Previous month:
December 2013
Next month:
February 2014

January 2014

Denver Zoo Welcomes World's Most Endangered Cat

4 leopard

Denver Zoo is celebrating the birth of a Critically Endangered Amur (ah-Moor) Leopard cub named Sochi, born December 3.

The young male, named for the Russian city hosting this year's winter Olympics, is the tenth birth of his species at Denver Zoo since Amur Leopards arrived at the zoo about 25 years ago. After spending some time bonding mom, Dazma (Dazz-mah), Sochi can now be seen by zoo guests inside the zoo's feline building.

1 leopard

3 leopard

2 leopardPhoto credit: Denver Zoo

Sochi is the second cub for Dazma and her mate, Hari-Kari (Harry Care-ee). Hari-Kari was born at El Paso Zoo in 2003, while Dazma was born at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in 2001. The two came to Denver Zoo and were paired under recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) which ensures healthy populations and genetic diversity among zoo animals. Fortunately, the couple has proved to be an excellent match.

Amur Leopards take their name from the Amur region in eastern Russia. Once found from South Korea to north of the China-Russia border, they are now nearly extinct in the wild due to poaching for fur, loss of habitat and trophy hunting. In fact, Amur Leopards are considered the most endangered cats on the planet. Though there are differing reports about just how many of them remain in the wild, the largest estimation is less than 50 individuals, compared to 96 in North American zoos. In 1989, when Denver Zoo's first Amur Leopard arrived, there were still less than 50 in the wild and only 10 in North American zoos.

Learn more after the fold!

Continue reading "Denver Zoo Welcomes World's Most Endangered Cat" »

Tiny Seahorses Hatch at Georgia Aquarium

2 seahorse

Check out these Big-belly Seahorse fry that hatched at the Georgia Aquarium!  

Seahorses are one of very few species where the male 'gives birth'. The female will deposit her eggs in a brood pouch located on her mate's belly, where he fertilizes them internally and carries them until they hatch. A single male may carry hundreds of eggs in his pouch.

When the fry hatch, they must gulp at air bubbles to fill up their swim bladder, an organ that allows them to control their buoyancy. Sometimes they gulp in a bit too much air. When this happens, they may float at the surface and be unable to feed. To help prevent 'floaters', these little guys live in a specially designed tank called a kreisel, which keeps water circulating gently so that they won't remain stuck at the surface. Aquarists also carefully string fishing line in the tank that the seahorses can grab onto with their prehensile tails. In their early days, the fry are fed tiny, live brine shrimp that are hatched at the aquarium.

1 seahorse

3 seahorse

4 seahorsePhoto credit: Georgia Aquarium

The system that houses the seahorse fry can be seen during the Aquarium's behind-the-scenes tours. Georgia Aquarium breeds Big-belly Seahorses as ambassadors for their threatened habitats, coral reefs and seagrass beds, which are important marine ecosystems. This breeding effort allows the aquarium to display seahorses without taking them from the ocean, and also to donate seahorses to other aquariums. 

See the aquarium's blog post for more. 

Baby Moray Eels are a Worldwide First

1 moray

There are over 200 species of Moray eels. Worldwide, not one of them had been successfully bred until recently. At Zoo Vienna Schönbrunn in Austria, a Black Ribbon Moray laid a clutch of fertilized eggs. This fact alone is quite a sensation. But it gets better: some larvae even hatched!

"It is the first time that the hatching of Morays could be observed. Up to now, nobody knew what the larvae look like, what they eat and how they behave“, explains the zoo’s director Dagmar Schratter. 

The breeding of Morays is completely new territory. The successful event in Schönbrunn Zoo supplies the first information - completely unknown up to now - about the development of their eggs and larvae. 

2 moray

3 morayMoray parents: sexually mature females are yellow, the males black or blue. They live in the the coral reefs of the Indo Pacific. Photo credits: Schönbrunn Zoo / Daniel Zupanc

"The heartbeat of the Moray larvae was clearly visible in the transparent egg. At the time of hatching, the larvae are only about one centimeter long and look like little deep-sea monsters with their long teeth," says Anton Weissenbacher, head of the Aquarium House. The animal keepers succeeded in offering the larvae adequate food and shortly after hatching they already started to eat.

The breeding facility was not adapted to the special needs of the Moray larvae, because there was no knowledge based on experience to fall back on. The larvae could be kept alive for one week and the development of the creatures was closely watched and documented. According to the zoo, these first steps promise great hope for the future breeding and study of these creatures.

Weissenbacher says, "We have been able to learn a great deal in this short time and are now adapting the facility accordingly. All that remains is to hope for another oviposition [deposition of eggs] of our Black Ribbon Morays in the near future.“

Baby Hippo Takes a Dip at Whipsnade Zoo

1 hippo

A baby Hippo made a splashing debut at Zoological Society of London's (ZSL) Whipsnade Zoo by taking a dip in the public pool for the very first time.

The five-week-old Common Hippo calf had been snuggled up to mum, Lola, in their private dens, before making its first appearance in the big pool today.

Born just after 9 a.m. on December 11, the tiny tot is Lola and dad, Hoover’s, second calf. The calf is thought to be a little girl, but its sex is yet to be confirmed. In the meantime, keepers have nicknamed the youngster Nelly.

2 hippo

3 hippo

4 hippo

5 hippoPhoto credit: ZSL's Whipsnade Zoo

See a video:


Zookeeper Steve White said, “After a few tentative steps on the water’s edge, Nelly was soon enjoying paddling around in the pool and blowing bubbles under the surface as she explored her new surroundings.

“She’s extremely playful and inquisitive and loves nothing more than watching what’s going on around her. She was standing and suckling just an hour after she was born, and mum’s been doing a brilliant job really helping her to thrive.” 

Born after an eight month gestation period, baby Nelly will one day weigh a whopping 1.4 tons (1400kg) when she’s fully grown, and reach up to around five feet four inches (1.6 meters) in height. 

Classed as 'Vulnerable' by the Internation Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species, and under threat from poaching and habitat loss in the wild, Nelly is a much welcomed addition to the European Studbook for Common Hippos.

Rescued Cougar Cubs Arrive at Oregon Zoo

Cougar heroPhoto credit: Oregon Zoo

More Cougars! This time, it's a trio of two-week-old cubs that were orphaned in the wild. They were rescued last week by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife brought to Oregon Zoo's Veterinary Medical Center for care. 

At just two weeks old, Cougar cubs are completely dependent on their mother, who raises them without the help of a mate. Their eyes have been open for just a few days. They wouldn't have made it on their own without a mother to nurse them, protect them, and teach them the survival skills they will need. 

These guys are now in experienced, caring hands. They'll receive care at Oregon Zoo until they move to their permanent home at the North Carolina Zoo

See video of a bottle-feeding and checkup:


A Tiny Cougar Weighs In at Zoo Salzburg

1 cougar

On December 24, a healthy male Cougar was born at Zoo Salzburg in Austria! Cougars may have a litter of up to six cubs, but typically give birth to two. This time, a single cub was born and mom, 14-year-old Winnie, devotes all her care to this little one. 

Cougar cubs are born after a gestation period of about three months. Cubs are born with their eyes closed and weigh slightly less than one pound (about 400 grams). Within ten days, the cubs open their bright blue eyes. This startling eye color, along with their spotted baby-coats, changes by around six months of age. Depending on the cat's habitat, their fur may range in color from silver-gray to reddish-brown. 

2 cougar

3 cougarPhoto credits: Zoo Salzburg
The proud parents, Winnie and Yagul. In this species, mothers raise offspring without help from the father. 

Cougars, also known as Mountain Lions, Pumas, Panthers, or Catamounts, are native to the Americas. The Cougar is listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as a species of 'Least Concern'. This is because they are found widely across North and South America, from Canada through the southern tip of Chile. However, it is considered as a species in decline, and some populations have been drastically reduced or extirpated (meaning extinct in a particular region where they used to live).

Like most cats, Cougars are solitary creatures. Depending on the type of habitat, they may require very large home ranges for successful hunting. This makes them  vulnerable to habitat loss and fragmentation, as well as to the decline of prey animals.  Because they may resort to taking livestock, they also face persecution by humans. 

UPDATE! Mom and Baby Orangutan Reunite at Zoo Atlanta

1 orangutan

Pongo the Orangutan just turned one year old just a few days ago, on January 10. He was born by Caesarian section at Zoo Atlanta and raised by a team of zoo keepers, volunteers and veterinarians while Blaze, the mother, recovered.

A first-time mom, Blaze fully recovered from the surgery but wasn't quite ready to take on the role of motherhood. Caregivers began a careful series of introductions, allowing mother and baby to see each other across a barrier (for safety). In the first two photos, Pongo is watching mom at an introdution session. 

(We're doing a bit of a recap here, but see our previous stories on the birth and early reintroductions for even more photos!) 

2 orangutan

3 orangutan

After two months of introductions, Blaze finally reached a curious hand out toward the little baby. 

4 orangutan

Reintroduction efforts continued daily. Pongo was taken to the orangutan building each morning for intros with Blaze, and each evening returned to a nursery to receive round-the-clock care and feeding from staff and volunteer caregivers. Meanwhile, he was growing steadily, gaining strength, and learning how to climb!

5 orangutan

6 orangutan

Photo credits: Zoo Atlanta / Adam K. Thompson (1-3, 11, 13, 15);  Primate Team (4, 7, 11); Laura Mayo (5); Lynn Yakubinis (6, 8); Kate Leach (9, 10, 12); Max Block (14)

See and read more after the fold!

Continue reading "UPDATE! Mom and Baby Orangutan Reunite at Zoo Atlanta" »

Four Feisty Lion Cubs are the Pride of Zoo Basel


The four African Lion cubs born at Switzerland’s Zoo Basel in November are enjoying the great outdoors and behaving just like a miniature pride.  While the cubs play-fight and explore, dad exerts his fatherly influence and the females offer gentle guidance to the exuberant youngsters.


Photo Credit:  Zoo Basel 

You first met these four male cubs on ZooBorns last month, when Zoo Basel announced that two of their female Lions, Okoa and Uma, had each delivered two cubs just four days apart.  Much like wild Lions in a pride, the females are raising their cubs together.  In fact, zoo officials will need a DNA test to determine which cubs came from which mother.

The cubs’ father, Mbali, remains with the females and the cubs (males are typically removed from females and very young cubs in zoo settings).  Because Mbali, Okoa, and Uma came to Zoo Basel from African wildlife reserves, their genetic contributions to the European Endangered Species Programme are highly valued.  Wild African Lion populations have declined dramatically in the last few decades, largely due to human activity.  Zoo-managed populations will become even more important if these declines cannot be slowed.

See more photos of the cubs below the fold.

Continue reading "Four Feisty Lion Cubs are the Pride of Zoo Basel" »

Keepers Step In to Care for Baby Tapir


Reid Park Zoo’s first baby of the year is a very special little one:  a Baird’s Tapir that was rejected by his mother and is now under the care of zoo keepers.

Photo Credit:  Reid Park Zoo 

After a 13-month gestation, female Tapir Contessa delivered the male calf on January 4.  While both mom and calf are healthy, Contessa did not nurse her calf and became aggressive toward him, prompting keepers to remove the baby for hand-rearing.

Zoo officials stress that hand-rearing baby animals is very rare at the zoo, but this calf’s importance to captive breeding efforts made him an exception.  

The Reid Park Zoo participates in the Baird’s Tapir Species Survival Plan®, a managed breeding program designed to maintain a healthy, genetically diverse, and demographically stable group of animals.

Baird’s Tapirs are nocturnal creatures native to Mexico and Central America. Their flexible snouts are used to grab vegetation.  Baird’s Tapirs are endangered, due primarily to deforestation and illegal hunting.

UPDATE! Toronto Zoo's Polar Bear Cub is Making Strides

2 bear

Toronto Zoo's Polar Bear cub is growing up strong and healthy! Born on November 9 to a resident mom, Aurora, the cub was one of three born in the litter. Despite Aurora showing perfect maternal instincts, including nursing the cubs shortly after their birth, the zoo was saddened to discover that two of the three cubs did not survive the first 48 hours. They made the decision to hand raise and carefully monitor the third cub so he would have to best chance of survival. (See our previous update here.)

Since then, the male cub has recovered from low weight and made many developmental milestones. His eyes have been fully open since day 35 and he's already taken his first steps. He is quite active and starting to play. 

The cub now weighs about 9.7 pounds (4 kg), which is a is a 529% increase since his original birth weight.  Although he receives milk from a bottle six times a day, he has recently started to learn how to lap milk from a dish, a transition that eventually will help him learn to eat solid foods.

1 bear

3 bear

4 bearPhoto credit: Toronto Zoo

Watch the cub's first steps:


Watch a bottle-feeding:


Happy bear sounds!


The little cub is beginning to teethe and he likes to bite objects such as his blanket. His canine teeth, incisors and some of his molars can now be felt. He has a few whiskers and his coat is becoming thicker as he continues to grow.

He still remains in a temperature-controlled environment within the Wildlife Health Centre but has been out of his incubator for the past month.  The temperature in his room has been gradually reduced. In fact, an air conditioner has been installed for his comfort. He is a Polar Bear, after all!

See and read more after the fold.

Continue reading "UPDATE! Toronto Zoo's Polar Bear Cub is Making Strides" »