Philly Zoo’s Red Panda Twins Need Names


Philadelphia Zoo recently announced the birth of two Red Panda cubs. The twins, male and female, were born to parents Basil and Spark (both 5-year-olds), on June 26.



4_PhillyZooRedPandaTwinsPhoto Credits: Philadelphia Zoo

 “We are thrilled at the birth of these new cubs,” said Kevin Murphy, Philadelphia Zoo’s General Curator. “The birth is important in the Zoo’s efforts in Red Panda conservation. We work with the Species Survival Plan® (SSP) breeding program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), whose goal is to manage populations of threatened, endangered and other species across AZA zoos, to maintain long-term genetic and demographic viability. This birth marks an important step towards the plan.”

Mother and twins are doing very well. Spark, an excellent mother, is tending to the very active cubs. The duo are nursing from Spark, as well as eating independently. Their diet consists of fresh bamboo, grapes, apples and biscuits formulated for Red Pandas.

Keepers continue to observe the cubs and their mother, while providing as much privacy as needed. The cubs made their public debut on Wednesday, November 18.

Currently, the Zoo is enlisting the help of Zoo visitors and social media followers to name the Red Panda cubs. Today, November 25, is the final day to vote on the selected names for the twins.

To caste your vote, check out the Philadelphia Zoo’s special webpage:

The Zoo has preselected the following groups of names for the contest:

Ning (pronounced Nink) - male means of peace

Liling (Pronounced LiLink) - female means white Jasmine sound

Betsy - Ross

Benjamin – Franklin



Ceba - Tibetan for "dear to hold"

Pabu- Tibetan for "puffball"

Ponga-  (from Nepali nyala ponga, meaning "eater of bamboo") 

Kaala- (name used by the Limbu people of Nepal meaning "dark")

Continue reading "Philly Zoo’s Red Panda Twins Need Names" »

Endangered Pygmy Hippo Born at Bristol Zoo


A tiny baby Pygmy Hippo has been born at the Bristol Zoo Gardens in the UK. The youngster is three weeks old and joins parents Sirana and Nato in the Zoo’s Hippo House.



4_BristolZooPygmyHippoPhoto Credits: Bristol Zoo Gardens

The calf, which is yet to be sexed, currently spends time exploring the exhibit and using the heated pool. To enable Nato and Sirana time to settle into their parenting duties, the hippos had remained off-exhibit, but the family can now be seen for brief periods of time at the Hippo House.

Lynsey Bugg, Bristol Zoo’s Assistant Curator of Mammals said, “The calf is looking very strong and it certainly feeds well. Like any youngster, it wants to be close to Mum at all times and is often seen by her side. It spends short periods of time in the water but is not quite as good at swimming as its parents, so we often see Mum, Sirana, guiding her little one back into the shallow water. Young hippos tire easily.”

The Pygmy Hippopotamus (Choeropsis liberiensis or Hexaprotodon liberiensis) is threatened in the wild. In Liberia, destruction of forests surrounding the Sapo National Park by logging companies is damaging one of the few remaining strongholds for the Pygmy Hippo. Bristol Zoo Gardens is part of an international captive breeding programme for the Pygmy Hippo.

Lynsey continued, “The European programme is a well-established and very successful programme and our male, Nato, is a genetically important animal; by default, so will be his offspring.”

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Polar Bear Cub Gets Helping Hand at Columbus Zoo

1_Polar Bear Cub 7503 - Grahm S. Jones, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Two Polar Bear cubs were born November 6 at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Animal Care staff observed new mom, Aurora, caring for the newborns. However, despite her efforts, only one cub survived. 

Initially, Aurora was caring for her surviving cub, and the Columbus Zoo animal team, in conjunction with recommendations from other Polar Bear breeding facilities, made the decision not to intervene. Polar Bear cubs are difficult to hand rear and disrupting Aurora’s maternal care was not advised.

Unfortunately, last week, the surviving cub was pulled from the den by the Zoo’s Animal Care staff after Aurora stopped caring for it. Aurora began taking breaks from caring for her cub late on the morning of November 19. When these breaks continued throughout the day and became longer, the Zoo’s Animal Care staff made the decision to remove the cub from the den and began to hand-rear the newborn.

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4_Polar Bear Cub 7411 - Grahm S. Jones, Columbus Zoo and AquariumPhoto Credits: Grahm S. Jones / Columbus Zoo & Aquarium


At this time, the cub, a female, is healthy and feeding regularly. She weighed in at 1.5 pounds and gained 10 grams soon after Zoo Staff took over. At 2-weeks-old, she is continuing to gain weight, and grows about a half inch every two days. Her nose is turning black and fur is growing on her ears, as well as on the bottom of her paws. Staff will continue to monitor and care for her around-the-clock. The team assesses her daily and makes changes to her routine as need be. They are cautiously optimistic and are pleased with how well she is doing.

Polar Bear reproduction is a very complicated process, which leads to the species having one of the lowest reproductive rates of any mammal. Female Polar Bears generally have their first set of cubs between the ages of four and eight years. Due to delayed implantation, the gestation period can range from about 195 to 265 days. Delayed implantation is a point of time during a Polar Bear’s gestation when a fertilized egg will free-float in the uterus for roughly four months to ensure the cub is born the best time of year for survival.

Pregnant Polar Bears den in the fall and give birth, generally to two cubs, in the winter. The cubs typically weigh about one pound at birth. After birth, the survival rate for a Polar Bear cub during the first few weeks of life is very low due to a number of factors. Some of these factors can be eliminated in a zoo setting though this is still a very delicate time for a newborn.

Polar Bears, much like Giant Pandas, are highly specialized animals that give birth to very small babies, which makes them fragile during their first year of life. Survival rates in human care are around 50%, which is similar to that of wild bears.

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Chick It Out: Penguins Hatch At Maryland Zoo


The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore announced the arrival of the first two chicks of the 2015-2016 African Penguin breeding season.

12239281_10150584014964987_6213476884560133968_oPhoto Credit:  Maryland Zoo in Baltimore

The chicks hatched on November 5 and November 9 to experienced parents Mega and Rossi. “Breeding season started in September with many of our penguins developing and defending their respective nests,” said Jen Kottyan, avian collection and conservation manager. “We are very excited to see these first two hatch and thrive under these proven Penguin parents.” The chicks, each weighing less than ¾ pound, are nesting comfortably with their parents.

Penguin chicks hatch 38 to 42 days after the eggs are laid. Zoo keepers monitor development of the eggs by candling them about a week after they are laid to see if they are fertile and developing. The eggs are then placed back with the parents. “With African Penguins, both the male and the female take turns sitting on the eggs,” said Kottyan. “Once the eggs hatch, parents take turns caring for their offspring; they each protect, feed, and keep the chick or chicks warm for 2-3 days and then switch off.”

After hatching, chicks stay with their parents for about three weeks and are fed regurgitated fish from both of their parents. During this time, zoo keepers and veterinarians keep a close eye on the development of the chicks, weighing and measuring them daily for the first week to make sure that the parents are properly caring for each chick.  When a chick is three weeks old, the keepers begin hand rearing the chick to start to teach it that keepers are their source of food and to acclimate them to human interaction.  “Over the years we have found that beginning the hand- rearing process at three weeks gives the chicks a great head start with their development,” continued Kottyan. “They will still retain the natural instincts of a wild penguin, while allowing us to properly care for them.”

When the chicks are between six and eight weeks old, they lose their downy feathers and become covered in the grey plumage that distinguishes juvenile Penguins from the adults. At this time, they begin to learn how to swim and will then be slowly introduced to the rest of the Penguin colony.

The Maryland Zoo has been a leader in breeding African penguins for over 40 years and  has the largest colony of the birds in North America, with over 60 birds currently residing at the zoo. “Our penguins are bred according to recommendations from the AZA African Penguin Species Survival Plan which helps maintain their genetic diversity,” said Kottyan. “Many of the African Penguins previously bred at the Zoo now inhabit zoo and aquarium exhibits around the world.”

African Penguins are native to the coast of southern Africa.  They are listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.  The wild population has decreased by 90% in the last 100 years.  At one time, these birds’ eggs were over-collected and their nest sites were disturbed due to mining for guano (accumulated seabird droppings).  Today, oil spills and over fishing are the main threats.

Teeny Turtles Hatch At Sacramento Zoo

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It’s been a busy hatching season for Western Pond Turtles at the Sacramento Zoo.  So far, seven eggs have been collected from the zoo’s Turtles and placed in an incubator until they hatch after 13 to 17 weeks.

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Photo Credit:  Sacramento Zoo

The tiny hatchlings weigh only five grams at hatching – about the same as five paper clips.  They’ll stay indoors under zoo keepers’ care until they are large enough to be released into lake exhibits within the zoo. 

The Sacramento Zoo is home to one of the largest populations of Western Pond Turtles housed within a zoo.  As Turtles are found in the zoo’s lakes, they are weighed and measured.  This data set, compiled over the last two decades, adds to the body of knowledge on growth information for this species.  Western Pond Turtles in zoos are managed by the AZA Species Survival Plan to maintain genetic diversity. 

In the wild, Western Pond Turtles are native to the western coast of North America, from Canada to Baja California, living in marshes, ponds, and wetlands, where they often bask on logs and boulders.  These Turtles have disappeared from much of the northern segment of their range because wetlands have been converted for agricultural use. As a result, Turtle populations have become fragmented.  The species is listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.


Ocelot Kittens Spotted at Greenville Zoo


The Greenville Zoo, in South Carolina, celebrated the birth of two female Ocelot kittens on August 15th. The kittens are the first offspring for parents Evita and Oz, who are four years old. This is the first successful birth of this species for the Greenville Zoo, which is one of only two Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) institutions to breed Ocelots this year.

Evita, who came from Seattle, Washington, and Oz, who came from the North Carolina Zoo, were sent to the Greenville Zoo in 2013 as a breeding pair. They replaced the zoo’s non-breeding pair of Ocelots, who are now residents of the Mesker Park Zoo in Evansville, Indiana.

According to general curator Keith Gilchrist, “The kittens’ birth is a valuable contribution to the conservation of this endangered species and to the Ocelot Species Survival Plan (SSP), which strives to ensure the sustainability of a healthy, genetically diverse and demographically varied population through breeding programs with AZA-accredited institutions like the Greenville Zoo.”



4_GreenvilleZoo_ocelot_kittensPhoto Credits: Greenville Zoo

The Greenville Zoo is currently holding an online auction to find names for the two kittens. The winning bidder of this auction will win the right to name BOTH of the Greenville Zoo's female Ocelot kittens. To place your bid, click the link to the website and follow instruction there:

The starting bid is $250 and bid increases must be at least $10. The highest bidder at the close of the auction (November 20, 4 pm) will pay their winning bid amount and submit names for the kittens. Names must be approved by the Greenville Zoo. Other bidders will not be charged. Proceeds from this auction will be used to improve the Ocelots exhibit space.

In addition to your bids, you can also make a contribution to support the improvements of the Ocelots' exhibit and other South American exhibits at the Zoo.

The Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), also known as the Dwarf Leopard, ranges in size from 18 to 40 pounds and are found in every country south of the United States, except Chile, and occasionally range as far north as Texas. Their habitats include mangrove forests and coastal marshes, savanna grasslands and pastures and thorn scrub and tropical forests of all types.

Ocelots are similar in appearance to a domestic cat, with fur that resembles a clouded leopard or jaguar. Hundreds of thousands were once killed for their beautiful fur.

They are solitary and territorial nocturnal hunters, with eyesight six times greater than a human’s, and while they can climb trees and swim, they spend most of their time hunting on the ground.

Ocelots mate any time of year, but can produce litters only once every year. Gestation lasts 79 to 82 days, and usually result in the birth of one kitten. Litters of two are more are less common. Ocelot kittens begin to leave their den at about three months old, but they will remain with mother for up to two years.

The remnant U.S. population, found in South Texas, has declined from 80 to 120 individuals in 1995, to less than 50 in more recent years. In Trinidad, habitat fragmentation, as well as direct exploitation via illegal poaching are major threats. Because of its wide distribution, the Ocelot is currently classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List.

Toronto’s Giant Panda Twins Are One Month Old


At one month old, the twin Giant Panda cubs at the Toronto Zoo are healthy and continuing to grow. The larger of the two cubs now weighs over one kilogram (2.2 lbs.), with the smaller cub not far behind at approximately 750 grams (1.6 lbs.).

Their undercoat (or insulating hair) continues to grow in thicker and whiter, making the areas on their bodies, where the skin is not pigmented black, look much whiter. Although small, they truly look like Giant Pandas now.

Er Shun continues to be a great mother, and the cubs are progressing very well with the coordinated care from mother and zoo staff. However, it is still a very critical time for these little cubs.

Toronto-Zoo-Giant-Panda-Cub-at-One-Month(1)Photo Credits: Toronto Zoo


On October 13th Toronto Zoo announced the birth of two Giant Panda cubs, and ZooBorns shared the initial birth announcement and a later update.

The Toronto Zoo has stated that Er Shun and her twin cubs would be living within the private maternity area, inside the Giant Panda House, for approximately four to five months.

Giant Panda mothers are known for only looking after one cub at a time, so keepers are helping raise the twins using a method called ‘twin swapping’. One baby is left with the mother, and the keepers switch the twins every few hours, so each one gets care and milk directly from mom. Since the beginning, Er Shun has been demonstrating excellent maternal instincts, and she began cleaning and cradling the first cub soon after its birth.

As the maternity area of the Giant Panda House is not visible to the public, Toronto Zoo staff have been providing regular updates on the progress of the cubs, via the zoo’s website and social media:

The Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) is native to only a few mountain ranges in central China, usually at elevations between 5,000 – 10,000 feet. In these cool, misty forests, Giant Pandas forage for bamboo, which comprises 99% of their diet, about 10 to 16 hours a day.

Giant Pandas reach sexual maturity between the ages of four and eight and may be reproductive until age 20. Their gestation period ranges from 95 to 160 days. In about half of their pregnancies, twins are birthed. In the wild, usually only one twin survives, due to the mother selecting the stronger cub to care for and neglecting the weaker.

Only about 1,600 Giant Pandas remain in the wild. About 300 live in zoos and breeding centers around the world, mostly in China. Giant Pandas are listed as “Endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Their population is threatened by continued habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, and by a very low birthrate-- both in the wild and in captivity.

Singapore Zoo Celebrates New Giraffe Calf

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On August 31, Singapore Zoo proudly welcomed its first Giraffe calf in 28 years. The male calf is the first offspring for mom, Roni, and dad, Growie, who both arrived at the Singapore Zoo in 2005, from Israel and the Netherlands respectively.

The unnamed calf has grown 40cm since birth, and now stands at 2.3 meters (7.5 feet). He is the tallest ‘SG50’ baby, and is a “symbol of Singapore soaring to new heights in the years following its Jubilee celebration”. ‘SG50’ was a nationwide effort to celebrate Singapore’s 50th birthday in 2015. 

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Photo & Video Credits: Wildlife Reserves Singapore

During the calf’s first month, zookeepers kept the mother and baby separated from the rest of the Giraffe herd to allow them to bond, and to ensure the calf was nursing properly. Keepers also needed time to baby-proof the exhibit as a safety precaution before allowing the calf to explore its new surroundings. Existing barriers had to be modified to ensure the baby can explore the exhibit safely.

Gradually, mother and baby were reintroduced to the other two Giraffes in the herd: Growie, the father, and Lucy, an unrelated female, which arrived in Singapore together with Roni. The conditioning process took close to three weeks, as keepers wanted to ensure the calf was accepted by the herd. All four are now comfortably sharing the exhibit and can regularly be seen grooming each other to strengthen their bonds.

Aside from the mother’s milk, the calf can now be seen nibbling on leaves and chopped vegetables, such as carrots. He now spends his days exploring and running around in the exhibit at the Zoo’s Wild Africa zone. While he’s starting to get used to passing trams and visitors, he will still race back to the safety of mom’s towering presence when faced with something unfamiliar.

“Animal babies are always a cause for celebration as they are a good indication that the animals under our care feel comfortable and secure enough to breed in the environment that we’ve created for them. We hope the calf will tug at visitors’ heartstrings and inspire them to find out more about Giraffes and other animals that thrive in the same environment as these majestic creatures,” said Dr. Cheng Wen-Haur, Chief Life Sciences Officer, Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

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San Diego Zoo Welcomes Pygmy Hippo


The San Diego Zoo recently released a photo of a tiny Pygmy Hippo, nestled in straw a day after his birth. The calf was born November 11th and is an important addition to the population of the world’s smallest species of hippo. This is the first surviving Pygmy Hippo birth at the San Diego Zoo in more than a decade.

The tiny youngster, weighing just 12 pounds, 2 ounces (5.5 kg), was born to its mother, Francesca, in the early hours of the morning. Mom and calf are doing well, and they are taking some quiet time in a barn, out of the public eye, until keepers think the youngster is ready to try the larger pool available for swimming in the main exhibit area.

Photo Credit: Ken Bohn / San Diego Zoo

The Pygmy Hippopotamus (Choeropsis liberiensis or Hexaptrotodon liberiensis) is a species from the forests of West Africa.  Reclusive and nocturnal, it is one of only two extant species in the Hippopotamidae family (the other being the larger cousin: Hippopotamus amphibious) Like its larger cousin, the Pygmy Hippo is semi-aquatic. It is herbivorous and feeds on ferns, broad-leaf plants, grasses, and fruits.

Gestation for the Pygmy Hippo ranges from 190 to 210 days, and usually results in the birth of a single calf. Common hippos mate and give birth only in water, but the Pygmy Hippo will mate and give birth on land or water.  Young Pygmy Hippos can swim almost immediately after birth. They are fully weaned between six and eight months of age.

The Pygmy Hippo is classified as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. There were estimated to be about 2,000 left in the world a decade ago, when the last population survey was done. Since then, political unrest, habitat destruction and wildlife trafficking in their native habitats are likely to have reduced the wild population to critically low numbers.

Injured Plover Receives Care at Taronga Zoo

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A young Plover named Grover was found injured and alone on the side of a busy road and brought to the Wildlife Hospital at Taronga Zoo, in Sydney, Australia, when she was just a week old. The little ball of fluff is now being hand raised by Bird Keeper Grey who says she's growing by the day!

2_Grover the Plover_TarongaPhoto Credits: Taronga Zoo

Plovers are a widely distributed group of wading birds belonging to the subfamily Charadriinae. The Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles) is a large and conspicuous bird species native to northern and eastern Australia, New Zealand, and New Guinea. They are also known as: Masked Plover, Spur-winged Plover, or simply—Plover.

They spend most of their time on the ground searching for insects and worms. They are shy and harmless, but have nesting habits that cause distress in urban areas. They will build their nests on almost any stretch of open ground, including: parks, gardens, school grounds, parking lots or rooftops. They have also proven intrusive at airports, where bird strikes have occurred.

Commonly, two birds are seen together, nearly identical male and female. They can also be seen in groups during feedings. Chicks reach full growth at about four to five months and will stay with the parents for up to two years.

They are currently classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

The Wildlife Hospitals at Taronga and Taronga Western Plains Zoos care for around 1,500 native animals each year. The animals are brought to the hospitals by members of the community, after being found sick, injured or orphaned.

The main aim of the Wildlife Hospitals at Taronga and Taronga Western Plains Zoos is to rehabilitate as many native animals as possible for release back to the wild.

The variety of animals treated is enormous, ranging from stranded seals and orphaned baby bats, to pelicans tangled in fishing line.

All the animals need, and are provided with, professional care and attention during the treatment and rehabilitation process to ensure they can be returned to their natural environment.

The hospitals at both Taronga and Taronga Western Plains Zoos provide a high standard of veterinary expertise in the care of native animals and have well-equipped, modern veterinary facilities.

When an animal is brought to one of the two hospitals, the details are recorded on a hospital record sheet. A veterinarian examines the animal, and a prognosis made. The treatment details and the animal's progress are recorded on its hospital record sheet throughout the rehabilitation process. Whenever possible the rescuer is involved in the eventual release of the animal.

Prior to release, most animals are given a permanent and unique identifier, such as ear tags for possums and leg bands for birds and bats. If the animal is recaptured at a later date, details about its health, movements and post-release behavior can be recorded.

Some animals arrive as orphans and require hand-rearing by Zoo staff, or may have an injury, which makes them unsuitable for release. These animals may be kept for breeding or education purposes at Taronga or Taronga Western Plains Zoos.