Nashville Zoo

Endangered Map Turtles Hatch at Nashville Zoo

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Nashville Zoo is excited to announce the hatching of four endangered Yellow-blotched Map Turtles. This hatching ranks Nashville Zoo as the third AZA institution to ever successfully breed these beautifully patterned turtles.

“This is an exciting hatching for the Yellow-blotched Map Turtle and for the Zoo,” says Dale McGinnity, Nashville Zoo’s Ectotherm Curator. “We are bringing awareness to the community about this threatened species and hope to increase support for the protection of this rare turtle’s continued survival in the wild through our conservation efforts.”

During the breeding of this rare species, the Zoo’s Herpetology team was able to decide what sex the hatchlings would be by monitoring the temperatures during the 80-85 day incubation period. Incubating at cooler temperatures typically hatches males and incubating at warmer temperatures hatches more females. When the time is right and the turtles are ready to emerge from their shells, they are equipped with an egg tooth, which is a hardened piece of keratin that protrudes from the tips of their noses. A team of keepers was on standby during hatching to ensure the smooth and safe hatching of each of the four turtles.

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4_map-turtles-5-webPhoto Credits: Katie Gregory

Yellow-blotched Map turtles (Graptemys flavimaculata) are found exclusively in the Pascagoula River, and its tributaries, in southern Mississippi.

This species was listed, in the United States, as federally threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1991. The State of Mississippi and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also classify the species as endangered. Yellow-blotched Map Turtles have been of long-term concern due to a very limited range and declining populations due to habitat degradation by pollution and river channel modifications.

Nashville Zoo participates in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan for Yellow-blotched Map Turtles to increase the captive population, as well as raise awareness for this rare and endangered turtle. Guests can see the Zoo's new turtles on-exhibit inside Unseen New World.


Zoo Gives Baby Snappers a Head Start

20160922_123518Even powerful creatures like Alligator Snapping Turtles need a little help sometimes – that’s why the Nashville Zoo is headstarting 30 young snappers for eventual release into Tennessee’s waterways. 

The hatchlings came to Nashville from the Tishomingo National Fish Hatchery in Oklahoma and are now being cared for behind-the-scenes at the zoo.  The hatchlings will remain at the zoo for three years, after which they will be released into the wild as part of a statewide program to boost populations of Alligator Snapping Turtles.

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20160929_112135Photo Credit:  Katie Gregory

Headstarting programs like this can help bring species back from the brink.  Female Alligator Snapping Turtles don’t produce large quantities of eggs, and many eggs laid in the wild are lost to predation.  By collecting eggs from wild females, raising hatchlings in a protected environment, and releasing juveniles once they have attained a larger size, biologists can boost the number of surviving young. 

With their expertise at caring for animals in aquariums and controlled environments, zoos are recognized as vital partners in the fight to save native species.   

After the Turtles’ release, zoo staff will monitor the young to determine the success of the headstarting program. 

Weighing 50-100 pounds as adults, Alligator Snapping Turtles are almost prehistoric in appearance.  They spend nearly all of their life in water, feeding on fish and other aquatic animals.  To lure prey within striking distance, these Turtles sit with mouths open to reveal a small, pink, worm-like appendage in the back of the mouth.  Once the prey swims close enough, the Turtle clamps down on it with powerful jaws.

Once inhabiting most of the rivers in the Mississippi watershed, Alligator Snapping Turtles (not to be confused with Common Snapping Turtles, which are abundant in waterways across the region) were decimated in the 1960s and 70s by commercial harvesting for their meat.  Today, habitat loss, egg predation, and the high rate of hatchling predation threaten the species.

 


Baby Tapir Shows Off His Snout

ASX_5910-Amiee-Stubbs-web TWLike all baby Tapirs, a newborn Baird’s Tapir born August 28 at the Nashville Zoo looks suspiciously like a brown watermelon with a snout.  But rest assured, this little male will eventually sport a smooth, dark brown coat and weigh up to 800 pounds.

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ASX_5920-Amiee-Stubbs-webPhoto Credit:  Amiee Stubbs

The calf’s parents, Romeo and Juliet, were brought to the Nashville Zoo from Central America to introduce a new genetic line to the zoo-dwelling Tapir population. 

Because this calf was Juliet’s first baby, the zoo staff set up a remote camera system and monitored her around the clock as her delivery date approached.  Juliet went into labor at 4:00 PM on August 28 and delivered her healthy calf just 20 minutes later.  Tapirs are pregnant for about 400 days.

Tapirs’ snouts are elongated and very flexible.  These snouts are used to grab leaves and other vegetation and pass it to the mouth.    

Baird’s Tapirs are native to Mexico, Central America, and northern South America, where they are the largest land mammals.  They have very few natural predators, but are listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, mainly due to habitat destruction and poaching.  Tapirs are legally protected in most of their range, but lack of enforcement results in significant losses.

 


Critically Endangered Lemurs Born at Nashville Zoo

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Three curious and active Red Ruffed Lemur babies born at the Nashville Zoo are a boost to this critically endangered species.

The two females and one male were born on May 24, the eighth birthday of their mother, Lyra.  Red Ruffed Lemurs are largest of all Lemur species, weighing up to 10 pounds as adults.   Some Lemurs carry their babies, but Red Ruffed Lemurs leave their young in a nest, with the mother visiting the nest often to nurse and care for her babies.   Zoo keepers expect the babies to emerge from the nest soon.

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27397947625_fb26a375dc_oPhoto Credit:  Nashville Zoo

All Lemurs are native only to the African island of Madagascar, which has undergone dramatic ecological change in the past several decades.  Illegal logging, burning of forests, cyclones, and illegal hunting have reduced available habitat and plunged Lemur populations into serious decline.  Scientists estimate that only 1,000-10,000 Red Ruffed Lemurs remain in the wild. 

About 600 Red Ruffed Lemurs live in zoos around the world.  The Nashville Zoo participates in the Red Ruffed Lemur Species Survival Plan, a cooperative program to maintain genetically healthy populations of endangered animals in zoos. 

 


Giant of a Baby for Nashville Zoo

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A male Giant Anteater, named Demetrio, was born on April 6 at the Nashville Zoo. The pup weighed in at 3.8 lbs. and is currently being raised by his mother in the Zoo’s off-exhibit facility.

This is the second pup for this mother, and the 17th successful Giant Anteater birth at Nashville Zoo, since they acquired this species in 2000.

There are a total of 111 Giant Anteaters housed in Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) zoos across the country. Giant anteaters are listed as “Vulnerable” on the ICUN Red List, with the population declining 30% over the past 10 years due to habitat loss and deaths by fire and vehicular traffic.

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The Giant Anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla), also known as the Ant Bear, is a large insectivorous mammal native to Central and South America. It is one of four living species of anteaters and is classified with sloths in the order Pilosa. The species is mostly terrestrial. The giant anteater is the largest of its family, 182–217 cm (5.97–7.12 ft.) in length, with weights of 33–41 kg (73–90 lb.) for males and 27–39 kg (60–86 lb.) for females. It is recognizable by its elongated snout, bushy tail, long fore claws, and distinctively colored pelage.

The Giant Anteater can be found in multiple habitats, including grassland and rainforest. It forages in open areas and rests in more forested habitats. It feeds primarily on ants and termites, using its fore claws to dig them up and its long, sticky tongue to collect them.

Though Giant Anteaters live in overlapping home ranges, they are mostly solitary except during mother-offspring relationships, aggressive interactions between males, and when mating. Mother anteaters carry their offspring on their backs until weaning them.

Giant anteaters can mate throughout the year. A couple may stay together for up to three days and mate several times during that period. Gestation lasts around 190 days and ends with the birth of a single pup, which typically weighs around 1.4 kg (3.1 lb.). Females give birth standing upright.

Pups are born with eyes closed and begin to open them after six days. The mother carries the pup on her back, and while doing so, the pup's black and white band aligns with its mother's stripe, providing an amazing camouflage for the baby.

The young communicate with their mothers with sharp whistles and use their tongues during nursing. After three months, the pup begins to eat solid food and is fully weaned by ten months. The mother grooms her offspring during rest periods lasting up to an hour. Grooming peaks during the first three months and declines as the young reaches nine months of age, ending by ten months, when young anteaters usually become independent.

Not only does the Nashville Zoo have success breeding these animals, but the facility is currently involved in numerous projects that include monitoring reproductive status in female Giant Anteaters by fecal hormone analysis, performing ultra-sonographic exams to monitor fetal development, and undertaking intensive diet studies. Nashville Zoo is currently writing the AZA’s husbandry manual for this species.


Tiny Tamandua Arrives at Nashville Zoo

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A baby Southern Tamandua born March 22 at the Nashville Zoo will help to bolster the zoo-dwelling population of this unique species.

The baby, a female, is the first birth for mother Ke$ha.  Because it was Ke$ha’s first pregnancy, keepers monitored her baby’s growth with regular ultrasounds.  She was also pampered with extra attention and a special diet. 

Tamandua - Heather RobertsonPhoto Credit:  Heather Robertson/Nashville Zoo

The tiny Tamandua, which weighed less than half a pound at birth, is the ninth born at the Nashville Zoo. Her birth is significant because the reproductive rate for this species is low in zoos.  Only 45 Southern Tamanduas live in zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums in North America.

The Nashville Zoo is writing the animal care manual for Southern Tamanduas, which will be used as a reference by AZA zoos across North America. 

Southern Tamanduas are native to South America, where they feed on ants, termites, and bees.  Insect nests are ripped open with powerful front claws, and Tamanduas suck up insects with their 16-inch-long tongue. 

Though these animals are found over a wide area, they are not common.  Southern Tamanduas are currently listed as a species of Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.


Hellbender Salamander Hatches at Nashville Zoo

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On October 11, 2015, the Nashville Zoo was successful in hatching an Eastern Hellbender that was the result of an egg being artificially fertilized with cryopreserved sperm; an achievement that had only been successful once before in an internal fertilizing Tiger Salamander in 2014. Moreover, this Hellbender is the first externally fertilizing salamander to be produced utilizing cryopreserved sperm.

“It’s a pretty big deal for the conservation of this species and all amphibians,” said Dale McGinnity, Ectotherm Curator. “This accomplishment means we can collect and preserve milt (seminal fluid containing sperm) from wild populations without removing Hellbenders from their environment. Cryopreserved sperm may remain viable for hundreds to thousands of years when kept at ultra-low temperatures with liquid nitrogen. ”

Many of the world’s amphibian species are disappearing from the planet due to pollution, habitat loss, and emerging diseases. Hellbenders, along with their close cousins the Japanese and Chinese Giant Salamanders, are the largest amphibians in the world; they are evolutionarily distinct and have remained relatively unchanged since the age of the dinosaurs. All three species are now in decline and may be threatened with extinction unless conservation programs are developed.

Hellbender tadpole 2015 - Sherri ReinschPhoto Credits: Nashville Zoo and Sherri Reinsch

The St. Louis Zoo reproduced Ozark Hellbenders naturally in an artificial stream system for the first time in 2011. The following year, Nashville Zoo successfully hatched two Hellbenders using artificial fertilization. The latest accomplishment is one more step in developing assisted reproductive technology (ART) for captive Hellbenders.

Once ART is fully developed, milt collected and cryopreserved from specimens may be used to fertilize eggs to create a genetically diverse group to boost isolated wild populations. In the future, cryopreserved sperm may be utilized to fertilize eggs to repopulate extinct populations. Nashville Zoo staff has already cryopreserved milt from 4 watersheds, which is believed to be the first gene bank developed for any salamander species.

“We really could not have done this alone,” said McGinnity. “Our Zoo’s Amphibian Specialist, Sherri Reinsch, and our Veterinary staff made the project possible. This success would not have been possible without the collaboration other researchers including Dr. Robert Browne, an Australian cryobiologist; Dr. Vance Trudeau, a Canadian endocrinologist; Dr. Joe Greathouse; Dr. Michael Freake; Dr. Brian Miller; Dr. Dalen Agnew; Dr. Carla Carleton; and Dr. Sally Nofs. A special thanks goes to Bill Reeves, the Chief of Biodiversity for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency for the State Wildlife Grant that helped to fund this work which also included statewide surveys, gene banking, disease testing, and genetic work for hellbenders in Tennessee.”

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Rare Banded Palm Civet Born at Nashville Zoo

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A male Banded Palm Civet was born on September 1st at the Nashville Zoo. He is currently being raised, by his parents, in an off-exhibit holding area.

Nashville Zoo is the only facility, accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, breeding this species. However, the zoo does not yet have plans to exhibit their Banded Palm Civets.

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The Banded Palm Civet (Hemigalus derbyanus), also called a Banded Civet, is found in the Sundaic region and occurs in peninsular Myanmar, peninsular Malaysia, peninsular Thailand and in Indonesia on the islands of Sipura, Sumatra, and Borneo.

The species if roughly the size of a domestic cat; it measures 41 to 51 cm and weighs 1 to 3 kg (2.2 to 6.6 lbs). Despite their cat-like appearance and behaviors, they are more closely related to other small carnivores including weasels and mongooses.

Banded Palm Civets are generally solitary and have excellent hearing and vision. They prefer to come out under the cover of night to hunt and catch food. They are primarily ground dwelling and highly territorial. They are carnivorous and survive on a meat-based diet, supplemented by the occasional plant or fruit.

The female Banded Palm Civet has a gestation period of about two months and usually gives birth to up to four young. The babies are weaned when strong enough to fend for themselves.

The Banded Palm Civet is classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species due to an ongoing population decline. Threats include: overexploitation, decline in habitat quality, and habitat destruction and degradation.


Two Clouded Leopards Born at Nashville Zoo

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Two Clouded Leopard cubs born at the Nashville Zoo will help build a sustainable population of these vulnerable cats.

The cubs, both female, were born on March 13 and March 18 and are being hand raised together.

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Photo Credit:  Amiee Stubbs

“Nashville Zoo is on the forefront of Clouded Leopard care and conservation,” said Karen Rice, carnivore supervisor. “The birth of these two cubs aids in our conservation efforts and benefits the long-term plan to create a sustainable captive population.”

Clouded Leopards are notoriously reclusive, which makes introducing the cats to potential mates a dangerous proposition.  In fact, male Clouded Leopards have been known to attack and kill potential female partners. To reduce these fatal attacks, Clouded Leopard cubs are hand raised and introduced to their future mates at a young age. Since 2009, 26 Clouded Leopards have been raised at the Nashville Zoo and have gone on to live and reproduce at zoos worldwide.

Clouded Leopards are considered Vulnerable to extinction due to deforestation, poaching and the pet trade. As a founding member of the Thailand Clouded Leopard Consortium, Nashville Zoo works with organizations around the world to improve husbandry, breeding, and genetic diversity for this species. 


Nashville Zoo’s Alpaca Makes out like a ‘Bandit’

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Nashville Zoo is excited to share news of the birth of an Alpaca!

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IMG_0347 - Kathleen GregoryPhoto Credits: Amiee Stubbs (Image 1); Kathleen Gregory (Images 2,3,4)

Born December 13th, the male, named ‘Bandit’, is the first Alpaca to be born at the Zoo. The baby weighed in at 14 lbs. and stood about two feet tall. Bandit’s thick coat ensures he is all set for the cold weather, and he should be on exhibit throughout winter.

Even before birth, it seems Bandit was well suited for his rebel-style moniker. “Based on the mother’s weight gain, we had predicted the baby would be born in spring, so his arrival on a December Saturday morning was quite a surprise,” said Kacie Cummings, Contact Area Supervisor. “We are thrilled that baby Bandit is healthy and on exhibit with the rest of our Alpacas.”

With the addition of the baby, the Nashville Zoo is home to five Alpacas at Critter Encounters, their interactive area where guests can get up-close experiences with goats, camels, Galapagos tortoises and a variety of birds.

Alpacas are domesticated animals native to South America and a part of the camelid family. They thrive in high elevations and their thick wool coat is used to keep them warm in their native mountainous environment.