Toronto Zoo

Endangered Blanding’s Turtles Released in Canada

1_Blanding's Turtles (June 2016) _ credit Heike Reuse (2)

On June 21, the Toronto Zoo, Parks Canada and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) reintroduced 36 baby Blanding's Turtles to a wetland that will be part of Rouge National Urban Park in the Greater Toronto Area (Canada’s first national urban park).

This is the third year Blanding’s Turtles have been released in the park. In June 2015, the same group of partners collaborated on the release of 21 baby Blanding’s Turtles in the Rouge and in June 2014, 10 baby turtles were released.

The long-lived species, with a life span of up to 80 years, has inhabited the Rouge Valley for thousands of years, though prior to 2014 its future was uncertain, with as few as six Blanding’s Turtles remaining.

2_Blanding's Turtles (June 2016) _ credit Heike Reuse (4)

3_Blanding's Turtles (June 2016) _ credit Heike Reuse (1)

4_Blanding's Turtles (June 2016) _ credit Heike Reuse (5)Photo Credits: Heike Reuse 

“Blanding’s Turtles are a flagship species representing a group of animals facing a variety of threats," said Dr. Andrew Lentini, Curator of Reptiles and Amphibians, Toronto Zoo. "Seven of eight turtle species in Ontario are at risk and need our help. All Canadians can learn how to help turtles by visiting Toronto Zoo’s Adopt-A-Pond website and by reporting sighting to Toronto Zoo’s Ontario Turtle Tally.”

In February 2016, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, and Minister responsible for Parks Canada Catherine McKenna announced that Parks Canada would be making a $150,000 contribution to the Toronto Zoo to support the Blanding’s head start program in the Rouge.

“Blanding's Turtles are an important indicator of a healthy park,” said Pam Veinotte, Parks Canada's Superintendent responsible for Rouge National Urban Park. "Parks Canada is dedicated to re-establishing a healthy, local population of this threatened turtle species in Rouge National Urban Park now and for future generations, and we are thankful for the opportunity to collaborate with the Toronto Zoo and other wonderful partners to conserve and restore threatened species in Canada's first national urban park.”

The turtle eggs were collected from a stable source population in southern Ontario in 2014 and have been raised in a controlled environment at the Toronto Zoo over the last two years. The University of Toronto Scarborough has joined this head-starting project and is assisting with long-term monitoring of the released turtles. Parks Canada, the TRCA and the Toronto Zoo believe that this type of head starting and reintroduction of the turtles, along with long-term monitoring and ongoing habitat restoration, are keys to the animal’s survival in the future Rouge National Urban Park.

The local public can help protect the turtles by avoiding their nesting areas and by contacting authorities if they observe harmful behavior toward turtles or suspicious behavior in their habitat. The location of the wetland housing the reintroduced turtles will not be disclosed at this time to help minimize disturbances and give the animals the best chance of surviving.

The Toronto Zoo and TRCA began collecting information on and monitoring Blanding’s Turtles in the Rouge Valley in 2005. Environment Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry provided funding, permits and in-kind support for Blanding’s Turtle monitoring in the Rouge Valley in previous years. With the area slated to become Canada’s first national urban park, Parks Canada has come on board and will continue to work on a long-term turtle monitoring program.

Earth Rangers, an environmental conservation organization focused on engaging youth in the protection of nature, also provided support for the project by building a facility to house the turtle eggs and babies at the Toronto Zoo.

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April Showers Bring…a Rhino Calf ?

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The Indian Rhino calf at the Toronto Zoo is almost seven-weeks-old! He was born February 17 to eleven-year-old mom Ashakiran (also known as Asha) and 12-year-old dad, Vishnu.

(ZooBorns introduced the new guy to readers, soon after his birth: “Toronto Zoo Announces Birth of Vulnerable Rhino”.)

According to the Zoo, the "little" guy is now over 200 pounds. They also report that he has become quite brave, often venturing further from mom Asha and interacting more with Keepers. Although still nursing, staff say he is starting to mouth some food, including: bamboo, apple, browse and the carrots that Keepers provide Asha.

He also loves his afternoon showers, and is often observed playfully rolling around in the water and encouraging mom to come play with him.

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4_12794986_984150854954693_2745402692191822767_oPhoto and Video Credits: Toronto Zoo

 

 

The baby Rhino also has the rudiments of the distinctive horn. Although, it will be some time before it will be noticeable. A Rhino’s horn is made of keratin, like human fingernails. The full horn will not be in place until approximately six-years of age.

The calf has not been named, but the Toronto Zoo will make that announcement soon, via their social media pages. Asha and her son are now on exhibit at the Zoo.

The recent birth is very important for Indian Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) conservation, as the species is currently listed as “Vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, and there are only approximately 2,000 left in the wild.

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Toronto Zoo Announces Birth of Vulnerable Rhino

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The Toronto Zoo would like to announce that Ashakiran, an 11-year-old female Indian Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis), gave birth to a male calf on Wednesday, February 17, 2016.

The recent birth is very important for Indian Rhinoceros conservation, as the species is currently listed as “Vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, and there are only approximately 2,000 left in the wild.

12764501_965400020163110_3855249591679932756_oPhoto Credits: Toronto Zoo

 

Reaching near extinction in the early 1900’s, the Indian Rhino (also known as the Greater One-Horned Rhino or Great Indian Rhinoceros) was once listed as Endangered. However, with conservation efforts and strict protection, its status changed in the 90s. This is considered a conservation success story, but they are not out of the woods. Habitat degradation, human-rhino conflict, and poaching continue to be threats.

The Indian Rhinoceros exists in a few small subpopulations in Nepal and India (West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Assam), inhabiting the riverine grasslands of the Terai and Brahmaputra Basins. With 70 % of the wild population occurring in one area in Kaziranga National Park, any catastrophic event could have a huge impact on conservation efforts for this species.

An Indian Rhinoceros' gestation lasts 425 - 496 days (approximately 16 months), and a single young is born between the end of February and the end of April. Subsequently, Ashakiran, affectionately known to her keepers as "Asha", was moved from public viewing into a maternity area within the Indian Rhino habitat mid-January, where video cameras were set in place for Wildlife Care to monitor her closely. While the calf appears healthy, and feeding well, the first thirty days will be critical for both mom and calf. Toronto Zoo Wildlife Care staff will continue to closely monitor Asha and her calf in the maternity area, which is not visible to the public at this time.

This is the first surviving calf for Asha and father, Vishnu (12-years-old). Asha gave birth to a stillborn calf back in 2011, and since then, was able to get pregnant but could not maintain pregnancy. The Toronto Zoo partnered with the Cincinnati Zoo and proceeded to follow their developed protocol of giving oral progesterone to Asha to help her maintain pregnancy. This collaborative research resulted in the birth of this healthy calf and will strengthen conservation breeding efforts in the future. This is the fourth birth of an Indian Rhinoceros in Toronto Zoo's history. The last Indian Rhinoceros to be born at the Toronto Zoo was a female named Sanya (born August 14, 1999), who now resides at The Wilds in Ohio, USA.

"Asha is on a breeding loan from Los Angeles Zoo and it is these partnerships that will bring us one step closer to overall conservation efforts to save this incredible species," says Maria Franke, Curator of Mammals, Toronto Zoo. "I would also like to thank the amazing team at the Toronto Zoo for all of the hard work and dedication that has resulted in this significant birth."

The Toronto Zoo is part of the Indian Rhinoceros Species Survival Plan (SSP), which aims to establish and maintain healthy, genetically diverse populations, and overall conservation efforts to save this incredible species. One of the Toronto Zoo's mandates is to educate visitors on current conservation issues and help preserve the incredible biodiversity on the planet. The Toronto Zoo is in a great position to bring forward the plight of the Indian Rhinoceros and supports rhinoceros conservation efforts in the wild, through the Toronto Zoo Endangered Species Reserve Fund.

*Please note, Asha and her calf are not currently visible to the public.


Toronto’s Giant Pandas Have Their 100-Day Celebration

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On January 20, 2016, the Toronto Zoo released a new video highlighting the first 100 days for their Giant Panda cubs. The 100-Day Celebration follows an ancient Chinese tradition that when a child reaches his or her 100th day of life, he or she has survived the risky fragility of infancy and may be considered on track for a successful future.

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4_12484598_945708048798974_2143192335449585135_oPhotos and Video Courtesy: Toronto Zoo

 

Er Shun gave birth to these beautiful twin Panda cubs on October 13, 2015. Born at only 187 grams and 115 grams, these cubs have grown from tiny, pink, and hairless to strong, fuzzy Pandas with distinctive black and white markings.

"The Toronto Zoo is very honored to be participating in the Global Giant Panda Conservation Breeding Program and extremely proud of the births of Canada's first Giant Panda cubs," said Mr. John Tracogna, Chief Executive Officer, Toronto Zoo. “We are very grateful for the ongoing partnerships with a number of institutions around the world who have contributed to our success,” he added.

The Toronto Zoo is hoping to introduce the Panda cubs to the public in mid-March. The Zoo would like to thank everyone for the outpouring of support for these cubs and for following them on this incredible journey.

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Toronto Zoo’s Polar Bear Has Her ‘Eyes Wide Open’

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The Polar Bear cub, at the Toronto Zoo, continues to grow and gain strength. At just over two months old, she is still quite wobbly on her feet but works hard to get up on all fours.

She feeds six times a day and was recently introduced to eating from a bowl. The little female continues to explore and become more mobile, bright and alert. Her fuzzy white coat is also becoming thicker.

The cub is still in a critical period of development and is not yet visible to the public.

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3_TorontoZooPolarCubTwoMonthsPhoto and Video Credits: Toronto Zoo

 

On November 11, 2015 the Zoo’s staff were delighted to find that Aurora, one of the Toronto Zoo’s two female Polar Bears, gave birth to two cubs. Despite Aurora showing perfect maternal instincts, including attempting to nurse the cubs shortly after birth, staff were saddened to discover that one of the cubs did not survive the first 24 hours. The remaining female cub was moved to the Zoo's intensive care unit (ICU) in the Wildlife Health Centre (WHC) to give her the best chance of survival.

"Aurora demonstrated good maternal instincts and her cubs did attempt to nurse, but it appears she was not producing any milk to feed her newborns,” said Eric Cole, Manager, Wildlife Care.

Once the cub was moved to the WHC, a team consisting of veterinary staff and animal care experts began the continuous process of monitoring her temperature, taking blood samples, weighing her and feeding her a special formula which has been perfected over time by the Toronto Zoo’s staff given their past experiences hand raising polar bear cubs.

The Polar Bear cub’s care staff are continuing to take the approach of ‘one day at a time’ and adjusting to her daily needs.

Polar Bears are native to the circumpolar north, including the United States (Alaska), Canada, Russia, Norway and Denmark (Greenland). They are at the top of the Arctic food chain and primarily eat seals. Polar Bear populations are declining due to the disappearance of sea ice, and experts estimate that only 20,000-25,000 Polar Bears are left in the wild. Some scientists believe if the warming trend continues two-thirds of the Polar Bear population could disappear by the year 2050. They are currently classified as "Vulnerable" on the IUCN Red List.

Toronto Zoo continues to be involved in a collaborative research project involving multiple accredited zoos to understand Polar Bear reproductive biology. To support their work in Polar Bear conservation, visit http://ow.ly/WC2T1.


Polar Bear Cub Gets Her Fur

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A Polar Bear cub born November 11 at the Toronto Zoo is steadily improving under the intensive care of her keepers. Her fuzzy fur is growing in, but her eyes haven't opened yet.

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12356666_933087376727708_5000349610449351729_oPhoto Credit:  Toronto Zoo

The female cub was one of two born to mom Aurora.  Both cubs were attempting to nurse shortly after birth, but one of the cubs died soon afterward.  The staff eventually determined that Aurora, who was exhibiting good maternal instincts, was not producing any milk for her babies.

The surviving cub was moved to an incubator and remains there today, though the incubator’s temperature is slowly being lowered to room temperature.  The cub is fed eight times a day.  After feeding, she enjoys 10-15 minutes of “play time,” where she squirms about.

The zoo staff is pleased that the cub is doing well, but they point out that the first three months are critical for Polar Bear cubs.  For now, the cub remains in the zoo’s medical center, where she is not viewable by zoo guests.

Native to Arctic waters and land masses, Polar Bears are supremely adapted to survive in cold temperatures.  They spend most of their time on sea ice, from which they hunt for seals in the frigid waters.  Polar Bears are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.  Tighter hunting regulations have helped some populations to rebound after decades of declining numbers.  Many scientists believe that climate change has negatively impacted Polar Bears, causing a reduction in sea ice.  As sea ice melts earlier in the season, Polar Bears are forced to move to shore before sufficiently building up their fat reserves for the coming winter. 


Toronto Zoo’s Panda Cubs Reach Another Milestone

Image 28 - Toronto Zoo Giant Panda Cubs at 8 weeks

We can’t get enough of the Giant Panda cubs at the Toronto Zoo! They recently reached another milestone. Not only did they turn eight-weeks-old, but their eyes are now partially open! They are sensitive to both light and dark, but do not have any resolution yet.

Not only are their eyes opening, but their vocalizations are becoming stronger each day, developing from what once was a quiet squeak to what can now be described as a stronger squawk!

Image 29 - Toronto Zoo Giant Panda Cubs at 8 weeksPhoto Credits: Toronto Zoo

 Both cubs continue to grow, with their last weights both being over 2,000 grams (4.4 lbs.), and they average 48 cm (18.9 in.) in length from the tip of their head to tip of the tail!

This is still a very critical time for these cubs. Mom, Er Shun, and her cubs will remain in the maternity den, which is not viewable to the public. However, Er Shun periodically has access to her day room to promote exercise and to give her a chance to eat her bamboo.

Although Er Shun and the cubs are not on exhibit, and media are not permitted in the maternity area of the Giant Panda Exhibit, Toronto Zoo staff will continue to provide updates, photos and video as they become available.

It all started on October 13th when the Toronto Zoo announced the birth of the two Giant Panda cubs. ZooBorns shared the initial birth announcement, and we have been sharing updates as released by the Zoo.

The Toronto Zoo has stated that Er Shun and her twin cubs would be living within the private maternity area, inside the Giant Panda House, for approximately four to five months.

Giant Panda mothers are known for only looking after one cub at a time, so keepers are helping raise the twins using a method called ‘twin swapping’. One baby is left with the mother, and the keepers switch the twins every few hours, so each one gets care and milk directly from mom. Since the beginning, Er Shun has been demonstrating excellent maternal instincts, and she began cleaning and cradling the first cub soon after its birth.

As the maternity area of the Giant Panda House is not visible to the public, Toronto Zoo staff have been providing regular updates on the progress of the cubs, via the zoo’s website and social media: http://www.torontozoo.com/GiantPandaCubs/

The Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) is native to only a few mountain ranges in central China, usually at elevations between 5,000 – 10,000 feet. In these cool, misty forests, Giant Pandas forage for bamboo, which comprises 99% of their diet, about 10 to 16 hours a day.

Giant Pandas reach sexual maturity between the ages of four and eight and may be reproductive until age 20. Their gestation period ranges from 95 to 160 days. In about half of their pregnancies, twins are birthed. In the wild, usually only one twin survives, due to the mother selecting the stronger cub to care for and neglecting the weaker.

Only about 1,600 Giant Pandas remain in the wild. About 300 live in zoos and breeding centers around the world, mostly in China. Giant Pandas are listed as “Endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Their population is threatened by continued habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, and by a very low birthrate-- both in the wild and in captivity.

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Toronto’s Giant Panda Twins Are One Month Old

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At one month old, the twin Giant Panda cubs at the Toronto Zoo are healthy and continuing to grow. The larger of the two cubs now weighs over one kilogram (2.2 lbs.), with the smaller cub not far behind at approximately 750 grams (1.6 lbs.).

Their undercoat (or insulating hair) continues to grow in thicker and whiter, making the areas on their bodies, where the skin is not pigmented black, look much whiter. Although small, they truly look like Giant Pandas now.

Er Shun continues to be a great mother, and the cubs are progressing very well with the coordinated care from mother and zoo staff. However, it is still a very critical time for these little cubs.

Toronto-Zoo-Giant-Panda-Cub-at-One-Month(1)Photo Credits: Toronto Zoo

   

On October 13th Toronto Zoo announced the birth of two Giant Panda cubs, and ZooBorns shared the initial birth announcement and a later update.

The Toronto Zoo has stated that Er Shun and her twin cubs would be living within the private maternity area, inside the Giant Panda House, for approximately four to five months.

Giant Panda mothers are known for only looking after one cub at a time, so keepers are helping raise the twins using a method called ‘twin swapping’. One baby is left with the mother, and the keepers switch the twins every few hours, so each one gets care and milk directly from mom. Since the beginning, Er Shun has been demonstrating excellent maternal instincts, and she began cleaning and cradling the first cub soon after its birth.

As the maternity area of the Giant Panda House is not visible to the public, Toronto Zoo staff have been providing regular updates on the progress of the cubs, via the zoo’s website and social media: http://www.torontozoo.com/GiantPandaCubs/

The Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) is native to only a few mountain ranges in central China, usually at elevations between 5,000 – 10,000 feet. In these cool, misty forests, Giant Pandas forage for bamboo, which comprises 99% of their diet, about 10 to 16 hours a day.

Giant Pandas reach sexual maturity between the ages of four and eight and may be reproductive until age 20. Their gestation period ranges from 95 to 160 days. In about half of their pregnancies, twins are birthed. In the wild, usually only one twin survives, due to the mother selecting the stronger cub to care for and neglecting the weaker.

Only about 1,600 Giant Pandas remain in the wild. About 300 live in zoos and breeding centers around the world, mostly in China. Giant Pandas are listed as “Endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Their population is threatened by continued habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, and by a very low birthrate-- both in the wild and in captivity.


UPDATE: Giant Panda Cubs Triple Their Weight

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Twin Giant Panda cubs born on October 13 at the Toronto Zoo have tripled their weights but are still in a critical period of their infancy.

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12194619_918029888233457_4091861711405412373_oPhoto Credit:  Toronto Zoo

You first met the cubs on ZooBorns a few weeks after their birth. Their mother, Er Shun, has been providing excellent care, but zoo keepers help her by ‘twin-swapping’ – one baby stays with Er Shun while the other is moved to an incubator every few hours.  This allows each infant to be nursed and cared for by Er Shun equally.

The cubs weighed 187 and 115 grams at birth.  At 21 days old, the cubs’ weights had increased to 672 and 422 grams.  In addition, they had each grown six centimeters in length.

If you look closely at the photographs, you can see the cubs’ black-and-white markings beginning to appear as their fur comes in  On their tiny paws, you can see grooves developing on their pseudo thumb pads – these grooves will enable them to hold bamboo when they get much older.

Giant Pandas live in only a few mountain ranges in central China, usually at elevations between 5,000 – 10,000 feet.  In these cool, misty forests, Giant Pandas forage for bamboo, which comprises 99% of their diet, about 10 to 16 hours a day. 

Only about 1,600 Giant Pandas remain in the wild.  About 300 live in zoos and breeding centers around the world, mostly in China.  Giant Pandas are listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.


Giant Panda Cubs Born at Toronto Zoo

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On October 13th Toronto Zoo announced the birth of two Giant Panda cubs! The zoo excitedly reported that mom, Er Shun, and her twin cubs were doing well, and that they would be living within the maternity area, inside the Giant Panda House, for approximately four to five months.

Giant Panda mothers are known for only looking after one cub at a time, so keepers are helping raise the twins using a method called ‘twin swapping’. One baby is left with the mother, and the keepers switch the twins every few hours, so each one gets care and milk directly from mom.

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4_TorontoPandaTwinsPhoto Credits: Toronto Zoo

Since the beginning, Er Shun has been demonstrating excellent maternal instincts, and she began cleaning and cradling the first cub soon after its birth. Immediately following the birth of the second cub, Toronto Zoo staff from the Wildlife Health Centre, Wildlife Care, and two Giant Panda experts from Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China retrieved the cub to initiate the Toronto Zoo's Giant Panda Twin Hand-Rearing Protocol. The cub was then placed in an incubator in the maternity area of the Giant Panda house, and approximately two hours after its birth, the second cub was twin-swapped so it could begin the bonding process with Er Shun. The first cub weighed 187.7 grams at birth, and the second cub weighed 115 grams.

As the maternity area of the Giant Panda House is not visible to the public, Toronto Zoo staff will endeavor to provide regular updates on their progress, via their website and social media: http://www.torontozoo.com/GiantPandaCubs/

At this time Zoo staff do not know the sex of the cubs and have not confirmed which panda is the father. It may be several months before they are able to determine either.

With the assistance of the two Giant Panda experts from the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China, the zoo team continues to twin-swap the cubs. This not only enables Er Shun to nurse and bond with each cub, but also provides the Zoo's Wildlife Health Centre and Wildlife Care staff the opportunity to weigh each cub and conduct regular health checks.

While there has been some weight fluctuations with both cubs, which is very common with newborns, both of them are currently stable. If the team notices that one or both of the cubs are not suckling from their mother, the team is able to collect milk from Er Shun and give it to the cubs extremely carefully, by bottle.

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