Oklahoma City Zoo

OKC Zoo Baby Rhino Update: It's a Girl! Zoo Hosts Contest to Name Calf

Facebook voting contest invites fans of all ages to help choose name for female Indian rhino calf

OKCity Zoo's baby rhino is here and you’re going to fall in love with her! The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden is inviting the public to help name its female Indian rhinoceros calf. As Oklahomans head to the polls this week, this is a fun opportunity for younger audiences to also participate in a voting process and choose a name for the Zoo’s newest arrival. The baby rhino naming contest will be hosted on the OKC Zoo’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/okczoo, now through Thursday, November 5.

OKC Zoo rhino mom Niki and her calf credit Sabrina Heise
OKC Zoo rhino mom Niki and her calf credit Sabrina Heise
OKC Zoo rhino mom Niki and her calf credit Sabrina Heise

The Zoo’s elephant and rhino caretaker team selected three name options for the calf that are representative of the species native habitat in India and Nepal. Voters can select from the following names:

A.      Narayani: Means “Goddess of wealth and power” in Sanskrit, also a river in Nepal.

B.       Oni: Hindu meaning “desired” or “wanted”.

C.       Yabi: An acronym for the Yayasan Badak, a group of rhino protection units in Java and Sumatra funded by the International Rhino Foundation, one of the Zoo’s conservation partners. This is the Caretakers Choice!

Facebook fans can cast their vote for their preferred name choice – A, B or C and share it as a comment on the Zoo’s page, www.facebook.com/okczoo. The winning name will be announced on the Zoo’s Facebook page Friday, November 6.

Born on Friday, October 23 to mom, Niki, 13, the Zoo’s youngest rhino is the sixth Indian rhino, also called the greater one-horned rhino, born at the OKC Zoo and Niki’s second offspring. Caretakers report that both mom and baby are healthy and Niki is an attentive mother, demonstrating good maternal behaviors such as nursing and keeping her daughter in close proximity.

Weather permitting, 50 degrees or higher, Niki and her daughter will have access to their outdoor habitat in a secluded section of Sanctuary Asia, viewable to guests riding on the Elephant Express tram.

The OKC Zoo has been home to Indian rhinos since 1981. Niki came to the Zoo in 2009 from the Bronx Zoo. Sanctuary Asia is also home to Indian rhino, Shanti, 32, who arrived from the Fort Worth Zoo in 2019. Native to India and Nepal, Indian rhinos, can weigh more than 3,000 pounds. These impressive animals are known for their single horn and tough skin that resembles body armor. Indian rhinos are currently listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Through successful conservation programs and daily protection, Indian rhino populations in the wild have increased to more 3,600 animals. However, there is a continuing decline in the quality of their natural habitat and the species continues to be illegally hunted for its horn.

The OKC Zoo is helping save Indian rhinos by supporting the International Rhino Foundation’s efforts to protect vulnerable and critically endangered rhinos and their habitat in India with money from the Round Up for Conservation Fund. The Zoo’s Round Up for Conservation program encourages guests to donate their change from any Zoo purchase to help protect wildlife and wild places around the world. The Zoo’s American Association of Zookeepers chapter has raised more than $373,000 for rhinos in Asia and Africa through its fundraising efforts since 1990.

Show your love for our baby rhino and vote for a name! The Oklahoma City Zoo is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Advance tickets are required for all guests and ZOOfriends members and can be purchased at http://www.okczoo.org/tickets. Zoo tickets are limited each day to ensure safe social distancing among guests. 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 up-to-date with the Zoo on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and by visiting Our Stories. Zoo fans can support the OKC Zoo by becoming a member. Memberships can be purchased at ZOOfriends.org or any place admission is sold in the Zoo’s Entry Plaza during regular business hours. To learn more about this event and Zoo other happenings, call (405) 424-3344 or visit okczoo.org.


OKC ZOO ANNOUNCES BIRTH OF ENDANGERED INDIAN RHINO CALF

 

It’s a baby rhino! The Zoo welcomes new calf to its animal family as part of collaborative breeding program for Indian rhino. 

The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden is thrilled to announce that Niki, the Zoo’s 13-year-old Indian rhino gave birth to a healthy calf at 3:25 a.m. today, Friday, October 23, 2020. This new arrival is the first calf born to breeding pair Niki and father, Arun, 29, and the sixth Indian rhino, also known as the greater one-horned rhino, born at the OKC Zoo. The OKC Zoo has been home to Indian rhinos since 1981.

OKC Zoo rhino mom Niki and calf credit Katie Van Singel image 2
OKC Zoo rhino mom Niki and calf credit Katie Van Singel image 2
OKC Zoo rhino mom Niki and calf credit Katie Van Singel image 2

Photo Credits: Katie Van Singel and Rachel Emory

The calf was born in the early morning inside the Zoo’s rhino barn at Sanctuary Asia and discovered by caretakers when they arrived to start their day. An initial visual exam performed by the Zoo’s veterinary and animal care teams determined that both mom and calf are doing well. The calf is strong, standing on its own and nursing. At this time, the gender of the calf is still unknown as it continues to stay close to mom, enjoying some quality bonding time with her.  

  “We are very excited to welcome a new addition to our rhino group and to see that calf and mom are doing excellent,” said Rachel Emory, OKC Zoo’s curator of elephants and rhinos. “Indian rhinoceros are listed as a vulnerable species, so every successful birth is important, not just to us, but to the population as a whole.”

Mom Niki came to the OKC Zoo in 2009 from the Bronx Zoo and father Arun, 29, arrived from the Fort Worth Zoo in 2019 as part of a a breeding recommendation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros Species Survival Plan (SSP). SSP programs were developed by AZA to oversee breeding management and sustainability of select animal species within AZA-member zoos and aquariums. The Zoo’s Sanctuary Asia is also home to adult, female Indian rhino, Shanti, 32, who also came from the Fort Worth Zoo with Arun.

The gestation period for Indian rhinos is approximately 16 months. The average birth weight for an Indian rhino calf is 120 pounds. Newborn Indian rhinos lack the distinctive horn of the adult rhino. Instead, they have a flat, smooth oval plate that eventually forms into a horn.

Native to northern India and southern Nepal, Indian rhinos are currently listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Through conservation programs, wild populations over the past century have recovered from under 200 animals to approximately 3,600 today. However, there is a continuing decline in the quality of their natural habitat and the species continues to be illegally hunted for its horn.

The OKC Zoo is helping save Indian rhinos by supporting the International Rhino Foundation’s efforts to protect vulnerable and critically endangered rhinos and their habitat in India with money from the Round Up for Conservation Fund. The Zoo’s Round Up for Conservation program encourages guests to donate their change from any Zoo purchase to help protect wildlife and wild places around the world. Plus, the Zoo’s American Association of Zookeepers chapter has raised more than $373,000 for rhinos in Asia and Africa through its fundraising efforts since 1990.

The Zoo will continue to share updates on the rhino calf and mom, Niki, on social. Weather permitting, the two could be visible to guests from their habitat at Sanctuary Asia as early tomorrow!

A sweet treat just in time for Halloween, come out to the Zoo this fall and meet our new rhino calf! The Oklahoma City Zoo is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Advance tickets are required for all guests and ZOOfriends members and can be purchased at http://www.okczoo.org/tickets. Zoo tickets are limited each day to ensure safe social distancing among guests. 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 up-to-date with the Zoo on FacebookTwitter and Instagram and by visiting Our Stories. Zoo fans can support the OKC Zoo by becoming a member. Memberships can be purchased at ZOOfriends.org or any place admission is sold in the Zoo’s Entry Plaza during regular business hours. To learn more about this event and Zoo other happenings, call (405) 424-3344 or visit okczoo.org.


Rescued Sea Lion's Amazing Journey to Oklahoma City Zoo

Sea Lion Isla at the Channel Islands Marine & Wildlife Institute (1 of 1)

A California Sea Lion pup’s amazing journey includes her rescue near Santa Barbara, a three-month stay in a rehabilitation center, release back into the Pacific, crossing a busy street, visiting a hotel lobby, and an eventual arrival at the Oklahoma City Zoo.

Isla and Zoo Trainer Sierra at Channel Islands Marine & Wildlife Institute (1 of 1)
Isla and Zoo Trainer Sierra at Channel Islands Marine & Wildlife Institute (1 of 1)Photo Credit: Oklahoma City Zoo

The pup, named Isla, has experienced a lot in her 11 months of life. She was most likely born last spring off the California coast and was found emaciated and malnourished at the Santa Barbara Harbor in November 2018. When concerned citizens called the Channel Islands Marine and Wildlife Institution (CIMWI), volunteers came to rescue the little pup.

The pup was transported to CIMWI’s facility to be rehabilitated in hopes of returning her back to the wild. After 90 days at the center, which included medication, increased fish intake, and daily health checks, Isla was released 25 miles offshore around other wild Sea Lions.

Nine days later, Isla swam the 25 miles back to Santa Barbara Harbor, got out of the water, crossed a busy street, and made her way into the lobby of the Alma Mar Motel. Once again, the CIMWI staff was contacted to rescue Isla.

Once back at CIMWI, the staff found that in the nine days Isla had been back in the ocean, she had lost nine pounds, meaning that she was unable to forage for herself in the wild. After weeks of observation, it became clear that Isla was more habituated to humans than she was to the other marine mammals in the institute’s care. CIMWI caretakers were certain that Isla would not thrive in the wild, so for her safety and well-being, she was deemed non-releasable.

Once it was decided that Isla could not return to the wild, CIMWI contacted National Marine Fisheries Service (a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA) to locate a zoo or aquarium, accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), that could become Isla’s permanent home, and the Oklahoma City Zoo was selected. Two zoo staff members went to Santa Barbara to bring Isla to Oklahoma City in mid-May.

“By becoming a forever home for Isla and providing her with care, veterinary monitoring and an enriching environment, not only are we ensuring her survival, but we are also safeguarding the future of her species,” said Sierra Chappell, lead marine mammal trainer. “Her energetic spirit and inspiring story will resonate with Zoo guests and create a connection that will last a lifetime.”

Considered to be highly intelligent animals, California Sea Lions’ survival is based on the health of the ocean’s ecosystem. Sea Lions are threatened by plastic pollution and are vulnerable to the effects of climate change on ocean currents, which impact their fish prey abundance. They are also victims of bycatch in fisheries. The Oklahoma City Zoo participates in AZA’s Species Survival Plan for California Sea Lions.

 



 


OKC Zoo Debuts ‘Mountain Lion Cub Cam’

1_OKC Zoo Mountain Lion Cubs at Oklahoma Trails Habitat

The Oklahoma City Zoo’s 11-week-old Mountain Lion cubs are ready to make their public debut, and fans can watch the wild fun unfold live, daily on the Zoo’s “Mountain Lion Cub Cam”!

The OKC Zoo is excited to officially launch its new “Mountain Lion Cub Cam,” online at www.okczoo.org . Tune in and watch as young siblings, Toho, Tanka and Tawakoni, explore their new habitat at the Zoo’s Oklahoma Trails and get ready for all the pouncing, playing and sibling bonding you can handle!  

The Mountain Lion cubs arrived at the OKC Zoo in late January after being orphaned in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Game officials with the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks found the cubs and contacted the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to locate a permanent home for the litter because recovered cubs cannot return to the wild according to South Dakota state protocol. Learning of the cubs’ situation, the Zoo made the decision to provide a forever home for both Toho and Tanka. Tawakoni will be relocating to her permanent home at AZA-accredited Cameron Park Zoo in Waco, Texas, later this summer. Until then, she will remain with her brothers at Oklahoma Trails.

ZooBorns shared news of the cubs’ arrival at OKC Zoo in an earlier feature: “Orphaned Mountain Lion Cubs Thrive at OKC Zoo”  

2_OKC Zoo Mountain Lion Cub (2 of 3)

3_OKC Zoo Mountain Lion (3 of 3)

4_OKC Zoo Mountain Lion Cub (1 of 3)Photo Credits: Candice Rennels /Oklahoma City Zoo

The OKC Zoo’s new webcam provides a ‘purr-fect’ opportunity for virtual guests to get a live look at the cubs and stay connected with them as they grow. After completing a 30-day quarantine at the Zoo’s Joan Kirkpatrick Hospital, the cubs moved to Oklahoma Trails where they can be seen daily in the current bobcat habitat. The Zoo’s carnivore caretakers determined the bobcat habitat would be an easier space for the cubs to navigate at this time and cub-proofed the habitat before allowing the adventurous youngsters access. When the siblings are bigger, they will “graduate” to the mountain lion habitat. In the meantime, Cody, the Zoo’s bobcat, can be seen daily in the Mountain Lion habitat.

“Cub Cam” viewers will enjoy watching as the Mountain Lion cubs become familiar with their new environment and curiously explore it. The rambunctious trio is a sight to see as they investigate all the new smells and sounds around them. The “Mountain Lion Cub Cam” will be live at www.okczoo.org – 24/7 with optimal viewing of the cubs from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily, weather permitting.


Orphaned Mountain Lion Cubs Thrive at OKC Zoo

1_OKC Zoo Mountain lion cubs (2) credit Jennifer D'Agostino

The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden recently welcomed a litter of orphaned Mountain Lion cubs. The cubs, two males and a female, are approximately ten-weeks-old and arrived at the OKC Zoo in late January after being rescued from the wild.

Born in the Black Hills of South Dakota, the Mountain Lion cubs were found by game officials with the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks. Realizing the cubs’ mother was deceased and they were too young to survive on their own, game officials immediately intervened and began providing 24/7 care for the orphaned cubs. They also contacted the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to locate a permanent home for the litter because recovered cubs cannot return to the wild according to South Dakota state protocol.

Learning of the cubs’ situation, the OKC Zoo made the decision to take in the litter and provide a forever home for both male cubs at its Oklahoma Trails habitat. The female cub will be relocating to AZA-accredited Cameron Park Zoo in Waco, Texas later this summer, but will remain with her brothers at the OKC Zoo until then.

“By bringing these orphaned cubs to the OKC Zoo and providing them with the care, veterinary monitoring and enriching environment needed to thrive we are ensuring their survival.” said Tyler Boyd, OKC Zoo animal curator. “Since it opened in 2007, Oklahoma Trails has been home to Mountain Lions, and we are excited to watch these brothers grow and become beloved ambassadors for the habitat. We want to connect our guests to the importance of caring for native wildlife and wild places, and communicate why it’s vital to protect both.”

The male cubs were given the names Toho, meaning “cougar god”, and Tanka, from Wakan Tanka meaning “great spirit” in the Lakota language. The female cub has been named, Tawakoni, which is inspired by the Wichita tribe and means “river bend among red sand hills.”

According to the Zoo, all three cubs are in good health and weighed 9-10 lbs. at their last check. Once the cubs complete their 30-day quarantine at the OKC Zoo’s Joan Kirkpatrick Animal Hospital, they will be on public view at the Oklahoma Trails exhibit.

2_OKC Zoo Mountain lion cubs (4) credit Jennifer D'Agostino

3_OKC Zoo Mountain lion cubs credit Jennifer D'Agostino

4_OKC Zoo Mountain lion cubs (3) credit Jennifer D'AgostinoPhoto Credits: OKC Zoo/ Jennifer D'Agostino

The Mountain Lion (Puma concolor) is known by many names including catamount, cougar, panther or puma. Native to the Americas, Mountain Lions once roamed most of the United States including Oklahoma, but now the largest populations inhabit the western U.S.

Impressive in size and strength, Mountain Lions are considered apex predators meaning they are not prey to any other animals. These large carnivores are built for hunting and actually help control deer and other animal populations from reaching unhealthy levels. Adults are recognized for their solid tawny coats but cubs are born with spots that vanish before they are a year old. Cubs are also born with blue eyes that change to yellow around 16-18 months old.


OKCity Zoo's Elephant Mom Gives Birth After Almost Two-Year Pregnancy!

Elephant Calf Kai 28 (1 of 1)

After an almost two-year pregnancy, the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden is happy to announce the addition of a female calf to its Asian elephant herd. Kairavi, Sanskrit for moonlight, was born Tuesday, October 9, at 11:28 p.m., inside the OKC Zoo’s elephant habitat at Sanctuary Asia. Both mother, Asha, and newborn, Kairavi (Kai), are in good health and are now viewable to guests. Kai’s arrival brings the total number of Asian elephants at the Zoo to seven.

Elephant Calf Kai 19 (1 of 1)

Elephant Calf Kai 23 (1 of 1)

Elephant Calf Kai 31

Elephant Calf Kai 41 (1 of 1) 

Veterinary staff and animal caretakers were present for the delivery and reported the birth required no medical intervention with the entire process taking only 15 minutes. The entire elephant herd was in the inside habitat with Asha during the birth and got to see and hear the delivery, an important component to the herd bonding with the newborn calf. After the birth, vet staff performed a visual inspection of Kai and determined the calf to be strong and observed Asha demonstrating appropriate maternal behaviors. The team remarked that Kai hit important developmental milestones surprisingly fast: standing only 12 minutes post-delivery and nursing after just 40 minutes.

“Asha is an exceptional mother and there is no doubt our new arrival, Kai, will thrive with her elephant family,” said Nick Newby, assistant curator, large mammals. “Not only are we are excited to welcome this new addition to the herd after 22 months of waiting, Kai’s arrival is a testament to the Zoo’s commitment to elephant conservation, and we can’t wait to introduce her to our guests.”

The gestation period for elephants is 22 months, during which Asha gained approximately 1,000 pounds bringing her total weight to 8,500 pounds. During the pregnancy, veterinary staff conducted weekly ultrasounds and daily hormone level testing. When they noted a large drop in Asha’s progesterone levels on Monday, October 8, they knew Kai’s arrival was imminent. During the latter months of her pregnancy, animal caretakers provided extra comfort for Asha in the form of large sand piles, where she could lay comfortably for a good night’s sleep. She also participated in birth practice with her caretakers on a weekly basis and continued to exercise with the herd.

This is the third elephant calf born at the OKC Zoo and the third offspring for mother Asha, 23, who arrived in 2008 from Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield, MO. Father Rex, 50, came to the Zoo in 2011 from Canada’s African Lion Safari. The pair produced Achara, 3, in 2014. The Oklahoma City Zoo’s Asian elephant herd also includes: Kandula, 17; Bamboo, 51; and Chandra, 22.

The OKC Zoo participates in the Asian Elephant Species Survival Plan (SSP), developed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Asian elephants are endangered and their African counterparts are vulnerable. Currently, the greatest threats to Asian elephants are habitat destruction and human-elephant conflict. About 60 percent of the total human population lives in Asia, and this population has nearly quadrupled in the last century. As human needs increase, more natural land is taken away from Asian elephants in order to build cities, homes, highways, farmland, etc. Habitat destruction is forcing animals, elephants in particular, to come in contact with humans in ways that can cause conflict. 


Oklahoma City Zoo Using New Technique for Flamingos

1_Flamingo Chick hatchling 4 (1 of 1)

Caretakers at the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden are developing a new technique with a Flamingo hatchling, enabling it to benefit from group socialization and parent rearing. This new partial hand-rearing method will allow the young bird to become a better mate and parent in the future. The chick, hatched July 13, has not yet been named, and the sex has not yet been determined.

During breeding season, staff closely monitors the birds’ nests and place resulting eggs in incubators. Dummy eggs are placed back in the nests to allow the birds to demonstrate their instinctual brooding behavior. Due to a multitude of natural predators (like owls and snakes) targeting Flamingo eggs and hatchlings, chicks have traditionally been completely hand-reared by caretakers for up to a year before being introduced to the flock. Partial hand rearing allows the chick to spend days with the flock under the watchful eyes of both caretakers and volunteers and nights safely inside, removed from the threat of potential predators.

“We would much rather have all of our birds be parent-reared,” said Holly Ray, assistant curator, birds. “Hand-rearing only occurs when it’s absolutely necessary for the safety and well-being of the animal. But if we can try something that will both help the animal thrive socially and physically while preserving its safety, it’s absolutely worth doing.”

2_OKC Zoo Flamingo Chick 2 (1 of 1)

3_OKC Zoo Flamingo Chick 1 (1 of 1)

4_OKC Zoo Flamingo Chick 4 (1 of 1)Photo Credits: Oklahoma City Zoo

Uncertain if any of the Flamingos would be interested in parenting the hatchling, caretakers watched anxiously as the chick was introduced to the flock. Caretakers placed the chick on a Flamingo mound (nest) and after about 45 minutes were able to confirm that a Flamingo pair were demonstrating parental behaviors toward the chick. This Flamingo pair was not the actual parents of the bird, so staff began referring to the duo as the chick’s foster parents. Both stay close to the chick and feed him what’s known as crop milk, a reddish, pre-digested and regurgitated meal. The female Flamingo is 22 years old. The male flamingo is 56 years old and the last remaining member of the Zoo’s original flock that arrived in 1963. The AZA reports the median life expectancy for flamingos is 25.8 years.

Zoo staff conducted an inspection of the grounds and accomplished a number of “chick-proofing” measures such as filling holes, patching walls and draining one of the pools to a level low enough for the chick to wade through safely. Caretakers are confident, however, that the hatchling will soon be swimming safely alongside the other flamingos. Although caretakers report the hatchling is adorably clumsy, the chick has proven to be extremely rambunctious and active, always exploring and investigating new sights and sounds.

Three other Flamingo chicks hatched this month and are being raised in the traditional method. During the hand-rearing process, the chicks gradually transition to different enclosures with various surfaces (sandy, grassy, muddy, etc.) the Flamingos will encounter in their natural environment. The birds are kept together, not alone. The chicks are also walked twice a day to provide adequate exercise needed for weight management, leg conditioning and overall healthy development. They will be introduced to the habitat more gradually and will be part of the flock earlier than previous years’ chicks.

5_OKC Zoo Flamingo Chick 6 (1 of 1)

6_OKC Zoo Flamingo Chick 8 (1 of 1)


Rare Baby Fishing Cat Arrives By Cesarean Delivery

XxFB Fishing Cat Cub 3

A rare Fishing Cat kitten is being hand-reared after he was born by cesarean delivery at Oklahoma City Zoo.

The baby was born on March 31 after his mother, Miri, surpassed her expected due date. The gestation period for Fishing Cats is between 63 and 70 days. Eleven-year-old Miri was five days past her due date and showed no signs of entering labor. The zoo’s veterinary and carnivore teams chose to intervene to ensure that her pregnancy was viable. Although the first-time mother was closely monitored by her caretakers throughout the entire pregnancy, the risks associated with waiting for a natural birth became far too great for Miri and her kitten.

Fishing Cat Cub 13
Fishing Cat Cub 13Photo Credit: Oklahoma City Zoo

This was the first cesarean delivery of a Fishing Cat in the zoo’s history. The entire procedure lasted three hours and consisted of an ultrasound, radiographs, bloodwork, a physical exam and the cesarean delivery, which resulted in the birth of a male kitten. The kitten is the first offspring of Miri and 3-year-old Boon.

For approximately 1 hour after his birth, the kitten, weighing 164 grams (0.4 pounds), needed help breathing. After two days in the animal hospital, the kitten’s health was stable, and his care team decided that he could be introduced to mom Miri.

Unfortunately, when the kitten was placed with Miri, she displayed no signs of maternal care. The veterinary and carnivore teams began hand-rearing the kitten.

Continue reading "Rare Baby Fishing Cat Arrives By Cesarean Delivery" »


Zoo Provides Foster Mom for Amur Tiger Cub

1_3 Sumatran cubs with Amur tiger cub Zoya on scale_ Zoya 2nd from Left 7.21.17 photo by Gretchen Cole

On July 21, the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden received a female Amur Tiger cub. The cub’s journey to Oklahoma is the result of the combined efforts of two amazing zoo teams and tiger conservation experts.

Born at the Philadelphia Zoo on July 10, the cub is named Zoya, meaning “life” in Russian. Zoya is the first offspring of 10-year-old mother, Koosaka, and 9-year-old father, Grom. Koosaka gave birth to five cubs, a large litter for tigers. Unfortunately, two were stillborn, a third was accidentally injured by Koosaka and did not survive, and a fourth developed a critical gastro intestinal issue that proved fatal, even with medical intervention by Philadelphia Zoo veterinarians.

The surviving cub, Zoya, was not being nurtured by Koosaka. According to experts, a lack of maternal behavior is not uncommon among first-time mother tigers who sometimes neglect or reject cubs. As a result, Philadelphia Zoo’s animal care team bottle-fed and continuously cared for the cub who continued to do well, gaining weight from about 2 pounds at birth to almost 4 pounds at 10 days old.

However, the Philadelphia Zoo’s animal care team was concerned about hand-rearing a single cub without the social opportunities that would be provided with either a mother or littermates.

“With this single cub, we knew that the best scenario for her was to find an opportunity for her to grow up with other tigers,” said Dr. Andy Baker, Philadelphia Zoo’s Chief Operating Officer.

2_Zoya examined at OKC Zoo

3_Zoya bottle fed for last time by Philadelphia Zookeeper 7.21.17

4_Philadelphia Zoo Tiger Team feeding Amur cub Zoya at OKC ZooPhoto Credits: Gretchen Cole (Image 1); Philadelphia Zoo (2-4); Oklahoma City Zoo (5); Gillian Lang (6,7)

In discussions with colleagues involved in the Tiger Species Survival Plan of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the Oklahoma City Zoo offered to attempt to integrate the Philadelphia Zoo cub with their new litter of Sumatran Tigers.

The Oklahoma City Zoo’s litter of three Sumatran Tiger cubs was born just one day before the Philadelphia Zoo’s Amur Tiger litter. Oklahoma’s six-year-old Sumatran Tiger mom, Lola, has been taking very good care of her own cubs.

After consultation between Philadelphia Zoo, the Oklahoma City Zoo, and other AZA colleagues, the teams decided the best option for the cub to grow up in a good social environment was for the Oklahoma City Zoo to attempt to cross-foster Zoya with Lola and her cubs.

Cross-fostering is the process of removing offspring from one mother and transferring them to another lactating mother with offspring of the same approximate age. “Cross-fostering in tigers is unusual, but with less than 500 Amur Tigers in the wild, every cub is important for the species’ survival,” said Dr. Rebecca Snyder, curator of conservation and science, Oklahoma City Zoo.

In 2011, the Oklahoma City Zoo successfully cross-fostered a litter of endangered African Painted Dogs with a Golden Retriever who had recently given birth. However, cross-fostering among tigers is rare, with only a few cases having ever been attempted and documented.

Continue reading "Zoo Provides Foster Mom for Amur Tiger Cub" »


Update: Wild Dogs Pups Raised by Surrogate Have Names!

Three pups

Three endangered African Wild Dog pups raised by a Golden Retriever at the Oklahoma City Zoo now have names refelecting their African heritage and their surrogate mother.

Four pupsPhoto Credit:  Oklahoma City Zoo

Born on November 7, the pups were removed from their mother when keepers observed that she failed to provide maternal care.  When the pups were a few days old, they were placed with  Lilly, a Golden Retriever who was a proven mother and had just delivered a single pup herself.  You can read the pups’ story in this ZooBorns post.

The pups, two females and one male, now weigh six pounds and have been weaned from Lilly.  

The zoo staff chose the pups’ names to reflect their African heritage and to honor their surrogate mom. Ayana’s name translates as ‘beautiful flower,’ while Zahra’s name means ‘flowering.’  Male pup Maji’s name translates as ‘water lily.’  Lilly’s pup has been named Uno.

All four of the pups have benefitted from their time together, as Lilly has taught them “dog etiquette” and many other important social skills.  Lilly, a former rescue dog, will soon leave the zoo with Uno.  

Ayana, Zahra, and Maji are gradually being introduced to the other members of the zoo’s African Wild Dog pack. For now, they can see and smell each other, but it may be several months before they fully integrate with the pack.

African Wild Dogs have vanished from much of their range in sub-Saharan Africa.  They live highly social lives in packs of 2-20 adults and their pups.  They specialize in hunting Gazelles, which they chase to exhaustion.  Food is regurgitated not only for pups, but for other adults as well, and this forms the basis of important social connections within the packs.  African Wild Dogs are listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.