Oregon Zoo

Oregon Zoo's Lion Pride Grows

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Neka, a 6-year-old African Lion at the Oregon Zoo, gave birth to three healthy cubs on September 7 between about 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. The litter represents the first offspring for Neka and Zawadi Mungu, the cubs' 5-year-old father. Veterinarians and animal-care staff conducted their first examination of the 12-day-old cubs on Septmeber 19, and answered a question that's been on a lot of people's minds: all three cubs are girls! The neonatal checkup took place a day earlier than planned after keepers, who had been monitoring the young lions via surveillance camera, noticed one of the cubs wasn't interacting with the other two.

"We had planned on doing our first exam tomorrow," said curator Jennifer Davis, who oversees the zoo's Africa and primate areas. "But this morning, keepers noticed one cub seemed lethargic and wasn't active with the other two. We reviewed our surveillance tapes, and saw that she hadn't nursed at any of the overnight feedings, so we decided to move the exam to today."

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See a video of the birth:

  

Sneak a peek at their first checkup:

 

Davis said animal-care staffers first separated Neka from the cubs by offering a treat.

"We gave her a nice hearty bone to enjoy while we conducted the exam," Davis said. "Neka did great and didn't seem upset at all that we were in there with her babies — it really shows the great relationship and trust she has with her care team."

With mom thus occupied, the zoo's animal-care staff entered the private maternity den and conducted a complete physical exam on all three cubs, confirming that all are female, with weights ranging from about 2½ to 4½ pounds.

"The one we are concerned about was dehydrated and had low body temperature and blood-sugar levels," Davis said. "We warmed her up and gave her some supplemental food and fluids. The other two appear to be robust and healthy. They've been nursing regularly, and they're moving around a lot and vocalizing. One is definitely larger and more 'outspoken' than the others — we've nicknamed her Feisty."

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UPDATE! Springtime Swim For Baby Elephant and Mom

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Lily, the baby Asian Elephant  had a blast in the water with 18-year-old mom Rose-Tu. Now six months old, Lily was born on November 30 at the Oregon Zoo, which ZooBorns covered HERE.  Many people are surprised to find that elephants love the water and are natural swimmers. Though their bodies are large, they are quite bouyant, using all four legs to paddle while their trunk acts as a snorkel. These animals are strong and hence can swim long distances. 

The Oregon Zoo is recognized worldwide for its successful breeding program for Asian Elephants, which has now spanned 50 years. Lily's grandmother, Me-Tu, was the second Elephant born at the zoo, and her great-grandmother, Rosy, was the first Elephant to live in Oregon.

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Photo Credit: Michael Durham/Oregon Zoo

 


Zoo Rescue Operation Saves Endangered Condor Chick

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A critically endangered California Condor chick hatched at the Oregon Zoo on April 11, but not without a little help.

Zookeepers and veterinarians performed an emergency “assisted hatch,” helping the little bird out of its egg and into the world. The chick had become stuck in the wrong position for hatching, unable to move inside its shell, and would not have survived much longer without the intervention.

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Photo Credits:  Michael Durham for Oregon Zoo

“We only do this as a last resort,” said Kelli Walker, the zoo’s lead Condor keeper. “It’s kind of the Condor equivalent to an emergency C-section. There are so few of these birds in the world that each new chick is incredibly important to the recovery of the species.”

The egg, laid on February 14, had been placed in an incubator to keep it safe until the hatch, while the Condor parents, Malibu and Maluk, sat on a dummy egg. Usually, Walker waits for the chick to begin rotating in its shell, then returns the egg to its nest to hatch beneath the parents. This egg, though, proved unusual.

On April 7, monitoring the egg through a process called candling — using a bright light source behind the egg to show details through the shell — Walker could see that the chick was getting ready to hatch. At this point, keepers can usually see a “pip,” or mark, inside the shell, where the chick has begun chiseling its way out, but no internal pip was visible.  

The next day, Walker saw that the chick was turned 180 degrees from normal hatching position. Because it was able to breathe and was still getting nutrition from the egg, Walker waited to see if it would rotate properly, but two days later there was still no change. The chick was stuck. 

Growing concerned, Walker contacted zoo veterinarian Mitch Finnegan. Realizing that the chick would be unable to hatch alone, the two gently removed a portion of the shell and the chick popped its head out.

After a health checkup and a night spent in ICU, the chick was placed in the shell of a nonfertile egg Walker had saved from the previous year, and swapped for the dummy egg in the parents’ nest box.

“The chick was extremely mad and vocal, which is good,” Walker said. “I think Maluk must have heard it vocalizing, because he came into the nest area right away and started brooding. The chick seems to be doing well and is very active.”

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Mom Gives Swimming Lessons to Oregon Zoo's Baby Otter

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Mo, a North American River Otter born at the Oregon Zoo in late January, took his first dip last week, but not without a lot of help from mom, Tilly. She initiated the swimming lesson by nudging Mo to the water's edge and then plunging in with a firm grip on the scruff of her pup's neck, just as otter moms do in the wild. Even though Tilly is a first-time mom, she has been doing all the right things for her pup, according to keepers.

"A lot of people don't realize it, but swimming doesn't come naturally to River Otter pups," said keeper Becca Van Beek. "They have to be taught to swim by their moms, and so far Tilly's been an amazing teacher. It might look kind of scary to a casual observer," Van Beek continued. "She'll grab Mo by the scruff of the neck and dunk him in the water. But that's a very natural behavior. Baby Otters are extremely buoyant, so Mo has built-in water wings! It's exactly what we've been hoping to see."

Now that the threat from fur trappers has declined, North American River Otters are once again relatively abundant in healthy river systems of the Pacific Northwest and the lakes and tributaries that feed them. Good populations exist in suitable habitat in northeast and southeast Oregon, but they are scarce in heavily settled areas, especially if waterways are compromised. Because of habitat destruction and water pollution, River Otters are considered rare outside the Pacific Northwest.

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Photo Credit: Oregon Zoo/Shervin Hess

Upon baby-proofing the exhibit, zookeepers gave Tilly and Mo outdoor access during the mornings.  The best time for zoo visitors to catch them is between 9:30 a.m. and noon, though the Otters don't always decide to venture out.

Mo, named for the Molalla River, is the first River Otter to be born at the Oregon Zoo. He weighed around 4 ounces at birth, but has been growing fast and now is approaching 5 pounds. Adult River Otters usually weigh 11 to 30 pounds. You can read more about Little Mo, see more pictures and another video of the pup from a past post  HERE on ZooBorns.com.

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Just Say ‘Mo’: Oregon Zoo’s Baby River Otter Gets A Name

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After several weeks of consideration, keepers at the Oregon Zoo have settled on a name for the new baby River Otter. The pup will be called Molalla, or Mo for short, named after the Oregon river.

“A lot of North American zoo animals get their names from nations or cultures associated with their native habitats,” said Julie Christie, senior keeper for the zoo’s North America area. “For the River Otters, we like to choose names based on local waterways.”

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Photo credits: Michael Durham / Oregon Zoo 

Mo’s mother, Tilly — named after the Tillamook River — gave birth to the pup Jan. 28. The first River Otter to be born at the Oregon Zoo, Mo weighed just over 4 ounces at birth but has been enjoying mom’s naturally high-fat milk and growing fast. He now weighs more than 2 and 1/2 pounds.

Tilly and her baby have occupied a private, off-exhibit maternity den since the birth, but keepers say zoo visitors have shown a lot of interest in the new arrival even though they can’t see him yet.

See and learn more below the fold...

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“A lot of people wrote in to offer congratulations and make suggestions for his name,” Christie said. “Several people liked the name Willy, short for Willamette. And one visitor suggested naming him Pudding, after a tributary of the Molalla. We thought that was pretty cute.”

River Otters are very dependent on their mothers when they’re born. It’s usually three to five weeks before young otters open their eyes, and about five weeks before they first walk. Surprisingly, swimming does not come naturally to otters — pups must be taught to swim by their mom.

Christie said Tilly is continuing to do all the right things as a new mom, and the animal-care staff has been as hands-off as possible; they have only quickly examined Mo when Tilly is taking a short break from mom duty.

“We give her access to the exhibit during the day,” Christie said. “But Tilly’s been very attentive and doesn’t spend too long away from Mo. We’re pretty sure the pup’s a male, but we can’t be positive until our vets conduct a more thorough exam. Either way, we think Molalla will be a good name. There are plenty of females named Mo too.”

Keepers are working to “baby proof” the Cascade Stream and Pond section of the zoo’s Great Northwest exhibit and make sure it’s safe for the young otter. If all goes well, zoo visitors will be able to see Tilly and Mo there in a few weeks. Until then, otter fans are encouraged to follow the zoo on Facebook and Twitter for updates.

Since both Tilly and the pup’s father, B.C., were born in the wild, they are considered genetically important for the breeding otter population in North American zoos. Both parents are rescue animals who had a rough start to life.

Tilly was found orphaned near Johnson Creek in 2009. She was about 4 months old, had been wounded by an animal attack and was seriously malnourished. Once her health had stabilized, Tilly came to the Oregon Zoo in a transfer facilitated by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, which oversees the species’ protection.

The pup’s father, B.C., was found orphaned near Star City, Ark., also in 2009. He was initially taken in by the Little Rock Zoo, but transferred here the following year as a companion for Tilly. The two otters hit it off quickly and have been playful visitor favorites ever since. (B.C. arrived at the Oregon Zoo with the name Buttercup; when he was little, keepers thought he was female.)

Now that the threat from fur trappers has declined, North American River Otters are once again relatively abundant in healthy river systems of the Pacific Northwest and the lakes and tributaries that feed them. Good populations exist in suitable habitat in northeast and southeast Oregon, but they are scarce in heavily settled areas, especially if waterways are compromised. Because of habitat destruction and water pollution, River Otters are considered rare outside the Pacific Northwest.

Metro, the regional government that manages the Oregon Zoo, has preserved and restored more than 90 miles of river and stream banks in the region through its voter-supported natural area programs. By protecting water quality and habitat, these programs are helping to provide the healthy ecosystems needed for otters, fish and other wildlife to thrive. River Otters are frequently observed in Metro region waterways.

Committed to conservation, the zoo is currently working to save endangered California Condors, Oregon Silverspot and Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterflies, Western Pond Turtles and Oregon Spotted Frogs. Other projects include studies on Asian Elephants, Polar Bears, Orangutans and Giant Pandas. Celebrating 125 years of community support, the zoo relies in part on donations through the Oregon Zoo Foundation to undertake these and many other animal welfare, education and sustainability programs.


Update! Oregon Zoo's Baby Elephant is Two Months Old!

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Lily, the now two-month-old Asian Elephant at Oregon Zoo, is full of energy! And she expends it daily, running around her habitat and rolling in the dirt and hay, all joy in action. She was born on November 30, which you can read about HERE, and our follow-up HERE, when she turned one month old, on ZooBorns.

The Oregon Zoo is recognized worldwide for its successful breeding program for Asian Elephants, which has now spanned 50 years. Lily's grandmother, Me-Tu, was the second Elephant born at the zoo , and her great-grandmother, Rosy, was the first Elephant to live in Oregon.

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Photo Credit: Oregon Zoo

See how playful Lily has become on the video below:


Orphaned Cougar Cubs Find a Home

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A pair of young Cougar cubs found orphaned and starving near Missoula, Montana briefly took up residence at the Oregon Zoo before being transferred to a new, permanent home at Tennessee's Chattanooga Zoo.

Oregon Zoo keeper Michelle Schireman described the 5-month-old siblings, one male and one female, as "intensely cute, but far from cuddly."

"The cubs are about as large as medium-sized dogs, with paws as big as bread plates," Schireman said. "Without a mother, young Cougars lack the skills and resources needed to survive on their own.  They started eating right away the first night they were here."

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Photo Credits:  Oregon Zoo

Montana wildlife officials said the pair had been seen around the Missoula area over a period of several weeks, occasionally attempting to raid poultry yards and with no mother in sight. They were eventually captured inside a chicken coop by local residents, who took them to Montana's Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) service.

Montana FWP officials quickly contacted Schireman, who serves as the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' population manager for Cougars, and she worked to find them a home at the Chattanooga Zoo.

Wildlife officials don't know what happened to the cubs' mother, but the two were emaciated when they were first rescued, Schireman said. After two weeks at FWP, with good veterinary care and a steady food supply, they filled out quite a bit. The male cub now weighs 37 pounds and the female weighs 32.

Staff at the Chattanooga Zoo were excited to greet the newcomers.  "They have long history of excellent care and had a space all ready for these cubs," Schireman said.

Cougars — also known as mountain lions, pumas and (in Florida) panthers — live mostly in the western United States and Canada. They weigh from 75 to 150 pounds and have a carnivorous diet both in the wild and at the zoo. Females are either pregnant or raising cubs for the majority of their lives. After three months of gestation, two to three cubs are usually born in a litter and live with their mother for up to two years.

With the exception of the Florida panthers, cougars are not listed as endangered, but they do face many challenges in other parts of the country due to human encroachment and habitat destruction.


UPDATE: Lil' Lily, Oregon Zoo's Baby Elephant, at One Month Old

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Oregon Zoo's Asian Elephant calf Lily is a little over one month old and has been developing into a joyful, energetic little elephant. You may have read about the baby, born November 30, HERE on ZooBorns. Her public debut was on December 14, when, for limited hours, the public could see her sticking close to Mom Rose-Tu. But even then her personality was evident, earning her the description of a 'spitfire' by her keepers.

Since then, she has grown not only in size but in confidence. She is out for longer hours now with the herd and when not napping, can often be seen skipping, rolling around and playing. She totters in a signature way that has been captured in these stills and on the video below. But she knows she can always return to the safety found under the sturdy legs and bellies of the grown ups! 

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Photo Credit: Oregon Zoo / Michael Durham

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Breaking News! Feisty Little Elephant Girl Hits the Ground Running at Oregon Zoo!

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The long wait is over. Rose-Tu, an 18-year-old Asian Elephant, gave birth to a 300-pound female calf at the Oregon Zoo at 2:17 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 30.



“We’re all delighted at the arrival of Rose-Tu’s new calf,” said Kim Smith, Oregon Zoo director. “The calf is beautiful, healthy, tall and very vigorous. As soon as she hit the ground — before she was even out of the amniotic sac — she was wiggling. And she’s vocalizing loudly. The first time we heard her, the sound was so deep and loud that we thought it was one of the older elephants. She’s definitely got a great set of pipes, and it looks like she’s going to be a real pistol.”

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Photo credit: Oregon Zoo

 

Learn more about this exciting birth below the fold...

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Turtle hatchlings part of 20-year success story at Oregon Zoo

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Western Pond Turtles are making a comeback, and these week-old hatchlings at the Oregon Zoo are destined to aid in the species’ recovery.

For more than two decades the Oregon Zoo has been working to restore this species to its historic range, which once extended from Baja California to Puget Sound.  As a result, Western Pond Turtle (Actinemys marmorata) numbers are on the rise.  This species, which can live up to 70 years, has been profoundly affected by the construction of river dams, invasive plants, predation, and draining of wetlands.

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In 1990, the Western Pond Turtle “head-starting” project was initiated, which accelerates turtles’ natural growth rates, and thus their ability to withstand predation. The Oregon Zoo collaborates with Woodland Park Zoo and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Other partners include Bonneville Power Administration and the U.S. Forest Service.

Each spring, scientists count, trap, mark and fit transmitters on adult females in the wild.  In summer, the females are monitored and nest sites are identified.  Hatchlings are collected in the fall to be cared for at the zoo.  Juveniles, some of whom are fitted with transmitters, are returned to the wild the following spring.

The first turtles released in 1991 in the Columbia River Gorge are reproducing and laying eggs in the wild. Over the past two decades, approximately 1,500 turtles have been released, and with good results: the gorge turtle population ranged from a low of 150 in 1990 to approximately 1,500 in 2011. Scientists tracking them estimate that 95 percent of the turtles released to sites in the Columbia River Gorge have survived.

Photo Credits: Carli Davidson, courtesy of the Oregon Zoo (top photo) and Michael Durham, courtesy of the Oregon Zoo