Memphis Zoo

Roses Are Red…and This Endangered Baby Is Too!


A highly endangered baby Sumatran Orangutan was born via Cesarean section at the Memphis Zoo on March 19, 2016. The new male is doing well and is being reared by his mother, Jahe (Jah-hay).

To celebrate the excitement of the new addition, the Zoo recently hosted a naming contest via the Zoo’s website, and the winning name is… Rowan (“little red one”)!



4_DSC_3817Photo Credits: Memphis Zoo

C-sections on Orangutans are rare, with only 18 of the 2,224 births in the International Orangutan Studbook being performed in this manner. Of these, Jahe and baby Rowan will be the ninth pair to survive the C-section birth.

This is the first Sumatran Orangutan birth at the Memphis Zoo since 2004, and to ensure the best possible care for the mother, a human obstetrician, Dr. Joseph C. DeWane, performed the C-section, with assistance from the veterinarian and animal care staff of the Memphis Zoo. At birth, Rowan weighed 5 pounds 4 ounces, which is large for a baby of this species.

"I was honored to be a part of this historic event at the Memphis Zoo,” said Dr. DeWane. “Our community is so blessed to have one of the top five zoos in the country. I know every time I visit the zoo, I will make a special trip to see Jahe and her baby.”     

Due to the mother’s surgery, the Memphis Zoo animal and veterinarian staff hand-reared the baby while Jahe recovered. Staff held and fed the infant around the clock, and spent their daytime hours in the Orangutan building with Jahe, where she could have visual access to baby Rowan. Jahe’s interest in the baby was encouraged and reinforced, and she was allowed to touch and examine him through the mesh as often as she liked while the keepers held him.

After 12 days, Jahe’s incision had healed well, and animal care staff orchestrated an introduction. Jahe immediately picked up the baby, and despite being a first-time mother, held him appropriately and inspected him closely. Animal care staff monitored the twosome around the clock for several days and noted successful nursing within 24 hours. The pair has been inseparable since.

The Memphis Zoo is one of only two institutions that have reintroduced mother and baby less than two weeks after the surgery.

“The baby’s upbringing was only unique in the first couple of weeks. We had to step in temporarily to hand-rear in order to allow Jahe to recover from her surgery,” said Courtney Janney, Curator of Large Mammals. “Once we were sure she was comfortable and healing well, we reintroduced the baby to his mother and she has completely taken over.”

This infant is the first for mother, Jahe, and third for father, Tombak. Jahe (18-years-old) arrived at the Memphis Zoo in 2010. Her name means “ginger” in the Indonesian language. Tombak (33-years-old) arrived at the Memphis Zoo in 1994. His name is derived from a Javanese word meaning “copper.”

This is a significant birth for the Memphis Zoo, and for the greater Sumatran Orangutan population, as only about 200 Sumatran Orangutans are currently on exhibit across the country. The species is listed as “Critically Endangered” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Red List.

“With just a few thousand of these animals left in wild, this is a momentous occasion,” said Matt Thompson, Director of Animal Programs. “I’m very proud of our animal care team that intervened and saved the lives of both mother and baby. This is truly an event to celebrate!”

Mother and baby are currently resting behind-the-scenes. The new addition is not yet on exhibit.

The Memphis Zoo currently has four Sumatran Orangutans. In addition to Rowan, Jahe, and Tombak, the Zoo also has Chickie, a 38-year-old female. Chickie is named after former U.S. Surgeon General, Charles “Chick” Everett Koop, who operated on her shortly after her birth. Orangutans have been housed at the Memphis Zoo since 1960, with the first Sumatran Orangutan arrival in 1974.

Jahe arrived at the Memphis Zoo from the Toronto Zoo, where she was born. Her mother, named Puppe, still lives at the Toronto Zoo, and was a wild-caught animal. This makes Jahe a genetically valuable animal.

Tombak is also the father of Elok and Indah, two previous offspring who were born in 2004. However, they both had to be hand-reared, and were later sent to the Houston Zoo.

The name Orangutan means “man of the forest;” they are the largest tree-dwelling animal in the world. Because of their arboreal nature, their arm span can reach 7 feet from fingertip to fingertip. There are two subspecies of Orangutans: Sumatran and Bornean. Orangutans have the second longest childhood, first being humans, spending up to eight ears with their mothers and nursing up to 6 years of age.

The Sumatran Orangutan (Pongo abelii) is native to the island of Sumatra in Indonesia.

More adorable pics, below the fold!

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First Snow Leopard in Over a Decade at Memphis Zoo


The Memphis Zoo is closing out a purr-fect summer with a major announcement. The first Snow Leopard birth in more than a decade occured at the Memphis Zoo on July 19, helping a highly endangered animal make a comeback.

The cub, a male, was born to parents "Ateri" and "Darhan." Ateri, a first-time mother, is nursing the cub behind the scenes. The public will be invited to vote on their favorite of seven pre-chosen names.



"Ateri is a great mother," says Matt Thompson, Director of Animal Programs. "This was her first cub, and everything is going smoothly."

On September 3, Memphis Zoo veterinarians performed the first neonatal exam on the cub. He was declared to be in excellent health, and mother and baby are doing fine.

Continue reading "First Snow Leopard in Over a Decade at Memphis Zoo" »

Watch Out! Feisty Komodo Dragons Hatch at Memphis Zoo

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It’s been a long wait, but the last of the Komodo Dragon clutch at Memphis Zoo in Tennessee has finally hatched! 

Norberta, the nine-year-old mother, laid a clutch of eggs last May. The first eggs started to hatch on January 2nd, and three weeks later the zoo had sixteen healthy babies.

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Photo Credits: Karen Pulfer Focht

This is the third time in little less than a year that Memphis Zoo has successfully hatched Komodo Dragons. These babies represent a joint conservation effort between zoos: the mother, Norberta, was loaned to Memphis Zoo in 2007 for breeding purposes. The babies will all go to different zoos. They may get some display time at Memphis Zoo before they move on to their new homes.

Although a mother Komodo Dragon incubates her eggs for around nine months in the wild, the babies are on their own once hatched. "They'll bite, first day out of the egg," said Chris Baker, assistant curator of reptiles for the Memphis Zoo. "She'll eat them if she can catch them. When they hatch out of the egg, they have to be ready to go right then."

Learn more after the fold.

Continue reading "Watch Out! Feisty Komodo Dragons Hatch at Memphis Zoo" »

Now a Red Panda Duo at Memphis Zoo

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The Memphis Zoo now has two baby Red Pandas! Meet Lucille (on the right), the newest cub, who was born at the Bronx Zoo at the end of June and transferred to the Memphis Zoo earlier this month as part of a SSP recommendation. She joins Justin, the Red Panda cub born just ten days after her, at the Memphis Zoo itself. You can read all about Justin here in our September 1 article. Now they have each other with which to play and grow, and that means double the fun for zoo guests!

Red Pandas, once thought to be related to Giant Pandas, are actually related to raccoons. These nocturnal animals are tree dwellers, and have a large, bushy tail to help balance them while climbing high in the trees. Generally found in the Himalayas, their range overlaps some with that of Giant Pandas.    

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1 panda apart
Photo Credit: Memphis Zoo

Meet Justin the Red Panda Cub


Ryo and Pele, Red Pandas at the Memphis Zoo, welcomed their first cub on July 1.  Unfortunately, mom was unable to care for her tiny cub, named Justin, so he was moved to the zoo’s hospital where he is being hand-reared.

Justin is being bottle fed at the hospital, where he will remain for another month. Keepers will gradually begin to thicken his milk to a gruel-like consistency with crushed leaf-eater biscuits, which adult Red Pandas enjoy in their daily diet.  Once he is adjusted to the gruel mix, Justin will be weaned off the bottle and begin eating his food from a bowl.

In addition to a new diet, Justin is also getting a potential mate. Because it’s best to hand-rear Red Panda cubs in pairs, a female Red Panda cub born at the Bronx Zoo is being transferred to the Memphis Zoo to be raised alongside Justin.



“We are very excited about the birth of Justin,” Matt Thompson, Director of Animal Programs said. “Red Pandas are endangered. There are some estimates that put the number of adult Red Pandas in the wild around 2,500. Justin has a very favorable genetic lineage, and we’re hopeful that he’ll be one of many Red Panda cubs born here at the Memphis Zoo.”

Red Pandas, once thought to be related to Giant Pandas, are actually related to raccoons. These nocturnal animals are tree dwellers, and have large, bushy tails to maintain balance while climbing. Red Pandas are native to the Himalayan Mountains in Asia.

Photo Credit:  Memphis Zoo

Komodo Kool: Baby Lizard Hatches in Memphis


A baby Komodo dragon hatched on October 8 at the Memphis Zoo for the first time in the Zoo's history. Zoo keepers still don’t know the sex of the lizard, who weighed just 99 grams when it was born, after 222 days of incubation. Komodo Dragons are the world’s largest lizard species; once grown they can weigh up to 250 pounds.

“We’ll keep the baby until it measures about three to four feet in length,” said Dr. Steve Reichling, the zoo’s curator of reptiles and amphibians. “Then, we will most likely send it to another institution based on Species Survival Plan recommendations from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.”

The lizard was the first born at the zoo.

“This was the culmination of over a decade of hard work by the animal staff,” said Reichling. “This hatchling is the start of what we expect will be a very successful Komodo dragon breeding program.”

The animal’s mother, an eight-year-old named “Norberta,” laid eight eggs in February, only one of which was fertile. However, zookeepers aren’t sure which of the zoo’s two male dragons are responsible. In fact, a zoo spokesperson said it’s possible that neither “Jeff” nor “Voltron” is a proud papa.

“It is also possible for female komodo dragons to fertilize their own eggs through a process known as parthenogenesis,” a spokesperson said in a written statement. “This form of reproduction has been documented several times in captive dragons.”

The zoo says it will determine paternity and name the baby lizard before the end of the year.


Photo Credit: Memphis Zoo


Newborn Giraffe Calf Finds Her Feet

At approximately 11:30 Thursday morning, the Memphis Zoo welcomed a female baby reticulated giraffe. This is the Zoo’s fourth baby giraffe in four years, following the births of “Angela Kate” in 2006 and “Kofi” and “Sesi” in 2008.  This is the second baby for mom “Marilyn” and the fourth sired by dad “Kenya.”  This addition brings the Zoo’s giraffe herd to a total of seven. Zookeepers have named her "Akili" meaning smart in Swahili. She is 6'3" and about 150 lbs. She is strong and healthy.




Top Photo by Mark Weber/The Commercial Appeal Bottom Two Photos Courtesy of The Memphis Zoo