Over a 10-week period, from November 20, 2018, through January 30, 2019, eleven calves from six different ungulate species were born at the Saint Louis Zoo!
The new calves— three Speke’s Gazelles, two Addaxes, a Soemmerring’s Gazelle, a Grevy’s Zebra, two Lesser Kudus and two Lowland Nyalas — are healthy and have been bonding with their mothers behind the scenes at Red Rocks.
New zebra foal, Nova, and her mom can be seen in their habitat, weather permitting.
Photo Credits: Saint Louis Zoo /Speke’s Gazelle Calves (Images 1-3), Addax Calves (4-5), Soemmerring’s Gazelle (6), Grevy’s Zebra foal (7), Lesser Kudu calves (8-9), Lowland Nyala calves (10-11)
These important births were recommended by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plans (SSP), which are responsible for maintaining genetically healthy populations of these ungulate species in North American zoos.
Five of these SSPs are coordinated by Zoo staff. The Saint Louis Zoo’s WildCare Institute Center for Conservation in the Horn of Africa and Saharan Wildlife Recovery Center supports conservation of unique species in Africa.
A female Mongoose Lemur, born at the Saint Louis Zoo on March 19, can now be seen by visitors as she plays with her mom, Dahlia, and dad, Snuffy, in the Zoo’s Primate House.
This is the first successful birth and rearing of a Mongoose Lemur at the Zoo, a milestone for the critically endangered species and a credit to the hundreds of hours of work contributed by the entire animal care team at the Primate House.
Known as “Princess Buttercup”, the baby is healthy and very energetic. However, her first few months of life started off a bit rocky, requiring round-the-clock care and feeding by the Zoo’s primate care staff.
Photo Credits: Ethan Riepl (Images 1,3,4) /Mylisa Whipple (2)/ Saint Louis Zoo
Six-year-old Dahlia has previously been unsuccessful in raising her infants, so when this pregnancy was confirmed, primate keepers consulted with numerous colleagues and conservation organizations with extensive lemur experience for advice. After creating a comprehensive birth plan, a decision was made to intervene early after this birth.
From the beginning, Dahlia cared for the baby in every way except nursing. She groomed, kept her warm, and let Princess Buttercup hang onto her fur. The animal care staff hand fed formula to the 68.5-gram (about 2.4 ounces) newborn using a syringe and performed regular weigh-ins and check-ups to make sure she was gaining weight and progressing normally.
For the first three weeks, Princess Buttercup was fed every two hours and demanded almost constant attention. Through training and a trusting relationship between the keepers and the lemur parents, Dahlia and Snuffy allowed the keepers to feed, weigh and monitor their baby since her birth. At 3 ½ months old, she now receives three formula feedings a day and is trying out a variety of adult foods as well.
The entire team of dedicated primate keepers altered their schedules in order to provide 24-hour care for this new baby, making sure that she was healthy, comfortable and well fed.
“We are all thrilled that Princess Buttercup is thriving and that we were able to assist Dahlia in raising her baby,” said Mylisa Whipple, one of the primate unit keepers who was instrumental in preparing the birth plan. “It’s an exhausting process to raise a child – any parent can attest to this – but every Mongoose Lemur birth is extremely important for this endangered species and we wanted to do the absolute best for her. It’s an amazing feeling to see her doing so well after such a tough start.”
This birth is part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Mongoose Lemur Species Survival Plan, a program to manage a genetically healthy population of Mongoose Lemurs in North American zoos. With Princess Buttercup’s birth, there are now a total of 68 Mongoose Lemurs in all AZA zoos (38 female, 30 male).
The Mongoose Lemur (Eulemur mongoz) is a critically endangered species native to the dry forests of northwestern Madagascar, where it searches for its diet of nectar, fruit, flowers and leaves. The small lemur weighs only 3 to 4 pounds as an adult.
Like many other lemurs, the Mongoose Lemur is in danger of extinction in the wild, due to continued habitat loss, as their forest homes are logged for timber and turned into farmland.
*The Saint Louis Zoo is home to the international headquarters of the Madagascar Fauna and Flora Group, a consortium of zoos and aquariums committed to conserving lemurs and other wildlife species within their native habitat.
A male Black-and-white Colobus Monkey was born at the Saint Louis Zoo on December 29. Zookeepers will name the baby at a later date, but visitors can see the new family at the Primate House during regular Zoo hours.
Photo Credits: Saint Louis Zoo & Ethan Riepl (Images 1-3) / Robin Winkelman (Image 4)
Colobus infants are born with all white hair and a pink face. In contrast, adults are primarily black, with white hair encircling their faces and half of their tails. Adults have a distinctive mantle of long white hair extending from their shoulders around the edge of their backs. An infant’s hair coat will change gradually until they reach adult coloration at about 6 months.
Colobus live in multi-female families and take turns caring for each other’s newborns, which is known as ‘allomothering’. Eighteen-year-old, Cecelia, is the dominant female and an experienced mother who is taking great care of the newborn, as well as her one-year-old daughter, Willow. Also in the family, or troop, are brothers Ziggy (age 2) and Simon (3), and their half-sister, Binti (4). Eleven-year-old father Kima can be seen watching stoically over his family and interacting with the youngsters.
The baby will stay with mom for nursing and sleeping. But at other times throughout the day, it’s will be common to see older sister, Binti, take the baby while mom eats or interacts with other members of the family, according to zookeepers. This is a skill necessary for female youngsters to learn so they become successful mothers in the future.
“The new baby is doing really well and becoming very interested in everything happening around him,” says Brooke Johnson, Saint Louis Zoo primate keeper and Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) institutional representative for the Black-and-white Colobus Monkey. “Brother and sister, Binti and Simon, are doing a great job taking care of and looking after their new sibling; and one-year old Willow is adjusting very well to sharing her mom with her baby brother."
The Abyssinian Black-and-white Colobus Monkey (Colobus guereza), also known as the Mantled Guereza, the Guereza, or the Eastern Black-and-white Colobus is a Black-and-white Colobus (a type of Old World monkey).
Black-and-white Colobuses (or colobi) are monkeys of the genus Colobus and are native to Africa. They are closely related to the Brown Colobus Monkeys of genus Piliocolobus.
The new birth at the Saint Louis Zoo is part of the AZA Colobus Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program to manage a genetically healthy population of Black-and-white Colobus Monkeys in North American zoos.
For the first time in Saint Louis Zoo history, a Cheetah has given birth to eight cubs. Three males and five females were born at the Saint Louis Zoo River’s Edge Cheetah Breeding Center on November 26, 2017.
In over 430 litters documented by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), this is the first time a female Cheetah has produced and reared on her own a litter of eight cubs at a zoo. The average litter size is three to four cubs.
The first few months of life are critical for newborn Cheetahs. The Saint Louis Zoo’s animal care staff is closely monitoring the new family and it appears that all eight cubs are healthy. Four-year-old Bingwa (BING-wah), which means “champion” in Swahili, continues to be an exemplary mother, according to the Cheetah care team.
“She has quickly become adept at caring for her very large litter of cubs: grooming, nursing and caring for them attentively,” says Steve Bircher, curator of mammals/carnivores at the Saint Louis Zoo.
Photo Credits: Carolyn Kelly & Saint Louis Zoo (Images 1,2,4) / Saint Louis Zoo (Images 3,5)
Bingwa is on loan to the Saint Louis Zoo from Wildlife Safari in Winston, Oregon. The cub’s nine-year-old father, Jason, is on loan from White Oak Conservation in Yulee, Florida. The birth of these eight cubs is a result of a breeding recommendation from the AZA Cheetah Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program to manage a genetically healthy population of cheetahs in North American zoos.
“We’ve brought together Cheetahs from great distances to continue this important breeding program,” says Bircher. “These handsome cats add genetic diversity to the North American Cheetah SSP population.”
Since 1974, the Zoo has been a leader in Cheetah reproductive research and breeding. Over 50 cubs have been born at the Saint Louis Zoo’s Cheetah Breeding Center.
Historically, Cheetahs have ranged widely throughout Africa and Asia. Today, fewer than 10,000 individuals inhabit a broad section of Africa, and less than 100 remain in Iran. Over the past 50 years, Cheetahs have become extinct in at least 13 countries. The main causes of decline are human-cheetah conflict, interspecific competition and lack of genetic diversity.
To help protect Cheetahs in the wild, the Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Institute Center for Conservation of Carnivores in Africa is working with its partners in Tanzania and Namibia to coordinate cheetah conservation efforts, including education, research and other programs to mitigate human-cheetah conflicts.
“Cheetahs are frequently persecuted for killing livestock. Our conservation partners are finding ways to improve the lives of local herders by providing education opportunities, food and medical supplies, so they can live peacefully with Cheetahs and support their protection,” says Bircher.
According to staff, the Zoo’s mother and eight cubs are doing well and will remain in their private, indoor maternity den behind the scenes at River’s Edge for the next several months.
A male Black Rhinoceros calf was born at the Saint Louis Zoo on May 17. The calf has been named Moyo (“heart” in Swahili). He is the second offspring for mother, Kati Rain, and father, Ajabu.
According to keepers, the little male is nursing well and being cared for by his mother. The pair has been bonding in their barn behind the scenes in their River’s Edge exhibit. A date has not yet been set for their public debut.
This is the second Black Rhino to be born at the Zoo in 26 years and only the tenth in
Saint Louis Zoo’s history. Moyo’s older brother, named Ruka, was born in 2011. In the summer of 2015, Ruka moved to the Oregon Zoo to pair with a compatible female there, as recommended by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Black Rhino Species Survival Plan (SSP).
Kati Rain and Ajabu arrived at the Zoo’s River’s Edge in 2007. Kati Rain is from Sedgwick County Zoo, and Ajabu is from San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Both are 13 years old.
Photo Credits: Saint Louis Zoo/ Images 1 & 2: Elizabeth Irwin / Image 3: Kathryn Pilgram-Kloppe
The Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis), also known as the Hook-lipped Rhinoceros, is a species native to eastern and southern Africa including Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Although it is referred to as “black”, its colors vary from brown to grey.
The critically endangered Black Rhino has experienced the most drastic decline of any of the five surviving Rhino species. Between 1970 and 1992, the Black Rhino population in Africa dropped by 96 percent. By 1993, only 2,300 individuals survived in the wild.
Black Rhinos are being pushed to the brink of extinction by illegal poaching for their horns, and to a lesser extent by loss of habitat. The horn is falsely believed to be medicine in many Asian cultures. Because of conservationists’ intensive anti-poaching efforts in the 1990s and 2000s, the number of Black Rhinos in the wild began increasing slowly.
The species overall is classified as “Critically Endangered” by the IUCN, and three subspecies, including the Western Black Rhinoceros, were declared extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2011.
Current estimates show 5,055 individual Black Rhinos are alive in the wild. The Saint Louis Zoo’s Black Rhinos are part of the AZA Black Rhino SSP, a program to manage a genetically healthy population of Black Rhinos in North American zoos.
With the addition of Moyo, there are currently 60 Eastern Black Rhinos in 26 AZA institutions. The Saint Louis Zoo's WildCare Institute Center for Conservation in the Horn of Africa supports the Sera Rhino Sanctuary in northern Kenya in partnership with the Northern Rangelands Trust. Additionally, the Zoo’s WildCare Institute supports the Stop Poaching Now program through the International Rhino Foundation.
A female Okapi calf named Mahameli (Swahili for “velvet”) was born to mom Manala and dad Akia on January 5 at the Saint Louis Zoo.
Currently, the beautiful calf can be observed, most days, inside the zoo’s Antelope House.
Photo Credits: Saint Louis Zoo
The Okapi (Okapia johnstoni) is a giraffid artiodactyl mammal native to the northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa. Although the Okapi bears striped markings reminiscent of Zebras, it is most closely related to the Giraffe. The Okapi and the Giraffe are the only living members of the family Giraffidae.
The Okapi stands about 1.5 m (4.9 ft) tall at the shoulder and has an average body length of about 2.5 m (8.2 ft). Its weight ranges from 200 to 350 kg (440 to 770 lb). It has a long neck, and large, flexible ears. Its coat is a chocolate to reddish brown, much in contrast with the white horizontal stripes and rings on the legs and white ankles. Male Okapis have short, hair-covered horns called ossicones, less than 15 cm (5.9 in) in length. Females possess hair whorls, and ossicones are absent.
Okapis are primarily diurnal but may be active for a few hours in darkness. They are essentially solitary, coming together only to breed. Okapis are herbivores, feeding on tree leaves and buds, grasses, ferns, fruits, and fungi.
The gestational period for females is around 440 to 450 days, and usually a single calf is born. The juveniles are kept in hiding, and nursing takes place infrequently. Juveniles start taking solid food from about three months, and weaning takes place at six months.
Okapis inhabit canopy forests at altitudes of 500–1,500 m (1,600–4,900 ft). They are endemic to the tropical forests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where they occur across the central, northern and eastern regions.
A tiny male Eastern Black-and-white Colobus Monkey was born at the Saint Louis Zoo's Primate House on January 10. The little one was given the name Ziggy as a nod to rock star David Bowie who passed away on the day the infant was born.
Colobus infants are born with all white hair and a pink face. In contrast, adults are primarily black, with white hair encircling their faces and half of their tails. Adults have a distinctive mantle of long white hair extending from their shoulders around the edge of their backs. Infants will change gradually until they reach adult coloration at about 6 months.
Photo Credits: Saint Louis Zoo Primate Keeper Ethan Riepl
Mom Cecelia (age 16) is the dominant female in the group, and she is an experienced mother who is taking great care of her newborn and 1-year-old Simon. Her 3-year-old daughter Kivuli is an eager "babysitter." Also in the family is 28-year-old matriarch Roberta, mother to 3-1/2-year-old daughter Pili, and 2-year-old daughter Binti. Nine-year-old father Kima watches proudly over the family.
"Everyone in the Colobus Monkey family has a role in caring for newborns," says Joe Knobbe, Zoological Manager of Primates at the Saint Louis Zoo. "Cecelia allows the young females some time with the infant, holding or even carrying him. They are learning important skills that will help them become great mothers, too, someday."
The family can be seen at the Zoo’s Primate House. Visitors can see the infant poking his head out to look at his new world.
The Eastern Black-and-white Colobus Monkey (Colobus guereza) is found throughout the forests of east and central Africa.
Colobus Monkeys grow to a max weight of about 15-30 pounds and a length of about 30 inches. They are strictly leaf-eaters and spend most of their time in treetops. They live in troops of about five to ten with a single dominant male and several females with young.
Gestation for the Colobus is about six months. There is no distinct breeding season, and females will typically give birth every 20 months. The entire troop may play a part in caring for the newborn. He will cling to the mother, or others allowed to care for him, for the first seven months of life. After that time, he will begin to play more with other juveniles.
The Colobus Monkey is currently classified as “Least Threatened” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. At one time the monkey was hunted for its beautiful fur for use in making dance costumes, capes, and hats. Today, their biggest threat is habitat encroachment by humans for the development of agriculture, housing and roads.
The birth at the Saint Louis Zoo is part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Colobus Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program created to manage a genetically healthy population of Black-and-white Colobus Monkeys in North American zoos.
The Saint Louis Zoo announced that two critically endangered Horned Guan chicks hatched at the Zoo on August 7—the first for the Zoo and only the second recorded breeding of the species in the United States.
Photo Credits: Ray Meibaum (1, 2, 3); David Merritt (4)
Because these are the first offspring for the inexperienced parents, the chicks are being hand-raised behind the scenes.
At two weeks old, the chicks weighed five ounces, stood about 8 inches tall and had fuzzy brown and black downy feathers. Their unique horns will start to develop at approximately 3 months of age. The horn begins with two bumps on the top of the head. These bumps gradually twist and grow together.
One of the rarest bird species in the world, the Horned Guan population in the wild is down to only 1,000 to 2,000 individuals in southeastern Mexico and Guatemala because their cloud forest habitat has been destroyed for logging, coffee plantations and other cash crops.
“This hatching is an important development in what has been a great effort to save this species; it was the result of many years of hard work,” said Jeffrey P. Bonner, Dana Brown President and Chief Executive Officer at the Saint Louis Zoo. “It took great attention to the welfare of the parents and enormous patience and persistence” from the zoo staff to achieve this milestone.
The parents of the two chicks are a male, age 12, who arrived at the zoo nine years ago and a female, 7, who arrived five years ago from the Cloud Forest Ambassadors Program at the Africam Safari Zoo in Puebla, Mexico, where they hatched. In 2007, the Saint Louis Zoo became the first accredited zoo in the nation to exhibit this species. Currently 56 Horned Guans are found in five institutions primarily in Mexico.
Large and dramatic, the adult Horned Guan (seen in the bottom photo) has a unique two-inch-long red horn of bare skin extending from the top of its head. This horn is thought to be ornamental to attract a mate. This bird has a bright white chest laced with fine lines of black feathers and a body covered with a jet black plumage that shines an iridescent blue in the sun. They are about the size of a small turkey and are arboreal, rarely coming to the ground in their native mountain forests. Horned Guans are related to some of the most endangered birds in the world—Curassows, Guans and Chachalacas.
The Saint Louis Zoo began working intensively with other species of Guans in 1997, when it received a $25,000 Institute of Museum Services grant to investigate artificial insemination techniques in this highly endangered group of birds. The zoo was also the location for the first ever hatching of a chick—a common Piping Guan—from the artificial insemination of a cracid species. Cracids are a family of game birds, like the Horned Guan, that are found predominantly throughout the Latin American tropics.
Since then, the zoo has worked with this endangered family of birds in Trinidad and Columbia and, in 2004, founded the WildCare Institute and the Center for Conservation of the Horned Guan. The Horned Guan Conservation Center staff has worked for a decade with its partners to conduct research on this elusive species. The complex dynamics of seed dispersal and habitat utilization are little understood.
The Center also is encouraging improved habitat management—advocating for increasing the protected area that is home to the Horned Guan and working to limit the factors that threaten vulnerable wildlife in this area. In addition, the Center has initiated an education program to teach local communities how to farm in more habitat-friendly ways and to strengthen community conservation participation.
“These programs, coupled with enforcement action, are expected to help reduce the threats caused by illegal timber removal and hunting,” said Center Director Michael Macek. “There is hope for this species thanks to efforts to reduce coffee plantations and to form additional reserves that can provide potential for eco-tourism, resulting in alternative economic opportunities for local communities.”
A male black and white Colobus Monkey named ‘Simon’ was born at the Saint Louis Zoo’s Primate House on December 30, 2014.
Photo Credits: Ethan Riepl / Saint Louis Zoo
Colobus infants are born with all white hair and a pink face. In contrast, adults are primarily black, with white hair encircling their faces and half of their tails. They have a distinctive mantle of long white hair extending from their shoulders around the edge of their backs. Infants will change gradually until they reach adult coloration at about 6 months.
‘Cecelia’, age 16, is an experienced mother who is taking great care of her newborn and 2-year-old daughter ‘Kivuli’. Also in the family is 27-year-old matriarch, ‘Roberta’, mother to 2-1/2-year-old daughter ‘Pili’ and 1-year-old daughter ‘Binti’. Nine-year-old father, ‘Kima’, watches proudly over the family.
“A new infant is always the focus of so much excitement and attention for the family,” says Joe Knobbe, Zoological Manager of Primates at the Saint Louis Zoo. “It’s important for everyone to have a role in the care of the newborn. Older sister Kivuli has taken particular interest in her new baby brother and is often seen holding or even carrying him. She’s learning important skills that will help her become a great mother, too, someday.”
The family can be seen at the Primate House. Visitors can see the infant poking his head out to look at his new world.
The Colobus Monkey, a threatened species, is found throughout the forests of east and central Africa. The birth is part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Colobus Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program to manage a genetically healthy population of black and white Colobus Monkeys in North American zoos.
The Saint Louis Zoo welcomed a rare baby Sumatran Orangutan on December 14, one of only two born in United States zoos in 2014.
Photo Credit: Stephanie Braccini
The baby, a female, was born to mother Merah, age 45, and father Cinta, age 10. Mother and baby are doing well, but they will remain behind the scenes for at least a month. The first 30 days of a baby Orangutan’s life are critical for developing a strong bond between mother and baby.
The baby hasn’t been named yet, and you can help choose the name! The zoo's Great Ape care team was asked to select a few potential female names, and you can vote for your favorite. The four name choices are: Marigold, Lucy, Cranberry and Ginger.
Now through 11:50 p.m. on January 16, you can cast your vote online in the Name the Baby poll.
Zoo staff will reveal the baby’s name at a baby shower in honor of Merah and the newborn on Monday, January 19.
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums Orangutan Species Survival Plan recommended the birth as part of its role in creating a sustainable managed population for this critically endangered species.
"Merah is an excellent and experienced mother," said Stephanie Braccini, Ph.D., Saint Louis Zoo Zoological Manager, Great Apes. "She is carrying the infant, facilitating nursing, essentially doing everything right."
Prior to the birth, Merah's caretakers had conditioned her to allow voluntary ultrasound examinations by zoo veterinarians; these examinations allowed the team to proactively monitor the health and development of the baby during gestation. Merah and her baby continue to be monitored closely by a team of caretakers, veterinarians, and a nutritionist.
This is the fifth baby for Merah, the grandmother of two and the great-grandmother of one. She was born in the Netherlands and became a first-time mother in 1982.
Both Bornean Orangutans, endemic to Borneo, and Sumatran Orangutans, endemic to Sumatra, are highly endangered due to alarming habitat loss. A global demand for palm oil has resulted in widespread deforestation and subsequent drastic declines in the number of Orangutans that survive in the wild.