The Santa Barbara Zoo has a new Masai Giraffe calf. The female arrived on March 14, measuring 6’1” tall and weighing-in at 180 pounds. The Zoo reports that the calf and her mom, Audrey, will stay safely tucked away in the Giraffe Barn until animal care staff determines that she’s ready to venture out on exhibit.
In the mean time, the Santa Barbara Zoo has partnered with their local television station, KEYT NewsChannel 3, to host a naming contest for the female calf. Four names were pre-selected by the Hutton Parker Foundation and the Zoo’s giraffe team, but they are leaving the final decision up to the public. Visit the Zoo’s website to cast your vote: https://sbzoo.pivvit.com/name-audreys-giraffe-calf
Photo Credits: Santa Barbara Zoo
The Masai Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchi) is the largest subspecies of giraffe and is native to East Africa, particularly central and southern Kenya and Tanzania.
The species is classified as “Vulnerable” by the IUCN, and the Masai Giraffe population is reported to have declined by 52% in recent decades, mainly due to poaching.
As an AZA-accredited institution, the Santa Barbara Zoo participates in what’s called the Species Survival Plan for Masai Giraffes – which makes every giraffe calf born at the Zoo exceptionally important. Through this cooperative program, the calves born all serve a significant role: to help keep their species alive. Thanks to their father, Michael, they all carry rare and valuable genes that are vital to keeping the Masai Giraffe population genetically diverse and healthy.
The Santa Barbara Zoo’s Giant Anteater, Anara, recently gave birth to a rare set of twins! The female pups were born overnight and discovered by keepers on Monday, November 21.
Twins are unusual in this species, and the likelihood for survival of both pups, if left with the mother, is extremely low.
“We monitored the newborn pups and allowed them both to stay with their mother for as long as possible,” says Dr. Julie Barnes, Director of Animal Care and Health. “We had several plans to implement, depending on how they progressed. Although Anara did an amazing job in the first few days, we were starting to see a significant weight discrepancy between the pups. That indicated it was time to start hand-rearing the smaller pup in order to increase the chances of survival of both pups.”
Photo Credits: Santa Barbara Zoo
Giant Anteater babies grow fast, and providing enough milk for more than one infant is difficult. In addition, the mother carries the baby on her back until they are nearly her size. Therefore, carrying both twins would prove impossible for the mother after just a few weeks. Anara herself is a twin and was hand- raised at the Fresno Zoo.
Keepers identify the larger pup by two black stripes on her back, while the smallest of the pair has only one stripe. Currently, the smaller pup is in an incubator at the Animal Hospital and is being fed every three hours, around the clock. She will not be on view to the public for several months.
Anara and the larger pup she is caring for are expected to go out on exhibit within the next two weeks, and the pup will be seen clinging to her mother’s back.
“Anara is doing well and is a great mother,” adds Dr. Barnes. “We are delighted that both pups are female, as her previous two surviving pups were male. We need more females in order to ensure we have a genetically healthy population for his species in North America. Her mate Ridley, who came from Germany, has valuable genes that are not well represented so far. Those genes go with his offspring and help diversity the genes of Giant Anteaters in human care in zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.”
Although the birth of twins is rare for Anteaters, it is not so much the case for Anara, as this is her second set of twins out of three pregnancies with Ridley. The pair’s first offspring were twins, a male and female, born in March 2014, but the female newborn did not survive. The male pup was hand-reared and is now at the Tennessee Zoo. Nine months later, another male pup was born and successfully raised by Anara. He now resides at the Birmingham Zoo.
Since 1975, a total of 29 Giant Anteaters have now been born at the Santa Barbara Zoo. Prior to Anara and Ridley’s first litter in 2014, the last time a Giant Anteater was born there was in 2006.
The Zoo was a leader in an early nationwide study of Giant Anteaters, thanks in great part to a special female named ‘Grandma’. The average lifespan for this species is between 20 and 23 years of age, and Grandma lived to be 31 years old. During her life she produced fifteen offspring. She was the oldest Giant Anteater in captivity when she died in 2002.
The Giant Anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) was once found from northern Argentina to southern Belize, in savannas, grasslands, swampy areas, and humid forests. They have since disappeared from Belize, Guatemala, and probably Costa Rica. In South America, they are also gone from Uruguay and portions of Brazil.
The Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates population loss of at least 30% over the past 10 years, and classifies the species as “Vulnerable.”
Giant Anteaters have a body length of 3 to 4 feet with a tail that is an additional 2 to 3 feet, and weigh 40 to 85 pounds, though some captive Anteaters have weighed more than 100 pounds.
This species uses powerful claws to rip apart termite and ant mounds, and an 18 to 24 inch tongue to eat termites, ants, and grubs. In the wild, they may consume as many as 35,000 ants in a single day. At the Santa Barbara Zoo, they eat a specially formulated insectivore diet, plus avocados, bananas, crickets, and worms. The avocados must be ripe because anteaters do not have teeth; they break open the skin with their long sharp claws.
Anteaters in the wild are solitary, except for females with young, and spend most of their days with their noses to the ground searching for food using exceptional senses of smell and hearing. Their sense of smell is 40 times more powerful than a human’s.
Giant Anteaters typically spend their first months of life clinging to their mother’s backs, where their black and gray stripes line up with those of the mother.
The new Giant Anteaters twins, like many of the animals at the Santa Barbara Zoo, can be named by making a donation to the Zoo. By donating for a chance to name the pups, sponsors also support the AZA Giant Anteater cooperative breeding program, with the goal of increased genetic diversity in North American zoos.
A pair of Asian Small-clawed Otters at the Santa Barbara Zoo produced their first litter of pups. Three healthy offspring were born in a nesting box in their holding area on October 7.
As in the wild, Otter parents prefer to keep their pups safely tucked in a den. The Zoo’s newborn Otters will not leave the behind the scenes holding area until they are old enough to safely swim and have grown the teeth needed to eat solid foods.
Depending on how their development progresses, keepers estimate the pups could go on exhibit as early as mid-December.
Animal Care staff had recently confirmed that new mom, Gail, was pregnant and estimated that she was due any day. When keepers arrived the morning of October 7, Gail and the father, Peeta, remained in the nesting box.
“The parents didn’t come out to greet us, and then we heard squeaks,” said the Zoo’s Curator of Mammals Michele Green. “That’s how we knew Gail had given birth.”
Gestation is 68 days, and after birthing, the female stays in the nesting box with the pups. Otter moms are given some relief, however, when new dads take over care for short periods of time.
Photo Credits: Santa Barbara Zoo
Both of the adult Otters are first-time parents. According to keepers, the pair is showing excellent parenting skills toward the two females and one male.
“Gail only arrived in March and it’s been fun to watch them bond, and now become parents,” says Green. “She’s a young mom, but doing very well. Peeta is attentive and diligent.”
Peeta was born at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. in 2008. Gail was born at the Greensboro Science Center in North Carolina in 2013. The two were paired as part of a cooperative breeding program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). The names (inspired by characters in the popular “Hunger Games” books and movies) were given by their Santa Barbara Zoo sponsors, Peter and Pieter Crawford-van Meeuwen.
Another female, Katniss, was first paired with Peeta, but they did not breed. She passed away in December 2016 from a kidney ailment.
The last time Asian Small-clawed Otters were born at the Zoo was in May 2011 when six pups were born to a pair named Jillian and Bob. That pair also produced five young in August 2010, the first of the species to be born at the Zoo in more than 20 years. The entire family group later moved to the National Zoo, where they live today.
Keepers predict that by January, the pups should be proficient swimmers, and will be on-exhibit at that time. Information on the progress of the Otter pups will be made available at the Zoo’s website: www.sbzoo.org .
Although the Asian Small-clawed Otter (Aonyx cinerea syn. Amblonyx cinereus) is only listed as “Vulnerable” by the IUCN, the species is seriously threatened by rapid habitat destruction for palm oil farming and by hunting and pollution. They are considered an “indicator species,” meaning their population indicates the general health of their habitat and of other species.
The species is the smallest Otter in the world and lives in freshwater wetlands and mangrove swamps throughout Southeast Asia, including southern India and China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Borneo, and the Malay Peninsula. They prefer quiet pools and sluggish streams for fishing and swimming.
Unlike Sea Otters, they spend more time on land than in water, but they are skillful, agile swimmers and divers, with great endurance. They can stay submerged for six to eight minutes.
Asian small-clawed otters are about two feet long and weigh less than ten pounds (half the size of North American River Otters). Their claws do not protrude beyond the ends of the digital pads, thus their names, and their feet do not have fully developed webbing and look very much like human hands.
They are one of the few species of Otter that live in social groups. The bond between mated pairs of Asian Small-clawed Otters is very strong. Both the male and female raise the young and are devoted parents. In the wild, Asian Small-clawed Otters live in extended family groups of up to 12 individuals. The entire family helps raise the young, which are among the most active and playful of baby animals.
The Santa Barbara Zoo has a new Masai Giraffe calf. Audrey, aged eight, gave birth to the calf on the evening of March 26 in the Zoo’s Giraffe Barn, after approximately five hours of labor.
The male calf has been named “Chad” in honor of long-time Santa Barbara Zoo supporters, the Dreier Family. The Dreier Family has sponsored seven Giraffes at the Zoo including Chad’s parents Michael and Audrey. “Chad” represents many members of the Dreier family whose first or middle names contain the appellation.
At the calf’s first exam by the Santa Barbara Zoo Animal Care team, the male was measured at six-feet-six-inches-tall and weighed 191 pounds.
Photo Credits: Santa Barbara Zoo
According to the Santa Barbara Zoo’s director of animal care, Sheri Horiszny, Giraffe calves are born after a gestation of roughly 14.5 months and are typically 125-150 pounds and six feet tall at birth. Chad should grow approximately three feet during his first year of life. Horiszny is also the Program Leader for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Masai Giraffe Species Survival Program.
Chad recently made his public debut and explored the outdoor exhibit with mom Audrey. Zoo staff say the best time to catch a glimpse of Chad is between 10am and noon.
The Zoo’s Giraffe herd is part of the population of 120 Masai Giraffes that live at 28 North American zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Michael, the calf’s sire, is considered the most genetically valuable male Masai Giraffe in captivity, because he has few relatives in zoos other than his offspring born here at the Zoo, which now numbers five.
“Michael’s genetics greatly help the diversity of the North American Masai population,” said Sheri Horiszny, director of animal care. “Every Masai Giraffe born here is critical to keeping the gene pool robust.”
This is the fourth birth for Audrey at the Zoo. Her last calf, Buttercup, born in November 2014, is currently part of the Zoo’s herd. The Zoo’s other female, Betty Lou, is also pregnant, and is expected to give birth in July 2016. This is her third pregnancy and her other offspring are at other accredited zoos as part of a cooperative breeding program of the AZA’s Species Survival Plan. Giraffes have a 14.5-month gestation period.
Audrey, a Masai Giraffe at the Santa Barbara Zoo, delivered her third calf in four years on November 13. The baby, a male, arrived less than two hours after keepers observed the onset of labor.
Photo Credit: Santa Barbara Zoo
Most Giraffe calves stand within about an hour of birth. This calf, named Buttercup by zoo donors, attempted to stand just 15 minutes after birth. The floor was slippery due to the birth fluids, and keepers decided to step in and help Buttercup get upright. After they moved him to a drier spot on the floor, the calf got his footing and took his first wobbly steps.
Another indicator of a healthy calf is nursing within a few hours of birth. Buttercup nursed about two-and-a-half hours after birth. At four days old, Buttercup visited the zoo’s Giraffe exhibit with Audrey, where he met the zoo’s other adult female Giraffe, Betty Lou, and saw the Zoo Train for the first time.
“Our professional staff prepared for and implemented the plan for an easy and healthy birth,” said Zoo Director Nancy McToldridge. “Everything went smoothly, even when Buttercup needed to be moved to a drier spot in order to stand up.”
“Because there are just over one hundred Masai Giraffes in captivity in North America, each birth and each Giraffe is very important,” said Sheri Horiszny, Director of Animal Care. “I’m very proud of our sire Michael, as he’s now clearly a proven breeder, and his genetics greatly help the diversity of our Masai population.”
Betty Lou is also pregnant, and Giraffe keepers estimate that she will give birth in March 2015. The sire in both pregnancies is Michael, the zoo’s only male Giraffe. Giraffes have a 14.5-month gestation period.
Masai Giraffes are the tallest of all Giraffe subspecies and are found in Kenya and Tanzania. Like all Giraffes, this subspecies is declining in the wild due to loss of habitat. Conservation programs hold the key to survival for all wild Giraffes.
A pair of tiny orange Golden Lion Tamarins was born at the Santa Barbara Zoo on July 20 to new mother Kimmer and her mate, Kovu.
Photo Credit: Santa Barbara Zoo
This small Monkey species hails from the Brazilian rainforest, where they are highly endangered due to development, deforestation and agriculture.
For the first 10 days following birth, Kimmer cared for the twins herself, but recently passed one off to her mate Kovu, who has fathered several offspring at the Santa Barbara Zoo. Twins Karen and Frank, born from a different mother in 2012, remain in the exhibit to learn how to care for newborns.
“Kovu is an outstanding father,” says Sheri Horiszny, Director of Animal Care. “He raised Karen and Frank by himself after their mother, Bella, died from an infection when they were five weeks old. Now Karen and Frank can observe how he and Kimmer care for the new offspring, just as young Golden Lion Tamarins do in the wild, to prepare for their own future babies.
Frank and Karen will soon move to another zoo as part of a cooperative breeding program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), in which accredited member zoos and institutions collaborate to manage endangered species populations. The Zoo has exhibited Golden Lion Tamarins since 1983.
Adult Golden Lion Tamarins weigh about 1 to 1 1/2 pounds and are roughly 10 inches tall, with tails up to 15 inches long. The infants are now about the size of a stick of butter and spend most of their time on their parents’ backs. The new twins appear to be in good health and will be examined by the Zoo veterinarian at 30 days old to determine their sexes and weights, and receive vaccinations.
“The young are getting more alert and curious every day,” adds Horiszny, “and the adults are always very active.”
Golden Lion Tamarins have silky, golden coats and manes around a dark face, giving the lion-like impression. They live in the forest canopy, above the forest floor, in the lowland forests of southeastern Brazil. They face huge challenges in the wild as more than 99 percent of their forest habitat has been cut down for lumber, agriculture and housing.
Adults are monogamous and share in the care of their young. Upon birth, the young climb atop their parents’ backs. An infant does not have to leave its mothers back to nurse – her teats are almost under her arm pit, so they just slide under her arm. Both parents are involved in raising the young, who are weaned at approximately 12 weeks.
Golden Lion Tamarins are among the most endangered mammals on earth. Deforestation and habitat loss have relegated the species to a small region in eastern Brazil. Almost all Golden Lion Tamarins found in U.S. zoos, including those at the Santa Barbara Zoo, are considered to be on loan from the Brazilian government for captive breeding. Golden Lion Tamarins born in U.S. zoos have been reintroduced into the wild, and now one-third of the wild population comes from captive stock.
It's been an exciting two weeks for Santa Barbara Zoo, with two Masai giraffe calves born within ten days of each other! Five year-old Audrey gave birth to the first calf, a male named Dane, on April 18th. On April 28th, five year-old Betty Lou gave birth to a female, Sunshine. Both calves are healthy and under their mothers' care. Dane is six feet three inches tall and weighs 156 pounds. Slightly smaller, Sunshine stands six feet tall and weighs 133 pounds.
The mother-calf pairs will be rotated on and off exhibit, to allow them time to bond behind-the-scenes in a quiet barn. While both mothers are attentively caring for their own calves, Betty Lou is especially protective, and zoo staff are making sure that she and her calf are introduced safely into the group.
Michael, the father of the two calves, is separated from the young calves for now by a baby fence, simply because he is so large. “The calves need to get a little bigger, a little smarter and learn how to be giraffes,” says Sheri Horiszny, director of Animal Programs.
See photos of Dane below.
Photo credits: Santa Barbara Zoo
See the calves' debut on exhibit:
Masai giraffes are the largest subspecies of giraffe, growing up to eighteen feet tall and weighing up to 2,700 pounds. Recently, Masai giraffe populations have begun to decline in the wild. Santa Barabara exhibits Masai giraffes as a part of a regional giraffe management program with other West Coast zoos. This programs allows the zoos to breed healthy giraffes, maintaining genetic diversity while minimizing the distance giraffes have to be transported. The calves' father, Michael, is a particularly valuable asset to the program. Because of this, the two calves may eventually be transported to other zoos as a part of the breeding program, but will stay at Santa Barabara Zoo until they are about two years old.
The Santa Barbara Zoo is flush with Chilean Flamingo chicks - thirteen of them to be exact. The past two months have been very successful breeding time for their Flamingo flock. Eight of the new chicks are now on exhibit for visitors to enjoy. The additional five are being hand-raised in the zoo's vet hospital, where they are fed special formula and are doing well.
Flamingo chicks have downy grey feathers for the first two years of their lives before they take on the light pink color of adults. Their spindly legs need to be strengthened enough to hold up their conparatively large bodies, so the chicks will be encouraged to do their exercise -- daily walks and swims -- as they grow.
Chilean Flamingos do come from Chile but are also found in southern Peru, Bolivia, Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina and southern Brazil They tend to live and nest in saltwater lakes and lagoons. This lovely bird is classed as Near Threatened.
There's a new crew at the water's edge at the Santa Barbara Zoo - a second litter of baby Asian small-clawed Otters, five in all! Born on May 21, at fourteen weeks old and weighing 3.3 pounds, the new pups have been kept in a den by their parents behind the scenes until they grew their waterproof fur, and were old enough to swim and eat solid food.
The babies join their six older siblings who, at just over a year old help mom and dad in the care of the new pups, thus learning important pup-rearing skills for their own future as parents. This makes for a total of thirteen otters in the group. Their exhibit’s three-foot deep pool has been sectioned off for the new pups’ safety and will reopen next week when the pups are mature enough to dive. The Santa Barbara Zoo reports this whole passel of otters is delighting their guests!
Photo Credit: Sheri Horiszny/Santa Barbara Zoo
The parents - mom, Jillian, and dad, Bob - arrived at the Zoo in 2010 and were paired as part of a cooperative breeding program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Jillian is one year and ten months old and was born at the Bronx Zoo. Bob, aged three years and six months, came from the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.
Bob and Jillian, the Santa Barabara Zoo's two parent Asian small-clawed otters, have produced another healthy litter of pups (not yet on view) and they recently opened their little eyes for the first time! The new litter of 3 females and 3 males was born on May 21 and they are being raised and cared for in their off-exhibit nesting box by mom and dad and the pair's first litter of 5 pups born last August. As in the wild where the parents keep their pups in a den, these young otters will not leave their behind-the-scenes nesting area for several months; keepers estimate early August.