Brookfield Zoo

Kangaroo Joeys Think Outside the Pouch at Brookfield Zoo

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Two Western Grey Kangaroos born at Brookfield Zoo have been spending time outside their mothers’ pouches exploring their outdoor habitat. The young Kangaroos, called joeys, were born on February 20 and March 13 of last year to moms Daisy, 7½, and Sheila, 11.

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Photo Credit: Jim Schulz/Chicago Zoological Society

The 10- and 11-month-old joeys only recently began hopping around and exploring their surroundings. They spent the first several months of life tucked into their mothers’ pouches, where they nursed and grew.  They will continue to nurse until they are 18 months old.  Of course by then, they’ll no longer be able to fit in the pouch.

At birth, a joey is extremely underdeveloped and is about the size of a jellybean. During this early stage of development, a mother produces low-fat milk for her young, and as a joey gets older and ventures out of the pouch, the milk becomes high in fat. A truly amazing attribute of this species is that if a mother Kangaroo is nursing a newly born joey and a juvenile already out of the pouch, she has the ability to produce both low-fat milk and high-fat milk at the same time.

Western Grey Kangaroos are one of 60 species of Kangaroos and Wallabies, all of which are native to Australia. 

Brookfield Zoo Welcomes 58th Giraffe Calf


Arnieta, a 5-year-old reticulated giraffe at Brookfield Zoo, gave birth to a male calf in the early afternoon on November 12. Mother and baby spent their first week together off exhibit to allow for good maternal bonding and to make sure the calf is developing normally.

The birth took place in an off-exhibit area. Soon after the birth, the 140-pound, 6-foot-2-inch-tall calf stood and began nursing. This week they are being introduced to the other females in the herd: Mithra, 22; Franny, 21; and Jasiri, 7, in the zoo’s Habitat Africa! exhibit.






This calf is the 58th giraffe born at Brookfield Zoo. His birth marks three generations of giraffes at Brookfield Zoo, as Franny is Arnieta’s mom. The sire, Hasani, 4, who arrived at Brookfield Zoo in 2010, is on a breeding loan from Lee Richardson Zoo in Garden City, Kansas. The calf’s birth is a very important addition to the North American zoo population because it is the first offspring for both Arnieta and Hasani. The pairing of the two was based on a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Reticulated Giraffe Species Survival Plan (SSP). An SSP is a cooperative population management and conservation program for select species in accredited AZA zoos and aquariums. Each SSP manages the breeding of a species to maintain a healthy and self-sustaining population that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable.

Following a 14½-month gestation period, mother giraffes give birth while standing, resulting in an approximately five-foot drop delivery for the calf. Within an hour after birth, the calf born at Brookfield Zoo was standing. When fully grown, he could 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 giraffe 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.

Phptp Credits:  Brookfield Zoo

Southern Hairy-Nosed Wombat Joey out and about at Brookfield Zoo


Some guests to Brookfield Zoo may not know what a Southern Hairy-Nosed Wombat is since there are only 10 in four North American zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). But if they visit Brookfield Zoo’s Australia House, they will get to see several of these marsupials, including a female joey that was born February 18, 2012.

The not-yet-named joey is the fourth offspring of 12-year-old Kambora, who was born at San Diego Zoo, and the second for Wilbur, 20, who was wild-born in Australia. Although the joey was born more than eight months ago, it wasn’t until mid-September that zookeepers were able to get a good look at the youngster because, like all marsupials, Wombat joeys develop in a pouch.

Immediately after birth, the tiny joey which was about the size of a bumblebee—crawled into Kambora’s pouch, where she has been sleeping and nursing to get all the necessary nutrients she needs to fully develop. Now predominantly out of her mom’s pouch, the inquisitive joey has been exploring her new surroundings.


Photo credit: Jim Schulz/Chicago Zoological Society

Last month, the Chicago Zoological Society (CZS), which manages Brookfield Zoo, held the first North American international symposium on Southern Hairy-Nosed Wombats. During the three-day meeting, representatives for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and from Australia shared information on care, husbandry, conservation, and management of the species. Participants discussed local and regional Wombat conservation issues in Australia, as well as the importation process that has been established with the Australian government. This past summer marked a significant milestone for the Southern Hairy-Nosed Wombat program in the United States in that it was the first importation of this species in several decades.

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Tawny Frogmouth Chicks Are Not Impressed.

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On July 9th and 11th, the Brookfield Zoo welcomed two Tawny Frogmouth chicks. Often mistaken for owls, these Australian birds also hunt at night, but prefer to relax and let their prey come to them, sometimes literally waiting for insects to crawl onto their feathers before snacking.

For reasons unknown, these chicks' parents—Eunice, who is on loan from Riverbanks Zoo in South Carolina, and Gullet, who is from SeaWorld Orlando—abandoned the nest about halfway during the incubation period. To give the unborn chicks a chance at life, staff pulled the eggs and placed them in an incubator. Once the eggs hatched, they received round-the-clock care. Now at 3 weeks old, they have grown, are eating well, and appear to have a bright future ahead of them.

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Tawny Frogmouth Feeding Brookfield Zoo

The pairing of the adults was based on a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Tawny Frogmouth Species Survival Plan (SSP). An SSP is a cooperative population management and conservation program for select species in accredited AZA zoos and aquariums. Each SSP manages the breeding of a species to maintain a healthy and self-sustaining population that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable. Until the chicks are a little older, they will remain off exhibit while being cared for by Animal Programs staff. Guests are able to see the adult pair in the zoo’s Feathers and Scales building. The species is monogamous.

Tawny Frogmouth Brookfield Zoo 3Photo credits: Brookfield Zoo

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Bison Baby Born at Brookfield Zoo

It is not exactly the sound of a stampede but more like the pitter-patter of little hooves that guests can hear at Chicago's Brookfield Zoo’s Great Bear Wilderness exhibit with the addition of a Bison calf born on May 16. The female calf marks the first birth of this species at Brookfield Zoo since the early 1970s.

The birth is a welcome addition for mom Leotie, age 3, and father Ron, age 12, considering the species was slaughtered to near extinction in the late 1800s. Bison were hunted for their meat and bones but primarily for their hides, which were made into clothing, machine belts, and rugs. Historically, tens of millions of bison traveled hundreds of miles over the same route through the Great Plains, shaping the land and enriching the soil. Remnants of their deeply worn paths are still visible. But by the end of the 19th century, bison populations were eliminated over 98 percent of their range in the lower 48 states, resulting in fewer than 1,000 individuals remaining.

Calves are usually born in late spring and weigh 40 to 70 pounds at birth. Their coat is reddish at first, and darkens over a period of about 15 weeks. They are able to stand within half an hour of being born and can run after a few hours. Calves begin grazing when they are just shy of a week old but continue to nurse for several months.


Photo Credit: Brookfield Zoo

Read about this bison's conservation success story after the jump:

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Brookfield Zoo Black-footed Kitten Bonanza!


The Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo, is happy to announce its newest addition, and a first for the zoo: a Black-footed Cat born on February 14.

Although staff are now cautiously optimistic about the kitten’s future, such was not the case in the beginning. Hours after his birth, Animal Programs staff became concerned about the male kitten’s well-being because his 4-year-old mother, Cleo, appeared not to be providing proper maternal care. The kitten was not nursing and his body temperature was alarmingly low. Additionally, he was significantly underweight at birth.






Photo credits: Jim Schulz/Chicago Zoological Society


To ensure that he had a chance for survival, staff quickly decided to intervene and handrear the kitten at the Chicago Zoological Society’s Animal Hospital, where he received round-the-clock care. He was placed in an incubator to increase and maintain his body temperature. Now 6 weeks old and gaining weight, the kitten is being fed a milk formula from a small bottle and is starting to eat solid foods.

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A+ For Chicago's Brand New Baby Aardvark


Chicago's Brookfield Zoo is happy to announce the birth of an Aardvark on January 12, 2012. Because of the dedicated care provided by the Society’s zookeepers, veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and nutritionist, the now healthy 13-pound calf has a bright future ahead of it. Although the calf will not be on exhibit for several months, zoo guests will be able to view it via a live video monitor In the near future. 




Photo credits: Brookfield Zoo

A newborn Aardvark, which weighs about 4½ pounds at birth, is very fragile for its first few weeks of life. To ensure its best chance for survival, Animal Programs staff decided to assist the calf’s 7-year-old mom, Jessi, in rearing her infant. Since its birth, the unsexed calf has received around-the-clock care that has included a neonatal examination and extra hydration and supplemental feeding when needed to make certain it is healthy and gaining the proper amount of weight. The supplemental Aardvark formula the calf receives replicates the fat, carbohydrates, and other nutrients of a mother Aardvark's milk composition.

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A New Baby Gibbon Swings Into Brookfield Zoo


The Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo, is happy to announce the birth of a male White-Cheeked Gibbon on November 15. The 1-month-old infant—along with his mom, Indah; dad, Benny; and 2-year-old brother, Thani—can be seen on exhibit in the zoo’s Tropic World: Asia exhibit daily between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.

Since his birth, the infant has been keeping a close grip on his mom. He will stay in contact and be carried by Indah for a few more months. As he gets older, he will begin to explore the habitat on his own, become more independent, and play with his brother and dad. 

All White-cheeked Gibbons are born with a blond coat matching their mother’s coat, a form of camouflage. The new male Gibbon will retain this light coloring until it begins to turn dusky when he is half a year old. By the time he reaches his first birthday, the young Gibbon will be sporting a black coat with light cheek patches, like his dad and brother. He will retain this coloration for life. Females turn black and then back to blond again, with a small patch of black on their crown, when they reach sexual maturity at around 6 to 8 years of age.







Indah, 23, and Benny, 26, have been together at Brookfield Zoo since August 1995. Indah was born at Minnesota Zoological Garden, and Benny was born in Leipzig, Germany. They are managed as a breeding pair based on a recommendation by the Gibbon Species Survival Plan (SSP) of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). An SSP is a cooperative conservation program for the long-term management of an endangered species’ breeding, health, and welfare in North American zoos. Jay Petersen, curator of mammals for the Chicago Zoological Society, is the Gibbon SSP coordinator. With the assistance of the Gibbon SSP Management Group, he is responsible for management goals for all gibbons in AZA zoos and for breeding recommendations to ensure the sustainability of a healthy, genetically diverse, and demographically varied North American white-cheeked gibbon population. Currently, 83 white-cheeked gibbons live in accredited North American zoos.

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Are You My Mother? Guinea Fowl Chicks Raised By Peahens!


There's something a little different going on at Chicago's Brookfield Zoo, but it's working. Two clutches of Guineafowl chicks were incubated by Feta and Blue, the Zoo's Indian peahens. The chicks hatched on July 7 and 14, and though an entirely different kind of bird, Feta and Blue are now raising the chicks too -- even though they look, act, and sound nothing like them. Their roles have been simple: help the chicks avoid common zoo quandaries such as pedestrians, Motor Safari trams, and predators like the occasional overhead hawk. This is important since both species have free range of the zoo grounds every day and night.

The practice of switching eggs is not as unusual as it may seem. Other zoos have had success with chickens incubating pheasant eggs, and the method has been tried with cranes, many of which are endangered in the wild.

“Zoogoers may not notice anything unusual between the moms and chicks, but there are definitely differences and several barriers that they needed to overcome, including language and behaviors,” said Tim Snyder, curator of birds for the Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo. “The first two weeks were a little precarious because the chicks needed to learn what the peahens’ vocalization meant and adapt to different behaviors that are not instinctual to them.”

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Photo Credit: Chicago Zoological Society

For instance, Guineafowl chicks naturally scatter and hide when frightened or threatened, while peachicks run toward their mother. Additionally, Guineafowl moms and chicks move as a group and help care for each others’ young, which is the opposite of independent peafowl. Another difference between the two species is the length of time the juvenile birds stay close to Mom. Probably much to Feta and Blue’s dismay, the Guineafowl chicks will be tagging along with them for about a year until the next breeding season, which will be in the spring. In the wild, Guineafowl tend to stay together as a flock, including the males, while peafowl juveniles tend to become independent of Mom much sooner.

This is Feta’s second time and Blue’s first of being successful surrogate moms to Guineafowl chicks at Brookfield Zoo. Although they have free range of the entire park, the family groups can generally be found roaming near The Swamp, Tropic World, or the Formal Pool.

In the wild, Guineafowl are found throughout western, northeastern, and southern Africa in open areas, including forest edges, savannahs, scrublands, and cultivated areas. Indian peafowl, also known as blue peafowl, are the national bird of India and are protected in that country. The species prefers the open forests of India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

Rare "Forest Giraffe" Born at Chicago's Brookfield Zoo


The Chicago Zoological Society, which mangaes the Brookfield Zoo, is pleased to announce the birth of a rare hoofed mammal called an Okapi. Also known as "Forest Giraffes", these elusive hoofed mammals are largely a mystery to zoologists. Births such as this one help to shed light on the behavioral patterns of mother Okapi and how they rear their young in the wild. Brookfield welcomed the first North American Okapi birth back in 1959, and has since successfully bred 30 individuals, including this latest addition to the family.



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