The Columbus Zoo And Aquarium Family Grows By Two With Births Of Elephant Calf And Sea Lion Pup

There was a flurry of activity overnight at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium as staff welcomed two little ones—an Asian elephant calf and a California sea lion pup! These exciting births are important milestones and offer hope for the future of these species that are at risk in their native range.

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Photo credit: Grahm S. Jones, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Asian Elephant Calf

On Wednesday, June 16, 2021 at 8:48 p.m., the Zoo welcomed the much-anticipated birth of a male Asian elephant calf in the Zoo’s Asia Quest region.

As an experienced mother, 33-year-old Phoebe is providing exceptional care to her big bundle of joy. The calf appears to be strong and was observed nursing shortly after birth. While he currently prefers to stand closely between Phoebe’s legs, the calf is also starting to be curious of his surroundings behind the scenes in the Zoo’s elephant and rhino building. He is rather vocal, sometimes emitting a low grumble, and he continues to test out his trunk though he hasn’t quite yet sure figured out how to use it to its fullest potential. Phoebe has remained patient with him and calmly responds to the care team as they observe her and her baby.

Throughout her 22-month pregnancy, the Zoo’s Animal Care team monitored Phoebe closely. Thanks to the incredible bond she shares with her care team Phoebe voluntarily participated in regular ultrasound imaging, which enabled staff to monitor the calf’s development.

The purchase of endocrine equipment in 2018 by donor, Johanna Destefano, allowed the Animal Health team to run daily progesterone tests for Phoebe so they could more accurately predict the birth. On Sunday, June 13, Phoebe’s bloodwork showed that her progesterone levels had dropped enough that the Animal Health and Animal Care teams knew that the birth would happen sometime within the next 72 hours. The Animal Care team shifted from checking Phoebe via remote camera every two hours to monitoring her around the clock and working overnight shifts in the building, where they could be ready to assist as necessary.

Phoebe’s delivery went smoothly, and the arrival of this recent calf is also offering hope for Asian elephant conservation efforts. The pairing of Phoebe and 33-year-old father, Hank, was recommended by the Species Survival Plan® (SSP), a program coordinated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to maintain genetic diversity of threatened and endangered species in human care. While Phoebe and Hank had the opportunity to breed, this has been unsuccessful in the past and she was artificially inseminated. Artificial insemination is carefully coordinated by animal health experts and enables an elephant to be impregnated at her most fertile time. While this is still a relatively rare procedure for elephants, most successful elephant artificial insemination attempts (approximately 20 in total) have occurred with African elephants. Artificial insemination is very uncommon with Asian elephants, with less than 10 successful outcomes. Two of these scientific achievements have occurred at the Columbus Zoo (with the first time occurring in Phoebe in 2016). Attempts to artificially inseminate elephants are becoming more frequent to bolster the numbers of endangered elephants, whose populations continue to rapidly decline in their native range.

Phoebe came to the Columbus Zoo in January 2002 and resides alongside the other five Asian elephants in the Asia Quest region—males Hank (this calf’s father) and Beco (Phoebe’s son), and females Connie, Sunny and Rudy. This calf is Phoebe’s fourth calf born at the Columbus Zoo and her fifth calf overall. Her last calf, Ellie, sadly passed away a few weeks after her birth in 2018 due to a bacterial infection despite aggressive treatment by the Animal Health team and outside specialists. Just two other live Asian elephants have been born at the Columbus Zoo throughout the Zoo’s history–Bodhi, who was born in 2004 and now resides at Denver Zoo, and Beco, who was born in 2009 and is still a part of the Columbus Zoo elephant herd.

To provide Phoebe and her new baby with time to continue developing a strong bond, they will remain in a behind-the-scenes area. When they show they are ready, they will also slowly be introduced to other members of the herd. The Zoo will announce viewing information—as well as more information about the calf’s name—for guests as it becomes available.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species,™ Asian elephants are listed as endangered in their native range across southern and southeastern Asia and are in decline due to various factors including habitat loss/degradation and poaching. The World Elephant Day organization estimates there are fewer than 40,000 Asian elephants and less than 400,000 African elephants remaining worldwide.

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is a long-time supporter of several direct elephant conservation initiatives benefitting both African and Asian elephants, including annual donations to the International Elephant Foundation and several research projects and grants over the last 25 years. Many of these projects have focused on reducing human-elephant conflict and monitoring elephant populations in their native ranges. Additionally, Columbus Zoo staff leads AZA’s SAFE (Saving Animals From Extinction) Asian Elephant Program, an AZA initiative to leverage their large audiences and collective expertise to save animals from extinction. Zoo guests can also learn about elephant conservation and how they can contribute to the sustainability of this endangered species at the Zoo’s Elephant Conservation Station inside the “Vanishing Giants” building located in the Asia Quest region. Zoo veterinary staff also participate in a national Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus (EEHV) advisory group. The group aims to prevent, diagnose and treat this potentially fatal disease that affects elephants in their native range, and in human care.

Sea Lion Pup (Lovell) 7676 - Grahm S. Jones  Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Grahm S. Jones, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

California Sea Lion Pup

During the early morning hours of June 17, 2017, the Zoo’s Pinniped team in the Adventure Cove region also had cause to celebrate with the arrival of a sea lion pup!

The pup was born to experienced mom, Lovell, who will be turning 6 years old in July. Lovell is being very attentive to her nursing pup, whose sex has not yet been determined. The pup is already quite active but won’t be ready for swim lessons with mom until Lovell determines her calf is ready. For now, they will continue to bond behind the scenes.

Lovell arrived at the Zoo along with nine other sea lions (six males, three females) and four harbor seals (one male, three females) on May 17, 2020. Because the sea lions all live together for most of the year in a strong social group and there are several males, the father of the pup is currently unknown and will be determined through a blood test.

This most recent pup is the third sea lion pup ever to be born at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. The first sea lion pup, a female named Sunshine, was also born to Lovell on June 25, 2020. Sunshine still resides at the Columbus Zoo and has become independent of Lovell, making friends with other sea lions. The second sea lion pup at the Columbus Zoo was born to mom, Baby. When the team noticed that male pup, Norval, was not gaining enough weight, they stepped in to assist Baby by providing Norval with supplemental tube feedings. He continues to thrive, and Columbus Zoo guests can sometime catch him with Sunshine and another sea lion, Banana.

Guests can find the sea lions at the Zoo’s newest region, Adventure Cove, which opened in 2020. Thanks to the support of voters who passed the last levy and contributions from generous donors, the Columbus Zoo began construction in October 2017 on this brand-new, state-of-the-art region. Adventure Cove features a Pacific Northwest-inspired rocky coast and harbor setting for the sea lions and seals; Jack Hanna’s Animal Encounters Village, a colorfully-themed and immersive village highlighting animals from all around the world; and updated existing attractions.

Adventure Cove also furthers the Zoo’s commitment to sea lion rehabilitation initiatives led by institutions accredited by the AZA. The Columbus Zoo has provided financial support for years for rescue and rehabilitation efforts by The Marine Mammal Center (MMC) in Sausalito, Calif., and the Zoo’s Animal Health staff have trained with the MMC to nurse stranded and injured marine mammals back to health while expanding their knowledge of sea lions and seals.

Although California sea lions are not listed as a species of concern, the situation for sea lions in their native range is increasingly dire because there are a rising number of pup strandings. As climate change forces the mothers to hunt further away from shore, more of them are not coming back, leaving pups orphaned and unable to care for themselves. The MMC takes in many of these animals and works to restore them to health.

While Lovell and her pup will likely stay in the behind-the-scenes area for the near future to continue to bond and so that Lovell and the sea lion care team can ensure that the baby meets all of the important growth and development milestones (including swimming) before graduating into the larger habitat, guests who reserve a Behind the Marina Sea Lion Tour will have the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the pair and learn more about this intelligent, playful species. The experience is one of several new offerings designed to further inspire guests to connect with wildlife and take action to help protect these species’ future. Additional information can be found on the Zoo’s website under the Tours and Virtual Experiences page


Memorial Day Surprise for a Lucky Few as California Sea Lion Born at New York Aquarium

Some very lucky aquarium visitors were treated to an unusual surprise on Memorial Day this year. A California sea lion pup (Zalophus californianus) was born in full view of the morning crowd. The pup, which has yet to receive its name, is healthy and doing great.

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“It is unusual for visitors to have the opportunity to witness the birth of an animal at the aquarium,” said Craig Piper, interim New York Aquarium Director and WCS Director of City Zoos. “Aquarium staff were on hand to answer questions from the guests, and our keepers and veterinarians continue to closely monitor the pup’s development. This is a special birth that has been a wonderful experience for everyone.”

The youngster is the first offspring for mother, Ariana. She is attentive and protective of the pup and is proving to be a great mom. As the two bond and the pup matures, the ability for guests to view the pair may be temporarily limited. Keepers have not yet been able to determine the pup’s gender. 

California sea lions are the only species that are exhibited in all five WCS parks in New York City – the Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, Queens Zoo, and New York Aquarium. Individuals are periodically moved between the parks for breeding to ensure the population is sustainable and genetically healthy.

The New York Aquarium’s sea lion breeding program has been very successful in recent years. This is the 5th pup born at the aquarium since its first in 2010.

 


Emu’ve got to see the newest arrivals at Folly Farm in Wales

Folly Farm Adventure Park & Zoo in Wales has three new Emu chicks to chirp about! Found all over Australia these large flightless birds are instantly recognizable due to their sheer size and their incredible speed. They have been ‘clocked’ at 31mph and can run great distances too, if needs be. Once hunted in the wild for their skin, feathers, meat and oil, these products are now obtained through emu farms. Although not listed as threatened by the IUCN, in Australia’s northern territories they are listed as vulnerable.


These Hooves Are Made For Walking – And Running!

Fort Worth Zoo announces name of newest giraffe calf … and maybe, just baby, something more.

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FORT WORTH, Texas – After an open call for name suggestions for the Fort Worth Zoo’s newest giraffe calf on its social media pages, the Zoo narrowed down the nearly 500 responses to five contenders and invited the public to vote on their favorite name:

Lucchese – a Texas boot brand; we do live in Cowtown, after all!

Jabali – meaning “strong as a rock” in Swahili

Mwezi – “moon” in Swahili, because the tallest land mammals reach high in the sky

Hickory – standing as tall as this Texas tree

Thor – a superhero name for his super-large size

The Zoo received more than 8,000 votes and an overwhelming majority selected Lucchese!  As an iconic Texas boot brand, it fits the newest calf in Cowtown well. How does the saying go? “If the shoe fits!”

Lucchese was born May 7 to parents Kala and Walter. The calf was born weighing 174 pounds and standing more than 6 feet tall. This is Kala’s seventh calf and Walter’s first. The Fort Worth Zoo houses reticulated giraffes, a name that describes the mammal’s chestnut-brown rectangular markings. Like human fingerprints, each giraffe pattern is different. Native to the African savannas, a giraffe’s most distinguishing feature is its long neck, which can account for 7 feet of its height. Lucchese brings the Zoo’s herd to nine.

Lucchese took his first strides in the African Savanna this morning with the rest of the herd. And SURPRISE! There’s another new baby out in the Savanna. Peaches, the lesser kudu calf, was born May 5 to parents Umbrella and Martini. The lesser kudu is an African hoofstock species characterized by its coat consisting of one white line down its back with 11 to 14 stripes branching off. This pattern helps camouflage the kudu in the brush where it lives. The lesser kudu’s large ears capture and funnel sound, which makes it easier for the animal to hear approaching predators. Peaches’ ears are definitely easy to see! She’s sticking pretty close to mom for now, but guests can see both babies romp in the African Savanna on their next visit to the Zoo.

The nationally acclaimed Fort Worth Zoo has been voted the No. 1 zoo in North America by USA Today, the Best Zoo in Texas by Yahoo Travel, the No. 5 zoo in the nation by USA Travel Guide, the No. 1 family attraction in the DFW Metroplex by Zagat survey and a Top 10 Zoo or Aquarium by FamilyFun magazine. Home to more than 7,000 animals, the Zoo is in the third of a four-phase, $100-million master plan. The first phase, African Savanna, opened in 2018; the second phase, Elephant Springs, opened in April 2021. The third, Hunters of Africa and Asian Predators, is currently under construction and set to open in 2023. The institution’s focus on education and conservation is second to none, enhancing the lives of more than 1 million visitors a year and the animals that live here.


Zoo New England Celebrates A Trio Of Tiny Faces With Spring Births

Fluffy, spiked, and ready to delight: three new faces at Zoo New England are small in stature but big in the cute factor. The arrival of two scaly-sided merganser ducklings at Franklin Park Zoo and a prehensile-tailed porcupette at Stone Zoo have given Zoo staff and guests alike reason to celebrate this spring.

Prehensile-tailed porcupette - Courtney Hamm Senior Keeper (3)

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Special Delivery! Endangered White Rhino Born At West Midland Safari Park...

West Midland Safari Park is celebrating the birth of its fourth southern white rhino in five years. 

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Third-time-mum, Ailsa, gave birth to the male rhino calf during the early hours of Monday 24th May, following a pregnancy of 16 months.  

Under the watchful eye of eleven-year-old mum, the little one was given a brief health check by his Keepers who were able to confirm he already weighed in at 74 kilograms (11 and a half stone) and was doing very well. 

The baby boy is another triumph for the Park in championing their breeding programme for white rhino. Two-and-a-half-year-old male, Granville, who was born in 2018, was the last white rhino born at the Park, and now has a new baby brother to join him out on the reserves.  

Head of Wildlife, Angela Potter, said, “We are absolutely delighted to welcome a new white rhino calf. He is a very strong boy and has been growing in confidence settling in well since his birth last week. This is Ailsa’s third time as a mother, and as expected she’s been wonderful – we are very proud of her.    

“With each rhino birth we have here at the Park, it’s a fantastic achievement for the European Endangered Species programme. All five species of rhino are decreasing in numbers, and we hope that this birth can continue in helping to bring more attention to the plight of rhino species in the wild.” 

White rhinos are the larger of the two African rhino species, they are fairly social animals and live in loose groups in the wild of up to six animals. Their skin is grey in colour and not white, in fact it is no different in colour from black rhinos despite the names! 

With wild rhinos continually facing a threat of poaching and habitat loss, the Park are committed to continuing their breeding programme, which works to create a reserve population of these magnificent animals who are listed as near threatened on the IUC red list. At the last count, just over 20,000 wild southern white rhinos remained in South Africa. 

Although the new-born is yet to be named, the Park is asking the public to make the final decision from a shortlist of names supplied by their keepers, which will take place next week. The name will begin with ‘J’, as all names of babies born at the Park in 2021 will begin with this letter. 

The youngster has already made his first tentative steps into his paddock and will eventually join his brother, Granville, on the Safari Drive-through within the next week.  

The new birth now brings the ‘crash’ of southern white rhino at the Safari up to seven. This includes the new arrival’s father, fifteen-year-old Barney, who himself was born at the Park in 2005. 


Marwell Zoo Celebrates Latest Newborn Of Threatened Species

Marwell Zoo is celebrating its latest birth of a threatened Przewalski’s horse foal.

The species became extinct in the wild and became reliant on captive breeding and reintroduction for their survival.

Keepers say the newborn Przewalski’s horse foal is thriving.

Director of Conservation, Dr Tim Woodfine, said: “This birth is a welcome addition to the species’ European Ex situ Programme (EEPs), which is a specially managed assurance population.

Our Przewalski’s horse foal is a reminder that this species disappeared from its natural range but has since been successfully reintroduced.

"Przewalski’s horses had disappeared from the wild by the end of the 1960s. Marwell played a key role on forming a cooperative breeding programme for this species and planning its reintroduction. We since provided animals for reintroduction in Mongolia and Hungary, and for grazing management projects in European nature reserves”.


“Live” Birth of a Blesbok at BIOPARC Valencia

If you visited BIOPARC Valencia in Spain this morning, you might have witnessed one of the most incredible moments in nature. A new life came into the world right before the eyes of visitors to the Park’s Savannah Exhibit. A Blesbok (Damaliscus pygargus phillipsi) was born to the great surprise and amazement of all present. As if in a "live" documentary, around 11:30 in the morning, one of the females in the herd began to show signs of going into labor. This animal and another of the females were in a reserved area of ​​the enclosure, since the BIOPARC Valencia technical team was watching the evolution of the pregnancy and awaiting the birth. These special precautions are aimed at guaranteeing the welfare of the animals at such a delicate moment.

BIOPARC’s Blesbok group is part of an international breeding program for the preservation of the species and is made up of eight individuals: the reproductive male, four adult females, two young from last year and the newborn. The blesboks coexist in a recreation of the African savannah at BIOPARC with giraffes; peculiar species of birds such as the jabirus, the sacred ibis and the Cape teal; and three other species of antelope: kobos, impalas, and Thomson's gazelles. Blesboks are easily distinguished by the striking white markings on their faces that contrast with the reddish brown of their bodies and by both males and females having long, curved lyre-shaped horns. All this life in the savannah passes under the watchful eye of the lions that observe them from the rocks of the Kopje.

Blesboks are diurnal animals that spend most of the morning and afternoon grazing, and resting at noon and at night. Gestation is about 240 days. They usually have one baby per litter and offspring generally arrive in the last stage of spring in late June or early July. They are included in the red list of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). They were in serious danger of extinction in the 19th century due to widespread hunting, which reduced their population in the wild to only about two thousand individuals. Thanks to conservation efforts, many populations have recovered and today they are in a stable situation.


Raising Iniko

Raising Iniko, the first baby patas monkey to be hand-reared by humans, has been a challenge for the Rosamond Gifford Zoo since she was born on June 8, 2020. Her mother, Becca, went into renal failure during her birth and Iniko was delivered by emergency C-section. Becca died shortly after, leaving the zoo’s primate team to care for the tiny newborn.

The zoo’s general curator, Dan Meates, and his wife, zookeeper Leisje Meates, stepped up to raise Iniko at their home. For months they bottle fed her every 2 to 3 hours and recorded her every move. It turned out they were pioneering the first recorded instance of a baby patas monkey being raised in human care -- during a pandemic. Leisje Meates named the baby Iniko, which means “born during troubled times.”

The little monkey thrived and won the hearts of CNY and beyond as the zoo shared her story. At 4 months, the Meates started bringing her to the zoo to expand her world and allow others to help raise her. Recently they began the delicate process of introducing her to her biological family, the zoo’s patas monkey troop, a tight group with a complex social structure.

Then things took another troubling turn. Iniko’s father, male patas monkey MJ, passed away. He was being treated for a gastrointestinal illness when his condition worsened in late February. His passing complicates matters, not so much for Iniko as for the troop he led as patriarch. MJ was the overseer and peacekeeper of the troop, which includes his three older daughters and their two “aunties,” Sarah and Addie.

In the wild, patas monkeys form permanent family groups of all females led by one mature male. This lead male may be challenged and replaced by a stronger male on a fairly regular basis. Male offspring of the troop will leave it when they approach maturity to lead their own troop, join an all-male group or remain solitary. Females have their own hierarchy within the troop, which can fluctuate or cause conflicts that will usually be settled by the patriarch.

The absence of a male leader at the zoo leaves its troop rudderless, making it a difficult time to introduce a new young female, said Rosamond Gifford Zoo Director Ted Fox.

“Hand-rearing the first baby patas monkey that we know of has been a total learning experience, and obviously that’s going to continue as we figure out the best way to proceed with integrating Iniko into our troop,” Ted said.

“Fellow AZA institutions will be paying close attention to how this goes, because it has implications for not just patas monkeys, but similar species of primates as well,” he said.

The zoo’s troop of patas monkeys already has a compelling history. The original group, including MJ, Sarah, Addie and Becca, were among 20 patas monkeys rescued from Puerto Rico by the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, FL, in 2010.

Patas monkeys are native to Africa, but a group brought to Puerto Rico for animal research either escaped or was released and began raiding crops to survive. As a result, they were being targeted for extermination as an invasive species and agricultural pests when the Lowry Park Zoo stepped in.

Five of the monkeys they rescued – MJ plus two adult females and their daughters -- came to the Rosamond Gifford Zoo, which opened its patas monkey exhibit in August 2010.

Since then, the zoo has been among only six accredited zoos in North America to care for patas monkeys. AZA institutions share their knowledge to benefit species in their care as well as their wild counterparts, so every new piece of information on this species is relevant.

Dan and Leisje Meates already were writing a scientific paper on what they learned from raising Iniko. They may have another one in their future. Ted said what is known about patas monkeys led them to conclude that a new male will need to join the troop. Introducing a young male to a group of all females will allow him to take over as the new patriarch and the females to resume their former roles.

Right now, the plan is to bring in a new male from another zoo to become the leader and restore stability to the troop. “There are several options for introductions, and we are exploring which might be the most successful for Iniko,” Ted said.

 If all goes well, Iniko will be able to meet her sisters and aunties and remain part of the zoo family. If not, she would move to another AZA zoo looking to start a new troop of young patas monkeys.

“Of course we want Iniko to stay here long term, and we’re going to approach this carefully and sensitively in hopes it works out that way,” Fox said. “But we are operating on the animals’ terms, not ours, so they will be the deciding factor. They will help us figure out what’s best for Iniko.”


Baby Sloth Receiving Specialized Care At Brevard Zoo

A Linnaeus’s two-toed sloth born at Brevard Zoo on May 12 is receiving specialized attention from animal care staff after the baby’s mother, Tango, was not interested in looking after the little one, and attempts to reunite the pair were unsuccessful.

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The yet-to-be-named newborn, who was fathered by Dustin, is bottle-fed goat’s milk every three hours around the clock.

Because young sloths typically cling to their mothers at this age, the baby was given a variety of stuffed animals to hold.

Zoo staff have not yet identified the sex of the sloth as this will require a laboratory test.

This is the second sloth to arrive at the Zoo this spring. The first was born to Sammy on April 8; that baby is being reared by their mother and is visible to guests in the Rainforest Revealed section of the Zoo.

Sloths are threatened by the wildlife trade and habitat loss. The Zoo urges tourists visiting Central or South America to pass on “photo ops” with sloths, which often feature animals unsustainably removed from their natural habitat.