Posts Tagged ‘zebra’

by , Keeper
I've been at the museum since 2010. I love to read and learn; it's rare that a day goes by at work when I'm not suppressing the urge to spew out something cool I just learned to my coworkers. In my spare time, I play the 'cello, snuggle my dog and reminisce about snowmen and Nor'easters.
I work Sunday through Thursday. You can find me raking the Farmyard in the morning or training the donkey and dwarf goats in the afternoon.

Big Word of the Month: Flehmen Response

December 23rd, 2012
Zebra Flehmen

The Funny Face

Lion Face

The Stinky Face

Llama Flehmen

Impressing the Ladies

Chummix Flehmen

Testing the Air


Whatever you call it, if you have a pet cat at home (especially if it’s a male) you’ve likely seen this face before. It goes by many variations of the same name: Flehmen Response, Flehmen Position, Flehmen Reaction, or simply Flehming. Flehmen (pronounced: FLAY-men) Responses are used by a wide variety of  hoofstock (ungulates) and many cats (felids). Males and females, adults and babies, all exhibit this silly facial expression.

The silly look on the animal’s face helps to activate an organ that allows him or her to sense chemicals in the air; specifically pheromones. Pheromones are a chemical signal that passes useful social information to another animal of the same specie. The organ used is called the Vomeronasal organ (also called the Jacobson’s Organ). This organ is located in the nasal cavity of many animals, including fetal humans. It is the organ used by snakes and water turtles as their primary sense of smell, but in most other animals it is used in more of a secondary or social fashion. More animals use a Vomeronasal Organ to detect pheromones than those that display the Flehmen Response, like lemurs, salamanders, lizards, dogs and pigs.

The lip curl or grimace directs the inhaled air toward the Vomeronasal Organ, allowing it to pick up the chemicals in the air and let the animal know important information about what they’re smelling. Information like whether there’s a female nearby who’s looking to mate or simply to get a more complete understanding of a new smell they’re being introduced to. Lightning, the donkey, often exhibits Flehmen Response to new smells and Chummix, the Boer goat, does it after smelling his urine (it’s a male goat thing…).


Join the conversation:

  1. We just talked about this, when I got this response from Lightning because he smelled my Chapstick. Very fun.

    Posted by Ranger Ro
  2. Amazing things here. I’m very glad to see your article.
    Thank you so much and I’m having a look ahead to touch you.

    Will you kindly drop me a e-mail?

    Posted by web page

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by , Keeper
I have been working at the museum since 2003, and I feel fortunate to have a job where I can start my day with amazing animals surrounding me. I enjoy camping, hiking and rock climbing in my spare time when the weather is nice.
I work Tuesday through Saturday and spend a lot of time behind the scenes, but you might find me at a public program or feeding the farmyard animals in the afternoon.

Back from the conference…

September 29th, 2011

I got back from the AAZK conference earlier this month and it went well.  I heard some great paper presentations and  saw a lot of terrific things at the different facilities that we visited.  Now I have to find the time to put my information together so that I can present it all to my co-workers…

I said I would post some pictures from my trip to the AAZK conference in San Diego, and although I’m a little behind on it here they are.  I took over 900 pictures so it’s difficult to choose just a few for this post.

I was fortunate to be able to go on a post-conference trip to the California Wolf Center in Julian, CA . This is a Mexican grey wolf, the only wolf species that has fewer numbers than the red wolf. Wolves are my passion, so this was a treat.

Mexican grey wolf at the California Wolf Center in Julian, CA.

There were lots of behind-the-scenes tours , as well as training sessions like the one below with the zebra, that the San Diego Zoo scheduled for the conference delegates on the day we visited.  Apparently zebras can be hard to train because they are so nervous and skiddish, so I was quite impressed with the behaviors that this zebra could do.  The success of the training had a lot to do with the fact that the trainer bonded with the zebra at a young age, as well as the fact that the trainer had an extremely calm demeanor which transferred to the zebra being very calm as well.

Hoof maintenance is very important, so training an animal to willingly show his hooves for routine maintenance is typically one of the first things the trainer will try to teach.


Along with being taught behaviors that would help with vet care, the zebra also knew how to roll his toys across the yard, and even flip them end-over-end with his nose!

During lunch at Zoo Day, the keepers brought out some cool animals for the delegates to see.  I got to see a fossa up close, which is the main predator of lemurs in the wild. And I also got to see a pangolin, which is a very interesting looking mammal from the rain forests of Central Africa. To learn more about fossas and pangolins just click here and here.

This is a Pangolin, possibly the coolest animal I saw the entire time I was there!


This is the fossa. This guy was very high energy and hard to keep still for the keeper!

I also got a chance to visit Sea World in San Diego.  What a great facility!

A sea turtle at Sea World. Their exhibit was set up well, where the animals could swim over top of you and you could view them from underneath through glass. This turtle was huge, and beautiful!

Join the conversation:

  1. Maybe the Museum should get a pangolin ;)

    Posted by Courtney

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