From exhibits to baby cubs, there’s lots new to see at the zoo

In May 2013, BREC’s Baton Rouge Zoo was left with a huge void upon sending away Bozie, its lonely elephant who was mourning the death of her elephant pal Judy.

The zoo had housed elephants since 1970. With Bozie at her new home at Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C., Friends of the Zoo (FOZ) immediately began thinking of ways to utilize the former elephant exhibit.

Enter Anala.

Sanskrit for the word “fiery” and made possible by a $150,000 donation from FOZ, Anala, a 2-year-old Indian rhinoceros, officially became a member of the Baton Rouge Zoo family during an Aug. 21 ceremony.

“This is the single largest project that the Friends have undertaken,” FOZ Board President Ed Jimenez said. “We are happy to celebrate its completion today and we are honored to play a role of bringing Indian rhinos to Baton Rouge.”

Holding an actual sawed-off rhino horn, Zoo Curator of Education Jennifer Shields explained the importance of rhinos taking refuge in the United States, as elsewhere they often fall victim to poachers. She said poachers believe the horns hold special medicinal powers to cure everything from laryngitis to cancer and it’s why so many rhinos lose their lives each year.

“All species of rhinos are in trouble around the world because of horns,” Shields said. (The horn is) made out of the same thing as your fingernails and your hair so you’d get the same medicinal value if you chewed your nails.”

But while only containing keratin and actually worthless, in some countries, rhino horn is worth more than solid gold.

Zoo Director Phil Frost added to Shield’s commentary that while attending a conference, a researcher from Asia noted that over a 10-year period, more than 1,000 rangers were killed by poachers while in the line of duty. Baton Rouge Zoo along with FOZ are major donors in ranger support.

“It’s a war, it’s a battle for them to try to protect something like this, that we have today,” Frost said while motioning toward Anala.

Anala is a part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan, whose mission is to cooperatively manage specific, and typically threatened or endangered, species population within AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums, certified related facilities and approved non-member participants. The Baton Rouge Zoo is a member of the AZA and hopes to be able to breed Anala when she’s old enough to have a male partner.

But for right now, the playful 2-year-old ironically loves naps. She also understands the commands “move up”, “back up”, and “open”, all of which assist in her health screenings.

According to Zookeeper Kesei Kelly, who does a lot of work with Anala, her favorite thing is water.

“She absolutely loves water,” Kelly said. “I have not seen her get in the pool yet but she enjoys getting bathed and she loves grass.”

Coming from Miami, Anala is already conditioned for the Louisiana heat but Kelly said the staff does keep an eye on her to be sure the humidity isn’t too much for the young rhino.

The lifespan of the Indian rhinoceros is 20 to 30 years, so expect Anala to be in Baton Rouge for the long haul and maybe someday welcome a few baby rhinos as well.

What’s up with the cubs

The same day that Anala made her debut, the zoo’s new and long-awaited tiger cubs were just about to turn three weeks old. Finally standing on all fours, the baby-faced cats received a clean bill of health and weighed in at just more than four pounds. Baton Rouge country radio station 100.7 The Tiger has appropriately sponsored a “tiger cam” in conjunction with Manda Fine Meats to allow fans to catch rare glimpses of the two clumsy babies. Information about the official debut of the cubs has yet to be released.

Editor’s note: This story was changed on Aug. 29, 2014, to correct that it was Bozie the elephant that went to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C.