Jacksonville Zoo

Keepers Help Gorilla Baby Reach Milestones

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Dedicated Gorilla keepers at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens have spent the last four months preparing baby Gandai for the time she can rejoin her mother, Kumbuka, and the rest of their Western Lowland Gorilla troop.

Kumbuka gave birth to little Gandai on September 28. Although Kumbuka’s initial maternal behavior toward the baby was perfect and normal, keepers noticed the new mother was cradling and carrying her youngster improperly---similarly to the way that she behaved when she lost two previous offspring at another zoo.

It is theorized that Kumbuka’s hearing disability may prevent her from detecting when her youngsters are in distress. The extremely difficult decision was made to remove Kumbuka’s baby for short-term assisted rearing by Gorilla care staff.

(ZooBorns shared news of the infant’s birth, as well as amazing photos, in a recent feature: “Western Lowland Gorilla Born at Jacksonville Zoo”)

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4_happy girlPhoto Credits: Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens/ John Reed Photography

Before the infant can be reintroduced, she needs to achieve specific milestones including walking, taking a bottle through mesh, the ability to hold on when being carried, and various developmental criteria. Keepers are proud to say Gandai has been making great strides in reaching these goals.

Gandai’s keepers have taken turns providing around-the-clock care since the decision was made to remove her from the troop. While assistance-rearing the young Gorilla, keepers have not just cared for Gandai like a mother would, but they have also focused on getting her to a point where she can return to her real mother. Keepers report that it has been both a demanding and rewarding journey.

To get little Gandai strong, and to teach her all the things a Gorilla would need to know to fit in with the Zoo’s troop, the keepers and Gandai went through what is affectionately being called “baby boot camp”.

Zoo staff were initially concerned with Gandai’s gripping ability in her right hand, so strength conditioning was made a priority. Gandai will need to be able to both position herself on Kumbuka when carried and to right herself when being held or sitting.

It is also crucially important that Gandai be able to navigate her habitat by herself. She will need to be able to come when called to take supplemental bottles and feedings. Most parents will relate when the keepers express their excitement, as Gandai is nearly phased-out of overnight bottles. She has been taught to take a bottle through the mesh barrier that separates the troop from keeper staff. Additionally, Gandai has been introduced to soft solid foods and is thoroughly enjoying banana, steamed sweet potatoes and cooked broccoli.

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New Bongo Baby for the New Year

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Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens had the perfect way to celebrate the New Year. An Eastern Bongo calf was born late in the afternoon of December 28.

Nearly 18-year-old, Molly, and 10-year-old, Tambo, are the parents to a healthy baby girl who is already delighting guests in her spacious mixed-species habitat along the African Boardwalk exhibit.

While undeniably cute, the baby is also an exciting addition to the Zoo and the Bongo Species Survival Plan (SSP), a cooperative breeding program between accredited zoos. Zoo staff is especially thrilled because Molly is an older mom and her last calf was born over eight years ago.

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4_baby with half sister and dadPhoto Credits: Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

The Zoo’s newest addition joins her half-sister who was born to Tambo and Sequoia in June of 2018. An SSP breeding recommendation brought adult male Tambo to the Zoo in March of 2017. This is his sixth offspring.

After receiving a neonatal exam from the Animal Health team, the youngster is cleared to be on exhibit with her mother, father, Aunt Sequoia and the other youngster. Sharing the Bongo enclosure are two Yellow-backed Duikers, a smaller mountain species of African Antelope.

Eastern Bongo are native to the mountains and tropical forests of sub-Saharan Africa. Their critically endangered status is due mainly to a loss of habitat because of logging. Bongos are the largest of the forest antelope and both males and females sport thick, curved horns. At the Zoo, guests can tell the male Tambo apart from the females because of his darker coloring and significantly heavier horns.


Christmas Came Early for Jacksonville Zoo

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Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is celebrating a special Christmas present, which came early, with the birth of an Asian Small-clawed Otter pup. The birth is a first for the Zoo, which debuted the species with the opening of the ‘Land of the Tiger’ in 2014.

The tiny new pup was born to first-time parents, Carlisle and Harley, on November 14. The pup was only 3-ounces when born, but it is now a fluffy 18 ounces. A very dear friend and Zoo patron chose to name the little otter “Scotter”.

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4_Harley and CarlislePhoto Credits: Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens (Image 4: Proud otter parents, Carlisle and Harley)

Asian Small-clawed Otters are the smallest of the 13 otter species. They are slow developers and the little one is just now starting to open its eyes. In fact, they are so slow to develop, staff has yet to determine the pup’s gender.

Asian Small-clawed Otters are also very social animals, with both parents sharing responsibilities raising the pup. Carlisle and Harley have been busy with grooming and nest building for the healthy little one in their behind-the-scenes otter house.

Next up for the increasingly mobile pup will be swimming lessons. The proud parents will introduce the little one to a small tub of shallow water in the night house. Unlike most other otter species, Asian Small-clawed Otters spend much more time on the land but are still agile swimmers.

It will be several weeks before the pup is able to explore the large exhibit that is shared with two Babirusa Pigs, Jeffrey and Ramona. Until then, the Zoo will share milestones like swimming lessons on their social media channels.

Asian Small-clawed Otters (Aonyx cinerea) are native to Southeast Asia where they are classified as “Vulnerable” by the IUCN. The species is threatened by habitat loss due to palm oil production.

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Western Lowland Gorilla Born at Jacksonville Zoo

1_infant Kim Skelton

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is pleased to announce that 22-year-old, Western Lowland Gorilla, Kumbuka, gave birth to a healthy infant. The 4.8-pound female was born on September 28th at 1:30 pm.

Labor began in the mixed-species habitat the Gorillas share with Colobus Monkeys and Mandrills, but concluded in the birthing-suite within the Gorilla shelter building. As soon as labor was reported, staff was able to call the Gorilla family indoors so that Kumbuka could be closely monitored in a quiet environment.

Kumbuka’s initial maternal behavior toward the baby was perfect and normal. Unfortunately, Kumbuka was cradling and carrying her youngster improperly- similarly to the way that she behaved when she lost two previous offspring at another zoo.

It is theorized that Kumbuka’s hearing disability may prevent her from detecting when her youngsters are in distress. Faced with a life-threatening situation, the extremely difficult decision was made to remove Kumbuka’s baby for short-term assisted rearing by Gorilla care staff. This decision is supported by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Gorilla SSP (Species Survival Plan) group.

The Gorilla SSP recommended that Kumbuka join the Jacksonville Zoo troop to learn maternal behavior from the other mother Gorillas and participate in a maternal training program.

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4_kumbukaPhoto Credits: Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens/ Images 1-3: Kim Skelton/ Images 5-6: Lynde Nunn 

After her arrival in 2014, Jacksonville Gorilla care staff began suspecting that Kumbuka may be hearing-impaired. In 2017, her condition was confirmed through consultation with audiologists from Nemours Children’s Specialty Care.

Her diagnosis provided valuable information for developing a specialized birth management plan to improve Kumbuka’s chances for maternal success. Throughout Kumbuka’s pregnancy, keepers worked to teach her the correct way to position an infant and other essential maternal skills, while also planning for the potential need to intervene based on her history.

Now the training continues with keepers showing her the proper way to hold and carry the infant. Kumbuka is watching and learning as keepers provide around-the-clock care to her infant, right next door to her and the rest of the Gorillas. Kumbuka can see and smell her baby and shows particular interest when the keepers demonstrate walking “gorilla-style” while holding the little one. Maintaining the close connection between mother and daughter is essential for a successful reintroduction. Once the baby is strong enough to adjust herself, she can hopefully be reunited.

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Jacksonville Zoo Hatches Rare North American Snake

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The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is celebrating the successful hatching of two Louisiana Pine Snakes. Considered the rarest snake in North America, the species is found only in a few areas in Western Louisiana and bordering counties of Texas.

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens participates in a cooperative Louisiana Pine Snake reintroduction program by partnering with other zoos to breed the critically endangered species and then release the hatchlings into the wild to bolster native populations.

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4_LPS dropping inPhoto Credits: Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

The Louisiana Pine Snake spends a lot of time in and around the burrows of pocket gophers – its main food source. The species is a non-venomous constrictor in the same family as Bull Snakes.

Louisiana Pine Snakes lay the largest eggs of any North American snake but have an average clutch size of only 3-4. By comparison, Rat Snakes found in the same habitat can produce as many as 24 eggs. Because of its small clutch size, coupled with threats including habitat loss and vehicle mortality, the Louisiana Pine Snake is in decline in the wild. Joint efforts by zoos are an important component of the conservation of the species.

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Threatened Snakes Hatch at Jacksonville Zoo

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Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is celebrating the hatching of two Eastern Indigo Snakes. The hatchlings emerged on July 10 and 11, and they mark the first time the Zoo hatched this vulnerable species since 1997.

The species is listed as “Threatened” under the Endangered Species Act, and population numbers are decreasing rapidly in its native range of the southeastern United States due to habitat loss.

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4_Indigo hatchlingPhoto Credits: Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens recognized the importance of increasing the population of Eastern Indigo Snakes, and in 2012 received a pair with a breeding recommendation. The snakes recently reached sexual maturity and the female laid her first clutch. Eastern Indigos, while nonvenomous, can be both territorial and voracious eaters, so the breeding pair was only together for a brief time.

According to the Zoo’s Deputy Director for Animal Care & Conservation, Dan Maloney, “We are very proud and excited to welcome such significant new additions to the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens family. Six years ago, we acquired young snakes in hopes that they would be future parents. To finally have healthy hatchlings is extremely satisfying and lays the foundation for a successful, sustainable breeding program.”

The two hatchlings emerged from their 4-inch eggs after a 100-day incubation. They are 13-inches long now but will quickly grow into the longest native snake species in the United States.

Eastern Indigo Snakes are a top predator and have a wildly varied diet consisting of everything from small mammals, birds, and amphibians, all the way up to one of their favorite prey items, Eastern Diamond Rattlesnakes.

The decline of rattlesnake and Gopher Tortoise populations is contributing to the rapid decline in Eastern Indigo Snakes. Gopher Tortoise burrows serve as an important shelter for the snakes in winter months. These three threatened animals are linked by their habits and habitats, and their decline helps highlight the importance of keystone species to entire ecosystems.

The Zoo hopes that the new hatchlings can serve as ambassadors for local conservation efforts and reinforce our message of Living Well With Wildlife.

The mother of the two hatchlings can be viewed in the Wild Florida herpetology house. She shares her enclosure with a Box Turtle and a three-legged, rescued Gopher Tortoise.


‘Four-Pack’ of Cuteness at Jacksonville Zoo

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Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens hatched some delightful new additions last month. Two penguin chicks and two flamingo chicks are said to have waddled into the hearts of zoo staff.

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3_penguin chick 2Photo Credits: Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens

The darling pair of Magellanic Penguins hatched two days apart, on June 16 and 18 respectively. Their teeny little flippers, beaks, and everything else, have enchanted everyone who has met them. Both chicks are thriving under the care of each of their proud parents, and they will go on exhibit in the Zoo’s Tuxedo Coast at about three months of age.

The Greater Flamingo chicks got a later start, but they’re quickly giving the penguins a run for their money for title of ‘cutest birds in the zoo’. The first baby hatched on June 21, followed by the second on June 27.

The younger of the two flamingos can be seen on exhibit with its parents, while the older is being hand-reared. This means lots of up-close and personal time with keepers as it grows up and into those big feet. It will continue to be looked after by the attentive keepers until it is old enough to join the rest of the flock.

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Tiger Cubs Get Their 6-Week Exams - And Their Names

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Two male Sumatran Tiger cubs at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens had a big week: they received their first round of vaccinations and were named!

Born on November 20, 2017 to mom Dorcas and dad Berani, the two male cubs are growing well and appear to be in great health. You first met the cubs here on ZooBorns.

The larger of the two cubs weighs 14 pounds and is named “Rocky.” His slightly smaller brother, who weighs about 12 pounds, was dubbed “Jaggar.”

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Tiger-cubs-5Photo Credit: Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens

The zoo’s veterinary staff gave each feisty cub a physical exam, including weighing the cubs, checking their eyes, and inspecting their tiny canine teeth. They cubs were vaccinated against respiratory infections and feline distemper – the same vaccinations given to house cats. Each cub was also microchipped for identification.

While the animal care team can be “hands-on” with the cubs, they never interact directly with adult Tigers. Thanks to daily training sessions that build trust between the animals and the care team, Dorcas voluntarily moves to an adjoining pen while the team examines the cubs.

Over the next two months, the cubs will receive two more rounds of vaccines including boosters and a rabies vaccination.

The now six-week-old cubs need to grow bigger before they are able to explore the outdoor habitat of the public viewing areas. Until then, a live-streaming video of the cubs in their behind-the-scenes nursery den is available on the Zoo’s YouTube channel.

Rocky and Jaggar spend much of their time nursing, sleeping, or being groomed by mom. Each day, the cubs are becoming more mobile and playful, much to the delight of faithful “cub cam” viewers.

See more photos of the cubs below.

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Tiger Cubs Get Their First Checkup at Jacksonville Zoo

Cub one with closed eyesJacksonville Zoo and Gardens is celebrating the birth of two critically endangered Sumatran Tiger cubs. The cubs’ mother, 6-year-old Dorcas, gave birth at 11:40 a.m. on November 20. The Tigers’ keepers were able to keep an eye on the process using a closed-circuit camera system.

Both cubs are male and represent the second litter for Dorcas and father, Berani. The Zoo’s first Sumatran Tiger birth in its 102-year history is big sister Kinleigh Rose, born on November 19, 2015 – two years and a day before the arrival of her little brothers. 

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Cub one with closed eyesPhoto Credit: Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

“One of the biggest pleasures as the Zoo’s Tiger-management program evolves, is watching the effect that it has on the wellness of our animals,” said Dan Dembiec, Supervisor of Mammals. “Dorcas started out as a skittish and shy Tigress, but she is now a confident and skilled mother.  She is a natural at providing her cubs with the necessary care to help them develop, and this is reflective of the care that she has received from the staff at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.”

The cubs received their first medical exam on November 28. Zoo Animal Health staff were able to quickly and efficiently examine the cubs because of the exceptional bonding and training the keeper staff has established with the mother. Dorcas trusted her keepers and was therefore willing to be separated from the cubs when keepers requested it.

Dr. Yousuf Jafarey gave the cubs’ brief physical examinations and determined they look healthy, are nursing well, and have no congenital health problems. Both cubs weighed 4.5 pounds. Within minutes the cubs were back with their mother in the nesting box, behind-the-scenes in the Tiger viewing building.

The cubs will not be on exhibit for several months. They still require a series of health examinations and vaccinations. They’ll continue to strengthen the bond with their mom, and even require a swim test before the cubs are ready to explore their outdoor habitat in public viewing areas. A live video feed of the nest box can be seen in the Tiger viewing building, on either side of the donor wall.

The birth of two Sumatran Tiger cubs is especially significant because the Zoo’s Tigers are part of a globally-managed species program. Zoological facilities around the world, including Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens’ work to maintain a healthy population. There are currently less than 400 Sumatran Tigers in the wild.

See more photos of the cubs below.

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Jacksonville Zoo Welcomes Two Giraffes in One Week

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Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is delighted to welcome another new Reticulated Giraffe to the family. The healthy female was born November 24 and is the second Giraffe born in the span of a week!

Much to the amazement of Zoo guests, the latest calf was born on exhibit. Guests were able to see the delivery from the Giraffe Overlook.  

This calf is the fourth for mom, Luna, and an impressive 18th offspring for sire, Duke. The most recent addition marks the 41st Giraffe calf born at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens (JZG).

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4_guests watching John ReedPhoto Credits: JJ Vitale / John Reed / JZG (Images 1-5: Female born Nov. 24, with mom Luna and Auntie Spock ; Images 6-8: Male born Nov. 19, with mom Naomi)

According to staff, Luna was not in labor the morning of November 24, but keepers felt confident in her previous pregnancy and birth experiences. She was encouraged to roam freely and comfortably with the rest of the herd, and knowing she was near the end of her pregnancy, keepers were closely monitoring her throughout the day.

When the calf’s front hooves made an appearance around 12:30 p.m. that day, keepers called most of the herd off exhibit to give Luna space. Another female, Spock, stayed with Luna and gave her privacy for the birth. However, Spock was quick to greet the youngster and help the new mom with the cleaning process. Although Spock has never had any offspring of her own, she has been an excellent “auntie” figure to many calves over the years.

With excited guests cheering form the Overlook, the newborn calf was standing within 30-minutes of birth. Zookeepers observed the calf nursing well, and Luna and the calf will be allowed to stay on exhibit for as long as they are comfortable.

The male calf was born, just a few days prior, on November 19 to mom Naomi. Duke is also his father. A review of security cameras in the Giraffe exhibit show this calf was born at 5 a.m. on the 19th. Veterinary staff examined him late in the afternoon of his birth and measured him at 6’4” tall, with a weight of 191 pounds.

The new male, his mother Naomi, and auntie Spock will also join the new female and mom, Luna, on-exhibit. Both new calves are expected to be out with their herd, assuming the two mothers are comfortable with the situation.

The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens supports the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, whose sole focus is on the conservation and management of Giraffes in the wild.

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