San Diego Zoo

San Diego Cheetah Sisters Ready to Be Weaned

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The two Cheetah cub sisters, being raised by animal care staff at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, are almost two-months-old.

The sisters were born November 19. Unfortunately, their mother wasn’t caring for them after their birth, so the Zoo’s animal care staff had to intervene.

Although the girls are yet-to-be-named, keepers have been calling them “Yellow” and “Purple” (due to the colors of the temporary ID markings put on their tails).

Nursery staff reports that the cubs are very active and playing almost constantly, with only short catnaps during the day. They are eating ground meat, with some formula supplement, but keepers say they will be weaned very soon.

The two growing Cheetahs have also been given more play area. Previously, the sisters were cared for in the nursery’s large playpen. However, now that they are bigger, they have been given access to their entire nursery room.

To prepare the nursery for the cubs, animal care staff had to “kitten-proof” the room, much the same way that parents would prepare a house for a toddler: electrical sockets were blocked, electrical cords were taken away, and any small spaces or sharp corners were filled or covered with towels and blankets.

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3_32118339302_a4475573c8_oPhoto Credits: San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Guests visiting the Safari Park can see the Cheetahs, currently known as Purple and Yellow, in their nursery at Nairobi Station between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. However, the cubs will eventually be transferred to the San Diego Zoo to serve as animal ambassadors for their species. To prepare the cubs for this, animal care staff at the Park are working with Zoo staff to crate train the cubs, as crate travel will be the primary way the Cheetahs will be transported for their animal ambassador appearances. Keepers attempt to make the crates comfortable and a rewarding place for the cubs to relax, and they encourage the young Cheetahs to retreat to their crates for naps and sleeping.

A recent survey shows that Cheetah populations in their historic range are much lower than previously thought. According to a study published in December 2016, in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, there are only 7,100 Cheetahs remaining within the species’ native habitat. The last comprehensive survey of African cheetah populations was conducted in 1975, when it was estimated there were 14,000 Cheetahs.

San Diego Zoo Global, which has been breeding Cheetahs for more than 40 years, is working to create an assurance population of Cheetahs by participating in the national Cheetah Breeding Center Coalition (BCC). By building a sustainable cheetah population, San Diego Zoo Global and the other eight members of the Cheetah BCC are working to prevent extinction of the world’s fastest land animal. The Cheetah BCC was formed in late 2012 as part of the Cheetah Sustainability Program, a partnership between the Cheetah Species Survival Plan (SSP) and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) program.


San Diego Zoo’s Sloth Baby Has First Health Check

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A baby Linné’s Two-toed Sloth recently received its first health check at the San Diego Zoo!

The baby was born October 12 and now weighs 1.43 pounds (.65 kilograms). Staff also saw four teeth during the exam. According to the Zoo, it is difficult to determine the sex of a sloth at this age, so a hair sample was sent to a lab for analysis, to determine if the baby is male or female.

Zoo visitors may have trouble catching a glimpse of the baby, as it is typically found clinging to its mother, Consuelo, in their nesting box at the Zoo’s Harry and Grace Steele Elephant Odyssey Sloth habitat.

Sloths may begin eating solid foods as early as four days old, but they also continue to nurse until they around four months old (typical weaning age). San Diego Zoo keepers report that their new baby is eating solid foods and has a preference for apples.

To acclimate the baby to being handled for routine health checks and veterinary exams (as part of overall animal welfare), keepers have a plan to work with the baby and the mother on a regular basis. So far, Consuelo has been attentive, but calm, when the keepers hold and interact with her baby.

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3_31166822880_9bb0948e14_oPhoto Credits: San Diego Zoo

Because Sloths are nocturnal, Zoo guests might not be able to see the new family. However, animal care staff have observed that the baby is becoming more independent and is starting to venture away from Consuelo, so staff suggest that guests may have a better chance of seeing the baby if they stop by the exhibit closer to dusk.

Linné’s Two-toed Sloth (Choloepus didactylus), also known as Southern Two-toed Sloth, Unau, or Linnaeus's Two-toed Sloth, is a species from South America. It is native to Venezuela, the Guyanas, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Brazil--north of the Amazon River.

The species has a ten-month gestation period. Their inter-birth rate extends past sixteen months (so there is not an overlap of young to care for). There is generally only one offspring per litter, and the young typically become independent at about a year old.


San Diego Zoo Keepers Care for Cheetah Sisters

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The Animal Care Center nursery, at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, is currently home to a pair of female Cheetah cubs.

The sisters were born November 19. Unfortunately, their mother wasn’t caring for them after their birth, so the Zoo’s animal care staff had to intervene. A team of eight keepers now cares for the cubs, bottle-feeding them a formula specifically designed for Cheetahs. The cubs are weighed daily to monitor their health, and staff also simulate the grooming that the duo would normally receive from their mother.

Although the girls are yet-to-be-named, keepers have been calling them “Yellow” and “Purple” (due to the colors of the temporary ID markings put on their tails). As the cubs grow, the bottle feedings will become less frequent. Zoo staff plans to introduce solid foods at four weeks of age, and when they reach 70-days-old, they will be weaned from their Cheetah formula.

31403299071_9c9f1c6db9_hPhoto Credits: San Diego Zoo Safari Park

According to staff, guests visiting the Safari Park during the month of December can see the Cheetahs in their nursery, at the Nairobi Station exhibit, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. At this stage in their development, they spend about 22 hours a day sleeping, but they are expected to be more active as they mature. Staff have also shared that the lights in their nursery are usually turned off to simulate the darkness of a den, where they would typically spend their first five weeks with their mother.

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is one of nine breeding facilities participating in the Cheetah Breeding Center Coalition (BCC). The goal of the coalition is to create a sustainable Cheetah population that will prevent extinction of the world’s fastest land animal. San Diego Zoo Global has been breeding Cheetahs for more than 40 years, with more than 150 cubs born. It is estimated that the worldwide population of Cheetahs has been reduced from 100,000 in 1900 to just 10,000 left today, with about 10% now living in zoos or wildlife parks.


New Mandrill Joins Troop at San Diego Zoo

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The San Diego Zoo’s Mandrill group welcomed a new addition to their ranks last week. Female, Kesi, gave birth to a baby boy, and he is the first Mandrill born at the Zoo in over 14 years.

Animal care staff had been watching for Kesi to give birth; but the night before, there were still no signs she was in labor. The next day, staff members said they were surprised to see Kesi walk out of her bedroom holding her new baby.

“It’s like every day we would come in, in the morning, and think like there might be a baby – we don’t know,” Jenny Baublit, senior primate keeper at the San Diego Zoo. “To actually see it was pretty incredible. Especially since she came in so quietly, just like a typical morning, but just happen to have a baby with her.”

This is the first baby for Kesi and male Mandrill, Jasper. So far, staff said, they are doing exceptionally well as new parents, and mom is being very attentive to the baby’s nursing needs.

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3_Mandril Baby Ride LGPhoto Credits: San Diego Zoo/Tammy Spratt

The Mandrill (Mandrillus sphinx) is the largest and most colorful of the Old World monkeys. They are easily recognizable by their furry head crests, manes and golden beards. Their bright coloration, red nose and lips, and thick purple and blue ridges along the sides of the nose are also well known.

Mandrills are native to small social units in the rain forests of equatorial Africa. These small groups often join with others to form larger groups called ‘hordes’ that can number in the hundreds and sometimes have more than 1,000 members.

The species is listed as “Vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Their numbers are decreasing due to habitat loss from illegal logging and the bush meat trade (hunting wild species for food). This trade has become lucrative and, as human populations increase, it is becoming a greater threat to many species’ survival.

The San Diego Zoo's first Mandrills, Peter and Suzy, arrived in 1923. More Mandrills arrived in 1938, and a breeding program was established in an effort to bolster the population. More than 34 Mandrills have been born at the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park over the years.

Guests can visit the Zoo’s three Mandrills at ‘Monkey Trail in Lost Forest’. They share an exhibit with Guenons, including Spot-nosed Monkeys and Wolf’s Monkeys.

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes on-site wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is inspiring children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network, reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.


Sweet Surprise for San Diego Zoo Gorilla Keepers

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Gorilla keepers at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park arrived to a surprising workday on October 19. They discovered that their expectant Western Lowland Gorilla mom-to-be, Kokamo, had given birth to a tiny female!

The baby weighed approximately 4 pounds at birth, and staff observed her nursing with her new mom. After a health assessment of mom and baby, the Zoo reports that keepers kept to their normal routine and released all of the Gorillas from the troop back into the exhibit.

Aside from the initial assessment, animal care staff don’t intend to have contact with the baby (which has not yet been named) until she is much older.

Keepers report that Kokomo is a very protective and attentive mother. She is also allowing the other members of the troop to check out the new baby, but the Zoo stresses that visitors to the Park should expect the newborn to be held by her mother constantly, making it difficult to see the baby in the arms of her 229-pound, protective, mom.

This is the second baby for mother Kokomo and father Winston, at the Safari Park. Winston doesn’t have a direct role in caring for the baby at this point, but he will continue to be protective of the rest of the troop of eight Gorillas, which consists of: one adult male, three adult females, 5-year-old Monroe, 8-year-old Frank and 2-year-old Joanne.

GorillaSafari_002_LGPhoto Credit: Ken Bohn/ San Diego Zoo Safari Park

The Western Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) is one of two subspecies of the Western Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla) that lives in montane, primary and secondary forests and lowland swamps in central Africa in Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. It is the Gorilla most common to zoos.

The main diet of the Gorilla species is roots, shoots, fruit, wild celery, tree bark and pulp, which are provided for in the thick forests of central and West Africa. An adult will eat around 18 kg (40 lb) of food per day. Gorillas will climb trees up to 15 meters in height in search of food.

Females do not produce many offspring, due to the fact that they do not reach sexual maturity until the age of 8 or 9. Female gorillas give birth to one infant after a pregnancy of nearly nine months. Unlike their powerful parents, newborns are tiny (weighing about four pounds) and able only to cling to their mothers' fur. The infant will ride on mother’s back from the age of four months through the first two or three years of life. Infants can be dependent on the mother for up to five years.

The Western Lowland Gorilla is classified as “Critically Endangered” on the IUCN Red List. Population in the wild is faced with a number of factors that threaten it to extinction. Such factors include: deforestation, farming, grazing, and the expanding human settlements that cause forest loss. There is also said to be a correlation between human intervention in the wild and the destruction of habitats with an increase in bushmeat hunting.


Reptile Hatchings at San Diego Zoo Boost Rare Species

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Two rare reptile species native to two delicate island ecosystems—the Black Tree Monitor, native to the Aru Islands off the coast of Papua New Guinea; and the Mossy Leaf-tailed Gecko, native to Madagascar—have reproduced at the San Diego Zoo and offer hope for two little-known, yet important species.

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Monitor_001_WebPhoto Credit:  San Diego Zoo

Four Black Tree Monitor babies hatched from eggs laid in January and are the first ever hatched at the zoo.  The young lizards weigh about two-fifths of an ounce each, and are doing well.

Black Tree Monitors live in the hot, humid forests and mangrove swamps of the Aru Islands off the coast of Papua New Guinea. They are dependent on the forest canopy to survive, but most of the regional forest on the Aru Islands has already been lost. Other threats to the species include the pet trade and non-native predators, such as foxes and cats. With the threats the Black Tree Monitor faces in the wild, establishing insurance populations in accredited zoos will help ensure the survival of the species.

Mossy Leaf-tailed Geckos face similar challenges in the wild, and have also experienced recent breeding success. The zoo received a confiscated group of mossy Leaf-tailed Geckos in 2010. The geckos have since produced eight hatchlings, with several generations now thriving at the zoo.

Leaf-tailed Geckos have evolved to resemble leaves, blending into their forest surroundings to avoid predators and better ambush their insect prey. However, more than 80 percent of Madagascar’s forests have been decimated by logging, agriculture, housing development and other human activity, threatening the future of the species. With these ongoing threats, keeping healthy satellite populations outside of Madagascar is increasingly important as a safeguard against extinction.


Rare Lemur Born at San Diego Zoo

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On May 18, 2016, a male Red Ruffed Lemur was born at the San Diego Zoo’s behind-the-scenes Primate Propagation Center. It has been 13 years since the last Red Ruffed Lemur was born at the zoo, and excitement is in the air.

The San Diego Zoo has a successful history of breeding Red Ruffed Lemurs; in fact, more than 100 born have been born here since 1965. That success is attributed to the zoo’s Primate Propagation Center, a facility specifically designed for breeding Lemurs.

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Photo Credit:  San Diego Zoo

"Red Ruffed Lemur Morticia is a first-time mom, but she has proven to be a great mother,” said Kristen Watkins, a primate keeper at the San Diego Zoo. For the first week after the birth, it was important for keepers to get daily weights on the infant, to make sure he was gaining weight. A rising weight indicates that the baby is successfully nursing and that mom is taking good care of him. Morticia is willing to let keepers borrow her infant in exchange for some of her favorite fruits, but she is eager to get him back, Watkins said. The infant has been gaining about one-third of an ounce (10 grams) a day and is getting more active and aware of his surroundings. Although he currently weighs only 6.6 ounces (188 grams), Red Ruffed Lemur babies grow up fast. During his first month, keepers expect him to be exploring outside of his nest, with Morticia watching closely.

This rare species is included in Primates in Peril: The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates, published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature SSC Primate Specialist Group, and every birth of a Red Ruffed Lemur is a critically important one. They are only found in one region in the entire world: the Masoala Peninsula in Madagascar, which is undergoing deforestation.

San Diego Zoo Global leads on-site wildlife conservation efforts at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents.


Baby Giraffe Drops In At San Diego Zoo

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The San Diego Zoo’s Masai Giraffe herd grew with the addition of a male calf at the end of May. 

The newborn calf stood six feet tall and tipped the scales at 146 pounds.  Like all Giraffes, Harriet, the calf’s mother, gave birth to her baby while standing up.  The baby emerges front feet first and drops to the ground.  The fall helps separate the calf from the placenta and stimulates breathing.

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Masai Giraffes are one of nine Giraffe subspecies that range across Africa.  Populations have fallen by nearly half in the last decades to about 80,000 individuals today, mainly due to habitat loss.  Giraffes must also compete with livestock for resources.  In some parts of Africa, armed conflicts have complicated conservation efforts and put Giraffes further at risk.

 


Snow Day for Jaguar Cub at San Diego Zoo

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April 28th was a rainy morning in San Diego, but at the San Diego Zoo, the forecast called for snow! One-year-old Jaguar cub Valerio and his mom, Nindiri, woke up to an unexpected surprise: piles of fresh, glistening snow blanketing their habitat.

According to staff, the duo appeared cautious when they entered their exhibit, stepping gingerly on the snow, unsure how to react to the novel substance. However, after a few minutes, the pair started exploring, climbing, searching for buried meatballs and showcasing their natural behaviors while enjoying their chilly enrichment surprise. Animal care staff said the cats’ personalities really shined through, and it was fascinating seeing them venture to parts of their habitat they normally wouldn’t explore that early in the day.

The 8-tons of fresh powder was provided through a generous donation, to the Zoo’s animal care wish list, as an enrichment item for the Jaguars. The San Diego Zoo provides enrichment for the animals in its care, in an effort to encourage their natural behaviors and an attempt to provide them opportunity to thrive. The snow day marked the first time this mom and cub have ever encountered snow.

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3_JagSnow_01_LGPhoto Credits: San Diego Zoo

 

The Jaguar (Panthera onca) is a feline in the genus Panthera and is the only extant species native to the Americas. It is the third largest feline after the tiger and the lion. Their native range extends from the Southwestern United States and Mexico, across much of Central America, and south to Paraguay and northern Argentina. Apart from a possible population in southern Arizona and the lower south of New Mexico, the species has been largely extirpated from the U.S. since the early 20th Century.

The Jaguar resembles the leopard, but it is usually larger, with behavioral characteristics closer to those of the tiger. They prefer dense, forested habitation. The Jaguar is largely solitary and is a stalk-and-ambush predator.

Gestation for Jaguars lasts 93-105 days, and females will give birth to up to four cubs (typical litters consist of two). The mothers do not tolerate the presence of males after giving birth (due to fear of infanticide). The young are born blind, and their eyes open at about 2 weeks. The cubs are weaned at three months, but they remain in the den for six months to learn hunting and life skills from the mother.

Unfortunately, demand for the Jaguar’s beautiful rosette-pattern fur is one of the reasons this species is listed as “Near Threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In addition, Jaguars are losing precious habitat, and human-Jaguar conflicts are causing their numbers to decrease rapidly. There are only an estimated 10,000 Jaguars left in the wild.

San Diego Zoo Global partners with the Wildlands Network and Latin American conservationists to study, monitor and protect Jaguars. Through those efforts, combined with educational outreach to local communities, the San Diego Zoo hopes to decrease human-Jaguar conflicts.

Zoo guests can visit Valerio, his mother Nindiri and their next-door lion mates, M’bari and Etosha, in their habitats at the Zoo’s Harry and Grace Steele Elephant Odyssey.


Trouble Comes in…Fours?

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The “cute meter” hit an all-time high the morning of April 18, as the Meerkat mob at the San Diego Zoo showed off four new additions to the family. Mom Debbie gave birth to four adorable baby Meerkats, and the pups have left their den to explore the interesting world above ground.

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4_Meerkat pup Feeding_LGPhoto Credits: San Diego Zoo

 

Animal care staff became excited when they realized Debbie was pregnant with a new litter, and they began to diligently monitor her weight to estimate when the pups would arrive.

In March, Zoo staff noticed Debbie was spending her time underground, indicating it was time to give birth. Normally, Meerkat moms keep their newborns secluded underground for up to a week before allowing them to meet with the rest of the family; however, Debbie surprised everyone by introducing the babies after only three days!

The four youngsters are now regularly out of their den playing, eating and exploring their habitat. Animal Care staff explains that in Meerkat society, everyone has a job, whether it’s being a sentry or babysitting. Now that the pups are old enough, every member of the family (under the direction of Debbie, of course) will provide the babies with important survival training, including the most important Meerkat behavior: digging.

Zoo staff says that, for Meerkats raising new pups, it takes a village—or, in this case, a mob. “The rest of the family, made up of older siblings, is also very involved with raising the pups,” says Liz Johnson, keeper. “They are great babysitters and are constantly checking on them. The pups are very vocal, and their siblings are quick to respond if they call out.”

Although their name may cause some confusion, Meerkats are not 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.

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!

San Diego Zoo guests can see mom Debbie, her four adorable pups and the other 12 members of the mob play, nap and eat in their habitat.

*Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes on-site wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is inspiring children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network, reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.