Meerkat Triplets Emerge at Australia's National Zoo

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Australia’s National Zoo & Aquarium Canberra is celebrating the arrival of three Meerkat pups, the first ever to be displayed at the zoo.

Weighing just over five ounces each, the tiny triplets were born August 21 and emerged from their den just last week.

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21761544_10155651064175645_1562556253492468978_nPhoto Credit:  National Zoo & Aquarium Canberra

Their mother, Sekai, and dad, Sergei, are attentive parents. They’re helping the little pups learn about life above ground and introducing them to their older brothers, who often serve as babysitters.

Found only in southern Africa, Meerkats are well-known for their strong social ties.  One Meerkat will stand guard as the rest of the mob fans out to forage for insects, lizards, scorpions, eggs, and small mammals. 

Meerkats are expert diggers, able to move their weight in sand within a few seconds.  They dig to locate food and create an elaborate system of underground burrows.

Baby Meerkats remain in their burrow with mom for about one month before they emerge and start learning to find food on their own.  An adult from the mob usually teaches the young Meerkats how to find food and stay safe from predators. 

See more photos of the tiny triplets below!

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Life Is Going Swimmingly for New Hippo Calf

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The San Diego Zoo welcomed a newborn Hippopotamus calf to its Lost Forest habitat on September 22.

The curious baby is reported to be healthy and is staying close to mother, Funani. This is the 12th calf born to Funani and father, Otis. Keepers will give the calf a name when they are able to confirm the sex. For now, guests of the San Diego Zoo can hope to catch a glimpse of the baby with Funani during normal operating hours.

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3_SDZ Hippo calfPhoto Credits: San Diego Zoo

The Common Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius), or Hippo, is a large, mostly herbivorous and aggressive mammal native to sub-Saharan Africa. It is one of only two extant species in the family Hippopotamidae, the other being the Pygmy Hippopotamus (Choeropsis liberiensis or Hexaprotodon liberiensis).

Although the Hippo is currently only classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List, their habitat has been greatly reduced over the last 200 years. Even more devastating to Hippo populations is the current trade in illegal ivory. Following the 1989 ban on Elephant ivory, demand for Hippo ivory has sharply increased. The large canines that Hippos use to protect themselves are made of the same material as Elephants’ tusks. In fact, they are slightly softer and easier to carve than Elephant ivory, making them even more appealing to ivory buyers. As a result, Hippo numbers are rapidly decreasing.

According to the Zoo, if Hippos were to disappear completely, the effect on their habitat would be catastrophic. The large amount of waste that Hippos produce provides important nutrients for their African ecosystem. In addition, many species of fish eat the dung and feed on the small parasites that live on the Hippos’ skin.


Zoo Welcomes Baby Boom of Endangered Gazelles

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After a five-year hiatus, Cheetah Conservation Station keepers at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo are celebrating a baby boom of critically endangered Dama Gazelles.

A male calf was born in an off-exhibit enclosure on August 30 to ten-year-old mother, Adara. The second calf, a female, was born during the night of September 16 to eight-year-old Fahima. A third and final calf, a male, was born September 18 to seven-year-old Zafirah. The Zoo’s three-year-old male, Edem, sired all three calves.

Edem arrived at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in July 2016 from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) following a breeding recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan (SSP). The SSP scientists determine which animals to breed by considering their genetic makeup, nutritional and social needs, temperament and overall health.

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3_zafirah_and_calf_2Photo Credits: Michelle Chatterton/Smithsonian's National Zoo (Image 1: female calf (L) born to Fahima; male calf (R) born to Zafirah); Gil Myers/Smithsonian's National Zoo (Image 2: male born to Adara / Image 3: Zafirah and her male calf)

Keepers have been closely monitoring the calves, who appear to be healthy and behaving normally. For the next several weeks, the calves will remain in a quiet, off-exhibit area where they can bond with their mothers and acclimate to the habitat. They will make their public debut in mid-to-late October, weather permitting.

For now, visitors to the Zoo can see proud father, Edem, at the Cheetah Conservation Station in the morning before 10 a.m. The Zoo will provide updates on the new calves via their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages.

Native to Chad, Mali and Niger, Dama Gazelles (Nanger dama, formerly Gazella dama) are listed as “Critically Endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Less than 500 Dama Gazelles remain in the wild due to habitat loss from human and livestock expansion, hunting and drought. The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) conducts veterinary and reproductive research in order to maintain Dama Gazelle populations.


Rhino Calf 'Pesters' Mum at Chester Zoo

1_A two-month-old baby rhino  named Ike  tries to get the attention of his mum Zuri in the most adorable way at Chester Zoo (22)

A two-month-old Eastern Black Rhino calf was filmed trying to get the attention of his mum in the most adorable way at Chester Zoo recently.

The footage of baby Ike playfully jumping on mum, Zuri, was released just ahead of “World Rhino Day” on September 22.

Ike is one of two critically endangered Eastern Black Rhino calves that was born just weeks apart at Chester Zoo earlier in the year. (See our article from earlier in the summer: "Two Rhinos Born Days Apart at Chester Zoo")

2_A two-month-old baby rhino  named Ike  tries to get the attention of his mum Zuri in the most adorable way at Chester Zoo (4)

3_A two-month-old baby rhino  named Ike  tries to get the attention of his mum Zuri in the most adorable way at Chester Zoo (32)

4_A two-month-old baby rhino  named Ike  tries to get the attention of his mum Zuri in the most adorable way at Chester Zoo (31)Photo Credits: Chester Zoo

The arrival of the precious pair of Rhinos was hailed as remarkable by conservationists. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), there are less than 650 of the sub-species across Africa.

In the wild, a huge surge in illegal poaching, driven by a global increase in demand for Rhino horn to supply the traditional Asian medicine market, has resulted in around 95% of all Rhinos being wiped out in the last century.

The issue is being driven by the street value of Rhino horn, which is currently changing hands for more per gram than gold, diamonds and cocaine. However, modern science has proven that Rhino horns are made primarily of keratin, the protein found in hair, fingernails and animal hooves.

Stuart Nixon, Chester Zoo’s Africa Field Programmes Coordinator, said, “You’re likely to get exactly the same health benefits by chewing your own fingernails as you are taking powdered Rhino horn. Yet in South African alone, more than 500 rhinos have been killed so far this year.”

“The IUCN estimates that, on average, almost two Rhinos have been killed every day in Africa for nine straight years and they could be extinct in as little 10 years. Rhinos need protecting, not poaching.”

Chester Zoo is currently home to 10 critically endangered Eastern Black Rhinos (Diceros bicornis michaeli) and two Greater One-horned Rhinos.

Through its Act For Wildlife conservation movement, the zoo has also recently provided support for Rhino protection to its partners the Big Life Foundation in Chyulu Hills National Park in Kenya and the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust in Mkomazi National Park in Tanzania.

More great photos below the fold!

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‘Pitter-Patter' of Tapir Hooves at Edinburgh Zoo

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RZSS Edinburgh Zoo keepers are hearing the “pitter-patter” of tiny hooves with the birth of an endangered Malayan Tapir calf.

The female calf, born on September 18, has been named Maya. The new arrival was welcomed by mother, Sayang, and father, Mowgli, and is being well cared for by her experienced mum.

Karen Stiven, Senior Hoofstock Keeper at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo, said, “Currently, Maya is staying very close to mum and she is doing well. She has the signature brown fur and white markings that all baby Tapirs are born with, which helps to provide camouflage in the forest. She will begin to get her adult coloration at around three months old. Sayang is a great mum with lots of practice under her belt now and she really knows the ropes. Tapirs are pregnant for around 13 months so it is great to finally see another healthy calf being born.”

“Maya will go on to play an important role in the conservation of her species as part of the wider European Endangered Species Breeding Programme. The programme has a high demand for female Tapirs to help create a diverse safety-net population to ensure that the species does not go extinct in the wild.”

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RZSS Tapir calf 4Photo Credits: RZSS/Siân Addison

Listed as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List, the species is increasingly threatened, with population numbers continuing to decline as a result of habitat loss and fragmentation as well as increasing hunting pressure.

The Malayan Tapir (Acrocodia indica), also known as the Asian Tapir, is the largest of four Tapir species and is the only Old World Tapir. Native to the rainforests of Burma, Malaysia, Sumatra and Thailand, Tapirs’ noses and upper lips are extended to form a prehensile proboscis, which they use to grab leaves. Female Tapirs have a long gestation period of 13 months before giving birth to a single calf.


Vancouver Aquarium’s Sea Otter Pup Makes a Friend

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The male Sea Otter pup being cared for at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre is now four months old. The fuzzy pup, named Hardy, was rescued after concerned members of the public found him swimming alone in open water off northern Vancouver Island back in June.

Since his rescue, staff and volunteers have spent shifts feeding, bathing and grooming the pup. Hardy recently began honing his swimming and diving techniques, and he can’t seem to get enough of practicing his new skills!

Since his arrival, the aquarium has anticipated an appropriate time to introduce the orphan to the rest of the Otters housed at the facility. Hardy was recently introduced to Vancouver Aquarium’s 13-year-old rescued female Sea Otter, Tanu, and she just may prove to be a valuable foster mom for the young pup.

Kristi Heffron, Senior Marine Mammal Trainer, shared, “It took Hardy a moment or two to realize that Tanu had joined him in the Finning Habitat. Then, Tanu went to Hardy and put him on her chest, just like a mother would do to her pup. After a little while, we saw them both swimming, grooming, and eating independently. They’re quite comfortable together.”

ZooBorns introduced the Otter pup to readers back in June when he was first rescued. At that time, Lindsaye Akhurst, Manager of the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, which is presented by Port Metro Vancouver, made a statement concerning the rescue: “Sea Otters have high energetic needs; after birth they spend about six months with mom, nursing, being groomed by her and learning to forage and be a Sea Otter, so this little guy is still a fully dependent pup. He would not survive on his own, and we’re providing him with the care he needs right now.”

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4_Tanu-holding-Hardy-1200x616Photo Credits: Vancouver Aquarium

According to the report provided to the Rescue Centre, boaters collected the Sea Otter pup after it approached and then followed their boat while vocalizing. There were no adult Sea Otters in sight. Once in Port Hardy, officers from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) arranged for the transfer to the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre. Although well intentioned, both DFO officials and Rescue Centre personnel say the distressed animal should have been reported first rather than taken from the ocean. “Once they’re removed from the wild it’s impossible to determine if the mother is alive and if they could have been reunited, or if bringing him in was the appropriate action,” said Akhurst.

Paul Cottrell, Marine Mammals Coordinator, Pacific Region, DFO, reminds the public that touching or capturing wild marine mammals is illegal. Decisions about the pup’s future will be made by DFO.

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Little Lorises Born at Little Rock Zoo

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The Little Rock Zoo recently announced the arrival of two Pygmy Slow Loris babies to their family.

Born in August, the tiny male and female primates are healthy and active in their exhibit. They have been given the names Apollo and Artemis and were born to 3-year-old mom, Mihn Yih, and 7-year-old dad, Frasier.

The new births are part of a Species Survival Plan by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. There are currently only 56 Pygmy Slow Lorises in human care in AZA zoos, including the four at the Little Rock Zoo.

"Our work in the field of conservation is one of the most important roles we have as an AZA-accredited zoo," said Director Susan Altrui. "To have not one but two babies born here is significant not just for us but for the future of this vulnerable species."

Apollo and Artemis were born three days prior to the calculated due date the Zoo's keepers had determined based on observation. So far, first-time mom, Mihn Yih, has been an attentive mother. As she works to gather food, she is careful that she is never too far from where the two siblings are “parked” on branches. As they get older, she will leave them for longer periods of time, until they are ready to be on their own.

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The Pygmy Slow Loris (Nycticebus pygmaeus) is a species found east of the Mekong River in Vietnam, Laos, eastern Cambodia, and China. It occurs in a variety of forest habitats, including tropical dry forests, semi-evergreen, and evergreen forests.

The animal is nocturnal and arboreal, crawling along branches using slow movements in search of prey. Unlike other primates, it does not leap. It lives in small groups with one or two offspring. An adult can grow to around 19 to 23 cm (7.5 to 9.1 in) long and has a very short tail, and it reaches a max weight of about 450 g (1.0 lb). Their diet consists of fruits, insects, small fauna, tree sap, and floral nectar.

The Pygmy Slow Loris is classified as “Vulnerable” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. The pet trade, habitat destruction and hunting are the biggest threats to its survival.

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Tiger Orphans Meet at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

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A 9-week-old Sumatran Tiger cub was introduced to a 7-week-old Bengal Tiger cub at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Ione and Paul Harter Animal Care Center on September 11.

The Sumatran Tiger cub arrived from the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C. and was introduced to the Bengal Tiger cub, currently residing at the Safari Park.

The Sumatran Tiger cub was born at the National Zoo on July 11 and was rejected by its mother a short time later. After numerous attempts to keep the mother and cub together, the animal care team decided it was in the cub’s best interest to separate them.

The Bengal Tiger cub was confiscated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers on August 23 during a vehicle inspection at the U.S./Mexico border. His story attracted worldwide media attention. Back in early September, ZooBorns introduced readers to the little cub and how he became a resident of the Safari Park: “Confiscated Tiger Cub Finds Refuge at San Diego Safari Park

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3_21731710_1983111141705552_1410871529957508442_oPhoto Credits: San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Both the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and the National Zoo are members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), and in a collaborative effort, both zoos’ animal care teams determined the best solution for the well-being of the two cubs would be for them to become companions.

The cubs took to each other immediately, and interacted by wrestling, jumping and engaging in a lot of friendly roughhousing—things tiger cubs do.

Park staff explained how they are able to differentiate between the two tigers. Although Sumatran Tigers, in general, are the smallest subspecies of tiger, the opposite is currently the case with the two cubs. The Safari Park’s Sumatran cub is currently the larger and darker colored of the pair, however, it won’t be long before his new companion is larger.

Guests at the Safari Park can now see them through the nursery window at the Animal Care Center during Safari Park operating hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

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Critically Endangered Skinks Hatch at Chester Zoo

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Two clutches of critically endangered Bermudian Skinks have hatched at Chester Zoo. This is the first time conservationists have bred the species outside their homeland.

Known as ‘rock lizards’, the small Bermudian skinks are a much-loved cultural icon in the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda and are an important part of the ecosystem.

The species is on the brink of extinction in the wild, as habitat destruction and introduced predators have almost wiped them out. In a last gasp attempt to prevent the species being lost forever, the Bermudian government called on experts at Chester Zoo to help breed the species in the UK. Now, after years of work by conservationists and 43 days of incubation, seven Skinks have hatched.

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4_World first as rare Bermudian skinks hatch at Chester Zoo as part of bid to save species (1)Photo Credits: Chester Zoo

The major success at Chester Zoo is a dramatic breakthrough in the fight to save the Skink: a flagship animal in Bermuda’s species recovery programme.

It is possible that individuals bred at Chester Zoo will be reintroduced to the wild in Bermuda, whilst the zoo’s experts will also travel to the island to set up in-country breeding facilities.

In parallel with the breeding project, a team from the zoo is also working in collaboration with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources of Bermuda on an intensive ecological study following the last remaining populations of the Skinks on both the main and offshore islands.

Dr. Gerardo Garcia, Curator of Lower Vertebrates and Invertebrates at Chester Zoo, said, “The world’s biodiversity is under threat and we must protect our living world. Conservation is critical and breeding these skinks is a momentous event. Not only is it providing us with vital new data which will help to inform future decisions in terms of protecting the species, it will engage future generations with these fascinating animals too.”

“It has taken years of work, both out in Bermuda and here in our zoo breeding facilities, but to finally hatch these clutches of Bermudian Skinks is magnificent news.”

The Bermuda Skink has been listed as “Critically Endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Mike Jordan, Collections Director at Chester Zoo, said, “We are working hard to prevent the extinction of this unique species, found nowhere else but Bermuda – and with so few endemic vertebrates – they are incredibly important to the country. This breeding breakthrough, in tandem with our extensive work out in the field alongside the Bermudian government, is a hugely significant boost for their long term survival hopes.”

Dr. Mark Outerbridge, Wildlife Ecologist for the Bermuda Government and the zoo’s partner in Bermuda, added, “I was thrilled to hear of the recent breeding success at Chester Zoo. Skinks have been living on Bermuda for over 400,000 years, and I believe we need to do all that we can to ensure their continued survival. The captive breeding is a critical step in this process and I am very grateful to all the staff there.”

The first Bermudian Skink (Plestiodon longirostris) hatched at Chester Zoo on June 7th from an egg that was laid on May 9th. The zoo’s reptile experts were able to photograph the moment the first skink popped its head out of its egg. Two clutches, one of four and one of three, have hatched at the zoo, with seven individual new Skinks in total.

Chester Zoo’s Curator of Lower Vertebrates and Invertebrates, and PhD student, Helena Turner, are currently in Bermuda collecting vital data from the last remaining wild skink populations.

More great pics below the fold!

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Snow Leopard Siblings Debut at L.A. Zoo

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The Los Angeles Zoo is thrilled to announce the birth of two endangered Snow Leopard cubs!

A male and female were born on May 12 and May 13 to a three-year-old mother, Georgina, and a five-year-old father, Fred. The cubs are the first offspring for the adults, who were paired together in July 2015 as a part of a Species Survival Plan (SSP).

The new siblings spent several months behind the scenes bonding with their mother and getting to know the animal care staff. At four months old, the cubs have now gained enough strength and coordination to navigate their outdoor habitat and make their public debut.

“We’re so excited to welcome these cubs,” said Stephanie Zielinski, animal keeper at the Los Angeles Zoo. “There is less known about these beautiful cats than most of the other large cat species due to the extreme habitat Snow Leopards have evolved to live in the wild. This is why it’s such an honor to be able to educate the public and give them the opportunity to observe this elusive species here in Los Angeles.”

The Zoo’s animal care staff began working with the cubs early on, separating the mom for short amounts of time to allow her rest and to help her grow accustomed to animal care staff being around her young. These interactions with the cubs helped animal care staff conduct regular exams, give vaccinations, and eventually lead to an easier transition when introducing the cubs to the outdoor habitat.

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3_Snow Leopard Cub Female by Jamie Pham

4_Snow Leopard Cub Male by Jamie PhamPhoto Credits: Los Angeles Zoo / Tad Motoyama (Images: 1,2,5) / Jamie Pham (3,4,6,7)

Snow Leopards in the wild are found in unforgiving environments in the cold, high mountains of Central Asia throughout 12 countries. The habitats range from alpine meadows to treeless, rocky mountains. Due to the high altitudes of its habitat, the animal has evolved to have a large nasal cavity to breathe the thin air and can retain oxygen well. The cats have a thick fur, which allows them to keep warm, and a long tail they can wrap around themselves for added warmth and protection for their ears and face. Their paws have hair cushions that act as snowshoes and also provide protection from sharp rocks. Smoky gray and blurred black markings on the cat’s pale gray or cream-colored coat provide them with handy camouflage in the mountains. Snow Leopards can tolerate extreme temperatures of 104 degrees Fahrenheit down to 40 degrees below zero.

While Snow Leopards have perfectly adapted to the cold, barren landscape of their high-altitude home, human threats have created an uncertain future for the cats. Habitat destruction, prey base depletion, illegal trade, poaching, and conflict with the local people have led to a significant decline with only an estimated population of between 2,000 to 7,000 Snow Leopards left in the wild.

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