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February 2014

Chester Zoo Welcomes a Grevy's Zebra

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A rare zebra has been born at Chester Zoo in England. The yet-unnamed youngster, a Grevy’s Zebra, is the first of her speies to be born at the zoo for 34 years.

The foal was born to first-time parents Nadine and Mac on February 22. Her stripes are brown now, but they will turn black as she matures.

Grevy's Zebras, also known as Imperial Zebras, are the largest and most endangered of the three species of zebra. There are thought to be less than 2,500 left in the wild. 

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4 zebraPhoto credits: Steve Rawlins / Chester Zoo

Curator of Mammals Tim Rowlands says, “Since our female zebras arrived a few years ago, we have worked very hard to breed this highly endangered species, and the arrival of this foal is not only a really good achievement for us but good news for the species as a whole.

“She is a lively one but mum Nadine is doing a great job so far, particularly given that it’s her first – she’s certainly earning her parental stripes.”

The Grevy’s Zebra is listed as Endangered in the wild. Today they are found in small, isolated populations in Ethiopia and northern Kenya. They have become regionally extinct in Somalia and Sudan. Their numbers are said to have declined by more than half over the past 20 years, due to a range of factors including the reduction of available water sources, commercial hunting for their skins and disease.

In January 2006, Northern Kenya experienced an outbreak of anthrax triggered by one of the worst droughts that has occurred in decades. The disease threatened to spread throughout the reserves where the most important remaining Grevy’s Zebra populations occur. The Kenya Wildlife Service called for funds to vaccinate up to 1,000 wild Grevy’s Zebras to safeguard them against the disease. The international zoo community, including Chester Zoo, came to the rescue.

Within two weeks, funding was in place and the fast and unprecedented action on the ground averted a potentially disastrous outcome for the species. It is suspected that close to 5% of Grevy’s Zebra succumbed to the disease, but vaccinations prevented a greater loss that could have pushed the species to the brink. 

Meet the New Kids

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Here's the first sign of spring in Northern Ireland's Belfast Zoo farmyard: two African Pygmy Goats have been born!

The kids were born to mothers Snowdrop and Hannah. The smaller female kid has been named Aziza, which means ‘precious’ in Swahili and the larger male kid is called Adunbi, which means ‘pleasant’ in Nigerian.

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3 goatPhoto credit: Belfast Zoo

Zoo Curator Alyn Cairns says, “Aziza and Adunbi are a wonderful addition to the herd of African pygmy goats and to the zoo farmyard. The kids already have distinct personalities.  Aziza is always happy and very friendly to keepers and the other goats.  Adunbi, however, has a much bolder personality. He is extremely mischievous, a bit of a trouble maker and he likes to climb on top of things, including the other goats!”

African Pygmy Goats originate from West Africa and when fully grown they only measure up to 2 feet (60 cm) in length!

Okapi Bonds with Mom at Denver Zoo

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Denver Zoo has announced the birth of a rare Okapi! The male calf, named Jabari (Jah-bar-ee), was born to mother, Kalispell (Kal-lis-pell), and father, Sekele (seh-Kee-lee), on February 3. He is only the sixth birth of his species at the zoo. Jabari will remain behind the scenes for a little while longer, but visitors will soon be able to see the youngster as he grows and becomes more self-sufficient.

Jabari, Swahili for 'brave', is the first birth for both of his parents. Sekele and Kalispell were paired under recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan, which ensures healthy populations and genetic diversity among zoo animals. Kalispell was born at Denver Zoo in 2009 and was actually the Zoo’s last okapi birth prior to Jabari. Sekele was born in 2009 at the San Diego Zoo and arrived at Denver Zoo in 2010. 

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3 okapiPhoto credit: Denver Zoo

This rare species was only first described by science about 100 years ago. Very little is known about the behavior of the Okapi in the wild due to its shy, elusive nature. Much of what is known has been learned in zoos in the past 45 years. 

Okapis look like a cross between zebras and giraffes. In fact, the species is the closest living relative to the giraffe. In addition to long necks, okapis have reddish bodies, black-and-white striped legs and 12-inch, purple, prehensile tongues. Adult okapis weigh between 500 and 700 pounds (about 227 to 318 kg) and stand approximately five feet (1.5 m) tall at the shoulder. Females are generally larger than males. The Okapi’s gestation period is between 14 and 15 months.

Native only to the Ituri Forest of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), survival of the Okapi is seriously threatened by unsettled political conditions and rebel military actions in that part of the DRC. Wild population estimates for the species are extremely difficult to determine because the forest is so dense, but scientists believe there are between 10,000 and 50,000 individuals. Their numbers are believed to be declining, and Okapis are classified as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Additional threats come from habitat loss and hunting.

Rescued Florida Panther Kitten Recovers at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo

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A rescued Florida Panther kitten is receiving 24-hour care at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo. The kitten was rescued on the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge after January’s record cold snap. Biologists from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida discovered the kitten while conducting research. The kitten had a dangerously low body temperature, was non-responsive, and was much too young to be separated from his mother. 

The 1-pound (.45-kg) kitten was in poor condition and almost certainly would have died without intervention, so the biologists decided to transport the kitten to the Animal Specialty Hospital of Florida in Naples, where veterinarians and staff performed life-saving measures. 

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8 panther (Carli Segelson)Photo credits: Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo (1-3, 7) / Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission: CaRli Segelsol (4); Dave Onorato (5, 9 ); Jorge Pino (6); Mark Lotz (8,10)

See video of the rescued kitten:


His condition improved quickly, though he still requires 24-hour care. Because this kitten was so young at the time of rescue, he did not learn necessary survival skills from his mother and therefore would not survive if released into the wild.

See and read more after the fold.

Continue reading "Rescued Florida Panther Kitten Recovers at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo" »

Aldabra Giant Tortoises Start Out Small

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Nine Aldabra giant tortoises have hatched at Tulsa Zoo in Oklahoma! The hatchlings started to pip, or cut through their shells, on February 9. Several of the tortoise hatchlings are on now exhibit at the zoo. 

The hatchlings started out weighing a tiny 50 grams each, but they will get much bigger. Aldabra tortoises are the world's second largest tortoise species. The zoo has three adult males and two adult females. The adult male tortoises weigh nearly 400 pounds (181 kg), while the adult female tortoises weigh around 175 pounds (79 kg). Their ages range from 31 to more than 100 years old.

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4 tortoise (Aaron Goodwin)

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Photo credits: Tulsa Zoo / Sarah Floyd (1, 2, 4); Aaron Goodwin (3, 5)

The incubation period for these tortoises lasts from 95 to 120 days. Once the tortoises pip, it can take up to five days to fully emerge from the shell, and usually two to three more days before they are ready to be taken out of the incubator and placed on a substrate on exhibit. 

Aldabra tortoises live on the islands of the Aldabra atoll in the Seychelles. They are classified as Vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species. 

Tulsa Zoo has now successfully hatched 109 Aldabra tortoises since it began its breeding program in 1999. The Tulsa Zoo is the only Association of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited institution that has an Aldabra tortoise breeding program, and the zoo is one of only two U.S. institutions to currently breed this species. Their first Aldabra tortoise hatchling emerged from its egg in the winter of 1999 and they have continued to collect fertile eggs every two to three years since that time. 

Sichuan Takin Born at LA Zoo


The Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens welcomed a female Sichuan Takin on February 12. Takin (pronounced “TAH-kin”), are stocky goat-antelopes native to China’s remote mountain forests.

Photo Credit:  Los Angeles Zoo

In the wild, baby Takin begin to follow their mothers along steep paths when they are just three days old – a crucial survival skill for these leaf-eating animals.  Though heavily-built, Takin are surprisingly agile on the rocky cliffs of their homeland.  Their large hooves have a spur that makes them sure-footed even on steep terrain.  Males can weigh up to 800 pounds.  Both males and females have thick upward-turning horns.

Takin are well-suited to life in the cold.  In winter, they grow a secondary coat as protection from freezing temperatures.  Long nasal passages warm frigid air before it reaches the lungs. 

Because Takin live in remote areas, not much is known about their wild populations.  But habitat loss, hunting, and human disturbance have caused Takin to be listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Giraffe Born on Valentine's Day Has a Heart-shaped Spot


A baby Giraffe born on Valentine’s Day at Belgium’s Planckendael Zoo bears a very special birthmark – a heart-shaped spot on the haunches!

Photo Credit: Planckendael / Steffanie Klaassen

Zoo keepers knew that female Giraffe Barbie was about to give birth sometime around February 14, so they separated her from the herd and set up a closed-circuit camera to keep watch through the night.  Barbie is an experienced mother, having delivered three other calves, and the entire birth process went smoothly.  Zoo keepers were thrilled to see the newborn stand and begin nursing right on schedule.  Barbie licked her newborn clean as it stood on long, wobbly legs. 

The baby’s gender has not yet been confirmed, so zoo keepers have not yet named the calf.  All babies born at Planckendael in 2014 will have names beginning with the letter P, so zoo keepers are searching for beautiful African names that begin with P.

Barbie and her newborn will remain indoors for a few weeks until warmer temperatures arrive.  Planckendael participates in the European breeding program for Giraffes and supports in situ conservation efforts in Niger.

See more photos of the baby Giraffe below the fold.

Continue reading "Giraffe Born on Valentine's Day Has a Heart-shaped Spot" »

Asian Elephant Calf Has a Muddy Family Playdate

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After a pregnancy lasting almost 23 months, Shanti, a 24-year old Asian Elephant at Houston Zoo, delivered a healthy 385-pound (174.6 kg) male calf on February 7!

The calf, named Duncan, is doing well, and recently had his first outdoor adventure. He spent about 90 minutes outside on February 10, spending some quality mud-time with his mom Shanti, his Aunt Methai, his half-brother Baylor, half-sister Tupelo, and Tupelo’s mother Tess. 

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Ele 3Photo credit: Houston Zoo / Stephanie Adams

It takes a lot of work to get ready for an elephant birth. Attended by the Houston Zoo’s elephant care team and assisted by the zoo’s veterinary staff, Shanti delivered her baby at 2:13 a.m. on February 7.

“After months of preparation and tender loving care, Shanti’s labor was very brief and the delivery was  quick and easy for her,” said Houston Zoo Large Mammal Curator Daryl Hoffman.  “The keepers helped the calf to his feet and he was standing on his own within about an hour after his birth,” he added.

“The calf started nursing at nine this morning,” said Hoffman on the day of the birth.  “In the first 90 minutes after his first meal we saw him nurse more than 15 times.  Duncan has a very good appetite.” 

Immediately after the calf was born, the elephant care team and the Zoo’s veterinary staff performed a neonatal exam. 

“We weighed and measured the calf and took a blood sample.” said Houston Zoo Chief Veterinarian Dr. Joe Flanagan. “Duncan is almost 40 inches (1 m) tall at the shoulder."

Elephant keepers will keep Shanti and Duncan under a 24-hour watch for the next few weeks. The viewing windows in the barn at the McNair Asian Elephant Habitat are temporarily closed to the public. The windows will reopen to the public after the elephant care team has seen signs that Duncan is well-bonded with his mother and is comfortable in his new home. Duncan is Shanti’s fourth calf.  Thai, the baby’s father, is 48 years old.

See and learn more after the fold.

Continue reading "Asian Elephant Calf Has a Muddy Family Playdate" »

Tiny Otters Weigh In at Perth Zoo

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Four new members of the world’s smallest otter species – the Asian Small-clawed Otter – have made their public debut at Perth Zoo in Western Australia. The four pups were born on December 27 and a few days ago had their first medical checkup with veterinary staff to weigh, sex, microchip, vaccinate and examine their general health.

The vets identified two females and two males ranging in size from 1.14 pounds (520 g) to 1.23 pounds (560 g). Asian Small-clawed Otters weigh only about eight pounds (3.5 kg) when fully grown. 

The pups have recently started learning how to swim. At this age, the parents carry the pups out of the nest box and into the pool, and then carry them back inside again – but the pups will soon start venturing out by themselves.

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4 otterPhoto credit: Perth Zoo

Perth Zoo Chief Executive Susan Hunt said the tiny pups are part of an Australasian breeding program to help protect a species that is threatened in the wild.

“The otters at Perth Zoo have now had 16 otter pups, which is four litters in the past two years. These latest pups are the third litter for parents Asia and Tuan,” Hunt said.

Asian Small-clawed Otters are native to parts of India, southern China, Malaysia and Indonesia. They are highly social animals who pair for life. Males play a critical role rearing the pups, including nest building, swimming lessons and supplying food. Older siblings also take a role in the care of new pups and two older sisters are currently helping rear the new babies.

See and read more after the fold.

Continue reading "Tiny Otters Weigh In at Perth Zoo" »

Baby Tamandua Hitches a Ride at Staten Island Zoo

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Staten Island Zoo in New York City shared with us the birth of a new Tamandua baby, born January 12. The male baby, MJ, was born to mother DJ and father EJ. He is doing well and is being raised by mom. 

Tamandua are a kind of anteater found in Central and South America west of the Andes. They have partially prehensile tails and spend much of their time in trees. Solitary animals, they are generally active at night, foraging in trees for food, mainly ants and termites. They have long tongues that can extend up to 16 inches (40 cm), but have no teeth to chew; instead, they have a gizzards that grind up food.

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2 tamoretPhoto credit: Steve Yensel (1-8) / Staten Island Zoo 

Both species of Tamandua, the Northern Tamandua and Southern Tamadua, are species of Least Concern on International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species. 

See more photos after the fold!

Continue reading "Baby Tamandua Hitches a Ride at Staten Island Zoo" »