Knoxville Zoo

Chacoan Peccary ‘Labors’ on Labor Day Weekend


Over the Labor Day weekend, at Knoxville Zoo, a Chacoan Peccary named Butternut took the holiday literally and delivered three ‘peclets’!

The three siblings were born on the morning of September 6th to seven-year-old mother Butternut and two-year-old father Squash. The newborns are reported to be healthy and thriving. Zoo staff said they are already displaying their unique behavior of “frisky-hopping”, which consists of running and leaping in circles in short bursts of activity.

Visitors to Knoxville Zoo can see the peccary family daily during regular zoo hours.


3_11953336_10155959592675648_1539903721720234569_oPhoto Credits: Knoxville Zoo

The Chacoan Peccary (Catagonus wagneri), or Tagua, is a species of peccary native to the Gran Chaco of Paraguay, Bolivia, and Argentina. Believed to be the closest living relative of the extinct genus Platygonus, the Chacoan Peccary was first described in 1930 based on fossils and was originally thought to be an extinct species. The animal was discovered to be alive, in 1971, in the Argentine province of Salta.

The Chacoan Peccary has many pig-like features. It is an ungulate with a well-formed rostrum with a leathery snout. The bristle-like hair is generally brown to almost gray. A dark stripe runs across the back, and white fur is on the shoulders. When nervous or frightened, it flees and raises the hairs on its back. While making an escape, it will spray secretions from its dorsal glands, which may be a signal for other peccaries to keep their group together.

Chacoan Peccaries often travel in herds of up to twenty, and they are active during the day. They are social mammals that communicate by various sounds, ranging from grunts to chatters of the teeth. Though individuals may occasionally exhibit aggressive behavior such as charging and biting, the species is not as aggressive as others. As a defensive strategy, members of a herd may line up in a defensive wall; unfortunately, this makes them an easy target for hunters. They also produce a milky, odorous substance that is secreted from glands on their backs and is dispersed onto trees or shrubs by rubbing.

Peccaries are omnivores, but the Chacoan Peccary prefers to feed on various species of cacti. They use their snout to roll the cacti on the ground, rubbing the spines off. Their two-chambered stomachs are well suited to digest tough foods, and their kidneys are specialized to break down acids from the cacti. They are also known to eat acacia pods and cactus flowers. They seek out salt licks (which provide calcium, magnesium, and chlorine) that are formed from ant mounds and construction projects.

Young peccaries are generally born between September and December, but litters have been found year-round. The average litter is 2 to 3 offspring. Females may leave the herd to give birth and then return afterwards. Newborns are precocial, able to run a few hours after birth.

The Chacoan Peccary is currently listed as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Numbers are decreasing as a result of habitat loss and fragmentation.

Knoxville Zoo's Red Panda Twins Looking for Names!

Knoxville Zoo red panda cubs 114

Knoxville Zoo is now home to two Red Panda cubs, born June 1. The twins, one boy and one girl, are born to mother Scarlett and father Madan. Though young and still a bit reclusive, the cubs already have rather distinct personality traits. The female cub is feisty, often letting out a "huff-quack" - a cross between a hiss and a bark- to keep strangers at bay. Her brother is a bit more easy going, much like his father. Scarlett and her cubs have been bonding in their next box. When the twins are older, they will leave the nest box for the zoo's outdoor Red Panda exhibit. Until then, the 11 week old cubs are looking for names! The zoo is holding a naming contest for the pair. Voting will occur on their website starting August 31.

Knoxville Zoo red panda cubs 111 

The birth of these cubs brings the number of red pandas born at Knoxville Zoo to 106. The zoo ranks as one of the top two zoos in the world for the breeding of endangered red pandas. Red pandas are endangered, primarily due to destruction of their native habitat, which extends from western Nepal to northern Myanmar.

Cubs 4

Knoxville Zoo red panda cubs 112

Red panda  cubs 115

Narragansett Turkey Poult is Ready for Her Close Up


Meet Barley, Knoxville Zoo's two-week-old Narragansett Turkey poult (the technical term for a new hatchling). Barley is a pretty important little bird, because Narragansett Turkeys are globally endangered; they are a heritage breed that fell out of fashion years ago, and now there are fewer than 1000 breeding birds in the U.S. Soon, Barley will be big enough to go on exhibit at the zoo.



Photo credits: Knoxville Zoo

Firefoxes, Unite!

As huge fans of Firefoxes (aka Red Pandas) and Firefox, Mozilla's web browser, we were thrilled to see the two come together for some long overdue corporate / furry synergy. The cubs, born to mom Akkali and father Chewbacca, arrived at the Knoxville Zoo in June and we covered them when their eyes were barely open. Now almost six months old, the cubs are exhibiting the trademark playfulness of their age and the world can watch thanks to Mozilla's sponsorship of a bazillion live cub cams. Additionally, the joint Mozilla / Knoxville Zoo site provides links to adopt a Red Panda (surely a great holiday gift), name the cubs, and watch highlight videos. We have included the "trailer" vids below. Hopefully we will have more to share in the near future. You can follow the latest updates direct from the "Cub Keeper" on Twitter.



Photo and video credits: Knoxville Zoo

Continue reading "Firefoxes, Unite!" »

Sleepy Red Panda Cubs in Knoxville

On June 14th, the Knoxville Zoo welcomed two fuzzy Red Panda cubs to mother Akkali and father Chewbacca. After three weeks the cubs are happy and healthy, although the first couple months for baby red pandas are always precarious. The Knoxville Zoo is a leader in Red Panda breeding and conservation, with 93 births since their first pair, Bernice and Buster, arrived in 1977. The zoo hopes to debut the cubs to the public in the next couple of weeks.

Baby red panda cub knoxville zoo 1

Baby red panda cub knoxville zoo 2

Baby red panda cub knoxville zoo 3

Baby red panda cub knoxville zoo 4

Burmese Star Tortoise Hatchlings

This week the Knoxville Zoo became one of only four AZA accredited zoos to hatch critically endangered Burmese Star Tortoises. These little babies wriggled out of their shells to much fanfare, as habitat destruction and poaching has decimated the indigenous population in Myanmar. Can you believe anyone would want to eat these little guys (even if they do look grouchy)?!

Baby Burmese Star Tortoise Hatchling 1  

Baby Burmese Star Tortoise Hatchling 2

Continue reading "Burmese Star Tortoise Hatchlings" »