Smithsonian National Zoo

UPDATE! Fishing Cat Kittens at Smithsonian's National Zoo

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You may have seen these Fishing Cat kittens on ZooBorns on June 15, the first ever at the Smithsonian National Zoo, born on May 18. 

On June 29, at 6 weeks old, the two kittens - a male and female - received a clean bill of health from zoo vets. The team performed a complete physical exam, which includes listening to the kittens’ heart and lungs, checking their mouth, eyes, legs, feet and genital area and feeling their bellies. The kittens also received the first of a series of vaccines that protect against feline distemper and some upper respiratory viruses.

Their birth marked an important milestone: this is the first time fishing cats have successfully bred and produced young at the National Zoo. Keepers are monitoring mother Electra and her offspring through a closed-circuit camera, allowing the family time to bond. The kittens are very active and spend much of their time playing and watching Electra fish in their enclosure. Although the family will not make its public debut until later this summer, Zoo visitors can see their father, Lek, on exhibit at the Asia Trail.

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Photo Credit: Smithsonian National Zoo


National Zoo Heralds Its First Fishing Cat Births!

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The Smithsonian’s National Zoo is closer to cracking the code for breeding one of Asia’s most elusive species with the birth of two Fishing Cats (Prionailurus viverrinus). Seven-year-old Electra delivered the kittens between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. May 18 in an off-exhibit den. Their birth marks an important milestone: this is the first time fishing cats have successfully bred and produced young at the National Zoo.

Keepers are monitoring the mother and her offspring through a closed-circuit camera, allowing the family time to bond. Although the kittens will not make their public debut until later this summer, Zoo visitors can see their father, two-year-old Lek, on Asia Trail.

“Many months of behavior watch, introductions and research allowed us to get to this point,” said Zoo Director Dennis Kelly. “It’s very rewarding that our efforts have paid off. The future of their wild cousins hangs in the balance, so it’s imperative that we do all we can to ensure their survival.”

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Photo credits: Courtney Janney / Smithsonian's National Zoo

Read the story of this exceptional breeding success and see tons of pictures below the fold!

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Ever Wanna Bottle Feed a Cheetah?

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Three weeks after their unconventional and rocky entrance into the world, two 3-week-old Cheetahs were transported May 18 to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in good health, thanks to the hard work and swift actions of animal care staff at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia. The cubs are being hand-raised at the Zoo and will require around-the-clock care until they are ready to make their public debut late this summer.

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Photo credits: All photos by Adrienne Crosier, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute apart from 2, 6,7, and 8 by Janice Sveda, Smithsonian's National Zoo

Five-year-old Cheetah and first-time mom Ally gave birth to the first cub, a male, April 23. However, instead of nursing and cleaning the cub, she abandoned him, which is relatively common for first-time mothers under human care. Cheetah keepers moved the cub to the veterinary hospital to be treated for severe hypothermia. When Ally suddenly stopped having contractions hours later, SCBI head vet Dr. Copper Aitken-Palmer anesthetized her to see if she had additional cubs. Aitken-Palmer heard additional heartbeats and performed a radiograph to determine that three cubs remained. She performed a cesarean section, a procedure rarely used on Cheetahs and one that cubs do not often survive. A team of veterinarians, keepers and scientists worked for three hours to resuscitate the three cubs, performing CPR, administrating medications and rubbing the cubs to dry and warm them. One of the three cubs, a female, did survive.

Read more about the cubs and see all their first photos below the fold...

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Smithsonian National Zoo Welcomes a Baby Black Howler Monkey

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The Smithsonian’s National Zoo's Small Mammal House celebrated the birth of a Black Howler monkey (Alouatta caraya) on March 22. Since then, keepers have been monitoring the family at a distance, allowing mom Chula along with the father, Pele, to bond with their baby. They've proven to be excellent first-time parents. The baby seems bright, alert, and increases its activity and independence day by day. This is the first surviving howler monkey in the Zoo’s history of exhibiting the animal. Its gender has not yet been determined. 

Why are they called howlers? Their thick necks house a unique voice box, including an enlarged hyoid bone, that enables male howler monkeys to penetrate three miles of dense forest with a single rumbling growl. These booming territorial calls have earned the primates, which are native to Central and South America, the title of loudest animal in the New World (North, Central and South America). The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the black howler monkey as least concern.

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Photo Credit: Photos 1, 2, 3, 5, 6: Janice Sveda / Photos 4,7: Clyde Nishumura


Four Maned Wolf Pups For The Smithsonian!

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Although 2012 has only just begun, the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia (SCBI-FR), already has something to celebrate in the new year: the birth of four Maned Wolf pups Jan. 5. It is the first litter born at SCBI-FR in two years and will play an important role in helping researchers maintain a viable, self-sustaining population under human care.

“Every pup born here helps us understand more about the biology of this incredible species,” said Nucharin Songsasen, an SCBI research biologist. “SCBI has a long history with the Maned Wolf, both in terms of studying the biology and maintaining the genetic diversity of individuals living under human care, as well as in conserving the animals in the wild.”

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Photo credit: Lisa Ware, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

The four pups were born to mother, 8-year-old Salina, and father, 4-year-old Nopal, who was born at SCBI-FR. Maned Wolf pups have a 50 percent mortality rate in the first month, so keepers are monitoring them closely. This litter is particularly valuable because Nopal is the 10th most genetically valuable male among the 36 reproductively viable males in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Maned Wolf Species Survival Plan, which matches animals across the country to ensure genetic diversity in the population. Seventy-two maned wolf pups have been born at SCBI-FR since 1975, and the facility currently has 12 wolves, including the pups. The National Zoo has two maned wolves on exhibit at the Cheetah Conservation Station.

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Secretive Shrew Gives Birth at Smithsonian National Zoo

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In August, two baby Tree Shrews were born at The National Zoo. Keepers at the zoo had no idea until the pair were nearly fully grown! This is due to the secretive rearing habits of this small mammals native to Southeast Asia.

“One of the many things that’s interesting about [Tree Shrews] is the way they’re cared for as young,” says David Kessler, a biologist at the Zoo. “What happens is, as soon as they’re born, they’ll nurse, and they will drink up to 50 percent of their body weight in one nursing. Then they’re in a nest, and the female has her own nest separate from where they are, and she’ll only come and nurse the young once every 48 hours.”

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Photo credits: Clyde Nishimura / SMithsonian National Zoo

As a result of this lack of contact, baby Tree Shrews remain nearly entirely hidden during the maturation process. Read more about Tree Shrews and this birth at the Smithsonian Magazine blog.


Two New Chicks Add to Saving Micronesian Kingfishers

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The Smithsonian National Zoo's Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, VA., is celebrating the recent hatching of two Micronesian kingfisher (Todiramphus c. cinnamominus) chicks, a female and male, on July 25 and Aug. 20, respectively.This species has been extinct in the wild for more than 20 years. They are extremely difficult to breed due to incompatibility between males and females and the inability of some parents to successfully raise their own chicks. But these two bring the total population of Micronesian kingfishers to 131 birds. 

“We are encouraged that this pair showed an interest in one another and delighted that they produced fertile eggs,” said Warren Lynch, bird unit manager at SCBI. “We are hand-rearing the chicks, which involves feeding them at two-hour intervals, seven to eight times per day. Should the adults produce fertile eggs again, we will likely let them try to raise the chicks themselves while closely monitoring their parenting skills.”

Both chicks are thriving. The female flies short distances and is increasingly confident and vocal, and the male is beginning to grow feathers and has a healthy appetite for crickets, mice and small lizards.

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Photo Credit:Smithsonian National Zoo

Micronesian kingfishers are about 6 inches tall and have wide, dorsoventrally-flattened bills. Both sexes have a plume of blue-green feathers on their wings and brown-orange feathers on their heads. Males can be easily identified by their brown-orange breasts and females by their white breasts.

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Black-footed Ferret Milestone Year!

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The Black-Footed Ferret, once thought to be extinct in the wild, was rediscovered in 1981 with a small population of 24 animals in Wyoming―30 years later the species’ future is brighter than ever. The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute is marking this anniversary with a record-breaking year―50 surviving Black-Footed Ferret kits were born at the Zoo’s Front Royal facility this year, helping to bolster the population of North America’s sole ferret species. Today more than 1,000 ferrets exist in the wild as the result of a successful reintroduction program at six breeding institutions, including SCBI. (For extensive information about SCBI’s success breeding the Black-footed Ferret, visit the Zoo’s Black-Footed Ferret press kit.)

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Above, Dr. JoGayle Howard holds ferrets resulting from artificial breeding in 1988. Below, Howard with pups born in 1997.

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Photo credits: Julie Larsen-Maher and Jessie Cohen (last 2) / Smithsonian's National Zoo

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National Zoo Announces 3rd Clouded Leopard Cub This Year!

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Smithsonian’s National Zoo’s Front Royal Facility's Clouded Leopard Jao Chu gave birth to one female cub May 13. As of July 25, the cub weighed approximately 3.6 pounds and has started on a diet that includes meat. The cub is the third born this year at the facility and has access to the older cubs, born March 28. Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) has been a leader in developing new techniques for successful breeding, including hand-rearing cubs from birth and matching them with mates when young. Clouded Leopards in the wild live throughout southeast Asia, in countries such as southern China, Taiwan and the Malaysian peninsula, and are listed as a vulnerable species by the IUCN.

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Photo credits: Mehgan Murphy, Smithsonian's National Zoo


2 + 2 = 4 Red Panda Cubs for National Zoo

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On June 17, two red panda cubs were born at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C. -- this on the heels of two previous cubs born in early June at the Zoo’s facility in Front Royal, VA., bringing their total to four red panda babies in 2011.

At the National Zoo, Shama, the female red panda, gave birth to two cubs in her den in their Asia Trail on June 17. Keepers suspected that she was caring for offspring when she did not respond to their call that morning. A slight squeal was the first indication of a cub!  Zoo staff left the mother alone to bond with and care for the cubs within their den. On the seventh day keepers conducted a quick cub check and, with a one-minute window of opportunity, were able to confirm that two cubs were in the nest box.

Likewise, red panda Lao Mei at the Zoo’s Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal gave birth to a pair on June 5. Keepers have confirmed all four cubs are female and have opened their eyes.

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Photo credits: Mehgan Murphy / Smithsonian's National Zoo

Staff is taking precautions to not interfere with the cubs during this critical time. As the opportunity presents itself, they enter the den areas to weigh the cubs and assess their health. Keepers wear a second set of cloth gloves over their standard rubber gloves, which have been rubbed with nesting material and scented with the mother’s feces to cover human scents. All four newborns are steadily gaining weight and appear healthy.

More pics below the fold...

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