Gentoo Penguin Chicks Hatch at Tennessee Aquarium

1_Baby Penguins at the TN Aquarium 2015

Three baby Gentoo Penguins are warming the hearts of Tennessee Aquarium guests this summer. Like the Macaroni Penguin, which was the first to hatch at the Aquarium in 2015, this trio has made remarkable progress since they first arrived at the end of June.

Two of the chicks are actually siblings, but are being raised by different penguin mothers. “When Bug and Big T’s first egg hatched, they were having a tough time keeping both the second egg and the chick underneath them,” said senior aviculturist Loribeth Lee. “Biscuit and Blue did not have a viable egg this year, so we were able to move the second egg into their nest. It hatched a couple of days later and they have done a beautiful job caring for their adopted chick.”

2_Baby Gentoo Penguins at the TN Aquarium 2015


4_IMG_5700Photo Credits: Tennessee Aquarium

This is the first time a baby penguin has been raised at the Aquarium by surrogate parents. In the past, aviculturists have supplemented feedings for any chicks that were not receiving enough nourishment from their parents. “We always prefer to let the parents raise their chicks, but we’ll intervene whenever necessary,” said Lee. “Since Biscuit and Blue have been diligent parents in the past, we believed they would do a great job caring for Bug and Big T’s chick and they have.”

In addition to their rapid growth, the three newest Gentoos are now showing their individuality. The experts caring for them say these penguins have personalities that range from passive to positively pecky. “The chick in Biscuit and Blue’s nest acts pretty mellow, preferring to hide its head under mom or dad,” said Lee. “Bug and Big T’s other chick is pretty perky and active, but nothing like Nipper’s chick. He acts feisty just like his father and loves to bite and squawk a lot.”

These traits will be interesting for Aquarium guests to watch over time. Lee and the other experts spend quite a bit of time pointing out the chicks and talking about their lives during penguin programs, which take place at 10:30am and 1:30pm each day.

The gender of the penguin chicks will be determined later this fall when every bird in the colony undergoes a thorough physical examination. A blood sample will be collected from the juvenile birds that will be sent to a lab for DNA testing to determine whether the new additions are male or female. A naming contest on the Aquarium’s Facebook page will begin after the genders are announced.

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New Giraffe Debuts at Como Zoo

1_11900058_10155989449560068_7294586433678829458_nComo Park Zoo & Conservatory, in Saint Paul, Minnesota, is excited to welcome a new Reticulated Giraffe to its herd. Coming into the world at just under six feet, the baby stands tall with mother, Clover, shadowing over her.

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4_11947787_10156011069485068_5121173980227368983_oPhoto Credits: Como Zoo / Outdoor pics courtesy "Zookeeper Allison"

The female giraffe, born August 24th, is the 6th calf born to Clover and the 19th giraffe birth at Como Zoo in the last 22 years. The yet-to-be named calf weighed 135 pounds and measured 5’ 8” tall, at birth. Como Zoo’s current herd consists of Clover, Daisy, Skeeter (the new calf’s father), Skye, and the new female.

The baby made her public debut, recently, and enjoyed the last of the summer sun with her mom. The giraffes, at Como, have the option to roam their outdoor yard or stay behind the scenes, but Clover is often more apt to stay behind the scenes than the other giraffes at the Zoo.

Giraffes are the tallest of all land-living animal species. They can be as tall as 18 feet and have a prehensile tongue (used for grasping), which can be as long as 18 inches. During the first two years of a giraffe’s life, it doubles in height, often standing over 12-feet tall. Giraffe gestation lasts between 14 and 15 months, after which a single calf is born. Like human fingerprints, the markings or spots of a giraffe’s coat are unique to each individual.

Reticulated Giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulate) are native to the dry savannahs and open woodlands of Somalia, southern Ethiopia, and northern Kenya. Also known as the Somali Giraffe, the Reticulated Giraffe is one of the most well-known of the nine giraffe subspecies. They are currently classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

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Zoo Staff are Surrogate Parents for Tufted Puffin Chick

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When a Tufted Puffin chick hatched in the Oregon Coast Aquarium's Seabird Aviary on July 24, it seemed as if everything was going to plan.

The baby bird, nicknamed Stella, weighed in at a healthy 2.26 ounces (64 grams) and was under the care of experienced parents.

By Stella’s day-two checkup, something was clearly amiss. The chick was not gaining weight. The parents were not delivering fish or brooding the chick to keep it warm as Puffin parents should. 

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1 puffin

3 puffinPhoto credits: Oregon Coast Aquarium



Following a second day of careful observation, it was clear Stella needed an intervention. The aviculturists brought the chick behind the scenes to be hand-raised.

“We do not want Stella to imprint on us, so we limit interactions to feeding and cleaning time, and make adult Puffin noises as we feed,” said CJ McCarty, curator of birds for the aquarium. 

“Stella is so fluffy it is a little hard to resist cuddling, but because we plan to reintegrate this Puffin with the population in the Seabird Aviary, minimizing human contact is in its best interest.”

During the early days, a heat lamp kept Stella warm, and a feather duster stood in its parents’ stead for snuggling. The aquarium’s aviculturists fed it every two hours, and even came in late and early to ensure it receives the nourishment it needed.

See more photos after the fold!

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Tiny Endangered Turtles Hatch at Tennessee Aquarium

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In a sunny space directly under one of the Tennessee Aquarium’s tallest glass peaks, senior herpetologist Bill Hughes is caring for a special group of Southeast Asian turtles. The aquarium's ten adult Beal’s-eyed Turtlesare members of a vanishing species.

This past summer, five more Beal’s-eyed Turtles hatched, a significant conservation milestone for this species.

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Photo credits: Tennessee Aquarium

The aquarium's first Beal's-eye Turtle, hatched in 2007, made big headlines because it was also the first of its species known to hatch in a North American zoo or aquarium. Other hatchlings followed at the aquarium in 2008 and 2013. In the past two years, they have had eight more hatchlings - three in 2014 and the five tiny turtles that appeared this summer.

This species has been listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) since 2000. 

“Their numbers have continued to rapidly decline over the past 15 years,” said Hughes. “The current recommendation is to update their status to Critically Endangered.” 

Such a move would officially mean that these animals face an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future. So adding even a few individuals to the global population is a big step toward ensuring this species does not vanish forever.

Continue reading after the fold.

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White Rhino Girl Born at Tel Aviv Safari


On August 24, Keren Peles, a 6-year old White Rhinoceros at the Zoological Center Tel Aviv-Ramat Gan in Israel, gave birth for the first time. The healthy female calf has been named Kipenzi (beloved). It is a tradition, at the Safari, to give offspring monikers starting with the same letter as their mother’s name.



4_0927_2015_08_28_011Photo credits: Tibor Jager

Keren Peles arrived at the Safari about three years ago from Pretoria, South Africa, for reproduction purposes, with the aim of introducing a new blood line into the Safari's White Rhino group. The happy father of the new calf is 35-year old Atari, who is said to have been quite smitten with Keren Peles from the moment they met.

The calf's vital signs appear strong, and she remains close to her mother in a grove of trees in the African area. To the zookeeper's joy, shortly after birth, the calf was seen on its legs and suckling.

The new calf is the 27th born in the Safari. The Safari's contribution to the zoo population of White Rhinos is considerable, and the hope remains that one day it will be possible to help the wild population in Africa whose numbers are steadily declining.

The White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) is the largest species of rhino and consists of two sub-species: southern and northern. The Safari belongs to the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria’s reproduction program. 

More pics below the fold!

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Bronx Zoo Announces Birth of Porcupette

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A North American Porcupine was born at Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo

The young male was born on July 28 to mother, Alice, and father, Patrick.  This is the pair’s third offspring, and the family is currently on exhibit in the zoo’s newly renovated Children’s Zoo.

2_Julie Larsen Maher_1646_North American Porcupine Porcupette_CZ _BZ_08 07 15

3_Julie Larsen Maher_1650_North American Porcupine Porcupette_CZ _BZ_08 07 15

4_Julie Larsen Maher_1981_North American Porcupines and Porcupette_CZ_BZ_08 10 15Photo Credits: Julie Larsen Maher / WCS's Bronx Zoo

The North American Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum) is a large rodent whose most recognizable physical characteristic are its spiky quills. They can have as many as 30,000 quills covering their bodies. The quills are modified hairs that are sharp, barbed hollow spines. They are used primarily for defense but also serve to insulate the body during winter. Despite popular belief, porcupines cannot shoot their quills, but when threatened, the porcupine contracts the muscles near the skin which causes the quills to stand up and out. The quills have a tiny barb on the tip that, when hooked in flesh, pull the quill from the porcupine’s skin and painfully imbed in the predators skin.

Porcupines are herbivores and eat leaves, twigs, and green plants. In winter, they may also eat tree bark.

Female porcupines are solitary, except during the fall breeding season. They have a long gestation period that lasts for 202 days and typically give birth to just one offspring. Baby porcupines (porcupette) weigh about 450 grams at birth. At birth, the quills are very soft but begin to harden a few hours after birth. The quills continue to harden and grow as the baby matures.

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Lincoln Park Zoo’s Red Panda Cubs Surpass Milestones


The Red Panda cubs at Lincoln Park Zoo are one step closer to leaving their den. The two-month-old “Rookie Chicago Cubs”, Clark (male) and Addison (female), born June 26, were featured on ZooBorns back in early August.



4_3Photo Credits: Christopher Bijalba / Lincoln Park ZooThey recently had their second physical, and since their initial exam on July 10, Clark’s weight has doubled and Addison has roughly tripled in weight. Both cubs have surpassed milestones such as nursing, opening their eyes, and they have begun changing from their pale yellow fur into the iconic auburn coloration of the Red Panda.

“The Red Panda cubs continue to be healthy and curious of their surroundings. The cubs are often seen trying to explore outside of the den before quickly being scooped up by their mother Leafa,” said Curator of Mammals Mark Kamhout. “With this behavior, we anticipate the cubs will be ready to make their public debut within the next several weeks.”

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Giant Anteater Sticks to Mom Like Velcro

Zoo Boise Anteater Pup 1

Zoo Boise is happy to announce the birth of a Giant Anteater pup.  The baby was born July 6 and is now starting to venture outside with its mother, Gloria.  After a few weeks of privacy inside their barn, the two anteaters are starting to explore their outdoor exhibit for short periods of time and may be viewable to zoo visitors.  

Zoo Boise Anteater Pup 2

Zoo Boise Anteater Pup 3

Zoo Boise Anteater Pup 4Photo Credits: Zoo Boise

With the exception of mothers with offspring, anteaters are generally solitary animals.  Anteater Dad, McCauley, can be found in a separate exhibit next to Gloria and their pup. Keepers will verify the sex of the pup during its first veterinarian exam. After that, they will decide upon a name for the new anteater.

During their first year, giant anteater pups will spend much of their time riding on their mothers’ backs.  Born with a full coat of fur, the pup is able to blend in with its mother so that predators cannot easily see it.  The pup will stay with its mother until it is full-grown, between one and two years of age.

Also known as the Ant Bear, the Giant Anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) 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, in contrast to other living anteaters and sloths, which are arboreal or semi arboreal.       

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. They can eat up to 30,000 insects in one day! Though Giant Anteaters live in overlapping home ranges, they are mostly solitary.

The species is the largest of its family: 5.97 to 7.12 feet (182-217 cm) in length, weights up to 73 to 90 lbs. (33-41 kg) for males, and 60 to 86 lbs. (27-39 kg) for females. The Giant Anteater is recognizable by its elongated snout, bushy tail, long fore claws, and distinctively colored pelage.

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Rhino Calf ‘Crashes’ the Party at Cotswold Wildlife Park

1_Baby Rhino resting on mother's horn

On August 18, Cotswold Wildlife Park, in the UK, had a rather unexpected arrival. Their Southern White Rhino, Nancy, gave birth to her second calf. Keepers knew Nancy was pregnant, but the actual time of birth came as a bit of a surprise and was a little earlier than expected.

Births in captivity are considered extremely rare, with only fourteen White Rhinos being born in European zoos in the last twelve months. Cotswold Wildlife Park was responsible for two out of the three recorded UK births. The new addition is the sixth member to join the ‘crash’ (the collective noun for a group of Rhinos).  

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3_Baby Rhino in paddock with Nancy (9)

4_Baby Rhino in paddock with Nancy (6)Photo Credits: Cotswold Wildlife Park

 Curator Jamie Craig commented: “After almost forty years of desperately trying to breed from our old group of Rhinos with no success, we are delighted to now have had three calves since 2013. The newest member of the crash was somewhat more of a surprise than we’d like, but at present, all seems to be going well.”

It’s been a remarkable few years for the Rhino family. In 2013, first-time parents, Monty and Nancy (both nine years old), delighted staff and visitors when they produced the first calf in the Park’s forty-three year history - a female named Astrid. Two years later, she has been joined by a baby brother, who is yet to be named. To add to the celebrations, earlier this year, another of the Park’s breeding females, Ruby, gave birth to a male calf, named Ian.

Southern White Rhinos (Ceratotherium simum simum) are the largest of the five Rhino subspecies and range throughout the grassland of Southern Africa. They are currently classified as “Near Threatened” on the IUCN Red List and have always been an important species at Cotswold Wildlife Park, which was founded by Mr. John Heyworth in 1970. His son Reggie Heyworth, Managing Director of Cotswold Wildlife Park, commented: “You wait forty years, then it seems like three come along at once!  This is such a happy event for the Park, and I have to pinch myself when I see six rhinos on the lawn.”

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Rare Horned Guans Hatch at Saint Louis Zoo

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The Saint Louis Zoo announced that two critically endangered Horned Guan chicks hatched at the Zoo on August 7—the first for the Zoo and only the second recorded breeding of the species in the United States. 

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Horned guan chick 8-19-15_Ray Meibaum_Saint Louis Zoo_2297_hires
Horned guan adult_David Merritt Saint Louis ZooPhoto Credits:  Ray Meibaum (1, 2, 3); David Merritt (4)

Because these are the first offspring for the inexperienced parents, the chicks are being hand-raised behind the scenes.

At two weeks old, the chicks weighed five ounces, stood about 8 inches tall and had fuzzy brown and black downy feathers. Their unique horns will start to develop at approximately 3 months of age. The horn begins with two bumps on the top of the head. These bumps gradually twist and grow together.

One of the rarest bird species in the world, the Horned Guan population in the wild is down to only 1,000 to 2,000 individuals in southeastern Mexico and Guatemala because their cloud forest habitat has been destroyed for logging, coffee plantations and other cash crops.

“This hatching is an important development in what has been a great effort to save this species; it was the result of many years of hard work,” said Jeffrey P. Bonner, Dana Brown President and Chief Executive Officer at the Saint Louis Zoo. “It took great attention to the welfare of the parents and enormous patience and persistence” from the zoo staff to achieve this milestone.

The parents of the two chicks are a male, age 12, who arrived at the zoo nine years ago and a female, 7, who arrived five years ago from the Cloud Forest Ambassadors Program at the Africam Safari Zoo in Puebla, Mexico, where they hatched. In 2007, the Saint Louis Zoo became the first accredited zoo in the nation to exhibit this species. Currently 56 Horned Guans are found in five institutions primarily in Mexico.  

Large and dramatic, the adult Horned Guan (seen in the bottom photo) has a unique two-inch-long red horn of bare skin extending from the top of its head. This horn is thought to be ornamental to attract a mate. This bird has a bright white chest laced with fine lines of black feathers and a body covered with a jet black plumage that shines an iridescent blue in the sun. They are about the size of a small turkey and are arboreal, rarely coming to the ground in their native mountain forests. Horned Guans are related to some of the most endangered birds in the world—Curassows, Guans and Chachalacas.

The Saint Louis Zoo began working intensively with other species of Guans in 1997, when it received a $25,000 Institute of Museum Services grant to investigate artificial insemination techniques in this highly endangered group of birds.  The zoo was also the location for the first ever hatching of a chick—a common Piping Guan—from the artificial insemination of a cracid species. Cracids are a family of game birds, like the Horned Guan, that are found predominantly throughout the Latin American tropics.

Since then, the zoo has worked with this endangered family of birds in Trinidad and Columbia and, in 2004, founded the WildCare Institute and the Center for Conservation of the Horned Guan. The Horned Guan Conservation Center staff has worked for a decade with its partners to conduct research on this elusive species. The complex dynamics of seed dispersal and habitat utilization are little understood.

The Center also is encouraging improved habitat management—advocating for increasing the protected area that is home to the Horned Guan and working to limit the factors that threaten vulnerable wildlife in this area. In addition, the Center has initiated an education program to teach local communities how to farm in more habitat-friendly ways and to strengthen community conservation participation.

“These programs, coupled with enforcement action, are expected to help reduce the threats caused by illegal timber removal and hunting,” said Center Director Michael Macek. “There is hope for this species thanks to efforts to reduce coffee plantations and to form additional reserves that can provide potential for eco-tourism, resulting in alternative economic opportunities for local communities.”