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June 2021

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.


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.


OKC Zoo Announces Birth Of Endangered Giraffe Calf

OKC Zoo’s giraffe matriarch, Ellie, welcomes a male calf, her sixth offspring to be born at the Zoo.

The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden is thrilled to announce the arrival of an endangered giraffe calf, born to 20-year-old, Ellie. Ellie’s sixth offspring to be born at the Zoo, a male, was born on Thursday, June 3, 2021, at 12:01 p.m. at the Zoo’s giraffe habitat barn. The calf, who is yet to be named, is the first to be fathered by four-year-old, Demetri. The Zoo’s youngest giraffe is healthy and strong, and weighs approximately 157 lbs. and stands six-foot one. He will continue to spend time bonding with his mother and herd mates behind the scenes. Ellie’s daughter, Julu, 5, is also pregnant and expected to deliver her first calf soon. It’s been neck and neck between this mother-daughter giraffe duo to see who would give birth first, and Ellie delivered! To view the giraffe birth, click here.

Giraffe Calf Credit Tracey Dolphin-Drees 1

“Witnessing Ellie and Julu experience pregnancy together has been the greatest joy and we’re thrilled to watch our herd grow with the addition of this little calf,” said OKC Zoo’s Curator of Hoofstock and Primates, Tracey Dolphin-Drees. “This birth is critical for the conservation of this endangered species and a true testament to the importance of the Zoo’s involvement in collaborative breeding efforts.”

Giraffe Calf Credit Tracey Dolphin-Drees 2

Ellie arrived at the Zoo in 2008 from the Birmingham Zoo, in Birmingham, Alabama. The calf’s father, Demetri, arrived from the Fossil Rim in Glen Rose, Texas, in 2018, as part of a breeding recommendation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Giraffe Species Survival PlanTM (SSP). SSPs are cooperative, long-term management programs designed to maintain genetically viable and geographically stable populations of specific species. The Zoo is also home to two-year-old female, Mashamba.

Giraffe Calf Credit Tracey Dolphin-Drees 3

The gestation period for giraffes is approximately 15 months. The average weight for a newborn giraffe is about 150 pounds. Newborns stand within an hour of birth at a height of around six-feet tall. According to giraffe caretakers, Ellie’s water broke around 10:40 a.m. and she was in active labor until the calf’s birth at 12:01 p.m. By 1:13 p.m. the calf was standing and attempting to nurse. 

Giraffe Calf Credit Tracey Dolphin-Drees 4

Native to East and South Africa, giraffes are currently listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. There are approximately 111,000 giraffes remaining in the wild, an almost 40% decline since the 1980s. This population decline is caused by illegal poaching and habitat destruction. The Zoo has contributed to giraffe conservation for decades by supporting the Northern Rangelands Trust and the Giraffe Conservation Fund, as well as becoming a member of AZA’s Giraffe Saving Animals from Extinction (SAFE) partner organization in 2018.

Weather depending, Ellie and her calf will have access to the giraffe habitat yard over the weekend. The Zoo’s giraffe feeding experience will be tentative for the time being. Follow the Zoo’s social channels for updates about our growing giraffe family. 

               Love these gentle giants as much as we do? Save the Date for the Zoo’s World Giraffe Day celebration on Monday, June 21, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. presented locally by Bob Moore Subaru. Guests will enjoy information stations, biofacts, activities, photo opportunities and more.

The Oklahoma City Zoo is currently in its summer hours and open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the last entry no later than 4 p.m. Purchase advance tickets at and avoid the entry lines. Located at the crossroads of I-44 and I-35, the OKC Zoo is a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the American Alliance of Museums, Oklahoma City’s Adventure District and an Adventure Road partner. Regular admission is $12 for adults and $9 for children ages 3-11 and seniors ages 65 and over.

Children two and under are admitted free. Stay connected with the Zoo on FacebookTwitterInstagram and TikTok, and by visiting our blog stories. Zoo fans can support the OKC Zoo by becoming a ZOOfriends member. Starting at $45, memberships can be purchased at and provide access to the OKC Zoo for an entire year plus, additional benefits and discounts. To learn more about Zoo happenings, call (405) 424-3344 or visit

Zoo Atlanta Announces Its First-Ever Hatching Of A Lappet-Faced Vulture Chick

Success is more than 10 years in the making for first-time parents Amana and Anubis

Zoo Atlanta is celebrating an exciting first in its history: the hatching of an endangered lappet-faced vulture chick. The chick is the first offspring of parents Amana and Anubis and represents a success more than 10 years in the making for this pair.


Male Anubis, 16, has lived at Zoo Atlanta since 2008. In 2010, Anubis was joined by female Amana, now 18 years old, on a breeding recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Lappet-faced Vulture Species Survival Plan® (SSP). Prior to this hatching, the pair has had many unsuccessful breeding attempts and over a period of eight years, has produced 12 infertile eggs, making the chick’s arrival an achievement for both its parents and for the team responsible for their care.

“The birth of an endangered species is always an occasion for celebration, but this hatching represents a particular success for Zoo Atlanta,” said Jennifer Mickelberg, PhD, Vice President of Collections and Conservation. “We are always thrilled to see first-time animal parents succeed. This is also a testament to the enormous commitment of our Bird Team, who have worked over a period of many years to provide opportunities and innovations to help this pair flourish.”

Nest-building is vital to maintaining pair bonds between lappet-faced vultures, so it was essential that Amana and Anubis had every opportunity to engage in this activity. The Bird Team constructed a nesting platform within the vultures’ indoor area, where it would be protected from the elements, and provided twigs and sticks on a daily basis for selection by the birds. The vultures added to and completed the nest over a period of around five months, and shortly thereafter, produced two eggs, both of which were infertile; the third and last egg of the season proved fertile. 

Because Amana and Anubis were inexperienced parents, the Bird Team removed the egg to an artificial incubator and replaced it on the nest with a “dummy” egg that would allow the vultures to continue to engage in the important behavior of incubation. The chick hatched 54 days later on April 24, and following 10 days of hand-rearing by the team as a precaution, was reintroduced to its parents. Amana and Anubis continue to provide appropriate care, and the chick is healthy and is gaining weight as expected.

The hatching represents a crucial success for a species in need of conservation action. Currently classified as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), lappet-faced vultures are primarily threatened by poisoning, both intentional and accidental, and by collisions with human-made structures – challenges shared by many of their fellow African vulture species. Despite the critical roles they play in their ecosystems, African vulture species have declined by more than 80% in just the past three decades. Zoo Atlanta is a member of the AZA African Vulture SAFE (Saving Animals from Extinction) Program, which works to save species by focusing the collective expertise of accredited zoos and aquariums.

Although the chick is not yet visible at the Zoo, guests can go behind the scenes for highlights of the efforts leading up to its hatching and insights into its care with a special social media takeover by the Bird Team, happening throughout the day on Thursday, June 3, on Zoo Atlanta Facebook and Instagram.

A New Baby Hippo At Basel Zoo

On 3 May, a female hippo was born at Basel Zoo. Hippo cow Helvetia is already an experienced mother, which could be seen during the relatively peaceful birth that took place in the heated indoor pool. Both mother and calf have now made their first trip out into the outdoor enclosure.


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The cool temperatures in May made the indoor pen much more appealing for Helvetia (29) leading up to the birth, so she gave birth to her calf in the heated indoor pool.

She stayed in the Africa house for the first few weeks after giving birth and did not want to leave the pool. On 1 June, she leisurely padded out of the pen, followed by her daughter Serena, and slid into the little river in the outdoor enclosure.

The new father is 30-year-old Wilhelm. The imposing bull and Helvetia get along very well most of the time. However, Helvetia will not let him near her calf yet and is proving to be a protective mother.

Visitors may need to be slightly patient, but with a little luck they will be able to see the small family in the outdoor enclosure. The Africa house is still closed at the moment.

A natural water birth

Hippos give birth and feed their young entirely in the water. This means of getting to their mother's teats and that sought-after milk demands a lot of energy from a newborn calf. After just a few mouthfuls, the calf must go back to the surface for air. They often have to interrupt their mealtimes more than ten times to resurface to breathe. This special behaviour observed in hippos comes from the fact that, in the wild, being in a river or a watering hole is the safest place for them. They largely spend their days relaxing in the water or on the banks. Only when evening has set in and it is dark do they properly go on land in search of feeding grounds. They then spend the entire night eating before making their way back to the safety of their watery homes before sunrise.

The common hippopotamus or the Nile hippopotamus?

These mammals that weigh well into the tonnes used to be known as Nile hippopotamuses, and this name is still sometimes used colloquially today. They are now known as common hippopotamuses, and they have not been found in the Nile for a long time. The last reliable sightings of hippos in the Nile area are from the early 1800s.