When a Southern Three-banded Armadillo was born at the Cincinnati Zoo this spring, keepers selected a fitting name for the golf-ball-sized female: Pallina, which happens to be the name of the small white ball in a bocce set.
Within a month of her birth on February 28, Pallina more than quadrupled her weight – the equivalent of a seven-pound newborn human weighing 32 pounds at one month of age!
Pallina is the first offspring for parents Lil and Titan and the first Armadillo born at the zoo since 2011.
Armadillos are known for their ability to curl into a ball, using their hard outer shell to protect their face and soft underside. The outer “armor” is made of keratin, the same material that makes up your fingernails. Southern Three-banded Armadillos are native to South America, where they inhabit parts of Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, and Brazil and feed on a variety of insects.
Southern Three-banded Armadillos are listed as Near Threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Primary threats include habitat destruction as native grasslands are converted to farms. Hunting and capture for the pet trade also contribute to the Armadillos' decline.
Fiona, the Hippo born six weeks prematurely at the Cincinnati Zoo, is making steady progress under the watchful eyes of her care team. Fans around the world follow Fiona’s journey toward health and independence, and she has become an internet sensation.
You first learned of Fiona’s premature birth here on ZooBorns. Because Fiona was born early, she was unable to stand on her own and nurse like a full-term baby would. As a result, her mother, Bibi, was not able to provide care. That’s when zoo keepers stepped in to assist the baby, who weighed 29 pounds – less than half the weight of a normal newborn Hippo.
Photo Credit: Cincinnati Zoo
Since then, keepers have helped Fiona overcome many developmental hurdles, including learning to walk, swim, and nurse. Fiona now weights 150 pounds, and drinks more than 2.5 gallons of formula per day.
Fiona is now mastering the art of navigating deeper waters. Hippos don’t actually swim – they float, sink, and push off the bottom with their feet, breaking the surface to take in a breath of air. So far, Fiona has been swimming in “kiddie pools” of increasing depth. Last week, zoo keepers introduced Fiona to the indoor pools used by her parents. The water levels will be gradually increased as Fiona becomes more confident.
The most common question asked of zoo keepers is “When will Fiona be reunited with her parents?” The zoo staff explains that this is a gradual process that depends entirely on the Hippos’ reaction to each other. Because Fiona and her mother Bibi were not together during the first two weeks of Fiona’s life, they did not form a strong natural bond and Bibi likely does not recognize Fiona as her offspring. That doesn't mean that Henry and Bibi will not accept Fiona into the bloat (as a group of Hippos is called). But introducing a 150-pound baby to two adults who weigh more than 3,000 pounds each will be approached carefully.
For now, zoo keepers allow Fiona to interact with her parents across a wire mesh barrier. The Hippos' reactions have ranged from curiosity to indifference. The staff expects the introduction process to be slow and completely guided by concerns for Fiona’s health and well-being.
Fiona the Hippo has captured the hearts of hundreds of thousands of fans since her premature birth was announced by the Cincinnati Zoo and shared here on ZooBorns.
Fiona was born six weeks premature on January 24 and was unable to stand and nurse from her mother, Bibi. After Bibi ignored her tiny baby, keepers decided to care for the baby in the zoo’s nursery. Under the expert care of the zoo’s staff, Fiona has grown from a mere 29 pounds (less than half the normal weight for a Hippo calf) to more than 100 pounds today.
Photo Credit: Cincinnati Zoo
The zoo’s nursery staff has helped Fiona overcome several health hurdles, including underdeveloped lungs, finding the right milk formula for her, regulating her body temperature, and keeping her hydrated. No other zoo has raised a premature baby Hippo before.
Fiona has learned to walk, including up a ramp leading into her exercise pool. She has learned to swim and exhibits all the normal behaviors of a Hippo.
Keepers hope to reunite Fiona with Bibi and Henry, Fiona’s father. Bibi and Fiona were separated during the normal bonding time between mother and calf, so it is unlikely that Bibi will recognize Fiona as her offspring. However, the staff expects Bibi and Henry to welcome Fiona into the bloat just as they would any other new Hippo.
Eventually, Fiona will become too large to be cared for in a hands-on manner by keepers. For now, Fiona and her parents can see and hear each other, but they are separated by a protective barrier. The staff will begin working to transition Fiona to the bloat so she can become a well-adjusted Hippo.
“He’s more than just a large, warm pillow for the cubs. Blakely is the adult in the room. He teaches them proper Tiger etiquette by checking them when they’re getting too rough or aggressive,” said Dawn Strasser, head of Cincinnati Zoo’s nursery staff. “This is something that their human surrogates can’t do.”
Photo Credits: Mark Dumont, DJJam, Lisa Hubbard
The cubs, named Chira (because she was treated by a chiropractor), Batari (which means goddess) and Izzy (which means promised by God,) would have received similar cues from their mom. Because being with her is not an option, Blakely is the next best thing. His baby-rearing resume includes experience with Cheetahs, an Ocelot, a Takin, a Warthog, Wallabies, Skunks, and Bat-eared Foxes. Last year, to recognize Blakely’s nurturing nature, the City of Cincinnati proclaimed October 19 to be Blakely Day!
“My team can feed and care for the Tiger cubs, but we can’t teach them the difference between a play bite and one that means ‘watch out’. So, that’s Blakely’s job,” said Strasser. “Just a little time with him at this early age will help them learn behaviors that will come in handy when they meet Tigers at other zoos in the future.” The cubs will move to the Zoo’s Cat Canyon this summer after they have received their last round of immunizations.
Malayan Tigers are Critically Endangered, with fewer than 250 breeding-age adults living in the wild. Less than 100 of these Cats live in zoos, making these three cubs – and Blakely’s job as caregiver – incredibly important to the effort to save Malayan Tigers.
See more photos of Blakely and the Tiger cubs below.
You first met the cubs on ZooBorns when the zoo announced that the trio would be cared for by zoo keepers because their mother did not care for them. Thanks to the staff’s dedication and hard work, the cubs are thriving.
Photo Credits: Kathy Newton, Cassandre Crawford, DJJAM Photo, Mark Desmond
“They’re fed by nursery staff six times a day and have already graduated from two to three ounces per feeding,” said Mike Dulaney, curator of mammals at the Cincinnati Zoo and vice coordinator of the Malayan Tiger SSP. “Before they open their eyes, they usually just eat and sleep. Now that they can see where they’re going, they will start to become more active.”
One of the cubs, referred to as #1 until the cubs’ genders are known and names are given, is receiving special care from a local chiropractor to help it keep up with the others. Soon after the cubs arrived in the Nursery, caregivers noticed that #1 was having trouble holding its head up.
“It was obvious to me that something wasn’t right. The cub’s neck appeared to be stuck at an odd angle,” said Dawn Strasser, a 35-year veteran in the Zoo’s Nursery. “Massaging the neck muscles helped with the stiffness, but the cub was increasingly lethargic and not suckling well.”
Strasser reached out to Dr. Mark Sperbeck, a chiropractor who works on humans and animals of all sizes (from 3-pound Tiger cub to 1,000-pound Horse) and asked him to make a house call. Three adjustments later, it’s difficult to see a difference between #1 and its litter mates. The neck and spine are back in place and the cub is eating well. It’s actually a little larger than the other two.
According to Dr. Sperbeck, the cub’s top cervical bone (C1) was out of alignment. Since 95% of the body’s nerve impulses travel through this vertebra, he explained, it’s key to proper body function. “After the first adjustment, the cub slept for almost 24 hours and woke with improved mobility, strength and suckling ability,” said Strasser.
This is the first time that the zoo has called in a chiropractor, but it has a long history of collaborating with experts from outside the zoo, including dentists, imaging technicians, medical specialists.
Malayan Tigers are Endangered with fewer than 500 left in the world. Major reasons for the population decline include habitat destruction, fragmentation and poaching.
Three Malayan Tiger cubs were born February 3 at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden and are now being cared for in the Zoo’s nursery. First-time mom Cinta’s maternal instincts did not kick in, and vets, concerned that the cubs' body temperatures would dip too low without the warmth of mom's body, made the call to remove them from the den.
“It’s not uncommon for first-time Tiger moms not to know what to do. They can be aggressive and even harm or kill the cubs," said Mike Dulaney, Curator of Mammals and Vice Coordinator of the Malayan Tiger SSP. “Nursery staff is keeping them warm and feeding them every three hours.”
The cubs will be cared for in the nursery for now and will move to Cat Canyon when they’re weaned and no longer require constant care. Visitors should be able to see them playing and running around in their outdoor habitat in early spring.
“The three will grow up together. They will not be re-introduced to their mom as she would not recognize them as her own after a prolonged separation,” said Dulaney.
A baby Nile Hippopotamus arrived six weeks ahead of schedule at the Cincinnati Zoo, and the staff is now providing critical care for the premature calf, which is the first to be born at the zoo in 75 years.
Seventeen-year-old Hippo Bibi gave birth on January 24 but the calf, a female, was not expected until March. Because the premature calf was unable to stand and nurse from Bibi, the veterinary staff moved the baby to the zoo’s nursery where she can receive around-the-clock care. Hippos are pregnant for about 243 days.
Photo Credit: Cincinnati Zoo
When the baby was two days old, staff placed her in a shallow pool. The pool time will help her build strength and gain balance, and help to maintain an optimal body temperature of 96-98 degrees. Most baby Hippos are born in the water, but they can't swim.
“We are giving her fluids and keeping her moist and warm,” said Christina Gorsuch, curator of mammals at the Cincinnati Zoo. “Her little system is underdeveloped, and getting her to a healthy weight will be a challenge. Vets and animal staff are doing everything they can to get her through this critical time.”
You can find daily updates from the Cincinnati Zoo about the baby, which has been named Fiona, here.
The baby weighs 29 pounds, which is about 25 pounds lighter than the lowest recorded birth weight for this species. The normal range for newborn Hippos is 55-120 pounds. “She looks like a normal calf but is very, very small. Her heart and lungs sound good and she is pretty responsive to stimuli, but we aren’t sure how developed her muscles and brain are,” said Gorsuch. Adult Hippos weigh one-and-a-half to two tons.
When Bibi showed signs of labor, zoo staff performed an ultrasound that showed a major shift in the baby and confirmed that it was on the way. During the procedure, keepers were able to collect milk from her.
“We’re hoping to get the baby to drink Bibi’s milk and other supplements from a bottle. We’ll continue to milk Bibi so we can provide these important nutrients to the baby and also stimulate production so she’s ready to nurse when the baby is strong enough to be back with mom,” said Gorsuch.
The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s first baby of 2017 is a Guereza Colobus. The little snow-white baby was born two weeks ago to first time mom, Adanna, and dad, Tiberius. Keepers report the infant is strong, alert and nursing. Once the sex is determined, a name will be given.
The species is a type of monkey once thought to be abnormal because it has no thumb, only a stub where the digit would usually be.
“Tiberius was born here and lived most of his 21 years in a bachelor group that included his father and brothers. Caring for this all-male group was best for the North American Colobus population, but also meant taking a multi-year break from breeding,” said Ron Evans, Cincinnati Zoo’s curator of primates. “With the Cincinnati line out of the breeding population for all those years, Tiberius became one of the most eligible bachelors in the population after he outlived his siblings,”
Four-year-old Adanna arrived at Cincinnati Zoo in 2015, along with another young female, on a breeding recommendation from the Species Survival Plan (SSP), a body that manages populations in Zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
“Their [the two females] playful nature rubbed off and we saw lots of lighthearted play behavior between the three of them,” said Evans. “Tiberius is in his senior years, so it’s significant that his genes are now represented in the North American Zoo population.”
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden keepers recently selected some “cheesy” names for their African Painted Dog pups. The puppy cheese tray, born October 16 to mom Imara and dad Kwasi, includes Nacho and Muenster (the two males). The female pups have been named: Bleu, Brie, Gouda, Queso, Colby, Swiss, Cotija, Mozzarella and Feta.
“The only thing our primary Painted Dog keepers love as much as dogs is cheese! The cheese theme had an added bonus of offering a large variety of name options,” said Christina Gorsuch, Curator of Mammals at the Cincinnati Zoo and Vice Coordinator of the African Painted Dog Species Survival Plan (SSP).
“African Painted Dogs are born white and black with portions of the black turning to gold when they are 6-8 weeks old. The white marks remain the same from birth; these unique markings will help keepers identify each pup for future vaccinations, physical exams, and day-to-day care. They will eventually learn their names which allow keepers to train them individually and teach important husbandry behaviors,” Gorsuch continued.
All the Painted Dog pack members are participating in the rearing of the eleven pups (one of the litter of twelve did not survive).
“The pups are seven weeks old and completely weaned from their mom’s milk onto meat. The entire pack is fed together 3-4 times a day in order to keep up with the demand of the growing puppy appetites. Anything the pups don’t eat is consumed by the four adults, who will regurgitate meat for the pups, throughout the day and night. They have incredible puppy energy and are running circles around the adults; everything is new and very exciting for them,” said Gorsuch.
Mom, Imara:Photo Credits: Cincinnati Zoo/ Kathy Newton (Image 2)
African Painted Dogs (Lycaon pictus) are one of the most endangered carnivores on the continent, with fewer than 5,000 dogs concentrated in parts of southern and eastern Africa. There are approximately 139 animals (55 males, 49 females, and 35 unknown sex) distributed among 33 North American Zoos and 564 in Zoos worldwide. The Cincinnati Zoo is currently home to 15 Painted Dogs.
The pack at Cincinnati has access to the outdoor exhibit when temperatures are above 50 degrees, so the first public viewing of the pups is likely to be in early spring.
African Painted Dogs, known for their large, round ears and beautiful, multi-colored coats, could once be found all over Africa. Today they are one of the most endangered carnivores on the continent, with fewer than 5,000 dogs concentrated in parts of southern and eastern Africa.
The Cincinnati Zoo supports the conservation of African Painted Dogs and other wildlife in southern Tanzania through the Ruaha Carnivore Project (RCP). The RCP works with local communities to ensure the survival of carnivores and people in and around Ruaha National Park. The third largest African Painted Dog population lives in the Ruaha region and is also home to 10% of Africa’s Lions.
The RCP documents the presence and location of wildlife species through community-reported sightings and photos taken by motion-triggered cameras, or camera traps. The project aims to gather baseline data on carnivore numbers and ecology and work with the local communities to reduce human-carnivore conflict.
It’s not the first time Imara has had her paws full. In January of 2015, she produced and raised a litter of ten pups, with the help of her first mate, Brahma. This time, in addition to having new dad, Kwasi, as a helper, she’ll have assistance from her older offspring, Lucy (the only pup from the original litter that’s still in Cincinnati) and the new litter’s uncle, Masai (dad’s brother).
“Kwasi and Masai lived in a multigenerational pack that numbered 23 dogs at one point, so they’re well versed in dog etiquette. They witnessed the birth of at least one litter of pups and should be able to figure out their roles as father and helper,” said Christina Gorsuch, Curator of Mammals at the Cincinnati Zoo and Vice Coordinator of the African Painted Dog Species Survival Plan (SSP).
“The social structure of African Painted Dogs is built around the raising of pups -the entire pack works together to ensure that the female and her pups have everything they need to succeed and survive. Just like in the wild, the members of our pack will help Imara by guarding the den box, regurgitating meat, and babysitting the pups when Imara leaves the den box.”
Kwasi and Masai, are both five-years-old and originally from the Perth Zoo in Australia. The male siblings arrived in Cincinnati, this past summer, with a breeding recommendation from the SSP.
“We felt pretty confident that Imara would remain our alpha female but the male dogs were a bit of an unknown. Within minutes of the group’s introduction, Imara and Kwasi clearly identified each other as alphas and Masai and Lucy displayed all the appropriate submissive behaviors. It was really amazing to see Imara teaching Lucy all the proper dog social skills for meeting new males. In Painted Dog packs, usually only the alpha pair breed and produce pups. We are very happy to see our pack functioning in similar ways to their wild counterparts,” said Gorsuch.
The pack has access to the outdoor exhibit, but visitors are not likely to see pups for a couple of months. Keepers expect Imara to keep them safely tucked away in their behind-the-scenes den.
Photo/ Video Credits: Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
The African Painted Dog (Lycaon pictus), also known as the African Wild Dog or African Hunting Dog, is a canid native to Sub-Saharan Africa. They are known for their large, round ears and beautiful, multi-colored coats. The species could once be found all over Africa. Today they are one of the most endangered carnivores on the continent, with fewer than 5,000 dogs concentrated in parts of southern and eastern Africa. They are currently classified as “Endangered” by the IUCN.
Today, there are approximately 122 African Painted Dogs in 37 North American Zoos and 534 in Zoos worldwide. Gestation period for the species is approximately 68-73 days. Litters typically include 6 to 12 pups but can number up to 20. Pup survival rate is about 52%, making it a difficult population to sustain.
The Cincinnati Zoo supports the conservation of African Painted Dogs and other wildlife in southern Tanzania through the Ruaha Carnivore Project (RCP). The RCP works with local communities to help ensure the survival of carnivores and people in and around Ruaha National Park.
The third largest African Painted Dog population lives in the Ruaha region and is also home to 10% of Africa’s Lions. The RCP documents the presence and location of wildlife species through community-reported sightings and photos taken by motion-triggered cameras, or camera traps. The project aims to gather baseline data on carnivore numbers and ecology and work with the local communities to reduce human-carnivore conflict.