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Smithsonian's National Zoo  The Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute is a leader in animal care & conservation biology.


❄️ There’s no otter way we’d rather spend our #snowday! 🌨

California sea lions' ears are valvular and close when they are in water. However, these pinnipeds can hear quite well both above and below the water's surface! Meet a marine mammal on American Trail every day at 11:15 a.m. PLAN YOUR VISIT: https://nationalzoo.si.edu/visit/daily-events.

They may not be able to breathe 🔥, but Komodo dragons do have unique adaptations. Venom ducts in their lower jaws release a special toxin which prevents their victim’s blood from clotting, causing massive blood loss and shock. They can also weigh up to 300 pounds, grow to 10 feet long and run up to 13 miles per hour #AppreciateADragonDay

Asian water dragons, like many lizards, have a pineal eye—a light-sensitive spot on the top of their head that acts as a “third eye” and allows them to regulate their body temperate, assists in hormone production and senses changes in light overhead. And they are great swimmers! When threatened, they seek refuge in water and can stay submerged underwater for up to 25 minutes. #AppreciateADragonDay

🦎❤️Despite their name, chameleon forest dragons aren’t actually chameleons! They get their name from their amazing natural camouflage and their ability to shift from lighter to darker shades depending on their environment. Try and spot one at the Reptile Discovery Center in honor of Appreciate a Dragon Day! #AppreciateADragonDay

When dama gazelles jump with all four hooves in the air, it’s called stotting. Our herd—including calves Omari, Asha and Kamal—can be seen stotting together in the mornings.
Dama gazelles are critically endangered. There are only about 500 left in the wild. At the Zoo and the #SmithsonianConservationBiologyInstitute we breed the species to build an insurance population, and we’re studying their reproductive biology. #WeSaveSpecies

The elephant-nose knifefish pokes its long snout into crevices and beneath leaves, searching for prey. Using its pincer-like teeth, the fish grabs a wriggling morsel, then slurps it up! See them in Amazonia's Electric Fishes Demonstration Lab.

PLAN YOUR VISIT: https://nationalzoo.si.edu/visit/daily-events.

“Creating enrichment can be a big job! Fire hose is very durable and can be woven into different designs, including as hammocks, balls, feeders and platforms. The Enrichment and Training Committee hosts workshops in which many keepers get together and construct large-scale items that animals at the Zoo and Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute can play with and enjoy. In this photo, sloth bear Remi rests in a hammock crafted by keepers.”-Hilary Colton, animal keeper

“Training animals to do husbandry behaviors on cue is another way keepers care for animals. At the Zoo, we use operant conditioning and positive reinforcement training, which means that animals have the choice to participate in training sessions or to walk away.

Reptile Discovery Center keepers have trained this crocodile to move to a desired location and touch her nose to a target at the end of a pole. When she does the behavior asked of her, keepers reward her with food. They do this training several times a week; the animal knows that she will receive a reward for approaching the target. This allows keepers to safely observe the animal and look for any cuts, scrapes or other signs that she may need a visit from the Zoo’s veterinarians.”-Hilary Colton (Read the full story; link in our profile.)

“What’s that smell? Spices, extracts, fur and other scents—from the aromatic to the pungent—are scattered around animal habitats, encouraging them to sniff and explore. Many mammals spend a lot of time scent marking in areas where keepers deposit the olfactory stimuli, keeping them entertained for extended periods. In this photo, African lion Luke investigates a log that Great Cats staff sprinkled with pumpkin spice.”-Hilary Colton, animal keeper (Read the full story; link in our profile.)

“Encouraging animals’ natural behaviors can sometimes be as simple as adding elements found in nature to their Zoo habitats. Asian elephants cover themselves in dirt and sand to protect their skin from the sun. When we added large piles of sand in the yards and Elephant Community Center, it offered them a new form of tactile enrichment. The girls had a blast rolling around!”-Hilary Colton, animal keeper (Read the full story; link in our profile.)

Enriching toys, environments, foods and experiences abound at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo as part of the Animal Enrichment and Training Program. Learn how animal care staff encourage the Zoo’s residents to use their natural behaviors from keeper Hilary Colton. “Enrichment can be social, cognitive, environmental, sensory or food-related. Ideally, enrichment items or activities will fall under more than one of those categories. For example, keepers presented the blue-billed curassow pictured above with a feeder ball. They hide grapes (food) inside, and the bird must manipulate the ball to roll them out (cognitive).”-Hilary Colton, animal keeper

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