Previous month:
May 2015
Next month:
July 2015

June 2015

Adorable New Kits are "Stinkin' Cute"

1_florida boardwalk skunk kits may 29 2015

Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo has welcomed a litter of seven baby Skunks!  Born May 2 to first time mom, ‘Mia’ (now affectionately known as ‘Momma Mia’), the Skunk kits have just opened their eyes and will soon emerge from the den. Mia and kits, five boys and two girls, have been relocated to a temporary enclosure, along the Florida boardwalk, until the kits are mobile. 

2_florida boardwalk skunk kit 4 may 29 2015

3_florida boardwalk skunk kit 5 may 29 2015

4_florida boardwalk skunk kit 3 may 29 2015Photo Credits: Dave Parkinson/Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo

Born hairless, weighing only 40-50 grams each (about the weight of a slice of bread), the now furry siblings were recently weighed, and are currently at 180-208 grams each. Members of the Zoo’s animal care team feed Mia breakfast, while her kits are checked and weighed one at a time, then placed quickly back into the den.

Skunks are omnivorous, eating both plant and animal material and changing their diets as the seasons change. They eat insects and larvae, earthworms, grubs, small rodents, lizards, salamanders, frogs, snakes, birds, moles and eggs. They also commonly eat berries, roots, leaves, grasses, fungi and nuts. In settled areas, Skunks also peruse garbage left by humans. Pet owners may experience a Skunk finding its way into a garage or storage area where pet food is kept.

Skunks are crepuscular and solitary when not breeding, though in colder parts of their range, they may gather in communal dens for warmth. During the day, they shelter in burrows, which they can dig with their powerful front claws. Males and females occupy overlapping home ranges through the greater part of the year. Skunks are not true hibernators in the winter, but do den-up for extended periods of time.

Skunks mate in early spring and polygamous. The female will excavate and prepare a den to house her litter. Skunks are placental, with a gestation period of about 66 days, and they generally give birth to four to seven kits.  The kits are weaned after about two months, but they will stay with their mother for about one year, until they reach mating age.

Continue reading "Adorable New Kits are "Stinkin' Cute"" »


'Chicks Rule' at Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

1_stellers_lo

A Steller’s Sea Eagle, a Raggiana Bird-of-Paradise chick, and three Spur-Winged Lapwings are among the significant hatchings reported in the past two weeks, at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.

2_BOP-Day 20 (1 of 3)

3_image009

[Photo Credits: Cassandre Crawford (Image 1: Steller's Sea Eagle chick; Image 2: Raggiana Bird-of-Paradise chick; Image 3: Spur-winged Lapwing chicks)]

Steller’s Sea Eagles are one of the most rare raptors in the world. They are twice the size of, and much more aggressive than, their close relative, the Bald Eagle. The Cincinnati Zoo was the only Zoo in the U.S. to breed this species successfully, until the Denver Zoo hatched a chick last year. Cincinnati has now bred three pairs, and produced 12 chicks, in cooperation with the Species Survival Plan (SSP). There are currently 22 Steller’s Sea Eagles in 11 North American institutions.

Chick watch began on April 29, when Aviculture staff noticed the Sea Eagle parents looking down at their nest more frequently. A chick was first observed on May 3, and by May 7it looked to have doubled in size. Their incubation period can last 39 to 45 days and they lay one to three eggs (but only one chick usually survives).

As of 2009, the Steller’s Sea Eagle population was estimated at 5,000 birds worldwide, but that number is dropping. Although legally protected in Russia, Japan, China, and South Korea, other threats to these rare birds include fossil fuel energy developments, wind farms, pollution, habitat loss, hunting, and possibly global warming.

The Cincinnati Zoo hatched its first Raggiana Bird-of-Paradise chick on May 2. To date, San Diego, Honolulu, and Miami are the only Zoos in the U.S. to produce Raggiana Bird-of-Paradise chicks that lived at least 30 days.

The Cincinnati Zoo’s chick has almost reached that milestone and keepers are optimistic that it will stay in good health. The chick’s 13-year-old father is the most genetically valuable of his species (meaning his genes are the most needed in Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) collections to keep the population as healthy/genetically diverse as possible).

The Cincinnati Zoo has mimicked the life strategy of these birds in the wild.  Males get together and show off in a central tall tree (called a “lek”), while the females gather around to view the spectacle and select a mate.  They breed and she flies off to build her nest and raise her chick all by herself while the male goes back to dancing!

Bird-of-Paradise chicks often do well as hand-reared youngsters. They eat mostly insects, pinkie mice pieces, and papaya and are extremely intelligent birds that can learn to mimic many noises and sometimes speech. All Bird-of-Paradise species are protected, in Papua New Guinea, from the large-scale hunting that occurred there in the late 1800’s and nearly drove several species to extinction. Their feathers and skins were exported, by the thousands, for fashionable hats. Their biggest concern now is rainforest habitat loss.

Three Spur-Winged Lapwings also join the list. Although they are not rare at all in the wild, they are still special to the Cincinnati Zoo and genetically significant offspring from first-time parents.

The Spur-Winged Lapwing breeds around the eastern Mediterranean and in a wide band from sub-Saharan West Africa to Arabia. The Greek and Turkish breeders are migratory, but other populations are resident. The species is declining in its northern range, but it is abundant in much of tropical Africa, being seen at almost any wetland habitat in its range.