St. Louis Zoo

Ray Meibaum

Anyone who has watched a lot of Saturday morning television likely has seen Taz, the voracious Tasmanian devil of Looney Tunes fame, a loud and voracious presence.

While Taz thrives in the cartoon, in the wild the species isn’t doing so well. About 20 years ago, a mysterious illness caused its population to dive.

Conservationists are scrambling to save the animals and educate the public about them. As part of that effort, Yindi and Jannali, two female Tasmanian devils, recently arrived at the St. Louis Zoo, where researchers are studying how they adjust to life in captivity.

Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center

Scientists say frogs are one of the first "canaries in the coal mine" for climate change. That’s because they absorb a lot of what’s in the environment through their skin.

Grant's Farm bridge with sign thanking attendees for visiting
William K. Busch Brewing Company

Updated 1:00 p.m. March 4 with Zoo's offer withdrawn:

The St. Louis Zoo’s plan to buy Grant’s Farm from a Busch family trust has fallen through. In a statement the Zoo says it’s withdrawn its conditional offer of about $30 million citing a legal dispute among the six heirs of the late beer baron Gussie Busch. Four of the six siblings have wanted to release the land from the trust, but Billy Busch is fighting to keep it in the family.  Earlier this week, he unveiled a five-year plan to acquire and develop the family-attraction with a small theater, and brewery.  A St. Louis Circuit Court hearing regarding the sale is scheduled for March 28.

Original article March 2:

A prominent member of the Busch family is providing more details about his plans for Grant's Farm. Billy Busch is trying to acquire the St. Louis County attraction and has unveiled a five-year business plan that calls for a small theater, brewery and continued free admission.

The number of island foxes living on the northern Channel Islands in California were crashing before ecological efforts to save them began in the 1990s.
Tim Hauf | Flickr

A Saint Louis Zoo scientist is partly to thank for the recovery of three subspecies of foxes native to the Channel Islands off the coast of California.

Lazarus, a male Mexican wolf, at the Endangered Wolf Center in Eureka.
Mary Delach Leonard|St. Louis Public Radio

Volunteer Lisa Houska is hunkered down next to a tall cyclone fence at the Endangered Wolf Center in Eureka. She’s peering at a hillside, observing a handsome pair of thick-furred Mexican wolves and their three pups that were born last year.

“We’re watching Sibi and Lazarus. This is their second breeding season,’’ Houska whispers.

For two hours on this unseasonably warm winter morning she’ll sit motionless, trying not to disturb the family. She’s hoping to witness another successful courtship between mom and dad.

Moose Winan, "Rolling Thunder & Hills," Ozark Mountains
Moose Winans | Flickr, Creative Commons | http://bit.ly/1YyPCLb

One word comes to mind when we think about the environmental news that’s been a conversation starter in St. Louis in 2015: landfills. Specifically, what is going on at the Bridgeton and West Lake landfills north St. Louis County. On Wednesday’s “St. Louis on the Air,” St. Louis Public Radio’s science reporter Véronique LaCapra joined the show to discuss the evolution of the landfill situation and other big science, environmental and wildlife news of the year.

Some of the topics we discussed:

Grant's Farm - horses
Robert Duffy | St. Louis Public Radio

Plans for the St. Louis Zoo to buy Grant’s Farm are in legal limbo. Six heirs of August Anheuser "Gussie" Busch Jr. are in litigation over whether the property should be sold to the Zoo or Billy Busch. A hearing was held today - largely on the timing of how things will proceed.

The St. Louis Zoo is making plans to acquire the family attraction Grant’s Farm from the Busch Family Real Estate Trust.

The Armenian viper is one of 30 endangered species of amphibians and reptiles in Armenia. A new crowd-funding campaign aims to start a new conservation center to save them.
Ray Meibaum | Saint Louis Zoo

The country of Armenia may be getting its first conservation center for reptiles and amphibians thanks to a crowd-funding campaign launched by the Saint Louis Zoo.

Kali greets his visitors.
Áine O'Connor | St. Louis Public Radio

Update: This article has been updated to include a State Auditor's approved recoupment of $.0001 for each of the Zoo Museum District institutions.

The Zoo Museum District board is lowering tax rates for the coming year. This will amount to St. Louisans paying a fraction of a cent less per one hundred dollars of taxable property.

Images from zoo museum district entities
File photos and Wikipedia

The debate over charging nonresidents of St. Louis and St. Louis County for admission to the various free Zoo-Museum District institutions was reignited in St. Louis this month. “A small entrance fee of, say, $8 for non-city, non-county people would be fair and would help institutions terrifically,” said Ben Uchitelle, the former chairman of the board of the Zoo-Museum District.

Adult Ozark hellbenders can reach up to two feet in length, making them one of the largest salamanders in the world.
Ray Meibaum | Saint Louis Zoo

The Saint Louis Zoo is sharing its expertise in matchmaking ... for salamanders.

It's part of the 7th Hellbender Symposium, which has drawn more than 100 participants from the Midwest, the Eastern U.S., Japan and China.

Jeffry Smith drinks a bottle of water inside the Saint Louis Zoo while wearing an empty gun holster on Saturday, June 13, 2015.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Ohio gun-rights activist Jeffry Smith walked into the south entrance of the Saint Louis Zoo Saturday wearing an empty gun holster. One other man with an empty holster entered with him. Smith walked to the fountain on the far end of the entryway, took a drink of water, then turned around and walked back outside the zoo’s gates.

Smith originally planned to enter the zoo with a handgun, but decided Friday to wear an empty holster instead after a St. Louis judge issued a temporary restraining order against him and anyone else who might try to test the zoo’s rule against weapons.

Áine O'Connor

Following a conversation of the Saint Louis Zoo’s new polar bear exhibit with its curator of mammals, Steve Bircher, St. Louis Public Radio science reporter Véronique LaCapra and “St. Louis on the Air” producer Alex Heuer took a field trip to the nearby Penguin and Puffin Coast.

“It’s been a while since I’ve been to the zoo, and this opened up in March,” Véronique said. “But I have not yet had a chance to see it, so we’re going to take a sneak peek inside.”

Kali takes a swim at the Saint Louis Zoo.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

This Saturday, St. Louisans will get their first chance to see the new polar bear at the Saint Louis Zoo.

The 2 1/2 year-old, 850-pound Kali arrived at the zoo in early May, but he has been kept out of sight since then for a health quarantine and to give him time to get used to his new surroundings.

Members of the media got an early look at Kali and the zoo's new polar bear exhibit space on Thursday. Here's St. Louis Public Radio's sneak preview!

The Saint Louis Zoo's curator of birds Michael Macek works to conserve Humboldt penguins in Punta San Juan, Peru.
Courtesy of Saint Louis Zoo

The St. Louis Zoo is spotlighting its efforts to save threatened wildlife Saturday with educational activities and a children's scavenger hunt during its 10th annual Endangered Species Day.

Zoo CEO Jeffrey Bonner called the institution a leader in animal conservation, but he acknowledges that many people don't know about its vital role in saving wildlife.

Paula Poundstone
Provided

Comedian Paula Poundstone is just trying to figure things out.

Poundstone described her improv style as “accidental — same as almost everything about me.” Her comedy career started with an open mic night in 1979 in Boston. She spent time preparing for 5-minute sets, only to forget that preparation once she was on stage. Out of nervousness, she started talking to audience members and commenting on things in the room until she said she realized that was the real fun. That’s exactly what the audience can expect when Poundstone performs Saturday in St. Louis, she said.

King penguins will lead the Saint Louis Zoo parade to the new penguin habitat on March 5, 2015.
Robin Winkelman / Saint Louis Zoo

They’re back! The Saint Louis Zoo’s Penguin and Puffin Coast reopens Thursday to the public.

To kick off the celebration, a parade of king and gentoo penguins will lead the way to the exhibit at 10:30 a.m. Thursday. The penguin exhibit closed in September 2013 for construction of a new polar bear exhibit that is next to the penguin habitat. The polar bear exhibit will open this summer.

ZMD Board members continue debate over ethics code language
Willis Ryder Arnold/St. Louis Public Radio

The Zoo Museum District’s Thursday meeting was defined by two events: a stymied vote about language for its new code of ethics and a recent audit of the St. Louis Zoo. 

Code of Ethics Contention

The continued discussion regarding language for a new code of ethics drew ire from those wanting to include stricter language and members preferring a more relaxed approach.  Immediately prior to a vote on which language to forward on to city, county, and board council, board member Gloria Wessels left the meeting.

(Via Flikr/Derringsdo)

Who has the best zoo?

“We always say that the best zoo is the accredited zoo closest to where you live,” said Saint Louis Zoo CEO and president Jeffrey Bonner. “I think, for me at least, it’s the quality of the exhibits, the quality of the visitor experience and, of course, underpinning that is the conservation programs, the research programs, the education programs. I happen to think that our zoo is the best in terms of the visitor experience.”

He’s not alone.

You may have stayed away from the Zoo over the Fourth of July weekend, because of the festivities in  Forest Park. But you have plenty of time to get there this summer. As you make your plans, here are a few things about our Zoo that might surprise you.

For example, did you know the Zoo studied camels in Kenya this year to evaluate their milk as a human beverage? Or that it documented the number of endangered Humboldt penguins in Punta San Juan, Peru?

If you live in St. Louis or St. Louis County, you may eventually be able to get discounts at local cultural institutions. That idea was floated Thursday by Zoo-Museum District board member Gloria Wessels.

City and county residents pay taxes that fund the five institutions of the district: the St. Louis Art Museum, Science Center, St. Louis Zoo, Missouri History Museum and Missouri Botanical Garden. Wessels told St. Louis Public Radio that it’s only fair that taxpayers get something for their money that visitors from other counties don’t.

Mary Delach Leonard|St. Louis Public Radio

The residents of the big birdcage aren’t as flashy or exotic as many of the 19,000 animals at the Saint Louis Zoo, but they do put on a show.

At ground level, a row of small ruddy ducks with bright blue bills follow the leader, making rippling curlicues in a swamp-like pond. Double-crested cormorants hang out on a wooden bridge, striking a pose with their outstretched wings, as visitors reach for their camera phones.   

Louise Bradshaw
Ray Meibaum | St. Louis Zoo

The St. Louis Zoo has received a $1.5 million gift from the Saigh Foundation that will, in essence, create an endowed chair for the Zoo’s education department.

That department is headed by Louise Bradshaw, who will become the first Fred Saigh Director of Education.

In an interview with St. Louis Public Radio, she said this provides a lot of security for the zoo’s wide-ranging educational programs.

“We’re able to reach over 1.7 million guests with the Zoo’s conservation education messages,” she said.

Lincoln Brower

The City of St. Louis and several partners are launching a project to help monarch butterflies.

It involves encouraging area residents to plant milkweeds -- a plant with large fruit pods that release fluffy seeds in the fall.

The Saint Louis Zoo is one of the partners in the “Milkweeds for Monarchs” initiative, along with the Missouri Botanical Garden and the Missouri Department of Conservation.

The zoo's curator of invertebrates, Edward Spevak, says milkweeds are critical to the monarch’s survival.

Roger Brandt/Saint Louis Zoo

A sea lion has died at the St. Louis Zoo.

“Bennie,” as he was known, was born at the zoo in 2002 and would have been 12 years old in June.

The 500 pound sea lion was one of the stars of the zoo’s sea lion show. But he stopped performing two weeks ago and had been under veterinary care.

The zoo says a necropsy will be performed by its pathologist, but it will take several weeks for the zoo to get the lab results needed to determine the cause of death.

courtesy photo

What does the Saint Louis Zoo have to do with Africa? More than you might think. It is a founding member of the Sahara Conservation Fund, which works to protect endangered species in Africa.

“The zoo was already involved in captive breeding of these species and was really keen to get involved in the preservation of these species in the wild,” said John Newby, a conservation fellow with the Saint Louis Zoo and the CEO of the Sahara Conservation Fund.

(Saint Louis Zoo)

Updated Nov. 27 at 10:40 a.m. to correct two photo captions.

There’s a bird to be thankful for in St. Louis, but we’re not talking about turkey.

On Nov. 2, the Saint Louis Zoo welcomed yet another adorable addition, a fluffy Tawny Frogmouth chick.  Born to first-time parents, zoo keepers are taking extra precautions to ensure the chick develops properly.  

(Saint Louis Zoo)

The Saint Louis Zoo is forging ahead with building a new, state-of-the-art polar bear exhibit.

The 40,000-square-foot McDonnell Polar Bear Point will more than double the zoo’s previous polar bear habitat, which closed in 2009.

Features of the exhibit will include:

(Via Flikr/Derringsdo)

Commissioners of the Zoo-Museum District, on September 30, voted to raise the property tax rate that funds five St. Louis cultural institutions to the highest level permitted by state law.  Those institutions are the St. Louis Zoo, the Missouri Botanical Garden, Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis Science Center and Missouri History Museum.

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