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February 2014

January 2014

Paignton Zoo Welcomes a Giraffe Calf

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A Rothschild’s Giraffe has been born at Paignton Zoo in the UK! The female calf was born to mother Sangha and father Yoda on the afternoon of January 25.

“She was born during the day, which is unusual but not unheard of. Giraffes mostly give birth overnight,” said Paignton Zoo Curator of Mammals Neil Bemment. 

The yet unnamed calf is doing well and stands nearly six feet tall.

The gestation period for a giraffe is between 400 and 460 days. Mothers give birth standing up – the calf's fall to the ground breaks the umbilical cord. The little calf's head is protect by small, knoby horns. Calves can stand and run within a few hours of birth. 

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3 giraffePhoto credit: Paignton Zoo

See a video of the birth:


Paignton Zoo's giraffes are a subspecies called the Rothschild or Baringo Giraffe. Rothschild's Giraffes are classified as Endangered, and their breeding across European zoos is managed by a European Endangered Species Program. 

Father Yoda came from Givskud Zoo, Denmark, where he was born in November 2004. He arrived at Paignton Zoo in September 2006. Sangha came from Liberec Zoo in Slovakia. The Zoo’s other female is Janica, who came to Paignton Zoo from Duvr Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic.

The other youngsters at the zoo are Valentino, born to mother Janica in February 2012 and Otilie, who was born to mother Sangha in September 2012. A male calf was born in August 2013 to Janica and Yoda, but sadly, he died soon afterwards.

Echidna Puggle Gets a Helping Hand

1 pugglePhoto credit: Taronga Western Plains Zoo

A team of veterinary nurses at the wildlife hospital of Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Australia has been hand-raising and caring for an Echidna puggle over the last couple of months.

The baby Echidna was found on the road between Wellington and Dubbo. It is believed its mother was hit by a car, orphaning the puggle as a result. The puggle came into care at the Zoo’s Wildlife Hospital in early November and has been cared for by vet nurses ever since.

“The puggle is now approximately four months old and responding very well under the watchful eye of the vet nurses,” said vet nurse, Jodie Milton.

“It’s feeding well and gaining weight steadily, so we’ll be able to wean it in about three to four months’ time and start introducing it to solid food.”

The little puggle has also started to develop the species’ distinctive spines, leaving its team of dedicated vet nurses pleased with its development.

It is extremely rare to see an Echidna puggle, let alone raise one, because they live in their mother’s pouch for two to three months before moving into a secluded burrow for up to a year.

In the coming months the Echidna puggle will be transferred to Taronga Zoo in Sydney to join the Short-beaked Echidna breeding program at the Zoo.

“It will be some time before the puggle will be able to fend for itself, but until then it’s in safe hands,” said Jodie.

Endangered Micronesian Kingfisher Hatches

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The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute rung in 2014 with the hatching of the most endangered species in its collection—a Micronesian Kingfisher— on January 1. The chick, whose sex is unknown, is the first offspring for its 8-year-old father and 2-year-old mother. This boost brings the total population of Micronesian Kingfishers to 129 birds. They are extinct in the wild.

Micronesian Kingfishers are extremely difficult to breed due to incompatibility between males and females, and the inability of some parents to successfully raise their own chicks.  Animal care staff are hand-raising the chick, which involves feeding it at two-hour intervals, seven to eight times per day.

Visitors to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo can see these critically endangered birds on exhibit in the Bird House.

Kingfisher 2Photo credits: Victoria Lake / Conservation Biology Institute

See a video of the hatchling:


Micronesian Kingfishers flourished in Guam’s limestone forests and coconut plantations until the arrival of the brown tree snake, an invasive species that stowed away in military equipment shipped from New Guinea after World War II. Because these reptiles had no natural predators on Guam, their numbers grew and they spread across the island quickly. Within three decades, they had hunted Micronesian Kingfishers and eight other bird species to the brink of extinction.

In 1984, Guam’s Department of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources captured the country’s remaining 29 Micronesian Kingfishers and sent them to zoological institutions around the globe—including the National Zoo—as a hedge against extinction. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums created a Species Survival Plan (SSP) for the birds. The SSP pairs males and females in order to maintain a genetically diverse and self-sustaining population in captivity.

As the captive population increases, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Guam’s Department of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources continue to look for suitable release sites in Guam. The availability of release sites continues to shrink, however, due to deforestation and human expansion. Controlling the brown snake population remains a significant challenge as well. Scientists are hopeful that initiatives for snake control and forest protection signify that the reintroduction of the Micronesian Kingfisher may soon become feasible. Additionally, field studies of a different subspecies of wild kingfishers are underway on Pohnpei, another Micronesian island, to secure essential biological information on wild populations and to test various reintroduction techniques for use on Guam.

Rescued Sea Otter Pup Comes to Monterey Bay Aquarium

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A rescued male Sea Otter pup recently went on exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The rescue, for now named Otter 649, was stranded in November on Jalama Beach in Santa Barbara County as a three-week-old pup, weighing less than seven pounds (3.2 kg). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared him to be non-releasable, and authorized the aquarium to raise him on exhibit. 

He was admitted into the aquarium's veterinary intensive care unit, where he was well cared for. Now 13 weeks old and weighing 16 pounds (7.25 kg), Otter 649 is robust and healthy. He has a friend, too! His interactions with his otter companion, Gidget, will help the younger otter learn how to socialize with other exhibit animals. 

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4 otterPhoto credit: Monterey Bay Aquarium

Easy to recognize with his smaller size and uniformly black, velvet-like fur, the young rescue will remain on exhibit as long as husbandry staff continue to see positive interactions with Gidget. Like the other Sea Otters on exhibit, Gidget is also a rescue who would not have been able to survive in the wild. The exhibit otters act as companions, mentors, and surrogate mothers for the aquarium's Sea Otter Research and Conservation program. Otter 649 is the first pup that Gidget has mentored.

Eventually, Otter 649 will be transferred to another aquarium accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. He will be named at his new home. 

Otter 649 is the sixth pup to go on exhibit at Monterey Bay Aquarium. He is the 649th stranded otter to be brought into the aquarium's Sea Otter Research and Conservation program since 1984. Learn more about the aquarium's efforts to save this endangered species here.

Tiny Sea Horses Dazzle at Zoo Basel


Dozens of tiny Pot-bellied Sea Horses cling to underwater plants at Switzerland's Zoo Basel.  These itty-bitty babies, native to the coastal waters of Australia, will grow to about 13 inches long as adults.


Photo Credit:  Zoo Basel

Like all Sea Horses, females of this species lay their eggs into a brood patch on the males.  The males then carry the eggs for about a month, and the babies hatch and swim off on thier own.  Hundreds of baby Pot-Bellied Sea Horses may hatch at one time, a strategy that ensures that at least a few of these vulnerable babies will grow into adulthood.

Bottles Give a Boost to Zoo Miami’s Lion Cub

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A male Lion cub born December 15 at Florida’s Zoo Miami is getting extra care from zoo keepers after battling several health challenges in his short life.

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Photo Credit:  Zoo Miami
The only cub born to first-time mother Asha, he remains in stable condition and zoo officials are guarded but hopeful about his chances for survival. The cub has already overcome dehydration and a bacterial infection. Now, keepers are concerned that Asha may not be producing enough milk for her cub, so they provide supplemental bottle feedings three times a day.

Because they want the cub to bond with his mother, keepers offer the bottles through a barrier, allowing him to remain with Asha. Fortunately, Asha accepts the cub after each feeding, an important factor in the cub’s socialization. The staff observes Asha and her cub with a closed circuit camera and reports that Asha is an attentive mother, but the cub could still face challenges in the next several months.

See more photos of the cub below the fold.

Continue reading "Bottles Give a Boost to Zoo Miami’s Lion Cub" »

Giant Otters Start Out Small at Zoo Miami

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Zoo Miami is home to a new litter of highly endangered Giant Otters!  The two male pups were born on December 19 and are currently in a secluded den off of exhibit being raised by their mother, Kara and their father Witoto.  Kara was born at the Philadelphia Zoo and Witoto is on loan from the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Natural Resources in Brazil.  This is the fifth successful litter produced by this pair at Zoo Miami.

At nearly 5 weeks old, the two pups are just now beginning to open their eyes and will remain in the den for the next several weeks prior to being introduced to their exhibit. 

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5 otterPhoto credit: Zoo Miami

Though they are only about two feet (60 cm) long and weigh approximately four pounds (.9 kg) at this time, they may grow to be nearly six feet (1.8 m) long and weigh close to 75 pounds (34 kg) as adults.  Commonly called 'River Wolves' in their native habitat, Giant Otters are found in isolated and remote areas within some fresh water lakes, rivers, creeks, and reservoirs of tropical South America.  Their numbers have been drastically reduced due to fur hunting and habitat destruction.  In the wild, they feed mainly on fish, but have also been known to eat caiman and snakes.  They are highly social and can be found in family groups of 10-12 animals with a lifespan of approximately 12 years in the wild and up to 21 years in captivity.

Sea Otter Mom and Pup Visit Monterey Bay Aquarium

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A wild Sea Otter mom took her pup for a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium! The pair spent the day hanging out in the aquarium's nearby Great Tide Pool, much to the excitement of visitors and staff. 

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Photo credits: Monterey Bay Aquarium

Sea Otters are an Endangered species found along the northern and eastern coasts of the North Pacific Ocean. They were hunted extensively for their warm, soft fur from the mid-1700s through the early 1900s. Now protected, they have rebounded well in some areas. They are considered a 'keystone' species in kelp forest habitats: Sea Otters eat and limit the numbers of sea urchins, which otherwise overgraze and extensively damage kelp forest ecosystems. Kelp forests are home to an amazing diversity of life, and serve as important 'nursery' habitats for young fish. 

The Monterey Bay Aquarium monitors wild Sea Otter populations, conducts important research, and rehabilitates stranded Sea Otter pups for release in the wild. Learn more about their work in Sea Otter conservation here.

And, see a video of the visiting otters here!

Fresno Chaffee Zoo Welcomes a Litter of Tigers

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Mek, a female Malayan Tiger at Fresno Chaffee Zoo in California, has given birth to not one but four cubs! The litter, born on January 5, will remain in the den to bond with mom for the next few months.

At ten days-old, a veterinary checkup on the cubs found that everyone so far is healthy, strong and thriving. The sexes of the cubs have also been determined: two females and two males. 

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4 tigerPhoto credit: Fresno Chaffee Zoo

Visitors to the zoo can take peek at the mother and cubs on a live video monitor set up outside the exhibit. The cubs' father, Paka, will stay on exhibit. (In the wild, male tigers don't help to rear their own young.)

Tigers are listed as Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List. According to the zoo, only about 3,000 tigers remain in the wild, and of those only around 500 are Malayan Tigers, a subspecies that inhabits the Malay Peninsula. Tigers are threatened by habitat loss and poaching. 

Mek and Paka are part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP), which coordinates breeding of tigers between zoos in order to maintain healthy genetics in the captive population. The birth of these four cubs is great news for the conservation of these cats.