Phoenix Zoo

What’s In a Name? Help New Baby Find Out


The Phoenix Zoo is home to an adorable new Bornean Orangutan. The new male was born September 2nd, to mother, ‘Bess’, and father, ‘Michael’, and he is the second baby born to the pair, joining eight-year-old sister, ‘Kasih’. 



Phoenix-Zoo-Bornean-orangutan-baby-02-photo-by-Joseph-BeckerPhoto Credits: Joseph Becker / Phoenix Zoo

Bornean Orangutan newborns spend the first four to five months clinging tightly to their mothers, so it will still be awhile before the baby begins moving about independently. At this young age, the baby spends much of his time nursing and sleeping. Orangutan young remain with their mothers until they are around seven years old, making theirs one of the longest childhoods in the animal kingdom.

The Phoenix Zoo is asking for the public’s help in naming the newborn. Their staff has selected five names, each with its own special meaning, and they invite you to vote on your favorite choice. The winning name will be announced at a baby shower event at the Zoo on November 8, 2014, followed by the announcement of the name on Facebook:  ( and Twitter (

Voting ends November 6, 2014 at 8 p.m. MST.

The five potential names are:

Abadi – meaning “enduring”
Duke – honoring the baby’s grandmother Duchess
Jantung – meaning “heart”
Jiwa – meaning “soul”
Warisan – meaning “legacy”

Cast your vote by visiting

Bornean Orangutans are listed as ‘Endangered’ on the IUCN Red List, and scientists estimate that wild orangutans could be extinct in 5-10 years, if their forest habitat continues to be destroyed at the current rate. Forests in Borneo and Sumatra are being destroyed for lumber and to produce palm oil, which is used in countless snack foods, household cleaning supplies and cosmetics. You can help reduce demand for unsustainably harvested palm oil by purchasing products that use certified sustainable palm oil and by supporting the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil at

Threatened Narrow-headed Gartersnakes Born at Phoenix Zoo


The Phoenix Zoo’s Arthur L. and Elaine V. Johnson Foundation Native Species Conservation Center has announced the first-ever propagation of the threatened Narrow-headed Gartersnake (Thamnophis rufipunctatus).

In 2007, the Zoo received a small research population of wild-caught Narrow-headed Gartersnakes in hopes of developing a propagation and release program. On the morning of July 2, 2014, a four-year-old gave birth to 18 neonates in the Zoo’s specially designed outdoor Suzan L. Biehler Herpetarium. All 18 offspring are healthy and were observed capturing live fish within 48 hours. This reproductive event is the culmination of years of husbandry work and scientific research by the Zoo’s conservation staff. This significant birth comes at a critical time since on July 7, 2014 the species was listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. The Zoo has also developed a husbandry manual for this species that is currently in use by members of the GCWG.




“The birth of the Narrow-headed Gartersnakes here is a fulfillment of Phoenix Zoo’s commitment to supporting native species conservation and recovery”, says Stuart Wells, Director of Conservation sand Science at the Phoenix Zoo. “Our dedicated staff has worked tirelessly for many years to achieve this goal. We are proud of this accomplishment and pleased to contribute to the recovery of this species." The Narrow-headed Gartersnake is a unique, highly aquatic species. Its numbers have been declining throughout its range in Arizona and New Mexico for over a decade. Many factors are contributing to the decline including drought, non-native invasive species, wildfire and agricultural/urban encroachment. Beginning in 2006, the Gartersnake Conservation Working Group (GCWG), a multi-partner, collaborative effort, was formed by US Fish and Wildlife Service to help conserve and recover the northern Mexican gartersnake and the Narrow-headed Gartersnake.

“The Narrow-headed Gartersnake is a mid- to high-elevation, stream-dwelling species that is very sensitive to environmental and physical stress”, explains Jeff Servoss, US Fish and Wildlife Service Chair of the Gartersnake Conservation Working Group. “These traits make this species a unique challenge for those trying to not only keep them alive in captivity, but also trying to produce offspring. After many years of trying, by many different institutions, the Phoenix Zoo has finally produced viable Narrow-headed Gartersnakes. This achievement is very noteworthy and a testament to the Zoo's relentless effort to identify the variables that have prevented breeding in the past. This is a significant achievement and a giant step forward for gartersnake conservation." The offspring are being head-started for a period of six to nine months before the majority is released to the wild. The remaining few will be retained for the breeding program. The Zoo is proud of this accomplishment and appreciates the opportunity to support the conservation of wildlife in Arizona and throughout the world.

UPDATE: Andean Bear Cub Needs a Name


The Andean Bear cub born at the Phoenix Zoo in January needs a name, and you are invited to vote through Sunday, June 30.



Photo Credit:  Joseph Becker


The cub’s keepers have selected four names that they feel represent the little cub’s personality.  The potential names are:

Arturo: meaning ‘bear’ and ‘courageous’

Javier: meaning ‘born in January’

Luka: meaning ‘light’ in reference to the white spectacle markings around Andean bears’ eyes

Pepe: meaning ‘he will grow’

Voting will run until 8 p.m. Pacific Time on Sunday, June 30. The results will then be tabulated and the new name will be announced on Tuesday, July 2.

The cub and his mother, Rio, remain behind the scenes at the zoo.  You first met the cub on ZooBorns in April, but as you can see from the photos, he is growing fast.  The cub will make his public debut sometime later this year. 

Andean Bears, also called Spectacled Bears, are native to the Andes Mountains of South America, where they are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.  Only 2,000-2,400 remain in the wild.

See more photos of the cub below the fold.

Continue reading "UPDATE: Andean Bear Cub Needs a Name" »

Wobbly Gerenuk Gets a Push From Mom at the Phoenix Zoo

Phoenix Zoo - Gerenuk Calf - April 2013 - 03

This spring, the Phoenix Zoo welcomed two new members to its Gerenuk herd. The first calf, a female, was born in April while the second, a male, was born in late May. The calves and their moms are doing well. During the first weeks of their lives, baby Gerenuk spent most of their time hiding amongst the bush while their mothers feed close by. 

Phoenix Zoo - Gerenuk Calf - May 2013 - 03

Gerenuk are a type of antelope found native to Africa. Their name, which means "giraffe-necked" in the Somali language, refers to their long necks and ability to stand straight up on their hind legs, which allow them to reach tall tree branches while grazing. 

Phoenix Zoo - Gerenuk Calf - May 2013 - 01

Phoenix Zoo - Gerenuk Calf - April 2013 - 04

Phoenix Zoo - Gerenuk Calf - April 2013 - 05
Photo Credit: Pheonix Zoo

Phoenix Zoo Receives Unexpected Fuzzball

Phoenix Owl 1

For the first time in over a decade, the Phoenix Zoo has a Spectacled Owl chick. The chick was born on February 10th to the zoo's pair of Spectacled Owls. The pair is quite experienced in rearing young having done so six times in the past, albeit not for some time. After over ten years without a baby, and with the female being 20 years old and the male 15, keepers were not sure if the lone egg laid would be fertile.

To the keepers' excitement, on the 10th of February they heard faint vocalizations coming from the nest box and realized they had a chick! However, it would be over a month until they were first able to peer into the nest box when the chick's protective parents were distracted and finally get a glimpse of the newborn. It was not until April 14th, just over two months after hatching, that the chick would fledge and give keepers a good look at their newest addition.

Phoenix Owl 2

Phoenix Owl 3
Photo credits: Amanda Donagi / Phoenix Zoo

The chick has continued to grow since fledging just over a month ago. It is slowly losing its natal fluffy down, replacing it with feathers. It has been observed flying around its exhibit and exploring all of the perches it has to offer. The chick's gender is still unknown and will be determined at its first health examination.

Continue reading "Phoenix Zoo Receives Unexpected Fuzzball " »

Phoenix Zoo's Andean Bear Cub is a Boy!

B pole

The Phoenix Zoo's Andean Bear cub, born in January, recently had its first vet check-up. After patiently waiting for more than three months, they received the exciting news that it's a boy! Rio, the 17-year-old mother, is doing an excellent job raising her young cub, who will soon be named. Andean Bears are a small, arboreal, largely vegetarian bear from the Andes Mountains in South America. They're also called Spectacled Bears due to the white markings on their faces which make them look as if they are wearing glasses. 

The Andean Bear is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species with an estimated 2000-2400 left in the wild. There are approximately 56 Andean bears at 33 different AZA zoos throughout North America who are a part of the Andean bear Species Survival Plan. All work toward the future of this species through managed breeding. The Phoenix Zoo is a part of that SSP and the two bears housed there -- the male Rizzaro, and the female, Rio --were selected for breeding by the SSP. Rizzaro has only been at the Phoenix Zoo since the fall of 2011, but he and Rio hit it off right away! This cub is the 5th cub that has been born and survived in the last six years.

B mom nose

B hay

B play

Photo Credit: Photo 1: Bridget Tighe, All other photos: Christina Goulart 

Recently, for the first time in the presence of the keepers Rio let go of the cub, stepped away, and allowed the cub to be briefly on its own. As mom got a little snack, keepers shot a short video. While Rio quickly returned to her baby, this marks a huge moment in the cub's development. Watch those first baby steps below: 

This next video was the first glimpse keepers got of the newborn cub. About half way through you'll see the little guy yawn:

Here he is at 10 weeks old with mom behind the scenes. Rio cradles the cub in one paw as she gets some of her favored food (fish and pears).

See more pictures after the fold:

Continue reading "Phoenix Zoo's Andean Bear Cub is a Boy!" »

Spritely Grevy's Zebra Foal Second Born at Phoenix Zoo

Zeb laugh

Born on January 19 to parents Masika and Punda, this newest addition to the Phoenix Zoo’s herd of Grevy’s Zebras weighed in at an even 100 pounds (45.35 kg). This is the nineteenth Grevy’s Zebra born at the zoo since 1987. He enjoys exploring his exhibit and is playing with the zoo's other male foal, Utambo, born just a couple of months earlier in November to mother Afiya. Both foals share the same father.

These babies are important, as they add to the sparse population of this Endangered species. There are less than 2,500 left in the wild due to loss of habitat, competition with livestock and poaching. As the largest zebra species, Grevy’s can be distinguished from other zebras by their longer legs, more narrow stripes, a plain white underbelly and large rounded ears. They are only found in northern Kenya and southeastern Ethiopia.

Zeb play

Zeb nose

Zeb solo

Photo Credit: Phoenix Zoo

See more pictures and read how his mother will choose his name after the fold:

Continue reading "Spritely Grevy's Zebra Foal Second Born at Phoenix Zoo " »

Phoenix Zoo Needs Help Naming Its Baby Zebra!


Two months ago a male Grevy's zebra was born at Phoenix Zoo. Now they are asking the public to weigh in on his name! Voting ends this Friday, December 14, at 8 p.m. PT. The choices are as follows, but be sure to visit this link to cast your vote:

Utambo – Meaning “prancing” in Swahili, as the baby zebra likes to run and prance when he and his mom, Afiya, head out onto exhibit in the mornings.
Nissa – Nissa is the name of one of the many fantastic Masai safari guides at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya, Africa, whom a Phoenix Zoo hoofstock keeper got to meet and work with while visiting Lewa earlier this year. Kenya is also where the majority of wild Grevy's zebra are currently found.
Pembe – Meaning “horn” (as in an animal horn) in Swahili. Obviously, zebras do not have horns, but the Grevy’s zebras’ history range encompasses the majority of a territory known as the Horn of Africa.
Ally – Pronounced “ollie”. Ally is the name of an exchange student from Kenya who is currently staying with the family of a Phoenix Zoo hoofstock keeper.



Photo credit: Phoenix Zoo


More Testudines For Your Tuesday?


If you're looking for Turtles and Tortoises today, you've come to the right place. Phoenix Zoo welcomed the birth of a tiny (compared to his dad Ralph that is!) Galapagos Tortoise in late July. Proud parents Ralph and Mary have been at the zoo since before it even opened (50 years!). This is their 13th hatchling over their tenure at the zoo, and the first one for the pair since 2001. The newest addition can be found in its own exhibit in the Small Wonders area of the Children’s Trail.


Photo credit: Paula Swanson (1 and 2) Zoo Staff (3)

Ralph weighs more than 500 pounds. His new baby is about the size of a small cell phone. Chris and Andrew (pictured above with Ralph) of ZooBorns were lucky enough to meet Ralph, Mary, and the new baby in person at The Phoenix Zoo during the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' annual conference.

Eight Little Komodo Dragons To Winter at Phoenix Zoo


The Phoenix Zoo has just recieved eight Komodo dragon babies on loan from the Los Angeles Zoo. Four males and four females, all from the same clutch, hatched between August 6 and August 11. They weigh about 5 ounces each.

Komodo dragons are the largest living species of lizard and can grow larger than 10 feet long and weigh more than 200 pounds. To get an idea of how large these little guys can grow up to be, they can be compared to the zoo's two adult Komodos: Gaia, a 15-year-old female and her brother Ivan. Gaia is 7 feet long and weighs 75 pounds while Ivan weighs in at approximately 120 pounds and is 8 feet long.

The babies will be on display starting Saturday and will be in Phoenix through the spring.

Komodo egg



Photo Credits: The Phoenix Zoo, Egg Photo Credit: Ian Recchio