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February 2014

Tawny Frogmouth Chick is a First for Denver Zoo

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Keepers at Denver Zoo in Colorado know from experience that Tawny Frogmouths are difficult to breed. Over the years they have struggled with problems such as infertility and finding compatible pairs. Two birds hatched at Denver Zoo in 1996, but they passed away less than two days after hatching. Now all the work has finally paid off: the zoo has successfully hatched and raised a Tawny Frogmouth chick for the first time!

The chick, named Kermit, whose sex is still not known, hatched on January 27. Lucky visitors may be able catch a glimpse of the new chick in its home of 'Bird World', where it is being brooded by its parents. Zookeepers monitor the chick's weight closely each morning and supplementally feed it as needed.

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4 tawny frogmouthPhoto credit: Denver Zoo

Kermit is the first chick for both father, Nangkita (Nang-kee-tah), and mother, Adelaide. Nangkita hatched at Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo in June 2009 and came to Denver Zoo in January 2010. Adelaide hatched at Chicago's Brookfield Zoo in July 2012 and arrived at Denver Zoo a year later. The two were paired under recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plan, which ensures healthy populations and genetic diversity among zoo animals by recommending pairings that will prevent inbreeding. Fortunately, this pair has proved to be an excellent match.

As their name indicates, Tawny Frogmouths are known for their wide frog-like mouths, which they use to catch insects and other small animals. They are sometimes mistaken for owls as they have very similar body types, but are actually more closely related to birds like whippoorwills and nightjars. Tawny Frogmouths are also masters of disguise. Their beige and brown feathers remarkably resemble the tree branches in which they roost. When they feel threatened they sit perfectly still and rely on their camouflage to hide from predators.

Tawny Frogmouths inhabit forests and open woodlands in Australia and Tasmania. Scientists are not sure how many Tawny Frogmouths exist in the wild. Their greatest threats come from being hit by cars while feeding and exposure to pesticides. 

Watch a Blue Dart Frog Grow Up at Smithsonian's National Zoo

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Check out this young Blue Dart Frog morphing from a tadpole to a froglet at Smithsonian's National Zoo! It takes about 80 days to go from fertilized egg, to tadpole, to fully-formed tiny frog.

Poison Dart Frogs are native to Central and South America. In the wild, the blue frog secretes poison from its skin due to chemicals from its diet. But at the zoo, without rainforest ants to eat, this bright blue frog is harmless. Visitors can see froglet and its family on exhibit at the zoo.

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Photo credit: Justin Graves / Smithsonian's National Zoo 

Blue Dart Frogs are found in a few isolated 'islands' of forest in the savanna of southern Suriname. Because their habitat is so difficult to reach, there is little data to tell us whether their population is in decline. Some species of Dart Frogs are Threatened or Endangered, and Blue Dart Frogs are certainly at risk as a result of their small ranges.

Did you know that worldwide, over 32% of amphibians are listed as globally endangered, and almost half of all known amphibian species are declining? 

Nyala Calf Gets Her Shots at Zoo Miami

Nyala Baby B“This won’t hurt a bit!”  That's what the veterinarian might have said to Zoo Miami’s week-old Nyala calf on vaccination day.  The female calf, born on February 5, endured her shots and was proclaimed in good health after her neonatal exam.  

Nyala Baby C

Nyala Baby A
Photo Credit:  Zoo Miami

The newborn Nyala weighed about 13 pounds and has a lot of growing to do.  These antelope, which are native to southern Africa, weigh between 120-300 pounds as adults.  Males are larger than females and sport spiral-shaped horns, which are used in ritual fights for dominance during mating season. 

Nyala populations in Africa are relatively stable, though habitat loss and competition with domestic cattle pose some threat.  These antelope prefer woodlands and dense thickets that offer cover from predators like Lions and Leopards.  About 80% of Nyalas live in protected areas and parks, but mature male Nyalas are sought as game trophies.    

Update: Zoo Miami's Lion Cub is Thriving

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A few weeks ago, we introduced you to a male Lion cub born December 15 at Zoo Miami.  Shortly after the cub was born to first-time mother Asha, keepers observed that he was losing weight.  He then faced several bacterial infections.  To help the little cub, keepers began offering a supplemental bottle to the cub three times a day.

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Lion Cub C

Lion Cub D
Photo Credit:  Zoo Miami

Thanks to the dedicated efforts of the zoo staff, the little cub is now thriving and his prognosis for long-term survival is good.  The cub was recently separated from Asha for a quick physical exam and received his vaccinations.  Asha welcomed her cub back without hesitation after the brief exam. 

The cub, who has not yet been named, will remain off-exhibit with Asha for several weeks.  Eventually, he will be introduced to the rest of the zoo’s Lion pride.

Rockhopper Penguins Hatch at Henry Doorly Aquarium

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Five Southern Rockhopper Penguin chicks have hatched at the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium in Nebraska!

Hatched in mid-December, the chicks now weigh close to five pounds (2.3 kg), and have started to molt their baby feathers and grow in adult waterproof feathers. 

Typically adult birds will raise their own chicks, but these eggs were hand-raised due to increased activity levels in the exhibit.

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Photo credits: Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium

See video of a newly-hatched chick:


See video of the babies:


The eggs were kept in an incubator for 36 days. Once an egg began to hatch, keepers put the egg in a hatcher until the chick was fully hatched and dry. The chicks were then transferred to a brooder with a warm temperature. The temperature of the brooder will slowly decrease as the chicks grow bigger. 

The chicks are fed five times a day and eat a fish and krill formula that is made fresh daily and packed with all the vitamins and minerals the growing chicks need. They will also eat small fish fillets until they progress to whole fish. Keepers follow strict hand-rearing guidelines, allowing the chicks to consume no more than ten percent of their body weight at each feeding. 

For the measured feedings, it is very important for the keepers to be able tell the chicks apart. Each chick has one foot marked with a non-toxic paint to allow keepers to identify them. Once old enough, the chicks will have wing bands just like the other adult penguins on display. 

See and read more after the fold.

Continue reading "Rockhopper Penguins Hatch at Henry Doorly Aquarium" »

Critically Endangered Amur Leopards Born at Prague Zoo


Prague Zoo has shared with us some great news: for the first time in 13 years, the zoo is celebrating the birth of Amur Leopards, a Critically Endangered species. The three-year-old mother, Khanka, gave birth to three cubs. One of the cubs, a male, is melanistic, having a mutation that results in dark fur.  

The cubs are doing well behind-the-scenes with mom. Dad, four-year-old Kirin, is on display, as males don't help to raise their offspring.

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3 leopardPhoto credits: Prague Zoo

The International Union for Conservation of Nature estimates that only about 30 Amur Leopards remain in the wild. Found only in the Russian Far East, they are threatened by poaching and habitat degradation. The captive population is managed by the European Endangered Species Program for Amur Leopards, which aims to breed healthy leopards by avoiding inbreeding across zoos. With numbers in the wild at a dangerous low, introducing captive-born individuals will be critical for the species' survival.

Learn more about conservation efforts by the Amur Leopard and Tiger Alliance

When Mom's Away, the Cubs Get Weighed!

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Last week at Smithsonian National Zoo, African Lion mother Naba spent some time away from her cubs and enjoyed a special oxtail treat with her sister, Shera. Keepers took the opportunity to get their first in-person look at the cubs. Their report: they are adorable! 

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6 lionPhoto credit: Smithsonian National Zoo / Karen Abbott

In order to distinguish the two, keepers shaved a small mark on each cub. The smaller cub, who weighs 7.6 pounds (3.4 kg), has a shave mark on his/her left shoulder. The larger cub, who weighs 8.26 pounds (3.7 kg), has a small shave mark at the base of his/her tail. Animal care staff have not yet verified the cubs’ sex. (Just shy of 2 weeks old, the cubs’ genetalia have not fully developed.) 

When Naba returned to the cubbing den, she groomed and nursed the cubs. She didn’t show any signs of stress. Keepers gave her the option to move the cubs to a different set of cubbing dens, but Naba choose to keep them where they were. 

Watch the little lion family grow on the zoo's Cub Cam.

Auckland Zoo Goes Batty!

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New Zealand's Auckland Zoo is celebrating the successful breeding and rearing of Lesser Short-tailed Bat twins. It's the first time this threatened endemic New Zealand species has ever been bred and hand-reared in a zoo. They are known as Pekapeka in Māori. 

The tiny Short-tailed Bats, a male and a female, were born in mid-November weighing a tiny 4 grams—less than a U.S. nickel!—and are now a healthy adult weight of around 14 grams.

New Zealand Centre for Conservation Medicine (NZCCM)Clinical Services Coordinator Mikaylie Wilson says, "While very rare to produce twins (one pup is usual), their mother had given birth to twins earlier but they did not survive. From this experience, we knew she wasn't able to cope with raising two, so the decision was made to pull the first twin at two days, and then the second at two weeks. The second pup was failing to thrive so we pulled it as well."

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3 batPhoto credit: Ian Fish (1,2) / Auckland Zoo

See a video of the baby bats being cared for:


Wilson, who has experience hand-rearing bats in Australia, set up the program for the bats. She says, "We had a portable incubator that closely mimicked a nursery in the wild, keeping them warm and secure. The temperature of the incubator was at 28-29 degrees, and we were feeding them every four hours."

Mikaylie Wilson cared for the bats for five days straight, before training bird keeper Debs Searchfield started to play mom, feeding and caring for them at home.

Searchfield says, "We were a bit sleep deprived, but it was worth it. It's been such a great success to be part of, it's all very exciting and we've learnt a lot about them. Gaining more husbandry skills, hands-on techniques and knowledge will hopefully help the future of this species and other bats in recovery programs."

The bats' parents are descendants of a population from the Tararua Ranges in the lower North Island. They came from a group that were collected and translocated by the Department of Conservation to Kapiti Island in 2005/6. However, a fungal ear infection meant that this group was not suitable for release and the zoo now displays the only Lesser Short-tailed Bats in captivity.

New Zealand has just two native terrestrial mammals: the Long-tailed Bat and the Short-tailed Bat. Adults use echolocation to navigate and catch prey. Unlike most bats, which catch their prey in the air, the Short-tailed Bat has adapted to ground hunting, and spends lots of time on the forest floor, and folds its wings to use as "front limbs" for scrambling around. They eat insects, fruit, nectar and pollen. The Short-tailed bat is the only pollinator of the rare native plant, thedactylanthus or woodrose. They have a heart rate of 250 to 450 beats per minute while at rest, and 800 beats per minute while flying!

Meet Duke Lemur Center's Sifaka Babies

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Two female Sifaka lemurs, Gertrude and Eleanor, were born on January 5 at the Duke Lemur Center. Gertrude weighed .23 pounds (105 g) at birth and Eleanor—a big girl!— weighed .25 pounds (117 g).  

Gertrude is the daughter of mom Pia and dad Jovian – Jovian being the famous lemur that played Zoboomafoo in the popular kids show by that name on public television. Eleanor is daughter to Rodelinda and Marcus. Both infants are in the process of being introduced to their fathers and siblings, and all is going well.

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Photo credits: Duke Lemur Center / David Haring (2-6)

These infants add to a total of only 60 Coquerel’s Sifaka in captivity, an Endangered species in Madagascar due to deforestation and hunting pressure. All Coquerel’s Sifaka in captivity live in the US and are managed by the Duke Lemur Center. 

Twenty-nine live at the Lemur Center and the remainder are on loan to nine other facilities for Species Survival Plan breeding recommendations. The Coquerel’s Sifaka at Duke Lemur Center are the only members of this particular lemur family, the Indriidae, in captivity in the US for research and conservation. 

See more photos after the fold.

Continue reading "Meet Duke Lemur Center's Sifaka Babies" »

Naked Mole Rat Pups Are a First on ZooBorns!


Here’s a first for the pages of ZooBorns:  A litter of Naked Mole Rats, born December 16 at Hungary’s Zoo Budapest.

Photo Credit:  Zoo Budapest

Nearly hairless and covered in wrinkly pink skin, Naked Mole Rats are one of only two mammal species known to be eusocial – they live in highly organized societies similar to those of ants, termites, or bees.  The only female in a colony to reproduce is known as the queen, and only a few males breed with her.  The rest of the colony assumes roles as workers.  They obtain food and maintain the complex system of underground tunnels in which the Naked Mole Rats live.

Native to eastern Africa, Naked Mole Rats feed underground on roots and tubers. A single tuber can sustain a colony for months.  Scientists are studying these unique animals because they appear resistant to cancer, live extraordinarily long for a mammal their size – upwards of 30 years – and seem to repress aging. Recent discoveries of natural sugars and proteins produced by Naked Mole Rats, which could aid in human disease research, resulted in the Naked Mole Rat being named “Vertebrate of the Year” by the journal Science in 2013.