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July 2013

June 2013

First Look at Banham Zoo's Twin Amur Tiger Cubs


The best things in life are worth waiting for and at the United Kingdom’s Banham Zoo, female Amur Tigress Sveta made her keepers wait longer than expected before giving birth to twins on June 14.




Photo Credit:  Banham Zoo


Keepers had expected Sveta to give birth up to 6 days prior to the day the cubs arrived and had been monitoring closed circuit TV cameras day and night for signs that she might be ready to give birth.

When the cubs finally arrived, keepers were able to watch the birth via the live camera link, giving Sveta complete privacy. 

The twins are making excellent progress.  An external monitor allows zoo guests to view the cubs without any intrusion whatsoever to the new family.

The newborn cubs are very important additions to the European captive breeding program for Amur Tigers. Kuzma, the cubs' father, was born at Banham Zoo in 2008 and was recently ranked as one of the most important males in the breeding program. His genes are poorly represented within the captive population so breeding him was considered a high priority. His mate, Sveta, arrived from Portugal's Lisbon Zoo in 2011 and this is their first successful litter together.

Amur Tigers are listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Recent information indicates that there are less than 400 Amur Tigers left in the wilds of far eastern Russia. Captive breeding could be a critical factor for the survival of the world’s largest cat.

Snow Leopard Cubs are Boost for Endangered Species

Pic by Monte Stiles (5)

Two baby Snow Leopards born at Zoo Boise have an important job in a national conservation program. The cubs, a male and a female, were born May 23 to parents Kabita and Tashi, and are the first Snow Leopards ever born at the zoo.

Pic by Monte Stiles (2)

Pic by Monte Stiles (4)

Pic by Monte Stiles (3)

Pic by Monte Stiles (1)
Photo Credit:  Monte Stiles

Like their wild counterparts, the cubs are spending their first few weeks in a den with their mother. As they grow and develop, they will emerge from the den to explore their exhibit for short periods of time.

As a first-time mother, Kabita is doing a fantastic job of caring for the cubs. Zoo staff members have been giving Kabita as much privacy as possible to ensure that she does not become stressed and continues to take excellent care of the cubs.

The birth of these cubs is a significant achievement for Zoo Boise and for Snow Leopard conservation. Tashi and Kabita were paired as part of the Snow Leopard Species Survival Plan (SSP). The SSP is one of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ many conservation programs. The SSP's goal is to maintain a healthy and genetically diverse population and to protect wild habitats for the species. Snow Leopards are Endangered in their Central Asian mountain habitat.

UPDATE: Andean Bear Cub Needs a Name


The Andean Bear cub born at the Phoenix Zoo in January needs a name, and you are invited to vote through Sunday, June 30.



Photo Credit:  Joseph Becker


The cub’s keepers have selected four names that they feel represent the little cub’s personality.  The potential names are:

Arturo: meaning ‘bear’ and ‘courageous’

Javier: meaning ‘born in January’

Luka: meaning ‘light’ in reference to the white spectacle markings around Andean bears’ eyes

Pepe: meaning ‘he will grow’

Voting will run until 8 p.m. Pacific Time on Sunday, June 30. The results will then be tabulated and the new name will be announced on Tuesday, July 2.

The cub and his mother, Rio, remain behind the scenes at the zoo.  You first met the cub on ZooBorns in April, but as you can see from the photos, he is growing fast.  The cub will make his public debut sometime later this year. 

Andean Bears, also called Spectacled Bears, are native to the Andes Mountains of South America, where they are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.  Only 2,000-2,400 remain in the wild.

See more photos of the cub below the fold.

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Baby Otters: Rascals of the Rhino Yard


Two baby Oriental Small-clawed Otters born in April at Switzerland's Zoo Basel are providing endless entertainment as they play with the Rhinoceros family that shares their exhibit.




Photo Credit:  Zoo Basel

The first time that one-year-old bull Rhinoceros Jari came to the enclosure, the otters all ran along behind him and boldly nipped his hind legs. Fortunately, Jari has very thick skin – and lucky for the otters, Jari’s mother chose to chastise them by simply ignoring them and walking off.

When the Otters aren’t pestering the Rhinos, they are often followed around by young wild Crows, who peck them from behind with their beaks.  When the inter-species conflict subsides, the adult Otters are teaching the two youngsters their Otter ABCs. The first lesson: how to dive without drowning.

Zoo Basel’s Otter/Rhino enclosure is specifically designed to meet the needs of these agile little rascals. Aside from dens where they can produce their young, the exhibit is surrounded by a shallow stream where the Otters search for food.  Basking areas and the tree stump are also popular, offering visitors a wonderful view of the animals. 

Oriental Small-clawed Otters are one of the few Otter species to live together in large extended families. They live in Asia next to rivers and shallow waters, and feed primarily on smaller aquatic life, such as Snails and Mussels. Unlike other Otters, they do not hunt for fish in deep water, but instead feel around in the watery sludge for food using their finger-like paws. When they catch something, they first wash it before chowing down.

See more photos of the Otters below the fold.

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Two Coati Pups Surprise Zoo Budapest


An elderly South American Coati unexpectedly gave birth to two healthy pups at Zoo Budapest. In the wild, Coatis rarely live longer than seven to eight years, but they have been known to live up to 17 years in captivity. The mother of these two pups, Juliet, is 15 years old. The Zoo's press release notes that "it is almost a matter of biological peculiarity" that she has successfully given birth to two healthy pups at her advanced age. At four years old, the pups' sire has only been sexually mature for about half a year, making the parents quite the unlikely pair!

Zoo staff were concerned that the elderly mother would not be able to raise both pups on her own, so one pup is staying with mom while the other is being hand-raised by human caregivers. As an adult, the hand-raised pup will be used for educational programs at the zoo. The pups are now about three weeks old.



Photo credits: Zoo Budapest

See and learn more after the fold!


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Meet Thelma... and Louise, the Baby Two-headed Texas River Cooter

Cooter hero

The San Antonio Zoo welcomed a very special arrival to their aquarium: a two-headed (bicephalic) Texas River Cooter named Thelma and Louise! Thelma and Louise were part of a quartet of Texas Cooters hatched at the zoo on June 18 that made their public debut on June 25.

Craig Pelke, Curator of Reptiles, Amphibians, and Aquatics, notes that while this is uncommon, it is not unheard of in both the wild and captive populations. Bicephalic animals are actually twins that did not separate, resulting in two or more heads on one animal. Bicephaly occurs most commonly with snakes and turtles, without any accompanying health issues. Pelke said, “At this time, Thelma and Louise are doing well on exhibit and eating with both heads!”

Cooter size 2

Cooter duo

Cooter hand
Photo Credit: San Antonio Zoo

The San Antonio Zoo is no stranger to two-headed reptiles. A two-headed Texas rat snake named Janus lived there from 1978 until it passed away in 1995. Visitors can see the Cooter hatchlings in the Friedrich Aquarium located inside the zoo.

See more photos below the fold:

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Tiny Red Panda Cubs Are Big News

Red panda 2

The Birmingham Zoo in Alabama is now home to the first Red Panda cubs born in the US this year. Born May 30, the two cubs currently are off-exhibit with mom. This is the first litter for the mother, three-year-old Sorrel and father, four-year-old Shifu. This was a significant birth as Red Pandas are a threatened species with fewer than 2,500 adults left in the world, according to The Birmingham Zoo. 

Sorrel is very protective of the cubs and is nursing regularly. This is very encouraging and staff are working hard to ensure that Sorrel has everything she needs to care for her new family. When born in human care, Red Panda cubs have a 50 percent mortality rate (the mortality rate in the wild is unknown), so it is wonderful news that the first-time mom is caring for her cubs so well.

Red panda 3

Red pandas 1

Red pandas 4
Photo Credit: Birmingham Zoo

Red Pandas are quite delicate at birth and stay close to their mothers until they are around three months old. As long as things continue to go well, visitors can expect to see the cubs in the fall when they start to venture away from the den. For now, there is a live monitor of the pandas at the zoo's Red Panda exhibit.

The breeding that led to this birth is part of the American Zoological Association’s Species Survival Plan, a nationally-coordinated effort to save threatened and endangered animals from extinction. In the wild, Red Pandas live in the bamboo forests of China, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, and Nepal. While they share some habitat with the Giant Panda, the two species are not related. Red Pandas are listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as Vulnerable, a ranking one step down from Endangered. According to the IUCN, deforestation is the greatest threat to this species. 

It's Twin Maned Wolf Pups for the Smithsonian Institute

Wolf twins 1

The onset of summer for the Animal Care staff at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va., means patiently awaiting endangered-animal births, hand raising youngsters, and saying farewell to cubs that are ready to be matched with mates. All of the species—which range in International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List status from near threatened to endangered—are significant and represent great conservation successes.

One of the new births of these important animals were two male Maned Wolf pups, born on April 14 to 2-year-old female Vitani and 8-year-old male, Paul. The pups received a clean bill of health at their first veterinary exam, appearing robust and healthy. Keepers have nicknamed the pups “Bold” and “Shy” for their distinctive personalities. 

Only 85 Maned Wolves are part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan, and these pups account for 40 percent of successful Maned Wolf births in the United States this year. A leader in Maned Wolf conservation, SCBI has had 74 pups born there since 1975—more than any other institution.

Wolf solo

Wolf twins tilt
Photo Credit: Janice Sveda

Read more and see more pictures after the fold:

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Giant Anteater Born at Zoo Berlin


Zoo Berlin welcomed a baby Giant Anteater on May 26. The baby, named Evita by her keepers, is a female. The name was chosen because "E" is the fifth letter in the alphabet, and this is mom Griseline's fifth surviving baby. Before Evita there were Adolpho, Benita, Carlos, and Danita, all born at Berlin Zoo. Evita is being hand-fed by keepers and receives three additional bottle meals per day.



Evita was just 1,570 grams, or 3.5 pounds, when she was born, but has now increased her weight to 2.5 kg, or 5.5 pounds. She's strong enough to ride on her mother's back — a behavior that is common in Giant Anteaters. Keepers, however, must keep a close eye on Evita since her coloration makes it difficult to distinguish her from her mother's fur.


Giant Anteaters are insectivores native to South America. As the name implies, their diets consist of ants as well as other small insects. They use their strong claws to tear open termite mounds and anthills. Since Giant Anteaters have no teeth, their two-foot-long tongues and sticky saliva help them to extract the insects.



Photo Credit Zoo Berlin

Tulsa Zoo Welcomes a Snow Leopard Cub

Cub nap

The Tulsa Zoo welcomed little Niko, an endangered Snow Leopard cub, born on May 10 to mother Sherab and father, Rajan. Niko is being hand-reared behind-the-scenes. At 7 weeks of age, he is thriving, and currently weighs more than 6 lbs (2.72kg). Mother Sherab is doing well and is back on exhibit.

Niko’s birth was in conjunction with the Snow Leopard SSP®, or the Species Survival Plan, which manages species in Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)-accredited zoos across the nation. Ranging in mountainous areas of Central Asia from Afghanistan to Kazakhstan, and Russia to northern India and China, there are only 4,000-6,500 Snow Leopards left in the wild due to poaching and habitat loss.

Cub nurse

Cub laugh
Photo Credit: Dr. Jen Kilburn

While Niko is doing well, his two siblings did not survive the turbulent first weeks. One cub died during the birthing process and the other died just 9 days later due to bacterial sepsis in its blood. Sherab, an experienced mom, provided excellent care for the cubs in the first 24 hours. However, it soon became apparent that due to complications from the birth, Sherab would need to be moved to the zoo’s veterinary hospital and allow the Tulsa Zoo’s expert staff to hand-raise the Endangered cubs.

Story and photos continue, after the fold:

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