Sacramento Zoo

Teeny Turtles Hatch At Sacramento Zoo

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It’s been a busy hatching season for Western Pond Turtles at the Sacramento Zoo.  So far, seven eggs have been collected from the zoo’s Turtles and placed in an incubator until they hatch after 13 to 17 weeks.

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Photo Credit:  Sacramento Zoo

The tiny hatchlings weigh only five grams at hatching – about the same as five paper clips.  They’ll stay indoors under zoo keepers’ care until they are large enough to be released into lake exhibits within the zoo. 

The Sacramento Zoo is home to one of the largest populations of Western Pond Turtles housed within a zoo.  As Turtles are found in the zoo’s lakes, they are weighed and measured.  This data set, compiled over the last two decades, adds to the body of knowledge on growth information for this species.  Western Pond Turtles in zoos are managed by the AZA Species Survival Plan to maintain genetic diversity. 

In the wild, Western Pond Turtles are native to the western coast of North America, from Canada to Baja California, living in marshes, ponds, and wetlands, where they often bask on logs and boulders.  These Turtles have disappeared from much of the northern segment of their range because wetlands have been converted for agricultural use. As a result, Turtle populations have become fragmented.  The species is listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.


Sacramento Zoo’s Lion Cubs Join Their Pride

Photos by Erik Bowker (2)ZooBorns introduced our readers to a trio of Lion Cubs, at the Sacramento Zoo, in November 2014.  In January, we provided a follow-up, with pictures from their first days on public exhibit. The cubs and their parents are back, and we have awesome new pics of their life as a family unit. 

Photos by Erik Bowker (3)

Photos by Erik Bowker

Photos by Erik Bowker (5)Photo Credits: Erik Bowker (Images 1,2,3,4,5); Andrys Basten (Images 6,7,8,9,10)

The African Lion family of five has been together for a month now, and the interactions between the cubs and parents are amazing to watch. Lions are different from other cat species, living in prides instead of being solitary in their behavior. The 16-week-old trio of cubs are learning from their parents, testing boundaries and sometimes being scolded by mom and dad. They are learning how to be one of the pride, what their roles are and the hierarchy between the cubs themselves.

The cubs also learn specific behaviors from the same sex parent. The male cub pays close attention to how his sire acts, and you'll often see them spending time alone together as the cub learns how to be a male lion. The same goes for the pair of female cubs and time with their mom.

Along with chewing on grass, sticks and sometimes each other, the cubs are nursing less and starting to eat whole food following mom's example at mealtime. This switch will help the cubs get the nutrition they need during their rapid growth spurts. 

The extra barrier in front of the lion exhibit, at the Zoo, has now been removed so visitors can enjoy a better view of the pride.

More amazing pics, below the fold!

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Sacramento Lion Cub Trio Going Public


The Sacramento Zoo’s Lion Cub trio is now on public exhibit! The two female cubs and one male cub are now exploring the exhibit, with curiosity, under the watchful eyes of their mother.



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The mother and her nine week old cubs will have periodic access to the exhibit, giving them time for short romps and lengthy catnaps, as well as time away from the public. Zookeepers will be continuing off-exhibit introductions of the sire to the dam and her cubs, creating one family unit over the next few weeks.

ZooBorns introduced the cubs to readers, back in November. The cubs were born October 24. The lioness has been taking excellent care of her charges, in the behind-the-scenes dens, as they learn to follow her (which is important in Lion society as prides are often on the move) and develop all their skills.

Unlike other cat species that are fairly solitary, Lions live in groups or “prides.” If multiple females in a pride have cubs, they will pool them into a larger cub communal group called a “crèche.” These females will take turns caring and overseeing the crèche, until the cubs are around two years of age.   

Lions usually spend 16 to 20 hours a day sleeping and resting, devoting the remaining hours to hunting, courting and protecting their territory. They are highly territorial and keep in contact with one another by roaring loud enough to be heard up to five miles away. African Lions are excellent hunters. Although they are mostly nocturnal, they are opportunistic and will hunt anytime, day or night. Females do 85 to 90 percent of the pride’s hunting while the males patrol the territory and protect the pride.

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Lion Cub Trio Happy and Healthy

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The Sacramento Zoo was excited to announce the birth of three African Lion cubs on October 24th!  The cubs are now four weeks old. They have learned to walk and are beginning to play with one another, and their first-time mother is continuing to do a fantastic job caring for her cubs.

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Lion-23Dec13 Credit Erik Bowker (25)Photo Credits: Amanda Watters (Image 1,2,3); Erik Bowker (Image 4: "Proud parents")

“So far, we are pleased with the progress of the female and her cubs. Females would naturally take some ‘maternity leave’ from the rest of the pride for the first 4-8 weeks,” said Dr. Adrian Fowler, Acting Director of the Sacramento Zoo. “Our own female will be off-exhibit for a while to allow her the same kind of mother-cub bonding. If all goes well, we are hopeful that the cubs will be ready to explore their exhibit in the weeks running up to Christmas.”

A female lion’s gestation is 3 ½ months with a litter typically ranging from two to four cubs. They are born with eyes closed and rely entirely on their mother for the first few months. Mother and cubs will be inside the den, away from public view, while the babies gain strength and coordination.

Lions usually spend 16 to 20 hours a day sleeping and resting, devoting the remaining hours to hunting, courting and protecting their territory. They protect their territory and keep in contact with one another by roaring loud enough to be heard up to five miles away.  African Lions are excellent hunters. Although they are mostly nocturnal, they are opportunistic and will hunt anytime, day or night. Females do 85 to 90 percent of the pride’s hunting, while the males patrol the territory and protect the pride. 

Lions are classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List, but they are considered regionally endangered in West Africa, where an estimated 42% of major lion populations are declining. Their habitats are now only in game reserves in Eastern and Southern Africa. Loss of genetic diversity from inbreeding, fragmentation, diseases and habitat loss are all problems that continue to threaten this species. Diseases from domestic cats and dogs have also made an impact on wild populations.

The Sacramento Zoo participates in the Lion Species Survival Plan (SSP). The Lion SSP works with captive populations to increase awareness of the problems that face this big cat.

UPDATE! Hand-raised Red Panda Cub Thrives at Sacramento Zoo

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Sacramento Zoo's Red Panda cub is making good progress! The cub, a male born on June 9th, weighs about one and a half pounds (685 grams), and eats about twenty percent of his body weight every day over the course of four feedings. Zoo staff decided to hand-raise the cub at two weeks-old because his mom did not seem to be producing enough milk. (You can read our first story about the cub here.) So far, the effort has been a success: he is exactly where he should be developmentally for his age, slowly gaining coordination and testing out his climbing abilities on veterinarians. His ears have perked up too!

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Photo credits: Mike Owyang / Sacramento Zoo

Watch a video of the cub below: 


See more photos after the fold! 

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UPDATE: Sacramento Zoo's Red Panda Is Thriving!


A baby Red Panda born on June 9 at the Sacramento Zoo is thriving under the constant care of his zoo keepers. 

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Photo Credit:  Mike Owyang


The cub, a male, was the first offspring for the zoo's Red Panda pair. When the cub was about two and a half weeks old, the zoo staff observed that the female may not have been providing enough milk for her cub, so they decided to hand-rear the cub, as described here on ZooBorns.

The cub is a voracious eater, consuming about 20% of his body weight every day in four bottle feedings.  Keepers report that he is on track developmentally for his age, and practices his climbing skills on the veterinarians! 

Zoo guests can see the cub being fed twice a day through the window of the zoo's Veterinary Hospital.

Red Pandas are under threat in their native range in the mountains of Nepal and China due to habitat loss.  The name "panda" is derived from a Nepalese word meaning "bamboo eater."

See more photos of the Red Panda cub below the fold.

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Baby Red Panda Steadily Growing Strong at Sacramento Zoo

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On June 9, a pair of endangered Red Pandas at the Sacramento Zoo welcomed their first offspring, a male. While the first-time mother was attentive, it seemed she might not have been producing enough milk to adequately feed her cub. After two and a half weeks, discussions between veterinary and animal care staff and the Red Panda SSP Coordinator led to a decision to hand-rear the cub. Red Panda cubs have a high mortality rate (50%) within the first 30 days of life. The staff were hopeful that the cub would thrive with additional attention from keepers and veterinary staff. They gave it a stuffed Mama animal to curl up with and began their work.

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Red Smile

Photo Credit: Photos 1,3,4,5: Sacramento Zoo, Photo 2: Erik Bowker

Now, at five weeks old, the Red Panda cub is progressing well. He currently weighs all of 1 pound (0.45 kg) and has steadily gained strength and mobility. Guests have caught a glimpse of the cub through the window at the Murray E. Fowler Veterinary Hospital, where he is fed at around 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., daily.

Here is the Panda cub at one month old:

And the most recent footage at the age of five weeks!

Quadruple the Fun: Ruffed Lemurs Born at Sacramento Zoo

14 days old - Christa Klein

The Sacramento Zoo welcomed four Black-and-white Ruffed Lemur babies on May 17. The babies have been growing fast in an off-exhibit area with mom.

8 days old - Christa Klein

12 days old - Christa Klein

4 days old - Christa Klein

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Photo Credits:  Christa Klein (1,2,3,4); Sacramento Zoo (5)


Ruffed Lemurs are the only primates that keep their young in nests instead of carrying them. In the wilds of their native Madagascar, these Lemurs nest in tree cavities. At the zoo, keepers provide tubs and crates as nesting sites. Just as she would in the wild, the mother Lemur moves her babies from nest to nest in her enclosure.

At a few weeks of age, the baby Lemurs began following mom around and practicing their climbing skills. For now, the babies’ father and older brother live separately from mom and her young, but they can all see and smell each other through a mesh door. This will make the introduction process, when the family is completely reunited in a few months, go much smoother.

Infant Lemurs are pint-sized versions of adults, with the same black-and-white coat colors. Each individual has a slightly different coat pattern with varying amounts of white, black, and even some shades of brown. Eye color often starts out as blue and then changes (often multiple times in the same individual) to yellow, gold, or green.

In Madagascar, Black-and-white Ruffed Lemurs are listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Because they are large, these Lemurs are hunted for their meat. As rain forests are cut to make way for agriculture, the Lemurs’ habitat is destroyed. They now live in only a few isolated forest pockets on the island. 

Breakfast for Three Little Burrowing Owlets


Three Burrowing Owlets recently hatched at the Sacramento Zoo. These fluffy little ones will grow to weigh anywhere between 4.5-9 ounces, and become 7.5 - 10 inches tall with a wingspan of 21 - 24 inches! Males of this species are slightly heavier and have a longer wingspan than the females, which is not the norm with most owls.

Found in dry, open areas with low vegetation like deserts, grasslands, farms, and even golf courses and vacant lots in urban areas, this species hunts either while on the ground or by swooping down from a perch. They will also catch bugs while in flight. In addition to insects, they eat small mammals and at times supplement their diet with reptiles and amphibians. 

Not so for these chicks at the moment. Keeper Maureen Cleary dedicates herself to diligently feeding each Owlet. First she weighs out the amount of food that is appropriate for them at this weight and age, then patiently feeds them one bite at a time from medical scissors, which mimic a beak, just like their own mother would. The Owlets instinctually know what to do, even when their eyes were closed, as seen in the video below, where the chicks are just six days old. 


Photo Credit: Mike Owyang

Burrowing Owls are listed as Endangered in Canada and Threatened in Mexico. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) list it as a Bird of Conservation Concern at the national level. At the state level, Burrowing Owls are listed as Endangered in Minnesota, Threatened in Colorado, and as a Species of Concern in Arizona, California, Florida, Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming 

In the video below, notice that each chick has a colored dot on their little heads. This is temporary, used so the keeper can distinguish them from each other:

See many more pictures of the Owlets after the fold:

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UPDATE! Sacramento Zoo's Playful Tiger Cub is Walking (and Roaring)

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The little male Sumatran Tiger cub, born on March 3rd to mother Bahagia at the Sacramento Zoo, is now eight weeks old. ZooBorns has been reporting on the baby's birth and growth, which you can find HERE and HERE. Named CJ, the cub is now a hefty 16 pounds, has almost all of his teeth in and is very playful with mom. He is not eating solid food yet, but has shown interest by investigating Mom's meals.

The latest development is that CJ is walking!  He spends a lot of time following Mom around, exploring the den, and expanding on his his new abilities with little bouts of jumping.

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Photo Credit Erik Bowker

You can see how playful CJ is with Mom in the video below. Listen to him practice his baby roar near the beginning!

See more pictures after the fold:

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