Denver Zoo

Denver Zoo Goes ‘Wild’ for Quad of Endangered Puppies

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The news from Denver Zoo is that everyone is “going wild” over four endangered African Wild Dog puppies born there on November 20, 2017. For the past three months, the puppies have been behind the scenes in their private maternity den under the protective care of their mother, Tilly.

Keepers say the three males (Nigel, Theodore Roosevelt, and Livingstone) and one female (Cholula) are healthy, curious and playful, and ready for their public debut. Guests will now have a chance to see the puppies every day from Noon till 2 p.m. in the Pahali Ya Mwana yard in Benson Predator Ridge, through the end of the month of February. Starting March 1, they will then be in various habitats throughout Benson Predator Ridge, depending on the weather.

This is the first litter for Tilly, who was born in September 2012 at Brookfield Zoo in Chicago and arrived at Denver Zoo in January 2014. Her mother was born at Denver Zoo to the zoo's original alpha pair, Daisy and Judd.

The father of the new pups, Jesse, was born in January 2011 at Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium and arrived at Denver Zoo in January 2015. All three adult dogs at the Denver Zoo—Tilly, Jesse and Cheza—arrived under the recommendation of the Species Survival Plan (SSP), which ensures healthy populations and genetic diversity among zoo animals.

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4_AWD Puppies_Feb 14_2Photo Credits: Denver Zoo 

With a worldwide population estimated at 6,600, African Wild Dogs (Lycaon pictus), also known as African Painted dogs, are classified as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Habitat fragmentation, conflict with human activities, and infectious disease are the main threats to their survival in the wild.

Denver Zoo is a leader in the management of African Wild Dogs within the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), and has successfully produced 32 puppies since 2001. Additionally, Denver Zoo helps protect African Wild Dogs in Botswana by tracking them with radio and GPS collars to reduce conflicts with humans and promote coexistence between people and animals, and has been significantly involved in research aimed at improving the management and sustainability of the species, including genetic, reproductive, and behavioral studies.

African Wild Dogs are native to the open woodlands and plains of sub-Saharan Africa. Full-grown adults weigh between 40 and 80 pounds and stand 30 inches tall at the shoulder. Unique characteristics of these slim, long-legged dogs include: distinct yellow, black, brown and white markings, large round ears that contribute to their sharp sense of hearing, and front paws that have only four toes, rather than the typical five found on other canine species.

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Peek at a 2-day-old Baby Sloth


Denver Zoo is happy to announce the arrival of a baby Linne’s Two-toed Sloth, who was born on January 28 to Charlotte Greenie, the zoo’s 21-year-old female Sloth, and her 27-year-old mate, Elliot. Charlotte and the baby, whose name has not yet been chosen or gender identified, are both healthy and thriving and made their public debut on February 1.

Sloth_Baby_Day2Photo Credit: Denver Zoo

Throughout her 10-month pregnancy, Charlotte, who came to Denver Zoo from Cleveland Metroparks Zoo in 2015, and her baby were closely monitored by zoo experts with regular ultrasounds, checkups and weigh-ins to ensure they were healthy and gaining the appropriate amount of weight. Keepers even devised an innovative method to weigh Charlotte by training her to come to a specific branch connected to a scale. The baby clung to Charlotte immediately after birth and will continue to cling to her almost exclusively for at least six months.

Linne’s Two-toed Sloths, which are also known as the Linnaeus’s Two-toed Sloth or Southern Two-toed Sloth, are found in the rainforests of South America, primarily in Venezuela, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru and Brazil. They are a nocturnal species that spend 15 to 20 hours per day sleeping.  They become active about an hour after sunset until about two hours before sunrise.

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Rare Okapi Calf Nursed to Health at Denver Zoo


Denver Zoo welcomed a rare baby Okapi on December 4. The male calf, named Forest, was born to mother Kalispell and weighs just under 40 pounds. The calf is only the seventh birth of this species at the Zoo.

“Shortly after he was born, Zoo staff noticed that Forest was unable to stand and was therefore unable to nurse,” said Brian Aucone, Senior Vice President for Animal Sciences. Forest’s blood work showed that had not received vital antibodies from his mother and that he needed a plasma transfusion. The team asked the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium to overnight plasma for the new calf.

25299286_10156129149852122_9081585546053964722_nPhoto Credit: Denver Zoo

“We are very proud of the training that allows us to do voluntary blood draws with our Okapi and other species,” said Patty Peters, Vice President Community Relations at Columbus Zoo. “We all want to see Forest healthy and are thankful we could give aid in this way.”

Forest’s plasma transfusion was successful, and he is now strong enough to nurse on his own. He will remain behind the scenes for several weeks as he continues to develop and is prepared to step outside on warm winter days.

Forest is the second calf for both of his parents. Sekele, Forest’s father, was born in June 2009 at San Diego Zoo and arrived at Denver Zoo in November 2010. Kalispell (Kali, for short) was born at Denver Zoo in June 2009. Sekele and Kali were paired under recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP), which ensures healthy populations and genetic diversity among zoo animals. Their first calf, Jabari, was born at Denver Zoo in February 2014. In 2016, he moved to Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo by recommendation of SSP.

Okapis are the only living relative of Giraffes. In addition to a long neck, Okapis have a reddish coat, black-and-white striped legs and a 12-inch-long, purple prehensile tongue. Adult Okapis weigh 500 to 700 pounds and stand about five feet tall at the shoulder. Females are generally larger than males. Okapis’ gestation period is 14 to 15 months.

Native only to the Ituri Forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Okapis are seriously threatened by political unrest in their native range. Population estimates are difficult to determine because the forest is so dense, but experts believe there are between 10,000 and 50,000 individuals, and their numbers are declining. Okapis are classified as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Additional threats come from habitat loss and hunting.

This rare species was first discovered only about 100 years ago. Very little is known about the behavior of the Okapi in its native land due to its shy, elusive nature. Much of what is known has been learned in zoos during the past 45 years.



Denver Zoo Announces Birth of Red Panda Brothers


The Denver Zoo welcomed the birth of two, male Red Panda cubs on August 27. The brothers, who don't have names yet, have been quietly spending time behind the scenes with their mother, Faith, in a nest box.

Keepers say the cubs are doing well and growing fast; they currently each weigh just over one pound. They won't, however, be visible to the public for another few weeks, when they'll be more developed and ready to join their father, Hamlet, in the Zoo's Red Panda enclosure.

Denver Zoo animal care staff and veterinarians are keeping a close eye on the cubs, performing regular exams to check their weight, temperature and overall wellness. In their first days of life, the cubs received some supplemental feedings. However, keepers say the cubs and mother are thriving, and that the brothers are pretty feisty when they wrestle each other.


3_6Z7A1518Photo Credits: Denver Zoo

This is both parents' second litter. Faith was born in June 2014 at Toronto Zoo; Hamlet was born in July 2013 at Lee Richardson Zoo in Kansas. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan (SSP) brought the two to Denver Zoo, Faith from Trevor Park Zoo in New York and Hamlet from Toronto Zoo, in 2015 under a breeding recommendation, which ensures healthy populations and genetic diversity among zoo animals. The couple’s first litter of cubs, Lali and Masu, was born at Denver Zoo in June 2016. By recommendation of the SSP, Lali moved to Scovill Zoo in Illinois, and Masu was moved to Norfolk Zoo in Virgina in April of this year.

Red Pandas (Ailurus fulgens) are native to Asia and are most commonly found in Nepal, India, Bhutan, Myanmar and China. As their name suggests, the animals are red and have off-white markings, large puffy tails and pointed ears. Red Pandas, like Giant Pandas, have very specialized diet requirements and eat a large amount of bamboo daily.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies Red Pandas as “Endangered”. According to the IUCN, their biggest threats come from habitat loss and fragmentation, habitat degradation and physical threats. Red Pandas are part of the Global Species Management Plan (GSMP) in zoos around the world. GSMP is allied with field conservation efforts for animals around the world.

Titicaca Frogs Hatch for First Time in North America

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Denver Zoo is thrilled to announce the February 14th hatching of the first batch of Lake Titicaca Frog Tadpoles in North American history. The roughly 200 tadpoles are the offspring of two of the 20 frogs that arrived from the Huachipa Zoo, in Lima, Peru, in November 2015.

Currently, Denver Zoo is the only institution in the northern hemisphere to house this critically endangered species. Zookeepers have been watching the tadpoles carefully since their hatching and say they are doing great. Most of the tadpoles can now be seen at the Zoo's Tropical Discovery building.

It has been more than 20 years since a Lake Titicaca Frog has resided in the United States. Since the initial arrival of the Zoo’s Lake Titicaca Frogs, Zoo staff members have studied their behavior and looked to increase their population. The Zoo’s goal has been to raise awareness of the plight of these amphibians while also gaining important insight into the care of the species. Eventually, when the tadpoles develop into frogs, some will stay at Denver Zoo while many will be rehoused at other Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited institutions, furthering the message of conservation and awareness for this neglected species.

“In the time we’ve had the Lake Titicaca Frogs, we have gained so much insight to this unique species,” said Assistant Curator of Reptiles and Fish Tom Weaver. “We feel very proud that we are able to provide that opportunity.”

Since 2007, Denver Zoo has worked with partners in Bolivia and Peru to conserve the species and is currently the only zoo in the United States to support research in Peru. In addition, Denver Zoo also has staff based in Peru who are working with other zoos, local government, and in the field to further conservation efforts for the Lake Titicaca Frog.

“This hatching and the research we’ve done with Lake Titicaca Frogs at the Zoo and in Peru speaks to our role as a true conservation organization,” said Director of Conservation Education Matt Herbert, “Our work is raising much-needed awareness for the plight of this frog for our guests, children and adults, and will soon do the same for those who visit the other institutions which will soon be a home for the species.”

LT Tadpoles 2Photo Credits: Denver Zoo

The Lake Titicaca Frog (Telmatobius coleus), the world’s largest entirely aquatic frog, lives only in its namesake lake and the surrounding rivers and streams of the catchment. Lake Titicaca is one of the world’s highest navigable lakes, lying about 12,500 feet above sea level and straddling the Peruvian and Bolivian border.

The frogs can grow up to 20 inches long and weigh more than 2 pounds. The species’ saggy, seemingly excessive, skin absorbs oxygen, allowing it to remain submerged indefinitely while still breathing and able to respire.

The Zoo’s first population of frogs hatched as tadpoles in March of 2015 at Huachipa Zoo, in Peru. Their parents were the offspring of wild-born frogs that were confiscated by authorities on their way to a market for consumption purposes.

Although illegal, local Peruvians and Bolivians routinely harvest the frogs. In Peru, the frogs are consumed in a shake-like drink that is believed to enhance virility, among other benefits. This, along with disease, pollution and the introduction of invasive species, are main reasons the species faces extinction. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Lake Titicaca frog’s population has declined 80 percent over the last three generations and it is now classified as “Critically Endangered.”

While there is much conservation effort in Peru, there is little work being done on amphibians of the high Andes, which makes this project so important. Denver Zoo, working with local governments, leads conservation efforts in support of the frogs, such as conducting research and raising awareness about them, while also empowering local communities to prevent their extinction. Educators teach school children about the importance of the species and support local communities in their efforts to earn a living from the frog through handicraft sales and tourism.

Due to these efforts, the Lake Titicaca frog has recently transformed into a symbol of pride for the people of Puno, the largest Peruvian city that borders the lake. In 2012, the Regional Government of Puno issued an ordinance declaring the frog a tourist attraction in the Lake Titicaca region.

Umi the Newborn Tapir Gets Her First Exam

Baby_tapir-Umi_01Denver Zoo is happy to announce the birth of Umi, an endangered Malayan Tapir. The female calf, whose name means “life” in Malayan, was born to mother Rinny and father Benny early in the morning on May 6. She is only the third Malayan Tapir ever  born at the Denver Zoo. 

Baby_tapir-Umi_03Photo Credit: Denver Zoo

Rinny has already proven to be a very patient mother, calmly making sure Umi is nursing successfully. Rinny was born at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo and Benny, who was born at the City of Belfast Zoo in Ireland were paired under recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) which ensures healthy populations and genetic diversity among zoo animals.

Though they are most closely related to Horses and Rhinos, Tapirs are similar in build to Pigs, but significantly larger. Malayan Tapirs have a large, barrel shaped body ideal for crashing through dense forest vegetation. Their noses and upper lips are extended to form a long, prehensile snout, similar to a stubby version of an Elephant’s trunk. Malayan Tapirs are the largest of the four Tapir species. As adults, they can stand more than three feet tall and are six to eight feet long. Adult Tapirs weigh between 700 and 900 pounds. They are excellent swimmers and spend much of their time in water. They can even use their flexible noses as snorkels!

As adults, Malayan Tapirs have a distinctive color pattern that some people say resembles an Oreo cookie, black in the front and back, separated by a white or gray midsection. This provides excellent camouflage that breaks up the Tapir’s outline in the shadows of the forest. By contrast, young Tapirs have color patterns that more resemble brown watermelons, with spots and stripes, which help them blend into the dappled sunlight and leaf shadows of the forest to protect them from predators.

Malayan Tapirs are the only Tapir native to Asia. Once found throughout Southeast Asia, they now inhabit only the rain forests of the Indochinese peninsula and Sumatra. With a wild population of less than 2,000 individuals, they are classified as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), due to habitat loss and hunting. 

Denver Zoo Celebrates First Kea Hatching


Denver Zoo is celebrating its first successful hatching of a Kea! The female chick, named Scarlet, hatched on February 8, and is being hand-reared by zookeepers at the Zoo’s Avian Propagation Center.

The Kea (KEE-yah) is a large, vulnerable species of parrot. Scarlet’s arrival is special, as she increases the North American zoo population to 38 Keas, 14 of which are female.

Zookeepers have taken extra steps to assure Scarlet’s continued well-being. She is still growing behind the scenes, but will make her public debut soon at the Zoo’s Bird World habitat.


3_IMG_1136Photo Credits: Denver Zoo

Scarlet's hatching is a somewhat rare occasion. Only 11 institutions in North America house the species and they can be very difficult to breed. Denver Zoo’s zookeepers were diligent, though, and after thorough research, designed a large nest box, with a tunnel entrance, that finally encouraged Scarlet’s mother, Anna, to breed with her mate, Sorento, resulting in four eggs. Zookeepers had planned to give the pair a chance to incubate the eggs and rear the chicks themselves, but unfortunately, the parents broke two of the eggs, forcing zookeepers to pull the remaining two and incubate them artificially. Of those, only one chick hatched. Zookeepers have then hand-raised the chick since then, but will eventually place Scarlet with her parents once she is old enough.

This is the first chick for both Anna and Sorento. Anna hatched at the Woodland Park Zoo, in Seattle, Washington, in March 2006, and arrived at Denver in August 2008. Sorento hatched at the San Diego Zoo in December 2004 and came to Denver Zoo, from the Philadelphia Zoo, in October 2010. The two were paired under recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP), which ensures healthy populations and genetic diversity among zoo animals. The Kea SSP coordinator, Jessica Meehan, who supervises the management of the birds around North America, is also a Denver Zoo zookeeper.

The Kea (Nestor notabilis) is one of the few alpine species of parrot in the world and is found mostly in the mountains of the South Island of New Zealand. Adults can grow to about 19 inches long, and can weigh about 2 pounds. Their feathers are mostly olive-green, save for the bright, reddish-orange coloring under their wings. Keas were named, by the Māori people, for the sound of one of the birds’ vocalizations: “kee-yah.”

While exact population numbers are difficult to verify, experts estimate the wild Kea population at between 3,000 and 5,000 individuals, but could be significantly lower. The species is thought to be in decline and is currently classified as “Vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). They face a number of threats, including human-animal conflict and predation by introduced species, like stoats and possums.

Fishing Cat Cub Is a First for Denver Zoo


Denver Zoo is excited to announce its first successful birth of a Fishing Cat. The cub, whose sex is not yet known, is named Miso-Chi (MEE-soh-CHEE) and was born on January 25.

The cub was born to mother Namfon (NAAM-fawn) and father Ronaldo. Namfon was born at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, in Washington D.C., in May 2012 and arrived at the Denver Zoo in July 2013. Ronaldo was born in June 2013 at a private facility in Houston, Texas, that specializes in the propagation of rare and endangered species and arrived at Denver Zoo from there in April 2014. The two were paired under recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP), which ensures healthy populations and genetic diversity among zoo animals. Fortunately, the couple has proved to be an excellent match.



4_baby_fishing_cat_02Photo Credits: Denver Zoo

Fishing Cats are scattered throughout southwest India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Malaysia, Thailand, Sumatra, Java and Pakistan, living primarily in wetland areas like swamps, marshes and densely vegetated areas along rivers and streams.

As their name suggests, Fishing Cats are powerful swimmers and fish form an important part of their diet. However, they are generalist feeders. Rodents, amphibians and aquatic birds are also fare. The cats have been observed attracting fish by lightly tapping the water’s surface with their paw, mimicking insect movement. They then dive into water to catch the fish that come near and, because their claws do not fully retract, use them like fishing hooks to spear the slippery fish. Fishing Cats also wade in shallow water to hunt for prey to scoop out.

Although they resemble a domestic house cat, they are about twice the size of an average house cat. They can grow from about two to almost three feet long, with a foot long tail. They also weigh 18 to 26 pounds and have stocky builds with short legs. Their fur is olive gray with dark spots arranged in longitudinal stripes down the back and a ringed tail tipped in black. They have flat-nosed faces with short round ears and six to eight distinctive dark lines running from above the eyes between the ears over the head to the neck. Fishing Cats are very much adapted to their semi-aquatic life, with water resistant fur and webbed hind feet to power them through the water. Their short, flattened tail acts as a rudder to help control direction as they swim.

Exact Fishing Cat population numbers in the wild aren’t known because they are so rarely encountered. However, it is believed there are less than 10,000 individuals, and their numbers are declining. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) currently classifies them as “Vulnerable”. Their biggest threats are wetland destruction and conversion to farmland. They are also threatened by pollution from industry, agricultural pesticides, and destructive fishing practices. The species is also threatened by poaching for food, medicine and body parts. In addition, Fishing Cats are often a target of local farmers in their native habitat. The farmers believe the cats are solely responsible for the killing of their small livestock and damage to their fishing nets. While this does happen occasionally, they are often blamed for acts other animals commit. Fishing Cats are also hunted for the exotic pet trade.

Denver Zoo recently voted to donate $1,500 to the Fishing Cat Fund, which seeks to educate the public about Fishing Cats as well as to conserve cats in the wild. The money for this comes from the Zoo’s membership animal care donation “check box,” which supports conservation projects for species of the AZA Species Survival Plan (SSP).

Visitors to the Denver Zoo can see the new cub, alongside mom, learning to dive for live fish in the waters of the Marynelle Philpott Fishing Cat Lagoon exhibit at Toyota Elephant Passage.

Baby Giraffe Gets Help From Two Zoos

A baby Reticulated Giraffe born February 28 at the Denver Zoo received a plasma transfusion as a precaution after he experienced difficulties in his first few days of life. 

Staff at the Denver Zoo did not know until recently that the calf’s mother, Kipele, was pregnant. When she delivered her calf, which keepers named Dobby, staff was on hand to monitor the birth and the baby’s progress.  Baby Giraffes normally begin nursing within a few hours of birth and receive important antibodies from colostrum, which is the nutrient-rich milk produced at the end of pregnancy. When the staff noticed that Dobby was not nursing and had trouble standing, they stepped in to feed the calf and provide critical care.

Baby_giraffe-Dobby_01Photo Credit:  Denver Zoo

Dobby began nursing and seemed to gain strength with his supplemental feedings, but blood tests showed that Dobby did not receive enough infection-fighting proteins from his mother due to his difficulties with nursing. So veterinarians provided colostrum-replacer and a transfusion of plasma to boost Dobby’s immune system.

Giraffe plasma is not easy to obtain, but fortunately the nearby Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, where Kipele was born, was able to help.  Keepers there had done voluntary training with their Giraffes, which hold still for injections and small blood samples. Recently, they were able to collect larger volumes of blood in order to bank plasma for emergency situations just like this one.

The cooperation between the Denver Zoo and Cheyenne Mountain Zoo staff is just one example of the tremendous cooperation among zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.  Zoos work together to save animals – from entire species on the brink of extinction to individual animals like Dobby.

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“It’s the Great Pumpkin…!”


Pumpkins and Jack-o-Lanterns are indicative of the fall season…and Halloween.

Zoo Keepers work hard to keep their animals healthy and happy. Enrichment toys and activities are an important tool that Keepers utilize to help in that pursuit. Enrichment items encourage natural behavior and stimulate the senses…and what could be more stimulating, this time of year, than celebrating by tearing into a bright orange pumpkin!

Happy Halloween from ZooBorns!

2_Red pandas Jung and Nima get into the Halloween spirit at Chester Zoo on Pumpkin Day

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4_Amur tiger with pumpkin_Woburn Safari Park


Image 1: (Lynx) Tierpark Hellabrunn / Marc Muller

Image 2: “Red Pandas, Jung and Nima, get into the Halloween spirit”/ Chester Zoo

Image 3: (Snow leopard) Woodland Park Zoo

Image 4: (Amur Tiger) Woburn Safari Park

Image 5: Piglets-in-a-pumpkin/ Tierpark Berlin

Image 6: “Andean Bear, Bernie, tucks into honey-coated treats”/ Chester Zoo

Image 7: “Black Jaguar, Goshi, enjoys and early treat”/ Chester Zoo

Images 8, 9: Elephant Pumpkin Stomp/ Denver Zoo

Image 10: (Chimpanzee)/ Detroit Zoo/ Jennie Miller

Image 11: (Bison)/ Detroit Zoo/ Jennie Miller

Image 12: (Giraffe “Mpenzi”)/ Detroit Zoo/ Jennie Miller

Image 13: (Hippo)/ Woodland Park Zoo/ Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren

Image 14: (Tiger)/ Woodland Park Zoo/ Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren

Image 15: (Maned Wolf)/ Woodland Park Zoo/ Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren

More adorable Halloween pics, below the fold!

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