Smithsonian National Zoo

Ever Seen a Frog This Tiny? Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and Collaborators Successfully Breed Endangered Species

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The Limosa Harlequin Frog (Atelopus limosus), an endangered species native to Panama, now has a new lease on life. The Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project is successfully breeding the chevron-patterned form of the species in captivity for the first time. The rescue project is raising nine healthy frogs from one mating pair and hundreds of tadpoles from another pair.

“These frogs represent the last hope for their species,” said Brian Gratwicke, international coordinator for the project and a research biologist at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, one of six project partners. “This new generation is hugely inspiring to us as we work to conserve and care for this species and others.”

Nearly one-third of the world’s amphibian species are at risk of extinction. The rescue project aims to save priority species of frogs in Panama, one of the world’s last strongholds for amphibian biodiversity. While the global amphibian crisis is the result of habitat loss, climate change and pollution, a fungal disease, chytridiomycosis, is likely responsible for as many as 94 of 120 frog species disappearing since 1980.

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Photo Credit: Brian Gratwicke, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

See more pictures and read much more about these frogs, and the great efforts to preserve their species, after the fold:

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Rare Kiwi Hatches at Smithsonian National Zoo's Front Royal Facility

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In early February, the National Zoo's very successful Kiwi breeding program continued in their contributions to the conservation of this rare flightless bird hailing from New Zealand. The chick was born at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute's Front Royal campus. The facility, which is not open to the public, is designed with the sole purpose of breeding rare and endangered species. 

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Photo credits: Chris Crowe / Smithsonian National Zoo

The National Zoo is one of the foremost experts in the world when it comes to the breeding of Kiwis. Back in 1975, the zoo was the first facility outside of New Zealand to hatch one of these precious chicks. As experts, they are often tasked with helping with helping other zoos hatch their eggs. This chick came from an egg that was shipped over to their facility in January from the Columbus Zoo. 

Kiwis are difficult to sex, so researchers sent out shards of the egg shell for genetic testing to help make this determination. The results came in...it's a girl! Caretakers have reported that this little girl is doing well. She is very active, eating and drinking well, and gaining weight each and every day. 


Twin Andean Bear Cubs Thriving at National Zoo

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The Smithsonian’s National Zoo’s eight-week-old Andean Bear cubs received a clean bill of health this week during their veterinary exam. The cubs received a complete physical, which included listening to their hearts and lungs; checking their mouths, eyes, legs, feet and genital area; and feeling their bellies. The cubs also received the first of a series of routine vaccines. Although it is difficult to determine the sex at such a young age, the cubs appear to be male and female. The larger cub weighs 10.1 pounds; the smaller weighs 9.2 pounds.

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Photo Credit: Beth Branneu / Smithsonian's National Zoo

You read about the cubs on ZooBorns soon after their birth on December 14.  The cubs have spent the past two months bonding in the den with their mother, Billie Jean. Animal care staff and the public have had the unique opportunity to watch Billie Jean give birth, nurture her cubs, and watch them play and grow via the live Andean Bear Cub Cam.

The family’s public debut will take place later this spring.  Andean Bears—also known as Spectacled Bears—are listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, and it is estimated that there are only 2,000 left in their natural habitat. They inhabit mountainous areas from Venezuela to Bolivia.

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Two Handfuls of Clouded Leopard Born at Smithsonian National Zoo

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On February 6th, two Clouded Leopard cubs were born at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute of Smithsonian National Zoo

Six days later, the zoo announced that the cubs had opened their eyes and had healthy appetites, drinking milk seven times a day! 

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Photo Credits: Janice Sveda / Smithsonian National Zoo

Watch caretakers of Smithsonian National Zoo hand-rearing Clouded Leopard cubs born in March 2011. Sita and Ta Moon are the mother and father of this year's newborn cubs as well as the cubs in the video. 

 
Learn more about Clouded Leopards after the fold. 

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Seeing Double: Andean Bear Cubs Born at Smithsonian National Zoo

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The Smithsonian National Zoo is celebrating the birth of two Andean Bear cubs born overnight on December 13 to 6-year-old Mom, Billie Jean. The first cub was born around 12:01 a.m. and the second at 2:02 a.m. These two cubs were sired by Nikki, who passed away in August.

This species has a high mortality rate, with first-year mortality at 41 percent for males and 44 percent for females. The Andean Bear population in human care has experienced a lull in the past six years and these cubs are the only surviving Andean cubs in a North American Zoo since Billie Jean’s first cubs, Bernardo and Chaska, were born in 2010.

Animal Care Sciences staff will monitor the cubs on the Andean Bear Cam, but will leave Billie Jean to nurture and bond with her cubs without interference. It will be at least two months before keepers and veterinarians can determine the cubs’ sex.

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Photo Credit: Smithsonian’s National Zoo

The public can also view Billie Jean and the cubs on the live camera on the Zoo’s website or mobile app. For now the Zoo will be collecting screenshots in a Flickr album and is asking the public to contribute images and video to a separate Flickr album. The Zoo will also post updates on Facebook and Twitter.


UPDATE! Fishing Cat Kittens Play Till They're Tuckered Out at Smithsonian's National Zoo

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The Fishing Cat kittens at the Smithsonian National Zoo are growing up purrfectly, spending their days romping around their yard and catching fish! And yes, Fishing Cats do like to get into the water. They use their flatened tail like a rudder to steer them when they paddle around. But sometimes all that activity wears them out and they need to take a kitten nap.

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Born May 18 to Mom Electra, the kittens are now six months old. Their birth was an important milestone for the National Zoo, as it was the first time Fishing Cats had successfully bred and given birth there. You can read more about them and see all their baby pictures right here on Zooborns.com

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Photo Credit: Photo 1: FONZ Photo Club member Barbara Statas, Photo 2- Smithsonian National Zoo


Peek-A-Boo... It's an Elephant Shrew!

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Meet one of the National Zoo's newest babies! This adorable Short-eared Elephant Shrew is just weeks old and can be seen at the zoo's Small Mammal House. Elephant Shrews are small insectivorous mammals whose name comes from their noses' resemblance to the trunk of an elephant. They are in fact more closely related to elephants than they are to shrews! Elephant Shrews are one of only a handful of monogamous mammals and are a model group for the study of monogamy. 

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Photo courtesy of FONZ Photo Club member Clyde Nishimura.


Tentacled Snake babies a surprise for National Zoo's staff

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The newest additions to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo were a surprise even to the keepers: eight Tentacled Snakes were born October 21 to parents that have not produced viable young in the past four years, despite breeding attempts. Tentacled Snakes are aquatic, produce live young and are ambush hunters. They use their tails to anchor themselves and wait underwater for their prey. They get their name from the unique tentacles that protrude from their snout and function as sensory mechanisms that allow the reptiles to pick up vibrations from fish that swim by.

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“Within a few hours of being born, the snakes were already acting like adults,” said Matt Evans, Reptile Discovery Center keeper. “Instincts took over and they were hunting. We don’t know much about this cryptic species, but we’re already learning so much just watching them grow.”

Tentacled Snakes are native to the mangrove swamps of southeast Asia.  They can remain underwater for up to 30 minutes.  Known as rear-fanged snakes, their venomous fangs are located in the back of the mouth.  They are not considered dangerous to humans. 

The zoo’s four adult snakes are on exhibit at the Reptile Discovery Center, while the eight young snakes will likely be sent to other zoos when they get older. Only a few zoos exhibit this species, which is listed as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Photo Credit: Brittany Steff, Smithsonian’s National Zoo.

Tickled Pink! Flamingo Chick Hatches at Smithsonian National Zoo

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On July 29 a Flamingo chick hatched at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. Its sex has not yet been determined. The flock of 63 birds produces about 15 fertile eggs in a normal breeding season, however, the flock had irregular mating patterns this year. They produced only six eggs and did not construct nests that were sufficient to foster them. So this little chick is being raised by hand by Bird House keepers, who work closely with the Zoo's Department of Nutrition to ensure that the chick is growing at an appropriate rate. They feed it a formula designed to mimic the crop milk produced by flamingo parents and just recently added Flamingo pellets to its diet, which contains the carotenoid pigments that turn a flamingo's plumage pink. 

In the next few months, the chick will join the rest of the flock in the outdoor Flamingo exhibit. Before it is introduced to the flock, the chick will stay in a holding pen where it can observe the adults until it is fully independent. Its feathers are fluffy and white now, but once it is on exhibit, visitors will recognize the chick by its smaller size and gray color. It will gain some pink feathers and its bill will be more pronounced and begin to show the trademark bend at around 6 months of age. By its first birthday, the chick will have a plumage of light pink feathers. The darker pink color will develop fully by two or three years of age.

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Photo Credit: Smithsonian National Zoo


Meet National Zoo's Bustard and Burrowing Owl Chicks

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The Smithsonian’s National Zoo welcomed two Kori Bustard chicks that hatched June 9 and 10. Keepers are hand-raising the chicks, which increases the likelihood that the chicks will breed successfully once they reach sexual maturity. Hand-rearing has another benefit; several wild birds of prey reside on Zoo grounds, and raising the chicks inside the Bird House eliminates the chance of conflict. The Zoo’s Nutrition department developed a specialized diet that contains pellets, crickets, peas, greens and fruit, and keepers feed the chicks every two hours between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Although the chicks will not be on exhibit until late August, Zoo visitors can see their parents at the Kori Bustard exhibit, located outside of the Bird House.

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Also making their summer debut at the Zoo’s Bird House are two Burrowing Owl chicks, hatched on May 24. At first the chicks are helpless and their eyes are closed. By age 2½ weeks, they are able to control their body temperature and begin to emerge from their burrows to beg for food. At 3 weeks old, they begin jumping and flapping their wings, and at 4 weeks, they are able to take short flights. Visitors can easily identify the chicks by their juvenile plumage, which lacks any of the white bars and spots of the adults. Burrowing Owls are one of the smallest owl species in North America. The average adult is 10 inches in length—slightly larger than an American Robin.

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Photo Credit: Smithsonian National Zoo