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January 2014
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March 2014

February 2014

Say Hello to Houston Zoo's Giraffe Calf


A male Masai Giraffe calf born at the Houston Zoo on February 4 was standing and nursing just over an hour after his birth – all signs that point to a healthy and strong baby.



Photo Credit:  Houston Zoo

The calf was born to female Giraffe Tyra after a 14-month gestation.  “Tyra went into labor at approximately 10:45 AM on Tuesday, February 4 and delivered her baby boy at 12:49 PM,” said Houston Zoo Giraffe Senior Keeper Kim Siegl.  “The calf was standing on his own by 1:17 PM and was nursing by 1:57 PM.”

As soon as Tyra gave birth, she began grooming her calf while he was lying down. Once the calf was on his feet, Tyra was even more attentive. The rest of the Giraffe herd stood by, watching as mother and calf got to know each other.

“The calf weighs 165 pounds and is six and a half feet tall. He’s a big healthy boy,” said Siegl.  This is the eighth calf for 15-year-old Tyra.  The calf’s father, Mtembei, is six years old.  With this new arrival, the Houston Zoo’s herd of Masai Giraffe has grown to nine.

The Giraffe keepers who cared for Tyra during her pregnancy and were present for the birth will have the honor of naming the newest addition to the Houston Zoo’s Giraffe herd.

About 100 Masai Giraffes currently live in 28 North American zoos.  The tallest living land animal, Giraffes can stand up to 17 feet tall and weigh more than 3,000 pounds.

UPDATE! Gorilla Baby Baako Bonds with the Family

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Back in September, we shared the news that Belfast Zoo in Ireland welcomed a baby Western Lowland Gorilla on August 3. The baby, a male, is the first gorilla to be born at the zoo in 16 years, and staff were extra surprised because mom, Kwanzaa, was believed to be infertile. (See our first post here.)

Now that baby Baako is six months old, the zoo team are delighted with his progress and the whole gorilla group including the father, Gugas, are going gaga over the youngster. 

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Photo credit: Belfast Zoo

See a video of the baby and his group:


Zoo Curator Julie Mansell said, “We knew that Kwanza was pregnant last year but we were also aware that she was a first-time mum, which comes with its own set of risks.  However, Kwanza has become a super mother and Baako is absolutely thriving.  For the first few months Kwanza cradled the newborn on her stomach but Baako is gaining confidence and is beginning to climb on her back and is also beginning to bond with the rest of the gorilla group, including father Gugas, Kamili and Delilah.”

Kamili the Western Lowland Gorilla is also expecting her own little miracle in spring 2014.  She has been getting plenty of practice in with baby Baako and is showing natural mothering instincts.

The Western Lowland Gorilla is a Critically Endangered species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened species. Main threats are habitat loss, poaching, and the Ebola virus. You can support the care of Belfast Zoo’s gorillas by taking part in the zoo's adoption program. Learn more about making a donation here.

Dedicated Keepers Help Elephant Calf at Ostrava Zoo

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Keepers at Ostrava Zoo in the Czech Republic are working hard to help care for an Indian Elephant calf born on February 4. The male calf, the second offspring born to 17 year-old mother Vishesh, should have started nursing within the first 24 hours of his birth, but he does not seem to have developed the sucking reflex he needs.  Keepers at the zoo are working to keep the calf nourished and to encourage him to nurse from his mother. 

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Photo credit: Zoo Ostrava

See a video of mother and calf:

Zoo keepers managed to carefully separate the calf from his mother for a short period of time to feed him a daily dose of elephant milk substitute through tubing. Then the calf was returned to his mother. The process is risky for caregivers because the mother elephant is very protective. The tubing must be inserted and removed with great care and skill. Zoo staff hope to do the best for the calf, but must also take their own safety into consideration. They have also tried to encourage the calf to nurse on his own. 

The elephants are being monitored by cameras as well as by two overnight caretakers, who stay on hand to keep an eye on the calf's progress. 

See more photos after the fold.

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UPDATE! Reid Park Zoo's Lion Cubs are Growing Strong

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Lioness Kaya and her four cubs are doing well at Reid Park Zoo in Arizona. The cubs, three males and one female, are being cared for by their mom as well as keepers and veterinary staff. The cubs are gaining weight and had their most recent checkup on February 3. At six weeks old, they're still not quite big enough to come out on exhibit...but soon!

See our first post here.

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4 lionPhoto credit: Reid Park Zoo

See a video from the cubs' checkup at three weeks old:

'Sweet Pea' is First Shark Ray to Give Birth in Captivity

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Kentucky's Newport Aquarium has announced that Sweet Pea, the first documented Shark Ray to breed in a controlled environment, gave birth to seven pups on January 24! Coincidentally, Sweet Pea's pups arrived during the same week as an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) report estimating that one in four shark and ray species are at risk of extinction. Shark Rays are considered a vulnerable species. 

With Sweet Pea housed at an offsite facility in Northern Kentucky, the first pup arrived at 12:25 a.m. ET. A total of three females and three males survived the nearly five-hour birthing process, while a fourth female pup did not. Newport Aquarium now has 10 shark rays in all, which is the most in the world from any one institution.

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4 sharkrayPhoto credits: Newport Aquarium / Justin Cain (4-8)

See a video from the birth:


See a video of the pups:


Three high definition surveillance cameras were installed at the offsite facility earlier in the week to monitor Sweet Pea’s progress. With this technology, Newport Aquarium officials had the ability to remotely watch Sweet Pea online.

General Curator Mark Dvornak first noticed the pups at around 5:20 a.m. while checking the live video feed on his tablet from his home. He immediately sent an alert out to the rest of the husbandry staff and by 5:35 a.m. biologists were on site monitoring the six newborn pups.

“Seeing the live video feed of the small pups swimming around was a bit surreal this morning,” said Dvornak. “Racing into work, I felt a bit of trepidation too as I realized our seven-year dream of successfully breeding these wondrous creatures had become reality.”

See and read more after the fold!

Continue reading "'Sweet Pea' is First Shark Ray to Give Birth in Captivity" »

Auckland Zoo Welcomes Red Panda Twins

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Auckland Zoo in New Zealand is celebrating the birth of Nepalese Red Panda twins, two very valuable additions to the international breeding program for this threatened species.

The two cubs were born on January 3, each weighing approximately 100 grams. They are the second and third offspring of four-year-old mum Bo and 13-year-old Sagar, who just over a year ago produced their first-born, male Pabu. Sagar, who was relocated from India's Darjeeling Zoo in 2010, contributes a particularly valuable new bloodline into the Australasian region.

"These births are fantastic news, both for Australasia and for the wider Global Species Management Plan through which Red Panda are managed. We're absolutely delighted Bo has had two healthy cubs and that she's proving once again to be such a confident and attentive mother," says acting Carnivore Team Leader Lauren Booth.

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Photo credits: Auckland Zoo

See video:

"Following Pabu's birth, we've learnt to read Bo's behavior well so we can gauge the best time to check on and weigh the cubs to track their progress, but otherwise remain hands-off. They have now opened their eyes and are moving about in the nest box a little more, and will sometimes 'huff' at us. Their weights have shot up to 403 grams and 423 grams respectively - above average, so we know they're getting plenty to eat, but they still have a lot more growing to do!"

Booth says like one-year-old Pabu, who will relocate to another zoo in Australia within the next six months, the yet-to-be named and sexed cubs will also in time leave Auckland Zoo to contribute to the international breeding program.

"As zoos we work together to ensure genetic diversity is achieved for insurance populations like the Red Panda - which is vital, but it is an insurance policy, not a solution. Increasingly, we're part of conservation efforts in the wild. Auckland Zoo continues to grow its support of Red Panda Network, whose outstanding community education and forest guardianship programs in eastern Nepal (key Red Panda territory) are playing a vital role in helping protect this species that's threatened by habitat loss and poaching."

 See and learn more after the fold!

Continue reading "Auckland Zoo Welcomes Red Panda Twins" »

UPDATE: Ziggy the Otter Learns to Swim at Oregon Zoo


Ziggy, a two-month-old North American River Otter at the Oregon Zoo, is living up to his name as he learns to swim with the help of his mom, Tilly.

Photo Credit:  Shervin Hess, courtesy Oregon Zoo

The pup, born November 8 and named after Oregon’s Zigzag River, is growing into his name, keepers say — zigging this way and that and scampering away from his mom, Tilly, when she tries to lead him indoors.  “He’s a little motorboat,” said senior keeper Julie Christie. 

“Otter pups are very dependent on their mother and they don’t know how to swim right away,” said Christie. “The mother actually has to teach them.”

Tilly is experienced in giving swim lessons – Ziggy’s older brother Molalla, nicknamed Mo, learned to swim under her tutelage just last year. 

Recently Tilly has been offering similar instruction to Ziggy, nudging her new pup to the water’s edge and then plunging in with a firm grip on the scruff of his neck, just as Otter moms do in the wild.

“Tilly has been teaching Ziggy to do some deep dives,” Christie said. “Otter pups are very buoyant, so it takes them a little bit to learn how to go underwater.”

Both of Ziggy’s parents — mom, Tilly, and dad, B.C. — are rescue animals who had a rough start to life.

Tilly was found orphaned in 2009. She was about 4 months old, had been wounded by an animal attack and was seriously malnourished. Once her health had stabilized, Tilly came to the Oregon Zoo.   B.C. was also orphaned in 2009 and after being taken in by the Little Rock Zoo, moved to Oregon as a companion for Tilly.

North American River Otters are relatively abundant in healthy river systems in parts of their range, but were extirpated (locally extinct) in many areas of the United States in the 20th century.  Thanks to reintroduction programs, Otters have been reestablished in several states.   

Meet the 3-Day-Old Sloth at Ellen Trout Zoo

Only three days old in these photos, this male Linne's Two-toed Sloth born at Texas’s Ellen Trout Zoo is already strong enough to hang onto mom’s fur as she climbs about.  The fifth baby for this mother, he arrived on January 16. 


Photo Credit:  Ellen Trout Zoo

At 24 hours old, the baby had his first veterinary exam and was pronounced healthy.  He’s already had a small weight gain!  Zoo keepers remove the baby from mom daily for a quick weight check.  Mom tolerates this interaction because keepers always give her a healthy treat during the baby’s brief exam. 

Linne’s Two-toed Sloths are native to the rain forests of northern South America, where they spend most of their lives high in the treetops.  These sloths feed on plant material and use their long, hooked claws to suspend themselves from tree branches.  Though they are slow-moving, Linne’s Two-toed Sloths are excellent swimmers and can easily cross rivers and streams. 

See more photos below the fold.

Continue reading "Meet the 3-Day-Old Sloth at Ellen Trout Zoo" »