Rising to the occasion · Junior forward Kristen Simon was named to the All-Pac-12 Team after leading USC in scoring and rebounding this year – Jo Danielle Esteban | Daily TrojanThree Trojans garnered All-Pac-12 honors on Tuesday as the women’s basketball team continued preparations for its conference tournament, which begins on Thursday with a game against Cal.Junior forward Kristen Simon was named to the All-Pac-12 Team, while senior guard Courtney Jaco was an honorable mention for the All-Pac-12 and All-Defensive teams. Freshman guard Minyon Moore rounded out the trio, earning a spot on the All-Freshman Team.Simon is USC’s leading scorer and rebounder this season, and her spot on the All-Pac-12 Team is the first all-conference honor of her career. Simon was named Pac-12 Player of the Week on Dec. 5, and she has notched 10 double-doubles so far this campaign, leading the Trojans in scoring in 10 games and pacing the team in rebounds on 19 occasions. Simon also won Most Valuable Player at the Great Alaska Shootout in November, as she led the Trojans to victories over Missouri State and Portland.Senior captain Jaco nabbed her second consecutive All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention this year (the All-Defensive Honorable Mention was the first of her career). The guard provides plenty of offense for the Trojans as the No. 2 all-time 3-point scorer in program history, and four more baskets from beyond the arc will tie her career high of 72 3-point makes in one season. But Jaco was also honored for her defense this year (she averages over a steal per game) and for her role as a workhorse, as she leads USC in minutes played.Moore is the youngest member of the trio of all-conference Trojans, and she has already made her mark at USC. Moore was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Week twice this season — most recently last week — and was the first player in program history to be selected as the USBWA National Freshman of the Week. Her 15 assists against Sacramento State in December was the second-highest single-game tally in USC history, and Moore leads her team in both steals (2.0) and assists (4.0) per game.With this trio of stars in their lineup, the Trojans will now look to make a Cinderella run in the Pac-12 Tournament. Nine-seed USC will hope to edge Cal in the first round before upsetting top-seeded Oregon State in the quarterfinals. The Trojans’ tournament opener against the Bears tips off in Seattle at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday.
A brown bear stretching out at the Alaska Zoo, June 20, 2017 (Photo: Zachariah Hughes, Alaska Public Media)The Alaska Zoo has dramatically transformed over the last five decades. Its origins are with an Anchorage grocer who won a baby elephant in a contest sponsored by a paper company. The two-year-old elephant, Annabelle, was kept in a heated stall at a horse ranch in South Anchorage, and over the years a zoo grew up around her.That process of expanding a collection of rare animals isn’t easy. None the less, there have been some acquisitions lately. The process of integrating new wildlife into the facility combines non-profit budgeting with the whims of mother nature.Listen nowOn a recent weekday afternoon under a mild drizzle, a mother musk ox named Maya chomped on branches, while her tiny new daughter nibbled at a pile of Fireweed tossed in their pen.“This one was born here, and her name is Sarah Elizabeth,” Patrick Lampi, the zoo’s executive director, said.Sarah Elizabeth, a month-and-a-half old musk ox at the Alaska Zoo, June 20, 2017 (Photo: Zachariah Hughes, Alaska Public Media)The long-legged musk ox toddler was born right around Mother’s Day last month. And Lampi said that of all the ways his zoo acquires new animals, births like this are the rarest.“We have a pretty limited breeding program here,” Lampi said. But he added that when it comes to musk oxen “we know there is a need for them.”What Lampi means is that a lot of zoos around the world want one of these hearty prehistoric goats. But they’re hard to come by. And though zoos can’t sell animals to one another, there is a system in place that facilitates global exchange. The last musk ox born to Maya was sent down to the Port Defiance Zoo in Tacoma.But the majority of new animals that arrive at the Alaska Zoo are wildlife rescues. That includes a different baby musk ox living just a few dozen feet away. He was orphaned from a herd in Nome, where the males kept chasing him off.“It wouldn’t have survived more than a couple days out there,” Lampi said. He’s tiny, and so young he hasn’t even been given a name yet.“I think he’s pushing a month now. Not too much bigger than a newborn,” Lampi said. As the knee-high ball of fuzz trundles silently over to the fence where we’re standing I am reminded that petting baby animals at the zoo, even when they look very soft, is not allowed.When this musk ox gets bigger and healthier he’ll be sent up to live at the university in Fairbanks. And that’s a lot of what the zoo does with injured and orphaned animals: basically provide foster care until they can be placed in a permanent home. In Alaska, there are some species this happens with so often that the zoo has no need to try breeding them.A watchful coyote at the Alaska Zoo, June 20, 2017 (Photo: Zachariah Hughes, Alaska Public Media)“Like brown bears, or black bears, or moose calves,” Lampi rattled off. “There’s usually so many orphans that there’s not really need for us to be breeding those, it’s better to try to finding homes for the orphans that are out there.”We headed to the other side of the grounds to see one such luckless little cub, but en route we get side-tracked by a pack of wolves.“They’re all from one litter,” Lampi said as four of the five siblings studied us from the other side of their enclosure.The pack is from an area outside McGrath where the state has allowed a lot of predator control, the controversial practice of opening wolves and bears to expanded hunting in an effort to boost moose and caribou populations. According to Lampi, the zoo approached the state and offered to take in a litter, which would accomplish the same goal of relieving pressure on area ungulates. The state agreed. That was 11 years ago, and the pack is now a fixture at the zoo.In front of a group of kids, Lampi coaxed the wolves from mild whimpers into a full-blown chorus of hows.“Come on, you guys can do better than that,” Lampi chided, like some kind of choir director.The pack belted out a yowling harmony that kept getting louder and louder, to the delight of everyone around.Even though Lampi’s worked at the zoo for 31 years, he still stops to listen every time the wolves sing.A black bear examining its hammock at the Alaska Zoo, June 20, 2017 (Photo: Zachariah Hughes, Alaska Public Media)We headed down a side-trail to peak at a tiny little black bear orphaned in Valdez this winter. Eventually it’ll head to the San Diego Zoo. Which is lucky, because Lampi and his staff can only take in animals when they know they can find them a permanent place.“If there’s no way we can take care of them for the rest of their lives, and we don’t have a home for them to go to, then they just let nature take its course out in the wild,” Lampi said.Soon after, we walk by a trio of playful, chortling otters, pass a stern-eyed owl and some damp yaks, then wind up in front of two snow leopards. These animals are extremely rare. The female, Malala, came from a zoo in New York this May. The couple is napping on separate boulders partitioned by a thin chain-link fence.“They’re still checking each other out,” Lampi admitted. Snow leopards live solitary lives in the wild. And while coupledom is common in captivity, it isn’t a given.Like every other zoo, this one has a wish-list of animals they’re hoping to add. And an acquisition like Malala’s from a peer institution is the last way that a collection expands: more common than births, but less frequent than taking in orphans from the wild. For months, the two zoos exchanged information, audited finances, ran background checks, and coordinated logistics. The process seems like the hardest parts of both adoption and filling a fine-arts museum.“Animals like a snow leopard have to fly on FedEx and have two people travel with it,” Lampi explained of Malala’s journey to Anchorage. Much of the global travel by mega-fauna heading to different zoos is facilitated by commercial and cargo airlines.A pair of trumpeter swans at the Alaska Zoo, June 20, 2017 (Photo: Zachariah Hughes, Alaska Public Media)Since Lampi took over as director, the non-profit zoo’s budget has doubled to $3 million. But that hasn’t gone to expanding the site’s foot-print in South Anchorage. Instead, the growth has mostly been geared toward improving animal habitats and adding staff, particularly educators to work with visitors.Lampi said it’d be nice if they could get money from a state capital appropriation or municipal bond to buy up new land, build fancy new exhibits, and add new creatures, ideally more weasels, extra leopards, and possibly a rare Chinese goat called a Takin. But the fiscal landscape isn’t promising for that kind of expansion. Instead, his priority is fixing up more of the facilities on site, and growing the zoo from within.