Alaska Air Cargo

Why Alaska Air Cargo is one of Tacoma zoo’s top choices to provide smooth travel for ruffed lemur, muskox and other animals

Photos courtesy of the Point Defiance Zoo, Tacoma

Volana is the newest black-and-white ruffed lemur at Tacoma’s Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, and she’s already leading a conspiracy. 

Groups of lemurs, called a “conspiracy” because they conspire to outwit predators, are matriarchal societies, and Volana embraced her role soon after meeting the two males who share her habitat in the zoo’s Kids’ Zone. “Volana leads the conspiracy of three with a calm authority, and the air of an individual who was born to lead (and not follow),” said Natalie Davis, Animal Curator at Point Defiance.

Volana’s flight from Omaha (OMA) to Seattle (SEA) in May made her the newest Point Defiance resident to travel via Alaska Air Cargo, which has been the zoo’s first choice for commercial air cargo transport of small to mid-sized mammals for more than 10 years. Zoo and aquarium staff depend on our cargo team to ship species from almost every family in the animal kingdom: animals, birds, fish – including sharks and rays – and aquatic invertebrates like corals. We even flew a baby muskox from Prudhoe Bay (SCC) to his new home at the zoo; Hudson, now all grown up, is the father of two young muskoxen.

“Alaska Air has flights leaving from Seattle and headed direct to most major airports throughout the United States,” said Emily Mattox, Animal Records and Regulatory Affairs Administrator for Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. “We value the ability to get our animals from point A to point B with minimal flights and flight time.”

Volana was prepared for travel at her previous home at an Iowa zoo. Keepers there gave the primate time to explore her travel crate, which conformed to the live animal regulations of the International Air Transport Association (IATA). IATA sets unique crate sizes and specifications for every species, and Volana learned to see her crate as a cozy, safe place.

“Knowing the Alaska Air Cargo staff treated her as a VIP during transport likely helped her feel less stressed.”

Natalie Davis, Animal Curator at Point Defiance Zoo

The zoo relies on our cargo team’s caring service to meet animals’ special needs while traveling – including providing extra privacy, ensuring priority loading and unloading at the aircraft, and following up with prompt communications around flight delays. “It seems that the team at Alaska takes great pride in helping zoo animals have a safe and comfortable journey as they travel to new homes,” Davis said.

Volana’s name means “moon” in Malagasy, the language of her native Madagascar, where black-and-white ruffed lemurs are listed as critically endangered under the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to hunting and habitat loss, the zoo said.

“Conservation takes flight as Alaska Air delivers a first-class journey, ensuring the best possible care for our VIP animal passengers through dedication and compassion to support each animal’s wellbeing.” Mattox said.

Learn more about how live animals travel on Alaska Air Cargo

Volana in her new home at the Point Defiance Zoo’s Kids Zone.
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