Cincinnati Zoo

‘Marvelous’ Duiker Calf at Cincinnati Zoo


The Yellow-backed Duiker calf at Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is simply a “wondrous-marvel”, and that is just what her name, Shani, means in Swahili.

Shani was born August 22 and has been spending quality time bonding with her parents. The small family unit is a preference for the duiker.

Although her species name suggests otherwise, Shani’s characteristic yellow stripe won’t appear on her back until she is about six-months-old. For now, her coloring is suitable for hiding in the shelter of forest floors and brush.



4_14712472_10154443459635479_9148495961607096627_oPhoto Credits: DJJAM Photo/ Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

The Yellow-backed Duiker (Cephalophus silvicultor) is a forest dwelling antelope in the order Artiodactyla, from the family Bovidae. They are the most widely distributed of all the duikers, and they are found mainly in Central and Western Africa, ranging from Senegal to Western Uganda with a possible few in Gambia. Their range also extends southward into Ruanda, Burunidi, Zaire, and most of Zambia.

Yellow-backed Duikers have a convex body shape, standing taller at the rump than the shoulders. They have very short horns, which are cylindrical and are ribbed at the base. Yellow-backed Duikers get their name from the characteristic patch of yellow hairs on their rump, which stand when the animal becomes alarmed or feels threatened. They weigh-in at about 60–80 kg, making it the largest of its genus. It has a large mouth, throat and jaw musculature.

Yellow-backed Duikers are mainly forest dwelling and live in semi-deciduous forests, rainforests, riparian forests, and montane forests. However, they can also be found in open bush, isolated forest islands, and clearings on the savanna. Their convex body shape is well suited for forest living. Also known as “little divers,” duikers dive into thick undergrowth to hide from predators; hence, the name duiker which means "diver" in Afrikaans.

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Giraffe Herd Is ‘Two for Two’ at Cincinnati Zoo


For the second time in less than two months, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden welcomed a new addition to their Masai Giraffe herd. Five-year-old mom, Jambo, delivered a calf on September 13, in her indoor stall after about two hours of labor.

“Jambo has been on 24-hour baby watch since August 22. Zoo Volunteer Observers (ZVO)’s reported restlessness and pacing starting a little before midnight, hooves out at 12:50, face at 1:20 [a.m.] and baby on the ground 25 minutes later. She stood and nursed within the first hour after birth,” said Christina Gorsuch, Curator of Mammals at the Cincinnati Zoo. “Mom stood rock solid for nursing all night, which is exactly the behavior you hope to see.”

Visitors may get to see the baby as soon as this weekend! Vets will soon do a physical exam and, if all is well and weather cooperates, the females and babies could head outside in a few days.

The new father, Kimba, will be outside in the new bull yard at first but will be reunited with the full group in a week or two.

“Jambo must have been paying attention when Cece gave birth in July,” said Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard. “First-time moms don’t always know what to do with their babies, but Jambo has been watching Cece and Cora and seems at ease around her calf.”

The Cincinnati Zoo’s history with Giraffe births dates back to 1889 when it became the first zoo in the Western Hemisphere to produce a baby Giraffe. This is the 15th Giraffe born in Cincinnati.



4_sittingPhoto Credits: Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

After nearly 15 months of gestation, a baby Giraffe drops to the ground headfirst! The fall and the landing do no hurt the calf, but they do cause it to take a big breath. To prepare for the birth, keepers added 6-8 inches of sawdust in Jambo’s indoor stall and placed hay on top of large rubber mats to cushion the calf’s fall and to provide excellent footing for the calf once it began to stand. The outside yard was also baby-proofed with canvas.

Jambo came to the Cincinnati Zoo in 2013 from the Louisville Zoo on a breeding recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan (SSP). Her mate, Kimba, came to Cincinnati in 2008, from the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, Rhode Island. He has sired five calves: three with Tessa, one with Cece, and one with Jambo.

The Masai Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchi), also known as the Kilimanjaro Giraffe, is the largest subspecies and tallest land mammal. It is native to Kenya and Tanzania.

The Masai Giraffe is often darker than other subspecies. Its blotches are large, dark brown, leaf-shaped with jagged edges, and separated by irregular, creamy brown lines.

Unlike many species, there is no true breeding season for the Masai Giraffe and females can become pregnant beginning at just four years of age. In the wild up to 75% of the calves die in their first few months of life, mainly due to predation.

According to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, the Masai may be the most populous of the Giraffe subspecies. There is an estimated fewer than 37,000 remaining in the wild, (though recent reports of significant poaching would suggest it likely to be significantly less) and approximately 100 individuals kept in zoos.

Habitat loss, poaching, disease and civil unrest pose the most significant threats to wild Giraffe.

Rare Condor Chick Hatches at Cincinnati Zoo

Condor_chick (1)Photo: Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is excited to announce that a rare Andean Condor chick has been spotted with parents, Gryph and Laurel. This is the first chick, of this species, to hatch in Cincinnati in 30 years and only the fourteenth to hatch in any North American institution in the past decade.

They are a naturally slow breeding species (averaging one chick every other year). “This is mostly because the chick stays dependent on both parents longer than other bird species,” said Kim Klosterman, Senior Aviculture Keeper at the Cincinnati Zoo. “Andean Condor chicks will not attempt to leave the nest until they are close to six months of age.”

The Zoo’s Condor pair has been laying one egg per year since 2008 but did not produce a chick until now! The success may have something to do with the installation of a nesting chamber in 2014. The 300-pound box, built by Zoo volunteers, was designed to provide a more secure, cave-in-a-cliff-like environment for the birds.

“The chick, a female, is about six weeks old and appears to be growing at a normal rate,” said Klosterman, who was able to pull the chick for a quick exam a few weeks ago. “It’s difficult to get a good look inside the nest box, but we know that the food we put in there has been disappearing quickly. In fact, we recently increased the Condors’ usual diet (which includes rodents, rabbits, goats and fish).”


The Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) will determine the chick’s future. She will remain at the Cincinnati Zoo, in the Condor exhibit, with her 34-yr-old parents until the SSP decides to send her to another facility for breeding or to Cincinnati Zoo’s off-site facility to be conditioned for release into the wild.

The Cincinnati Zoo has participated in conservation efforts and the AZA’s breeding program for this endangered species since 1989 and operates a staging site for North American-hatched Andean Condors destined for release.   In the summer of 2013, a breeding pair was moved from the Zoo’s staging facility to Colombia, where they were released and, soon after, produced chicks. “When they reproduce, that tells me that we are doing something right. That’s the gauge of success,” said Klosterman.

Andean Condors, a type of vulture, typically stand around four feet tall and can weigh as much as 33 pounds. Thanks to its massive wingspan of 10.5 feet, this species can rightly claim the title of the largest flying land bird in the Western Hemisphere. They are currently listed as “Endangered” by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and as “Threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Baby Giraffe Arrives in a Hurry


The Cincinnati’s Zoo’s newest resident must have been in a hurry to meet the world: The 100-pound Masai Giraffe calf was born after a brief 30-minute labor and stood within an hour of its birth.

Most Giraffe births take up to six hours from the onset of active labor to delivery, but this calf took the shortcut.  It all began when the calf’s first-time mother, Cece, refused to leave her night quarters and enter the zoo’s Giraffe Ridge exhibit on July 27. 

13686602_10154227951375479_7858067783709357253_nPhoto Credit:  Cincinnati Zoo
“Labor started at 9:57 a.m., hooves out at 10, head at 10:22 and birth at 10:27!  The birth process can take up to six hours, so 30 minutes is incredibly fast, especially for a first-time mom,” said Christina Gorsuch, curator of mammals at the Cincinnati Zoo.

The calf, whose gender is not yet known and does not yet have a name, appears strong and healthy.  Keepers identified a heart-shaped spot on the baby’s right shoulder.

The Cincinnati Zoo’s history with Giraffe births dates back to 1889 when it became the first zoo in the Western Hemisphere to produce a baby Giraffe.  This is the 14th Giraffe born in Cincinnati.

After nearly 15 months of gestation, a baby Giraffe drops to the ground head first during the birth process. The fall and the landing do no hurt the calf, but they do cause it to take a big breath.  To prepare for the birth, keepers added more than six inches of wood shavings in Cece’s indoor stall and placed straw on top of large rubber mats to provide stable footing for the calf's first attempts at standing.

Although their numbers have decreased by about 35% in the past two decades, the International Union for Conservation of Nature lists Giraffes as a species of Least Concern.  Researchers are gathering data to better understand the implications of hunting, agriculture, and shrinking wild lands on all nine subspecies of Giraffes.

See more photos of the baby Giraffe below.

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Rejected Cheetah Cub Finds a Home at Cincinnati Zoo


Four Cheetah cubs in the Cincinnati Zoo’s nursery now have a brother from another mother:  A lone Cheetah cub, just 12 days older than the zoo’s litter of four, arrived in Cincinnati from Oregon’s Wildlife Safari after his mother was unable to care for him.

25614535764_e41463f765_bPhoto Credit:  Mark Dumont   

Wildlife Safari and the Cincinnati Zoo, both members of the Cheetah Breeding Center Coalition (BCC), agreed that it would be beneficial for the single cub to join the four cubs being cared for in the zoo’s nursery.  “Socialization and companionship, ideally with other Cheetahs, is important at this age,” said Christina Gorsuch, Curator of Mammals at the Cincinnati Zoo.

Because the four premature cubs in the Nursery are still receiving critical care, it will be a week or two before they’re introduced to the bigger cub.  “He’s stronger and much larger than the other cubs.  We will supervise initial visits and ease him into the mix,” said Gorsuch.

All of the cubs will eventually become ambassadors for their species. Two males will move to another zoo and the others will remain in Cincinnati as part of the Cat Ambassador Program.        

Nursery and vet staff are doing everything they can to help the cubs gain weight and make it past the critical one-month milestone. They will remain in the nursery for four to six more weeks.   Visitors may be able to view the cubs through the nursery windows, but some feedings and exams will take place behind the scenes.   

Cheetahs are endangered, and their population worldwide has shrunk from about 100,000 in 1900 to an estimated 9,000 to 12,000 Cheetahs today. 

See more photos below.

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Brazilian Ocelot Births Help Conservation and Research

1_revy as kitten - bill swanson Cincinnati Zoo

Since 2010, three Brazilian Ocelot kittens (females “Milagre,” “Ayla,” and “Revy”) have been produced using artificial insemination (AI) techniques developed and performed by scientists from the Cincinnati Zoo’s Center for Conservation & Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW).

All three of these genetically valuable Ocelots have gone on to produce offspring of their own as a result of natural breeding. The most recent kitten was Neto who was born to Revy at the Santa Ana Zoo in December. Revy is the last of the three AI offspring to reproduce.

2_Revy and Neto - Santa Ana Zoo - Ethan Fisher

3_Neto - Santa Ana Zoo - Ethan Fisher (1)

4_neto -ethan fisherImage 1: Revy as a kitten by Bill Swanson ; Images 2,3,4,8: Revy and Neto by Ethan Fisher ; Images 5,6,7: Revy and Neto by Lauren Bergh ; Images 9,10,11,12: Milagre and kitten Matteo by Shannon Calvert ; Images 13 & 14: Ayla and kitten courtesy Dallas Zoo

“Without the AI option, Milagre, Ayla and Revy – and all of their subsequent offspring - would have never existed and the long-term genetic viability of our Brazilian Ocelot population would have been further diminished as a consequence,” said Dr. Bill Swanson, CREW’s Director of Animal Research and one of the world’s authorities on breeding endangered small cats. “Only 30 Brazilian Ocelots exist in North American Zoos, and seven, or nearly one quarter of the population, were born as a direct or indirect result of AI. That’s strong evidence that biotechnology can play a major role in species conservation.”

In October of 2014, on a recommendation from the Ocelot Species Survival Plan (SSP), which makes breeding pairings based on each individual’s genetic importance to the population as a whole, Revy moved from the Cincinnati Zoo, where she was born, to the Santa Ana Zoo to breed with “Diego,” a male from Oklahoma City Zoo. Because Diego’s parents were imported from Brazil to the United States in 2006 (a process that took six years to plan & execute), Diego’s genetic lineage was considered critically important to establishing a sustainable, genetically viable population.

“Revy and Diego are both extremely valuable to the Ocelot SSP due to the multiple founder lines they represent. The fact that they are compatible and have produced a kitten through natural breeding is a significant step toward conserving this species,” said Swanson. “Our objective is to use AI when necessary to produce offspring that then can breed on their own.”

The SSP’s goal is to increase the Brazilian ocelot population in North American zoos from 30 to 125 individuals. In some cases, however, the SSP’s carefully selected breeding pairs fail to reproduce naturally, sometimes due to behavioral incompatibilities (as with Revy’s parents) or, occasionally, physical impairments (as with Milagre’s and Ayla’s mother).

CREW scientists perform many of the AI procedures with wild cats in the U.S. They focus primarily on five priority small cat species: Ocelots, Pallas’ Cats, Black-footed Cats, Sand Cats, and Fishing Cats.

Dr. Swanson has also aided in AI procedures on tigers, lions, and leopards, in the past few years. “We have become the go-to source for AI in cats, as well as rhinos and polar bears, because of CREW’s expertise and past success. All cat SSPs have pairs that are not reproducing on their own for various reasons, so we try to help out with other cat species as much as possible,” said Swanson.

In cats, AI has been used to produce offspring in 12 species (tiger, snow leopard, cheetah, clouded leopard, leopard cat, ocelot, tigrina, fishing cat, Pallas’ cat, golden cat, leopard, puma), but half of those AI births consist of only a single pregnancy.   Historically, cheetahs have been most successful, with about 13 AI pregnancies produced since 1991 (but none since 2003) followed by the ocelot (with 5 pregnancies).

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Nursery Dog Cares for Orphan Cheetah Cubs


Five Cheetah cubs have been receiving critical care in the Cincinnati Zoo’s nursery since they were born on March 8. The cubs were born via C-section, to mom Willow, at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s Cheetah Breeding Facility.

Unfortunately, their mother has passed away. Zoo vets were hopeful that the five-year-old Cheetah would make a full recovery following surgery, but Willow remained lethargic and recently lost her appetite.

“Cheetahs are a fragile species and this difficult birth proved to be too much for her to pull through," said Thane Maynard, Director of the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. “Willow was able to contribute to the survival of her species by producing five Cheetah cubs. Without the C-section, we likely would have lost both the mom and the cubs.”

Nursery staff have been bottle-feeding the premature cubs every three hours and closely monitoring their weight. Australian Shepherd “Blakely,” the Zoo’s resident nursery companion and former nanny to several Zoo babies, has been called into action to provide snuggling, comfort and a body to climb.



4_25645696440_e87706eaee_zPhoto Credits: Images 1,2 (Mark Dumont); Images 3,4 (DJJAM Photo); Image 5 (Cincinnati Zoo)



“They really turned a corner this weekend. They opened their eyes, had good appetites and, most importantly, they pooped!” said Head Nursery Keeper Dawn Strasser of the cubs. “It’s important to keep their digestive system moving. We’ve been massaging their bellies and giving them opportunities to exercise as much as possible.”

Blakely will have his paws full with this assignment. “His first job is to let the cubs climb on him, which they did as soon as they were put together. They need the exercise to build muscle tone and get their guts moving,” said Strasser, who supervises daily climbing sessions and other interactions with Blakely.

As the cubs grow, Blakely’s role in their development will shift from climbable companion and hairy warm body to teacher and role model. He taught his last student, a baby Takin named Dale, to jump up on rocks and to keep his head butts in the gentle range. Blakely’s first charge, a single Cheetah cub named Savanna, learned the difference between a playful bite and the start of a fight from Blakely.

The cubs (3 boys and 2 girls) will remain in the nursery for at least 8-12 weeks. After that, they will be hand-raised and trained to be Cheetah Ambassadors. Zoo visitors may be able to view the cubs through the nursery windows, but some feedings and exams will take place behind the scenes.

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Rescued Manatee Finds A Home At Cincinnati Zoo


A two-year-old Manatee rescued in Florida arrived at the Cincinnati Zoo to continue his rehabilitation before being released back into the wild.

Djjam (1)
Djjam (8)Photo Credit:  Cincinnati Zoo
BamBam was rescued from a canal in Brevard County, Florida in January 2015.  He was treated for severe cold stress at SeaWorld Orlando before moving to the Cincinnati Zoo in October.

“He is quite energetic, which is what you’d expect from a young Manatee in a new environment. The cold stress on his tail has caused some tissue damage, however it does not appear that his mobility is compromised at all,” said Cincinnati Zoo curator Winton Ray. “Upon his arrival in Cincinnati, BamBam weighed 335 pounds, which represents a healthy, 100-pound weight gain since June.”

He joined 25-year-old Manatee Betsy, who weighs almost seven times as much as he does, in the zoo’s Manatee Springs tank. “Since being introduced to Betsy, keepers have seen exactly what they expected and were hoping for,” says Ray. “He is very ‘clingy’ towards her, and she is patient and gentle with him.”

The Cincinnati Zoo is one of two United States zoos outside of Florida that participate in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Manatee Rescue, Rehabilitation and Release Program. The goal of this program is to rescue and treat sick or injured Manatees and then release them back into the wild.

A subspecies of West Indian manatees, Florida Manatees are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.  They are at risk from both natural and man-made causes of injury and mortality. Exposure to red tide, cold stress, and disease are all natural problems that can affect Manatees. Human-caused threats include boat strikes, crushing by flood gates or locks, and entanglement in or ingestion of fishing gear.

See more photos of BamBam below.

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Dale the Takin Reunited with Mom at Cincinnati Zoo


A four-month-old Takin, named Dale, recently had a big day at Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens. He went on exhibit for the first time with his mom, Sally. 



4_CincinnatiZoo_TakinPhoto Credits: Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens (Images 1-5,7); DJJam (Images 6,8,9) 

Soon after his birth, Dale was pulled to be hand raised in the Zoo’s nursery. Sally, a first time Mom, wasn't caring for him. Keepers intervened and turned to another method to assist in Dale’s care. Blakely, the Cincinnati Zoo’s resident nursery dog and part-time nanny, was called into action to do what he does best, snuggle and play. His new companion was, then 3-week-old, Dale.

Nursery keepers gave Dale a bottle every three hours from 6am to midnight, and Blakely provided socialization and taught certain behaviors through play.

Blakely has, in the past, provided this same service for a Cheetah, an Ocelot, Bat-eared Foxes, an Aardvark, a Warthog and brother Wallabies. Dale remained in the nursery with Blakely, until recently when he was reintroduced to his mother.

Not only is Sally (born at the Zoo in 2009) a first-time mom, but this is also a first for Dale’s dad, Harry. Dale’s arrival marked the Cincinnati Zoo’s seventh live Takin birth. The Cincinnati Zoo is one of only 17 institutions in the U.S. that houses Takins.

Sally and Dale are getting along remarkably well and making up for lost time. Dale and his mom can now be seen together in the Zoo’s Wildlife Canyon exhibit.

The Takin (Budorcas taxicolor), also called Cattle Chamois or Gnu Goat, are large muscular hoofed mammals that reside in mountainous bamboo forests. Native to the Himalayas and Western China, they weigh anywhere between 550 and 770 pounds, and have a height range between 3 and 4 feet. Both males and females have unique horns that curve backwards and outwards, and range between 10 and 12 inches in length.

Takins generally live for 12 to 15 years and have a diet of grasses, leaves, buds, and shoots. They are most active in the early morning and late afternoon, using their split hooves to move easily over the rocky terrain.

Gestation lasts about seven months and young weigh about 15 lbs. (7 kg), at birth. Takin kids are much darker in color than adults, as camouflage from predators. They are born with a dark stripe along the back that disappears as they age. Their coat gets lighter in color, longer, and shaggier as they mature. Takin kids eat solid food and stop nursing at around two months of age, but they continue to stay near mom until her next calf is born. Horns begin to grow when the kid is about six-months-old.

Takin are currently classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Their main predators are bears and wolves, which they ward off with low roars and bellows.

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Meet the 50th Gorilla Born at Cincinnati Zoo

A female Gorilla born at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden on August 25 is extra special – she is the 50th Gorilla to be born at the zoo, and her name reflects her unique status.  

Photo Credit:  Jeff McCurry
The baby will be called Elle after zoo keepers submitted two names for an online vote.   The name Elle grabbed two-thirds of the 2,500 votes.

“It is a very rare thing for any zoo to have 50 babies born and we wanted that to be recognized in the baby’s name,” said Ron Evans, Curator of Primates at the Cincinnati Zoo.  

The letter L is the Roman numeral for 50. Elle, which is how the name will be spelled, means girl.  The keepers thought that the name was fitting, and voters agreed.  Goldie, suggested because gold is representative of 50, was the other choice.

There are about 765 Gorillas in zoos worldwide including approximately 360 in the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Program (SSP) for this species. Western Lowland Gorillas are critically endangered in the wild, with less than 175,000 individuals remaining. Due primarily to habitat destruction caused by logging, mineral mining and agricultural expansion, wild Gorilla numbers continue to shrink.  The bushmeat trade – the killing of wild animals to be used as human food – is also a major threat to the western lowland Gorilla population throughout the Central African rainforests.  Over 1,000 Gorillas are illegally poached for the bushmeat trade each year. 

See more photos of Elle below.

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