Santa Barbara Zoo

Masai Giraffe Calf Joins Santa Barbara Zoo Herd

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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.

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4_Chad's first day outPhoto 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.

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Baby Giraffe Gets a Little Boost from Keepers

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.


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IMG_7805 copyPhoto 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.

See more pictures of Buttercup below.

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Tiny Orange Twins Born at Santa Barbara Zoo

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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.

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SB Zoo Golden Lion Tamarins family
SB Zoo Golden Lion Tamarins family2Photo 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.   




Santa Barbara Zoo Welcomes Two Masai Giraffe Calves


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. 

See more photos below the fold.

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A Lucky 13 New Flamingo Chicks for Santa Barbara Zoo

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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.

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Photo Credit: Sarah Varsik

Five More Otter Pups Make a Family of Eleven!


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!



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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.


Piles o' Pups for Santa Barbara 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.

Photo credits: Sheri Horiszny

Endangered Golden Lion Tamarin Clings to Mom

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A bright orange Golden Lion Tamarin has been born at the Santa Barbara Zoo. This is the second viable birth at the Zoo of this small endangered species of monkey from the Brazilian rainforests (called “GLTs” by keepers). Adult GLTs weigh about 1 to 1 1/2 pounds and are roughly ten inches tall, with tails up to 15 inches long. The infant is currently about the size of a C-battery and spends most of its time clinging to its mother’s back. It appears to be in good health and will be examined by the Zoo veterinarian when it is old enough, to determine its sex, weight and other medical details. The Zoo has exhibited GLTs since 1983.


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Photo credits: Katie Clemons

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Santa Barbara's Surprise Giraffe!


Zookeepers at the Santa Barbara Zoo were somewhat surprised but certainly delighted to discover that one of the Zoo’s new Masai Giraffes, Audrey, had given birth to a male calf on Sunday morning, January 9. The calf, named Daniel by donors, was measured at 5-feet 9-inches tall and 106 pounds. He will not be on view to the public for several weeks until he learns to come in from the Giraffe yard to the barn for feedings by keepers. “Unbeknownst to us, Audrey arrived in Santa Barbara in March 2010 approximately five months pregnant,” notes Sheri Horiszny, Director of Animal Programs. “Nothing in her records indicated that Los Angeles Zoo keepers had ever seen their male showing interest in her or attempting to breed her.”



Photo credits: Sheri Horiszny / Santa Barbara Zoo

Santa Barbara's Otters about to Debut

The Santa Barbara Zoo's otter pups we featured in September are nearly ready to meet the public - a November debut will soon be announced. With their tiny claws emerging and fully-opened eyes, they now to look like miniature versions of their parents. At this stage, they stay close to their parents and spend a lot of time huddling together in the den. However, they also periodically emerge to take swimming lessons in shallow water with their parents. In the wild, this species is threatened by habitat loss, hunting, and pollution.