Reptiles

Zoo Welcomes Four of the "World's Most Beautiful" Tortoises

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The staff at South Africa’s Cango Wildlife Ranch is celebrating the hatching of four critically endangered Radiated Tortoises. Known as one of the world’s most beautiful Tortoise species, Radiated Tortoises are under serious threat due to illegal capture for the pet trade and human consumption in their native Madagascar.

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IMG_0156Photo Credit: Cango Wildlife Ranch

More than nine months ago, the hatchlings’ 78-year-old mother carefully excavated two holes and laid a total of six eggs in the holes. Four of those eggs finally hatched during the month of March.

The tiny hatchlings are receiving extra-special care at the facility. They are kept warm, with room temperatures between 77-82 degrees Fahrenheit. A cozy heat pad for cuddle time is kept at 104 degrees if the babies need a quick warm-up. Reptiles are ectothermic (cold-blooded), so they rely on their environment to maintain appropriate body temperatures.

Mealtime includes green beans, lettuces, hibiscus flowers, and other leaves chopped into bite-sized pieces.

Cango Wildlife Ranch Director Narinda Beukes is the PAAZA (Pan-African Association of Zoos and Aquaria) studbook manager for the Radiated Tortoise. This studbook lists the known parentage of all Radiated Tortoises in accredited African facilities. By using the studbook to pair unrelated animals for breeding, managers can ensure the greatest amount of genetic diversity in the zoo-dwelling population of these imperiled reptiles. 

See more photos of the hatchlings below.

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Rare Baby Macaw, Venomous Snakes Arrive at LA Zoo

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The Los Angeles Zoo is celebrating the arrival of two tropical Snake species and a Blue-throated Macaw, one of the rarest birds in the world.

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Lachesis clutch 2019Photo Credits: Tad Motoyama (1,3,4,5); Ian Recchio (2,6)

Eight Bushmasters, which are venomous Pit Vipers native to Central and South America, hatched in December (second photo from top). This is the fourth clutch of this species to hatch at the Los Angeles Zoo since the first pair of Bushmasters arrived at there in 2008.  The little hatchlings will eventually grow six to 10 feet long and weigh up to 15 pounds. Bushmasters inhabit forests and though their bites can be fatal, these Snakes are rarely encountered by humans.

Unlike Bushmasters, which hatch from eggs, a Mangrove Viper gave birth to five babies on December 26 (third photo from top). In Snakes that give birth to live offspring, the eggs are held inside the body until they hatch, resulting in live birth. This is the first time Mangrove Vipers have reproduced at the zoo. Mangrove Vipers are venomous Pit Vipers that live in India, Bangladesh, and Southeast Asia.

Staff working behind the scenes at the Avian Conservation Center are hand-rearing a Blue-throated Macaw chick that hatched in December (top photo). Normally, the chick’s parents would care for and feed the chick, but they experienced some minor health issues that required medication and could not feed their baby. Staff took over and offer food via a syringe several times a day.

Found only in a small region of Bolivia, fewer than 250 Blue-throated Macaws live in the wild. In the past, these Macaws were heavily exploited for the pet trade. Though this practice has been greatly reduced, trapping still occurs. Today, the Macaws' biggest threat comes from clearing of suitable nesting and feeding trees. These birds are listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

See more photos of the Macaw chick and a Bushmaster hatching from its egg below.

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Chester Zoo's Top 10 Baby Animals of 2018

Conservationists at Chester Zoo have celebrated an unprecedented number of births in 2018, including some of the world’s rarest and most at-risk species.

1. Precious sun bear cub Kyra is first of her kind to be born in the UK (8)

Sun Bear

Adorable cub Kyra was the first Sun Bear to be born in the UK. Her birth was caught on the zoo’s CCTV cameras and people around the globe watched Kyra’s first moments with her mom. Kyra’s parents, Milli and Toni, were both rescued from poachers in Cambodia.    

Conservationists estimate that less than 1,000 Sun Bears remain in the wild across Southeast Asia. Deforestation and commercial hunting for their body parts have decimated their numbers.

2. Baby Stevie is the arrival of the decade… for Chester’s chimpanzees  (3)

Chimpanzee

Critically endangered Western Chimpanzee Stevie was the first of her kind to be born at Chester Zoo in nearly 10 years.

Stevie’s birth followed a scientific project, spanning several years, which carefully assessed the genetics of all Chimpanzees in zoos across Europe. The study confirmed that the troop of Chimps at Chester Zoo is the highly-threatened West African subspecies – one of the rarest in the world – establishing them as a critically important breeding population. It is estimated that as few as 18,000 West African Chimpanzees now remain in the wild.

3. Elephant calf Anjan astonishes scientists after being born three months after expected due date (2)

Asian Elephant

After an unusually long pregnancy believed to have lasted 25 months, Asian Elephant Thi Hi Way gave birth to a healthy male calf, who keepers named Anjan.

A major Chester Zoo project in Assam, northern India, has successfully found ways to eliminate conflict between local communities and the nearby Asian Elephant population, offering a blueprint for the future conservation of the species.

4. Greater one-horned rhino calf Akeno gives new hope to species (2)

Greater One-horned Rhino

The momentous birth of Greater One-horned Rhino calf Akeno, born to mom Asha, was captured on CCTV cameras at the zoo.

Keepers watched as Asha delivered her calf safely onto to soft bedding after a 16-month-long gestation and 20-minute labor.

At one stage, the Greater One-horned Rhino was hunted almost to extinction and less than 200 survived in the wild. Thankfully, steps to protect the Rhinos were taken just in time and today there are around 3,500 in India and Nepal.

5. Secretive okapi calf Semuliki is a star in stripes (2)

Okapi

A rare Okapi calf named Semuliki arrived to first-time parents K’tusha and Stomp. The Okapi is found only deep in the forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo and its highly secretive nature contributed to it being completely unknown to science until 1901.

Despite being a national symbol and protected under Congolese law, Okapi populations declined in the wild by nearly 50% over the past two decades and the species is now listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

6. Tiny forest dragons help uncover new information about the species (4)
Bell’s Anglehead Lizards

A clutch of rare baby  Bell’s Anglehead Lizards – also known as Borneo Forest Dragons – hatched at the zoo, helping conservationists uncover more about the species’ breeding patterns, life cycle and habits.

The Lizards’ wild south Asian habitat however, is being decimated to make way for unsustainable palm oil plantations – a threat which is pushing many species in the region to the very edge of existence.

7. Rare silvery gibbon adds to record baby boom at the zoo  (2)
Silvery Gibbon

The birth of a tiny Silvery Gibbon astonished visitors to the zoo who were able to admire the infant just minutes after its birth. 

Conservationists hailed the arrival of this highly endangered primate, with just 4,000 of its kind now remaining on the island of Java, Indonesia, where the species is now listed as endangered by the IUCN.

8. Fluffy flamingo chicks are pretty in pink  (2)

Flamingos

Keepers were tickled pink by the arrival of 21 Flamingo chicks. Each of the fluffy newcomers was carefully hand fed by the zoo’s bird experts four times a day for five weeks until they were developed enough to fully feed for themselves.

Flamingo chicks are white or grey in color when they first hatch, resembling little balls of cotton wool, and begin to develop their famous pink plumage at around six months old.

9. Tiny babirusa triplets arrive in zoo ‘first’ (3)

Babirusa

The first set of Babirusa triplets were born at the zoo, a huge boost to the species which has experienced a recent population crash on the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia.

Once considered fairly common, the rapid decline comes as result of hunting for their meat and habitat loss, which has seen Babirusas disappear from many parts of the island.

10. Black rhino birth a surprise to visitors  (5)

Eastern Black Rhino

The arrival of Jumaane, a rare Eastern Black Rhino calf, left a handful of lucky zoo visitors in shock as his birth took place right in front of them.

Conservationists now estimate that fewer than 650 Eastern Black Rhino remain across Africa – a staggeringly low number driven by an increase in poaching to meet demand for rhino horn, which supplies the traditional Asian medicine market.

The birth of Jumaane is another vital boost to the Europe-wide breeding program which is crucial for the conservation of this critically endangered species.


Second Largest Clutch of Komodo Dragons for SA Zoo

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Halloween was extra “egg-citing” at the San Antonio Zoo when four Komodo Dragons hatched, making them the second largest, successful clutch of their kind to hatch at the zoo.

Laid in the spring by 14-year old mom, Tiga, the baby reptiles are spending a few weeks in a behind-the-scenes nursery.

“This monumental hatching is a testament to the zoo’s persistence and commitment to conservation,” said Tim Morrow, the zoo’s CEO and Executive Director. “The hatchlings are thriving and we are looking forward to introducing them to zoo guests.”

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4_Komodo dragon mom_TigaPhoto Credits: San Antonio Zoo

Komodo Dragons are listed as “Vulnerable” by the IUCN, and their numbers are declining in the wild due to limited range and fragmented populations. Known as the largest living lizard in the world, they are native to the Indonesian islands of Komodo, Padar, Flores, Gili Motang, and Rinca. These carnivores can grow up to be 8.5 feet in length and weigh up to 200 pounds in adulthood. In the wild, Komodo Dragons can live up to 30 years.

Animal care specialists at San Antonio Zoo will continue to monitor the new Komodo Dragons as they continue to grow. Within the coming months, the Komodo Dragons can be viewed at the zoo’s Reptile House.

San Antonio Zoo participates in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Komodo Dragon Species Survival Program and actively supports conservation global projects that impact Komodo Dragons through funding and boots-on-the- ground work.

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Rare Baby Geckos' Tails Look Like Leaves

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Five Henkel’s Leaf-tailed Geckos (Uroplatus henkeli) have arrived at Lincoln Park Zoo – the first-ever successful hatch at the zoo for this rare Lizard species. The hatchlings will be on exhibit at Regenstein Small Mammal-Reptile House in the coming weeks.

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20181011_CB_leaf-tailed gecko_898x477Photo Credit: Lincoln Park Zoo

The zoo’s Henkel’s Leaf-tailed Geckos were given a breeding recommendation from the Leaf-tailed Gecko Species Survival Plan® (SSP), which manages the species’ population throughout zoos accredited by the The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). The SSP recommendations – which determine the exact individuals that  should breed with each other – are made using demographic and genetic analyses conducted by population biologists at the AZA Population Management Center, which is based at Lincoln Park Zoo.

Henkel's Leaf-tailed Geckos are named for their distinctive namesake tail. That remarkable appendage and their rough brown and green skin helps these Lizards camouflage themselves against tree bark with uncanny ease.

Tiny pads on the feet of Henkel's Leaf-tailed Geckos produce a strong adhesive effect, enabling them to climb and cling to a variety of surfaces. In the wild, these Lizards spend most of their time in the treetops, feeding on insects. They descend to the ground only when laying eggs in leaf litter on the forest floor.

Although adults can grow to 11 inches long, hatchlings are much tinier, as you can see in the photos. The newcomers are welcome arrivals for a species that is classified as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

These Lizards are found only in Madagascar, where they face threats from logging operations and from deforestation as people burn the forest to make small farms. They are also collected illegally to supply the pet trade and are routinely taken from protected areas within Madagascar.

See more photos of the hatchlings below.

Continue reading "Rare Baby Geckos' Tails Look Like Leaves" »


Singapore Zoo’s RepTopia Marks First Successful Year

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Singapore Zoo’s “RepTopia” is marking its first year at the Zoo with the successful breeding of over 80 specimens of reptiles and amphibians.

RepTopia saw 40 successful hatchings of the iconic Panther Chameleon. No larger than the head of a pen, these vulnerable hatchlings require diligent care from RepTopia’s keepers.

The amazing success at the Zoo also includes six critically endangered Electric Blue Geckos and endangered Golden Poison Frogs.

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4_SZ - Golden Poison Frog young_WRSPhoto Credits: Wildlife Reserves Singapore (Image 1,2: Panther Chameleon/ Image 3: Electric Blue Gecko/ Image 4: Golden Poison Frog/ Image 5: Gaboon Viper/ Image 6: Knob-tailed Gecko/ Image 7: Plumed Basilisk/ Image 8: Dyeing Poison Frog/ Image 9: Henkel's Leaf-tailed Gecko)

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Rare ‘Forest Dragons’ Hatch at Chester Zoo

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A clutch of rare baby ‘Forest Dragons’ have hatched at Chester Zoo.

The Bell’s Anglehead Lizard (Gonocephalus bellii), also known as the Borneo Forest Dragon, is found in parts of South East Asia. Reptile experts at Chester Zoo say very little is known about the mysterious reptile. Population estimates on the species have never been carried out; therefore, no one is aware of exactly how many exist in the wild or how threatened they might be.

However, the emergence of the four tiny lizards at the Zoo is helping reptile conservationists discover some of the secrets about how they live.

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5_Rare baby forest dragons hatch at Chester Zoo (1)Photo Credits: Chester Zoo (Image 1,2: "Reptile keeper Nathan Wright holds rare lizard at Chester Zoo / Image 5: Adult Bell's Anglehead Lizard)

Matt Cook, Lead Keeper of Reptiles at Chester Zoo, said, "The Bell’s Anglehead Lizard is an elusive a little-understood species. Reliable information about them is incredibly scarce, so much so that even to reptile experts they are somewhat of a mystery.”

“What we do know is that, as their name suggests, these ‘forest dragons’ live in forests in South East Asia. This is habitat which, across the region, is being completely decimated to make way for unsustainable palm oil plantations – a threat which is pushing all manner of species, big and small, to the very edge of existence.”

Matt continued, “Breeding these rare lizards at the Zoo allows us to increase our knowledge of the species. For example, we’ve already discovered that their incubation period is between 151 and 155 days; that they reach sexual maturity at around three-years-old and that the females deposit up to four eggs per clutch in a small burrow in deep soil.”

The recently hatched youngsters are currently being cared for in a special behind-the-scenes rearing facility at the Zoo, but visitors can see their parents in its Realm of the Red Ape habitat.

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Fort Worth Zoo Welcomes First Dragon Hatchlings

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For the first time in its 108-year history, the Fort Worth Zoo proudly announces the hatchings of eleven Komodo Dragons. Upon hatching, the juveniles were approximately 12 to 15 inches long and weighed less than half a pound each (about as much as a bar of soap).


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5_20170405_140939Photo Credits: Fort Worth Zoo

The female Komodo Dragon arrived at the Zoo in 2012 from Prague. She is 7 years old, 6 feet in length and weighs 26 pounds. The male is 7 years old, 6.5 feet long and 44 pounds. This is the first clutch for both young parents. (Full-grown adult males can reach over 8 feet in length and weigh up to 200 pounds). The adult Dragons’ unique genetic material makes them valuable assets in the development of Komodo Dragons in managed populations in the United States. They have now introduced an entirely new bloodline of healthy, genetically diverse Komodo Dragons into the population, which contributes as a hedge against extinction of these vulnerable reptiles.

Typically, female Komodo Dragons lay about 20 to 30 eggs and the eggs incubate for about nine months. There is little research to support parental care of newly hatched Komodo Dragons; in fact, adults will often eat juveniles. For this reason, and to ensure the eggs were kept at a constant temperature and humidity, the Fort Worth Zoo herpetological team cared for the eggs in the incubation nursery housed inside the Zoo’s Museum of Living Art (MOLA) until they hatched. Each one of the hatchlings now resides in its own off-exhibit habitat; however, one is now on exhibit in MOLA, across from their parents’ exhibit.

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Dwarf Crocodiles Hatch at San Diego Zoo

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On November 6, eight West African Dwarf Crocodiles hatched from eggs at the San Diego Zoo’s Reptile House—the first hatching of its kind in the zoo’s 101-year history. Three baby Crocs successfully hatched on their own, keepers assisted a fourth one in hatching, and more emerged from their eggs throughout the day. The hatchlings are being cared for behind the scenes—and the parents, an 11-year-old female named Yendi and a 50-year-old male named Kumba, can be seen by guests in the Africa Rocks exhibit.

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Screen Shot 2017-11-10 at 8.36Photo Credit: San Diego Zoo

The eggs were laid by Yendi on August 13. To ensure the eggs’ viability, animal care staff collected the eggs and incubated them in an off-exhibit area at 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Like other Crocodilian species, the gender of West African Dwarf Crocodiles is influenced by incubation temperatures, with higher temperatures required for the development of males. Although it is too soon to tell whether the hatchlings are male or female, keepers hope to determine the Crocodiles’ genders in a few days.

West African Dwarf Crocodiles are the smallest of the world’s Crocodile species, with an average adult length of about five feet.  They inhabit small waterways, wetlands, and swamps in Sub-Saharan West Africa and Central Africa. They are listed as Vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. There is little data currently available on this species in the wild, so San Diego Zoo Global supports research projects in Africa to better understand the status of West African Dwarf Crocodiles.

 


Reptile Hatchlings at Zoo Atlanta Are ‘Lucky 13’

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Thirteen proved to be a lucky number for one of the planet’s rarest reptile species! Zoo Atlanta has had their most successful season ever for hatching Guatemalan Beaded Lizards. The Zoo welcomed a total of 13 hatchlings this spring, which is a record for Zoo Atlanta.

Zoo Atlanta is one of only four zoos in the U.S. housing Guatemalan Beaded Lizards. Since the arrival of the Zoo’s first hatchling in 2012, a total of 35 have successfully hatched in subsequent years.

Guatemalan Beaded Lizards lay their eggs in fall and early winter. The 13 new hatchlings began emerging from their eggs on March 31, 2017.

“Every animal birth at Zoo Atlanta is important, but it is especially so when we consider that there are so few Guatemalan Beaded Lizards in the wild. This species is not only exceptionally rare but challenging to reproduce,” said Hayley Murphy, DVM, Vice President of Animal Divisions. “We are very proud to see Zoo Atlanta leading the way in helping to ensure a future for this species and in sharing what we have learned with our partners in the U.S. and Guatemala.”

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4_guatemalanbeadedlizard_hatchlings2017_egg_ZA_9372Photo Credits: Zoo Atlanta

The Guatemalan Beaded Lizard (Heloderma charlesborgeti) is an example of an animal most Americans would have no awareness of were it not for zoological populations.

As reclusive as they are rare, the lizards are found only in the Motagua Valley in Guatemala, where they are believed to number fewer than 200 in the wild. The species and its close relatives, which include the Gila Monster of the southwestern United States, are the only known venomous lizards.

The Beaded Lizard is a specialized vertebrate nest predator, feeding primarily on bird and reptile eggs. It is semi-arboreal and can be found climbing deciduous trees in search of prey when encountered above ground. It occasionally preys upon small birds, mammals, frogs, lizards, and insects.

The lizard species becomes sexually mature at six to eight years and mates between September and October. The female will lay her clutch of two to 30 eggs between October and December, and the clutch will hatch the following June or July.

Young lizards are seldom seen, emerging from underground at two to three years of age after gaining considerable size.

Although Guatemalan Beaded Lizards spend most of their lives below ground and rarely encounter humans, wild populations face serious challenges because of habitat loss and illegal trade. The species faces additional pressures from fear-based killing resulting from long-held myths that the lizards have supernatural powers.

Zoo Atlanta has worked with the Foundation for the Endangered Species of Guatemala on Conservation Heloderma, which works to purchase and protect Guatemalan Beaded Lizard habitat; combat black-market trade; promote local education; and improve the lives of people living in communities that share the lizards’ native range.

The properties of the Guatemalan Beaded Lizard’s venom, which is used only in self-defense and is not used to capture prey, have only recently become known to science. Unlike most lizard species, the Guatemalan Beaded Lizard has a high aerobic capacity and is able to stabilize its blood sugar levels during contrasting periods of eating and fasting, thanks to a unique hormone. This hormone has been synthesized by pharmaceutical companies in the treatment of human diabetes.

For more information on conservation programs at Zoo Atlanta, visit: www.zooatlanta.org/conservation

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