It's Halloween, and that means zoo animals around the world are enjoying encounters with pumpkins and gourds of all shapes and sizes. Animals' reactions to pumpkins vary, but critters may sniff, munch on, or completely destroy their pumpkin treats.
The pumpkins are more than a seasonal celebration - they serve as enrichment for zoo residents. Enrichment provides physical, mental, or sensory stimulation and encourages natural behaviors in animals. Happy Halloween from ZooBorns!
Photo Credits (top to bottom) Ring-tailed Lemur: Fort Wayne Children's Zoo Galapagos Tortoise: San Diego Zoo Komodo Dragon: San Diego Zoo North American River Otter: San Diego Zoo Gorilla: Paignton Zoo Asian Elephant: Oregon Zoo/Shervin Hess Sumatran Tiger: Fort Wayne Children's Zoo African Lion: Columbus Zoo & Aquarium/Grahm S. Jones Red Panda: Fort Wayne Children's Zoo Spider Monkey: Paignton Zoo Satanic Leaf-tailed Gecko: Dallas Zoo
The Indianapolis Zoo welcomed two tiny Meerkat pups on October 13. They are the first ever born at the Zoo! This is also the first litter for mom Rue. The births bring the number of Meerkats in the Indy Zoo’s ‘mob’ up to seven.
Photo Credits: Alea Kuczynski / Indianapolis Zoo
Gestation for Meerkats is about eleven weeks. In the wild, Meerkats give birth in underground burrows to help keep the newborns safe from predators. To shield the pups from dust in their subterranean homes, they are born with their eyes and ears closed. The Zoo's newcomers opened their eyes for the first time at eleven-days-old. Meerkat babies are also nearly hairless at birth, though a light coat of silver and brown fur begins to fill in after just a few days.
These desert-dwellers are highly social critters and live in groups, called mobs, which can include dozens of individuals from multiple families. Within the Zoo's mob, all of the Meerkats have been taking turns caring for the new pups, including the males.
The babies will continue to nurse for about nine weeks, and they grow very quickly. Though they weigh only about an ounce at birth, by six months old, the pups will be about the same size as the adults.
On October 13thToronto 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.
Photo 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.
The Oregon Zoo’s two new Caracal kittens are now 6 weeks old, and they have just begun to explore their outdoor habitat in the zoo’s Predators of the Serengeti area.
Peggy and her kittens will have outdoor access from 10 am to 2 pm daily, weather permitting, but keepers say they will be easy to miss. “They’ve spent a lot of time out of view of visitors so far,” said Beth Foster, the zoo’s lead Caracal Keeper. “The space is still new and unfamiliar to them, so they’ve been hiding a lot, taking things slowly and sticking close to mom.”
Photo Credits: Michael Durham / Oregon ZooCaracals are elusive animals by nature, and even the full-grown cats can be hard to glimpse, according to Foster. She says the best time for zoo visitors to try their luck is right at 10 am, when they first go outside.
Under the watchful eye of their mom, the kittens ventured outside for the first time last week, toddling through hollow logs, hiding in the tall grass, and chirping for mom whenever they lost sight of her.
“Peggy’s been an excellent and very attentive mother,” Foster said. “When her little ones call, she comes right away to check on them.”
Peggy gave birth to the kittens last month in a behind-the-scenes maternity den. The two siblings have been healthy since day one and continue to grow rapidly. They now weigh about 2 to 3 pounds each and are just a bit bigger than domestic kittens — but with enormous paws and ears.
“They’re in their super-adorable phase,” Foster added.
ZooBorns introduced readers to the kittens, here, in early October.
Oregon Zoo Keepers recently voted to call the pair by the Sanskrit names Nandi (male) and Nisha (female).
Cricket, the kittens’ father, will be on exhibit after 2 pm. Cricket was born at the Lory Park Zoo and Owl Sanctuary in South Africa, and moved to the Oregon Zoo in winter 2011. Peggy came to the zoo in 2009 from a conservation center in Mena, Ark.
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which coordinates nationwide breeding programs for many of the species housed by zoos, recommended Cricket and Peggy as a breeding pair because the cats are from the same subspecies.
The zoo’s Caracal habitat, part of the Predators of the Serengeti exhibit, was built with substantial support from community members and organizations like Portland General Electric. The Caracals have access to a heated den and a spacious landscape dotted with trees, shrubs, heated rocks and grassy knolls.
A six-week-old female Sumatran Orangutan, named Siska (born September 3 to mum, Subis), was given her new moniker after staff at Chester Zoo confirmed her gender.
Siska shares her name with a specialist Orangutan vet, from Indonesia, who first spotted the new baby clinging to her mum on the morning she was born. Vet, Siska Sulistyo, who normally works in sanctuaries in South East Asia, has spent three months in Chester, UK, working alongside the zoo’s resident veterinary team, as part of an initiative to exchange knowledge and skills.
Photo Credits: Chester Zoo
Chris Yarwood, Lead Keeper at Chester Zoo, said, “Siska has been named after an Indonesian vet who is spending some time working with our animal health teams here at the zoo. She was the very first person to spot our new arrival the morning she was born, so we thought it was a fitting name particularly given the vital conservation work that her team carry out in South East Asia with a range of endangered species.
“Sumatran Orangutans are being pushed dangerously close to extinction every day and, as it stands, they are one of the world’s most endangered species.
“Siska is a very special addition to both the zoo and the European-wide breeding programme, which aims to have a healthy safety-net population of the species in case the worst should happen--extinction in the wild.”
After growing in size and strength, Lincoln Park Zoo’s first-ever Red Panda cubs Clark, a male, and Addison, a female, are now in their outdoor exhibit!
Photo Credit: Lincoln Park Zoo
ZooBorns has reported on the cubs’ progress in stories here and here. Born June 26, Addison and Clark have spent the last few months behind-the-scenes with their mother, Leafa. The Red Pandas will be on and off exhibit intermittently as they continue to acclimate from their nest box behind-the-scenes.
“We’re excited to see the cubs explore their outdoor exhibit space and to be able to share their playful nature with our guests,” said Curator of Mammals Mark Kamhout. “The Red Panda cubs continue to grow in size but also in how vocal they are, their activity level, and curiosity levels.”
Red Pandas are Raccoon-like in appearance and have Panda in their name, but are not related to either species – genetics indicate that Red Pandas belong to a unique family. Red Pandas are native to the Himalayan mountain range and due to habitat loss and poaching, Red Pandas are considered a Vulnerable species.
A five-day-old endangered Grevy’s Zebra ran and bucked in the rain during his first day on exhibit at Zoo Miami.
Photo Credit: Ron Magill
The foal, who will be named in an online contest, weighed 104 pounds at birth. He is the first foal for his three-year-old mother, and is the 16th member of this endangered species to be born at Zoo Miami. He made his exhibit debut alongside his mother and another female Zebra.
Grevy’s zebras are the largest of all Zebra species and are native to northern Kenya and Ethiopia. They are distinguished from other Zebra species by their large heads and ears, along with very thin stripes which do not extend to the belly. Well-adapted to arid regions, Grevy’s Zebras live in herds with up to 100 members.
In less than 40 years, Grevy’s Zebra populations declined from about 15,000 animals to only about 2,500 today. Invasive plants have overtaken the native grasses eaten by Zebras, and they must compete with cattle for grazing areas. Fortunately, hunting has declined and the population appears to have stabilized for now.
With their awesome strength and intense beauty, Lions are one of Africa’s most iconic animals. Yet as these regal cats are in decline in the wild, three adorable newborns at the Indianapolis Zoo will help inspire awareness and support for conservation of the species.
The African Lion cubs, two males and a female, were born on September 21 to first-time mother, Zuri, and first-time dad, Nyack. When Zookeepers arrived the day of the cubs’ birth, they found that 9-year-old Zuri had already delivered her first cub sometime during the night or early morning. The others followed around 10am and 1:15pm. These are the first African Lions born at the Zoo since 2003.
Photo Credits: Jackie Curts / Indianapolis Zoo
Adult Lions are one of the most fearsome predators on Africa’s plains, yet newborns are defenseless and rely solely on their mothers for survival. Zuri has shown excellent maternal behavior and is a caring, protective mom to her trio.
The youngsters are nursing well and growing, currently weighing between 7.5 and 9.5 pounds. Like all Lion cubs, the babies were born with mottled fur. Their dark spots will eventually fade, though some young adults still show hints of brown in their sleek, golden coats.
Zuri and her cubs will remain indoors for several months, to protect the health of the newborns. The family is expected to make its debut in Spring 2016, and at that time, guests will be able to get closer than ever before. Renovations are currently under way at the Lion Exhibit, and new glass windows and expanded viewing areas will allow visitors to get within inches of the ferocious felines.
Even before visitors have a chance to come face to fuzzy face with the new cubs, they will soon be able to vote on the babies’ names, through a poll on the Zoo’s Facebook page. More details will be announced soon.
The Queens Zoo started breeding New England Cottontails, this year, as part of a collaborative effort with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), various state agencies in NY and New England, universities, public and private landowners, other conservation NGOs, and the Roger Williams Park Zoo (Providence, R.I.), in an effort to boost the wild population.
Photo Credits: Scott Silver
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the New England Cottontail as “Vulnerable”. The rabbit was recently reviewed for listing as “threatened” or “endangered” under the federal Endangered Species Act. The USFWS found that federal protection was unnecessary, as current conservation efforts have shown productive results, and ongoing plans are in place to recover the species.
New England Cottontails have light brown coats and look strikingly similar to the more populous Eastern Cottontail Rabbit, which is designated “Least Concern” by the IUCN. The Eastern Cottontail is not native and was introduced to the region in the early 1900s, primarily for hunting purposes. DNA analysis is the most reliable way to distinguish between the two species.
The Queens Zoo’s breeding program takes place in an off-exhibit space, and the rabbits are not on exhibit for public viewing. Special habitats and conditions have to be created to encourage courtship and breeding. The adult males and females are initially kept in their own enclosures, and then introduced in specially designed rabbit pens, where they get to know each other and hopefully reproduce. These pens have hay beds, nest boxes, and other features so they can pair up or separate much as they would in the wild. After a week of living together, the rabbits are separated, and each one goes back to its own enclosure. These environmental variations are important to the regular reproductive cycle of the species.
This season, 11 young rabbits (known as kits) were born at the Queens Zoo and sent to New Hampshire and Rhode Island. Once there, biologists from the partnering agencies first introduced them to a one acre outdoor acclimation pen and fitted them with transmitters to track the migration patterns of the rabbits. When ready, they were fully released into suitable forest and thicket-lined habitats. Overall, between all the partnering organizations, 41 rabbits were released this year.
“The New England Cottontail is an example of a species that can be saved if enough people and organizations come together to help protect it,” said Scott Silver, Director and Curator of the WCS Queens Zoo. “We’re proud to be part of this amazing coalition of agencies and the Roger Williams Park Zoo, dedicated to conserving this ecologically important animal.”
Jim Breheny, WCS Executive Vice President and General Director of WCS Zoos and Aquarium, said, “In only a few short months, the Queens Zoo’s new New England Cottontail breeding program has proven successful. The WCS zoos and aquarium inspire people to value nature when they visit our facilities, but we also have a commitment to conservation through our extensive on-site breeding programs for both local and global species that are experiencing challenges in the wild.”
Prague Zoo is very excited to announce the birth of a new star in their tapir nursery. A Malayan Tapir was born October 15th to mom, Indah, and father, Niko.
The birth of the new calf is also being celebrated as a big success for the zoo’s keepers. It is the first Malayan Tapir to be born in Prague after nearly 40 years. Prague Zoo and the Zoo Zlín are the only facilities in the Czech Republic where the Malayan Tapirs are kept.
Photo Credits: Petr Hamerník / Prague Zoo
Visitors to the Prague Zoo can now see the small baby tapir on exhibit. In the past twelve months, there have been just six Malayan Tapirs born in Europe. The Prague Zoo has been keeping Malayan Tapirs since 1967.
Mom, Indah, was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on September 26, 2008. As a near two-year-old calf, she came to Prague from the Rare Species Conservation Centre in Sandwich, Kent, chaperoned by her older brother Vasan. It took no time for them to settle into their new home, within the Water World exhibit.
This new baby tapir is Indah’s first offspring, and she is proving herself to be a very good mother. In the coming weeks, keepers will be able to determine the sex, and then a proper name can be selected for the new baby.
The Malayan Tapir (Tapirus indicus), also known as the Asian Tapir, is the largest of the five species of tapir and the only one native to Asia. The scientific name refers to the East Indies, the species’ natural habitat. In the Malay language, the tapir is commonly referred to as cipan, tenuk or badak tampung.