Brookfield Zoo

Endangered Gorilla Born at Brookfield Zoo


The Chicago Zoological Society, which operates Brookfield Zoo, is happy to announce the birth of a male Western Lowland Gorilla to 11-year-old Kamba, on September 23. Kamba has grown up in a strong, stable family group at Brookfield Zoo, where she has gained the social experience and confidence she needs to be a good mother.



4_DSC_1991Photo Credits: Jim Schulz/Chicago Zoological Society

Kamba and her infant, named Zachary, can be seen in the zoo’s Tropic World: Africa habitat along with Koola (Kamba’s mother), age 20; Nora (Koola’s second daughter), almost 2; Binti Jua (Koola’s mother), 27; and JoJo (the infant’s sire), 35. This birth marks four generations of Western Lowland Gorillas currently in the group at Brookfield Zoo.

The pairing of the adult female gorillas at Brookfield Zoo, including Kamba, with JoJo, who arrived in 2012 from Lincoln Park Zoo, is based on a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Western Lowland Gorilla Species Survival Plan. A Species Survival Plan is a cooperative population management and conservation program for select species in accredited North American zoos and aquariums. Each plan manages the breeding of a species to maintain a healthy and self-sustaining population that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable. Currently, 339 Western Lowland Gorillas live in 48 accredited North American zoos.

JoJo is one of the most genetically valuable males in the Western Lowland Gorilla SSP population and is an especially good match for the adult females at Brookfield Zoo. “Having JoJo come here has been a great success story and demonstrates the collaboration among the zoo community to effectively care for this critically endangered species,” said Craig Demitros, associate curator of primates for the Society. JoJo has a calm disposition. He was very playful with his offspring at Lincoln Park Zoo and he has shown the same interaction with Nora at Brookfield Zoo. “We anticipate he will continue to be playful with Kamba’s infant as it gets older,” added Demitros.

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Threatened Ornate Box Turtles Hatch in Chicago

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The last of 26 Ornate Box Turtles hatched at Lincoln Park Zoo and Brookfield Zoo, in Chicago, this past week, as part of an effort to restore native populations in Western Illinois. The hatchlings come from nine different clutches provided by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS).

“Each year we learn more about Ornate Box Turtles and their preferred temperature for incubation and what conditions best enable them to grow before returning to their native habitat,” said Diane Mulkerin, curator for Lincoln Park Zoo. “The collaboration among conservation organizations enables us to take the head-start program one step further by increasing the number of turtles we re-introduce each year.”

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4_Ornate Box Turtle-4 (©Chicago Zoological Society)Photo Credits: CZS/Brookfield/Chicago Zoological Society (Images: 1 - 6);Lincoln Park Zoo/Christopher Bijalba (Images: 7 - 12)The turtles will remain at their respective zoos for the next several months where they can thrive without the threat of predation or disease. Once the animals grow both in size and strength, they will be re-introduced into sand prairies protected by the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge in Savannah, Illinois.

“We’re thrilled to be working with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Lincoln Park Zoo on this hatch and head-start program for the Illinois state-listed threatened Ornate Box Turtle,” said Andy Snider, curator of herps and aquatics for the Chicago Zoological Society, which operates Brookfield Zoo. “Assisting in cooperative conservation projects for local species, such as this, is one of many ways zoos can contribute to the overall health and welfare of wild populations.”

The Ornate Box Turtle (Terrapene ornata ornata) is one of only two terrestrial species of turtles native to the Great Plains of the United States. It is one of the two different subspecies of Terrapene ornata, and it is the state reptile of Kansas.

The Ornate Box Turtle is listed as “Threatened” in the state of Illinois, and it is a protected species in six Midwestern states: Colorado, Iowa, Indiana, Nebraska, Kansas, and Wisconsin. The IUCN Red List classifies the species as “Near Threatened”.

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Zebra Foal Sticks Close to Mom At Brookfield Zoo

A Grevy’s Zebra foal born at the Brookfield Zoo on July 7 stays close to mom as if to say, “You can’t see me!”


Photo Credit:  Brookfield Zoo

Indeed, Zebras’ striped coats help them blend in with the herd and surrounding vegetation, making them nearly invisible to predators. Like most Zebra foals, this little girl was born with brownish stripes.  The stripes will turn black as she grows.

The foal weighed 100 pounds at birth.  She was born to five-year-old Kali and her mate, 15-year-old Nazim.  The pairing of the two was based on a recommendation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Grevy’s Zebra Species Survival Plan (SSP). An SSP manages breeding to maintain a healthy and self-sustaining population that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable. Currently, fewer than 200 Grevy's Zebras live in less than 50 accredited North American zoos. This is the first Grevy’s Zebra birth at Brookfield Zoo since 1998.

Grevy’s Zebras, which are the largest of all wild equids, are listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The species is now found only in its native habitat of northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia and is considered to be extinct in Somalia. Researchers estimate that the Grevy's Zebra population has declined by more than 50 percent over the past two decades, with approximately 2,000 remaining in the wild.

Major threats to the species include reduction of and competition for water sources; habitat degradation and loss due to overgrazing; and hunting. Most Grevy's Zebras live outside of national parks on communal lands, making community participation in their conservation critical.

Brookfield Zoo Shares Photos of Newest Okapi


Brookfield Zoo, in Chicago, Illinois, is excited to share photos of ‘Will’, a male Okapi born at the zoo on April 21. Born to first-time mom, ‘Augusta K.’, Will is currently behind the scenes, but he can be seen via a live video feed that is set up in the zoo’s “Habitat Africa! The Forest”. 



4_11289439_10153371363684170_1953671532691818883_oPhoto Credits: Brookfield Zoo

During Will’s first few months of life, he will spend the majority of his time in an indoor nesting area. In the wild, a mother Okapi leaves her calf at a protected nesting site, to keep it hidden from predators. She returns only to allow the calf to nurse. Once Will is more active, at about 3 months old, guests will be able to see him exploring his outdoor habitat with Augusta.

Brookfield Zoo was the site of the first Okapi birth in North America in 1959 and has had 27 successful births, including this newest addition.

The Okapi, also known as the “forest giraffe”, is a rare hoofed mammal, native to the dense Ituri Forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo. American and European scientists did not discover the species until the early 1900s. Because of the Okapi’s elusiveness, little has been known about their behavior in the wild, including how they raise their calves. The Chicago Zoological Society, which operates the Brookfield Zoo, has been a leader in gathering information on mother-calf relationships and calf development. This information has been instrumental in developing husbandry methods to help Okapi mothers raise their calves successfully.

Population numbers of Okapi, in the wild, have been declining and are predicted to continue on this downward trend due to habitat loss, human settlement, mining, war and political instability in these animals’ region, and the bushmeat trade. A global initiative formed in 2013 is helping to attract and strengthen international support for the species, and its closest relative: the giraffe, by providing an official forum to support the implementation of much-needed conservation strategies. 

Visit to learn how to help with Okapi conservation.

More great photos, below the fold!

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Baby Orangutan Finds a Home at Brookfield Zoo


Kecil, a 6-month-old Bornean Orangutan, is winning the hearts of Brookfield Zoo fans, but most importantly, he is bonding with his surrogate mother, a 53-year-old Bornean Orangutan named Maggie.


Photo Credit:  Brookfield Zoo

Kecil (pronounced Ka-cheel, which is Indonesian for “little”), was born at the Toledo Zoo to an experienced mother, but she did not care for him.  The AZA’s Orangutan Species Survival Plan (SSP) and Hand Rearing/Surrogacy Advisory Group leapt into action and found a surrogate mother for Kecil at the Milwaukee County Zoo.  Unfortunately, Kecil and that female orangutan did not successfully bond, and the team identified Maggie as a potential surrogate.

Throughout the process of finding a suitable surrogate, staff members at all three zoos provided exceptional care for Kecil.  All baby animals have better outcomes when raised by members of their own species.  They typically are better socialized and become better parents themselves – a very important trait for endangered animals like Orangutans, where the genetic material of every animal is important to the survival of the species.

Upon his arrival at Brookfield Zoo, Kecil was given a brief physical examination and then taken to an off-exhibit area at the zoo’s Tropic World exhibit to be introduced to Maggie. Since the two have been together, animal care staff have seen very positive interactions. The two engage each other in play, and the young orangutan often sleeps in the crook of Maggie’s arm. He has shown interest in Maggie’s food, but for now he has been sampling softer foods like bananas, and baby cereal has become a staple. In addition, Kecil comes to the front of their enclosure on his own or with Maggie’s assistance to be bottle-fed, which will continue at least until he is a year old.

“Although it has been only a short time and we have a long road ahead of us, we are extremely optimistic due to Kecil and Maggie’s progress so far. Maggie is an easygoing and gentle Orangutan. The two have been together since Kecil’s arrival, and Maggie has provided care and attention that he needs to receive from an Orangutan.” said Jay Petersen, curator of primates and carnivores for the Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo.

Kecil was born on January 11, 2014, at Ohio’s Toledo Zoo. His mother, Yasmin, who has raised her own offspring in the past, showed little interest in caring for him following a difficult delivery. Toledo Zoo’s keepers and veterinary team worked tirelessly to offer the two private off-exhibit quarters, hoping that they would bond. However, after months of dedicated but unsuccessful efforts to encourage Yasmin to care for Kecil, they decided it would be best to place him with a surrogate at another zoo.

On May 19, at four months old, Kecil was taken to Milwaukee County Zoo to be placed with a possible surrogate named MJ. During the month Kecil was at Milwaukee, animal care staff worked around the clock to introduce Kecil to MJ, and the initial results were positive. However, the optimal level of bonding that staff had hoped to see was not achieved, and after various stages of progress, the situation seemed to have reached a plateau.

Once again, discussions took place to determine the next course of action for the infant. Because it is extremely important that Kecil be raised by Orangutans rather than humans, the animal care experts decided to try another potential surrogate, and he was moved to Brookfield Zoo to be introduced to Maggie.

During the transfers to Milwaukee County Zoo and Brookfield Zoo, an animal care staff member from the previous facility accompanied Kecil to help in his transition. “Kecil seems calm and adaptable to the changing situations in his young life. The moves don’t seem to have fazed him at all,” said Petersen. “We are all hoping that Brookfield Zoo will be his last move for a while.”

“The collaboration among the three institutions to ensure Kecil grows up in the best environment possible speaks to the commitment of everyone involved,” said Stuart Strahl, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Chicago Zoological Society.

It will be many months before Kecil and Maggie will be on exhibit for guests to see. Animal care staff want to give the two time to develop their relationship. In addition, Kecil needs to become much more agile and mobile before being introduced to the exhibit. 

Orangutans once lived over much of Southeast Asia, but their range and population have been dramatically reduced. Their natural habitat—the rain-forest islands of Sumatra and Borneo—continues to be decimated. Huge tracts of the rain forests are logged and converted to palm oil plantations. There are approximately 40,000 Bornean Orangutans left in the wild, and the population has declined by 50 percent since 1990. 

See more photos of Kecil and Maggie below.

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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.

Baby Gorilla Bonds with Mom at Brookfield Zoo

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Enjoy these new photos of a baby Western Lowland Gorilla spending quality time with her mom, Koola! The female baby Gorilla, born on November 4 at Chicago's Brookfield Zoo, can be seen with her mom during the zoo's remaining Holiday Magic days, December 30-31. (The Tropic World exhibit closes at 8 p.m.)

A newborn Gorilla weighs between 4 and 5 pounds at birth. As the baby grows, she will develop thicker hair and a white 'tail' tuft. The infant has a strong grip and will cling to Koola’s abdomen. At three months of age, zoo guests will be able to observe the baby riding on Koola’s back. About a month later, she will start to sample small pieces of food, however, nursing will continue until she is three to four years old. Also, at four months of age she will start to explore on her own, but will stay within arm’s reach of mom.  

The newborn joins a family of four: her big sister Kamboo (9), father JoJo (33), and maternal grandmother, Binti (25), along with her mother Koola (18). 

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4 gorillaPhoto credit: Jim Schulz/Chicago Zoological Society

JoJo arrived at Brookfield Zoo from Lincoln Park Zoo in May 2012 based on a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Gorilla Species Survival Plan. A Species Survival Plan is a cooperative population management and conservation program for select species in accredited North American zoos and aquariums. Each plan manages the breeding of a species to maintain a healthy and self-sustaining population that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable. According to the Western Lowland Gorilla Species Survival Plan, JoJo is one of the most genetically valuable males in the zoo population. Currently, there are 342 Western Lowland Gorillas in 53 accredited North American zoos.

Gorillas live in social groups composed of one adult male, several adult females, juveniles, and infants. As they reach sexual maturity, both males and females typically leave the group in which they were born. They either establish a new group or join an existing one.

Western Lowland Gorillas are Critically Endangered due to habitat destruction, primarily from logging, disease such as the Ebola virus, the illegal pet trade, and poaching for bushmeat. It is not known how many Western Lowland Gorillas survive in their native West Africa (the forests of Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Nigeria, Congo, and Angola). Some recent estimates have been between 90,000 and 110,000 individuals, but new surveys are needed to determine whether or not this figure is exaggerated.

“We are extremely pleased that JoJo has successfully assumed the role as the silverback or leader of Brookfield Zoo’s gorilla group and has made a positive impact since his arrival,” said Stuart Strahl, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Chicago Zoological Society. “This infant represents an important contribution to the Gorilla population in North American zoos. We hope that when zoo guests see the infant and her family members they will be inspired to care for this Critically Endangered species.” 

A Dolphin Calf Joins the Pod at Brookfield Zoo

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Brookfield Zoo, managed by the Chicago Zoological Society, welcomed a newborn male dolphin calf on October 16. The calf, born to 31-year-old mother Tapeko, is approximately 40 pounds (18 kg) and 3.5 feet long (107 cm). Mother and calf are currently off exhibit, and the zoo’s dolphin presentations have been temporarily canceled to allow Tapeko and her calf time to bond and get acquainted with the other dolphins in the group.

Following the birth, it is important for the calf to demonstrate several key milestones, including nursing and slipstreaming, which is when the calf rests in the hydrodynamic wake made behind the mother as she swims. This allows the mother to use her own energy to help the calf glide behind her. Marine mammal and veterinary staff have observed the new calf displaying these behaviors and, encouraged by what they have seen so far, are cautiously optimistic that the little male is on the right track.

“We know that the first 30 days are extremely critical in the calf’s life,” said Rita Stacey, marine mammal curator for the Chicago Zoological Society. This time frame accounts for the largest rate of loss to dolphin populations both in the wild and under professional care, as compared to any other demographic age group. Beyond the critical first 30 days, the first year is also filled with challenges and milestones the calf must reach. 

Dolphin 2Photo credits: Jim Schultz / Chicago Zoological Society

The little one is well cared-for. Tapeko is an experienced mother, having successfully reared four calves, one of which was her grandson as well as her daughters Allison, 7, and Noelani, 9, who are both members of the dolphin group living at Brookfield Zoo.

“This is an important time for our breeding group of females,” added Stacey. “As an experienced mom, Tapeko is able to demonstrate to the younger females how to care for a newborn calf.” This is especially timely as Spree, 11, is expected to give birth to her first calf later this fall. 

Snow Leopard Cub Born at Brookfield Zoo


The Brookfield Zoo is proud to share the birth of a male Snow Leopard cub, born on June 13. The cub was born to first time mom Sarani and her mate, Sabu. At just over two months, the cub weighs about 10 pounds. The cub will remain off exhibit until he is about 3 months old. This will allow him time to bond with mom before making his public debut in mid-September.


Saranti and Sabu, both about 3-years-old, were paired based on a recommendation from the AZA's Snow Leopard Species Survival Plan (SSP). SSPs help to manage the breeding population of a species in order to ensure that it is both genetically diverse and demographically stable. Including this cub, there are currently 140 Snow Leopards in 60 institutions in North America. The Brookfield Zoo has been home to Snow Leopards for nearly 80 years.


Snow Leopards are an Endangered species, with an estimated population between 3,500 and 7,000 in the wild. They are native to high, rugged mountainous regions throughout central Asia. The species is threatened by human influences, such as poaching, depletion of prey, retribution killings, residential and commercial development and civil unrest.

Photo Credit Brookfield Zoo


It's a Boy! Second Giraffe Calf in Eight Months Born at Brookfield Zoo

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Jasiri, a 7½-year-old Giraffe at Chicago's Brookfield Zoo, gave birth to a male calf on June 21. The first-time mom had the baby outside in an off-exhibit area. Soon after being born, the 173-pound, 5-foot-9-inch-tall calf stood, and was nursing not long after that. This calf is the 59th Giraffe born at Brookfield Zoo. Following a 14½-month gestation period, mother Giraffes give birth while standing. When fully grown, the new calf can potentially reach 18 feet tall.

Giraffe numbers have declined by 40 percent in the last decade, and there are now fewer than 80,000 individuals in Africa. There are fewer than 5,000 Reticulated Giraffes left in East Africa. Additionally, of the nine subspecies of Giraffes in Africa, two—the West African Giraffe and the Rothschild’s Giraffe—are classified as endangered, with less than 250 and 670 individuals, respectively, remaining in the wild. The populations are declining due to a number of factors, including habitat loss and fragmentation, coupled with human population growth and illegal hunting.

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Photo Credit: Brookfield Zoo


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