Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

New Meerkats Join the Mob


Four new Meerkat “kits” were born September 26th, at Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma, Washington!  They’ll be on exhibit for the first time during the “Zoo Boo” event, occurring, at the zoo, this weekend, October 18th and 19th


10661961_10152494376634624_2497394806536504099_oPhoto Credits: Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

The four babies bring the Meerkat total to 21, for the zoo. The little ones weigh just 90 grams, which is comparable to about a half-cup of M&Ms candy!

Meerkats, 'Suricata suricatta', are native to the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, much of the Namibian Desert, southwestern Angola, and South Africa. They are small, diurnal, group-living carnivores belonging to the Herpestid family (mongooses). Primarily insectivores, they will, however, also eat smaller animals, arachnids, small birds, and fungi.

Meerkats are sexually mature at about one year and breed year-round. After an 11 week gestation, females give birth to an average of 3 offspring. Females can have as many as 3 litters a year. Babies are usually weaned between 49 and 63 days. Both parents, as well as non-breeding helpers, provide care to the offspring.

Meerkats are highly social. A meerkat group, known as a “mob" "clan" or "gang," may include as many as three family groups (up to 30 individuals). Each family group is made up of parents and their offspring. Mobs live in burrows consisting of elaborate tunnel systems with multiple entrances. Their dark skin and hair help them absorb heat. When it's time to eat, one adult stays with the young as a "babysitter" while the rest of the mob forages by digging in soil and grass or overturning rocks. They will also take turns doing other jobs, including "sentry," "teacher" and "hunter."

Meerkats are currently listed as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List.

Jasper the Lynx out Perusing the Pumpkins

Jasper_lynx_PtDefiance_1Canada Lynx kitten, ‘Jasper’, was out enjoying the fall atmosphere, recently, at Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma, Washington. The six-month-old was helping the zoo promote their upcoming annual event, “Zoo Boo”, a special fall themed weekend that will be held October 18th and 19th.



Jasper_lynx_PtDefiance_4Photo Credits: Point Defiance Zoo

Jasper was a feature on ZooBorns in July of this year and it is exciting to see him working toward fulfilling his duties as an ambassador for his species, as part of the Species Survival Plan. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums developed the Species Survival Plan (SSP) in 1981, in an effort to help ensure the survival of selected species. SSP programs focus on animals that are in danger of extinction in the wild, when zoo conservationists believe captive breeding programs may be their only chance to survive. 

AZA accredited zoos that are involved in SSP programs engage in cooperative population management and conservation efforts that include research, public education, reintroduction, and field conservation projects. Animal Ambassadors, like Jasper, are an important part of the education provided by SSP programs. By being able to more intimately interact with the animal ambassadors, zoo visitors can gain an understanding about the impact each species can have on the world.

The Canada Lynx is native to North America, and it ranges across Canada, into Alaska and in some parts of the northern Continental United States. Although currently classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated the Canada Lynx as a “Threatened Species” in the lower 48 states.  The species is trapped for its fur and has declined in many areas due to habitat loss.

More great photos below the fold!

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Jasper The Lynx Cub Struts His Stuff At Point Defiance Zoo


Meet Point Defiance Zoo's 9-week-old Canada Lynx kitten. Jasper is part of the Species Survival Plan® for Canada Lynx, which are listed as endangered in Washington state. He now weighs about 4 pounds and is being hand-reared by Point Defiance Zoo staff. Jasper will make periodic appearances around the zoo this summer as he grows into his role as an ambassador for his species.





UPDATE! Clouded Leopard Cub Plays with Future Mate at Point Defiance Zoo

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At the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, the Clouded Leopard cub Tien has a new playmate, who will hopefully become his mate one day. Sang Dao (pronounced Sing Dow), five and a half months old, arrived on September 12 from Tanganyika Wildlife Park near Wichita, Kansas. She’s been settling into her new zoo, and keepers have started introducing her to Tien, who was born May 1 at Point Defiance. These photos were taken the day after her arrival. The two cubs—and their caretakers—seem to have had a wonderful rough-and-tumble time at the introduction. 

“She’s a go-getter girl with high energy,” Senior Staff Biologist Andy Goldfarb says of the new arrival. 

Sang Dao will be visible to visitors in the cub den at the zoo, and she and Tien will sometimes appear there together. The pair will be raised together with the aim of eventually breeding to further their endangered species. They are part of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan for Clouded Leopards. Clouded Leopards typically breed around the age of two.

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5 leopardPhoto Credits: Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

Counting Sang Dao, the zoo now has seven of these endangered creatures.  Overall, there are 96 in North American zoos, and it is not known how many live in their native habitat in Southeast Asia, according to Point Defiance.

See many more playdate photos after the fold!

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Update! Point Defiance's Clouded Leopard Makes Friends in the Cub Den


Point Defiance Zoo's Clouded Leopard cub Tien, first announced HERE on Zooborns, has warmed up to Sumatran Tiger cub Kali at the Zoo's Cub Den. Tien was born on May 1st, making him just over two months old. Tien now weighs 7.8 pounds and continues to grow rapidly.


The Cub Den houses all the zoo's cubs, where keepers can care for them and visitors can get a rare glimpse of the interactions between various endangered species. While Kali lives in the den, keepers have been bringing Tien into the den twice a day for feedings and keeper interactions. Keepers are careful to keep an eye on the two because of their size difference. At 25 pounds, Kali is nearly triple the weight of Tien! Read more about Kali on Zooborns herehere and here.


Point Defiance Zoo is one of only three zoos in the US that breeds these Endangered cats. Native to Southeast Asia, the Clouded Leopard's habitats are threatened by the expansion of palm oil plantations. Point Defiance Zoo participates in the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ Clouded Leopard Species Survival Plan (SSP®), which oversees the clouded leopard populations in zoos worldwide and makes breeding recommendations based on the genetics of each cat. 



Photo Credit Point Defiance Zoo

Meet Sheldon the Playful Serval Cub at Point Defiance Zoo

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Meet Sheldon, Point Defiance Zoo's baby Serval. In addition to little Sheldon, there are a few other young cats at the zoo right now - Kali the Tiger cub and Tien the baby Clouded Leopard. Keepers get them together for playtime both behind the scenes and now at certain times within public view so guests can enjoy their antics. Sheldon can always be identified by his big ears. That size, along with the ability to rotate them independently, allows them to pinpoint small animals close by when hunting.

The Serval (Leptailurus serval), a medium-sized cat found throughout sub-Saharan Africa, lives mainly in thickly covered areas close to water. This species is unusual in that it loves to play in the water.  They practice leaping in it as well, a hunting method they use to catch birds in flight, as well as pouncing on hares and mole rats, which round out their carnivorous diet.

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Photo Credit: Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium

Although the Serval is not considered to be at great risk in the wild, they are being subjected to increasing loss of their wetland habitats, which has led to population declines in certain areas. They are also extensively hunted for their fur. 

See more pictures after the fold:

Shel w toy

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A Second Seal Pup for Point Defiance Zoo


The Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium welcomed its second Pacific Harbor Seal pup in two weeks when mom Qilak delivered a healthy baby on June 10.  Another female, Shila, delivered a pup on June 2.

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Photo Credit:  Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium


The pair of pups made their public debut on June 20.  Zoo keepers report that Shila and Qilak are taking excellent care of their newborns.  The newest pup weighed 22.6 pounds (10.3 kg) at birth.

In the wild, Seals feed on a wide variety of fish.  You can see mother Seal eating fish in the video above.  For now, of course, both pups get all their nutrition through their mothers’ milk.


Got Blubber? Seal Pup Packs It On


A Pacific Harbor Seal born at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium is strong and healthy but needs to gain a layer of blubber before it can go on exhibit in a few weeks, according to its keepers.  The pup, a male, is in an off-exhibit area with his mother, eight-year-old Shila. 

A layer of blubber is important so the pup can regulate his own body temperature. 



Photo credit: Jesse Michener/Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

“Shila is showing wonderful maternal instincts,” zoo general curator Karen Goodrowe Beck said. “She’s pretty calm. She’s a great mom.”

The pups’ father is Q, a 14-year-old male who spent about a year at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium on a breeding loan from the Seattle Aquarium. He returned to Seattle last month.

Right now the pup looks bigger than he is.  He weighs only 23 pounds, which is just 12% of Shila’s 180 pounds.  As an adult, he could weigh up to 375 pounds.

Pacific Harbor Seals are found north of the equator in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. On the West Coast, they range from Alaska to Baja California. They live in near-shore coastal waters and frequent rocky islands, sandy beaches, mudflats, bays and estuaries.  Pacific Harbor Seals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

See more photos of the pup below the fold.

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UPDATE: Baby Tiger Gets Her Bottle at Point Defiance Zoo


A 3-week-old endangered Sumatran Tiger cub made her first public appearance at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium last week, and zoo visitors can now watch twice a day as the cub, named Kali, is bottle-fed by zoo keepers.



Tiger cub
Photo credit: Jesse Michener/Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium


The Tiger was born April 17 to mom Jaya. Malosi is her father.  “She’s spunky, robust, and energetic,” zoo staff biologist Steven Ok said. Kali gets about three ounces of formula five times a day.  Zoo visitors can watch the 10 am and 2 pm feedings.

Sumatran Tigers are critically endangered. Kali is only the third Sumatran Tiger born in North America this year.  There are 74 Sumatran Tigers in North American zoos, and an estimated 300 left in their native habitat on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

The Species Survival Plan® works to ensure genetic diversity in the zoo-based Tiger population through careful breeding recommendations and management.  Habitat loss and poaching are the Tigers’ greatest threats.

“Every Tiger is precious,” said Karen Goodrowe Beck, zoo general curator, who also chairs the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ Sumatran Tiger Species Survival Plan. “We are very pleased at the birth of this cub and with her progress to date. Female cubs are particularly needed in this population. She is a welcome addition.”

One Little Leopard Cub, Just Nine Days Old

Leopard CU

Good news! A healthy male Clouded Leopard cub was born at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium on the morning of May 1. He is the third litter born to Chai Li and her mate Nah Fun. They are part of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums Species Survival Plan, which manages and maintains a population of this species. 

The cub is being bottle-fed and will be hand-reared by zoo staff with extensive experience in the care of these exotic cats. This has produced the best results in terms of health and well-being of newborn cubs. Clouded Leopards are listed as Vulnerable in the wild according to the IUCN, so every one is a precious addition to the population. 

Leopard cub
Photo Credit: Point Defiance Zoo