LA Zoo

First Female Okapi Calf for L.A. Zoo

Female Okapi Calf - Photo By Jamie Pham

The Los Angeles Zoo is excited to announce the birth of its first-ever female Okapi calf.

The calf was born on November 10, 2017 and is the second offspring for 14-year-old mother, Opey, and the first for three-year-old father, Jackson. The couple was paired together as part of an Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) program with the goal of increasing the Okapi population, which is rapidly declining in the wild. The yet-to-be-named calf spent the first couple of months, behind the scenes, bonding with mother and familiarizing herself with her new home and the animal care staff.

"I am thrilled to welcome this new Angeleno into the world, and congratulate the staff at the Los Angeles Zoo, and her mom, Opey, on the birth of this Okapi calf," said District 4 Councilmember David Ryu. "This rare and beautiful animal is a testament to the Los Angeles Zoo’s incredible work caring for and fostering endangered animals."

Okapi Mom & Calf - Photo By Tad MotoyamaPhoto Credits: Jamie Pham (Image 1) / Tad Motoyama (2)

The Los Angeles Zoo contributes funds to The Okapi Conservation Project (OCP), a conservation group initiated in 1987 with the objective of eliciting support for the conservation of wild Okapi from individuals, foundations, and zoological institutions managing Okapi around the world. The Okapi is an important flagship species for the rainforest habitat that is rapidly vanishing due to expansion of human settlement, deforestation, and forest degradation. Over the last decade, the wild Okapi population has dropped and there are estimated to be between 10,000 and 50,000 left in the wild. There are currently close to 100 Okapi in U.S. AZA-accredited facilities.

“There was a time not so long ago when having Okapis in a Zoo was extraordinarily rare,” said Josh Sisk, Curator of Mammals at the Los Angeles Zoo. “But, due to Species Survival Plan (SSP) programs being so proactive and being able to breed these animals in Zoos, the captive population is doing extremely well. This is just one example of how important zoos are for helping sustain such an endangered species. By guests being able to see an Okapi in a Zoo, it starts a conversation about how we can save this species and their habitat in the wild.”

Native to central Africa, the Okapi (Okapia johnstoni), also known as the “forest giraffe”, this reclusive species is rarely seen in the wild and was discovered by Europeans in 1901. Because of their naturally shy nature and inclination to live deep in the dense forest, researchers and people passing through the area rarely spot an Okapi in its native habitat. Observing this beautiful animal in a Zoological setting is most likely a person’s only opportunity to get up close to an Okapi in their lifetime.

While some guests may confuse this shy, solitary animal with a zebra due to the brilliant black and white striped patterns on its front and hind legs; it is actually the closest living relative to the giraffe. The markings act as a kind of “follow me” sign so that offspring can stay close to their mothers in the dark central African forests they inhabit. The thick coat that covers most of the Okapi’s body is velvety and very oily. The adult has a 14-18 inch long, prehensile tongue, stands at over six feet tall, and weighs between 400-700 pounds.

Guests can now view the female calf and her mother out in their habitat daily, weather permitting. The female calf brings the Zoo’s Okapi group to four, including mother Opey, father Jackson, and a four-year-old male Okapi born in August 2013 named Berani. Berani was the first calf ever born at the L.A. Zoo since the species was added to the Zoo’s collection in 2005.


L.A. Zoo Debuts Rare and Endangered Snake Babies

1_Los Angeles Zoo Baby Cape Cobra by Tad Motoyama

Two deadly African Snake species have taken up residence at the Living Amphibians, Invertebrates, and Reptiles (LAIR) exhibit at the Los Angeles Zoo for the first time in the Zoo’s history. The Zoo also welcomed a baby boom of 50 plus snakes from six different species.

Perhaps the most well known of the new inhabitants are a pair of Cape Cobras, a highly venomous species of cobra found across southern Africa that is known to raise its fore-body off the ground and spread its hood when feeling nervous or threatened.

“We’re really excited to welcome this species of snake to the collection for the first time,” said Ian Recchio, Curator of Reptiles and Amphibians at the Los Angeles Zoo. “Our visitors often ask if we have cobras because they are a popular and highly-recognizable species of snake, and now we can offer our guests the chance to safely view one of nature’s most unique animals.”

One of the deadliest snake species in Africa, the Cape Cobra’s powerful neurotoxic venom is the most potent of any African Cobra and when bitten, victims require urgent hospitalization and treatment. This particular species of cobra is also highly polymorphic and can come in a variety of vibrant patterns and colors including speckled polka dots, lemon yellow, and different shades of brown and gray. The LAIR now has two Cape Cobras: a young sibling pair from Zoo Atlanta, which are a unique yellowish-beige in color and three feet long.

Also from Africa, the LAIR now exhibits four extraordinarily rare Ethiopian Mountain Vipers, born at the San Diego Zoo. Found only in remote areas in Ethiopia, there is very little known about the natural history of this highly venomous species. And, like the Cape Cobra, its appearance is also very striking and unique with beautiful lemon yellow and black geometric patterns on their bodies.

The LAIR has also experienced a baby boom with over 50 snake babies, recently born to six different species. The list of rare and endangered snake babies includes: Armenian Vipers, Black-tailed Horned Vipers, Catalina Rattle-less Rattlesnakes, Aruba Island Rattlesnakes, Baja California Rat Snakes, and Southwest Speckled Rattlesnakes.

2_Los Angeles Zoo Ethiopian Mountain Viper by Tad Motoyama

3_Los Angeles Zoo Baby Armenian Viper by Tad Motoyama

4_Los Angeles Zoo Baby Black Tailed Horn Viper by Tad Motoyama

Photo Credits: Tad Motoyama  (Image 1: Cape Cobra / Image 2: Ethiopian Mountain Viper / Image 3: Armenian Viper / Image 4: Black-tailed Horned Viper / Image 5: Catalina Rattle-less Rattlesnake / Image 6: Aruba Island Rattlesnake / Image 7: Baja California Rat Snake / Image 8: Southwest Speckled Rattlesnake )

The most likely reason for the influx in babies this season is the years of preparation and extraordinary work that the L.A. Zoo’s LAIR staff has put into understanding and raising these rare and endangered snake species. The team has endeavored to find the formula that worked best for the collection.

“The staff at LAIR has a special talent when it comes to breeding snakes and lizards,” said Recchio. “The baby boom we are experiencing now is the result of years of observation, tinkering with new breeding tactics, and doing our best to mimic a snake’s natural habitat in the wild.”

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Sichuan Takin Born at LA Zoo

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The Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens welcomed a female Sichuan Takin on February 12. Takin (pronounced “TAH-kin”), are stocky goat-antelopes native to China’s remote mountain forests.

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Photo Credit:  Los Angeles Zoo

In the wild, baby Takin begin to follow their mothers along steep paths when they are just three days old – a crucial survival skill for these leaf-eating animals.  Though heavily-built, Takin are surprisingly agile on the rocky cliffs of their homeland.  Their large hooves have a spur that makes them sure-footed even on steep terrain.  Males can weigh up to 800 pounds.  Both males and females have thick upward-turning horns.

Takin are well-suited to life in the cold.  In winter, they grow a secondary coat as protection from freezing temperatures.  Long nasal passages warm frigid air before it reaches the lungs. 

Because Takin live in remote areas, not much is known about their wild populations.  But habitat loss, hunting, and human disturbance have caused Takin to be listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.


After a 28-year Wait, LA Zoo Celebrates First Okapi Calf

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More than 28 years of planning and preparation have paid off for the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens!  The zoo’s first-ever Okapi calf, born on August 26, made his public debut in November.

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Photo Credit:  Los Angeles Zoo

The zoo received its very first Okapi in 2005 after trying to obtain one for more than 20 years. Jamal, then 10 years old, came to the zoo from Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida. The zoo’s goal of obtaining a breeding pair was achieved in 2010 when a female, Baraka, arrived from Denver Zoo.

With black-and-white stripes, Okapis may look like zebras, but they are actually the closest living relatives of giraffes. Often called the “forest giraffe,” this shy, secretive Central African species has a lustrous, velvety coat, a 14-18-inch-long prehensile tongue.  Adults stand over six feet tall and weigh 400-700 pounds.

“This long-awaited birth is particularly special because it's the first Okapi we've ever had born here at the zoo,” said John Lewis, Los Angeles Zoo Director. “Being able to have a species like this breed in our zoo is a real testament to the hard work of the staff and their dedication to Okapi conservation.”

The Los Angeles Zoo works with The Okapi Conservation Project (OCP), a conservation group initiated in 1987 with the objective of eliciting support for the conservation of the wild Okapi from individuals, foundations, and zoological institutions managing Okapi around the world. The Okapi is an important flagship species for a rain forest habitat that is rapidly vanishing. Over the last decade, the wild Okapi population has dropped from 40,000 to 10,000, and there are currently only 85 Okapi in Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited zoos.


New Baby Chimp for Los Angeles Zoo

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The Los Angeles Zoo is celebrating the birth of a baby Chimpanzee -- their first since 1999. The new addition was welcomed to the chimp family of 15 (one of the largest troops in the nation) on March 6. Her mother, Gracie, has proven to be a wonderful and caring mother. She even allows other females to carry and help care for the baby. As of May 18, Gracie and her little one can be seen by visitors.

With such a large chimpanzee family, the LA Zoo's primate staff is held in high regard for it’s care of chimpanzees, acting as a model for the Species Survival Plan for other zoos. Chimpanzees are currently on the endangered species list. Wild populations in the African forest have decreased because of foresting, hunting, commercial exportation, and collection for scientific research. Although chimpanzees are protected in 34 national parks and reserves, laws can be difficult to enforce in remote regions.

Mom& chimp

Yo baby

Nap
Photo Credits: Tad Motoyama/Los Angeles Zoo


Los Angeles Zoo's Tiger Cubs Debut!

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The Sumatran Tiger cubs are ready to show their stripes to visitors of the Los Angeles Zoo. On Friday, December 9, 2011 the Zoo welcomes the adorable pair on-exhibit as they join their mother for their official public debut. Guests of the Zoo can finally visit the cubs and see first hand how energetic and playful they are. The cubs and their mother will transition off-exhibit various times throughout the day, allowing outdoor time for the Zoo’s male Sumatran Tiger.

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Photo credits: Tad Motoyama

The L.A. Zoo welcomed the birth of the Sumatran tiger cubs on August 6, 2011. Since then, they’ve remained off-exhibit under the care of their mother and Zoo Keepers. While off-exhibit, Zoo fans have followed the cubs’ growth and development on their dedicated web page. This is the third litter of Sumatran tiger cubs born at the Los Angeles Zoo.

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Orange is In This Fall!

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Los Angeles Zoo's little Bornean Orangutan baby is the star attraction these days. She's the second baby for mom Kalim, who is one of four adult females in their Red Ape Rainforest. Father to the new arrival is Minyak, one of two Orangutan males at the Zoo. 

Orangutans are native to the Indonesian islands of Borneo and Sumatra.  In the Malay language orang means person and utan means forest.  Decked out in long, shaggy, orange-red hair, orangutans are the largest tree-dwelling mammals. Bornean orangutans are endangered and Sumatran orangutans are critically endangered.  In the last 60 years, it’s estimated that there has been more than a 50 percent decline in the orangutan population.  This decline is primarily attributed to habitat loss.

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Photo Credit: Tad Motoyama


Zoo"Born"ean Orangutan at L.A. Zoo!

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Orange is everywhere to be found at the Los Angeles Zoo this Halloween season starting with the newest orange-red, shaggy haired addition to the Red Ape Rainforest – a newly born Bornean Orangutan. This is the second baby for the Zoo’s female Bornean Orangutan, Kalim. She is one of four adult females in the Red Ape Rainforest. Father to the new arrival is Minyak, one of  two orangutan males at the Zoo. Guests can see the baby Orangutan and her older sister Berani who was born in 2005.

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Photo credits: Tad Motoyama

 

Orangutans are native to the Indonesian islands of Borneo and Sumatra.  In the Malay language orang means person and utan means forest.  Decked out in long, shaggy, orange-red hair, orangutans are the largest tree-dwelling mammals. Bornean orangutans are endangered and Sumatran orangutans are critically endangered.  In the last 60 years, it’s estimated that there has been more than a 50 percent decline in the orangutan population.  This decline is primarily attributed to habitat loss.


Sumatran Tiger Cubs Are L.A.'s Newest Angelinos!

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On August 6, Los Angeles Zoo welcomed 3 baby Sumatran Tiger cubs. This makes experienced mother Lulu's third litter. The birth of these Sumatran Tiger cubs is a cause for celebration for zoos and an important milestone in the conservation of the species. Due to continued habitat destruction, poaching, and killing of tigers that come into contact with villagers, the wild population of Sumatran Tigers has suffered, and the species is classified as endangered.

Sadly, one of Lulu's cubs didn't survive. Zoo director John Lewis had this to say about the loss, "As excited as we are in this moment of celebration, we are equally saddened to announce that one of the three tiger cubs has unexpectedly passed. This is the third litter at the L.A. Zoo from our experienced mother who has successfully raised a total of five cubs. While the loss of this cub is unfortunate, we plan to continue to share the growth of the two cubs with our community until they are introduced to their exhibit. I hope you’ll share the adventure with us."

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Photo credits: Tad Motoyama

While the cubs spend a majority of their time with mom, their keepers at the Los Angeles Zoo also spend time with them each day in order to foster a trusting relationship with them. Human interaction with the cubs from an early age allows zoo keepers and veterinarians to safely examine them during routine check-ups.


L.A. Zoo Baby Boom Kicked Off With Rare Otter Pups

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On July 10, L.A. Zoo welcomed the birth of two Giant Otter pups. Zoo staff are currently caring for the Otters at the Winnick Family Animal Care Center. They can be viewed through nursery windows. Once they have matured enough they will go out on-exhibit. Giant Otters are extremely rare in zoos and are exhibited in only five U.S. institutions. Native to the slow moving streams, lakes and swamps in the Orinoco, Amazon and La Plata river systems of South America, the IUCN endangered mammals face challenges from illegal poaching and chemical water pollution. Keep an eye out for L.A. Zoo's other current critters!

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Photo credits: Tad Motoyama