Pets and Beasts

Monday, June 29, 2020

Critical of critical habitat: Endangered turtle haven abuts border wall

Posted By on Mon, Jun 29, 2020 at 11:00 AM

  • Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
PHOENIX – Nearly three years after it won endangered species status, the Sonoyta mud turtle was granted 12.3 acres of protected habitat this week – but supporters worry that that habitat may no longer provide all the protection the turtles need.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday designated an area in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, in the turtle’s historic territory in the Rio Sonoyta watershed, as protected.

But that habitat bumps right against the U.S.-Mexico border, where one expert said construction crews “are pulling huge amounts of water out of the aquifer” to work on the border wall.

Critics worry that the pumping will eventually affect the Quitobaquito springs and pond, which the turtles have depended on for what experts think could be thousands of years. The pond sits around 100 yards from the site of the planned border wall.

“They are pulling huge amounts of water out of the aquifer to mix concrete and to spray on the roads to keep dust down, and it’s only a matter of time before the flow that reaches the surface of the spring there fails,” said Randy Serraglio, southwest conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity.

“When that happens, then that’s it. The aquatic habitat dries up and the turtle will die,” Serraglio said.

The border wall is just one issue the turtle faces in the middle of the desert, where Serraglio said over-pumping, water diversion and 20 years of drought conditions also pose threats.

Continue reading »

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Cattle damage to Arizona’s Verde River spurs legal action

Posted By on Thu, Jun 25, 2020 at 10:00 AM

The Verde River is home to the rare loach minnow and another small fish, the spikedace, and birds protected under the Endangered Species Act, including the yellow-billed cuckoo and the southwestern willow flycatcher. (Photo courtesy of Joe Trudeau, Center for Biological Diversity)
  • The Verde River is home to the rare loach minnow and another small fish, the spikedace, and birds protected under the Endangered Species Act, including the yellow-billed cuckoo and the southwestern willow flycatcher. (Photo courtesy of Joe Trudeau, Center for Biological Diversity)
PHOENIX – It’s a tale of two rivers: The Verde, which flows south from near Flagstaff to metro Phoenix, and the San Pedro, which begins in Mexico and flows north to Winkelman.

In some ways, the rivers differ drastically. The San Pedro is one of the last undammed rivers in the Southwest, while the Verde has many dams, including Horseshoe and Bartlett northeast of Phoenix. Parts of the Verde are protected under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act – protections the San Pedro doesn’t share.

But for all the differences, there are many similarities. Both have diverse ecosystems that are home to many endangered wildlife species, including the southwestern willow flycatcher and loach minnow. Both have felt the effects of increased groundwater pumping and cattle grazing. And, just recently, both have been at the center of lawsuits filed to protect each river.

“The story of Arizona rivers is that we have demonstrated many times that we can dry them up, but we haven’t demonstrated that we can save them,” said Sandy Bahr, the director of the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter.

In this two-part series, Cronkite News takes a deep dive into these two Arizona rivers and the threats they face.

Part 1: The Verde
At almost 60, Jon Fuller would rather be canoeing the Verde than sitting in a reclining chair. The author of “Verde River Elegy: A Paddling Journey to the River’s End,” Fuller has studied rivers for almost four decades. During his journey down the Verde in 2017, Fuller witnessed cattle grazing along the banks.

“The cows drop their droppings on the campsite, on the river,” he said. He points out the irony of having to carry his own waste, in accordance with the law, while seeing far more waste from what he calls unregulated cattle. Cattle also erode river banks and sandbars, and eat large amounts of streamside vegetation.

“It turns out most wilderness areas have exemptions for cattle grazing, although they should not be in the river corridor themselves, according to the rules the federal government agreed to,” Fuller said. “Yet there they were.”

Continue reading »

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Reid Park announced the passing of African lion Shombay

Posted By on Wed, Jun 24, 2020 at 2:10 PM

  • Courtesy Reid Park Zoo
Tucson’s Reid Park Zoo said “goodbye” to one of its animals Wednesday when the organization announced the passing of Shombay the African lion. Shombay lived to 12 and was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease in 2016.

“Losing Shombay is particularly difficult for our team,” said Dr. Sue Tygielski, Director of Zoo Operations, in the zoo’s announcement. “Our animal care and veterinary teams worked so hard to encourage him to participate in training sessions to help save his life. When he received these additional fluids, he would act more energetic. The team could see clear evidence of how their skills and dedication helped Shombay. They are all proud to have worked with him and our zoo is so lucky to have such dedicated staff.”

According to the zoo, the lion’s recent blood tests showed a decline in kidney function, and “he was not participating in fluid sessions.”

“These factors combined contributed to the zoo’s decision to humanely euthanize him on Wednesday morning,” the zoo stated.

Shombay landed at Reid Park Zoo in 2010, when he was 2 years old. Known as a cautious lion, Shomby was well known for investigating new habitats before making himself comfortable—and longtime patrons may remember the mohawk he once sported in his youth.

Shombay and Kaya, a female lion at the zoo, were responsible for the birth of several litters of cubs. Their 6-year-old, Nayo, lives at Reid Park.

“We expect their behaviors to be different in the near future as they adapt to life without Shombay,” Animal Care Supervisor Rebecca Edwards said. “Our team will do all we can to make the transition as easy as possible.”

Friday, June 19, 2020

PACC Foster Volunteer Liz Johnson Recognized as One of 22 National Foster Heroes

Posted By on Fri, Jun 19, 2020 at 7:30 AM

National Foster Hero Liz Johnson - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • National Foster Hero Liz Johnson
People are passionate about their fur-babies. Big or small, furry or slimy, silent or loud, people love animals and see them as part of their families.

Unfortunately, not all creatures get to share in the love and get left behind, forgotten about, or worse. If they're lucky, they make it to centers like Pima Animal Care Center where they sit and wait for their forever homes.

This can be super stressful for the animal, who only wants to feel safe and comfortable. Instead, they're crowded around other animals they don't know in conditions they're not familiar with, hoping that someone will notice them and take them in.

Enter people like Liz Johnson. Liz volunteers with PACC by fostering some of these animals until someone is willing to give them their home and heart. And now, she's being recognized for her efforts.

Continue reading »

Friday, May 8, 2020

Desert Museum Renews Association of Zoos and Aquariums Accreditation

Posted By on Fri, May 8, 2020 at 12:30 PM

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum received a strong vote of confidence this week when it was granted accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums independent accreditation commission.

The association is a nonprofit organization “dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, animal welfare, education, science and recreation” and acts as the accrediting body for zoos and aquariums in the United States and 11 other countries.

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum was founded in 1952, and today contains more than 4,800 living animals spanning more than 240 species. The museum is also home to more than 56,000 plants of 1,200 taxa and an impressive mineral and fossil collection.

“I, the Board of Trustees, and all the staff and volunteers of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum are extremely pleased to hear that the Museum has, once again, earned accreditation through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums,” said museum executive director Craig Ivanyi, in a statement. “The AZA is the gold standard for the zoological industry and maintaining accreditation is critical to the credibility of the Museum and all its sister organizations, as we remain steadfastly focused on our critical conservation mission.”

Continue reading »

Thursday, May 7, 2020

If You're Suffering Financial Hardship, PACC Might Be Able To Help You Cover Medical Expenses for Your Pet

Posted By on Thu, May 7, 2020 at 3:00 PM

The Pima Animal Care Center and Friends of PACC have $15,000 in the bank to help cover veterinary expenses for those who qualify for aid after a donation from the Banfield and South Fork foundations.

Pets living in a home facing financial hardship will benefit from the funding through the shelters assistance program.

“PACC now has an opportunity to help people and pets impacted by COVID,” said director Kristen Hassen. “We are here to help pets owned by people who have gotten sick or faced financial distress in this unprecedented event.”

Funding will provide aid for those facing hardship due to illness, job loss, financial insecurity or any other challenge related to COVID-19. Referrals for aid are made through the shelter’s partner groups, and PACC hopes to expand its pilot program as more funding becomes available.

During the pandemic, PACC is only allowing residents to enter the shelter by appointment. For more information, visit

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Dairy Farmers Forced to Adjust Their Practices During COVID-19 Pandemic

Posted By on Tue, Apr 21, 2020 at 11:30 AM

  • Jacqueline Kuder
Shocking videos of dairy farmers dumping thousands of gallons of milk have been circulating on the internet, as the coronavirus outbreak has forced dairy farmers across the country to dump their excess milk supply to offset their losses and keep prices stable.

Arizona dairy farmers have taken part in this dumping process to help stay afloat. With demand for milk down from stay at home orders shutting down schools and restaurants, farmers are trying to reduce surpluses they can’t afford to produce and hold onto, while also maintaining prices for consumers. Cooperatives, including the United Dairymen of Arizona, have been working to help their farmers survive.

“We have about 12 million pounds of milk a day and we’re dumping about a million a day,” said Keith Murfield, CEO of the United Dairymen of Arizona.

The co-op is losing about $160,000 a day by dumping milk from approximately 70 member farms, Murfield said. The milk, however, is not being entirely wasted in the dumping process and is being run through digesters that convert it into such products as gas and electricity in some places. Other excess milk is fed to the cows and young livestock.

“You just can’t dump it on the ground, you got to be careful where you put it,” Murfield said.

Continue reading »

Monday, April 20, 2020

Reid Park Zoo Welcomes Five Meerkat Pups

Posted By on Mon, Apr 20, 2020 at 2:04 PM

  • Courtesy Reid Park Zoo
In the early morning hours of Thursday, April 9, the staff at the Reid Park Zoo performing rounds discovered three adult meerkats huddled around squirming legs—the excited gesticulations of five newborn pups.

The meerkats are the first-ever of the species born at the zoo and came only three days after the zoo announced the birth of a 295-pound African elephant calf.

“We are proud of our new little family and can’t wait for the pups to make their public debut,” said Nancy Kluge, president, and CEO of Reid Park Zoo, in a statement.

According to the zoo, meerkat pups are largely helpless for the first few weeks of life because they are born with both eyes shut ears and very little hair. Adults share child-rearing roles.

According to Animal Care Supervisor Adam Ramsey, all three adults, who are also first-time parents, are “doing an excellent job of parenting.”

“Both females are nursing, grooming and cuddling the babies to keep them warm,” Ramsey said.

The species arrived at the zoo in 2017 as part of a breeding recommendation in cooperation with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Meerkats are a member of the mongoose family and are found in the desert and grasslands of Africa.

Even though the zoo is closed to the public, you can still check in on the animals through virtual visits on the Reid Park Zoo’s social media accounts and at

Popular Content

© 2020 Tucson Weekly | 7225 Mona Lisa Rd. Ste. 125, Tucson AZ 85741 | (520) 797-4384 | Powered by Foundation