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February 2014

January 2014

Tiny Hippo Goes for First Swim at Marwell Zoo

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On December 13, keepers at Marwell Zoo in the UK discovered that Wendy the Pygmy Hippo had given birth! The calf is a healthy female who certainly lives up to the 'pygmy' name, weighing in at just 13 pounds (6 kg) and standing just 6 inches (15 cm) tall at birth. After a public vote, the calf has been named Gloria.

Born to 18-year-old Wendy and Dad, Nato, who stayed at Marwell Zoo over the summer, Gloria is an important addition to the European Endangered Breeding Programme (EEP).

Team Leader for Small Mammals Kevin Saunders says, “We think 'Gloria' really suits our new arrival. We wanted something that will fit well with her mum’s name ‘Wendy’ and we think they are great together!

“Gloria has now had a swim with Mum and we are very happy with how it went. Keepers will always stand by to make sure she doesn’t get into trouble, but Wendy is very experienced and keeps a close eye on her at all times.”

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2 hippoPhoto credit: Marwell Zoo / Tony Gardner (1)

Gloria explores her enclosure with mom:


Gloria goes for her first swim:


In the wild Pygmy Hippos are elusive animals, living in the swamps of western Africa. Pygmy Hippos, and their larger cousins, the Common Hippopotamus, play an important part in maintaining the ecosystems of the African wetlands and the surrounding grasslands and forests.

According to the zoo, ongoing deforestation in their natural habitat, combined with civil unrest, are significant threats to Pygmy Hippos. Their numbers have steadily declined and the species is now listed as Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List. It is estimated that the population is likely to continue to decline by 20% over the course of the next 20 years.

UPPDATE! Santos the Ocelot Makes Friends with Blakely the Dog

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Do you remember Santos, Cincinnati Zoo's little Ocelot kitten? Since we last saw him in November, he has grown up from a tiny ball of fuzz into a healthy and playful young hunter. Here he is having a great time with his canine playmate, Blakely. 

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5 ocelotPhoto credit: Cassandre Crawford / Cincinnati Zoo

See more playtime photos after the fold.

Continue reading "UPPDATE! Santos the Ocelot Makes Friends with Blakely the Dog" »

African Penguin Hatches into a Great Adventure!

Penguin hero

An African Penguin chick has hatched at Adventure Aquarium in New Jersey. (Forgive the title--we couldn't help it!) A healthy, active, 2.5-ounce (72 g) ball of fluff, whose gender is yet to be determined, was born to parents Minnie and Kamikaze on January 5. 

The day before, aquarium biologists had heard soft 'pipping' sounds from inside the egg as the chick readied itself to hatch by chipping away at its shell. They knew that a hatching was imminent. Sure enough, biologists arrived Sunday morning to see that the little chick had hatched overnight.

The chick is doing very well – strong, vocal and very mobile. It is pictured at one day old, so tiny that it would fit in the palm of your hand!

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3 penguinPhoto credit: Advanture Aquarium

This chick is Minnie and Kamikaze’s seventh since they became a breeding pair, and will be the fourth of theirs to call Adventure Aquarium home, along with siblings Myer, Jack and Jambo. Three of the pair’s other chicks were sent to other facilities across the country as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquaria’s (AZA) Species Survival Program (SSP) breeding recommendations. An SSP coordinates breeding of genetically unrelated animals between AZA accredited facilities. This helps to prevent inbreeding and sustain a healthy population in captivity.

This effort takes on an even greater importance when the species is endangered in the wild, as are African Penguins. The greatest threat to these birds is competition with humans: as we continue to overfish, African Penguins lose their food source. Having a healthy captive population allows us to study the biology of a species for better conservation. In some case, it can also give us the ability to give wild populations a boost by releasing captive-bred individuals. 

Today the chick will have its first veterinary checkup, and it will go through daily weigh-ins with aquarium biologists, who will ensure that the chick continues to thrive. 

This weekend, January 11-12, Adventure Aquarium is hosting a Celebrity Penguin Weekend. Pumpkin and Patch, 'grandchicks' of Minnie and Kamikaze, will make their debut. 

See more photos after the fold!

Continue reading "African Penguin Hatches into a Great Adventure!" »

New Year Brings a Grey Seal Pup to Brookfield Zoo

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The Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo, has announced its first birth of 2014: a Grey Seal pup that also happens to be the first of its species ever born at the zoo. The male pup was born on New Year’s Day around 7:00 a.m. He and his mother, ten-year-old Lily, will remain off exhibit for several weeks to allow them time to bond with one another. 

At birth, the pup weighed just over 25 pounds (11.3 kg), and staff estimate that he will triple or quadruple his weight in the next month. Because the mom’s milk is extremely rich, the pup will gain several pounds a day. He will nurse from Lily for about two to three weeks and then will be introduced to a fish diet.

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5 sealPhoto credit: Jim Schulz / Chicago Zoological Society

Grey Seal pups are born with long white fur called lanugo (pronounced la-noo-go), which is molted in two to four weeks and replaced with shorter, stiffer hair similar to that of adults. Although guests will most likely not be able to see the pup on exhibit before he molts, video of the pup can be seen on the monitor located in the Seven Seas Underwater Viewing gallery.

Brookfield Zoo is now home to six Grey Seals, the most in any North American institution accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. This birth, as well as the pup’s gender, is significant to the overall North American population, which consists of only five males and 17 females. Rita Stacey, curator of marine mammals for the Society, is the Association of Zoos and Aquariums studbook keeper for Grey Seals. In this role, Stacey documents the pedigree and entire demographic history of each individual in the Grey Seal population. These collective histories are known as the population's genetic and demographic identity and are invaluable tools that track and manage each individual cared for in North American institutions.

Grey Seals can be found abundantly in coastal waters and are divided into three separate populations: the Western North Atlantic, the Eastern North Atlantic, and the Baltic Sea.

Antwerp Zoo Welcomes 50th Okapi Calf

The endangered Okapi is the symbol of Belgium’s Antwerp Zoo, and rightly so – the 50th Okapi calf to be born at the zoo arrived on December 27.  Named Oni, this female calf is part of the zoo’s important Okapi breeding program, which began when the first Okapi arrived there in 1919.

Oni2Photo Credit:  © ZOO Antwerpen / Jonas Verhulst

Oni is the second calf to be born to female Hakima and is doing well, according to zoo staff.  Like all Okapis, Oni has a unique pattern of stripes on her hindquarters.  She joins a group of seven Okapi at the zoo, including her sister Mchawi, who was born in 2011.

Antwerp Zoo manages the worldwide studbook for Okapi and coordinates the European breeding program for the species.  In this role, the zoo maintains data on every zoo-born Okapi in the world, reviews the data, and determines which pairings will result in the highest genetic diversity in any offspring.   Efforts like this are crucial to the survival of the endangered Okapi, whose wild population has plummeted by 75% in the last decade. 

There are currently 170 Okapi in zoos worldwide, but scientists estimate that 270 Okapi are needed to sustain a genetically healthy captive population. To reach this target, 13 Okapi births are needed each year for the next several decades 

Closely related to Giraffes, only 10,000 Okapi survive in the dense rain forests of Africa’s Congo basin.  Deforestation, hunting, and political instability threaten their future.  The Antwerp Zoo supports an Okapi reserve that serves as a refuge for these animals.

Four Lion Cubs Born at Reid Park Zoo


Tiny vocalizations coming from the Lion cubbing den alerted a Reid Park Zoo keeper that Kaya, the zoo’s Lioness, had given birth on December 23.  Of the five cubs delivered, only four survived, which is not unusual for such a large litter.

Photo Credit:  Reid Park Zoo

Of the four remaining cubs, three are males and one is a female. All four cubs are gaining weight, but the veterinary staff remains concerned about one male who is gaining weight slowly and appears weaker than the others. “A litter of five cubs is unusual,” says Zoo Veterinarian Alexis Moreno. “It would be a challenge for five cubs to thrive – and we are monitoring the health of the remaining four offspring closely – it is still a large litter. I am cautiously optimistic at this point.” The mortality rate for cubs up to one year old is close to 30% in zoos, and significantly higher in the wild.

The cubs and mother are behind the scenes and are receiving the best care possible. Kaya and her cubs have access to two “bedrooms” and a cubbing den (a cave-like room with minimal lighting and temperature regulation to reduce stress and limit human intrusion). Kaya is eating well, nurses her cubs, and is protective of her young. Shombay, the father, is separated from the rest of the pride for safety. He has access to the exhibit and adjacent behind-the-scenes holding. Shombay vocalizes to Kaya and the young and appears very curious about the cubs.

This is the second litter for Kaya and Shombay at Reid Park Zoo. She delivered three cubs in July 2011 and all three offspring are now living at other accredited zoos.  Reid Park Zoo partners with other zoos to make responsible breeding decisions for the protection of the species.

Pueblo Zoo Welcomes Porcupette Twins

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What better way to ring in the New Year than with little porcupettes? A new pair of baby African Crested Porcupines were born this week at Colorado's Pueblo Zoo to mom Asha. 

Zoo staff said that getting the photos was a little challenging as the family is very protective - especially the proud papa, Lance. You can see in the last photo that he has his defensive quills up. Mom and the two little ones are doing well. The whole family lives together in an exhibit viewable by zoo visitors. 

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5 porcupinePhoto credit: Pueblo Zoo

Baby Giraffe Groomed for Introductions

1 giraffePhoto credit: San Diego Zoo

On December 31, a 10-day-old female Masai Giraffe at the San Diego Zoo took her first venture around her exhibit, meeting other members of her herd and running, kicking and appearing very comfortable with her new surroundings. The calf was born in the early hours of December 22 and, until today, has been in a restricted 'playpen' area of the habitat until animal care staff felt she was old enough to venture into the larger space. 

Mom, Bahati, introduced her new calf to the rest of the herd, after tenderly grooming her to make sure she was presentable enough to meet the rest of the family. 

Keepers report the calf is healthy and progressing very well, even though she is still getting used to her legs, as evidenced by a few spills taken during her morning run. She measured 6 feet 1 inch tall (185.4 cm) and weighed 157 pounds (71 kg) at birth. She may weigh as much as 500 pounds (227 kg) and stand up to seven-and-a-half-feet tall (229 cm) by the time she is six months old. 

Masai Giraffes are native to Africa and are threatened in some areas. Also known as the Kilimanjaro Giraffe, the Masai Giraffe is the largest Giraffe subspecies and tallest land mammal on Earth.  

This is the tenth calf born to mother, Bahati; the father is the herd sire, Silver.  Other Giraffes in the herd include two adult females and a female youngster born last May. Visitors to the San Diego Zoo can see the active and curious Giraffe calf, yet to be named, on exhibit in the Urban Jungle.  

Hellabrunn Zoo Welcomes Polar Bear Twins

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On December 9, a Polar Bear named Giovanna gave birth to two cubs at Munich’s Hellabrunn Zoo. Both births were seen on cameras installed in the birthing den and the connecting corridor to the main den. This is remarkable on two counts: for both births, Giovanna positioned herself so that she was directly in the cameras’ field of view. Secondly, this is the first time that a Polar Bear birth has been filmed in color worldwide!

The cubs were born at 08:39 and 09:43 respectively, to parents Giovanna (7) and Yogi (14). The zoo’s director, Dr. Andreas Knieriem, enthused, “It is as if we were there live watching the labour and birth of a Polar Bear and, as if that weren’t enough, Giovanna showed us not one, but two very different births!”

Curator Beatrix Köhler is impressed with the Polar Bear mom’s behavior, saying, "Giovanna is caring for her twins very capably as if she were an experienced mother, but at seven years old, she is actually a first-time mum!”

The cubs are pictured at three weeks old. 

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Photo credit: Hellabrun Zoo

See a video of the little cubs:


Hellabrunn Zoo has shared a timeline of events describing the two remarkable births:

08:37: Giovanna walks down the corridor between the two dens. She bites one of her front paws to counteract the pain of a contraction. Then she moves out of camera view but then takes several steps back into frame.

08:39: View of Giovanna’s back. A polar bear cub slides onto the floor in a very speedy birth. It is about 8 inches (20 cm) long, hairless, smeared in blood, blind and deaf.

09:40: Giovanna pushes her back legs forcefully against the wall and her body shakes as she has a contraction.

09:43: A thin arm, a small head and then another arm come into view. Giovanna gives birth to a second baby. At this point she is so busy with her first born that she doesn’t attend to the second baby immediately. The little one is left to fend for itself for the next few minutes. It wriggles and turns round and is very active.

10:05: Giovanna notices something going on behind her. She turns her head and notices the second baby. She turns round and picks it up carefully in her mouth. Then she leans against the wall and lays it on her leg next to its older sibling.

22:40: The babies now resemble miniature Polar Bears. Giovanna has painstakingly licked them clean over the last few hours so that they are now bright white and dry. They are snuggling into mum’s warm coat and tumbling around on her chest. They’re already drinking her milk.

December 11 2013, two days after the birth: the Polar Bear twins are developing well. Giovanna is taking excellent care of them. They are both regularly drinking her milk. In between, they are tumbling around on mum.

The first weeks in a Polar Bear cub’s life are critical. Caretakers say that Giovanna is acquitting herself admirably, but still complications could arise. She won’t be out and about in the external enclosure with her cubs until March 2014 at the earliest.