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.
Smithsonian National Zoo
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
Photo Credit: Smithsonian National Zoo
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.
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.”
Read the story of this exceptional breeding success and see tons of pictures below the fold!
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.
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...
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.
Photo Credit: Photos 1, 2, 3, 5, 6: Janice Sveda / Photos 4,7: Clyde Nishumura
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.”
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.
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.”
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.