Nashville Zoo is pleased to announce the birth of three Meerkats on August 17.
The trio is the first offspring for parents Calvin (age 11) and Victoria (age 9). The pair has been together for 2.5 years but never successfully produced pups.
“Calvin and Victoria are proving to be great parents and have shown constant attention to the new additions,” said Sabrina Barnes, Area Supervisor of Primates. “We are very excited to once again have Meerkat pups at Nashville Zoo!”
Photo Credits: Rachel Schleicher
Keepers have noticed Calvin and Victoria taking turns caring for the pups. When Victoria is not in the burrow nursing, Calvin is inside caring for them. Meerkat society is centered around family groups (known as “mobs”), relying heavily on group cooperation. The pups will stay at the Nashville Zoo to live in a family group.
The average litter size for Meerkats ranges from 1 to 6 pups, and pups average 25-35 grams in weight when born.
Meerkats are currently listed as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List. They live throughout southern Africa and are present in several protected areas, with no major threats at this time.
Nashville Zoo recently welcomed the birth of two Banded Palm Civets. The brother and sister were born on June 29.
At their first well check, the male measured 19 cm (7.5 in) with a weight of 105g (3.7 oz). The female’s body length was 20.5cm (8 in) with a weight of 100g (3.5 oz).
Photo Credits: Dr. Heather Robertson/Nashville Zoo
For the past decade, this is only the second successful birth in an Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) institution for the species. The first Banded Palm Civet birth was also at Nashville Zoo in September 2015.
Nashville Zoo is the only AZA accredited facility breeding this species. There are now a total of 11 Banded Palm Civets in the AZA’s collection, with ten being at Nashville Zoo and one at Cincinnati Zoo.
Nashville Zoo is heading a breeding research project to determine if Banded Palm Civets are seasonal breeders, as well as discovering other factors for fecundity.
The Banded Palm Civet (Hemigalus derbyanus), also called the Banded Civet, is rare species found in tropical forests across Myanmar, Malaysia, Thailand and on the Indonesian islands of Sipura, Sumatra and Borneo.
Roughly the size of a domestic cat, adults of the species measure from 41 to 51 cm (1.3 to 1.7 ft) in total length, and can weigh between 1 to 3 kg (2.2 to 6.6 lbs).
The Banded Palm Civet is carnivorous, and like other species of civet, it survives on a meat-based diet, supplemented by the plants or fruits.
After a gestation period that lasts for a couple of months, a female can give birth to up to four young.
The Banded Pam Civet is currently listed as “Near Threatened” on the IUCN Red List. It is under threat from deforestation and the loss of much of its natural habitat. Extensive deforestation in their habitat is a result of logging or to clear the land to make way for palm oil plantations.
Nashville Zoo currently does not have plans to place the Banded Palm Civet siblings on exhibit.
Nashville Zoo is pleased to announce the birth of four Red Ruffed Lemurs on May 30. A little male, who has been named Emilio, and his three demure sisters (named Demi, Ally, and Andie) are the second group of Lemurs to be born at Nashville Zoo since the Zoo moved to their Grassmere property in 1996. This is also the second litter for their nine-year-old mom, Lyra.
The new babies weighed roughly 75 to 90 grams each at birth, and were approximately 8-10 inches long.
With the addition of the four babies, Nashville Zoo is now home to a total of nine Red Ruffed Lemurs.
Unlike other primate species, Red Ruffed Lemurs do not carry their young. Instead, they keep their young in a nest, nursing and caring for them until they are more independent and mobile.
Zoo guests can see the new litter’s three older siblings and dad, Dino, on exhibit along ‘Bamboo Trail’. The four newest additions will remain indoors with mom until they are old enough to venture outside, which zookeepers estimate to be in about a month.
Red Ruffed Lemurs (Varecia rubra) are one of more than 100 species of Lemurs on the island of Madagascar. The IUCN has classified the species as “Critically Endangered” in the wild due to habitat loss, illegal hunting and pet trade.
Photo Credits: Kelsey White (2,3), Dr. Margarita Woc Colburn (1,4,5,6,7,8)
All Clouded Leopard cubs are reared by hand at the Nashville Zoo, a technique that prevents predation by the parents, enables cubs to be paired at an early age, and allows the normally nervous species to become acclimated to human interaction.
Clouded Leopards are one of the rarest and most secretive of the world’s Cat species, and little is known about them. They inhabit remote areas of southern China and other parts of Southeast Asia. Clouded Leopards are listed as Vulnerable to Extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, with fewer than 10,000 adults remaining in the wild.
Nashville Zoo and the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute are pleased to announce the birth of a male Clouded Leopard on March 1.
The cub was conceived from an artificial insemination (AI) procedure using frozen/thawed semen. This accomplishment is a first for this species and a giant step for global conservation efforts.
“This is an enormous accomplishment for both Nashville Zoo and the team at the Smithsonian,” said Dr. Heather Robertson, Director of Veterinary Services at the Zoo. “It means we can collect and preserve semen from Clouded Leopard populations around the globe and improve pregnancy outcomes from AI procedures in this species.”
Dr. Robertson and Nashville Zoo Associate Veterinarian, Dr. Margarita Woc Colburn, used hormones to induce ovulation in a female named Tula who was born and raised at Nashville Zoo. The Smithsonian’s research staff, Adrienne Crosier, Ph.D., Pierre Comizzoli, D.V.M., Ph.D., and Diana Koester, Ph.D, collected semen a week earlier from a male named Hannibal at Smithsonian’s National Zoo. The team used a new technique depositing a very small volume of semen into the oviduct where the eggs normally rest after ovulation.
Photo Credits: Amiee Stubbs Photography
After birth, the cub was removed for examination and will be hand-raised by keepers to ensure survival and wellbeing. This process also lowers animal stress for future hands-on care. The cub will stay at Nashville Zoo with plans to eventually introduce him to a potential mate.
Nashville Zoo and the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute have a long history of working together on Clouded Leopard conservation. Since 2000, they have collaborated with Point Defiance Zoo and Thailand’s Zoological Park Organization to form the Clouded Leopard Consortium and develop breeding programs as well as field monitoring projects for Clouded Leopards in Thailand.
Because the captive Clouded Leopard population is not self-sustaining, it necessitates the need for intensive reproductive management techniques to maintaining captive populations not only in the U.S. but also throughout the world.
“This cub, the first Clouded Leopard offspring produced with cryopreserved semen, is a symbol of how zoos and scientists can come together to make positive change for animals and preserving global biodiversity,” said Dr. Crosier. “Collaboration is the key to conservation of Clouded Leopards, along with so many other rare and endangered species we care for and study.”
The first successful Clouded Leopard AI was performed at Nashville Zoo in 1992 by Smithsonian scientist JoGayle Howard and Nashville Zoo President Rick Schwartz. In 2015, Dr. Comizzoli contributed to a successful birth using cooled semen and the new AI technique at the Khao Khew Open Zoo in Thailand.
Clouded Leopards are among the most rare of the world’s cat species and one of the most secretive. Due to limited knowledge of this species, they have proved difficult to breed in captivity. They are sensitive to auditory and visual disturbances, increasing the stress levels during captive breeding programs. This factor leads facilities, such as Nashville Zoo, to work with artificial insemination specialists to increase the size and diversity of the captive bred population.
The Nashville Zoo’s herpetology team recently celebrated the six-month ‘birth’day of four Central American Giant Galliwasps.
The young reptiles hatched in August of 2016 and became the first hatchlings at the zoo in over ten years. Nashville Zoo is the only facility in the United States to have successfully bred this rare species.
Photo Credits: Nashville Zoo
The zoo’s female Galliwasp (pronounced “GALL-ee-wasp”) made a nest chamber underground to coil around her four eggs, to instinctually protect them from predators. Keepers report that she did not emerge from the chamber for food or water for more than two months.
According to the zoo, if the nesting chamber is disturbed in any way, the female will destroy the eggs to prevent predators from getting them. “This makes checking on the condition of the eggs extremely challenging,” said Herpetology Keeper Matt Martino. “Because we couldn’t risk checking on the female or the eggs, we patiently watched for any signs of life, either babies emerging from the nest or movement from the adult female. It was an exciting relief to see the hatchlings and mother start emerging after more than two months of waiting.”
This species is rarely seen in the wild and extremely uncommon in zoo collections. Captive breeding has proven to be extremely difficult for this species and successful breeding techniques are still being developed.
However, Nashville Zoo staff may have finally broken the code for reliably reproducing Central American Giant Galliwasps. The zoo’s herpetology team is continually learning and researching the best husbandry and breeding practices to increase zoo populations and is working towards conservation initiatives for several Galliwasp species facing extinction in the wild.
The Central American Giant Galliwasp (Diploglossus monotropis), also known as Escorpión Coral, is found in the humid Atlantic lowlands of southern Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and western Panama and both versants from Panama to Colombia and western Ecuador.
It is described as a secretive, diurnal, terrestrial species that is rarely encountered in the forest floor of lowland rainforest, and it is restricted to forests and lost from deforested areas, although it can persist in small strips of gallery forest left along rivers.
The IUCN Red List has the species classified as “Least Concern”. According to the IUCN: “Although not abundant it is also not uncommon. It appears to be experiencing at least localized declines, but due to the extent of its range a great deal of suitable forest habitat remains.”
Nashville Zoo is excited to announce the hatching of four endangered Yellow-blotched Map Turtles. This hatching ranks Nashville Zoo as the third AZA institution to ever successfully breed these beautifully patterned turtles.
“This is an exciting hatching for the Yellow-blotched Map Turtle and for the Zoo,” says Dale McGinnity, Nashville Zoo’s Ectotherm Curator. “We are bringing awareness to the community about this threatened species and hope to increase support for the protection of this rare turtle’s continued survival in the wild through our conservation efforts.”
During the breeding of this rare species, the Zoo’s Herpetology team was able to decide what sex the hatchlings would be by monitoring the temperatures during the 80-85 day incubation period. Incubating at cooler temperatures typically hatches males and incubating at warmer temperatures hatches more females. When the time is right and the turtles are ready to emerge from their shells, they are equipped with an egg tooth, which is a hardened piece of keratin that protrudes from the tips of their noses. A team of keepers was on standby during hatching to ensure the smooth and safe hatching of each of the four turtles.
Photo Credits: Katie Gregory
Yellow-blotched Map turtles (Graptemys flavimaculata) are found exclusively in the Pascagoula River, and its tributaries, in southern Mississippi.
This species was listed, in the United States, as federally threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1991. The State of Mississippi and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also classify the species as endangered. Yellow-blotched Map Turtles have been of long-term concern due to a very limited range and declining populations due to habitat degradation by pollution and river channel modifications.
Nashville Zoo participates in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan for Yellow-blotched Map Turtles to increase the captive population, as well as raise awareness for this rare and endangered turtle. Guests can see the Zoo's new turtles on-exhibit inside Unseen New World.
Even powerful creatures like Alligator Snapping Turtles need a little help sometimes – that’s why the Nashville Zoo is headstarting 30 young snappers for eventual release into Tennessee’s waterways.
The hatchlings came to Nashville from the Tishomingo National Fish Hatchery in Oklahoma and are now being cared for behind-the-scenes at the zoo. The hatchlings will remain at the zoo for three years, after which they will be released into the wild as part of a statewide program to boost populations of Alligator Snapping Turtles.
Photo Credit: Katie Gregory
Headstarting programs like this can help bring species back from the brink. Female Alligator Snapping Turtles don’t produce large quantities of eggs, and many eggs laid in the wild are lost to predation. By collecting eggs from wild females, raising hatchlings in a protected environment, and releasing juveniles once they have attained a larger size, biologists can boost the number of surviving young.
With their expertise at caring for animals in aquariums and controlled environments, zoos are recognized as vital partners in the fight to save native species.
After the Turtles’ release, zoo staff will monitor the young to determine the success of the headstarting program.
Weighing 50-100 pounds as adults, Alligator Snapping Turtles are almost prehistoric in appearance. They spend nearly all of their life in water, feeding on fish and other aquatic animals. To lure prey within striking distance, these Turtles sit with mouths open to reveal a small, pink, worm-like appendage in the back of the mouth. Once the prey swims close enough, the Turtle clamps down on it with powerful jaws.
Once inhabiting most of the rivers in the Mississippi watershed, Alligator Snapping Turtles (not to be confused with Common Snapping Turtles, which are abundant in waterways across the region) were decimated in the 1960s and 70s by commercial harvesting for their meat. Today, habitat loss, egg predation, and the high rate of hatchling predation threaten the species.
Like all baby Tapirs, a newborn Baird’s Tapir born August 28 at the Nashville Zoo looks suspiciously like a brown watermelon with a snout. But rest assured, this little male will eventually sport a smooth, dark brown coat and weigh up to 800 pounds.
Photo Credit: Amiee Stubbs
The calf’s parents, Romeo and Juliet, were brought to the Nashville Zoo from Central America to introduce a new genetic line to the zoo-dwelling Tapir population.
Because this calf was Juliet’s first baby, the zoo staff set up a remote camera system and monitored her around the clock as her delivery date approached. Juliet went into labor at 4:00 PM on August 28 and delivered her healthy calf just 20 minutes later. Tapirs are pregnant for about 400 days.
Tapirs’ snouts are elongated and very flexible. These snouts are used to grab leaves and other vegetation and pass it to the mouth.
Baird’s Tapirs are native to Mexico, Central America, and northern South America, where they are the largest land mammals. They have very few natural predators, but are listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, mainly due to habitat destruction and poaching. Tapirs are legally protected in most of their range, but lack of enforcement results in significant losses.
Three curious and active Red Ruffed Lemur babies born at the Nashville Zoo are a boost to this critically endangered species.
The two females and one male were born on May 24, the eighth birthday of their mother, Lyra. Red Ruffed Lemurs are largest of all Lemur species, weighing up to 10 pounds as adults. Some Lemurs carry their babies, but Red Ruffed Lemurs leave their young in a nest, with the mother visiting the nest often to nurse and care for her babies. Zoo keepers expect the babies to emerge from the nest soon.
Photo Credit: Nashville Zoo
All Lemurs are native only to the African island of Madagascar, which has undergone dramatic ecological change in the past several decades. Illegal logging, burning of forests, cyclones, and illegal hunting have reduced available habitat and plunged Lemur populations into serious decline. Scientists estimate that only 1,000-10,000 Red Ruffed Lemurs remain in the wild.
About 600 Red Ruffed Lemurs live in zoos around the world. The Nashville Zoo participates in the Red Ruffed Lemur Species Survival Plan, a cooperative program to maintain genetically healthy populations of endangered animals in zoos.