Nashville Zoo Breeds Rare Reptile Species

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The Nashville Zoo’s herpetology team recently celebrated the six-month ‘birth’day of four Central American Giant Galliwasps.

The young reptiles hatched in August of 2016 and became the first hatchlings at the zoo in over ten years. Nashville Zoo is the only facility in the United States to have successfully bred this rare species.

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3_12_central_american_giant_galliwasp_-_5_mos_-_katie_gregory_1Photo Credits: Nashville Zoo

The zoo’s female Galliwasp (pronounced “GALL-ee-wasp”) made a nest chamber underground to coil around her four eggs, to instinctually protect them from predators. Keepers report that she did not emerge from the chamber for food or water for more than two months.

According to the zoo, if the nesting chamber is disturbed in any way, the female will destroy the eggs to prevent predators from getting them. “This makes checking on the condition of the eggs extremely challenging,” said Herpetology Keeper Matt Martino. “Because we couldn’t risk checking on the female or the eggs, we patiently watched for any signs of life, either babies emerging from the nest or movement from the adult female. It was an exciting relief to see the hatchlings and mother start emerging after more than two months of waiting.”

This species is rarely seen in the wild and extremely uncommon in zoo collections. Captive breeding has proven to be extremely difficult for this species and successful breeding techniques are still being developed.

However, Nashville Zoo staff may have finally broken the code for reliably reproducing Central American Giant Galliwasps. The zoo’s herpetology team is continually learning and researching the best husbandry and breeding practices to increase zoo populations and is working towards conservation initiatives for several Galliwasp species facing extinction in the wild.

The Central American Giant Galliwasp (Diploglossus monotropis), also known as Escorpión Coral, is found in the humid Atlantic lowlands of southern Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and western Panama and both versants from Panama to Colombia and western Ecuador.

It is described as a secretive, diurnal, terrestrial species that is rarely encountered in the forest floor of lowland rainforest, and it is restricted to forests and lost from deforested areas, although it can persist in small strips of gallery forest left along rivers.

The IUCN Red List has the species classified as “Least Concern”. According to the IUCN: “Although not abundant it is also not uncommon. It appears to be experiencing at least localized declines, but due to the extent of its range a great deal of suitable forest habitat remains.”


Lovely Okapi Calf Born at Saint Louis Zoo

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A female Okapi calf named Mahameli (Swahili for “velvet”) was born to mom Manala and dad Akia on January 5 at the Saint Louis Zoo.

Currently, the beautiful calf can be observed, most days, inside the zoo’s Antelope House.

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4_16797369_10154579302412917_4752486670014287620_oPhoto Credits: Saint Louis Zoo

The Okapi (Okapia johnstoni) is a giraffid artiodactyl mammal native to the northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa. Although the Okapi bears striped markings reminiscent of Zebras, it is most closely related to the Giraffe. The Okapi and the Giraffe are the only living members of the family Giraffidae.

The Okapi stands about 1.5 m (4.9 ft) tall at the shoulder and has an average body length of about 2.5 m (8.2 ft). Its weight ranges from 200 to 350 kg (440 to 770 lb). It has a long neck, and large, flexible ears. Its coat is a chocolate to reddish brown, much in contrast with the white horizontal stripes and rings on the legs and white ankles. Male Okapis have short, hair-covered horns called ossicones, less than 15 cm (5.9 in) in length. Females possess hair whorls, and ossicones are absent.

Okapis are primarily diurnal but may be active for a few hours in darkness. They are essentially solitary, coming together only to breed. Okapis are herbivores, feeding on tree leaves and buds, grasses, ferns, fruits, and fungi.

The gestational period for females is around 440 to 450 days, and usually a single calf is born. The juveniles are kept in hiding, and nursing takes place infrequently. Juveniles start taking solid food from about three months, and weaning takes place at six months.

Okapis inhabit canopy forests at altitudes of 500–1,500 m (1,600–4,900 ft). They are endemic to the tropical forests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where they occur across the central, northern and eastern regions.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) classifies the Okapi as “Endangered”. Major threats include: habitat loss due to logging and human settlement. Extensive hunting for bushmeat and skin and illegal mining have also led to a decline in populations.

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Endangered Painted Dog Pups Explore Their Exhibit

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A litter of six endangered Painted Dog puppies were born at The Wilds in December. After being cared for exclusively by their mother and the other pack members, the pups have now begun exploring the publicly visible areas of The Wilds property.

“The Wilds has managed Painted Dogs for years, but this is our first successful litter,” said Dan Beetem, Director of Animal management at The Wilds. “Even though we assembled a new pack last year in order to provide the younger dogs with the greatest opportunity to breed, we remained cautiously optimistic. Young mothers are often not successful with their first, or even second, litter. But Quinn, a first-time mom, surprised us by being an attentive caregiver from the start.”

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4_African Painted Dogs 7618 - Grahm S. Jones, Columbus Zoo and AquariumPhoto Credits: Grahm S. Jones / Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Painted Dogs (Lycaon pictus), also known as African Wild Dogs, are one of Africa’s most endangered species. These dogs have disappeared from much of their former range throughout sub-Saharan Africa, and their populations are continuing to decline; researchers estimate that only about 6,600 Painted Dogs are left in their native regions. Challenges with humans are the main threats to their survival, and the Painted Dog populations have declined due to continued habitat fragmentation, conflict with human activities, and infectious disease, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).

Operated by the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and located in Cumberland, Ohio, The Wilds is one of the country’s largest conservation centers helping to protect this species’ future by participating in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan® (SSP) program, which is coordinated to increase genetic diversity and population sustainability of threatened and endangered species in managed care.

Additionally, the Zoo’s conservation fund has supported 10 wild dog conservation projects in six countries: Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. These grants cover training scouts in protected areas, educating children in local communities, recording populations in native regions, developing conservation corridors, reducing human conflict, and developing an effective rabies vaccine.

“At The Wilds, we are in a unique position to preserve some of the planet’s most amazing and most endangered animals,” The Wilds Vice President Rick Dietz said. “We are overjoyed and honored to welcome a new generation of African Painted Dogs, which could easily go extinct in our lifetimes if we don’t cooperate to save these animals.”

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A Trio of Polar Bears for 'International Polar Bear Day'

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Today is ‘International Polar Bear Day’, and in honor of the efforts to save this species, we are introducing you to a trio of adorable new cubs!

On November 8, a Polar Bear named Anana gave birth to twins at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. On November 16, her sister, Aurora, also gave birth to twin cubs. However, this great news was met with the unfortunate passing of one of Anana’s cubs.

This is Aurora’s third time producing twins; the first litter did not survive and the now famous, Nora, was born in the second litter on November 6, 2015. Nora was hand reared by the Zoo team after Aurora left her alone in the den when she was six days old.

Activity inside the dens was being monitored using remote cameras, and the reason for the loss of Anana’s cub will likely never be known. Animal care staff members, who had been observing Anana and Aurora 24 hours a day, noted the cub stopped moving, but Anana continued to groom the cub and held it in position to nurse.

“At this time, both Anana and Aurora are attentively caring for their cubs but the sudden loss of one of Anana’s cubs is a sad reminder of how fragile their lives are both in our care and in their native Arctic environment,” said Carrie Pratt, Curator of North America and Polar Frontier. “We remain hopeful for the survival of these cubs as well as for the future of Polar Bears.”

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4_Anana's_Polar Bear Cub 5545 - Grahm S. Jones, Columbus Zoo and AquariumPhoto Credits: Columbus Zoo & Aquarium / Grahm S. Jones (Images: 1-9,11,12) ; Amanda Carberry (Image: 10)

The sire to all the cubs is 28-year-old Nanuq who came to the Columbus Zoo in 2012. As long as Aurora and Anana continue to care for cubs in their dens, Nanuq is the only Polar Bear visible to guests.

Anana and her cub are taking baby steps to explore other areas of the maternity den. The little one is now eating chow and will also steal little slivers of meat from mom. The cub is also climbing and running on sand piles and sod. After being introduced to a few inches of water (up to the belly), the cub is a big fan. The cub’s sex will be confirmed during the vet wellness check-up in the coming weeks, and both mom and baby will remain off-view until spring.

Aurora and her twin cubs are also experiencing similar milestones as her sister and cub. The cubs are being introduced to more of the behind-the-scenes yards with sand and sod (slowly growing their world) and they are doing great. They are also eating chow and sneaking bits of meat from mom. The twins have been introduced to a few inches of water. According to keepers, they will put all four paws in, splash around and stick their snouts in. Afterwards, they like to roll on the sod to dry off. The twins’ sex will be confirmed during their vet wellness check-up in the coming weeks, and, as with Anana and cub, both mom and babies will likely be on view in the spring.

Nanuq is the oldest male Polar Bear to reproduce in a North American zoo. Nine-year-old twins Aurora and Anana arrived at the Columbus Zoo in 2010 when the Polar Frontier region opened. All three bears came from other zoos on breeding loans as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan (SSP) for the threatened species.

Female Polar Bears generally have their first set of cubs between the ages of four and eight years. Due to delayed implantation, the gestation period can range from about 195 to 265 days. Pregnant Polar Bears den in the fall and give birth, generally to two cubs, in the winter. The cubs grow quickly on their mother’s fat-rich milk before emerging from the den in the spring.

Polar Bears are native to the circumpolar north including the United States (Alaska), Canada, Russia, Norway and Denmark (Greenland). They are at the top of the Arctic food chain and primarily eat seals. Polar Bear populations are declining due to the disappearance of sea ice, and experts estimate that only 20,000-25,000 Polar Bears are left in the wild. Some scientists believe if the warming trend continues two-thirds of the population could disappear by the year 2050.

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, in partnership with Polar Bears International (PBI), has provided support to 14 conservation projects in three countries since 1998. In recognition of the Zoo’s conservation and education programs, PBI has designated the Columbus Zoo an Arctic Ambassador Center.

For more information on the work PBI does, and 'International Polar Bear Day', please see their website: www.polarbearsinternational.org 

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Baby Aardvark Saved by CPR

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A baby Aardvark is thriving today thanks to quick action by a zoo keeper at Poland’s Wroclaw Zoo.

At 2:00 AM on February 2, after a long and difficult labor, female Aardvark Lotte finally delivered her baby.  Unfortunately, the little one was not breathing.  Zoo keeper Andrzej Miozga performed CPR on the cub for nearly an hour, and the cub survived. 

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1-DSC05128Photo Credit:  Maly Mrownik

Too exhausted from the strenuous birth, Lotte rejected her cub.  The little Aardvark is now cared for around the clock by a team of keepers, who feed him every two hours.  He has been gaining weight and developing normally.  Naturally, he is a favorite of the zoo’s care team.

Aardvarks live throughout Africa south of the Sahara Desert.  They use their pig-like snout to detect food and use their powerful front claws to break open ant and termite hills.  Insects are collected on the Aardvark’s long, sticky tongue.  Babies are born and reared in burrows.    

Africa’s Aardvark population is considered stable, and the species is wide-ranging and plentiful.

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Tiger Cubs Are Grrrrowing Up Fast

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Three Malayan tiger cubs born February 3 at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden are gaining weight, opening their eyes and getting feisty! 

You first met the cubs on ZooBorns when the zoo announced that the trio would be cared for by zoo keepers because their mother did not care for them. Thanks to the staff’s dedication and hard work, the cubs are thriving.

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32724030031_3838d749a2_zPhoto Credits:  Kathy Newton, Cassandre Crawford, DJJAM Photo, Mark Desmond

“They’re fed by nursery staff six times a day and have already graduated from two to three ounces per feeding,” said Mike Dulaney, curator of mammals at the Cincinnati Zoo and vice coordinator of the Malayan Tiger SSP. “Before they open their eyes, they usually just eat and sleep.  Now that they can see where they’re going, they will start to become more active.”

One of the cubs, referred to as #1 until the cubs’ genders are known and names are given, is receiving special care from a local chiropractor to help it keep up with the others.  Soon after the cubs arrived in the Nursery, caregivers noticed that #1 was having trouble holding its head up.

“It was obvious to me that something wasn’t right.  The cub’s neck appeared to be stuck at an odd angle,” said Dawn Strasser, a 35-year veteran in the Zoo’s Nursery. “Massaging the neck muscles helped with the stiffness, but the cub was increasingly lethargic and not suckling well.”

Strasser reached out to Dr. Mark Sperbeck, a chiropractor who works on humans and animals of all sizes (from 3-pound Tiger cub to 1,000-pound Horse) and asked him to make a house call.  Three adjustments later, it’s difficult to see a difference between #1 and its litter mates. The neck and spine are back in place and the cub is eating well.  It’s actually a little larger than the other two.

According to Dr. Sperbeck, the cub’s top cervical bone (C1) was out of alignment. Since 95% of the body’s nerve impulses travel through this vertebra, he explained, it’s key to proper body function. “After the first adjustment, the cub slept for almost 24 hours and woke with improved mobility, strength and suckling ability,” said Strasser.

This is the first time that the zoo has called in a chiropractor, but it has a long history of collaborating with experts from outside the zoo, including dentists, imaging technicians, medical specialists.  

Malayan Tigers are Endangered with fewer than 500 left in the world. Major reasons for the population decline include habitat destruction, fragmentation and poaching.

More photos of the Tiger cubs below the fold!

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Exotic Hatchlings Are a First for Zoo Miami

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Zoo Miami is proud to announce the recent hatching of two remarkable chicks. For the first time in the Zoo’s history, keepers welcomed the arrival of a Secretary Bird and a Great Blue Turaco.

The Great Blue Turaco hatched on February 7th after an incubation period of 31 days and weighed just over 40 grams.

Great Blue Turacos are the largest of all of the Turacos, reaching an overall length of 30 inches and a weight of close to 3 pounds. They are found in the canopies of forests in Central and Western Africa and feed on a variety of fruits, leaves, flowers, shoots and insects.

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4_Blue Turaco adult 2APhoto Credits: Ron Magill / Zoo Miami (Images 1-5: Great Blue Turaco hatchling and adult / Images 6-10: Secretary Bird hatchling and adult)

The Secretary Bird hatched on February 15th after an incubation of 42 days and weighed just over 86 grams.  

Secretary Birds are found in African savannahs and woodlands, south of the Sahara, and have the longest legs of any bird of prey. They grow to be almost 5 feet tall with a wingspan that can approach 7 feet.

Though they will eat a variety of reptiles and small mammals, they are famous for hunting and eating snakes, including venomous ones. They hunt by walking on the ground and, when they see a prey species, will stomp on it with great quickness and force until it is incapacitated and can be eaten.

They get their name from their resemblance to male secretaries of the early 1700’s who wore gray tail coats and placed quilled pens behind their ears, which are replicated in appearance by the specialized feathers that stick out of the back of the head of Secretary Birds.

The Great Blue Turaco is currently classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List. However, the Secretary Bird is classified as “Vulnerable”.

Young Secretary Birds are preyed upon by crows, ravens, hornbills, large owls and kites, as they are vulnerable in their Acacia tree top nests. As a population, their main threats are loss of habitat and deforestation.

More great pics below the fold!

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Maryland Zoo Announces Recent Birth of Giraffe Calf

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The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore is thrilled to announce the birth of a female Reticulated Giraffe calf. Born on February 6, to four-year-old Juma and eleven-year-old Caesar, this new calf is the first giraffe to be born at the Zoo in over 20 years!

“We couldn’t be happier to welcome this beautiful calf to the Zoo family,” said Don Hutchinson, president/CEO of the Zoo. “She will bring a lot of excitement to the Giraffe House and make a wonderful addition to the herd.”

Juma went into labor at approximately 3:00 pm and the calf was born at 4:35 pm. “Standing is one of the first major milestones for a newborn giraffe, and she was able to fully stand on her own in just 50 minutes,” said Erin Cantwell, mammal collection and conservation manager. “It’s safe to say that we were all silently cheering her on and were very excited to see her up on four legs.”

“Juma is an amazing mother! Her instincts are on target,” continued Cantwell. “She is very attentive and has been very patient with the calf as she learns to nurse. Mother and calf are bonding well and appear to be settling into their new routine with ease. All the other giraffes are curious about this new addition -- it’s fun to watch them watching the calf.”

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4_JFB1281Photo Credits: The Maryland Zoo

During her first veterinary exam, the calf was measured at 6’1” and weighed approximately 125 pounds. “Health-wise everything looks pretty perfect so far,” stated Samantha Sander, associate veterinarian. “All signs so far indicate we have a very healthy and strong female calf, and certainly an excellent mom.”

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Rockhopper Penguins Enjoy Playtime in a Playpen

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Two Rockhopper Penguin chicks recently went on display at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium.

Visitors will notice that the chicks are currently in a ‘playpen’ in the Zoo’s Antarctic Penguin exhibit. The playpen gives the chicks an opportunity to acclimate to the other penguins and the exhibit. This time also allows its feathers to fully grow in as down feathers are not waterproof. The chicks will remain in the playpen for a few weeks or until all of their feathers are in. The sexes of the chicks have not yet been determined.

The fuzzy pair hatched on December 11 and December 13, 2016. They currently weigh 4.3 and 4.2 pounds. Full grown Rockhopper Penguins weigh between 4.4 and 5.9 pounds.

The two chicks were parent-reared in the Zoo’s penguin exhibit. The eggs were incubated on exhibit and hatched at 32-34 days. At 30 days of age, the chicks were taught to hand feed from keeper staff, and they are now eating whole fish, primarily capelin.

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The penguins at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium are Southern Rockhopper Penguins (Eudyptes chrysocome). They are found in subantarctic waters of the western Pacific and Indian Oceans, as well as around the southern coasts of South America. They are the smallest yellow-crested, black-and-white penguin in the genus Eudyptes.

Since 1998, 31 Rockhopper Penguins have hatched at Omaha. They are currently listed as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List. This species is primarily affected by: fisheries, loss of habitat, and oil spills.

The Zoo has extended an invitation to the public to help name the chicks. The official entry box is located in front of the Antarctic Penguin display in the Scott Aquarium. Name submissions will be accepted at the location until Thursday, February 23. The chicks’ names will be selected by the keepers that care for them and will be announced on Wednesday, March 8 on the Zoo’s website and social media. The entrants of the winning names will receive a unique Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium gift basket. Both male and female names will be accepted.

More great pics below the fold!

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Chester Zoo Releases Rare Footage of Tuatara Hatching

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Incredibly rare footage of a Tuatara hatching from its egg has been caught on camera at Chester Zoo. It is the first time the intricate process has ever been filmed in such stunning detail.

The egg, from which the youngster hatched in the footage, was laid on April 11, and it hatched on December 5, 2016.

The Tuatara is an ancient reptile that has lived on the planet for more than 225 million years…older than many species of dinosaur.

Last year, reptile experts at Chester Zoo became the first in the world to successfully breed the rare animal outside the species’ native New Zealand.

Now, six more have hatched at the Zoo and leading keepers to believe that they have found the ‘winning formula’ when it comes to breeding the mysterious creatures.

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4_Rare footage of ancient reptile hatching caught on film (2)Photo Credits: Chester Zoo

Only a handful of zoos worldwide work with the species, and the new arrivals are a huge boost to the global population of the reptiles, which are notoriously hard to care for. The Tuatara takes more than 20 years to reach sexual maturity and only reproduces every four years.

Isolde McGeorge, reptile keeper, said, “It took nearly 40 years of research and dedication to achieve the very first breeding of a Tuatara outside their homeland in New Zealand last year. Now, after waiting all that time for the first to successfully hatch, six more have come along.”

“Hatching these remarkable animals is real testament to the skill and expertise of the herpetology team at the zoo. Hopefully this means we’ve found the winning formula in terms of breeding the species, which has been a mystery to science for so long. Tuatara lived before the dinosaurs and have survived almost unchanged to the present day. They really are a living fossil and an evolutionary wonder.”

“Breeding the species is an amazing event and almost as special is the fact we’ve now caught a Tuatara hatching on film for the first time. It’s very, very special footage - footage which has barely ever been recorded before, certainly not in this level of detail. We will be able to learn more and more about these amazing animals from this footage. It’s incredibly unique and a real privilege to be able to witness something so rare.”

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