The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium recently announced the arrival of seven babies, representing three at-risk species, born in late January and early February. The new additions are: five Asian Small-clawed Otter pups, a Silvered Leaf Langur baby, and a Humboldt Penguin chick.
According to the Zoo, each new little one contributes to maximizing genetic diversity within their species and sustaining populations of those facing serious threats to their future in their native ranges.
The baby boom began with the arrival of the five Asian Small-clawed Otter pups, born during the early morning hours of January 26.
Native to coastal regions from southern India to Southeast Asia, Asian Small-clawed Otters (Aonyx cinereus) are often threatened by habitat destruction, pollution and hunting. These factors place them at risk in their native range, and they are currently classified as “Vulnerable” by the IUCN.
The pups (three males and two females) were born to first-time parents, Gus and Peanut. Peanut was born in 2014 and arrived at the Columbus Zoo in April 2017 from the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. Father, Gus, was born in 2008 and arrived at the Columbus Zoo from the Bronx Zoo in 2014.
According to staff, the young pups are thriving under the watchful eyes of both of their parents and are expected to be on view to the public later this spring.
The Columbus Zoo was also proud to welcome a female Silvered Leaf Langur baby on February 16. The female was born to mother, Patty, and father, Thai. Patty made her way to the Columbus Zoo from the Bronx Zoo in 2007 and has given birth to seven offspring. Thai arrived at the Columbus Zoo in 2015 from the San Diego Zoo and has fathered a total of four infants.
Patty, Thai, and the newest Langur arrival are currently on view in the Zoo’s Asia Quest region. Staff reports that the baby is easy to spot as Langurs are born bright orange, as opposed to their adult counterparts with black fur and silvered tips. This difference in coat color is believed to encourage other female Langurs to assist in raising the young, a practice called “allomothering”.
In their native ranges, Silvered Leaf Langurs (Trachypithecus cristatus) can be found in areas including Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia. The species’ populations in these countries are decreasing due to habitat loss as lands are cleared for oil palm plantations or destroyed by forest fires. Langurs are also hunted for their meat or taken for the pet trade.
The Columbus Zoo’s pairing of Patty and Thai was based on an SSP recommendation, and the birth of the new baby will play an important role in helping manage this at-risk species. Silvered Leaf Langurs are listed as “Near Threatened” by the IUCN, due to population declines caused by habitat loss. The arrival of this Langur baby at the Columbus Zoo is an important part of sustaining the population among AZA-accredited zoos, certified related facilities and conservation partners.
Rounding out the exciting baby animal arrivals at the Columbus Zoo this winter was the hatching of a female Humboldt Penguin chick on February 19. After much deliberation, the keepers in the Shores region named her “Her Majesty Gertrude Sprinklebottom,” or Gertrude for short. Gertrude is the 30th Humboldt Penguin chick to hatch at the Columbus Zoo.
The egg was the product of parents, Katja and Hans, but Gertrude is currently being raised by another pair of penguins. Foster-penguin parents, Asela and Chirriante, are caring for the chick, in the hopes that Katja and Hans may lay another clutch of eggs (as their genetics are very valuable to the Humboldt Penguin population). Asela hatched in 2012 at the Columbus Zoo, while Chirriante emerged in 1992 in Dresden, Germany. Both penguins are being attentive parents and are currently keeping Gertrude within her nest box. Guests can expect to see Gertrude on view once Asela and Chirriante are comfortable with allowing the chick to wander outside of the nest box.
This new chick is an important addition to the Humboldt Penguin (Spheniscus humboldti) species, the populations of which are declining in their native habitats due to threats including environmental variability and human-wildlife conflict. They are currently classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is one of only 19 facilities in North America that participates in the AZA’s Humboldt Penguin SSP breeding program, of which parents Katja and Hans are a high priority breeding pair.
All of the recent arrivals at the Columbus Zoo assist in maximizing genetic diversity, managing demographic distribution and help to further enhance the sustainability of species that are at risk or threatened in their native ranges. These new arrivals also further demonstrate the Zoo’s unyielding commitment to conservation initiatives, both locally and globally. For more information about conservation initiatives at the Columbus Zoo, please visit: https://globalimpact.columbuszoo.org/about .