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!
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 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.
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.
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.
Born 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.
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.
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.
The Dallas Zoo has welcomed a leggy, 6-foot-tall baby Giraffe, born October 26th to first-time mother, ‘Chrystal’.
Photo Credits: Dallas Zoo
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
Photo credits: Cathy Burkey / Dallas Zoo
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 Iturirain 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.
Last Monday my ZooBorns' co-founder, Chris Eastland, and I (Andrew Bleiman) made a very special trip to Dallas Zoo to meet their twin Cheetah cubs, Kamau and Winspear. We also met their canine companion, a black Lab puppy named, Amani.
It's extraordinarily rare that we get to interact, let alone romp, with real-live zoo-borns. However these special cubs are being raised as education animals so socialization with humans, even goofy ZooBorns guys, is part of their regular day. Their puppy friend, Amani, is a calming influence who will also help with these efforts.
The feline duo put on quite a display. Stalking and pouncing on us / one another / furniture and just about anything else worth clawing at occupied most of the morning. The cubs made a variety of noises, from bird-like chirps, to gutteral growls, to purrs that would remind you of your house cat, just a lot louder.
With wild Cheetah populations hovering somewhere around 10,000, the species is considered vulnerable to extinction. Cheetahs thrive in vast expanses of land. Human encroachment and habitat destruction are central threats to this iconic species.
Institutions like Dallas Zoo serve an invaluable role in building empathy and awareness for wildlife conservation. We here at ZooBorns are proud to help spread the word about these efforts and consider ourselves incredibly priviliged to meet Dallas' newest Cheetah ambassadors.
Special thanks to the Dallas Zoo staff that made our visit possible. Pictured left to right: Chris Eastland (ZooBorns), Candice Davis, Chris Johnson, Robin Ryan, and Andrew Bleiman (ZooBorns). Not pictured: Laurie Holloway
Dallas Zoo recently welcomed two new adorable ambassadors: Cheetah cubs Winspear and Kamau. The 8-week-old male cubs were born July 8 at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va. A team of Dallas Zoo experts spent nearly two weeks in Virginia before flying back to Dallas with the cubs. Winspear, the larger of the two, now weighs more than 8 pounds, while Kamau is over 6 pounds.
The cubs also have a new companion who’ll be raised alongside them: an 8-week-old Black Labrador puppy named Amani. Zoological experts have found that because dogs are naturally comfortable in public settings, Amani will provide a calming influence for the cubs, as well as another playmate as they grow to adulthood. Amani means 'peace' in the Swahili language of East Africa, where cheetahs still exist in the wild. The cats are endangered, however, with their numbers estimated to have fallen to about 10,000.
Photo credits: Dallas Zoo
Watch a video of the playful cubs:
“It is a thrill to be able to tell the story about cheetah conservation and to educate Dallas Zoo guests about this magnificent species,” says Sean Green, vice president of guest experiences for the Dallas Zoo. “Winspear and Kamau will become important animal ambassadors for the Dallas Zoo, building appreciation and awareness about cheetahs to more than 900,000 visitors each year.”The cubs are smoke-colored, with black spots and unique “tear stripes” below their eyes already evident. As they grow, they will acquire the golden color of adult cheetahs. When full grown, the cheetahs will stand about 3 feet tall at the shoulder and weigh up to 140 pounds.The cubs will not reside with the Zoo’s two adult brother-and-sister cheetahs, Bonde and Kilima, in the Giants of the Savanna cheetah habitat. Instead, guests soon will have the opportunity to meet them in person at the Wild Encounters stage. In addition, the cubs occasionally will travel to select outreach events outside the zoo. Only 15 zoos in North America incorporate cheetahs into their outreach programs.
Says Greene, “Our African-themed exhibits, such as the Giants of the Savanna, are some of the most popular areas of the Dallas Zoo. These magnificent animals will help us tell the story about these habitats and the conservation work we support.”