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November 2013
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December 2013

Sedqwick County Zoo Films Birth of Little-studied Amphibian Species

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On December 12, eight Kaup's Caecilians were born on exhibit at the Sedgwick County Zoo in Kansas! Although they might look like earthworms or little snakes, Caecilians (pronounced seh-SILL-yens) are amphibians, related to frogs and salamanders. They are by far the least familiar group of amphibians for zoo visitors. The births are believed to be the first captive reproduction of this poorly known and virtually unstudied species. 

Ranging throughout the tropics of the Americas, Africa, and Asia, most Caecilians are blind and live entirely underground. However, a few Amazonian species are aquatic, such as the Kaup’s Caecilian. 

2 caecilianPhoto credit: Sedgwick County Zoo

Here's a video of the births. At the end there is a much clearer view of the swimming babies.


Rather than laying eggs, Kaup's Caecilians give birth to live, fully-developed young. The pinkish youngsters were born with large, sac-like gills which quickly detached from their bodies during the birthing process. Unlike the gills of other amphibians, the gills of Kaup's Caecilians are thought to serve a placenta-like function while in the mother's body, and are not used for respiration after birth.

The babies are currently in a behind-the-scenes area. However, the adults can be found in the zoo's Amphibian & Reptile building.

Baby Gorilla Bonds with Mom at Brookfield Zoo

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Enjoy these new photos of a baby Western Lowland Gorilla spending quality time with her mom, Koola! The female baby Gorilla, born on November 4 at Chicago's Brookfield Zoo, can be seen with her mom during the zoo's remaining Holiday Magic days, December 30-31. (The Tropic World exhibit closes at 8 p.m.)

A newborn Gorilla weighs between 4 and 5 pounds at birth. As the baby grows, she will develop thicker hair and a white 'tail' tuft. The infant has a strong grip and will cling to Koola’s abdomen. At three months of age, zoo guests will be able to observe the baby riding on Koola’s back. About a month later, she will start to sample small pieces of food, however, nursing will continue until she is three to four years old. Also, at four months of age she will start to explore on her own, but will stay within arm’s reach of mom.  

The newborn joins a family of four: her big sister Kamboo (9), father JoJo (33), and maternal grandmother, Binti (25), along with her mother Koola (18). 

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4 gorillaPhoto credit: Jim Schulz/Chicago Zoological Society

JoJo arrived at Brookfield Zoo from Lincoln Park Zoo in May 2012 based on a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Gorilla Species Survival Plan. A Species Survival Plan is a cooperative population management and conservation program for select species in accredited North American zoos and aquariums. Each plan manages the breeding of a species to maintain a healthy and self-sustaining population that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable. According to the Western Lowland Gorilla Species Survival Plan, JoJo is one of the most genetically valuable males in the zoo population. Currently, there are 342 Western Lowland Gorillas in 53 accredited North American zoos.

Gorillas live in social groups composed of one adult male, several adult females, juveniles, and infants. As they reach sexual maturity, both males and females typically leave the group in which they were born. They either establish a new group or join an existing one.

Western Lowland Gorillas are Critically Endangered due to habitat destruction, primarily from logging, disease such as the Ebola virus, the illegal pet trade, and poaching for bushmeat. It is not known how many Western Lowland Gorillas survive in their native West Africa (the forests of Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Nigeria, Congo, and Angola). Some recent estimates have been between 90,000 and 110,000 individuals, but new surveys are needed to determine whether or not this figure is exaggerated.

“We are extremely pleased that JoJo has successfully assumed the role as the silverback or leader of Brookfield Zoo’s gorilla group and has made a positive impact since his arrival,” said Stuart Strahl, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Chicago Zoological Society. “This infant represents an important contribution to the Gorilla population in North American zoos. We hope that when zoo guests see the infant and her family members they will be inspired to care for this Critically Endangered species.” 

Rescued Fur Seal Pup Finds a Home at New England Aquarium


The staff at the New England Aquarium got a real-life gift from the "North Pole" this month - a rescued Northern Fur Seal pup arrived from the Alaska SeaLife Center. (The pup traveled by FedEx cargo plane, not Santa's sleigh!)


Photo Credit:  New England Aquarium

ZooBorns first reported on the pup's rescue
 here.  The pup, named Chiidax, was left in a box at the Alaska Fish & Game office on the remote Aleutian Island of Sand Point with a note attached stating that its mother died while giving birth.  

Officials whisked the underwight, dehydrated pup to the Alaska SeaLife Center 500 miles away, where he quickly doubled his weight under their expert care.  Because he was hand-raised and his exact birth area was unknown, the staff determined that Chiidax could not be released back into the wild.  Luckily, the New England Aquarium has a successful breeding program for Northern Fur Seals and was eager to bring Chiidax to its Fur Seal exhibit.

Chiidax has a playmate ready to meet him at the aquarium - Kit, a female Fur Seal born in August. Aquarium officials expect Chiidax to move into their harborside Seal exhibit sometime in January.

Northern Fur Seal populations have declined over the past decades.  They are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.


Santa's Elves Aren't the Only 'Little' Arrivals at Belfast Zoo

(1)  Santa_s elves aren_t the only _little_ arrivals at Belfast Zoo, as two of the world_s smallest monkeys have been born!

Santa’s elves aren’t the only ‘little’ arrivals at Northern Ireland’s Belfast Zoo – twin Pygmy Marmosets, the world’s smallest monkey species, were born on November 14.

The twins are carried by their parents most of the time, but they’re becoming more adventurous by the day. 

(2)  The tiny twin pygmy marmosets were born on 14 November 2013.  They are carried by their parents but are becoming more adventurous and exploring their surroundings.
(3)  Pygmy marmosets are the smallest member of the primate family and adults only weigh between four and five ounces when fully grown!
(5)  You can see the pygmy marmosets in the gorilla house at Belfast Zoo.
(4)  You can support the care of Belfast Zoo_s pygmy marmosets by taking part in the animal adoption scheme.
Photo Credit:  Belfast Zoo

Pygmy Marmosets are one of the world’s smallest primates, with adults weighing four to five ounces (110-140g) when fully grown.  Native to South America’s upper Amazon basin, Pygmy Marmosets dwell in rain forests and feed primarily on tree gum.  Using specialized teeth, Marmosets gnaw on trees until sap is released, then lick up the sap.  They also feed on insects which are attracted to the sap, as well as fruits and nectar.

A Victoria Crowned Pigeon Hatches at Zoo Miami

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Zoo Miami has announced its first successful hatching of a Victoria Crowned Pigeon!  The single chick hatched on November 30 after being artificially incubated in the zoo’s brooder building for 28 days. 

Victoria Crowned Pigeons are the world’s largest living pigeons, reaching a length of nearly 30 inches (76.2 cm) and weighing close to five pounds (2.27 kg).  They are one of the closest living relatives of the now extinct Dodo bird.  Found in the lowland forests of New Guinea and portions of Indonesia, these stunning birds are classified as Near Threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Species' Red List. Main threats are deforestation for logging as well as by hunting for food and their ornate feathers.  These birds are found in small flocks on the forest floor foraging for seeds, fruit and snails.  Distinguished by their ornate fan of crest feathers and deep red eyes, adults are mainly blue in color with accents of deep burgundy and small highlights of white.   

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Victoria Crowned Pigeons are monogamous birds that mate for life. The male courts the female by lowering and bobbing his head, fanning his tail, and emitting rapid booming sounds. He then brings the female sticks which she uses to construct a nest and both parents share in the incubation duties. Unlike most other birds, pigeons, both males and females, produce a special 'crop milk' which is used to feed the single chick for the first few weeks of its life. Once this chick is weaned, the hope is to introduce it into Zoo Miami’s “Wings of Asia” aviary exhibit.

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7 pigeonPhoto credit: Zoo Miami

Lion Moms Raise Litters Together at Zoo Basel

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Zoo Basel in Switzerland is celebrating the arrival of not just one—but two—litters of Lion cubs! The four male cubs were born on November 9th and 13th. The proud mothers are Okoa and Uma, who both gave birth to their young in the same whelping box and are caring for the two litters together. It is still unclear which cubs came from which mother, but a DNA test will shed some light on the matter. The baby Lions’ father is Mbali, who can still be found lying in the company of the entire family. 

The animal keepers had suspected for some time that the two Lionesses were pregnant.  However, since both mothers were already on the older side at eleven years old, they were unsure if any young would actually be born. Father Mbali was permitted to remain with the females throughout. The mothers even allowed him to lie with them in the narrow whelping box, where he was forced to squeeze himself against the edge.

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4 lionPhoto credit: Zoo Basel

On December 16, the four baby Lions received their first visit from the zoo veterinarian. He fitted them each with a small chip, administered de-worming medication and performed a health check. All four are healthy and well-nourished. The baby Lions are still spending most of their time in the warm indoor stall. With a bit of luck, over the next few days visitors will be able to observe their first forays into the outdoor enclosure. For now, visitors can peek through a window to see into the whelping box in the Lion enclosure.

Mbali, Okoa and Uma come from Pilanesberg and Madikwe, nature reserves in north-western South Africa which house lions from Namibia. As the lions there are reproducing well, some animals could be given away to increase the genetic diversity in zoos. Thanks to their semi-wild origins, these Lion cubs are expected to be of genetic interest to the zoo community.

In 2012, the dramatic decline in the Lion population over recent years prompted the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) to agree to the establishment of a European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) for Lions from sub-Saharan Africa. Previously, such a program only existed for Asian Lions. In the future, the breeding program will manage the entire European zoo Lion population and ensure the highest possible level of genetic diversity.

See and learn more after the fold.

Continue reading "Lion Moms Raise Litters Together at Zoo Basel" »

Baby Orangutan is a Precious Gift for Twycross Zoo

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The United Kingdom's Twycross Zoo has announced the birth of an Orangutan! Born in the early hours of the morning on November 28, the newborn ape is happy, healthy and doing very well.

The new arrival is 36-year old Kibriah’s fourth offspring and yet another vital addition to the European Breeding Programme of this endangered great ape.

Dr. Charlotte Macdonald, head of life sciences at the zoo, says, “When keepers arrived in the morning they were delighted to find Kibriah had given birth overnight.

“Although Kibriah isn’t a first time mum, this is her first baby in 12 years, so we’re all very pleased with how well she’s doing. She’s very confident and relaxed with the infant, and enjoying plenty of rest! At the moment Dad [Batu, aged 24] hasn’t met the new arrival but it won’t be long before they’re introduced. Batu is a great father to Molly, our three year old Orangutan, so we expect the meeting to go very smoothly.”

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3 orangutanPhoto credit: Twycross Zoo

See video of the baby at 14 days old:


Female Orangutans generally give birth to a single infant after a gestation period of approximately eight and a half months. Female Bornean Orangutans reach maturity between 10 and 15 years old and reproduce every six to eight years on average.

Great Ape Team Leader, Simon Childs, adds, “We’re all very proud. Kibriah is a very loving mum and she’s doing such a great job. She is holding the baby very close so we won’t know if it’s a boy or a girl just yet. When we find out the sex, we can then start to think of a name for him or her. At this stage we don’t mind what sex it is, we’re just happy to have another healthy infant.”

“Molly is already a firm favorite with our visitors so we expect Kibriah’s newest arrival will too become very popular with visitors, and in time become a playmate for Molly.”

See and read more after the fold.

Continue reading "Baby Orangutan is a Precious Gift for Twycross Zoo" »

Endangered Chinese Big-headed Turtles Hatch at Prospect Park Zoo

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Five Chinese Big-headed Turtles have hatched at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) Prospect Park Zoo in New York City. These turtles, hatched in November, are the first to be successfully bred at a zoo accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).  

Chinese Big-headed Turtles are native to China, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. They can grow to be about seven inches in length. They have skulls of solid bone that is so large in proportion to their bodies that they cannot be withdrawn into the shell for protection.

The species is classified as Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. They are threatened by trade demand across its Asian range countries.

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3 turtlePhoto credit: Wildlife Conservation Society / Julie Larsen Maher

See video of the little hatchlings:


In zoos, specific environmental and climatic conditions need to be manipulated in order to stimulate Chinese Big-headed Turtles to reproduce. Zoo experts were able to successfully recreate and document these conditions in the zoo’s propagation facilities, providing a road map for other organizations to successfully breed these turtles. 

Husbandry techniques were fine-tuned to promote breeding and successful incubation of the eggs. Before the breeding season, adults are isolated and placed in enclosures with environmental conditions that mimic the annual environmental cycles they would experience in the wild. These environmental cycles are important to the regular reproductive functions of the species. Room temperatures and lighting are adjusted depending on the time of year – colder and darker in the fall and winter, warmer and lighter in the spring and summer. During their “winter" the turtles hibernate. After awaking, males are introduced to females.

The Prospect Park Zoo is breeding this species as part of WCS’s global effort to save critically endangered turtles from extinction. The strategy draws on all of the resources and expertise across the institution – including its zoos and aquarium, Wildlife and Zoological Health Programs, and Global Conservation Programs – to take direct responsibility for the continued survival of some of the world’s most endangered tortoises and freshwater turtles.

“The success we are seeing at this point in our turtle propagation work is encouraging,” says Jim Breheny, WCS executive vice president of zoos and aquarium and Bronx Zoo director. “Our work on breeding endangered turtles utilizes the expertise found throughout the entire WCS organization as well as various partner organizations with whom we work.”

Learn more about turtle conservation after the fold!

Continue reading "Endangered Chinese Big-headed Turtles Hatch at Prospect Park Zoo" »

Giraffe Mom and Calf Bond at Nashville Zoo

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Nashville Zoo in Tennessee has announced the birth of a female Masai giraffe. The calf was born in the early morning hours of December 13, weighing 180 pounds (81.65 kg) and standing 6 feet 5 inches (1.96 m) tall. She and mom Margarita are doing well in the zoo’s Giraffe barn. 

“We’ve been tracking Margarita’s pregnancy for about a year and estimated her due date to be in early December,” said Kate Cortelyou, lead Giraffe keeper. “I arrived at the Giraffe barn around 7:30 a.m. [on Dec. 13] to find a dry, healthy, standing baby Giraffe, which is the perfect way to find them. We are so thrilled about the latest addition to our herd.”

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Photo credit: Nashville Zoo / Amiee Stubbs

This is nine-year-old Margarita’s third calf. Her first was born in 2010, and the second, a female named Camilla, was born in 2012 and recently left Nashville to join her permanent herd at the Columbus Zoo. With the addition of the calf, Nashville Zoo is home to two subspecies: three Masai Giraffe and one Reticulated Giraffe. Zoo officials will carefully monitor the baby’s development inside the Giraffe barn for the next two months. After that, keepers will make a decision on her public debut depending on climatic conditions. 

Masai Giraffe are one of nine different sub-species and are known for their oak-leaf shaped spot pattern. They are native to the savannas of Kenya and Tanzania.

Two-Toed Sloth Joins the Family at the National Aquarium


The National Aquarium welcomed a new addition to their Upland Tropical Rainforest—a baby sloth! The baby, named Scout, was born on November 17 to mother Ivy. In order to give Ivy and her baby time to bond, the staff has been observing the pair from a distance. Because of this, the newborn’s weight, height, and gender have yet to be determined. The baby joins an ever growing family of five with Syd, Howie, Xeno, Camden and Ivy. Scout is the fourth sloth born at the aquarium and the second born to Ivy. In celebration of Scout’s arrival, the National Aquarium has set up a baby registry. Fans can make donations to help purchase essential supplies to help care for Scout.


“Our team is thrilled to welcome another baby sloth to our Rain Forest habitat,” said Ken Howell, Curator of the Upland Tropical Rain Forest. “It is an honor to work with these incredible animals and inspire our guests to learn more about the ways they can protect them.”

Sloths have had a home at the aquarium since 2007. Linne’s Two-Toes Sloths can be found in the aquarium’s Upland Tropical Rainforest, an exhibit modeled after the species' native habitat—South American rain forests. These slow moving mammals spend almost their entire lives in the trees, sleeping up to 20 hours a day.