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Zebras in Major American Zoos

Discussion in 'United States' started by snowleopard, 9 Oct 2021.

  1. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    The book that I cowrote, titled America’s Top 100 Zoos & Aquariums, contains reviews and photos of 80 zoos and 20 aquariums. There are 66 out of the 80 zoos that currently display zebras. I was surprised to learn that more of America’s best zoos (71) had giraffes than zebras. Part of that is surely due to the fact that zebras cannot always be adequately maintained in mixed-species savannas, due to the temperament of the animals. By contrast, giraffes are placid, docile creatures that can pretty much be put in with anything that has hooves.

    The 10 weekly lists that I've done so far:

    71 out of the 80 zoos have giraffes
    66 out of the 80 zoos have zebras
    61 out of the 80 zoos have rhinos
    54 out of the 80 zoos have elephants
    48 out of the 80 zoos have penguins (plus 16 out of 20 aquariums)
    47 out of the 80 zoos have orangutans
    45 out of the 80 zoos have gorillas
    35 out of the 80 zoos have pinnipeds (plus 12 out of 20 aquariums)
    25 out of the 80 zoos have chimpanzees (plus 7 zoos have bonobos)
    22 out of the 80 zoos have common hippos (plus 12 have pygmy hippos)

    The 14 zoos (in the book) that do not have zebras:

    Akron
    Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
    Cameron Park
    Central Park
    Fresno Chaffee
    Henry Vilas
    John Ball
    Minnesota
    Oregon
    Point Defiance
    Rosamond Gifford
    Santa Barbara
    Topeka
    Tulsa – had them when I visited in 2010 and will add them back to the collection in the next few years

    Of the zoos that don’t have zebras, many are relatively small zoos (Akron, ASDM, Central Park, Henry Vilas, John Ball, Point Defiance, Santa Barbara, Topeka) that all lack a big African Savanna. Minnesota and Rosamond Gifford are similar in that they have large outdoor loops that focus almost exclusively on cold-weather species. The biggest surprise for me is Fresno Chaffee Zoo, but there are apparently no zebras anywhere at that establishment.

    My 10 favourite zebra exhibits in American zoos (alphabetical ranking):

    Binder Park
    Busch Gardens
    Columbus
    Dallas
    Disney’s Animal Kingdom
    Fort Worth
    North Carolina
    Omaha
    San Diego Zoo Safari Park
    San Francisco
     
  2. Neil chace

    Neil chace Well-Known Member

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    It's interesting how there is only one major zoo, Smithsonian National Zoo, that keeps zebras and does not keep giraffes.
     
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  3. birdsandbats

    birdsandbats Well-Known Member

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    What zoos keep which species?
     
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  4. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    That is a good point and the zoo's last giraffe left 15 years ago. I've had conversations with zoo nerds who live outside of North America and they expect the zoo in the capital of the United States to have all the major species. It is interesting to note that the Smithsonian's National Zoo lacks giraffes, rhinos, hippos, chimpanzees and penguins. Those are extremely popular, notable animals to be omitted from a "national" zoo.

    @birdsandbats I did not do a complete breakdown of which species of zebra is at which zoo, but that could be a research job for someone else. :)
     
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  5. TinoPup

    TinoPup Well-Known Member

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    Zebras are likely the most commonly kept ungulate in the US.
     
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  6. Dhole dude

    Dhole dude Well-Known Member

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    How many holders do you have currently? I would assume it would be well into the hundreds (and likely two hundreds as well).
     
  7. TinoPup

    TinoPup Well-Known Member

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    Not accounting for overlaps (zoos with multiple species), it's at around 350.

    It's too late to edit my last post, I should have specified non-domestic ungulate, as well.
     
  8. Gondwana

    Gondwana Well-Known Member

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    Pretty sure Toledo does not have zebras at the moment either; its savanna exhibit is currently split into sections for a hodgepodge of different African and Eurasian species where I don't think zebras would play nice.

    It's interesting to see how availability of alternative species seems to hold down numbers for some of these animals but not others. The various great apes are clearly competing with one another for example. But then zebras are ubiquitous even though there are other readily available endangered equid species that could use additional holders. Going down the list of non-zebra zoos I think the only ones that keep wild equids are Minnesota (Przewalski's Horse) and Henry Vilas (Somali Wild Ass). I wonder how much of the popularity of zebras can be chalked up to name recognition compared to other equids, vs how much can be chalked up to being striped, vs how much can be chalked up to fitting into one of the most popular exhibit themes (African Savanna).
     
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  9. TinoPup

    TinoPup Well-Known Member

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    I think it's a combination of recognition - everyone knows what a zebra is! - and how easy, and cheap, they are to obtain.
     
  10. LionTamarin

    LionTamarin Well-Known Member

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    Where do you get all this info for the database?
     
  11. Dhole dude

    Dhole dude Well-Known Member

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    He gets it from a combination of visiting theses places & USDA inspections.
     
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  12. TinoPup

    TinoPup Well-Known Member

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    She ;) But that's the correct answer. I keep up with all USDA inspections and have spreadsheets for carnivores and now ungulates. We're slowly working on the ungulates one, I added a ton of new places to it and we're trying to confirm each entry before doing a full thread update. I also go to a lot of less visited zoos.
     
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  13. Dhole dude

    Dhole dude Well-Known Member

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    Oops! Sorry about that @TinoPup!
     
  14. LionTamarin

    LionTamarin Well-Known Member

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    How do you get the USDA inspections tho?
     
  15. TinoPup

    TinoPup Well-Known Member

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    It's okay, I know my username is confusing :) Tino is my dog.

    There's a government website that posts them all. It's a lot to go through, though, so I'm the only one that stays up to date on them for every place, I think.
     
  16. LionTamarin

    LionTamarin Well-Known Member

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    May I please have a link?
     
  17. Aardwolf

    Aardwolf Well-Known Member

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    There are about 70 facilities participating in the plains zebra SSP, about 30 in the Grevy's, and about 20 in the mountain. These figures include AZA members as well as sustainability partners, and leaves out the many, many other holders, especially of plains.
     
  18. Coelacanth18

    Coelacanth18 Well-Known Member Premium Member

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  19. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Well-Known Member

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    I thought Fresno had zebras in a side yard next to the main savanna when @snowleopard and I visited? Or maybe the director told us they were going to put them there but they never did? Zebras are of course commonplace in non-AZA facilities as well, especially drive-thru parks.
     
  20. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Well-Known Member

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    Going back to the initial list of various hoofstock, I am surprised there are so many zoos with elephants. (In my opinion there should not be because almost every elephant exhibit is inadequate IMO, but that is another topic).
     
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