Dallas Zoo

Baby Elephant Born After Rescue

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The Dallas Zoo welcomed a big new arrival on May 14:  a male African Elephant born to Mlilo, an Elephant rescued from drought-stricken Swaziland this spring.

The calf stands about three feet tall, and his tiny trunk is just over a foot long. His ears are light pink, contrasting with his darker gray body. He weighs 175 pounds, which is on the low end of the 150- to 300-pound range for newborn African Elephants. A low birth weight isn’t surprising, given the difficult conditions his mother encountered in Swaziland during his 22-month gestation.

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_MG_7308-CBPhoto Credit:  Dallas Zoo

The calf, who isn’t yet named, is active and exploring the barn, although he doesn’t get too far from mom. He’s nursing and vocalizing as expected.

“This birth validates the critical importance of our rescue efforts and why we worked so hard to get these animals to safety as quickly as possible,” said Gregg Hudson, president and CEO of the Dallas Zoo.

The Dallas Zoo collaborated with conservation officials in Swaziland, Africa, and two other accredited U.S. facilities to provide a safe haven for 17 African Elephants. The Elephants had destroyed trees and other vegetation in the managed parks where they lived, making the land uninhabitable for more critically endangered Rhinos. Swaziland managers planned to cull the Elephants in order to focus on Rhino conservation. The zoos’ collaboration to relocate the Elephants was conceived not only to save them, but to support Swaziland’s Rhino conservation efforts.

In a complex process that lasted nearly two years, the Dallas Zoo, Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Wichita’s Sedgwick County Zoo applied for permission from the U.S. government to accept the animals. The permit was granted in January after extensive review, and a detailed move was planned for nearly two months. The Elephants were flown to the U.S. aboard a chartered 747 jet, arriving March 11, 2016.

Mlilo (pronounced “ma-LEE-lo”) arrived in Dallas showing signs of a possible pregnancy, but all tests conducted were inconclusive. Regardless, the Dallas Zoo staff was careful with the day-to-day care of Mlilo, creating positive conditions for her to have a successful birth. 

“This calf will be an excellent ambassador for his species, helping us teach guests about the grave crisis facing Elephants in Africa, and inspiring them to help protect this majestic species from extinction,” Hudson said.

This is the first birth of an African Elephant calf in the United States in nearly two years.

African Elephants face many threats, ranging from human encroachment on their habitat to extreme poaching, which claims the life of nearly 100 Elephants every day.

See more photos of the calf below.

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Brazilian Ocelot Births Help Conservation and Research

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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.

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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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Lemurs, Tigers, and Pumpkins, Oh My!

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It's Halloween, and that means zoo animals around the world are enjoying encounters with pumpkins and gourds of all shapes and sizes.  Animals' reactions to pumpkins vary, but critters may sniff, munch on, or completely destroy their pumpkin treats.

The pumpkins are more than a seasonal celebration - they serve as enrichment for zoo residents. Enrichment provides physical, mental, or sensory stimulation and encourages natural behaviors in animals.  Happy Halloween from ZooBorns!

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Lion Cubs 9982 - Grahm S. Jones, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
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Photo Credits (top to bottom)
Ring-tailed Lemur:  Fort Wayne Children's Zoo
Galapagos Tortoise:  San Diego Zoo
Komodo Dragon:  San Diego Zoo
North American River Otter:  San Diego Zoo
Gorilla:  Paignton Zoo
Asian Elephant:  Oregon Zoo/Shervin Hess
Sumatran Tiger:  Fort Wayne Children's Zoo
African Lion:  Columbus Zoo & Aquarium/Grahm S. Jones
Red Panda:  Fort Wayne Children's Zoo
Spider Monkey:  Paignton Zoo
Satanic Leaf-tailed Gecko:  Dallas Zoo


Dallas Zoo Welcomes Iconic Texas Hatchlings

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Dallas Zoo recently welcomed their first ever clutch of Texas Horned Lizard hatchlings – 39 babies in all! Also known as “horny toads”, Texas Horned Lizards, were once quite common, but are now disappearing.

This threatened species has vanished in East and Central Texas, and is now decreasing in North Texas, too. While these babies may be only the size of a penny now, they’re helping ensure the survival of this Texas icon.

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3_11222491_10153085148686819_2943863045877479041_oPhoto Credits: Dallas Zoo

The Dallas Zoo has taken an active role in the protection of this threatened reptile. The Dallas Zoo's Texas Horned Lizard Conservation page (http://dzmconservation.wix.com/texashornedlizards#!) provides great information and resources.

Horned Lizards, also known as "horny toads", represent a unique group of lizards that inhabit the southern United States and northern Mexico. The Texas Horned Lizard, Phrynosoma cornutum, is perhaps the most recognizable species of Horned Lizard. It is the largest North American native species of Horned Lizard (Family: Phrynosomatidae) and has the widest distribution of any other Horned Lizard species in the United States.

Once extremely common, they are now in decline throughout much of their range. The Texas Horned Lizard is perhaps the most threatened member of this group, with estimated population declines of greater than 30% across its range (Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, and northern Mexico) and even higher in Texas. Populations have disappeared in East and Central Texas, and are decreasing in North Texas as well.

Staff of the Dallas Zoo is studying the life history of Texas Horned Lizards at the Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch. The Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch is 4,700 acre preserve located in Fisher County, Texas. By collecting lizard life history data (including but not limited to population densities, habitat preferences, diet, sex ratios, activity patterns, etc.) they hope to shed valuable light on the ecology of this threatened native Texan.


Meet Little Blue Eyes

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A blue-eyed Ocelot kitten born a the Dallas Zoo won’t stay that way for long.  As the kitten matures, its eyes will naturally turn brown.  But that won’t make it any less adorable. 

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DSC_1001a-Ocelot-kitten-logoBorn in the middle of the night on March 20, the kitten is learning its first lessons in hunting – but instead of capturing rodents, this little kitten uses its mother’s tail as its prey.  Its mother, Milagre, takes it all in stride. 

This is the second kitten for six-year-old Milagre.  Keepers continue to give Milagre and her baby privacy, and will conduct a well-baby checkup within the next few days. The baby’s weight and gender will be determined at that time, and he or she will be given a name.

“Milagre is once again embracing motherhood tremendously,” said Lisa Van Slett, carnivore assistant supervisor. “She manages a lot with her energetic newborn and makes it took effortless.”

Ocelots are found throughout much of South America, Central America, and Mexico, with Texas at the far northern edge of their range.  Fewer than 50 wild Ocelots are thought to survive in Texas, and they face severe threats from human encroachment in their native habitat. 

“Their territory used to cover all of Texas, and now it’s rare to find one in the wild,” said Van Slett.

Milagre will remain the sole caretaker of her kitten, since Ocelots are solitary by nature. The two are expected to venture out to the Ocelot habitat soon. That’s also when the kitten will meet its neighbors – dad Joaquin and Rufus, a bobcat – for the first time.

Joaquin and Milagre were paired by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Ocelot Species Survival Plan (SSP) in 2011. As a member of the SSP, the Dallas Zoo works with other zoological parks to ensure that the Ocelot gene pool remains healthy and genetically sound.

 


Dallas Zoo Home to Famous Giraffe Calf

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On April 10th, the birth of a female Giraffe calf, at the Dallas Zoo, caught the attention of animal-lovers worldwide after the Zoo and Animal Planet launched the joint project, GIRAFFE BIRTH LIVE CAM, to show the birth on the Animal Planet L!VE streaming video site. 

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Meet Kipenzi

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Online viewers have so far watched over 2 million video streams since the cameras launched. Many viewers tuned in after Animal Planet aired the birth live on-air, narrated by the Dallas Zoo’s Harrison Edell, the senior director of living collections. A Mother’s Day Special will air on Animal Planet, this Sunday May 10th, at 9am Eastern. You can also catch replay of highlights from the event on the Animal Planet L!VE webpage, at the following links: http://www.apl.tv/giraffe-birth-live.htm and at http://www.animalplanet.com/tv-shows/giraffe-birth-live/videos/giraffe-birth-live-highlights/?_ga=1.38708640.2028738701.1431005825

Giraffe mom, ‘Katie’, went into labor just before 5 pm April 10 and delivered the healthy calf less than an hour later. During the live broadcast, Mr. Edell calmly took viewers through the drama of the live birth, describing the events, checking in with the zoo’s veterinary team and teaching about the threats the magnificent animals face in the wild. Mirroring viewers’ excitement, he captured the staff’s elation during milestones such as: when the calf opened its eyes, tried several times to stand, began to walk, and began to nurse. One of the most popular moments, during the live broadcast, was when the other members of the zoo’s Giraffe herd poked their heads over the wall of the maternity stall to check in on the birth.

“We love having this type of platform to share this incredible event,” said Gregg Hudson, Dallas Zoo president and chief executive officer. “To be able to share this with so many people around the world is very special. We couldn’t be prouder of our staff and, of course, of Katie!”

The calf’s father is ‘Tebogo’, one of the most popular Giraffes at the Dallas Zoo. Katie has one previous calf, ‘Jamie’, who was born in 2011. Jamie remains with the 13-member Dallas Zoo herd, which roams the award-winning Giants of the Savanna habitat. The Dallas Zoo is the only zoo in the United States to allow Giraffes and Elephants to mingle with each other, alongside Zebra, Impala, Guinea Fowl and other African species.

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New Giraffe Makes Grand Entrance

Chrystal-and-calf-Oct26_2014-800x743The Dallas Zoo has welcomed a leggy, 6-foot-tall baby Giraffe, born October 26th to first-time mother, ‘Chrystal’. 

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The male calf’s arrival wasn’t without excitement. Giraffe keepers and the veterinary team had closely monitored the pregnancy and labor. When 6-year-old Chrystal’s labor halted after about two hours, the team quickly moved her into a special, custom-built chute in the Giraffe barn. There, keepers were able to restrain her without using anesthesia, a risk they wanted to avoid for the health of both mom and calf.

With Chrystal safely ensconced in the chute, the veterinary team moved in quickly. Jan Raines, D.V.M., determined that the calf’s head and neck were positioned to the side of the front legs, instead of aligned with them. Raines was able to move the calf’s head and neck into the correct position, and Lynn Kramer, D.V.M., and the Giraffe keeper team delivered the newborn. They gently lowered it more than 6 feet to the ground. The calf was then moved into the barn’s maternity stall, equipped with extra layers of soft sand and overhead video cameras. Chrystal immediately joined the calf, licking him and nudging him. Soon he stood on wobbly new legs, and began to nurse shortly after.

“The chute and our team’s training definitely paid off, allowing us to provide excellent emergency care to Chrystal and the calf,” said Kramer, who is also the Dallas Zoo’s vice president of animal operations and welfare.

“A new giraffe is always a reason to celebrate,” Kramer added. “They’re remarkable animals, and are seriously threatened in the wild. Conservation is a key mission of our zoo, and this calf’s birth will allow us to offer a timely teaching message about the efforts being made on their behalf.”

“We were keeping a close eye on Chrystal,” Giraffe supervisor, Lisa Fitzgerald said. “It’s been three years since we had a calf, so our team is quite excited. Caring for a newborn this big is always a challenge, but it’s one that we love.”

Zoo staffers are now observing to ensure the calf is nursing and meeting appropriate developmental milestones. The energetic male calf weighs about 120 pounds and appears to be healthy. He could go out into the feeding habitat, with limited access, as soon as next week. For about three months, the baby and Chrystal will stay indoors during the evening, until the calf is big enough to be with the herd at nighttime.

The calf is a Reticulated Giraffe, a species with fewer than 4,700 left in the wild, according to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation. The father is the gregarious ‘Tebogo’, one of the Dallas Zoo’s most popular residents.

Tebogo is the zoo’s only breeding male under the Giraffe Species Survival Plan’s (SSP) program to ensure genetic diversity within endangered species. Tebogo also is the father of the last giraffe calf born at the Dallas Zoo, ‘Jamie’, born to ‘Katie’ in July 2011.

The Dallas Zoo’s 12-member giraffe herd is now one of the largest in the nation, with seven males and five females. Their ages range from the newborn to the oldest, ‘Auggie’, who is 12. 


Otter Pup Beats the Odds at Dallas Zoo

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Dallas Zoo in Texas is celebrating the successful birth and nurturing of an Asian Small-clawed Otter pup. She was born on January 25, but needed more than 100 days of devoted care from her keepers, because otter pups born without siblings usually do not survive.

The pup’s mother, Daphne, became the oldest female otter in the national Species Survival Plan’s breeding population to give birth. Now 13, Daphne was age 12 years, 9 months when the pup was born. The pup has been named Tasanee, which means 'beautiful view' in Thai. Dad Jimmy, eight years old, was born at the Dallas Zoo in 2006.

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Photo credit: Dallas Zoo

See video of the otter pup: 

Otters typically give birth to three or four pups. The survival rate for single otter pups is extremely poor, possibly due to their mothers’ insufficient milk production and lack of stimulation from litter-mates. Since 2000, only 18 single pups have been born in U.S. zoos, and 76 percent have died. Tasanee is the first female single pup to survive longer than 30 days.

“This is a remarkable accomplishment for our team,” said Dr. Lynn Kramer, D.V.M., vice president of animal operations and welfare at the Dallas Zoo. “The safe birth of a single pup to the oldest otter mother to give birth has required skilled, dedicated care.”

See and read more after the fold.

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Dallas Zoo Welcomes a New Chimpanzee Baby

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The newest adorable addition to the Dallas Zoo is a chimpanzee baby born Jan. 26, the second for mother Ramona.

“We have a healthy, vibrant troop of chimpanzees that continues to grow here at the Dallas Zoo,” said Keith Zdrojewski, mammal curator. “And Ramona is taking exceptionally good care of the new baby, as she did with Kona in 2009.”

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The baby won’t be named until its sex can be determined. It appears to be healthy, but the zoo’s veterinary team will wait until mom and baby have more time to bond before they administer routine health exams. For the next two to three years, the baby will be completely dependent on its mother for care. Starting today, guests may see Ramona carrying the baby in the Kimberly-Clark Chimpanzee Forest (weather permitting) until it begins to start moving about on its own. Zoo staff and volunteers will observe the troop daily to ensure the baby is nursing and meeting appropriate development milestones.

Learn more below the fold...

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Dallas Zoo Welcomes 36th Okapi Calf

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The Dallas Zoo welcomed a healthy baby Okapi, born on August 14. Keepers have named her Almasi, the Swahili word for diamond. After a long 14-month gestation, Almasi weighed 47 pounds (21 kg) at birth, and is now up to 190 pounds (86 kg). When fully grown, she’ll stand more than 5 feet (1.5 m) tall at the shoulder and weigh more than 700 pounds (317 kg). This past weekend, she made her debut at the zoo's outdoor Okapi habitat. 

Almasi is the second calf born to her mother, Desi, who is taking very good care of her little one. For now, both remain in their nesting stalls, although Almasi is getting more adventurous every day.  

“Almasi’s birth is another major success in efforts to ensure that this incredible animal species survives,” said Lynn Kramer, D.V.M., vice president of animal operations and welfare for the Dallas Zoo. “The Dallas Zoo has a long history of caring for and learning about Okapi, and we will continue to be a leader in the fight to educate the world to protect these animals.” Almasi is the 36th calf born in the zoo’s 50-year history of caring for this rare species.

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See a video of the playful calf:

 

Okapi (pronounced oh-KOP-ee) are a unique and mysterious animal, so elusive that they have been nicknamed the African unicorn. Their black-and-white striped legs and horselike bodies resemble a zebra, but the okapi is most closely related to giraffes. Like giraffes, their heads have large ears that give them keen hearing and their long prehensile tongues let them strip leaves and shoots from trees.

Okapi in the wild are found exclusively in the Ituri rain forest of the Democratic Republic of Congo. They are difficult to see in the rain forest because of their striking camouflage. Because they’re very elusive and the Congo rain forest is so rugged, little is known about their behavior in the wild. However, researchers have found that their numbers are declining rapidly due to destruction of their rain forest home, despite their popularity in the African country. Okapi are even featured on the Congo’s 1,000-franc note.

“These animals have irresistible charm and behave unlike any other mammal,” said Megan Lumpkin, the Dallas Zoo’s lead keeper for the okapi. “They communicate using infrasound, a low-frequency sound undetectable to humans. It is critically important that they be protected.” 

Learn more about Okapi conservation after the fold.

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