‘Otterly’ Adorable Siblings Ready for Adventure

1_11402543_10152936392331984_4305523161385450555_oTwo Asian Small-Clawed Otter pups, born in early March at the Auckland Zoo, are more than eager to be exploring outside their den. ‘Kalaya’, and her brother, ‘Chet’ have been keeping staff and the rest of their otter family on their toes. The adventurous siblings have also jumped right in to swimming lessons. 

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4_11165059_10152904754346984_4238219435269671420_oPhoto Credits: Brian Cairns (Image 1); Auckland Zoo (Images 2,3,4) 

The Asian Small-Clawed Otter is the smallest otter species in the world. They are native to mangrove swamps and freshwater wetlands of Bangladesh, Burma, India, southern China, Taiwan, Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Their maximum body length, including a twelve-inch tail, is about 28 to 39 inches (70 – 100 cm). Their weight can range from 2.2 to 11.9 lbs (1 – 5.4 kg). The paws are one of its distinctive features, the claws not extending beyond the fleshy end pads of its partially webbed fingers and toes. This feature give the otter a high degree of manual dexterity so it can use its paws to feed on mollusks, crabs and other small aquatic animals.

Asian Small-Clawed Otters are monogamous. The mates can have two litters of one to six pups per year, and the gestation period is about 60 days. The newborn pups are born toothless, practically immobile and eyes closed. The young will remain in their birthing den for the first few weeks, nursing and staying close to mom. They open their eyes after 40 days and are fully weaned at about 14 weeks. They begin swimming at about three months. Young otters will stay with the mother until the next litter is born. The father assists the mother in nest building and food procurement. Otters have a life span, in the wild, of around 11 to 16 years.

Asian Small-Clawed Otters are currently classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List. Their main threats are habitat destruction, hunting and pollution. Unfortunately, their population trend is decreasing, despite being a protected species. 


Baby Orangutan Climbs and Explores at Fort Wayne Children's Zoo

Baby Asmara Climbing 7What does a six-month-old Sumatran Orangutan like to do?  Climb, explore, and climb some more!

Asmara the Sumatran Orangutan was born at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo on November 22, 2014, one of only two babies of this critically endangered species to be born in a United States zoo in 2014.  

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Baby Asmara learning to climbPhoto Credit:  Fort Wayne Children's Zoo

You first met Asmara on ZooBorns when she was four months old and still clinging tightly to her mother, Tara.  Asmara first started climbing at about five months old, using small ropes that keepers hung close to the ground.  Now, Tara carries her baby high into the trees within the exhibit and lets her little one explore.  Asmara grips the vines with both hands and both feet, sometimes unsure of what she should do next.  Mom is always close by to rescue the little ape when she gets herself in a fix.

It’s easy to see that Orangutans are specially adapted for life in the treetops.  With thumb-like big toes, these apes can grasp branches with ease.

Sumatran Orangutans are native to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, and are found nowhere else in the wild.  Because their rain forest habitat is being destroyed, often for the illegal construction of palm oil plantations, Sumatran Orangutans are confined to small fragments of forest.  They are listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Only about 7,000 remain in the wild. 

See more photos of Asmara below the fold.

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Shy Pudu Fawn Born at Bristol Zoo

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A baby Pudu, the world's smallest species of deer, was born at the United Kingdom’s Bristol Zoo in May.

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Photo Credit:  Bob Pitchford

Weighing only about two pounds at birth, Pudu fawns have distinctive white-spotted markings on their backs, which help provide camouflage from predators. Because the zoo staff can’t get too close to the fawn yet, they don’t know its gender.  The fawn is being raised by its mother.

Pudus are native to lowland temperate rainforests in Chile and southwest Argentina.  They are usually active at night, when they emerge to feed on leaves, bark, and fallen fruit.  In the wild, Pudu populations are declining as their rain forest habitat is cleared for cattle ranching and other human development.  The Bristol Zoo participates in an international conservation breeding program for the species. Pudus are classified as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. 

See more photos of the Pudu fawn below.

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Cincinnati Zoo Shares Photos of New Flamingo Hatchlings

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Greater Flamingo chicks are starting to hatch at Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.  The eggs nestled safely in the mud mounds are one-by-one beginning to reveal their contents, and the Zoo is excited to share pics of the first few fluffy hatchlings.

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4_11295648_10153281045410479_8272391589082796505_nPhoto Credits: Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

The Greater Flamingo is the most widespread species of the flamingo family. It is native to parts of Africa, southern Asia (Bangladesh and coastal regions of Pakistan and India), Israel, and southern Europe.

The Greater Flamingo is the largest species of flamingo and averages 43 to 60 inches tall and a weight of 4.4 to 8.8 lbs.

The bird prefers to reside in mudflats and shallow coastal lagoons with salt water. The Greater Flamingo feeds with the head down. Their upper jaw is movable and not fixed to the skull. Using their feet, they stir up mud, then suck water through their bill and filter out small shrimp, seeds, blue-green algae, microscopic organisms and mollusks.

When nesting, they lay a single egg on a mound of mud. Most of their plumage is pink and white, but the wing coverts are red, with black along primary and secondary flight feathers. Their bill is pink with a black tip, and their legs are entirely pink. Sub-adult flamingos are whitish-grey and only attain the pink coloration several years into adult life. The bird’s coloration comes from the carotenoid pigments in the organisms that live in their feeding grounds.

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Topeka Zoo “Gets ‘Round” to Announcing Armadillo Birth

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The Topeka Zoo is excited about the arrival of their newest Southern Three-Banded Armadillo. The spherically prone boy was born May 5th and is the third offspring of mom, ‘Erin’, and dad, ‘Mulligan’.

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4_IMG_4243Photo Credits: Topeka Zoo

The Southern Three-Banded Armadillo, also called the La Plata Three-Banded Armadillo, is an armadillo species from South America. It is native to parts of northern Argentina, southwestern Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia.

The species, along with the Brazilian Three-Banded Armadillo, is the only armadillo capable of rolling into a complete ball for defense and protection. The three characteristic bands that cover the back of the animal allow it enough flexibility to fit its tail and head together, allowing it to protect its underbelly, limbs, eyes, nose and ears from predators. The shell covering its body is armored and the outer layer is made out of keratin, the same protein that builds human fingernails.

The Southern Three-Banded Armadillo is typically yellow or brownish in color. They are among the smaller armadillos, with a total body length of about 8.7 to 10.6 inches (22 to 27 cm) and a weight of between 2.2 and 3.5 lbs (1 and 1.6 kg).

Gestation for an armadillo lasts 60 to 120 days, depending on the species. Some species, such as the Southern Three-Banded Armadillo, will have litter sizes that range from one to eight. The young are born with soft, leathery skin, which hardens within a few weeks. They reach sexual maturity in three to 12 months, depending on species.

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‘Little Things Mean A Lot’ at Melbourne Zoo

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Melbourne Zoo is celebrating its first Pygmy Hippopotamus calf birth since 1981!  Keepers have not had any direct contact with the calf so far, but, from their careful observations, they have been given the impression that the calf is male.

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Photo Credits: Melbourne Zoo

The birth was announced last week, and video footage of mother and calf was released. The new baby is a first offspring for mother ‘Petre’ with new mate, ‘Felix’. Petre previously produced three calves at Taronga Zoo with another mate.

Thanks to recently installed CCTV cameras, keepers were able to observe the calf’s arrival on a screen in an office adjacent to the night den where Petre had been awaiting the birth.

Petre is showing herself to be a very good and attentive mother, and keepers have observed the calf suckling and feeding at varying intervals since birth.

Zoo Veterinarian, Dr. Sarah Frith, will soon attempt to weigh the calf and hopefully confirm the sex, if such can be done without causing distress to mother and baby.

The Pygmy Hippopotamus is native to the forests and swamps of West Africa, primarily Liberia, with small populations in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Ivory Coast. They are herbivorous, feeding on ferns, broad-leaf plants, grasses and fruits.

The Pygmy Hippo is reclusive and nocturnal, and their rainforest habitat makes it very difficult for researchers to determine exact populations. However, it is known that loss of habitat and poaching are drastically affecting their numbers in the wild, making the regional and international breeding programs even more important to ensure the future of the species.

The Pygmy Hippopotamus is currently classified as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List


Adorable New Kits are "Stinkin' Cute"

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Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo has welcomed a litter of seven baby Skunks!  Born May 2 to first time mom, ‘Mia’ (now affectionately known as ‘Momma Mia’), the Skunk kits have just opened their eyes and will soon emerge from the den. Mia and kits, five boys and two girls, have been relocated to a temporary enclosure, along the Florida boardwalk, until the kits are mobile. 

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4_florida boardwalk skunk kit 3 may 29 2015Photo Credits: Dave Parkinson/Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo

Born hairless, weighing only 40-50 grams each (about the weight of a slice of bread), the now furry siblings were recently weighed, and are currently at 180-208 grams each. Members of the Zoo’s animal care team feed Mia breakfast, while her kits are checked and weighed one at a time, then placed quickly back into the den.

Skunks are omnivorous, eating both plant and animal material and changing their diets as the seasons change. They eat insects and larvae, earthworms, grubs, small rodents, lizards, salamanders, frogs, snakes, birds, moles and eggs. They also commonly eat berries, roots, leaves, grasses, fungi and nuts. In settled areas, Skunks also peruse garbage left by humans. Pet owners may experience a Skunk finding its way into a garage or storage area where pet food is kept.

Skunks are crepuscular and solitary when not breeding, though in colder parts of their range, they may gather in communal dens for warmth. During the day, they shelter in burrows, which they can dig with their powerful front claws. Males and females occupy overlapping home ranges through the greater part of the year. Skunks are not true hibernators in the winter, but do den-up for extended periods of time.

Skunks mate in early spring and polygamous. The female will excavate and prepare a den to house her litter. Skunks are placental, with a gestation period of about 66 days, and they generally give birth to four to seven kits.  The kits are weaned after about two months, but they will stay with their mother for about one year, until they reach mating age.

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'Chicks Rule' at Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

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A Steller’s Sea Eagle, a Raggiana Bird-of-Paradise chick, and three Spur-Winged Lapwings are among the significant hatchings reported in the past two weeks, at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.

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[Photo Credits: Cassandre Crawford (Image 1: Steller's Sea Eagle chick; Image 2: Raggiana Bird-of-Paradise chick; Image 3: Spur-winged Lapwing chicks)]

Steller’s Sea Eagles are one of the most rare raptors in the world. They are twice the size of, and much more aggressive than, their close relative, the Bald Eagle. The Cincinnati Zoo was the only Zoo in the U.S. to breed this species successfully, until the Denver Zoo hatched a chick last year. Cincinnati has now bred three pairs, and produced 12 chicks, in cooperation with the Species Survival Plan (SSP). There are currently 22 Steller’s Sea Eagles in 11 North American institutions.

Chick watch began on April 29, when Aviculture staff noticed the Sea Eagle parents looking down at their nest more frequently. A chick was first observed on May 3, and by May 7it looked to have doubled in size. Their incubation period can last 39 to 45 days and they lay one to three eggs (but only one chick usually survives).

As of 2009, the Steller’s Sea Eagle population was estimated at 5,000 birds worldwide, but that number is dropping. Although legally protected in Russia, Japan, China, and South Korea, other threats to these rare birds include fossil fuel energy developments, wind farms, pollution, habitat loss, hunting, and possibly global warming.

The Cincinnati Zoo hatched its first Raggiana Bird-of-Paradise chick on May 2. To date, San Diego, Honolulu, and Miami are the only Zoos in the U.S. to produce Raggiana Bird-of-Paradise chicks that lived at least 30 days.

The Cincinnati Zoo’s chick has almost reached that milestone and keepers are optimistic that it will stay in good health. The chick’s 13-year-old father is the most genetically valuable of his species (meaning his genes are the most needed in Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) collections to keep the population as healthy/genetically diverse as possible).

The Cincinnati Zoo has mimicked the life strategy of these birds in the wild.  Males get together and show off in a central tall tree (called a “lek”), while the females gather around to view the spectacle and select a mate.  They breed and she flies off to build her nest and raise her chick all by herself while the male goes back to dancing!

Bird-of-Paradise chicks often do well as hand-reared youngsters. They eat mostly insects, pinkie mice pieces, and papaya and are extremely intelligent birds that can learn to mimic many noises and sometimes speech. All Bird-of-Paradise species are protected, in Papua New Guinea, from the large-scale hunting that occurred there in the late 1800’s and nearly drove several species to extinction. Their feathers and skins were exported, by the thousands, for fashionable hats. Their biggest concern now is rainforest habitat loss.

Three Spur-Winged Lapwings also join the list. Although they are not rare at all in the wild, they are still special to the Cincinnati Zoo and genetically significant offspring from first-time parents.

The Spur-Winged Lapwing breeds around the eastern Mediterranean and in a wide band from sub-Saharan West Africa to Arabia. The Greek and Turkish breeders are migratory, but other populations are resident. The species is declining in its northern range, but it is abundant in much of tropical Africa, being seen at almost any wetland habitat in its range. 


Baby Elephant Is Third Generation At Rosamond Gifford Zoo

DSC_0041_CassieGuerraWhat kind of baby weighs 281 pounds and stands three feet tall at birth?  The newest member of Rosamond Gifford Zoo’s Asian Elephant herd!

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DSC_0018_JaimeAlvarezPhoto Credits:  Jaime Alvarez (3,7,8,9); Cassie Guerra (1,2,4,5,6)

Eighteen-year-old Mali gave birth to the male calf on Tuesday, May 12.  The calf’s father is 17-year-old Doc.  The calf hasn’t been named yet.

The calf represents the third generation of his family to live at the zoo.  His grandmother Targa gave birth to Mali in 1997.  This calf is Mali’s second offspring.  Another female is expecting a baby later this summer, which will bring to total number of Elephants in the herd to eight.

Asian Elephants are highly social animals, so the calves will thrive in the herd with their mother, grandmother, and “aunties” to look after them. 

The calf’s birth was recommended by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums' Species Survival Plan (SSP) for Asian Elephants to maintain a high level of genetic diversity in the North American population of this endangered species.  Only about 35,000 of these magnificent beasts remain in the wild. 

See more photos of the Elephant calf below.

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Rare Foal Springs Into Scotland

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A spunky Przewalski’s Horse was born on April 30 at Scotland’s Highland Wildlife Park.  Once extinct in the wild, Przewalski’s (pronounced Shevalsky’s) or Mongolian Wild Horses have been reintroduced to their native habitat thanks to the efforts of several European zoos.

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700_0449Photo Credit:  Highland Wildlife Park/Royal Zoological Society of Scotland

The little foal, which has not yet been named, follows its mother Val around the drive-through reserve and appears to be healthy and strong.

Found in the steppes of Central Asia, Przelwalski’s Wild Horses are the last surviving species of wild Horse and are classified as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Formally listed as extinct in the wild in 1969, the IUCN reclassified Przelwalski’s Wild Horses to Endangered after the species was successfully re-introduced into their native Mongolia in 1992.

Though zoos have had success breeding this species and they have become reestablished in the wild, Przelwalski’s Wild Horse populations are still considered precarious, partly due to threats from poachers.