes – with some escaping from the pages to inhabit the Getty's galleries! Pick up your creature's head at the Museum Information Desk. The Getty is always free.

Los Angeles Zoo

Ongoing - Summer Creature Features

LAzoo.org | @LAZoo

Explore the L.A. Zoo and discover thousands of creatures with remarkable features, Iike purple-tongued giraffes, pink-and-preening flamingos, super-floofy golden lion tamarins, and fabulous neon-colored frogs. Along the way, you'll do more than just see these animals, many of which are endangered. You'll get a glimpse of the world through their eyes and, thanks to daily keeper-led presentations, you'll understand more about them. Best of all, your visit will help save them, by supporting vital conservation work. Pick up your creature's back frog legs in the International Marketplace gift shop.

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

Antarctic Dinosaurs

Through January 5, 2020

NHM.org/dinos | @NHMLA

Gear up for the expedition of a lifetime! Follow the footsteps of past and modern-day paleontologists who excavate fossils beneath Antarctic ice and stone. Discover hands-on activities, specimens, and media touch screens that reveal what these science adventures are really like. Be transported back millions of years to the warmer habitat where exotic dinosaurs lived, including the 25-foot-long, cold-crested Cryolophosaurus! Pick up your creature's body at the Museum Store.

and

La Brea Tar Pits

Ongoing - Mammoths and Mastodons

Tarpits.org/mammoths | IG: @TheLaBreaTarPits

The museum at the Tar Pits is experiencing a takeover of mammoth proportions. Discover these magnificent beasts from the Ice Age in a whole new way. Get up close to La Brea's real fossils as well as new life-sized replicas. Take part in interactive experiences that will give you a hands-on understanding of the science behind excavating and analyzing these fascinating creatures.

Please note, the creature puzzle piece is only available at the Natural History Museum, not at the La Brea Tar Pits.

Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

Butterflies Alive!

Through September 2, 2019

Sbnature.org | @SBNature

Walk through a beautiful garden while nearly 1,000 live butterflies flutter freely around you. The exhibit features a dazzling variety of butterflies, from local favorites to exotic tropical varieties. Learn about the Iife cycle and behavior of these spectacular invertebrates while observing them up close. Built in 2018, the Sprague Butterfly Pavilion features plants butterflies love and comfortable spots to relax and enjoy the atmosphere. Pick up your creature's butterfly wings at the Museum Admissions Office.

and

Prehistoric Forest

Through September 2, 2019

Take a stroll back in time and come face-to-face with dinosaurs on the banks of Mission Creek! Meet a Tyrannosaurus rex, the formidably armored Stegosaurus, high-crested Parasaurolophus, and Triceratops and Ankylosaurus mamas with their young. These hand-crafted moving animatronics spark the imaginations of dinosaur lovers of all ages. Pick up your creature's butterfly wings at the Museum Admissions Office.

Skirball Cultural Center

Ongoing - Noah's Ark at the Skirball™

Skirball.org/noahs-ark | @Skirball_LA

From your first sight of the floor-to-ceiling Ark to a close-up encounter with a whimsically designed creature, Noah's Ark is sure to spark wonder no matter how old you are. You'll play, climb, build, and explore aboard the Ark, and you'll leave with a greater appreciation for the value of building community and caring for the world. Make memories that will last a lifetime — this summer at the Skirball. Pick up your creature's front zebra legs in the Rainbow Gallery at the conclusion of your visit to Noah's Ark.

SoCal Museums (SCM) is a group of marketing and communications professionals from museums all over Southern California. The mission of the organization is to foster dialogue between marketing and communications museum professionals in Southern California in order to learn from each other, network, conceptualize and execute ways to increase visitation to and awareness of museums in Southern California, and develop collaborative opportunities between museums.

UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital cares for the physical and emotional well-being of children, from newborns to young adults, providing critically ill children with sophisticated, compassionate care in an environment that is both welcoming and healing to children and their families.

The mission of the UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital is to provide state-of-the art treatment for children in a family focused atmosphere, as well as conduct research that improves the understanding and treatment of pediatric diseases and to train the next generation of leaders in pediatrics.

PBS SoCal is the primary PBS station for more than 18 million people across six diverse Southern California counties, and a content channel of the Public Media Group of Southern California, formed by the 2018 merger of PBS SoCal and KCETLink Media Group. Our Mission is to foster a love of LEARNING, CULTURE and COMMUNITY using the power of public media.

The World's Largest Rodents - Two Female Capybaras - Back at the Santa Barbara Zoo

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Two young capybaras are back at the Santa Barbara Zoo after a four-year absence of the world’s largest rodents from the Zoo. The sisters, who are less than one year old, share an exhibit near the Zoo Train Station with the Zoo’s three female giant anteaters.

The two female capybaras were born August 5, 2018 at the Greater Vancouver Zoo, where they were hand-raised after their mother passed away. A total of five siblings were hand-raised.

“They don’t have names yet, but do have personalities,” said Melanie Story, the mammal keeper who has cared for them during their 30-day quarantine. “The one that is currently lighter in color is more comfortable around people and braver in new situations, even though they were both hand-reared. But they are still not mature and it will be exciting to see how they change as they grow.”

A temporary fence currently separates the capybara from the giant anteaters, and keepers are making careful introductions in hopes that the two species will co-inhabit the exhibit in the future.

The Zoo’s adult female giant anteater Anara is currently on exhibit with her female twins, Fancy Nancy Drew and Maria Luisa, who were born at the Zoo in November 2017. The Zoo’s male giant anteater Ridley has his own quarters but will soon return to the adjacent exhibit, which was most recently occupied by two koalas who were on a one-year loan. Adult male giant anteaters do not interact with females unless they are breeding.

The sister capybaras, like many of the animals at the Zoo, can be sponsored and even named by making a donation to the Santa Barbara Zoo’s Foster Feeder fund which covers the cost of the animal food bill at the Zoo each year. For more information, contact the Zoo’s Institutional Advancement Department for details at 805-962-5339 or visit www.sbzoo.org.

About Capybaras

They have been called “swamp hogs” and “water pigs,” but capybaras are more closely related to guinea pigs than actual pigs – they are rodents. Adult capybaras can weigh as much as 150 pounds and stand as tall as 2.5 feet. They come from Central and South America where they live near standing water like riversides, ponds, and marshes.

Capybaras are most active on land, but are also skilled and graceful swimmers. Their feet are partially-webbed (like otters’ or beavers’) which allows them to dive deep and swim underwater for long distances. Water is also where capybaras prefer to defecate; they rarely “go” on land.

Just like fellow rodents such as porcupines and squirrels, capybaras’ long front teeth continue to grow throughout their lifetime. The teeth tend to wear down from chewing food, but some older capybaras end up with very long teeth. Like camels, they chew from side-to-side, and like cows, they regurgitate their food to re-chew it.

Animal experts generally agree that in recent years it has become increasingly difficult to find this shy and sometimes nocturnal animal in the wild. Deforestation and habitat destruction are factors, and until recently, hunting and poaching as a food source contributed to their decline. New captive farming programs have helped relieve poaching.

The Santa Barbara Zoo is open daily from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; general admission $18 for adults, $13 for seniors 64+, $11 for children 2-12, and free for children under 2. Parking is $11. The Santa Barbara Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). AZA zoos are dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great visitor experience, and a better future for all living things. With its more than 200 accredited members, AZA is a leader in global wildlife conservation, and is the public’s link to helping animals in their native habitats. Visit www.sbzoo.org.

Kids Bowl Free This Summer at Various Ventura County Bowling Centers

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Here's a great summer deal that will bowl you over! Bowling alleys across the country are offering Kids Bowl Free deals during the summer months once again this year!

Up to two games per kid on designated days and times, subject to lane availability. Note that applicable ages for Kids Bowl Free vary up to 15 to 18.

The deal also does not apply to parties, camps and other organized events. And lastly, the deal does not include bowling shoe rental. With no further ado, here are local alleys in Ventura County and nearby areas that are participating in Kids Bowl Free!

NOTE: You first must visit www.kidsbowlfree.com and register with specific bowling alleys. After registering your children, you will receive coupons via email or through mobile devices, and in turn redeem them at the time of purchase. In addition to the 2 FREE Games, you may be able to purchase a family package (at participating centers) and generally must pay for standard shoe rental rates at the time of bowling.

Buena Lanes in Ventura will offer Kids Bowl Free Monday through Thursday from 10am to 2pm for kids 15 and under, from May 28 to August 28, 2019

Harley's Camarillo Bowl will offer Kids Bowl Free Monday through Friday from 9am to 4pm for kids 18 and under, from June 3 to August 30, 2019.

Harley's Simi Bowl will offer Kids Bowl Free Monday through Friday from 9am to 4pm for kids 18 and under, from June 3 to August 30, 2019.

Harley's Valley Bowl will offer Kids Bowl Free Monday through Friday from 9am to 4pm for kids ages 18 and under, from June 3 to August 30, 2019.

Winnetka Bowl in Canoga Park will offer Kids Bowl Free May 1 to August 30, 2019, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 9am to 4pm and Thursday from noon to 4pm for kids 15 and under.

Zodo's Bowling and Beyond in Santa Barbara will offer Kids Bowl Free June 1 to September 1, 2019, 7 days a week to kids 16 and under from 9am (8:30 Sat/Sun) to 4pm.

Click this link to pin down information about all the local Ventura County area bowling alleys.

Santa Barbara Zoo Announces Bradley The Golden Retriever, the Zoo's First Ambassador Dog

Bradley, the Santa Barbara Zoo’s first Ambassador Dog.

Bradley, the Santa Barbara Zoo’s first Ambassador Dog.

The Santa Barbara Zoo announced today that its latest addition is a ten-month old Golden Retriever named Bradley, who is in training to be the Zoo’s first Ambassador Dog.

As Ambassador Dog, Bradley’s overall duty “is to connect with Zoo guests so they can understand and care about all animals, especially those in the wild animals.”

“Bradley can connect with people in ways many of our other animals can’t,” said Dr. Julie Barnes, the Zoo’s Vice President of Animal Care & Health. “If people care about animals, then they are more likely to want to save them in the wild by preserving habitat, making sustainable choices, and other actions we talk about here at the Zoo.”

Dr. Barnes reports that Bradley is still young, so the training is takes place at his pace and is going quite well.

Bradley with Kristen Wieners

Bradley with Kristen Wieners

If it goes as hoped, Bradley will eventually participate in keeper talks on subjects like responsible pet choices and animal training using positive reinforcement. He may be involved in education programs such as Zoo Camp. He might provide outreach to local schools, retirement homes, hospitals, and elsewhere.

“Though they might catch sight of him with his handlers and wearing his ‘In Training’ vest, Bradley is not ready to meet the public,” adds Barnes. “Currently, we tell people not to make a special visit to the Zoo just to see him. He’s rarely visible and not on a regular schedule.”

About Bradley’s Training

As with the Zoo’s other animal residents, Bradley is trained using positive reinforcement, meaning he is rewarded for good behaviors and following instructions, and ignored or redirected for negative behaviors. The Zoo has retained a professional dog trainer who works with Bradley most days and is training specific staff to work with him as well.

“The goal is to guide him into making the right choices on his own,” says Dr. Barnes. “The training is currently going well, but will last as long as needed. Some training will continue indefinitely, to keep Bradley engaged as an ambassador dog.”

About Bradley

Bradley is an English Cream Golden Retriever who was born on May 12, 2018. The “English Cream” refers to the light color of his fur. His original family lived in Northridge and had him as a young puppy. A family member’s unexpected medical development made it impossible for them to care for a puppy. The Zoo adopted him when he was nine months old.

“Zoo staff spent six months visiting dog rescue facilities and following leads for a dog with the right temperament to be trained as our ambassador,” said Dr. Barnes. “Bradley has what we were looking for.”

Bradley lives at the Zoo. It is hoped that he will eventually make visits to local schools, retirement homes, hospitals, and community events, but that depends on his training.

His sleeping area is in a heated office. The Zoo’s security guard checks on him several times during the night and gives Bradley toilet breaks. Bradley has a fenced exercise and play area on Cabrillo Lawn, across from Cats of Africa. There he is allowed to run free and play, and have play dates with specially selected dogs. During breaks from training, Bradley also has “Sniff Time” while on the leash, when he is allowed to follow his nose and explore the Zoo.

“Zoo animals are not unfamiliar with dogs, as service dogs sometimes accompany guests,” says Dr. Barnes. “However, his presence does help reinforce that the sight or smell of a dog is normal. So far, Bradley has responded well to zoo animals by remaining calm in their presence. Acclimating him to the other animals that live at the zoo is part of his training.”

Bradley is sponsored by a local family that wishes to remain anonymous and is recognized at the Zoo simply as “Jackson and Alaia.”

Dogs in Zoos

Ambassador dogs are not uncommon in zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA). The Oklahoma Zoo debuted canine animal ambassador Max, a two-year-old terrier mix, in summer 2018. Other zoos with ambassador dogs include the Denver Zoo, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium (Tacoma, Washington) and Rosamond Gifford Zoo (Syracuse New York).

While dogs are sometimes used as companion animals for specific species, Bradley does not go into any animal enclosures.

The Santa Barbara Zoo provided dog companions for African lion cub Kiki when she was being hand-raised in 2004. The San Diego Zoo, Indianapolis Zoo, and Metro Richmond Zoo, among others, have had companion dogs for cheetah cubs.

The Santa Barbara Zoo

Known as one of the world’s most beautiful zoos, the Santa Barbara Zoo is located on 30 acres of botanic gardens and is home to nearly 500 individual animals in open, naturalistic habitats. It is accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), representing the highest level of animal care, and participates in AZA endangered species programs for Asian elephant, California condor, island fox, and Western lowland gorilla, among others. A private 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, the Santa Barbara Zoo depends on community support, not tax dollars, for operations and improvements. Visit www.sbzoo.org

The Zoo is open daily from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; general admission $18 for adults, $13 for seniors 64+, $11 for children 2-12, and free for children under 2. Parking is $11.

Elderly Female Snow Leopard Zoe Passes Away at the Santa Barbara Zoo

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An elderly snow leopard named Zoe passed away on Thursday, February 14, 2019, at the Santa Barbara Zoo. Though she was advanced in age and being treated for related ailments, her death was sudden and unexpected. A keeper in the vicinity alerted the Zoo’s veterinary team, which attempted to resuscitate the 15-year-old big cat, but were unsuccessful.

“Zoe was being treated for osteoarthritis of her hind legs, early renal failure, and hypertension, which are common in geriatric large cats,” said Dr. Julie Barnes, the Zoo’s director of animal care and health. “Given the suddenness of her death, I suspect a heart attack or a stroke.”

A necropsy was performed Friday, February 15, but revealed no specific findings to explain Zoe’s sudden death. Tissues have been submitted to a lab for analysis, which may provide more information, but the results will not be available for two to four weeks.

Zoe’s body has been sent to Midwestern University in Arizona as part of a vascular anatomy study in snow leopards, which is supported by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival plan for snow leopards. The species is highly endangered it its home range of Central Asia.

“This study will contribute to the knowledge of snow leopard anatomy which has not been documented in detail,” adds Dr. Barnes.

About Zoe and Snow Leopards at the Zoo

Zoe was born on May 18, 2003 at the Akron Zoo in Ohio. She arrived at the Santa Barbara Zoo in 2010. Everett is six years older and arrived at the Zoo in 2011 from the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, Illinois.

Though Everett has a genetic disorder that made him sterile, he showed an unusual amount of interest in Zoe when she first arrived. Keepers did careful introductions, and the two became contented companions.

“In the wild, adult snow leopards are solitary unless it is mating season or a female is raising young. So it was a rare treat for our guests to witness the two snow leopards not only get along, but actually romp and snuggle together,” says Dr. Barnes.

Dr. Barnes notes that animals under human care are living longer due to the high quality of geriatric care now available. Gingerbread, an African lion, lived at the Santa Barbara Zoo for 13 of her 18 years before passing away in February 2017. Her lifelong mate Chadwick, now aged 20, currently receives special care related to age and poor vision. Zoo staff has decided to have him live out the rest of his life at the Zoo without the stress of introducing new lions.

At age 21 years and seven months, Everett is currently the oldest snow leopard in any accredited AZA zoo.

“Given his age and current geriatric medical conditions, it is not in Everett’s best interest to be moved,” says Dr. Barnes. “As with Chadwick, we will continue to care for him for the rest of his life.”

Snow Leopards are Critically Endangered

Snow leopards are critically endangered and currently number between an estimated 3,900 and 6,400 in the mountains of Central Asia. They have long been prized as hunter’s trophies, destroyed as predators of domestic flocks, and sought as a source of valuable fur.

Adapted for the extreme weather, snow leopards have been viewed at elevations as high as 19,600 feet in summer. Their furry feet help them to stay on top of the snow by providing a greater surface area – like snow shoes – and their fur keeps their paws warm and dry, providing traction as well. Unlike most big cats, snow leopards don’t roar, but they do make vocalizations.

About the Santa Barbara Zoo

Known as one of the world’s most beautiful zoos, the Santa Barbara Zoo is located on 30 acres of botanic gardens and is home to nearly 500 individual animals in open, naturalistic habitats. It is accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), representing the highest level of animal care, and participates in AZA endangered species programs for Asian elephant, California condor, island fox, and Western lowland gorilla, among others. A private 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, the Santa Barbara Zoo depends on community support, not tax dollars, for operations and improvements.

It is open daily from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; general admission $18 for adults, $13 for seniors aged 65+, $11 for children aged 2-12, and free for children under 2. Parking is $11. Visit www.sbzoo.org.

Reindeer Arrive at the Santa Barbara Zoo for the Holiday Season on November 20, 2018

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Cookie and Peppermint, those slightly-less-famous reindeer, arrive at the Santa Barbara Zoo to celebrate the holidays on Tuesday, November 20, 2018 at 10am.. Winter-themed and holiday-related activities happening throughout the holiday season.

The Zoo is located at 500 Ninos Drive, Santa Barbara. Admission to the Zoo is currently $18 for adults, $10 ages 2 to 12 and $13 for seniors 65+.

www.sbzoo.org/event/reindeer-zoo-arrive

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Prognosis is Good for Lucky, the Shoe-Wearing Penguin at Santa Barbara Zoo

Lucky shown wearing one of his high-tech shoes designed by Teva, which allowed him to walk, swim, and be a part of the Santa Barbara Zoo’s penguin colony. (Photo Credit: Tony Luna)

Lucky shown wearing one of his high-tech shoes designed by Teva, which allowed him to walk, swim, and be a part of the Santa Barbara Zoo’s penguin colony. (Photo Credit: Tony Luna)

Lucky, a Humboldt penguin at the Santa Barbara Zoo who made national headlines for wearing a specially designed shoe, has undergone surgery to remove the foot on his affected right leg. His prognosis is good, according to Director of Animal Care and Health Dr. Julie Barnes, who assisted on the surgery conducted this morning (Friday, October 19) by Dr. Stephen Klause, a veterinary orthopedic specialist from the Los Angeles Zoo. Dr. Klause has consulted with Dr. Barnes on Lucky’s condition for several years and has a lot of surgical experience with birds.

“Although this is a fairly straightforward surgery and used for cats and dogs with a similar condition, there are some other considerations for performing this in a bird,” said Dr. Barnes. “We feel he has a good prognosis and this procedure will give him the best quality of life. Our goals are to lessen Lucky’s pain, retain his mobility, and have him rejoin the Zoo’s Humboldt penguin colony.”

Why Lucky Needed Surgery

Lucky’s need for this surgery stems from the deterioration of a malformed ankle joint, which caused his right foot to point up at an angle, rather than lay flat. This caused Lucky to walk on the point of his ankle, rather than on his foot. The abnormality was discovered as soon as Lucky left the nest in 2010 and walked with a shuffling gait. He was unable to walk properly and began to develop life-threatening infections from pressure and chafing.

In 2011, local shoe company Teva designed a high-tech shoe for the penguin, and since then has further refined and provided custom shoes for Lucky, free of charge. The footwear has been effective for the past eight years, allowing him to be an active member of the Zoo’s penguin colony. In 2017, he sired a chick with his mate Nica.

But Lucky’s intertarsal (ankle) joint was undergoing a continual, slow deterioration as expected with this type of deformity. The joint was collapsing and becoming inflamed, causing swelling and pressure. Excess bone (or calcification) had formed in the joint, causing painful bone-on-bone contact.

Lucky’s treatments when his ankle and foot were swollen included pain medications, bandaging, and poultices such as iodine and sugar. But the bouts of swelling had recently become more frequent despite treatment. He was spending more time in the Animal Hospital due to flare-ups, and was exhibiting signs of discomfort. (See below)

“Lucky’s condition had reached a critical stage as it was difficult to manage his pain effectively,” adds Dr. Barnes.

Lucky will recover in the Animal Hospital for several weeks, accompanied by his mate Nica, with the focus on healing from surgery. Once he is healed, efforts will begin with Teva to develop a new shoe.

Chilean Flamingo With No Toes is Part of the Flock

The Zoo also is home to a Chilean flamingo that was hatched with a deformed foot, which necessitated the amputation of its toes in January 2018. That bird, Nugget, wears a special sock and returned to the flamingo flock within six weeks of her surgery.

“We have experience with this, having worked with Nugget, who is doing quite well,” said Dr. Barnes. “We look forward to when Lucky is recovered, out of pain, and back with his colony-mates.”

How Did Lucky Show He Was in Pain?

The Zoo’s Animal Care Staff were able to determine Lucky’s level of discomfort by his behavior. They report that at first he would limp. As the discomfort increased, he “bicycled” or moved his leg in a circular motion. If he was very uncomfortable, he would not walk and he might bray (vocalize). When handled, he would react to having his foot touched. During painful flare-ups, he was moved to the Animal Hospital for treatments, accompanied by his mate Nica.  

The Santa Barbara Zoo is located on 30 acres of botanic gardens and is home to nearly 500 individual animals in open, naturalistic habitats. It is accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), representing the highest level of animal care, and participates in AZA endangered species programs for Asian elephant, California condor, Channel Island fox, and Western lowland gorilla, among others. A private 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, the Santa Barbara Zoo depends on community support, not tax dollars, for operations and improvements. Visit www.sbzoo.org.