Being a Mother is OTTER-ly Amazing

Discovery Cove, SeaWorld otters tell my love of being a momI’ll never forget my first Mother’s Day. My husband took me to breakfast with our new bundle of joy. He was so cute, and still at that age where you can strap him in the high chair. I took a bite for me, then cooed in my baby’s direction squeezing a toe or two, then talked with the hubs. Despite severe sleep-deprivation, I was incredibly happy and felt so fortunate to even have a child! (I only had a 30% chance of ever getting pregnant, so he was indeed my miracle.)

Mid-way through the meal, my little guy showed me with action (and lungs) that his diaper needed changing. Although my husband offered, I grabbed a nappy and a wipe from the bag and set off to take care of my “Number One’s” “number two.”

When I got into the bathroom, I discovered that something was rotten in Denmark, and Marcellus ’twas not anywhere to be found (nor any ghost for that matter, although I did lose a bit of color when I saw what was happening!). Not only did my little one do his business… he did it again. And again. This while I had just gotten him out of his old diaper and cleaned off using the one or two wipes I brought with me. (Did I mention I was holding him at arm’s length now, as the diaper changing station was —how shall we say this?!— unusable?)

At long last another guest needed the ladies room. Upon leaving she assured me she’d grab my man who was probably wondering if we had fallen in or something (seeing as we’d been gone a good 15 to 20 minutes by this time).

Long story short, I undressed him and put him in the sink where he began second (or was it third?) bath of the day!

I guess it’s like childbirth where I don’t remember the pain, only the smiles. Eventually my husband knocked on the door then came in to help with the “cleanup on aisle two.” The restaurant provided us with some cleaning rags and towels, and we thankfully had a spare outfit in the car. To this day we still laugh about my first Mother’s Day. It’s the hardest job I’ve ever had. It’s also the one with the most love.

In honor of Mother’s Day, I made an eCard to share. Although my little guy has no siblings to chase like the cute otters in the video, he can still be full of mischief on occasion. As the mommy, though, I just see love, forgive him, and do my best to guide him in right choices. And, yes, I DO think he’s as cute as those little guys!

The river otters were caught on film at a recent visit to
Discovery Cove by SeaWorld,

If you enjoy this video, please consider making a donation to the
SeaWorld Busch Gardens Conservation Fund.

Busch Gardens Welcomes Baby White Rhino

Baby Rhino born at Busch GardensKirisi the white rhinoceros gave birth to her second calf, a female, on Tuesday, October 23, 2012 at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.

Baby Rhino born at Busch GardensWeighing in at around 140 pounds, the newborn will gain about four pounds a day. At maturity she’ll weigh between 3,500 and 4,000 pounds. The calf’s father is Tambo. This is his seventh time being a father. This is Busch Gardens seventh baby white rhino since 2004.

Baby Rhino nurses mother Kisiri

Busch Gardens is part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP), a collaborative program with a goal of sustainability and genetic diversity to ensure the health and continued longevity of an animal population, especially those that urgently need to be protected in the wild.

According to Busch Gardens, “Kisiri, Tambo and another female white rhino were airlifted from Kruger National Park in South Africa in 2001 through the efforts of the International Rhino Foundation (IRF), a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of rhinos. Fewer than 15,000 white rhinos remain in the wild, and approximately 200 live in zoological facilities across North America.”

Since its inception in 2003, The SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund
has granted $7 million USD to more than 500 projects in the U.S. and around the world, including $194,000 USD grants to rhino conservation projects. The Fund
was created by SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment and is a registered
501(c)(3) non-profit charitable foundation dedicated to supporting
environmental and wildlife conservation initiatives.

SeaWorld Busch Gardens Conservation Fund — Ewaso Lion Project

Julie Scardina, Animal Ambassador for SeaWorld, Busch Gardens and Discovery Cove, has been to every continent visiting the various projects supported through the SeaWorld Busch Gardens Conservation Fund. She took time out of her busy schedule for an interview. This is the first in a series of articles on projects funded by the SWBGCF.

Ewaso Lion Cubs

Close your eyes and think of Africa. Think of the animals roaming… the orange hues of the setting sun… magnificent beasts waiting to pounce. No doubt in your mind you imagined a lion stalking his prey, crouching, waiting. Maybe you pictured one sleeping lazily with cubs nearby, adorable, and yet formidable. The lion, proud, powerful, elegant… the very symbol of a continent. And yet, according to The Ewaso Lions project, they may be extinct in Kenya in 20 years. Today, a mere 2,000 lions live in Kenya with only  40,000 in all of Africa.

“The African lion population has declined by 30-50% in the past 20 years
and lions have disappeared from at least 83% of their historical range in Africa.”¹

There are many reasons the lion population is decreasing: loss of habitat, conflict issues, and even trophy hunting take their toll, as does population growth and, with it, increased numbers of cattle.

To accurately assess how serious the problem is, and to help stop the lion population decline, the Ewaso Lions Project² was founded in 2007 by Shivani Bhalla, a Kenyan national who worked previously with the Save the Elephants foundation in Samburu.

Ewaso Lions project

Julie Scardina and Shivani Bhalla venture to the Samburu Reserve

Tag and measure lion Ewaso Lion projectJulie Scardina has visited Shivani Bhalla and her team, at the Ewaso Lion project. They are “collaring and measuring the lions,” says Scardina, “and finding out the areas where they roam and where they live to find out what they need, specifically, in order to increase their population.” Identifying human/animal clashes is another important mission of the project.

Shivani Bhalla takes local children, many of whom who have NEVER seen a lion, on photo safaris as part of the Ewaso Lion education program. Photo courtesy Ewaso Lions

Education is key in avoiding and reducing conflict, Scardina emphasizes. The project “helps create more awareness about the benefits of having predators in the landscape… that having wildlife, in general, helps an environment and an ecosystem to thrive.” This idea is contrary to what many believe. Some see the wild animals as competing with their livestock and a threat to their way of life. “In reality the ecosystem is healthier” when each level of the food chain is present.

Without predators, there is no culling of the weak, injured, sick and old members of the prey population. Adds Julie, “If it’s not the strongest breeding, you’re breeding a weaker species which isn’t going to be able to compete with other—even grazers—in the future.”

Photo courtesy Ewaso Lions

To help educate the community, Bhalla employs mostly local scouts including Samburu warriors from the area. These tribesmen have learned how to use GPS and other tracking devices, as well as using “camera traps” and keeping notes on animal activity.

People in this region are responding to the message of conservation. Young men who previously killed wildlife are now passionate supporters since learning the integral connection between them and their native land.

Warrior Watch, Ewaso Lion Project

Samburu Warriors did not, at first, understand how conservation would benefit them. Now they protect wildlife in the bush. Photo courtesy Ewaso Lions

The message to the locals is, “they need not fear or dislike lions,” says Scardina, “they have true value… and are part of their heritage and their history, and ultimately their future. Lions represent the strength, and the bravery, and the courage of their warriors. They learn that they can protect their prized possessions [cattle] and keep their loved ones safe. It is, in a way, harder in the short run  to live with predators in your area, but they realize in the long run… if they didn’t help and participate… that it would be a very different future for their community and for their children.”

Click here to see a video highlighting the Ewaso Lion Project.

The next time you are at one of the SeaWorld Parks, consider donating to the SeaWorld Busch Bardens Conservation Fund, or click on the link on this page. All money, one hundred percent, goes to partners in the field.

¹Ewaso Lion Project, website.

² For the past few years, funded in part by a grant made possible through contributions to the SeaWorld Busch Gardens Conservation Fund.