Handsome Takin Calf Is a First for Swedish Zoo

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A Mishmi Takin calf, named Nanook, was born on February 19th at Kolmården Wildlife Park. Mother to the handsome male calf is Aisha, and his father is Hobbit.

Nanook is the first successful Takin birth for the Swedish zoo. He was born in the early morning of a cold, snowy day. The name Nanook was chosen by the keepers, in honor of his day of birth, and means ‘polar bear’ in Inuit. At birth, Nanook weighed-in at a healthy 7 kilos.

Kolmården staff reported, “We are very happy that Aisha, first time mum, has taken such good care of Nanook. It’s a break through for us, and the Takin breeding, here in Kolmården. Nanook is a much welcomed addition to our Takin group and the European population.”

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5_takinenPhoto Credits: Kolmården Wildlife Park

Thanks to the zookeeper’s excellent training with Takins, they were able to do a check of Nanook soon after his birth. The calf is considered healthy and is growing.

The new Takin calf is an important part of the EAZA European Studbook breeding programme for Mishmi Takins. Takins are currently classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List. Populations in the wild are threatened and decreasing due to hunting and deforestation.

The Mishmi Takin (Budorcas taxicolor taxicolor) is an endangered goat antelope native to India, Myanmar and the People's Republic of China. It is a subspecies of Takin.

The Mishmi Takin is native to southern China and eats bamboo and willow shoots. It has an oily coat to protect it from the fog.

Takin are found in small family groups of around 20 individuals, although older males may lead more solitary existences. In the summer, herds of up to 300 may gather high on mountain slopes.

In the wild, mating generally takes place in July and August. Usually, a single young is born after a gestation period of around eight months.

Takin tend to migrate from upper pastures to lower, more forested areas in winter and favor sunny spots. When disturbed, individuals give a 'cough' as an alarm call, and the herd retreats into thick bamboo thickets and lies on the ground for camouflage.


Fishing Cat Cub Is a First for Denver Zoo

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Denver Zoo is excited to announce its first successful birth of a Fishing Cat. The cub, whose sex is not yet known, is named Miso-Chi (MEE-soh-CHEE) and was born on January 25.

The cub was born to mother Namfon (NAAM-fawn) and father Ronaldo. Namfon was born at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, in Washington D.C., in May 2012 and arrived at the Denver Zoo in July 2013. Ronaldo was born in June 2013 at a private facility in Houston, Texas, that specializes in the propagation of rare and endangered species and arrived at Denver Zoo from there in April 2014. The two were paired under recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP), which ensures healthy populations and genetic diversity among zoo animals. Fortunately, the couple has proved to be an excellent match.

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4_baby_fishing_cat_02Photo Credits: Denver Zoo

Fishing Cats are scattered throughout southwest India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Malaysia, Thailand, Sumatra, Java and Pakistan, living primarily in wetland areas like swamps, marshes and densely vegetated areas along rivers and streams.

As their name suggests, Fishing Cats are powerful swimmers and fish form an important part of their diet. However, they are generalist feeders. Rodents, amphibians and aquatic birds are also fare. The cats have been observed attracting fish by lightly tapping the water’s surface with their paw, mimicking insect movement. They then dive into water to catch the fish that come near and, because their claws do not fully retract, use them like fishing hooks to spear the slippery fish. Fishing Cats also wade in shallow water to hunt for prey to scoop out.

Although they resemble a domestic house cat, they are about twice the size of an average house cat. They can grow from about two to almost three feet long, with a foot long tail. They also weigh 18 to 26 pounds and have stocky builds with short legs. Their fur is olive gray with dark spots arranged in longitudinal stripes down the back and a ringed tail tipped in black. They have flat-nosed faces with short round ears and six to eight distinctive dark lines running from above the eyes between the ears over the head to the neck. Fishing Cats are very much adapted to their semi-aquatic life, with water resistant fur and webbed hind feet to power them through the water. Their short, flattened tail acts as a rudder to help control direction as they swim.

Exact Fishing Cat population numbers in the wild aren’t known because they are so rarely encountered. However, it is believed there are less than 10,000 individuals, and their numbers are declining. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) currently classifies them as “Vulnerable”. Their biggest threats are wetland destruction and conversion to farmland. They are also threatened by pollution from industry, agricultural pesticides, and destructive fishing practices. The species is also threatened by poaching for food, medicine and body parts. In addition, Fishing Cats are often a target of local farmers in their native habitat. The farmers believe the cats are solely responsible for the killing of their small livestock and damage to their fishing nets. While this does happen occasionally, they are often blamed for acts other animals commit. Fishing Cats are also hunted for the exotic pet trade.

Denver Zoo recently voted to donate $1,500 to the Fishing Cat Fund, which seeks to educate the public about Fishing Cats as well as to conserve cats in the wild. The money for this comes from the Zoo’s membership animal care donation “check box,” which supports conservation projects for species of the AZA Species Survival Plan (SSP).

Visitors to the Denver Zoo can see the new cub, alongside mom, learning to dive for live fish in the waters of the Marynelle Philpott Fishing Cat Lagoon exhibit at Toyota Elephant Passage.


Brevard Zoo’s Meerkat Pups Emerge for Spring

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Two Meerkat pups at Brevard Zoo recently emerged from their burrow, just in time for Spring!

The pups were born to mom Kiki on February 17 and have spent the first few weeks of their lives snuggled safely underground. At this time, the keepers do not know the sex of either pup.

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Although their name might suggest otherwise, Meerkats are not related to cats. The Meerkat, or Suricate (Suricata suricatta), is a small carnivoran belonging to the mongoose family. They are native to all parts of the Namib Desert in Namibia and southwestern Angola, and in South Africa.

Gestation for Meerkats is about eleven weeks. In the wild, Meerkats give birth in underground burrows to help keep the newborns safe from predators. To shield the pups from dust in their subterranean homes, they are born with their eyes and ears closed. Meerkat babies are also nearly hairless at birth, though a light coat of silver and brown fur begins to fill in after just a few days.

The babies nurse for about nine weeks, and they grow very quickly. Though they weigh only about an ounce at birth, by six months old, the pups are about the same size as the adults.

These desert-dwellers are highly social critters and live in groups, called mobs, which can include dozens of individuals from multiple families. Some members of the mob may also act as “babysitters” to the pups.

Meerkats have scent pouches below their tails and will rub these pouches on rocks and plants to mark their territory. The dark patches around their eyes act to cut down on sun glare and help them see far into the distance.

Meerkats have four toes on each feet and very long, non-retractable claws to help them dig. They can also close their ears to keep dirt out while digging.

As a species they have an interesting feeding approach as they will always maintain visual and vocal contact whilst foraging, with one of the group standing on its hind legs and acting as sentry on the lookout for predators. They feed mostly on invertebrates and plant matter.

They are currently classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. In the wild, they are present in several large and well-managed protected areas. However, population densities can fluctuate due to predation and rainfall variations.

Wild populations are currently stable. However, over the past couple of decades, movies and television shows have brought Meerkats a lot of attention, with many people wondering if they can keep a Meerkat as a pet. Although they may look cute, Meerkats, like all wild animals, do NOT make good pets, and they are illegal to own without the proper permits and licenses!

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Zoo Atlanta's Giant Panda Twins Play All Day

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Six-month-old Giant Panda twins Ya Lun and Xi Lun are old enough to spend the entire day playing in their dayroom at Zoo Atlanta.

Born September 3 to experienced mother Lun Lun, the sisters spend their time playing, exploring, and sometimes wrestling for access to coveted napping spots.

The cubs had previously been spending parts of the day in their sleeping quarters, but reached this new milestone right on schedule.

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Ya Lun and Xi Lun_Zoo Atlanta 2Photo Credit:  Zoo Atlanta

You met the twins on ZooBorns when they were named and when they learned to walk. Next up for the only Giant Panda twins in the United States:  playing outdoors.  Zoo staff expect this to occur in the next few weeks. 

At birth, the twins weighed the same as a quarter-pound hamburger patty.  Ya Lun now weighs 22 pounds and her sister Xi Lun weighs 21 pounds.  As adults they will weigh more than 200 pounds.

Fewer than 1,900 Giant Pandas are estimated to remain in the wild in China’s Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces. Of these, more than 1,200 live inside nature reserves, eight of which are supported by Zoo Atlanta. In September 2016, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature downgraded the Giant Panda’s status from Endangered to Vulnerable. The species remains heavily reliant on conservation programs, and Giant Pandas face ongoing threats from habitat fragmentation and habitat loss as a result of deforestation and other human activities.


Twin Otter Pups Born at Oregon Zoo

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Tilly, a North American River Otter, is raising two tiny pups, born February 26 at the Oregon Zoo. The new arrivals — one male and one female — weighed around 4 ounces each at birth and have already doubled that thanks to their mother's naturally high-fat milk.

"Young River Otters are extremely dependent on their moms, and Tilly has been very nurturing," said Julie Christie, senior keeper for the zoo's North America area. "She did a great job raising her first two pups, Mo and Ziggy, both born in 2013. And she was a terrific adoptive mom to Little Pudding, the orphan pup who was rescued from a roadside in 2015. We expect she'll do well with her new babies as well."

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Tilly and her pups are currently in a private maternity den, and it will likely be another month or two before visitors can see them in their Cascade Stream and Pond habitat. Young River Otters usually open their eyes after three to six weeks, and begin walking at about five weeks. Surprisingly, swimming does not come naturally to River Otters — pups must be taught to swim by their moms.

Keepers have yet to decide on a name for the two new pups, though it is likely they will be named after Oregon rivers or waterways like their older siblings.

"This will be the first time Tilly has raised more than one pup at a time," said curator Amy Cutting, who oversees the zoo's North America and marine life areas. "It's exciting that they'll be growing up together and have the opportunity to play and wrestle with each other. Tilly's always been an extremely attentive mother, so it will be interesting to see what happens when her pups go in two different directions."

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Baby Boom of Baltic Grey Seal Pups at Kolmården

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In late February, two Baltic Grey Seal pups were born in Kolmården Wildlife Park in Sweden. The male and female half-siblings weighed in at 17 kilos each at birth.

The pups were born well developed, and in just a couple of weeks, they will be independent, thanks to both of their mother’s nourishing milk.

Keepers report they are happy to see such a wide variety of natural behaviors in their animals. Giving birth and rearing their young is one of the most important behaviors in the animal’s life. Giving them the opportunity means the Park can maintain a high animal welfare.

The male has been given the name Evert, and his sister has been named Eivor.

The proud and protective mothers are Liivi and Vinja and the father to both, who still has to keep some distance from the pair, is named Sten (“the rock” in Swedish).

Grey Seals enjoy swimming and at Kolmården Wildlife Park they have a 9-meter deep pool to swim in. Even though Eivor and Evert haven’t lost their pup fur yet, they have taken short swims. As soon as they loose their protective fur they will leave the cliffs and spend more and more time in the water.

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The Grey Seal (Halichoerus grypus, meaning "hooked-nosed sea pig") is native to both shores of the North Atlantic Ocean. It is a large seal of the family Phocidae or "true seals". It is the only species classified in the genus Halichoerus. Its name is spelled ‘Gray Seal’ in the US, but it is also known as Atlantic Seal and the Horsehead Seal.

The Grey Seal feeds on a wide variety of fish, mostly benthic or demersal species, taken at depths down to 70 m (230 ft.) or more. The average daily food requirement is estimated to be 5 kg (11 lbs.), though the Seal does not feed every day and it fasts during the breeding season.

In the wild, pups are born in autumn (September to November) in the eastern Atlantic and in winter (January to February) in the west, with a dense, soft silky white fur; at first small, they rapidly fatten up on their mothers' extremely fat-rich milk. The milk can consist of up to 60% fat. Within a month or so, they shed the pup fur, grow dense waterproof adult fur, and leave for the sea to learn to fish for themselves.

The Grey Seal is currently classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List. According to the IUCN: “Numerous countries have invoked protective measures to limit Grey Seal harvests, culls, disturbance, and by-catch (Bonner 1981, ICES 2005). Pollutant loads in Baltic Grey Seals have declined following regulations banning the use and discharge of toxic pollutants such as DDT and PCBs beginning in the 1970s. Although the prevalence of colonic ulcers has increased over the last decades, the reproductive health of female Grey Seals has improved, as has the population level in the Baltic (Bergman et al. 2001). Establishment of coastal marine reserves for Seals in Norway have been more effective in protecting Harbour Seals than Grey Seals because the latter are more likely to travel outside the areas closed to fisheries and become entangled in nets (Bjørge et al. 2002).”


Tiny Turtles Help Save Their Species

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The conservation effort to save the Bellinger River Snapping Turtle from extinction has received a huge boost after 21 tiny turtles hatched as part of a NSW (New South Wales) Government captive breeding program at Taronga Zoo.

The turtles began to hatch on January 19 as part of the first ever breeding program for this critically endangered species.

“There could be as few as 200 Bellinger River Snapping Turtles remaining in the wild, so these hatchlings have a vital role to play in rebuilding this population,” Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said.

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4_Hatchlings 7_Photo by Paul FahyPhoto Credits: Paul Fahy / Taronga Zoo

Taronga Zoo established the breeding program after a newly discovered disease wiped out up to 90 per cent of their local population of Bellinger River Snapping Turtles (Myuchelys georgesi) on the mid-north coast near Bellingen, NSW, Australia in 2015.

A government emergency response team was formed to investigate and coordinate the rescue of a group of healthy turtles to establish an insurance population.

Taronga Keeper Adam Skidmore said he was surprised at how quickly the turtles had settled into their new home, with four of the five females producing eggs this breeding season.

“We weren’t really expecting any hatchlings this year, so it was an amazing result to get four clutches of eggs. The team was very excited to see the first hatchlings push their way out of the eggs,” Mr. Skidmore said.

Weighing 4-5 grams at birth, the hatchlings have begun eating and swimming and are being closely monitored by keepers in a special quarantine facility at Taronga.

The long-term aim of the breeding program is to raise and release hatchlings back into Bellinger River. Meanwhile, Australian Registry of Wildlife Health researchers continue to investigate the cause of the disease and monitor the remaining turtles and other wildlife in the Bellinger River catchment system.

More great turtle pics below the fold!

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Maryland Zoo Cares for Orphaned Grizzly Sisters

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For the first time in its 140-year history, The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore is now home to two Grizzly Bear cubs from Montana.

The pair was found trying to survive in the wild without their mother. “Although no one likes the tragic circumstances that lead to the cubs coming here to the Zoo, we are pleased that we can offer a permanent home to these sisters,” said Don Hutchinson, president and CEO of The Maryland Zoo. “They are being well cared for and we plan to do so for many, many years.”

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The two female cubs originated on Confederated Salish (Say-lish) and Kootenai (Koot-nee) Tribal Lands in Montana. For several days, they were observed foraging by themselves with no mother in attendance. It became obvious that one cub was failing, and the decision was made by the tribal biologist to capture both cubs on Labor Day, September 5, 2016.

“The cubs were taken to a local veterinarian and upon examination, it was discovered that the smaller of the cubs had been shot,” said Dr. Ellen Bronson, senior veterinarian at the Zoo. “Luckily the wounds were not severe and the cub was able to be treated with antibiotics. The cubs, however, were starving having not quite learned how to forage for themselves at such a young age.”

They were moved to The Montana Wildlife Center, in Helena, which rehabilitates orphaned wildlife for the purpose of release back to the wild and is run by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP).

“Unfortunately, several weeks after their capture, the failing mother of the cubs was located with severe shotgun wounds to her face and was subsequently euthanized,” said Mike McClure, general curator at the Zoo. “DNA analysis was used to determine that this female grizzly was indeed the mother of the two cubs, who at the time were approximately six-months-old.”

Due to their age, they were not good candidates for rehabilitation and release to the wild, so in early November, Montana FWP put a request to the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) Bear Taxon Advisory Group (TAG) to assist with finding the cubs a permanent home.

“We learned of the cubs through the AZA Bear TAG and began to make inquiries about the possibility of bringing them to Baltimore,” continued McClure. “While we have not housed Grizzly Bears before, we do have experience with many of the extant species of bear, and staff agreed that we could definitely provide a good home for these two cubs.”

It was determined in late November that the zoo would be the home of the cubs, pending appropriate permits and approvals by zoo personnel. In mid-December, after the appropriate approvals and permits were obtained, Dr. Ellen Bronson and Mike McClure flew to Helena, Montana to complete a health check of the cubs and meet the transporter to prepare for the over-land travel from Helena to Baltimore. Due to severe weather in Montana, they were stranded in Helena for five days before the roads became clear enough to load the bears and begin the long drive to Baltimore. McClure and the bears had a 3-day trek back to Baltimore with the transporter. They arrived at the Zoo late in the evening of December 21, 2016.

The cubs were in quarantine for 30 days at the Zoo Hospital, after which time they were moved to the Polar Bear Watch exhibit to acclimate to their night quarters, the Animal Care staff and their outdoor yards. Just recently Zoo staff has been watching them from the public area to prepare them for their introduction to the public.

“The cubs are probably around 11-months-old and are on permanent loan from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks,” continued McClure. “They are very curious about their outdoor yard, and have spent a lot of time digging up the mulch, rolling in the grasses and exploring the pool. Essentially, they are bear cubs just being bear cubs, which is fascinating to watch. We hope everyone enjoys seeing them and learning about grizzly bears here at the Zoo.”

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17th Hippo Birth For Zoo de Granby

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Zoo de Granby recently celebrated the birth of a baby Hippo on February 27. 

The new calf is the 17th Hippo born at the zoo since 1973, and this is mom Polita’s sixth offspring. Polita arrived at the Canadian facility in July 2000 from Disney’s Animal Kingdom and is almost 20 years old.

The reproduction of the Hippopotamus is one of the great successes of the Granby Zoo. Since the arrival of the first two Hippos, Patriarch and Mermaid, the young ones have succeeded each other. With this new birth, Zoo de Granby is a proud participant in the conservation and protection of this animal species.

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The Common Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) is a large, mostly herbivorous 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).

The Common Hippopotamus is also semiaquatic, inhabiting rivers, lakes and mangrove swamps. During the day, they remain cool by staying in the water or mud; reproduction and childbirth both occur in water.

A mother typically gives birth to only one calf, although twins can occur. The young often rest on their mothers' backs when the water is too deep for them, and they swim under water to suckle. They also suckle on land when the mother leaves the water. Weaning starts between six and eight months after birth, and most calves are fully weaned after a year.

As of 2008, the species was classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List (International Union for the Conservation of Nature).

The Granby Zoo is proud, with this new birth, to participate in the conservation and protection of this species.

More great pics below the fold!

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Clouded Leopard Cub's Birth Is History Making

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Nashville Zoo and the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute are pleased to announce the birth of a male Clouded Leopard on March 1.

The cub was conceived from an artificial insemination (AI) procedure using frozen/thawed semen. This accomplishment is a first for this species and a giant step for global conservation efforts.

“This is an enormous accomplishment for both Nashville Zoo and the team at the Smithsonian,” said Dr. Heather Robertson, Director of Veterinary Services at the Zoo. “It means we can collect and preserve semen from Clouded Leopard populations around the globe and improve pregnancy outcomes from AI procedures in this species.”

Dr. Robertson and Nashville Zoo Associate Veterinarian, Dr. Margarita Woc Colburn, used hormones to induce ovulation in a female named Tula who was born and raised at Nashville Zoo. The Smithsonian’s research staff, Adrienne Crosier, Ph.D., Pierre Comizzoli, D.V.M., Ph.D., and Diana Koester, Ph.D, collected semen a week earlier from a male named Hannibal at Smithsonian’s National Zoo. The team used a new technique depositing a very small volume of semen into the oviduct where the eggs normally rest after ovulation.

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After birth, the cub was removed for examination and will be hand-raised by keepers to ensure survival and wellbeing. This process also lowers animal stress for future hands-on care. The cub will stay at Nashville Zoo with plans to eventually introduce him to a potential mate.

Nashville Zoo and the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute have a long history of working together on Clouded Leopard conservation. Since 2000, they have collaborated with Point Defiance Zoo and Thailand’s Zoological Park Organization to form the Clouded Leopard Consortium and develop breeding programs as well as field monitoring projects for Clouded Leopards in Thailand.

Because the captive Clouded Leopard population is not self-sustaining, it necessitates the need for intensive reproductive management techniques to maintaining captive populations not only in the U.S. but also throughout the world.

“This cub, the first Clouded Leopard offspring produced with cryopreserved semen, is a symbol of how zoos and scientists can come together to make positive change for animals and preserving global biodiversity,” said Dr. Crosier. “Collaboration is the key to conservation of Clouded Leopards, along with so many other rare and endangered species we care for and study.”

The first successful Clouded Leopard AI was performed at Nashville Zoo in 1992 by Smithsonian scientist JoGayle Howard and Nashville Zoo President Rick Schwartz. In 2015, Dr. Comizzoli contributed to a successful birth using cooled semen and the new AI technique at the Khao Khew Open Zoo in Thailand.

Clouded Leopards are among the most rare of the world’s cat species and one of the most secretive. Due to limited knowledge of this species, they have proved difficult to breed in captivity. They are sensitive to auditory and visual disturbances, increasing the stress levels during captive breeding programs. This factor leads facilities, such as Nashville Zoo, to work with artificial insemination specialists to increase the size and diversity of the captive bred population.