Smithsonian National Zoo

Two Cheetah Litters Born at Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

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The Smithsonian's National Zoo celebrated International Cheetah Day (December 4) with ten genetically valuable cubs! They were all born at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute last month. First-time mother Miti birthed a litter of seven cubs on November 12. Six of her cubs made it through those critical early days—five females and one male. Experienced mother Ally gave birth to a litter of four cubs on November 26. Animal care staff have not fully examined Ally’s cubs yet but both litters are doing well so far. Staff are keeping an eye on the litters with closed-circuit webcams, and will have more updates in the coming weeks.  

The birth of these ten cubs is excellent news for this Vulnerable species; according to the Internation Union for Consservation of Species, there are an estimated 7,500 adult Cheetahs in the wild. The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, launched in 2010, works to conserve endangered species and train conservationists. 

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Photo Credit: Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute / Amber Dedrick (1) 

Tiger Cubs Pass Their Swim Test at Smithsonian's National Zoo

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Two Sumatran Tiger cubs took a brisk doggy paddle at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo on November 6 and passed their swim reliability test. The male and female cubs, named Bandar and Sukacita (SOO-kah-CHEE-tah), were born at the zoo on August 5. All cubs born at the zoo's Great Cats exhibit must undergo the swim reliability test to prove that they will be safe on exhibit. Bandar and Sukacita were able to keep their heads above water, navigate to the shallow end of the moat and climb onto dry land. Now that they have passed this critical step, the cubs are ready to explore the habitat with their mother, 4-year-old Damai.

“Tigers are one of the few species of cats that enjoy taking a dip in water,” said Craig Saffoe, curator of great cats. “The moat exists for the safety of our visitors, but it could present an obstacle for young cats. Our job is to make sure that if the cubs venture into the moat, they know how and where to get out. These cubs represent hope for their critically endangered species’ future, so we need to take every precaution to ensure their survival.”

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7 tigerPhoto credits: Smithsonian's National Zoo

Click here to see video. 

Both cubs took the test under the guard of animal keepers Dell Guglielmo and Marie Magnuson, who gently guided the cubs in the right direction. The shallow end of the moat is approximately 2 ½ feet (.75 m) deep. The side of the moat closest to the public viewing area is about 9 feet deep and is an essential safety barrier that effectively keeps the cats inside their enclosure.

This is the first litter of Tiger cubs born at the zoo since 2006, and the first litter for mom Damai. The cubs were sired by the zoo’s 12-year-old male Tiger, Kavi. Friends of the National Zoo hosted an opportunity to name one of the zoo’s Tiger cubs on the website Charity Buzz. On November 1, the winning bidder elected to name the female cub Sukacita, which means “joy” in Indonesian. The $25,000 donation supports ongoing research and education outreach at the Great Cats exhibit. Keepers selected the male cub’s name, Bandar, in honor of Bandar Lampung—a southern port city in Sumatra.

Starting Monday November 18, keepers will decide on a day-to-day basis whether Sukacita and Bandar will spend time in the yard and for how long they will be out. This decision will be based on weather and how the cubs adjust to being outdoors.

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UPDATE! National Zoo’s Giant Panda Cub is a Healthy Girl


The Giant Panda cub born at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo on August 23 received her first veterinary exam on September 16. (See our first story here.) She was given a clean bill of health. Mother Mei Xiang (may-SHONG), who has spent much of the past three and-a-half weeks cradling the cub, put down her baby and left her den at 4:11 p.m. The panda team, which has been preparing for an opportunity to perform a full veterinary exam, retrieved the cub while Mei Xiang ate bamboo and drank some water in the adjacent enclosure. The speedy exam was completed by 4:31 p.m.


“It’s amazing to see how much she has grown in less than one month,” said Brandie Smith, senior curator of mammals and Giant Pandas. “Mei Xiang continues to be a great mom, as she was with her first cub, Tai Shan, and it shows.”


Since her preliminary health check on August 25, the cub has more than doubled her weight. She now weighs slightly less than two pounds (.9 kg), up from 4.8 ounces (146 g), and has the signature black markings of a Giant Panda. Her heart rate was 130 beats per minute, and her respiratory rate was 42. From nose to tail she is 10.6 inches (27 centimeters) long and 9.8 inches (25 centimeters) wide around her belly. Her eyes have not opened yet.


After the exam was completed, Mei Xiang returned to her den and immediately picked up her cub and began grooming her. The David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat has been closed to the public since August 2, and will remain closed until further notice to provide quiet for Mei Xiang and her cub. Both are visible on the live panda cams



Photo Credits; Courtney Janney, Smithsonian's National Zoo

Giant Panda Cub Brings Smiles to Smithsonian's National Zoo


There was excitement in the air on Friday, August 23 at the Smithsonian's National Zoo. The zoo's panda team watched the panda cam anxiously as Mei Xiang, the zoo's female panda, went into labor around 3:36 pm. After two hours, at 5:32 pm, she gave birth to a cub! Viewers heard the cub vocalize and caught a quick glimpse before Mei Xiang immediately began cradling it. The cub had its first neonatal exam on Sunday morning. It appeared robust, active and a healthy shade of pink. The cub weighed 4.8 ounces (137 grams) and is nursing and digesting successfully. At the time of the exam, it had a full belly. 


“I’m glued to the new panda cams and thrilled to hear the squeals, which appear healthy, of our newborn cub,” said Dennis Kelly, director of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. “Our expansive panda team has worked tirelessly analyzing hormones and behavior since March, and as a result of their expertise and our collaboration with scientists from around the world we are celebrating this birth.”


Panda pregnancies can be tricky. Artificial insemination has been long used and is one of the more successful methods of producing cubs for Giant Pandas in captivity. Changes in hormone levels and behaviors indicate a pregnancy or pseudopregnancy. The only way to definitively differentiate between a true pregnancy and a pseudopregnancy is seeing a fetus on an ultrasound. In Mei's pregancy, a secondary rise in urinary progesterone on July 10 indicated that she would either give birth or experience a pseudopregnancy in just over a month. Her behavior was consistent with this. She experienced decreased appetite and began spending more time in her den. An ultrasound on August 5 showed no evidence of a fetus. However, by August 11 she began body licking and cradling toys, which indicated that she could give birth soon. Luckiy, she did! A paternal analysis will determine the father of the pup within a few weeks. Mei Xiang was artificially inseminated twice on March 30 with semen from both Tian Tian, the zoo's male Giant Panda, and San Diego Zoo's male Giant Panta, Gao Gao.


This is Mei Xiang's third cub as a result of artificial insemination. Her first cub, Tai Shan, was born in 2005. He now lives at the Panda Base in BiFengxia in Ya'an China. The zoo's pandas live in the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda habitat, where they conduct cutting-edge research crucial to the survival of this endangered species.

Photo Credits Courtney Janney, Smithsonian's National Zoo

Sumatran Tiger Cubs are a Long-Awaited Victory at Smithonian's National Zoo


The Smithsonian's National Zoo's family of Sumatran Tigers has grown by two! On Monday, August 5, the Zoo's female tiger, Damai, gave birth to a pair of cubs. Damai has been a great mother to the cubs, who are her first litter. She has been observed grooming and nursing them. Keepers are remotely monitoring Damai and her cubs, allowing the new family time and space to bond.


Damai arrived at the Zoo in over two years ago and Kavi, the father, arrived one year ago. The two were paired as a recommendation from the AZA's Sumatran Tiger Species Survival Plan. Over the course of six months, they were slowly introduced to each other. In June, Damai began gaining weight and exhibiting behaviors that indicated she could be pregnant. On June 21, staff performed an ultrasound and confirmed the pregnancy. “It’s taken more than two years of perseverance getting to know Damai and Kavi and letting them get to know each other so that we could reach this celebratory moment,” said Craig Saffoe. “All I can do is smile because the team has realized our goal of producing critically endangered tiger cubs. Damai came to us as a young tiger herself, so it’s really special to see her become a great mom.”


The cub comes as a victory for the species. Sumatran Tigers are Critically Endangered, with an estimated 400-500 individuals in the wild. In addition to these cubs, there are just 65 Sumatran Tigers living in North American accredited zoos.

Photo Credit Smithsonian National Zoological Park

First Wild Horse Born from Artificial Insemination at Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute


In a huge breakthrough for the survival of an endangered species, the first Przewalski’s Horse to be born via artificial insemination was delivered at the National Zoo's Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) on July 27.  



Photo Credit:  Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

SCBI reproductive physiologist Budhan Pukazhenthi and the Przewalski’s Horse husbandry team spent seven years working closely with experts at The Wilds and Auburn University in Alabama to perfect the technique of assisted breeding. Both the filly and the first-time mother Anne are in good health and bonding.

“It seems reasonable to assume that reproduction for the Przewalski’s Horse would be similar to domestic Horses, but it simply isn’t the case,” said Pukazhenthi. “This is a major accomplishment, and we hope our success will stimulate more interest in studying and conserving endangered equids around the world.” 

Anne was born at SCBI and is the daughter of a mare imported from Europe and the most genetically valuable stallion in the U.S. The filly’s father Agi also lives at SCBI. The Przewalski’s Horse is considered the last wild Horse on the planet, although it is often mistaken for a breed of domestic Horse, the Norwegian Fjord. Little is known about wild equids despite the extensive knowledge of domestic Horses.

Read more and see additional photos below the fold.

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It's Twin Maned Wolf Pups for the Smithsonian Institute

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The onset of summer for the Animal Care staff at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va., means patiently awaiting endangered-animal births, hand raising youngsters, and saying farewell to cubs that are ready to be matched with mates. All of the species—which range in International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List status from near threatened to endangered—are significant and represent great conservation successes.

One of the new births of these important animals were two male Maned Wolf pups, born on April 14 to 2-year-old female Vitani and 8-year-old male, Paul. The pups received a clean bill of health at their first veterinary exam, appearing robust and healthy. Keepers have nicknamed the pups “Bold” and “Shy” for their distinctive personalities. 

Only 85 Maned Wolves are part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan, and these pups account for 40 percent of successful Maned Wolf births in the United States this year. A leader in Maned Wolf conservation, SCBI has had 74 pups born there since 1975—more than any other institution.

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Photo Credit: Janice Sveda

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Every Day is Play Day for Clouded Leopard Cubs


Two Clouded Leopard cubs born at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute on February 6 have three goals:  to play, play, and play some more!

At two-and-a-half months old, the cubs are growing fast and becoming more adventurous.  Recently, as a zoo keeper cleaned their enclosure, the cubs decided to play in the water spraying from the hose.  This was the first time the cubs experienced getting wet – but as you can see from the photos, they didn’t seem to mind at all.




Photo Credits:  Janice Sveda, Smithsonian's National Zoo

The cubs, a male and a female, recently had a routine veterinary check-up and were proclaimed healthy and strong.  You can see their baby photos here, here, and here.

These two cubs are genetically valuable to the zoo population of Clouded Leopards.  The cubs’ parents, Jao Chu and Hannibal, were born in Thailand and came to the Smithsonian as part of a collaborative research program. 

See more playful photos and read more below the fold.

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UPDATE! Clouded Leopard Cubs at Smithsonian's Front Royal are Growing Up


The Clouded Leopard cubs born at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute-Front Royal recently turned 2 months old, which means they’re big enough to have access to a larger enclosure with big climbing structures. Keepers report that the cubs spend most of their time playing and like to climb as high as they can! They’ve also mastered eating solid foods and are steadily gaining weight. The male weighs just over 4.5 pounds, and the female weighs about 3.5 pounds.

Read more about the cubs and see pictures of them as newborns in earlier posts on ZooBorns HERE and HERE.




Photo Credit: Janice Sveda, Smithsonian's National Zoo

Continue after the fold to more of these playful baby pictures!

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Nothing Says "It's Springtime" Like The Birth of Clouded Leopard Cubs

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Nashville Zoo is pleased to announce the births of two litters of Clouded Leopard cubs. On March 26, Jing Jai gave birth to one female cub and Baylie gave birth to one male and one female. All three are doing well and are being hand-raised by the Zoo’s animal care staff.

“Nashville Zoo is a leader in Clouded Leopard conservation, with 18 Clouded Leopards born at our off-exhibit breeding facility since 2009,” said Karen Rice, carnivore supervisor at Nashville Zoo. “These cubs will remain a part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Clouded Leopard population as breeding cats, education or exhibit animals. Whatever role they play, they will contribute to the ongoing conservation effort.” 



Photo credits: Amiee Stubbs


Clouded Leopards are considered endangered because of deforestation, poaching and the pet trade. Nashville Zoo is a member of the Thailand Clouded Leopard Consortium, an ongoing collaboration with the National Zoo, Point Defiance Zoo, Clouded Leopard Species Survival Program and Zoological Park Organization of Thailand (ZPO) to develop a multi-faceted clouded leopard conservation program that includes a viable self-sustaining captive population. 

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