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January 2016

Critically Endangered Tiger Brothers at the Virginia Zoo


Two Malayan Tiger cubs were born at the Virginia Zoo on January 6. The two males arrived, about 12 hours apart, to parents Api and Christopher.

The cubs were born after the typical 103 days gestation to a healthy mother. However, with several hours of close observation, the Zoo’s animal care and veterinary staff were not comfortable with the level of care that first-time mom Api was giving.

After much internal discussion and consulting with the National Species Survival Plan Chair for Malayan Tigers, the decision was made to remove the cubs from the mother and hand-rear them.

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4_tiger-cubs-4-030Photos and Videos Courtesy: The Virginia Zoo




At the time of their removal from mom, the first cub weighed 1.6 pounds while the second weighed 2 pounds. Virginia Zoo staff are following previously developed hand-rearing protocols, and both cubs are active and thriving.

Tigers are born blind and helpless and are typically nursed by the mother for about two months, after which they will be introduced to a meat diet. In the wild, tiger cubs will begin to hunt for their own food at about 18 months of age.

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Minnesota’s Penguin Chicks Are Put on the Scale


Three African Penguin chicks have hatched, so far this season, at the Minnesota Zoo.

When the eggs first hatch, keepers at the Minnesota Zoo weigh the chicks to ensure the parents are feeding them properly. The three chicks that hatched in December are steadily gaining weight—a testimony to the good parenting they are receiving!



4_12496079_10153807986428788_1417004124455515403_oPhoto Credits: Minnesota Zoo

The African Penguin (Spheniscus demersus) is a species confined to southern African waters. It is widely known as the “jackass” penguin for its donkey-like bray.

Like all extant penguins it is flightless, with a streamlined body, and wings stiffened and flattened into flippers for a marine habitat. Adults weigh, on average, 4.9 to 7.7 lbs (2.2 to 3.5 kg) and are 24 to 28 inches (60 to 70 cm) tall. It has distinctive pink patches of skin above the eyes and a black facial mask; the body upper parts are black and sharply delineated from the white under parts, which are spotted and marked with a black band. The pink gland above the eyes helps the penguins to cope with changing temperatures. The African Penguin is a pursuit diver and feeds primarily on fish and squid.

They are monogamous and breed in colonies, returning to the same site each year. The African Penguin has an extended breeding season, with nesting usually peaking from March to May, in South Africa, and November and December in Namibia. A clutch of two eggs is laid either in burrows dug in guano, or scrapes in the sand under boulders or brush. Both parents undertake incubation equally for about 40 days. At least one parent guards the chicks until about 30 days. After that, the chick joins the crèche with other chicks, and both parents head out to sea to forage. Chicks fledge at 60 to 130 days and go to sea, on their own.

Once extremely numerous, the African Penguin is declining due to a combination of threats and is currently classified as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Population declines are, according to the IUCN, largely attributed to: food shortages (resulting from large catches of fish by commercial purse-seine fisheries) and environmental fluctuations.

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


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.


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

‘Everybody Into the Pool!’ at the Maryland Zoo

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The African Penguin chick siblings, at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, are shedding their fluffy down feathers and growing their grey and white juvenile plumage.

Juvenile feathers are water resistant, so now there’s lots of swim practice for the brother and sister.

2_Female Chick_hatched Nov 9

3_Male Chick_hatched Nov 5

4_Penguin Chicks swim practicesPhoto Credits: The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore

The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore happily announced the arrival of the two African penguin chicks back in November, and ZooBorns shared news of the birth, as well. They were the first chicks to hatch during the 2015-2016 breeding season at Penguin Coast. The chicks’ parents are Mega and Rossi. The male hatched on November 5 and the female on November 9.

The Maryland Zoo has been a leader in breeding African Penguins for over 40 years, winning the prestigious Edward H. Bean Award for the “African Penguin Long-term Propagation Program” from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) in 1996.  

The Zoo has the largest colony of the birds in North America, with over 60 birds currently residing in Penguin Coast, along with six special penguins that are used as “Animal Ambassadors” and live in the Penguin Encounters building at the exhibit.

“Our penguins are bred according to recommendations from the AZA African Penguin Species Survival Plan (SSP) which helps maintain their genetic diversity,” said Jen Kottyan, Avian Collection and Conservation Manager. “Many of the African Penguins previously bred at the Zoo now inhabit zoo and aquarium exhibits around the world.”

Penguin chicks hatch approximately 38 to 42 days after the egg is laid. Zookeepers, at the Maryland Zoo, monitor development of the eggs by candling them about a week after they are laid to see if they are fertile and developing. The eggs are then placed back with the parents.

“With African Penguins, both the male and the female take turns sitting on the eggs,” said Kottyan. “Once the eggs hatch, parents take turns caring for their offspring; they each protect, feed, and keep the chick or chicks warm for 2-3 days and then switch off.”

After hatching, the two chicks stayed with their parents for about three weeks and were fed regurgitated fish from both of their parents. During this time, zookeepers and veterinarians kept a close eye on the development of the chicks, weighing and measuring them daily for the first week to make sure that the parents were properly caring for each chick.

At three-weeks-old, the keepers began hand rearing the chicks to start to teach them that keepers are a source of food and to acclimate them to human interaction. “Over the years we have found that beginning the hand- rearing process at three weeks gives the chicks a great head start with their development,” continued Kottyan. “They will still retain the natural instincts of a wild penguin, while allowing us to properly care for them.”

The siblings are now starting to lose their downy feathers, and the grey plumage that distinguishes juvenile penguins from the adults now covers them. They are learning how to swim and will now be slowly introduced to the rest of the penguin colony.

You can follow their growth and development on the Zoo’s website ( and Facebook page (

Bright Orange Babies Join Columbus Zoo's Langur Troop

Langur 6727 - Grahm S. Jones, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium started off the new year with a pair of bright orange babies:  Two Silvered Leaf Langurs were born December 1 and January 11, with the latest being the zoo’s first birth of the new year.

Langur 6871 - Grahm S. Jones, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
Langur 6845 - Grahm S. Jones, Columbus Zoo and AquariumPhoto Credit:  Grahm S. Jones

These births also mark the Columbus Zoo’s first Langur babies since 2011, and the first time two infants were born in a troop since 2010.

Langurs, which have black fur with silvered tips as adults, are born with bright orange fur. This marked difference in coat color is believed to encourage other female Langurs to assist in raising the young, a practice called allomothering.

The births are also important for the breeding recommendations outlined by the Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program coordinated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to manage threatened or endangered species.  Silvered Leaf Langurs are listed as Near Threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to population declines caused by habitat loss. These two babies will help to sustain the langur population among AZA-accredited zoos. 

Patty, age 16, gave birth December 1 to her fifth offspring, who has since been determined to be a girl. Gumby, age 14, gave birth to her sixth offspring, the gender of which has not yet been determined, on January 11. Both mothers mated with Thai, who is 4.5 years old, and are experienced caregivers.

Neither baby has been named yet.  Young Langurs begin to sit and walk on their own after about two weeks.  The babies’ orange fur will gradually be replaced by silvery fur by the time they are six months old.  The older of the two babies is already showing signs of graying in her face, hands, and tail.

The range of the Silvered Leaf Langur includes Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Wild populations are losing their habitats as lands are cleared for oil palm plantations or destroyed by forest fires. Langurs are also hunted for their meat or captured to serve as pets.

See more photos of the babies below.

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Baby Giraffe Arrives With the New Year

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As zoo keepers walked their early morning rounds on New Year’s Day at Australia’s Taronga Western Plains Zoo, they discovered the zoo’s first baby of 2016:  a female Giraffe calf with her mother, Ntombi.

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Nyah1_RickStevens (6)
Photo Credit:  Rick Stevens

Keepers named the calf Nyah, which means “purpose” in Swahili.

Nyah is Ntombi’s third calf.  Keepers say Ntombi is very protective of her calf, but she is showing all the right maternal behaviors.

“The Giraffe calf is on exhibit with the rest of the herd, however, she is still a little shy, spending a lot of her day at the back of the exhibit,” said Giraffe keeper Jackie Stuart. “Over the coming weeks, she will start to become more confident and explore the rest of the exhibit.”

Wild Giraffe numbers have decreased dramatically over the past decade.  Scientists estimate that fewer than 80,000 Giraffes remain in Africa’s wild grasslands and savannahs. The 30% drop in numbers is due to poaching for bush meat and human encroachment into formerly wild lands.

The zoo participates in programs such as Beads for Wildlife, which provides income for Kenyan communities thereby reducing dependence on livestock, which require grazing.  With less livestock, the number of wildlife/livestock conflicts can be reduced, as well as reducing pressure on food and water sources.

Three Little Girls at Peoria Zoo


Lizzie and Arthur have been together since 2008, and on Dec 4, 2015 they became parents for the first time. Nine-year-old Lizzy gave birth to three sweet female Lion cubs at the Peoria Zoo.

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4_2 for zoo bornsPhoto Credits: Peoria Zoo

In preparation of the birth, Zoo staff modified an off-exhibit stall to provide a secure and quiet place for the expectant mother and cubs. A video camera was installed in the stall to allowed Zoo staff to view the family remotely, 24/7.

A whelping box was also installed, in the hopes that Lizzy would actually give birth in the box. The idea was to provide a safe place so the cubs could stay in the box until they were strong enough to climb out. However, Lizzy did not give birth in whelping box and it was later removed.

After the birth of the cubs, the new family was left totally alone, with no interruption for as long as possible to allow the new mom to bond with her offspring.

Zoo staff observed, via remote viewing, that the smaller of the females was not nursing or receiving attention from mom. Staff opted to remove the tiny cub from the mix and began to bottle feed her. Keepers initially struggled with this decision; bottle-fed Lions typically lack the maternally taught socialization skills that are vital.

After a week of staff feedings, the cub was placed back in the litter with mom. But, unfortunately, things took another turn for the worse in the saga when Lizzie was no longer able to produce enough milk for all the cubs. The three sisters are now receiving total care from Zoo staff.

For the duration of the winter months, the new cubs are NOT available for viewing. Peoria Zoo will continue to update their web and social media pages with news of the Lion cub’s progress.

It is anticipated they will be on exhibit and available for viewing in the spring.

New Year, New Baby at Bioparc Valencia

1_JIRAFAS - Adulta y cría - BIOPARC Valencia

The New Year started off big (and tall) for BIOPARC Valencia, in Spain, with the birth of a female Rothschild Giraffe.

Zora, an experienced mother, and has taken quite naturally to her new baby. The father, Julius, is the only adult male specimen living at BIOPARC Valencia and is the progenitor of the rest of the calves born in the park.

The small new Giraffe has been spending time being pampered by mom. Aunt Che, accompanies them at all times by providing company and helping them enjoy the tranquility of their interior quarters, which also have a patio to enjoy the sun and pleasant temperatures.

2_Cría de jirafa recién nacida - BIOPARC Valencia

3_Cría de jirafa recién nacida - BIOPARC Valencia - Junto a la jirafa CHEPhoto Credits: BIOPARC Valencia


The Rothschild Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi), also known as the Baringo Giraffe, is one of the most threatened of the nine sub-species of giraffe. It is named after the Tring Museum’s founder, Walter Rothschild.

All individuals living in the wild are in protected areas in Kenya and Uganda. The Rothschild Giraffe is at risk of hybridization and is currently classified as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List, due to habitat destruction and poaching. Its geographic distribution includes central Kenya, northern Uganda and southern Sudan. According to latest figures, there are fewer than 1,500 individuals in the wild. BIOPARC Valencia participates in the EEP (captive breeding program for endangered species), and this new breeding is involved in this important initiative to preserve biodiversity.

The Rothschild Giraffe is distinguishable from other subspecies because of its coloring. Where as the Reticulated Giraffe has very defined dark patches with bright channels between, the Rothschild has paler, orange-brown patches that are less defined. Also, the Rothschild has no markings on the lower leg.

Continue reading "New Year, New Baby at Bioparc Valencia" »

The ‘Three Little Kings’ of Zoo Basel are Growing Up


The “Three Little Kings” at Zoo Basel are growing up! At almost eight-months-old, the boys are nearly tall as Dad, and their youthful spots (or rosettes) are beginning to fade.

ZooBorns introduced the family to readers this past summer, and you can see pics of their younger days, in that article: “Three New Boys for Zoo Basel’s Lion Pride



4_11872147_968955843142156_7957932688121563886_oPhoto Credits: Zoo Basel

The pride of African Lions, at Zoo Basel, increased by three this past summer. On May 28, Okoa gave birth to two male cubs, and on June 15, Uma delivered another male cub. The two lionesses’ gave birth to their young in the same area and are raising them together. Mbali is father to all three boys and has proven a playful participant in their upbringing.

African Lions are currently classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. There has been an estimated population decline of 30-50%, in the last 20 years. Noted causes for the decline include disease and human interference. Habitat loss and conflicts with humans are considered the most significant threats to the species. The remaining populations are often geographically isolated from one another, which can lead to inbreeding, and consequently, reduced genetic diversity.

Zoo Basel supports the Big Life Foundation, which works in the Amboseli-Tsavo ecosystem in Kenya to protect the Lions. The Zoo is also a participant in the EAZA Endangered Species Breeding Programme for African Lions.

More pics below the fold!

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Challenging Delivery for Bornean Orangutan Mom

1_IMG_1672 dec 23 2015 by Zootastic

With Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo veterinary and primate animal care teams standing by; a precious Christmas gift came early. Josie, a 30-year-old Bornean Orangutan, gave birth to a male offspring on December 21. Although this was the fourth baby for an experienced mother, the offspring was born in the breech position creating a challenging labor and delivery.

“Josie did an amazing job with the delivery under difficult circumstances, and she cleared the baby’s airway herself immediately after birth,” said Dr. Ray Ball, director of medical sciences. “Along with our team, Josie’s 10-year-old daughter, Hadiah, observed the entire labor and delivery, which will be a very important experience for her when she becomes a mother.”

2_primates orang baby gojo 1 dec 26 2015 by Dave Parkinson

3_IMG_1656 dec 23 2015 by Zootastic

4_primates orang josie gojo 1 dec 26 2015 by Dave ParkinsonPhoto Credits: Images 1,3: Zootastic/Lowry Park Zoo ; Images 2, 4-6: Dave Parkinson/Lowry Park Zoo

With the newborn, the Zoo is currently home to a group of six Orangutans: adult male Goyang who sired the infant, Josie and baby, Josie’s older daughter Hadiah, adult female Dee Dee, and her juvenile daughter RanDee. The new baby has been named “GoJo,” a blend of his parents’ names.

Born with a thin layer of red hair and cream-colored skin around his face and abdominal region, the infant (estimated at 2-3 pounds at birth) spends his days resting, nursing and snuggling with mom. New babies will ride on their mother’s chest and back for the first few years and will nurse for three to five years, on average. Orangutan offspring are dependent on their mothers for about seven years. As one of the world's largest primates, the Orangutan is second only to the Gorilla in size.

Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo participates in the Bornean Orangutan Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) designed to support the conservation of select wildlife species at risk of extinction. The male baby is eighth Bornean Orangutan born at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo. There are fewer than 100 Bornean Orangutans in 24 AZA-accredited institutions in North America.

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