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HomeMatchmaking Zoo Style: Part Two
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Matchmaking Zoo Style: Part Two

Categories: Animals
Sumatran Orangutan
Cheli and a photo of Indah

This is the second of a four-part blog series following Indah as she moves from the Houston Zoo to the Sacramento Zoo. Read part one.

Just as preparing to move your family to a new state requires a lot of coordination, so does moving an animal from one zoo to another. The Sacramento Zoo and the Houston Zoo have been preparing for Indah’s move to the Sacramento Zoo for quite some time.

The process begins with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Sumatran Orangutan Species Survival Plan® (SSP) recommendation. After the SSP recommendation, Indah’s caretakers began training her for the move to California. As a first step, she was trained to enter a shipping crate when asked, and to allow keepers to close the door once she was inside. “We want Indah to get comfortable in the crate since she will be traveling in it for a large amount of time,” said Tammy Buhrmester, Primate Zookeeper at the Houston Zoo.

Have you ever wondered why the Sacramento Zoo never gives an official date for when an animal is leaving or arriving at the Zoo? One of the reasons is because, as we say around here, everything is fluid until the animal is in place at the new facility. This is because there are a lot of moving parts to transferring an animal. Below are some of the steps of the process, which is very similar for most animal moves, that will occur prior to Indah being transported to the Sacramento Zoo:

Sumatran Orangutan
Indah

• Sacramento Zoo and Houston Zoo both agree to the AZA Species Survival Plan® recommendation for their animals (a zoo always has the choice to deny a specific recommendation and work toward another solution).

• A legal contract is drawn up between the zoos.

• Sacramento Zoo veterinarians read through Indah’s medical history to become familiar with previous and potential future health issues.

• Veterinarians from the Sacramento Zoo send a pre-shipment exam request to the Houston Zoo with specific things they would like carried out during the exam (bloodwork, x-rays etc.).

• After the pre-shipment exam is completed, veterinarians from both zoos review the exam results and have the chance to request further tests if necessary or agree to the transfer.

• A permit to bring Indah into California is filed with the California Department of Public Health and is secured prior to transfer. After Indah clears that standard 30-day quarantine at the Sacramento Zoo and is deemed in good health by the Zoo’s veterinary team, the CA DPH will issue permission to release from quarantine.

• An Animal Data Transfer form is created by the Houston zookeepers and is sent to zookeepers at the Sacramento Zoo. The form contains information we will need to care for Indah. It includes her diet, training, reproductive history, social history, how she is housed at Houston, what motivates her, what she does not like, and more.

• A copy of Indah’s personal history records will be sent to the Sacramento Zoo.

• In accordance with UDSA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service guidelines, a record of transport form will be generated by the Houston Zoo and travel with Indah. Upon arrival, the form will be completed by the Sacramento Zoo staff, and a copy will be sent back to the Houston Zoo. Both zoos will keep copies of the forms on file.

• The zoos will make transportation arrangements. This includes specific mode of travel, staff scheduling logistics, vehicle preparations and other plans to ensure a safe and secure transfer. The general rule of thumb is that the zoo receiving the animal pays for the transportation costs.

• Just before the move, Houston Zoo veterinarians will sign a health certificate that will travel with Indah.

Two Sumatran Orangutans
Cheli and Makan

While Indah is being prepared for the move, both zoos are filling out paperwork and information sharing. The Sacramento Zoo will also be making modifications in the Ape House to better suit three orangutans and their introductions to each other.

Sacramento Zookeepers are walking through various scenarios regarding Indah’s arrival. Which den will she sleep in? Will it be better to introduce her to Makan or Cheli first? Sacramento Zoo and Houston Zoo keepers have also been sharing videos of Makan and Indah back and forth, preparing the Sacramento Zoo’s team for Indah’s personality and her preferences. Collaboration and communication is encouraged and occurs heavily between the keepers from both zoos. They care deeply about the animals under their care, and the cooperative planning ensures the best transfer scenario for these animals.

Stay tuned for part three of this four-part blog series and for details about when you can see Indah at the Sacramento Zoo.