Papú the Owl Chick Has An Important Job

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Back in April, an egg barely the size of a ping-pong ball arrived at the Woodland Park Zoo from the Sacramento Zoo, where its parents were not able to incubate it.

On April 17, a feisty little Burrowing Owl chick pipped its way out of that egg. The chick, a male, was named Papú. His name, which is pronounced like paw-POO, with emphasis on the second syllable, means “Burrowing Owl” in the dialect of the Yakama tribes of eastern Washington. Little Papú, who also goes by the nickname Pippin, was at hatching barely a few inches long, covered in white downy plumage, and his eyes were not open yet.

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Because Papú will be reared by his keepers, it was decided that he will become an ambassador animal at the Woodland Park Zoo. In this very important role, Papú will meet zoo guests to help build a strong connection between people and wildlife. Right away, Papú captured the hearts of the animal keepers who will feed him, raise him, train with him throughout his life, and generally just let him become his best little Owl-self.

Papú is now nearly two months old and already adult-size, although he still has some of the downy plumage of a chick. Most baby birds are the same size as their parents by the time they’re ready to leave the nest—and Papú is just at that age. Adult feathers, which are mottled brown and white, are already starting to grow in, including those all-important flight feathers.

At this point, his flights are limited to practice take-offs and soft, but not always graceful, landings on his keepers’ laps or the ground. Within another week or so, he will probably take his first real flight, and by early autumn Papú will have his adult plumage and his eyes and beak will start turning yellow.

Burrowing Owls are small, long-legged Owls found throughout open landscapes of North and South America. These tiny predators—they’re only 8 to 11 inches tall and weigh between 5 to 8 ounces when fully grown—can be found in grasslands, rangelands and throughout the Great Plains.

They nest and roost in underground burrows that might have been dug out by prairie dogs or ground squirrels, although they can create their own burrows if needed. Unlike most Owls, Burrowing Owls are active day or night hunting for beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, mice and small lizards. The Burrowing Owl is endangered in Canada and threatened in Mexico. Although still common in much of the U.S., its population numbers are in decline and they are listed as threatened in several states due to the eradication of prairie dogs and loss of habitat.

See more photos below, including several of Papú right after he hatched.

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Meet Akeno the Baby Rhino at Chester Zoo

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Zookeepers at Chester Zoo have revealed the name of a rare baby Rhino born on May 3.

Meet Akeno, the Greater One-horned Rhinoceros calf – only the second of his kind to ever be born at the zoo. The name Akeno is of Asian origin, meaning “beautiful sunrise.”

Zoo reveals baby rhino’s name (37)
Zoo reveals baby rhino’s name (37)Photo Credit: Chester Zoo

Although he is just six weeks old, Akeno has bundles of energy and is proving to be a real handful for his 11-year-old mother, Asha.

Greater One-horned Rhinos can weigh up to 2.4 tons as adults, but despite their bulky size, they can run at speeds of up to 25 mph.

Also known as Indian Rhinos, Greater One-horned Rhinos live in northeastern India and southern Nepal. Like all Rhinos, they feed on grasses and other vegetation. And, like Rhinos in Africa and other parts of Asia, Greater One-horned Rhinos are illegally hunted for their horns, which are mistakenly believed to have medicinal properties in some cultures. In reality, Rhino horns are made of keratin, the same substance that makes up human hair and fingernails.

Due to overhunting and habitat loss, only about 200 Greater One-horned Rhinos remained in the wild by the middle of the 20th century. Steps to protect the Rhinos were taken just in time and today, about 3,500 live in the wild. They are currently listed as Vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

See more pictures of Akeno below.

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Photogenic Przewalski’s Foal Born at Whipsnade Zoo

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An endangered Przewalski’s Horse foal has been born at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo!

Once classified as extinct in the wild, the Przewalski’s Horse is a rare species of wild horse. Thanks to conservation breeding efforts by organisations, such as the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the species has been reintroduced to its native habitat in Mongolia.

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The Przewalski's Horse (Equus ferus przewalskii) is the last true wild horse. They are the only living, wild ancestor of the domestic horse that has survived to the present day.

They are named after Nikolai Przewalski, the Russian explorer who first brought specimens back for a formal description in the 1870s. But the first time the species was made known to the West was in the 1763 published accounts of a Scottish doctor, John Bell, who travelled with Tsar Peter the Great.

This wild horse has a stocky body with robust, short legs, a short neck and an erect mane. Typical height of the species is about 12–14 hands (48–56 inches, 122–142 cm), and their length is about 2.1 m (6 ft 11 in). On average, they weigh around 300 kilograms (660 lb).

The hooves of the Przewalski's Horse are longer in the back and have a thick sole horn. This characteristic improves the performance of the hooves.

The species is currently classified as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List. According to the IUCN: “Previously listed as Extinct in the Wild (EW) from the 1960s up to the assessment in 1996. The species was then reassessed as Critically Endangered (CR) due to at least one surviving mature individual in the wild. Successful reintroductions have qualified this species for reassessment. The population is currently estimated to consist of more than 50 mature individuals free-living in the wild for the past seven years. This taxon is threatened by small population size and restricted range, potential hybridization with domestic horses, loss of genetic diversity, and disease. As the population size is small, it is vulnerable to stochastic events such as severe weather. Equus ferus przewalskii qualifies as Endangered (EN) under Criterion D.”

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Sumatran Orangutan Newborn Stays Close to Mom

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Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is thrilled to announce the birth of a Sumatran Orangutan on June 6. The baby is the third offspring for 30-year-old mom, Sumagu, and 27-year-old dad, Baka.

The Zoo reports that mother and baby will be in their regular exhibit in Primate World, which will be open for guests. Depending on where Sumagu decides to spend time, she and the baby may or may not be visible to guests.

Thus far, the pair is healthy and bonding well, so the Zoo’s staff has not intervened to determine the sex of the baby or any other details. The baby was clinging strongly to Sumagu within minutes after birth. According to keepers, Sumagu came over to animal and vet staff to take some fruit, and they could tell she had done a great job cleaning the baby up quickly. She then spent some time rearranging her nest after the birth. The pair has also been observed successfully nursing.

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4_cheyenne orangutan 5Photo Credits: Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

Sumagu’s two previous offspring were both males: Makan, born in January 2003 and Godek, born in February 2009. Both of them now make their homes at other Association of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited zoos.

The Zoo’s last Orangutan birth was Bornean Orangutan, Ember, who is now 3 1/2 years old.

Gestation for Orangutans lasts an average of 245 days, or a little over eight months.

In the wild, Orangutan fathers do not usually participate in raising offspring, but they tend to do well in zoos where there isn’t competition for food and mates. Baka revealed great fatherly instincts with his previous two offspring. Keepers are hopeful this will be the case with this new little one, but just to be sure, he will be kept separated from mom and baby for a short time.

Sumagu and Baka’s wild Sumatran Orangutan counterparts are currently classified as “Critically Endangered” on the IUCN Red List.

Non-sustainable palm oil production is fueling destruction of the rainforest habitat of Sumatran and Bornean Orangutans, pushing those endangered species even closer to extinction. Found in cookies, crackers, frozen dinners, shampoo, lotions, cosmetics, pet food and many other products, palm oil is now the most widely produced edible oil.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is offering a way to make a difference during this crisis by choosing the products using their sustainable palm oil shopping app. The app helps consumers make responsible decisions about the food and health/beauty products purchased every day – just scan a product in the app, and it will tell you how that company is doing with using responsibly sourced palm oil for their products. To download the app, or to learn more about the palm oil crisis, visit: www.cmzoo.org/palmoil .

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Bristol Zoo Gardens Introduces Fred the Chameleon

Fred the baby bearded pygmy chameleon at Bristol Zoo Gardens June 2018  credit Jenny Scully

Meet Fred, the smallest new addition to the reptile house at Bristol Zoo Gardens.

Only the size of a grape (15mm long) and just four weeks old, he is one of two Bearded Pygmy Chameleons that hatched in their enclosure from eggs the size of Tic-Tac mints.

A further eight tiny eggs are being incubated, behind the scenes, in the Zoo’s Reptile House and are expected to hatch in the coming weeks.

Bearded pygmy chameleon eggs at Bristol Zoo Gardens June 2018  credit Jenny ScullyPhoto Credits: Bristol Zoo Gardens

This is just the second time the Zoo has bred Bearded Pygmy Chameleons.

Curator of reptiles and amphibians, Tim Skelton, said, “Bearded Pygmy Chameleons are a very popular species; they are remarkably small and only grow to around 3 inches (8cm) when fully grown.”

“Although not endangered, we can learn a lot from breeding and caring for these animals which will help us in our breeding efforts for more endangered species in future.”

The Bearded Pygmy Chameleon (Rieppeleon brevicaudatus) is named after the beard-like scales below its mouth. Its native habitat is sub-montane and lowland forest and shrub in Eastern Tanzania and South-eastern Kenya. They eat a variety of small invertebrate food including small crickets and flies.


Zoo’s Red Squirrels Released Into Protected Area

(2)  (Photo credit - Jon Lees)  Belfast Zoo has been home to red squirrels since 2012.

On June 2, Belfast Zoo celebrated another conservation success when two female Red Squirrels, born at the Cave Hill site, left the zoo as part of a release programme at Silent Valley Mountain Park.

(ZooBorns shared news of the birth of the special kits in August of 2017: “Belfast Zoo Celebrates Five Kits in Red Squirrel Nook”)

Silent Valley Mountain Park was selected as the latest Red Squirrel release site, as part of a nation-wide scheme to enhance the population of this beautiful and threatened species. The site was deemed suitable due to the ongoing efforts of the Mourne Heritage Trust, Ulster Wildlife and NI Water to enhance the quality and quantity of woodland available in the area and to keep the area free of competing populations of the invasive Grey Squirrel. The Mourne Heritage Trust also had demonstrable success with the return of Red Squirrels into Mourne Park Estate, in Kilkeel, in 2014.

(1)  The zoo runs the first captive breeding programme for red squirrels in Northern Ireland.

(4)  Squirrels bred at the zoo have been released into protected areas in Northern Ireland.  Two females have recently been released to Silent Valley.

(3) The aim of Belfast Zoo's red squirrel nook is education but the zoo also plays a vital and leading role in red squirrel conservation in Northern Ireland.Photo Credits: Belfast Zoo /Jon Lees, NIEA (Image 1)

Red Squirrels are believed to have been present in Ireland for more than 10,000 years. Many people are familiar with this native species and its bright red coat, creamy white belly, bushy red tail and distinctive ear tufts. However, not everyone is aware that the Red Squirrel in Northern Ireland is in serious trouble. The population has declined dramatically due to loss of habitat and competition from the larger, invasive Grey Squirrel that carries a lethal pox virus.

Zoo manager, Alyn Cairns, said “Belfast Zoo first became home to Red Squirrels in 2012 when three animals arrived from the Glens of Antrim. The original aim of our Red Squirrel nook was predominantly education and interaction. However, the hope was that the squirrels would be content in the nook to breed and, with this in mind, release arrangements were developed by Belfast Zoo, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and the Northern Ireland Squirrel Forum (NISF). Since the arrival of our original trio, we have welcomed numerous kittens and have celebrated several successful re-introductions to protected areas in Northern Ireland.”

Alyn continued, “It is easy to look at the plight of the world’s wildlife and to feel like these problems are a world away from our own daily lives. However, the reality is that Northern Ireland’s very own species are facing increasing threats and the Red Squirrel is the perfect example of this. Here at Belfast Zoo we are committed to playing a leading role in wildlife conservation including wildlife on our own doorstep. The success of the latest release is the culmination of planning and dedication from all parties. It is extremely encouraging that, since the inception of the zoo’s squirrel nook, Belfast Zoo born squirrels have not only supported existing populations in Northern Ireland but have also been imperative in developing new habitats and populations. While this is the first release at Silent Valley we are optimistic that this will be the first of many.”

Dave Farnan, Area Ranger for the Mourne Heritage Trust, explains “The squirrels will live in a soft release pen in Silent Valley for the next few weeks, to acclimatise before being released onsite in mid-June. The two female squirrels will then be joined by two wild male squirrels, who are due to be trans located to the site, with relevant permissions from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and the Forestry Service NI. This project has been a collaborative effort of so many parties; not just Belfast Zoo and ourselves. The release pen was donated by the Woodland Trust who also donated one thousand native broad-leaved trees, to increase the woodland habitat that these squirrels call home. We have also worked closely with landowners along the Kilkeel and Annalong River who have been enthusiastic in reporting squirrel sightings and allowing Ulster Wildlife and Mourne Heritage Trust staff and volunteers to actively enhance the land for the release. We have been overwhelmed by the support we have received and I can’t wait to see Red Squirrels back in the Silent Valley.”


Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Celebrates 200th Giraffe

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Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is proud to announce the 200th successful Giraffe birth in the Colorado zoo’s history!

A female calf was born June 4 to a worldwide audience, as the birth was live streamed on YouTube and Facebook. The calf is the fifth offspring for 20-year-old mom, Muziki, and the fourth to be sired by dad, Khalid.

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The calf was born at 8:20 p.m. and tried to stand up shortly after birth, which is normal for Giraffe calves. When the calf still had not been able to stand at about 10:30 p.m., the Zoo’s animal care and veterinary teams decided it was time to lend a hand. They were able to separate the calf from mom, Muziki, long enough to give it a quick veterinary check and help it to its feet. This was also when staff discovered the calf is female. The Zoo’s care team estimated her at 5’ 8” tall and approximately 120 pounds.

After the calf was observed standing and walking on her own for a few minutes, Muziki was allowed back into the birth stall. Since then, mother and baby have been bonding well and keepers report seeing the natural behaviors they would hope to see.

Because Muziki was also born at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, she has grown up in the culture of voluntary husbandry training that the Zoo is known for. This means that she voluntarily participates in her own health care, which fosters a strong trust relationship between keeper and animal.

Through this training, the Zoo was able to draw blood, confirming Muziki’s pregnancy early on. The Zoo was able to get limited ultrasound images of the calf during the pregnancy, with Muziki’s cooperation, and they were even able to bank some of Muziki’s plasma, in case the calf had need of it after the birth.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is not only a leader in the training and health of Giraffes in human care, but they are also making a huge difference in their conservation in the wild. Since January 2017, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s guests and members have contributed $97,000 through “Quarters for Conservation” contributions to help the Giraffe Conservation Foundation and its programs to save Giraffes in the wild. The Zoo has also provided staff to Uganda for several of those conservation efforts.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is home to the world’s most prolific captive Reticulated Giraffe herd, with 200 births at the Zoo since 1954. The new calf joins the Zoo’s existing herd, or tower, of 17 Giraffes, bringing the total to 18. Guests can get up close and hand-feed them on special indoor and outdoor elevated platforms anytime during the day, 365 days a year.

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Rare White Bison Born at Belgrade Zoo

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A rare White American Bison calf was born at the Belgrade Zoo on May 28. White Bison are estimated to occur in only one out of ten million births.

The calf, named Dusica, is the offspring of Jova, an 11-year-old white male, and Iva, a seven-year-old female with a typical brown coat.

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Photo Credit: Zoran Rajic

White Bison occur naturally due to albinism, leucism, or other genetic conditions. Sometimes, a White Bison develops brown fur as it ages. Others remain white (or light tan) for their entire lives. White Bison can also result from cross-breeding with cattle. 

Some American Indian tribes consider White Bison to be sacred as part of spiritual rituals.

American Bison are often referred to as “Buffalo,” but that term is misleading. Bison are quite different than true Buffalo species, such as the Asian Water Buffalo or the African Cape Buffalo. But early European settlers and explorers, upon seeing American Bison for the first time, thought the animals resembled Buffalo, and the name has been used ever since.

The Belgrade Zoo has a long history of breeding white animals, including Bengal Tigers, African Lions, Wallabies, Deer, Indian Peafowl, and various reptiles. Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, is known as the “White City.”

American Bison can weigh up to a ton (2,000 pounds) and feed on grass and vegetation.

Before settlement of the American West, hundreds of millions of Bison roamed the North American plains. By the 1800s, Bison were nearly extinct due to overhunting, with only a few hundred animals surviving. Breeding programs and farming have increased the population to around 150,000, but Bison are listed as Near Threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This status is due to the fact that most animals are maintained under conservation programs and only five viable populations exist in the wild. Herds are dependent on wide areas of protected land, including national parks and refuges.  




Elephant Calf Born Three Months Late Gets a Name

Baby elephant born at Chester Zoo three months after due date named Anjan (27)
An Asian Elephant calf born three months after its due date has been named Anjan by zoo keepers at Chester Zoo.

The male calf, born May 17, astonished experts when he was born to mum Thi Hi Way last month following an assumed gestation of 25 months.

Because the typical gestation for Asian Elephants is about 22 months, scientists believed Thi, who was already a great-grandmother and matriarch of the herd, had started a natural resorption process. 

Baby elephant born at Chester Zoo three months after due date named Anjan (33)
Baby elephant born at Chester Zoo three months after due date named Anjan (33)Photo Credit: Chester Zoo

Hormone tracking originally showed that Thi Hi Way was due to give birth in February, and after her due date passed, she was slowly returning to her normal weight.  

But, despite the unusual circumstances, Thi gave birth to the healthy baby boy and zoo staff say both mother and calf are doing incredibly well.

Mike Jordan, Chester Zoo’s Collections Director, said, “Thi is a wonderful matriarch to our family herd and a really experienced mum. She has successfully given birth to seven calves before, but this time around circumstances were really quite astonishing.”

“We believed Thi had exceeded her normal gestation period, which we were monitoring closely. Her hormone levels, behaviour and drop in weight gave us every indication that she may have been resorbing the calf – a natural process that some Elephants experience. However, nature always has that incredible ability to surprise you and that was certainly the case,” Jordan said.

Asian Elephants are listed as Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, threatened by habitat loss, poaching, disease and direct conflict with humans.

Conservationists from Chester Zoo have been working to combat these threats in the Elephant’s native India for more than twelve years, utilising the skills and knowledge developed working with the herd in Chester.

Zookeepers chose the name Anjan in honour of Anjan Nath, one of the leading conservation figures the zoo works with on a project in Assam, northern India, which has successfully eliminated conflict between local communities and the nearby Asian Elephant population, offering a blueprint for the future conservation of the species.

See more photos of Anjan below.

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Four New Penguin Chicks Pass Their Physicals

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A total of four Magellanic Penguin chicks hatched recently at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium.

Magellanic Penguin parents, “Yellow” and “Orange,” welcomed two chicks last week. These new chicks joined two chicks that hatched the week before to parents, “Pink” and “Red.”

Magellanic Penguins at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium are not named but rather are known by the colors of the identification bands on their wings.

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4_DSC_0087Photo Credits: Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

Recently, zookeepers and a veterinarian carefully lifted the four small gray balls of fluff out of their two burrows – and very briefly away from their parents – to weigh the little penguins and give them well-chick examinations. The verdict: All of Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium’s newest residents are healthy and appear to be thriving!

Zoo veterinarians carefully examined each chick for overall body condition and energy and hydration levels to assess their health.

“The newest chicks were quite robust and active during their exams,” said the zoo’s Head Veterinarian, Dr. Karen Wolf. “They are endearingly plump and their parents are doing a great job caring for them,” said Wolf.

The newest hatchlings weighed-in at 4.5 ounces and 10 ounces.

“The two older chicks are continuing to thrive and are rapidly gaining weight,” said Wolf. They now weigh 14.9 and 17.7 ounces.  

The two new families are on exhibit in the Penguin Point habitat at the zoo, but spotting the chicks will take patience. They’re usually safely hidden under one of the parents while they’re being kept warm during the day, coming out occasionally for feeding. The parents feed the chicks a slurry of regurgitated fish after the adults have eaten herring and capelin.

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