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February 2013

January 2013

Three Tiny Meerkat Pups Get a Foster Mom

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Christmas came a little early at the UK's Dartmoor Zoological Park when three adorable Meerkat pups were born just before last month's holiday. Adults Sue and Timon arrived at the zoo in the spring of 2010 and while they settled in well, they left keepers waiting for the kits they were hoping for despite the fact that Sue was an experienced mother.

Things started to take a positive turn when the zoo received another female named Xena this past summer. "We were apprehensive because meerkats are very territorial, but we were very careful and it seemed to work," said operations manager George Hyde.

Xena certainly seems to be getting along just fine with Timon and gave birth to their three offspring, a male and two females, just before Christmas. Sue, being an experienced mother, immediately began helping with mothering duties. Xena shouldn't mind the help caring for her dependents who, like all Meerkats, didn't open their eyes or ears for close to two weeks after birth.

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Photo credits: Steve Haywood / Dartmoor Zoological Park

The tiny trio has been out on exhibit for visitors to admire since early January. Keepers are currently working on coming up with names for their newest arrivals and are taking suggestions from the public. Be sure to contact them with any ideas!

Meet Warsaw Zoo's Baby Giant Anteater!


Poland’s Warsaw Zoo is celebrating the birth of a baby Giant Anteater.  The male baby was born on January 18, and is the fourth baby for the zoo’s breeding pair. 



Photo credits:  Warsaw Zoo

Female Giant Anteaters normally give birth to a single pup, which is born with its eyes closed.   A pup rides on its mother’s back for several months.  This offers not only free transportation for the pup, but excellent camouflage as well:  the pup’s black and tan color bands line up perfectly with those of the mother, making the pup nearly invisible against mom's shaggy coat.  By the time the pup is about ten months old, it is completely independent.

Native to much of South America, Giant Anteaters exploit a variety of habitats, from grasslands to rain forests.  They are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of nature (IUCN), but they have been extirpated from parts of Uruguay, Belize, Costa Rica, and Guatemala.  In the last decade, the population of wild Giant Anteaters has declined by about 30%.

UPDATE: Five Lion Cubs are the Pride of Omaha


You met the five African Lion cubs born at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo a few weeks ago on ZooBorns. Take a look at these new photos and you’ll see that they’re growing fast!

Born to first-time mother Mfisha and father Mr. Big on December 29, the five cubs are thriving.  The litter includes two males and three females.



Photo Credit:  Henry Doorly Zoo

This breeding was recommended by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) as part of an effort to breed Lions of appropriate genetic backgrounds.   

The population of African Lions has fallen dramatically over the last few decades.  Some experts estimate there are half as many wild African Lions as there were two decades ago, and most are confined to national parks and protected areas.  Zoo breeding is one of many efforts underway to protect these majestic cats from extinction.


Sleepy Red Panda Baby a Welcomed Addition to Auckland Zoo

Panda face

Keepers at the Auckland Zoo say the birth of a rare Nepalese Red Panda baby in the early hours of December 24 was the best Christmas present they could have received. It is the first to be born at the zoo since 2002, weighing in at just 105 grams (equal to a medium sized tomato). Now, at four weeks old, the little one is estimated to have grown to 240 grams, a little over half a pound.

The cub, the first offspring of three-year-old mom Bo and 12-year-old dad Sagar, is an extremely valuable addition to the international breeding program for this species. The IUCN Red List classifies this animal as Vulnerable. It is threatened by illegal hunting and deforestation. Remaining populations are fast becoming fragmented and isolated from each other. It is uncertain how many remain in the wild today, but estimates suggest it may be as low 2500 individuals. There are close to 500 individuals in zoos worldwide.

“This birth is a fantastic result, especially as Bo was only introduced to Sagar last August, given that female Red Pandas come into season just twice a year and a male has only a one to two-day window to mate a female,” said Carnivore Team Leader Bruce Murdock. “We couldn’t ask for a better mum in Bo. She’s doing an exceptional job, staying in the nest box for long periods and feeding her cub up to six times a day, and being very attentive.” 

Panda side

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Photo Credit: Auckland Zoo

Dad has been to the nest box to check out his offspring, but leaves the parenting to Bo. Murdock added, “We’re keeping a regular watch on this cub, but taking a very hands-off approach so Bo can continue to do the great job she’s been doing.”

Murdock says Red Pandas develop slowly and are dependent for at least three months, so it could be another eight to 10 weeks before visitors see the cub venturing out and around the enclosure with Bo. A full vet check will be done in late February, and at that time its gender will be confirmed.

All that nursing and growing causes cub-naps, as seen in the video below:


Read more about Red Panda conservation after the fold: 

Continue reading "Sleepy Red Panda Baby a Welcomed Addition to Auckland Zoo" »

Baby Tapir Gets a Cool Hairstyle from Mom at Wroclaw ZOO

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On January 6, Poland's Wroclaw ZOO welcomed the birth of a little female South American Tapir. This striped little girl is healthy, nursing regularly, and growing strong. She will be weaned in about 6 months. She has been named Melba, and spends her days in an indoor exhibit where guests can watch her playing and cuddling with Sabrina, her mother. 

Although this is Sabrina's ninth baby, she is a little bit overprotective. According to keepers, Mom spends a little too much time licking her daughter.... but the youngster is very patient and calmly tolerates this nurturing behavior. As a result, the baby often has hair that looks a little spiky, like she used hair gel. 

Tapir lick

Tapir side

Photo Credit: Wroclaw ZOO

The South American Tapir (Tapirus terrestris) is one of four species in the Tapir family, along with the mountain, the Malayan, and the Baird's Tapirs. It is the second-largest land mammal in South America, after the Baird's Tapir. Females go through a gestation period of roughly 13 months and in most all cases, have one offspring every two years. 

Since 1970, the South American Tapir has been classified as Endangered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, though it has a significantly lower risk of extinction than the other three Tapir species. Their numbers are dwindling due to poaching for their hide and meat, as well as the destruction of their natural habitat by man.

Blind California Sea Lion Finds Home at Shedd Aquarium

Tanner touches his nose to a visual target.

Cruz, a disabled California Sea Lion pup, has found a new home at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, CA rescued the pup in July 2012, when he was discovered alone on a beach in Santa Cruz. Blinded in both eyes by gunshot wounds, Cruz recovered at the Marine Mammal Center and now joins three other California Sea Lions at Shedd Aquarium, including a five-year old rescue named Tanner.

“Building trusting relationships is the cornerstone to providing the highest quality care for our animals, particularly in Cruz’s case,” says Ken Ramirez, Shedd Aquarium’s executive vice president of animal care and training. “We literally have to be his eyes, which requires a solid bond between animal and trainer. Since he arrived at the aquarium, Cruz has been comfortably relying on our animal care team to guide him, demonstrating incredible progress.” 

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Cruz trains with a rattle. Photo credits: Brenna Hernandez / Shedd Aquarium

Cruz’s training is adapted to fit his strengths. Usually, caretakers train the animals to follow and touch a visual target, rewarding them with food. This touch-target training helps the animals to cooperate with caretakers as they do health checkups and clean. Cruz successfully follows an auditory cue, a rattle, instead of a visual target.


“Though blind in both eyes, he has a fearless personality and eagerness to learn – two characteristics that indicated we could provide him with a strong quality of life through training,” says Ramirez.

Read more about Cruz and Tanner after the fold.

Continue reading "Blind California Sea Lion Finds Home at Shedd Aquarium" »

UPDATE: Lowry Park Zoo's Baby Elephant Finds Her Legs

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A little African Elephant was born at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo on Christmas Eve to mom Mball. You might have read about it HERE on Zooborns. The calf's birth is only the second in Lowry Park Zoo's history, and the first born in Tampa, from a herd of 11 elephants rescued from Africa nearly a decade ago.

Just like it would be in the wild, the herd is maternally based, so as of January 8, the calf has been out in the habitat being looked after by not only Mom, but her two aunts as well. Now, at almost a month old, the little calf is full of energy and curiosity. Each day she makes progress in the task of finding her legs and discovering how her trunk works! When she runs, she even kicks up a little dust. 

Chris Massaro, Animal Department Operations Manager said, "When she runs out there, she'll trip over her own feet. But she's getting her feet under her, she's doing very well." 

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Ele aunts
Photos 1 and 2: Matthew Paulson/Photomatt28. Photos 3 and 4: Lowry Park Zoo,

Rare Baby Okapi Birth Celebrated at Lowry Park Zoo

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Officially, he’s one in a hundred, but to Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, he’s one in a million. A rare Okapi calf – a forest giraffe found only in Central Africa – was born on January 6, representing the first birth of the new year at the zoo and the first Okapi birth of the year in the North American population. 

The now 3-week-old has grown to weigh 96 pounds (43.5 kgs) from his 64 pounds (29 kg) recorded at birth. Like most babies, he spends his days nursing, sleeping and following his mother around the barn. For the time being, he will “nest” in a suitable hiding spot identified by the mother, likely inside the barn. Hiding behavior is common and in the wild, providing protection from predators.

The pairing of parents Zack and Betty was recommended by the Okapi Species Survival Plan (SSP), managed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to help ensure the survival of select wildlife species.  Okapis are listed as Threatened, with continued loss of habitat and political unrest in their native region. The managed population grows slowly due to a lengthy gestation (approximately 14.5 months) and relatively high mortality rate.   

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Photo Credit: Lowry Park Zoo

Okapis have reddish-brown, velvet-like coats with horizontal zebra-like striping on their hindquarters and legs. The unique color pattern allows them to disappear into dense vegetation in the forests where they live. The body shape is similar to that of the giraffe, but okapis have much shorter necks. These unusual animals also have large upright ears with a keen sense of hearing, and long, dark prehensile tongues that they use to pluck vegetation from trees and shrubs.

Continue reading much more about Okapis and conservation efforts for the species after the fold:

Continue reading "Rare Baby Okapi Birth Celebrated at Lowry Park Zoo" »

Five Spotted Cheetah Cubs Spotted at Monatro Zoo

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On October 8, Monarto Zoo's Cheetah Nakula gave birth to five cubs - two males and three females, all healthy. The babies were allowed to bond with mom in the den, where they could only be seen via a closed circuit TV camera. Nakula proved to be a very good mother; the cubs developed well and grew big enough to venture outdoors - though it was still in an area that was off-limits to visitors (as seen on the video below).

On January 15, when the cubs were about 14 weeks old, they spent their first day in the zoo's habitat, where guests could finally enjoy seeing the spectacle of Nakula and her five furry cubs running in the high grasses. Carnivore Keeper, Michelle Lloyd said, "It's been nine years since we last had a Cheetah litter at Monarto and, amazingly, Nakula was one of the cubs born in the last litter all those years ago. It's a lot of fun to watch the cubs running around on exhibit; they're very energetic and definitely love the space. Nakula has a big job keeping up with them all but she's doing great."

Monarto Zoo Curator Beth Pohl said the litter is an important addition to the regional population, with the cubs serving to educate Australians about the plight of the Cheetah in the wild. “In the last 35 years we’ve lost almost half of the wild Cheetah population," Beth added. "Currently there’s approximately 12,000 Cheetah left -- however, in the mid 1970's, the population was estimated to be almost double that." The decline is primarily due to habitat loss and fragmentation, and the killing and capture of Cheetah to protect livestock against predation.

Cub lick

Cubs look

Cub 1 lick 

Cubs side

Photo Credit: David Mattner for Monarto Zoo

Watch the cubs play with each other and their rather patient mother below.

Read more about the unusual circumstances of these cubs birth, and see more pictures and video, after the fold:

Continue reading "Five Spotted Cheetah Cubs Spotted at Monatro Zoo" »