Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

Supporting Animal Ambassadors Like Sherman, The Screaming Hairy Armadillo

Sherman, The Smithsonian National Zoo’s screaming hairy armadillo, goes *wild* for enrichment toys! Magical moments like these happen here every day, inspiring awe and “aww.” Donate today, and your gift will be matched up to $20,000—that’s twice the support to care for National Zoo’s amazing animal ambassadors, like Sherman. ❤️🎁 GIVE A GIFT TO THE ANIMALS: https://s.si.edu/3kVqKSJ.
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Foster Cheetah Cub Finds A Caring New Family

A 2-week-old male cheetah cub from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia, was transferred to a new cheetah foster mother at Wildlife Safari in Winston, Oregon, Sunday, Oct. 3. SCBI staff were hand-raising the cub, born Sept. 16, who had been abandoned by his mother. It is important for cheetah cubs to learn species-appropriate behaviors and skills from their mothers and siblings. The SCBI cub was successfully introduced to Wildlife Safari’s cheetah foster mother, Jezebel, and integrated into her litter of four cubs.

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SCBI is part of the Cheetah Breeding Center Coalition—a group of 10 cheetah breeding centers across the United States that aim to create and maintain a sustainable North American cheetah population under human care. Wildlife Safari was the next institution in the Cheetah Breeding Center Coalition to have cubs. The male cub will remain at Wildlife Safari with his new family until he is at least 2 years old.


Cheetah Cubs Are Back on Cheetah Cam!

Last Thursday, Oct. 21, Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute’s cheetah mom Rosalie picked a new "den" for her cubs. She moved them, one by one, to a large clump of tall grasses in her yard. The area was well-protected, and it is not uncommon for cheetah moms to move dens. Animal care staff monitored Rosalie and the cubs but did not intervene, as Rosalie has been a very attentive mother. Unfortunately, was no webcam in the grass so the Cubs’ adoring fans had stayed tuned for updates!

Why did Rosalie move her cubs? Was she scared or spooked?

It is not known why Rosalie moved her cubs. It’s completely natural for cheetah moms to move their litters. In fact, every single one of the Zoo’s females has moved cubs during the first month of life except for one. The grasses are also a very popular spot for cheetah moms to move their cubs within the first month – five have in recent memory: Amani (2011), Sanurra (2015), Hope (2017), Erin (2018), and Echo (2020).

Weather can also play a factor. This time of the year is hard. It’s warm during the day and moms get very warm inside the dens. But it’s also still chilly to be outside at night. So, it is a hard time of year to be in one place or the other 100% of the time. The warm days could have encouraged Rosalie to move her cubs out. She was observed panting in the den during the day. She had also been in that den for almost two weeks straight! It was likely pretty gross and stinky in there. In the wild, they wouldn’t stay in one place too long because the smell would attract predators.

On Sunday, Oct. 24, cheetah mom Rosalie moved her five cubs back into the den with a webcam.  It took her about 30 minutes total to move all the cubs, as you can see in this video.

Cheetah Cub Cam: https://nationalzoo.si.edu/webcams/cheetah-cub-cam


Cheetah Cubs Are Born at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

Cubs Can Be Viewed on the Live Cheetah Webcam

Oct. 12, 2021

Video Courtesy of Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.

Carnivore keepers at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia, welcomed a litter of five cheetah cubs today. Five-year-old female Rosalie birthed the cubs at 5:20 a.m., 8:24 a.m., 9:42 a.m., 10:33 a.m and 11:17 a.m. ET. The family can be viewed via the Cheetah Cub Cam https://nationalzoo.si.edu/webcams/cheetah-cub-cam. Ten-year-old Nick, who was the first cheetah born at SCBI, sired this litter. Animal care staff will leave Rosalie to bond with and care for her cubs without interference, so it may be some time before they can determine the cubs' sexes. The cubs appear to be strong, active, vocal and eating well. Keepers will perform a health check on the cubs when Rosalie is comfortable leaving them for an extended period of time.

Staff are closely monitoring Rosalie and her cubs’ behaviors via webcam. Virtual visitors can observe Rosalie and her cubs on this temporary platform until the cubs leave the den. Keepers provided Rosalie with access to multiple dens, so it is possible she may move the cubs to an off-camera location.

"Seeing Rosalie successfully care for this litter—her first—with confidence is very rewarding," said Adrienne Crosier, cheetah reproductive biologist at SCBI and head of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Cheetah Species Survival Plan. "Being able to witness the first moments of a cheetah’s life is incredibly special. As webcam viewers watch our cheetah family grow, play and explore their surroundings, we hope the experience brings them joy and helps them feel a deeper connection to this vulnerable species."

SCBI is part of the Cheetah Breeding Center Coalition—a group of 10 cheetah breeding centers across the United States that aim to create and maintain a sustainable North American cheetah population under human care. These cubs are a significant addition to the Cheetah SSP, as each individual contributes to this program.

The SSP scientists determine which animals to breed by considering their genetic makeup, health and temperament, among other factors. Rosalie and Nick were paired and bred July 9 and 10. Keepers trained Rosalie to voluntarily participate in ultrasounds, and SCBI veterinarians confirmed her pregnancy Aug. 16. Since 2007, 16 litters of cheetah cubs have been born at SCBI.   

Cheetahs live in small, isolated populations mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. Many of their strongholds are in eastern and southern African parks. Due to human conflict, poaching and habitat and prey-base loss, there are only an estimated 7,000 to 7,500 cheetahs left in the wild. The International Union for Conservation of Nature considers cheetahs vulnerable to extinction.

The Zoo’s legacy of conservation work extends beyond the public Zoo in Washington, D.C., to SCBI in Front Royal, Virginia. Scientists at SCBI study and breed more than 20 species, including some that were once extinct in the wild, such as black-footed ferrets and scimitar-horned oryx. Animals thrive in specialized barns and building complexes spread over more than 3,200 acres. The sprawling environment allows for unique studies that contribute to the survival of threatened, difficult-to-breed species with distinct needs, especially those requiring large areas, natural group sizes and minimal public disturbance.

SCBI spearheads research programs at its headquarters in Virginia, the Zoo in Washington, D.C., and at field research stations and training sites worldwide. SCBI scientists tackle some of today’s most complex conservation challenges by applying and sharing what they learn about animal behavior and reproduction, ecology, genetics, migration and conservation sustainability.


Four Furry Featurettes — Cheetah, Tapir, Leopard & Civet Babies

 
Vinnie the Banded Palm Civet
 
Vinnie the Banded Palm Civet was born to a pair of civets living behind the scenes at the Zoo and is just about a month old. Nashville Zoo’s veterinary team is hand-rearing Vinnie. The hope for Vinnie is that he will become an ambassador animal. Civets are nocturnal so Vinnie spends the majority of his day napping. He will be hand-reared until he is fully weaned, and the vet team estimates that it will be in about a month. Full-grown Civets can weigh around 6 pounds. You can come see Vinnie in the window of the neonatal room at Nashville Zoo's HCA Healthcare Veterinary Center.
 
Amur Leopard Cub
 
On August 6th at 4:05 am, the Santa Barbara Zoo’s Amur leopard, Ajax, gave birth to her first cub, and the two are doing well and currently bonding behind the scenes. The cub is a female and has been given the name Marta by her Premier Foster Feeder sponsors, Marta Holsman Babson and Henrietta Holsman Fore. The cub weighed in at 517 gms (1.1 lbs) at its first medical examination on August 6.
This is the first Amur leopard birth at the Santa Barbara Zoo in more than 20 years. Ajax is the most genetically valuable female Amur leopard in North America currently, so this first cub from her will contribute valuable genetics to the population in human care. Amur leopards are the most endangered of all the big cats, with less than 100 remaining in the wild, and the Zoo has been attempting to breed the species for several years now as part of the conservation efforts for this species. This is the fourth litter for Kasha, who arrived at the Zoo in March 2020, just prior to the first coronavirus closure. The pairing of Ajax and Kasha was recommended by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) as part of the Amur Leopard Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program to maintain genetic diversity of threatened and endangered species in human care.
Animal care staff at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) are hand-raising a male cheetah cub for several weeks before placing the cub with a foster cheetah mother at another zoo. The cub was one of a litter of three born to 7-year-old female Sukiri Sept. 16; the other two cubs were stillborn. Keepers report the cub is strong, active, vocal and eating well. The Cheetah Cub Cam is offline as the cub is no longer in the den.
While Sukiri nursed the surviving cub overnight, providing critical warmth, colostrum and hydration, she started to ignore the cub the morning of Sept. 17. She did not appear agitated when the cub was removed by keepers from her yard later that day and continues to behave and eat normally. Sukiri ate the two stillborn cubs, which is not unusual for a carnivore and in line with wild female cheetah behavior as a dead cub invites predators.
Animal care staff are staying around the clock to feed the cub every 2 to 3 1/2 hours in SCBI’s veterinary hospital. The cub is being fed a formula used successfully to hand-raise cheetah cubs at other zoos. In the coming weeks, a female cheetah at another AZA-accredited zoo is set to give birth. At the recommendation of the SSP, this cub will be introduced to that litter pending any other developments.
SCBI spearheads research programs in Virginia, the Zoo in Washington, D.C., and at field research stations and training sites worldwide. SCBI scientists tackle some of today’s most complex conservation challenges by applying and sharing what they learn about animal behavior and reproduction, ecology, genetics, migration and conservation sustainability.
 
Tapir Calf
 
On Thursday 19th August, Linton Zoo’s female Tapir Tiana gave birth to a healthy female calf after a normal 13-month gestation. We are pleased to say that Mum, Dad and new baby, as yet un-named, are all doing well.
The Brazilian tapir is a large heavily built mammal of a strange prehistoric appearance. The tapir is in fact so well adapted to its environment that it has remained unchanged for about 30 million years. It lives deep in the Brazilian rainforest where, because of the destruction of its habitat and illegal hunting it is has already become extinct in part of its range. The tapir is a shy creature taking to water when threatened where it is able to stay submerged for hours using its long nose to snorkel until such time it feels it is safe to surface. They feed on roots and vegetation but never strip a bush bare of its leaves, zigzagging their way through the undergrowth, conserving the habitat.
Although tapir have survived for millions of years, living in harmony with nature, their future in the wild is by no means secure. A European breeding programme will provide a safeguard against extinction for these wonderful creatures.

National Zoo’s Four Cheetah Cubs Turn One!

Yesterday, Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Biology Institute celebrated their cheetah cubs’ first birthdays!

On April 8, 2020, female cheetah Echo gave birth to four healthy cubs.

The birth was livestreamed on the Zoo’s website.

Cheetah Biologist Adrienne Croiser said of the past year, “I hope you learned a lot about cheetahs along the way.

Cheetahs face a lot of challenges in the wild, but I think that the more people can connect with and come to understand animals in a personal way, the more they feel inspired to take action and be part of the solution.”  

 


His Name Is Xiao Qi Ji

The Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute’s 3-month-old giant panda cub received his name today. After five days of voting and just under 135,000 votes, the winning name is Xiao Qi Ji (SHIAU-chi-ji), which translates as “little miracle” in English. It was one of four Mandarin Chinese names that were offered for a public online vote from Nov. 16 to Nov. 20 on the Zoo’s website. Giant pandas are an international symbol of endangered wildlife and hope, and Xiao Qi Ji’s birth offered the world a much-needed moment of joy amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. His name reflects the extraordinary circumstances under which he was born and celebrates the collaboration between colleagues who strive to conserve this species.

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“Connecting people around the world with nature, whether in person or in this virtual setting, is a cornerstone of our mission to conserve and protect giant pandas for future generations,” said Steve Monfort, John and Adrienne Mars Director of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute. “Like many who have followed our giant panda cub since his birth last summer, I tune in to the Giant Panda Cam from time to time. Watching Xiao Qi Ji always puts a smile on my face. We are grateful that those who share in our joy have helped us pick the perfect name for our panda cub.”

Xiao Qi Ji was born at the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat Aug. 21, at 6:35 p.m. to mother Mei Xiang (may-SHONG) and father Tian Tian (tee-YEN tee-YEN). His birth was streamed live on the Zoo’s Giant Panda Cam, and since then more than 1.5 million virtual visitors have tuned in to watch him grow. Giant panda fans can see Xiao Qi Ji, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian via the Giant Panda Cam, one of five live animal webcams hosted on the Zoo’s website. The Zoo will continue to provide updates on Xiao Qi Ji on its website, on social media using the hashtags #PandaStory and #PandaCubdates and in the Giant Panda e-newsletter.

As part of the Zoo’s cooperative breeding agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association, all cubs born at the Zoo move to China when they are 4 years old. The Zoo’s current cooperative breeding agreement expires in December 2020. The Zoo is currently discussing the arrangement of the giant pandas beyond Dec. 7 with colleagues in China.

As a public health precaution due to COVID-19, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute is closed to the public.

Photo Credit: Roshan Patel, Smithsonian’s National Zoo