Zoo Atlanta

Six New Sidewinders Born at Zoo Atlanta

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Six Sidewinders were born on May 24 at Zoo Atlanta. The young Sidewinders currently live in the Zoo’s Conservation Breeding Center, a behind-the-scenes complex adjacent to Scaly Slimy Spectacular: The Amphibian and Reptile Experience.

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4_sidewinder_young_2017_ZA_0948Photo Credits: Zoo Atlanta

The Sidewinder (Crotalus cerastes), also known as the horned rattlesnake and sidewinder rattlesnake, is a venomous pit viper species belonging to the genus Crotalus (rattlesnakes). It is a North American native found in the Mohave and Sonoran Deserts of the southwestern United States. Known for its unique form of locomotion, it is the fastest moving of all rattlesnakes.

They are venomous, but possess less potent venom than many other rattlesnakes. Their venom glands are also a smaller size, which makes them less dangerous than their larger relatives. However, any rattlesnake bite can be fatal and should be taken seriously with medical attention sought immediately.

Females produce an average of about ten per litter. The young are born enveloped in thin embryonic membranes, from which they emerge shortly after being expelled from the mother. The young stay with their mother in a burrow for seven to 10 days, shed for the first time, then leave their natal burrow. During this time with their mother, she will guard and protect them from predators.

Sidewinders mature at two to three years of age, are capable of reproducing annually.

Sidewinders have an accelerated lifecycle, with natural life expectancies of females to be about five years. Males have a maximum known natural lifespan of about 13 years. However, Sidewinders can live more than 20 years, when well fed, in captivity (including the females).

Sidewinders are currently classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List. In the wild, females often die of exhaustion after giving birth, but the lives of sidewinders are also cut short by predation, diseases, and vehicle encounters.

Research collaboration between Zoo Atlanta, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Carnegie Mellon University has examined the snakes’ distinctive sidewinding movements for biologically inspired design of prototypes for search-and-exploration robots. Learn more about this study at: www.zooatlanta.org/research . 5_sidewinder_young_2017_ZA_0960


Here’s the Latest on Zoo Atlanta’s Panda Twins!

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The only twin Giant Pandas in the U.S. are well on their way to a series of exciting new milestones at Zoo Atlanta. Ya Lun and Xi Lun, who were 8 months old on May 3, are trying new foods, developing their climbing skills, and showing even more evidence of their distinctive personalities as they head into summer.

Although Giant Panda cubs continue to nurse until they are around 18 months old, Ya Lun and Xi Lun have already begun sampling some of the foods offered to their parents, including sweet potatoes and leafeater biscuits (the vitamin and mineral-rich squares which are a staple of the Zoo Atlanta Giant Pandas’ bamboo-heavy diet).

Play wrestling with their mother, and with each other, also tops the daily to-do list for Ya Lun and Xi Lun, who now weigh 38.8 pounds and 33.84 pounds, respectively. The twins are also refining their climbing abilities, which are essential skills for Giant Panda cubs.

Ya Lun and Xi Lun are the sixth and seventh offspring of Lun Lun and Yang Yang and are the second set of twins born at Zoo Atlanta. Ya Lun, the older of the duo by 47 minutes, remains the more adventurous cub. Her sister Xi Lun is more reserved and is less likely to be the first to try new experiences.

Ya Lun and Xi Lun_Zoo Atlanta 2Photo Credits: Zoo Atlanta

Giant Pandas represent Zoo Atlanta’s most significant investment in wildlife conservation. Fewer than 1,900 Giant Pandas are estimated to remain in the wild in China’s Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces. Of these, more than 1,200 live inside nature reserves, eight of which are supported by Zoo Atlanta.

In September 2016, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) downgraded the Giant Panda’s status from “Endangered” to “Vulnerable.” The species remains heavily reliant on conservation programs, and Giant Pandas face ongoing threats from habitat fragmentation and habitat loss as a result of deforestation and other human activities.

Visitors to Zoo Atlanta can see Ya Lun and Xi Lun and their parents in the Zoo’s Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation Giant Panda Conservation Center. You can also catch up with the cubs on “PandaCam” hosted by Animal Planet L!VE on www.zooatlanta.org/pandacam .


Reptile Hatchlings at Zoo Atlanta Are ‘Lucky 13’

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Thirteen proved to be a lucky number for one of the planet’s rarest reptile species! Zoo Atlanta has had their most successful season ever for hatching Guatemalan Beaded Lizards. The Zoo welcomed a total of 13 hatchlings this spring, which is a record for Zoo Atlanta.

Zoo Atlanta is one of only four zoos in the U.S. housing Guatemalan Beaded Lizards. Since the arrival of the Zoo’s first hatchling in 2012, a total of 35 have successfully hatched in subsequent years.

Guatemalan Beaded Lizards lay their eggs in fall and early winter. The 13 new hatchlings began emerging from their eggs on March 31, 2017.

“Every animal birth at Zoo Atlanta is important, but it is especially so when we consider that there are so few Guatemalan Beaded Lizards in the wild. This species is not only exceptionally rare but challenging to reproduce,” said Hayley Murphy, DVM, Vice President of Animal Divisions. “We are very proud to see Zoo Atlanta leading the way in helping to ensure a future for this species and in sharing what we have learned with our partners in the U.S. and Guatemala.”

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4_guatemalanbeadedlizard_hatchlings2017_egg_ZA_9372Photo Credits: Zoo Atlanta

The Guatemalan Beaded Lizard (Heloderma charlesborgeti) is an example of an animal most Americans would have no awareness of were it not for zoological populations.

As reclusive as they are rare, the lizards are found only in the Motagua Valley in Guatemala, where they are believed to number fewer than 200 in the wild. The species and its close relatives, which include the Gila Monster of the southwestern United States, are the only known venomous lizards.

The Beaded Lizard is a specialized vertebrate nest predator, feeding primarily on bird and reptile eggs. It is semi-arboreal and can be found climbing deciduous trees in search of prey when encountered above ground. It occasionally preys upon small birds, mammals, frogs, lizards, and insects.

The lizard species becomes sexually mature at six to eight years and mates between September and October. The female will lay her clutch of two to 30 eggs between October and December, and the clutch will hatch the following June or July.

Young lizards are seldom seen, emerging from underground at two to three years of age after gaining considerable size.

Although Guatemalan Beaded Lizards spend most of their lives below ground and rarely encounter humans, wild populations face serious challenges because of habitat loss and illegal trade. The species faces additional pressures from fear-based killing resulting from long-held myths that the lizards have supernatural powers.

Zoo Atlanta has worked with the Foundation for the Endangered Species of Guatemala on Conservation Heloderma, which works to purchase and protect Guatemalan Beaded Lizard habitat; combat black-market trade; promote local education; and improve the lives of people living in communities that share the lizards’ native range.

The properties of the Guatemalan Beaded Lizard’s venom, which is used only in self-defense and is not used to capture prey, have only recently become known to science. Unlike most lizard species, the Guatemalan Beaded Lizard has a high aerobic capacity and is able to stabilize its blood sugar levels during contrasting periods of eating and fasting, thanks to a unique hormone. This hormone has been synthesized by pharmaceutical companies in the treatment of human diabetes.

For more information on conservation programs at Zoo Atlanta, visit: www.zooatlanta.org/conservation

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Atlanta's Giant Panda Twins Enjoy Their First Spring

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Zoo Atlanta’s Giant Panda twins, Ya Lun and Xi Lun, have reached yet another adorable milestone: exploring the great outdoors for the first time. On March 27, lucky visitors got a peek at the duo as they got a taste of their first Georgia spring in an outdoor habitat at Zoo Atlanta’s Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation Giant Panda Conservation Center.

Ya Lun was quick to explore her new surroundings, while her sister Xi Lun was more reticent. According to the Zoo, Ya Lun is typically the more daring of the duo, and Xi Lun tends to be more cautious.

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It is not unusual for the cubs, who will be 7 months old on April 3, to be making their first trip into an outdoor space at this age. Giant Pandas are born exceptionally tiny, hairless, blind and entirely dependent. A mother will instinctively keep her offspring in a secluded and protected den area, away from predators and the elements. Lun Lun followed this instinct with Ya Lun and Xi Lun, remaining with the cubs in behind-the-scenes dens until late December, when she began exploring the option of taking the cubs into their dayroom habitat.

Since Ya Lun, Xi Lun and Lun Lun are still becoming comfortable in the outdoor habitat, the Zoo’s Animal Care Team began allowing the three to explore the space for brief times before Zoo opening hours on March 24, but March 27 was the first occasion when Zoo guests got a sneak-peek of the cubs outside. Ya Lun and Xi Lun will continue to check out the space on a gradual basis at limited times during the day, so there is not yet a guarantee of seeing the cubs in the outdoor habitat. However, the cubs have been visible in their dayroom space, full-time, since mid-March.

Born September 3, 2016, Ya Lun and Xi Lun are the sixth and seventh offspring of Lun Lun and Yang Yang. Their older brothers and sisters, Mei Lan, Xi Lan, Po, Mei Lun and Mei Huan, now reside at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China.

Giant Pandas represent Zoo Atlanta’s most significant investment in wildlife conservation. Fewer than 1,900 Giant Pandas are estimated to remain in the wild in China’s Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces. Of these, more than 1,200 live inside nature reserves, eight of which are supported by Zoo Atlanta.

In September 2016, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) downgraded the Giant Panda’s status from “Endangered” to “Vulnerable.” The species remains heavily reliant on conservation programs, and Giant Pandas face ongoing threats from habitat fragmentation and habitat loss as a result of deforestation and other human activities.


Zoo Atlanta's Giant Panda Twins Play All Day

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Six-month-old Giant Panda twins Ya Lun and Xi Lun are old enough to spend the entire day playing in their dayroom at Zoo Atlanta.

Born September 3 to experienced mother Lun Lun, the sisters spend their time playing, exploring, and sometimes wrestling for access to coveted napping spots.

The cubs had previously been spending parts of the day in their sleeping quarters, but reached this new milestone right on schedule.

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Ya Lun and Xi Lun_Zoo Atlanta 2Photo Credit:  Zoo Atlanta

You met the twins on ZooBorns when they were named and when they learned to walk. Next up for the only Giant Panda twins in the United States:  playing outdoors.  Zoo staff expect this to occur in the next few weeks. 

At birth, the twins weighed the same as a quarter-pound hamburger patty.  Ya Lun now weighs 22 pounds and her sister Xi Lun weighs 21 pounds.  As adults they will weigh more than 200 pounds.

Fewer than 1,900 Giant Pandas are estimated to remain in the wild in China’s Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces. Of these, more than 1,200 live inside nature reserves, eight of which are supported by Zoo Atlanta. In September 2016, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature downgraded the Giant Panda’s status from Endangered to Vulnerable. The species remains heavily reliant on conservation programs, and Giant Pandas face ongoing threats from habitat fragmentation and habitat loss as a result of deforestation and other human activities.


Gorilla Infant Gets Fitting New Name at Zoo Atlanta

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A female Western Lowland Gorilla born to mom Kudzoo on September 18, at Zoo Atlanta, has been named Mijadala.

The infant’s new moniker emerged as the winner of public vote in a contest conducted from Tuesday, January 31 through Monday, February 6. Voting cast for the new name raised more funds for Gorilla conservation than did three other names in the running: Adia, Fahari and Tisa. Zoo Atlanta invited the public to back each vote with a $1 donation, and all funds raised by the naming will benefit the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, the Zoo’s longtime partner in Gorilla conservation.

“Every newborn Gorilla is a gift, both in the wild and within zoological populations, and it’s very important to raise awareness of the ways the future of these populations intersect,” said Raymond B. King, President and CEO. “With the gift of Mijadala’s birth, we’re excited to also be able to send a celebratory gift to field programs that are working every day for the protection of wild gorillas and their habitats in Africa.”

The name Mijadala, which means “discussions” in Swahili, was inspired by the infant’s unusually vocal nature; her caregivers say she is the most vocal Gorilla infant ever born at the Zoo. Mijadala, or “Mija” for short, is the 23rd Gorilla born in Zoo Atlanta’s Ford African Rain Forest and is a granddaughter of the legendary late Willie B. She is the ninth offspring of silverback Taz and has two full siblings: Merry Leigh, 5, and Macy Baby, 11. Macy Baby now lives at the Riverbanks Zoo & Garden in Columbia, S.C..

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3_Western lowland gorilla Kudzoo with Mijadala_Zoo Atlanta

4_Western lowland gorilla infant Mijadala_Zoo AtlantaPhoto Credits: Zoo Atlanta

Western Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) populations in the wild have declined dramatically since the time of Willie B., the founder of Mijadala’s famous Zoo Atlanta family tree. The species is currently classified as “Critically Endangered”, and according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), over a 25-year period, the combined threats of poaching, illegal hunting for the bush meat trade, habitat loss and emerging diseases such as Ebola have reduced Western Lowland Gorilla populations by 60 percent, with declines of as much as 90 percent in some parts of their range in western Africa.

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Giant Panda Cubs Learn to Walk

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Giant Panda cubs Ya Lun and Xi Lun are nearly four months old and can now scoot, wobble, and walk across their day room at Zoo Atlanta.

Born September 3, the female cubs are capturing the world’s attention as they become more mobile. Experienced mother Lun Lun is gradually introducing her cubs to new and exciting adventures, including the wide-open spaces of the day room. 

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Panda_cubs2016_161227_dayroom_ZA_5942Photo Credit:  Zoo Atlanta
You met the twins on ZooBorns when they were named at their 100-Day Celebration in keeping with an ancient Chinese tradition.  They now weigh nearly 11 pounds, through their woolly fur makes them appear much larger. 

The next milestone for the cubs will be climbing, and they’ve already been testing those skills on logs within the dayroom. 

Giant Pandas’ status was recently downgraded from Endangered to Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, but fewer than 1,900 Giant Pandas are estimated to remain in the wild.  The population still relies heavily on conservation breeding programs like the one at Zoo Atlanta. 

The twins are the sixth and seventh offspring for Lun Lun and her mate, Yang Yang.  Their five previous cubs now reside at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China.

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Introducing “Lun Lun’s Elegant and Happy Daughters”

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The only Giant Panda twins in the U.S. are now no longer known by the identifying letters A and B. Zoo Atlanta’s female cubs can now be called by their new names: Ya Lun and Xi Lun.

The names were recently revealed at the twins’ 100-Day Naming Celebration on December 12, 2016, at Zoo Atlanta.

The winning names came from among seven sets of names supplied by the Zoo’s conservation partners in Chengdu, China. The names Ya Lun (Cub A) and Xi Lun (Cub B) earned just over 11,000 of the more than 23,400 votes cast by Panda fans around the world, in the Zoo sponsored contest, from November 21 to December 4.

Ya means “elegant,” and Xi (pronounced shee) means “happy.” Lun (loon) references daughters of Lun Lun. Together, the monikers mean “Lun Lun’s elegant and happy daughters.”

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4_panda_cubs2016_161209_cubb_cuba_ZA_5321Photo Credits: Zoo Atlanta

“We’re thrilled to announce two beautiful and meaningful names for two healthy, thriving, 100-day-old Giant Panda cubs. This is a celebration we share with the City of Atlanta, our longtime partners at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China, and with our Zoo Atlanta family, which includes friends and fans from around the world,” said Raymond B. King, President and CEO. “As we wish Ya Lun and Xi Lun well today, we celebrate the future of their species together.”

The 100-Day Celebration, which has been followed with all seven Atlanta-born Giant Pandas, is an ancient Chinese tradition that holds that when a child reaches the 100th day of life, he or she has survived the fragility of infancy and may be considered on track for a successful future.

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UPDATE! Mom and Baby Orangutan Reunite at Zoo Atlanta

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Pongo the Orangutan just turned one year old just a few days ago, on January 10. He was born by Caesarian section at Zoo Atlanta and raised by a team of zoo keepers, volunteers and veterinarians while Blaze, the mother, recovered.

A first-time mom, Blaze fully recovered from the surgery but wasn't quite ready to take on the role of motherhood. Caregivers began a careful series of introductions, allowing mother and baby to see each other across a barrier (for safety). In the first two photos, Pongo is watching mom at an introdution session. 

(We're doing a bit of a recap here, but see our previous stories on the birth and early reintroductions for even more photos!) 

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After two months of introductions, Blaze finally reached a curious hand out toward the little baby. 

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Reintroduction efforts continued daily. Pongo was taken to the orangutan building each morning for intros with Blaze, and each evening returned to a nursery to receive round-the-clock care and feeding from staff and volunteer caregivers. Meanwhile, he was growing steadily, gaining strength, and learning how to climb!

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Photo credits: Zoo Atlanta / Adam K. Thompson (1-3, 11, 13, 15);  Primate Team (4, 7, 11); Laura Mayo (5); Lynn Yakubinis (6, 8); Kate Leach (9, 10, 12); Max Block (14)

See and read more after the fold!

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UPDATE! Zoo Atlanta Announces Names of Panda Twins

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Zoo Atlanta's Panda twins are no longer 'Cub A' and 'Cub B'! On October 23, zoo officials announced the new names of their twin Panda cubs: Mei Lun ('may loon') and Mei Huan ('may hwaan'). The names originate from a Chinese idiom that means "something indescribably beautiful and magnificent." Following Chinese tradition, the names were announced on the same day the cubs turned 100 days old.

Do you remember how tiny they used to be? Revisit our first story about the newborns here.

Want to take a peek? Zoo Atlanta has a live Panda Cam.

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See how the cubs have grown over their first 100 days of life:

 

See more photos after the fold!

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