Yak Calf Debuts at Hellabrunn Zoo

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Hellabrunn Zoo, in Munich, Germany, welcomed a new male domestic Yak. Pedro was born September 10, and he is the first offspring of four-year-old mother, Kat, and two-year-old father, Norbu. 

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4_Domestic Yak_Hellabrunn_2015_Bihler Photograpy (3)Photo Credits: Tierpark Hellabrunn / Bihler Photography

The Yak (Bos grunniens or Bos mutus) is a long-haired bovid found throughout the Himalaya region of southern Central Asia, the Tibetan Plateau and as far north as Mongolia and Russia. Most Yaks are domesticated (Bos grunniens). The small, vulnerable population of wild Yaks are ‘Bos mutus’.

The Yak may have diverged from cattle at some time in the past, and there is a suggestion that it may be more closely related to the bison that to the other members of its designated genus ‘Bos’.

The Yak is the largest native animal in their range. Wild Yak adults stand about 5.2 to 7.2 feet (1.6 to 2.2 m) tall at the shoulder and weigh 672 to 2,205 lbs (305 to 1,000 kg). Domesticated Yaks are much smaller, males weighing 770 to 1,280 lbs (350 to 580 kg) and females 496 to 562 lbs (225 to 255 kg).

Wild Yaks typically have black or dark brown hair, with a greyish muzzle. Wild Yaks with golden coloring are known as ‘Wild Golden Yak’ and are considered endangered in China. Domesticated Yaks have a wider range of coat coloring, with some individuals being white, grey, brown, roan or piebald. Hellabrunn’s new calf, Pedro, inherited the white coloring of his father, instead of the black his mother exhibits.

Gestation for Yaks lasts between 257 and 270 days. The female finds a secluded spot to give birth, but the calf is able to walk within about ten minutes of birth, and the pair soon rejoins the herd. Females of both the wild and domestic forms typically give birth only once every other year. Calves are weaned at one year and become independent shortly thereafter.

Wild Yaks usually form herds of ten to thirty individuals. Their diet consists largely of grasses and sedges. They also eat a smaller amount of herbs, shrubs, mosses, and occasionally lichen.

The wild Yak (Bos mutus) is classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It is inferred that the species has declined over 30% the last 30 years, based on direct observations, decline in range, and continued threats to their habitat.

Snow Leopard Sisters Debut at Brookfield Zoo

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Two 4-month-old Snow Leopard sisters, named Malaya and Daania, made their public debut October 7 at Brookfield Zoo. The highlight of the ‘debut’ was the chance to explore their outdoor habitat with four-year-old mom, Sarani. 

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4_Brookfield Snow Leopard girlsPhoto Credits: Jim Schulz / Chicago Zoological Society

The Chicago Zoological Society (CZS), which manages Brookfield Zoo, happily announced the birth of the two Snow Leopard cubs on June 16. Until now, the girls and their mom have been safe and secure in their behind-the-scenes den.

Mom, Sarani, and her five-year-old mate, Sabu, arrived at Brookfield Zoo in October 2011 from Tautphaus Park Zoo in Idaho Falls, Idaho, and Cape May County Park & Zoo in Cape May Court House, New Jersey, respectively. This is the second litter of cubs for the couple. Their pairing was based on a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Snow Leopard Species Survival Plan (SSP).

An SSP is a cooperative population management and conservation program for select species in AZA zoos and aquariums. Each SSP manages the breeding of a species to maintain a healthy and self-sustaining population that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable. There are currently about 145 Snow Leopards living in 63 institutions in North America. Brookfield Zoo has exhibited Snow Leopards since 1936.

The Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) is classified as “Endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organization.

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Meerkat Trio Born At Perth Zoo


Three Slender-tailed Meerkat kits are out of the den at Australia’s Perth Zoo!   Born in September to mom Tilly, the kits have recently opened their eyes and started exploring their habitat.

Tilly is an experienced mother – this is her third litter in the past 12 months.

Meerkat kits grow quickly, and the kits will soon start to eat insects, meat, and vegetables like the adults.  In just a few months, they will be the same size as their parents.

Native to southern Africa, Meerkats are extremely social.  Living in groups of up to 30 individuals, they forage, hunt, and care for their young as a group.  Like many social animals, they have a wide vocal repertoire to communicate alarm, danger, and contentment.  One Meerkat is often on sentry duty, standing erect at the burrow entrance on watch for predators and threats.

Meerkats are plentiful in the wild and not under significant threat. 

Photo Credit:  Perth Zoo

Peek-A-Boo - It's a Baby Tree Kangaroo!


Who’s peeking out of that pouch?  It’s a Matschie’s Tree Kangaroo, saying hello to the world for the first time.  Born at Zoo Miami, the joey is only the second of this endangered species born in the United States this year.

Photo Credit:  Ron Magill

Still mostly hairless, the joey was about the size of a jelly bean when it was born five months ago. It crawled unassisted into the pouch, where it latched onto a teat. Since then, the joey has been nursing and growing inside mom’s pouch.  The joey will remain in the pouch for several more months, but will gradually start to explore the world on its own until it is weaned at about one year of age.  The pouch, however, will remain a safe haven – most joeys try to squeeze inside even when they are far too large to fit. 

The joey’s gender has not been determined, but it will eventually become part of an international zoo breeding program. 

Found only in the mountainous rain forests of northeastern New Guinea, Matschie’s Tree Kangaroos spend most of their time in the trees feeding on leaves, ferns, moss, and bark.  Because the forests in which they live have been logged or converted to agriculture, these marsupials are listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.  Zoo Miami has been a long time contributor to Matschie’s Tree Kangaroo conservation efforts in the wilds of New Guinea. 

See more photos of the joey below.

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Houston Zoo Cares for Valuable New Gem ‘Opal’

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Opal is one of four baby Nyala born at the Houston Zoo over the past two months, and keepers have formed a special attachment to the new calf. 

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The Zoo’s keeper team noticed, soon after she was born on August 25, that she wasn’t nursing very well from mom, Ruby. They quickly intervened and taught the calf to bottle-feed, but kept her living with her mother so the pair could continue to bond behind-the-scenes. Soon, however, the keepers saw Opal nursing from Ruby! Recently, the team ended all bottles for Opal, and she is continuing to successfully nurse from mom. Opal now eats solid food, as well, which includes grain, hay, and produce.

Opal and her mom will continue to stay in their barn for a few more weeks, but guests and Zoo members can see the other three new Nyala frolicking around the yard, every day, at the Houston Zoo’s West Hoofed Run. Additional baby Nyala include: Wallace (mom Willow), born July 29; Fancy (mom Lola), August 12; and Fern (mom Ivy), September 8.

The Nyala (Tragelaphus angasil), also called inyala, are mid-sized members of the antelope family. Native to southern Africa, the spiral-horned males can weigh up to 275 pounds, and females weigh up to 150 pounds. When born, Nyala generally weigh around 10 pounds.

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It’s ‘Summer’ All Year Long at Dudley Zoo

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A female Sulawesi Crested Macaque, born July 21st, is the first macaque birth at Dudley Zoological Gardens, in the UK, in three and a half years!

Some visitors were lucky enough to witness the amazing birth, and shortly afterwards, keen photographer and Dudley Zoological Gardens (DZG) member, Kathryn Willett, snapped a beautiful family portrait of the little one with mum Jasmine and dad Simon.

Dudley Zoo Director, Derek Grove said, “This is a stunning picture of mum, dad and the new baby. It's rare to get good photos of them all together as the mother usually keeps the baby hidden away at first. It just shows how comfortable the macaques are with our visitors, as the birth took place in their wooden shelter, rather than mum moving to a more private area. Some visitors managed to witness the birth itself which is absolutely amazing and we are thrilled with the news."

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DZG's Head of Upper Primates, Pat Stevens, added, “The birth was only a couple of days after the due date we’d calculated for Jasmine, and the baby is doing great. It is healthy and clinging on really well to mum.”

Female macaques give birth after a 174 day gestation period, and usually a single offspring is born. Young animals are nursed for one year and become fully mature in three to four years, females sooner than males.

The tiny macaque has been hugely popular at Dudley Zoo, and once keepers discovered her sex, she was given the moniker Summer, in honor of her time of birth.

Summer is now two-and-a-half month’s old and her popularity continues. She is also reaching all the important milestones in her growth and development. Pat Stevens remarked, “She is doing really well and is coming off mum quite a bit now.”

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Oregon Zoo Introduces Newest Caracal Kittens


Peggy, a Caracal living in the Oregon Zoo's Predators of the Serengeti area, gave birth to two kittens on September 11, and the Zoo recently shared their first video of the male and female siblings.

Adult Caracals are known for their huge black-tufted ears, which help them locate prey, but like all cats, they are born with eyes closed and ears folded down. At their two-week checkup, the female kitten's ears had already popped up, but the male's were still flat against his head.



4_CaracalKittensOregonPhoto Credits: Shervin Hess / Oregon ZooAccording to keepers, Peggy and her babies are doing well, with both kittens nursing regularly and starting to move around their behind-the-scenes den box.

"Peggy has been a terrific mom," said senior Africa keeper Laura Weiner. "She's very protective. We put a bunch of straw in her den box as bedding, and she's been covering the little ones up with it, hiding them. Wild cats of all species hide their kittens like that to protect them from predators."

While Peggy and the kittens will be behind the scenes for a while, zoo visitors can still see the kittens' father, Cricket. Cricket was born at the Lory Park Zoo and Owl Sanctuary in South Africa, and moved to the Oregon Zoo in winter 2011. Peggy came to the zoo in 2009 from a conservation center in Mena, Ark.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which coordinates nationwide breeding programs for many of the species housed by zoos, recommended Cricket and Peggy as a breeding pair because the cats are from the same subspecies.

The Oregon Zoo's Caracal habitat, part of the Predators of the Serengeti exhibit, was built with substantial support from community members and organizations like Portland General Electric. The Caracals have access to a heated den and a spacious landscape dotted with trees, shrubs, heated rocks and grassy knolls, all of which are enriching for the feline residents.

The Caracal (Caracal caracal) is a medium-sized wild cat that is around 3.3 feet (one meter) long. It is sometimes called the desert lynx or African lynx, but it is not a member of the Lynx genus. The Caracal is native to Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Central Asia, and Southwest Asia. 

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Visitors See ‘Bert and Ernie’ at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

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ZSL Whipsnade Zoo recently released the first photos of their new twin Red Panda cubs. The duo, named Bert and Ernie by their keepers, was born June 30.

The cubs had been hiding away in their nesting boxes until recently, when their mum, six year-old Tashi, began carrying them outside for short intervals.

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Photo Credits: ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

Senior Keeper at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, Stephen Perry said, “It’s been magical to see the baby Red Pandas out and about for the first time.

“Red Pandas can be difficult to observe due to their shy and secretive nature, their nocturnal habits and the fact that they spend most of their time up trees. We never see much of their babies for the first couple of months of their lives but it’s worth the wait. They’re incredible and beautiful creatures, and a real visitor favorite.

“Tashi is a brilliant mum, and when the weather gets warmer you sometimes catch her carrying the babies between nesting boxes to find the coolest one for them.”

Bert and Ernie are part of the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP), a tool used by zoos, aquariums and wildlife parks across Europe to manage conservation breeding programmes. Bert and Ernie are also the fourth and fifth cubs born to experienced mum Tashi, at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.

“Having such a confident mum there is great because it means we can just leave them to it and not interfere. We just check in on Tashi, the boys and their dad, Blue, once a day to make sure everything’s okay,” remarked Perry.

Red Pandas, which are classified as “Vulnerable” by IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species, are found mainly in Nepal, India, Bhutan, Myanmar, and southern China. There are thought to be around 10,000 Red Pandas left in the wild. It is estimated that their numbers may have decreased by as much as 40% over the last 50 years due to massive habitat loss, increased human activity and poaching.

As an international conservation and science charity, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) works in Nepal, as well as over 50 other countries, for worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats, through ground-breaking science, conservation projects, as well as two Zoos: ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.

Oregon Zoo Cares for Feisty Cougar Orphans

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Three fuzzy, orphaned Cougar cubs have briefly taken up residence, behind the scenes, at the Oregon Zoo's veterinary medical center.

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4_Oregon Cougar orphansPhoto Credits: Kathy Street / Oregon Zoo

At about 10-days-old, the cubs (two females and one male) were discovered in Washington State in mid-September. Upon rescuing the orphans, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials quickly contacted Oregon Zoo keeper Michelle Schireman, who serves as the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' species coordinator for Cougars.

"Without a mother, young Cougars can't survive on their own in the wild," Schireman said. "So I work to find them suitable homes. We have a couple of options we are considering right now, and the cubs should only be in our care for a couple of weeks at the most."

The cubs arrived in Portland Sept. 18, weighing just a pound and a half each. They had yet to cut their teeth, and their eyes were barely open — still cloudy blue and unable to focus. But since their arrival at the Zoo, they have been eating well and are very vocal, according to Schireman. "They're loud," she said. "When you come to feed them in the middle of the night, you can hear them all the way out in the parking lot."

In 2011, the American Association of Zoo Keepers recognized Schireman with a Certificate of Merit in Conservation for her "outstanding work developing an orphaned animal placement program." As AZA species coordinator, she has found homes for nearly 120 Cougar cubs in zoos around the country. Most of the Cougars currently living in U.S. zoos are orphans placed by Schireman.

"In most cases, we try to arrange for orphaned cubs to go directly to their new homes," Schireman said. "But in special situations, and depending on whether we have space, we sometimes take care of them at the zoo until their health has stabilized. It's a lot to ask of our staff, but everyone here is incredibly dedicated to helping wildlife. Our vet staff and keepers have been taking shifts to make sure the little ones receive around-the-clock care with bottle feedings every four hours.

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Two Baby Orangutans Born Just Weeks Apart


Two Bornean Orangutan babies were born just three weeks apart at France’s La Palmyre Zoo.  The two little ones are important additions to the zoo breeding program designed to help save this endangered species.

Photo Credit:  F. Perroux/Zoo de la Palmyre

During the night of August 15, 18-year old Katja gave birth to a male named Hutan after a gestation period of 7.5 months. Because this was Katja’s first baby, zoo keepers were concerned that her lack of experience could cause Katja to improperly care for her baby.  But Katja was mother-reared (as opposed to being hand-reared by humans) and observed many babies being raised in her family group, two factors that contribute to proper infant care.  So far Katja is taking good care of Hutan and exhibits strong maternal skills. 

Three weeks later, 39-year-old Tiba gave birth to her fifth baby, a female named Nanga. Tiba is an experienced mother. However, a few days after the birth, Tiba had to treated for an infection, which raised some concerns for her infant.  Fortunately, the treatment was successful Tiba is now doing much better.

These infants are the zoo’s first since 2002 and are the result of a new male Orangutan named Barito, who arrived in 2014 to replace the resident male, who was unable to produce offspring.

Katja and Tiba are together but remain isolated from the rest of the group so they can build strong bonds with their babies. Orangutans have the longest childhood of any animal except humans – babies remain with their mothers for 8-12 years.  Orangutans can live for more than 50 years.

Wild Bornean Orangutans face serious threats in the wild as rain forests are replaced by large palm oil plantations.  Found only on the island of Borneo, these apes are listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to massive habitat destruction. 

La Palmyre Zoo supports the Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Project in Sabah, Borneo.  Only 20% of Sabah's Orangutans live in protected areas, so there's an urgent need to conserve the remaining 80% who live in plantations, commercial forests or unallocated lands. This conservation work includes reconnecting isolated forest fragments through land acquisition, creation of corridors, and construction of artificial bridges; minimizing human/animal conflicts; and collaborating with forest loggers and plantation operators in order to promote a sustainable oil palm industry.

See more photos of the baby Orangutans below.

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