Brevard Zoo

Brevard Zoo Welcomes Masai Giraffe Calf

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Brevard Zoo welcomed a newborn Masai Giraffe on October 19. The little one, a male, was born six feet tall and weighed 158 pounds.

The as-yet-unnamed calf arrived around 5:15 a.m., entering the world feet-first. He is the ninth offspring of 18-year-old mother, Johari, and the twelfth sired by 20-year-old Rafiki.

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3_181022012Photo Credits: Brevard Zoo

“The newborn Giraffe underwent a neonatal exam, where we checked his overall health,” said Michelle Smurl, the Zoo’s director of animal programs. “He looked to be in great condition at his checkup on Saturday.”

The calf will remain behind the scenes with Johari for a few weeks before making his first appearance in Expedition Africa.

Eight of the Zoo’s nine Giraffe belong to the Masai subspecies, which is native to Tanzania and southern Kenya. Habitat loss, poaching and civil unrest pose the most significant threats to Giraffe in their natural habitat.


Tiny Sea Turtles Find Safety at Brevard Zoo

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Brevard Zoo’s Sea Turtle Healing Center is caring for nearly 300 Green and Loggerhead Sea Turtle “washbacks” that were pushed ashore when Hurricane Leslie disrupted their habitat.

“When Sea Turtles hatch, they rely on energy stores from a yolk sac to make the multi-mile swim to offshore weed lines—floating masses of Sargassum seaweed that provide shelter and food,” explained Sea Turtle Program Manager, Shanon Gann. “If the seaweed is disrupted by a storm or strong winds that wash them back to shore, the little turtles do not have the energy to make the long swim again.”

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Washbacks in waterPhoto Credits: Brevard Zoo

Healing Center staff and volunteers are caring for the washbacks for a few days until open ocean conditions improve; at that time, they will be transported offshore in a boat and placed in weed lines.

Sea Turtle Preservation Society (STPS) volunteers are transporting the turtles to the Healing Center. Individuals who find washbacks should immediately call STPS at 321-676-1701 or Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 1-888-404-3922 for rescue instructions.


Dynamite Pair of Emu Chicks Hatch at Brevard Zoo

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On March 14th and 15th, following an eight-week incubation, two Emu chicks emerged from their eggs at Brevard Zoo. The pair is the first shared offspring of six-year-old female, Lafawnduh, and 23-year-old male, Napoleon.

“Once the female lays the eggs, she skips town and the male takes over,” said Michelle Smurl, director of animal programs at the Zoo. “Napoleon did a great job of sitting on the eggs, but he wasn’t too interested in the chicks once they hatched.”

Animal care staff made the decision to hand-rear the chicks, which are thriving. A third chick began to hatch, but did not make it out of the egg. Two remaining eggs were removed from the nest and placed in an incubator.

“The chicks are living behind the scenes for the time being, but they’ll probably be out for guests to see in the next few weeks,” added Smurl. “We’re focused on providing the chicks and unhatched eggs with the best possible care right now.”

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4_adult emuPhoto Credits: Brevard Zoo

The Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) is the second-largest living bird by height, after its ratite relative, the Ostrich. It is endemic to Australia where it is the largest native bird.

Emu chicks weigh less than a pound upon hatching, but can exceed 100 pounds as adults. A national icon in its native Australia, the Emu is renowned for its stature, striking blue skin, and “goofy” demeanor. Its diet consists primarily of grasses and insects.

On an international level, the Emu is currently classified as “Least Concern” by the IUCN. However, the New South Wales Government classifies the population of the New South Wales North Coast Bioregion and Port Stephens as “Endangered”.

Although the population of Emus on mainland Australia is thought to be higher now, some local populations are at risk of extinction. The threats faced include: the clearance and fragmentation of areas of suitable habitat, deliberate slaughter, collisions with vehicles, and predation of the eggs and young.


Meerkat Pups Named After Santa's Reindeer

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Three Meerkat pups born at the Brevard Zoo on December 4 have been given Christmas-themed names after fans voted in an online contest.

The tiny triplets were named Vixen, Comet, and Cupid after three of Santa’s Reindeer. The genders of the pups are not yet known.

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Meerkat-pupsPhoto Credit: Brevard Zoo


At birth, the Meerkat pups’ eyes and ears were closed, and they each weighed about one ounce (roughly the weight of five U.S. quarters). They were born to mom Cashew, age three, and five-year-old dad Kirabo. For now, the trio is still behind the scenes with their parents and several other adults. Young Meerkats typically remain in the burrow for about a month before emerging to explore the outside world.

Meerkats are found only in southern Africa, where they inhabit grasslands and savannahs. Strong social bonds exist among members of a mob. One member will stand guard while others forage for insects, lizards, and small mammals. Adults share the task of teaching younger members of the mob how to find food and avoid predators.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists Meerkats as a species of Least Concern, meaning that Meerkats are not under a serious threat at this time.


Brevard Zoo’s Kangaroo Joey Reunites With Mob

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After five months of round-the-clock care, a young Red Kangaroo with a rough start to life has defied the odds and reunited with other members of her species at Brevard Zoo.

Lilly, born in August 2016, was found on the floor of the Zoo’s Kangaroo habitat in the early morning hours of January 23. Stress caused by a severe storm the previous evening likely caused Lilly’s mother, Jacie, to eject the joey from the pouch. After several failed attempts to reunite the two, animal care staff made the decision to hand-raise the tiny, helpless marsupial.

(Lilly was the subject of a ZooBorns feature from early February: “Abandoned Kangaroo Joey Receives Care at Brevard Zoo”.  At the time of our original post, Lilly was “yet-to-be-named” and had only been in keepers care for about two weeks.)

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3_March 15Bindi Irwin spends time with Lilly during her April 2017 visit to Brevard Zoo:

4_April 28 (with Bindi Irwin)Photo Credits: Brevard Zoo

Lilly lived in an incubator with precise temperature and moisture levels that emulated a kangaroo’s pouch for several weeks. Lauren Hinson, the Zoo’s collection manager and Lilly’s primary caretaker, removed her six times a day for bottle-feedings.

As Lilly grew less fragile, a fabric pouch suspended from Hinson’s neck replaced the climate-controlled incubator. The joey became something of a fixture at Wednesday morning staff meetings.

“I took her home every single evening and brought her with me wherever I went,” said Hinson, who estimates she conducted 1,000 bottle feedings. “It was an incredible amount of work and a lot of missed sleep, but well worth it.”

Lilly has been taking supervised “field trips” to the Kangaroo yard since late May, but not until recently had she stayed there permanently. Keepers will need to keep a close eye on the joey in the new space and bottle-feed her twice a day for the next several months.

Although Zoo staff hopes to avoid hand raising more joeys in the future, Hinson is more than willing to put the pouch back on if need be. “I would do it again in a heartbeat,” she said.


Brevard Zoo Keepers Raising Rare Oryx Calf

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On February 28, Brevard Zoo welcomed its second Scimitar-horned Oryx calf of the year!

Unfortunately, first-time mother, Kitcha, displayed no interest in the female newborn. Tests performed the day after birth showed the calf had not yet nursed, and a decision was made to pull her from the exhibit. She is now living in an area where she can see and smell the rest of the herd, and she is currently being hand-reared by the Zoo’s dedicated animal care staff.

“She was quite small as a newborn, so we are monitoring her weight and food intake,” said Michelle Smurl, the Zoo’s director of animal programs. “For the first four days, she was eating every four hours. As her weight increases, we increase her food intake and she is now eating three times a day.”

Mom, Kitcha, was born at Brevard Zoo in 2009. The new calf’s father, Nuri, came from Smithsonian’s National Zoo and now lives at Lion Country Safari. Nuri also fathered the male calf born at Brevard on February 3.

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The Scimitar-horned Oryx (Oryx dammah) is also known as the Sahara Oryx. It is a straight-horned antelope that stands just over 1 m (3.3 ft) at the shoulder. Both sexes have horns, but those of the females are more slender.

They are social and prefer to travel in herds. Their habitat in the wild was steppe and desert, where they ate foliage, grass, herbs, shrubs, succulent plants, legumes, juicy roots, buds, and fruit. They can survive without water for nine to ten months because their kidneys prevent water loss from urination (an adaptation to desert habitats). They can also get water from water-rich plants.

Both males and females reach sexual maturity at 1.5 to 2 years of age. Gestation lasts about nine months, after which a single calf is born, weighing 20 to 33 pounds (9.1 to 15.0 kg). Twin births are very rare. Both mother and calf will return to the main herd within hours of the birth. The female separates herself from the herd for a few hours while she nurses the calf. Weaning starts at 3.5 months, and the young become fully independent at around 14 weeks old.

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Brevard Zoo’s Meerkat Pups Emerge for Spring

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Two Meerkat pups at Brevard Zoo recently emerged from their burrow, just in time for Spring!

The pups were born to mom Kiki on February 17 and have spent the first few weeks of their lives snuggled safely underground. At this time, the keepers do not know the sex of either pup.

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4_pups 5Photo Credits: Brevard Zoo

Although their name might suggest otherwise, Meerkats are not related to cats. The Meerkat, or Suricate (Suricata suricatta), is a small carnivoran belonging to the mongoose family. They are native to all parts of the Namib Desert in Namibia and southwestern Angola, and in South Africa.

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. 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.

The babies 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 are about the same size as the adults.

These desert-dwellers are highly social critters and live in groups, called mobs, which can include dozens of individuals from multiple families. Some members of the mob may also act as “babysitters” to the pups.

Meerkats have scent pouches below their tails and will rub these pouches on rocks and plants to mark their territory. The dark patches around their eyes act to cut down on sun glare and help them see far into the distance.

Meerkats have four toes on each feet and very long, non-retractable claws to help them dig. They can also close their ears to keep dirt out while digging.

As a species they have an interesting feeding approach as they will always maintain visual and vocal contact whilst foraging, with one of the group standing on its hind legs and acting as sentry on the lookout for predators. They feed mostly on invertebrates and plant matter.

They are currently classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. In the wild, they are present in several large and well-managed protected areas. However, population densities can fluctuate due to predation and rainfall variations.

Wild populations are currently stable. However, over the past couple of decades, movies and television shows have brought Meerkats a lot of attention, with many people wondering if they can keep a Meerkat as a pet. Although they may look cute, Meerkats, like all wild animals, do NOT make good pets, and they are illegal to own without the proper permits and licenses!

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Endangered Mice Bring in New Year at Brevard Zoo

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Just a few weeks into the New Year, Brevard Zoo, in Melbourne, Florida, welcomed two endangered Perdido Key Beach Mouse pups.

The pups’ parents, known among keepers as Hillary and Donald, were first paired in the heat of election season. The exact date of birth is unknown as Beach Mouse pups emerge from their underground burrows at 13-16 days of age, but staff speculates they were born in early January. The sex of each pup has not yet been identified.

“These mice are really important because they store seeds inside dunes. The seeds they don’t eat sometimes grow into large plants that help maintain the dune’s structure,” said conservation coordinator Amanda Sanford. “Stronger dunes mean more protection for nearby buildings during hurricanes.”

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3_PKBM4Photo Credits: Brevard Zoo

The Perdido Key Beach mouse (Peromyscus polionotus trissyllepsis) is a subspecies of the oldfield mouse. An oldfield mouse or beach mouse (Peromyscus polionotus) is a nocturnal species of rodent in the family Cricetidae.

This subspecies is only found on Perdido Key, a small island off the Florida Panhandle. They are classified as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List. Habitat loss, feral cats, and a population decline caused by 2004’s Hurricane Ivan are the main threats to them.

They are nocturnal, spending most of their daylight hours in their burrows. Unlike many species, Beach Mice are monogamous, with mated pairs tending to remain together as long as both live. A typical mouse pair averages 3-4 offspring per litter and has roughly 3 litters per year.

As part of a conservation program that aims to maintain a healthy captive population, many Beach Mice born at Brevard Zoo have been released in their natural habitat.

The breeding and reintroduction program is a collaboration between the Zoo, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Park Service, Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division, Palm Beach Zoo and Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo.


Abandoned Kangaroo Joey Receives Care at Brevard Zoo

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A tiny Red Kangaroo abandoned by her mother has another shot at life thanks to the dedication of Brevard Zoo’s animal care team. 

The as-yet-unnamed female, who is approximately five months old, was discovered out of her mother's pouch on Monday, January 23. She was likely ejected from the pouch due to stress from a storm the night prior. After several unsuccessful attempts to reunite the joey with her mother Jacie, animal care managers made the decision to raise the joey by hand.  This joey is Jacie’s fifth baby.

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Photo Credit:  Brevard Zoo

“Red Kangaroos don’t start emerging from the pouch until they’re about seven months old,” said Michelle Smurl, the Zoo’s director of animal programs. “We think this joey is five months old, so the situation is still very precarious.”

Keepers feed the joey every four hours, day and night, and weigh her once per day.

Joeys are born after a 33-day gestation and complete their development in the pouch, fully emerging for the first time at seven months.  At that time, the joey begins to nibble grass and leaves, but returns to the pouch to nurse until it is about a year old.

Red Kangaroos are found only in Australia and are the largest of all the world’s marsupials (pouched mammals).  They inhabit Australia’s arid interior and can survive on very small amounts of water.  Red Kangaroos stand more than six feet tall and weigh well over 150 pounds.   The species is not currently under threat.

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Zoo Awash With Hurricane-Stranded Baby Turtles

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Tossed by the violent winds and powerful waves of two Atlantic hurricanes, hundreds of tiny Sea Turtles have been rescued by Florida’s Brevard Zoo – and more wash ashore every day.

The little Loggerhead, Green, and Hawksbill Turtles would normally be living in their nursery habitat on masses of seaweed in the open ocean.  But waves generated by hurricanes Matthew and Nicole pushed the Turtles, along with seaweed and tons of discarded plastic, ashore on Florida’s east coast.

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Photo Credit:  Brevard Zoo

The Turtles, known as “washbacks” because they’ve washed back onto the shore, are retrieved by volunteers from the Sea Turtle Preservation Society and taken to the zoo’s Sea Turtle Healing Center.  The young Turtles are typically lethargic and weak upon arrival, but the zoo is committed to nursing them back to health.  The zoo staff has observed that many of the turtles have swallowed tiny bits of plastic and foreign debris, which obstructs their digestive systems and contributes to their weakened state.  About a dozen young Turtles have died, probably as a result of ingesting plastic, according to Elliot Zurulnik, Brevard Zoo Communications Manager.

The zoo plans to release as many of the young turtles as possible, but will only do so when an individual is eating well, actively swimming, and able to dive underwater.

Seven species of Sea Turtles are found in oceans worldwide, and all are under threat.  Hawksbill Turtles are Critically Endangered, Green Turtles are Endangered, and Loggerhead Turtles are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.  Threats to Sea Turtles include loss of beach nesting habitat, bycatch from improper fishing operations, poaching for eggs and meat, marine debris, and climate change. 

See more photos below.

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