Brevard Zoo

Brevard Zoo’s Kangaroo Joey Reunites With Mob

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After five months of round-the-clock care, a young Red Kangaroo with a rough start to life has defied the odds and reunited with other members of her species at Brevard Zoo.

Lilly, born in August 2016, was found on the floor of the Zoo’s Kangaroo habitat in the early morning hours of January 23. Stress caused by a severe storm the previous evening likely caused Lilly’s mother, Jacie, to eject the joey from the pouch. After several failed attempts to reunite the two, animal care staff made the decision to hand-raise the tiny, helpless marsupial.

(Lilly was the subject of a ZooBorns feature from early February: “Abandoned Kangaroo Joey Receives Care at Brevard Zoo”.  At the time of our original post, Lilly was “yet-to-be-named” and had only been in keepers care for about two weeks.)

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3_March 15Bindi Irwin spends time with Lilly during her April 2017 visit to Brevard Zoo:

4_April 28 (with Bindi Irwin)Photo Credits: Brevard Zoo

Lilly lived in an incubator with precise temperature and moisture levels that emulated a kangaroo’s pouch for several weeks. Lauren Hinson, the Zoo’s collection manager and Lilly’s primary caretaker, removed her six times a day for bottle-feedings.

As Lilly grew less fragile, a fabric pouch suspended from Hinson’s neck replaced the climate-controlled incubator. The joey became something of a fixture at Wednesday morning staff meetings.

“I took her home every single evening and brought her with me wherever I went,” said Hinson, who estimates she conducted 1,000 bottle feedings. “It was an incredible amount of work and a lot of missed sleep, but well worth it.”

Lilly has been taking supervised “field trips” to the Kangaroo yard since late May, but not until recently had she stayed there permanently. Keepers will need to keep a close eye on the joey in the new space and bottle-feed her twice a day for the next several months.

Although Zoo staff hopes to avoid hand raising more joeys in the future, Hinson is more than willing to put the pouch back on if need be. “I would do it again in a heartbeat,” she said.


Brevard Zoo Keepers Raising Rare Oryx Calf

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On February 28, Brevard Zoo welcomed its second Scimitar-horned Oryx calf of the year!

Unfortunately, first-time mother, Kitcha, displayed no interest in the female newborn. Tests performed the day after birth showed the calf had not yet nursed, and a decision was made to pull her from the exhibit. She is now living in an area where she can see and smell the rest of the herd, and she is currently being hand-reared by the Zoo’s dedicated animal care staff.

“She was quite small as a newborn, so we are monitoring her weight and food intake,” said Michelle Smurl, the Zoo’s director of animal programs. “For the first four days, she was eating every four hours. As her weight increases, we increase her food intake and she is now eating three times a day.”

Mom, Kitcha, was born at Brevard Zoo in 2009. The new calf’s father, Nuri, came from Smithsonian’s National Zoo and now lives at Lion Country Safari. Nuri also fathered the male calf born at Brevard on February 3.

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The Scimitar-horned Oryx (Oryx dammah) is also known as the Sahara Oryx. It is a straight-horned antelope that stands just over 1 m (3.3 ft) at the shoulder. Both sexes have horns, but those of the females are more slender.

They are social and prefer to travel in herds. Their habitat in the wild was steppe and desert, where they ate foliage, grass, herbs, shrubs, succulent plants, legumes, juicy roots, buds, and fruit. They can survive without water for nine to ten months because their kidneys prevent water loss from urination (an adaptation to desert habitats). They can also get water from water-rich plants.

Both males and females reach sexual maturity at 1.5 to 2 years of age. Gestation lasts about nine months, after which a single calf is born, weighing 20 to 33 pounds (9.1 to 15.0 kg). Twin births are very rare. Both mother and calf will return to the main herd within hours of the birth. The female separates herself from the herd for a few hours while she nurses the calf. Weaning starts at 3.5 months, and the young become fully independent at around 14 weeks old.

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Brevard Zoo’s Meerkat Pups Emerge for Spring

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Two Meerkat pups at Brevard Zoo recently emerged from their burrow, just in time for Spring!

The pups were born to mom Kiki on February 17 and have spent the first few weeks of their lives snuggled safely underground. At this time, the keepers do not know the sex of either pup.

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Although their name might suggest otherwise, Meerkats are not related to cats. The Meerkat, or Suricate (Suricata suricatta), is a small carnivoran belonging to the mongoose family. They are native to all parts of the Namib Desert in Namibia and southwestern Angola, and in South Africa.

Gestation for Meerkats is about eleven weeks. In the wild, Meerkats give birth in underground burrows to help keep the newborns safe from predators. To shield the pups from dust in their subterranean homes, they are born with their eyes and ears closed. Meerkat babies are also nearly hairless at birth, though a light coat of silver and brown fur begins to fill in after just a few days.

The babies nurse for about nine weeks, and they grow very quickly. Though they weigh only about an ounce at birth, by six months old, the pups are about the same size as the adults.

These desert-dwellers are highly social critters and live in groups, called mobs, which can include dozens of individuals from multiple families. Some members of the mob may also act as “babysitters” to the pups.

Meerkats have scent pouches below their tails and will rub these pouches on rocks and plants to mark their territory. The dark patches around their eyes act to cut down on sun glare and help them see far into the distance.

Meerkats have four toes on each feet and very long, non-retractable claws to help them dig. They can also close their ears to keep dirt out while digging.

As a species they have an interesting feeding approach as they will always maintain visual and vocal contact whilst foraging, with one of the group standing on its hind legs and acting as sentry on the lookout for predators. They feed mostly on invertebrates and plant matter.

They are currently classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. In the wild, they are present in several large and well-managed protected areas. However, population densities can fluctuate due to predation and rainfall variations.

Wild populations are currently stable. However, over the past couple of decades, movies and television shows have brought Meerkats a lot of attention, with many people wondering if they can keep a Meerkat as a pet. Although they may look cute, Meerkats, like all wild animals, do NOT make good pets, and they are illegal to own without the proper permits and licenses!

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Endangered Mice Bring in New Year at Brevard Zoo

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Just a few weeks into the New Year, Brevard Zoo, in Melbourne, Florida, welcomed two endangered Perdido Key Beach Mouse pups.

The pups’ parents, known among keepers as Hillary and Donald, were first paired in the heat of election season. The exact date of birth is unknown as Beach Mouse pups emerge from their underground burrows at 13-16 days of age, but staff speculates they were born in early January. The sex of each pup has not yet been identified.

“These mice are really important because they store seeds inside dunes. The seeds they don’t eat sometimes grow into large plants that help maintain the dune’s structure,” said conservation coordinator Amanda Sanford. “Stronger dunes mean more protection for nearby buildings during hurricanes.”

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The Perdido Key Beach mouse (Peromyscus polionotus trissyllepsis) is a subspecies of the oldfield mouse. An oldfield mouse or beach mouse (Peromyscus polionotus) is a nocturnal species of rodent in the family Cricetidae.

This subspecies is only found on Perdido Key, a small island off the Florida Panhandle. They are classified as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List. Habitat loss, feral cats, and a population decline caused by 2004’s Hurricane Ivan are the main threats to them.

They are nocturnal, spending most of their daylight hours in their burrows. Unlike many species, Beach Mice are monogamous, with mated pairs tending to remain together as long as both live. A typical mouse pair averages 3-4 offspring per litter and has roughly 3 litters per year.

As part of a conservation program that aims to maintain a healthy captive population, many Beach Mice born at Brevard Zoo have been released in their natural habitat.

The breeding and reintroduction program is a collaboration between the Zoo, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Park Service, Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division, Palm Beach Zoo and Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo.


Abandoned Kangaroo Joey Receives Care at Brevard Zoo

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A tiny Red Kangaroo abandoned by her mother has another shot at life thanks to the dedication of Brevard Zoo’s animal care team. 

The as-yet-unnamed female, who is approximately five months old, was discovered out of her mother's pouch on Monday, January 23. She was likely ejected from the pouch due to stress from a storm the night prior. After several unsuccessful attempts to reunite the joey with her mother Jacie, animal care managers made the decision to raise the joey by hand.  This joey is Jacie’s fifth baby.

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Photo Credit:  Brevard Zoo

“Red Kangaroos don’t start emerging from the pouch until they’re about seven months old,” said Michelle Smurl, the Zoo’s director of animal programs. “We think this joey is five months old, so the situation is still very precarious.”

Keepers feed the joey every four hours, day and night, and weigh her once per day.

Joeys are born after a 33-day gestation and complete their development in the pouch, fully emerging for the first time at seven months.  At that time, the joey begins to nibble grass and leaves, but returns to the pouch to nurse until it is about a year old.

Red Kangaroos are found only in Australia and are the largest of all the world’s marsupials (pouched mammals).  They inhabit Australia’s arid interior and can survive on very small amounts of water.  Red Kangaroos stand more than six feet tall and weigh well over 150 pounds.   The species is not currently under threat.

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Zoo Awash With Hurricane-Stranded Baby Turtles

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Tossed by the violent winds and powerful waves of two Atlantic hurricanes, hundreds of tiny Sea Turtles have been rescued by Florida’s Brevard Zoo – and more wash ashore every day.

The little Loggerhead, Green, and Hawksbill Turtles would normally be living in their nursery habitat on masses of seaweed in the open ocean.  But waves generated by hurricanes Matthew and Nicole pushed the Turtles, along with seaweed and tons of discarded plastic, ashore on Florida’s east coast.

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Photo Credit:  Brevard Zoo

The Turtles, known as “washbacks” because they’ve washed back onto the shore, are retrieved by volunteers from the Sea Turtle Preservation Society and taken to the zoo’s Sea Turtle Healing Center.  The young Turtles are typically lethargic and weak upon arrival, but the zoo is committed to nursing them back to health.  The zoo staff has observed that many of the turtles have swallowed tiny bits of plastic and foreign debris, which obstructs their digestive systems and contributes to their weakened state.  About a dozen young Turtles have died, probably as a result of ingesting plastic, according to Elliot Zurulnik, Brevard Zoo Communications Manager.

The zoo plans to release as many of the young turtles as possible, but will only do so when an individual is eating well, actively swimming, and able to dive underwater.

Seven species of Sea Turtles are found in oceans worldwide, and all are under threat.  Hawksbill Turtles are Critically Endangered, Green Turtles are Endangered, and Loggerhead Turtles are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.  Threats to Sea Turtles include loss of beach nesting habitat, bycatch from improper fishing operations, poaching for eggs and meat, marine debris, and climate change. 

See more photos below.

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Endangered Piglets Born at Brevard Zoo

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On September 10, a 14-year-old Visayan Warty Pig, at Brevard Zoo, gave birth to two piglets.

The new mom, named Fancy, was born at San Diego Zoo but has spent most of her life at Brevard Zoo in Melbourne, Florida. She currently shares her exhibit with two adult pigs: male, Pandan, and female, Makinna. Pandan is the father of the new piglets.

Because their exhibit is closed until next year for renovations, guests will not be able to view the piglets for several months. However, the Zoo promises to keep fans updated with plenty of pictures and videos on social media. The sex of the piglets is not known, and therefore, the duo has not been named.

“Zoo guests often mistake them for domestic pigs or wild boars,” said Michelle Smurl, Director of Animal Programs. “But they’re actually members of a distinct species on the brink of extinction.”

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The Visayan Warty Pig (Sus cebifrons) is a species endemic to two of the Visayan Islands in the central Philippines.

They are threatened by habitat loss, hunting and conflicts with farmers. Hybridization with domestic pigs has caused further problems. Once found across six islands, populations are now believed to exist on only two. Visayan Warty Pigs are classified as “Critically Endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

Due to the small numbers of remaining species in the wild, little is known of their behaviors or characteristics outside of captivity.

The Visayan Warty Pig receives its name from the three pairs of fleshy "warts" present on their visage. Experts speculate that the reason for the warts is to assist as a defense against the tusks of rival pigs during fighting. The boars also grow stiff hair.

Visayan Warty Pigs tend to live in groups of four to six. Their diet mainly consists of: roots, tubers, and fruits that can be found in the forest. They may also eat cultivated crops. Since local farmers have cleared approximately 95% of their natural habitat, the propensity of the pigs to eat cultivated crops has risen dramatically. Also, land that is cleared for farming is often unproductive for a few years. Therefore, the food sources of the Visayan Warty Pig are extremely limited, a factor that has contributed significantly to the pig’s dwindling numbers.

Visayan Warty Piglets are often seen during the dry season, between the months of January and March, in their native habitat of the western Visayan Islands. The average number of piglets, per litter, is three to four.


First Tawny Frogmouth Chick for Brevard Zoo

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A Tawny Frogmouth chick, unofficially known as “Furby,” hatched at Brevard Zoo on May 28. Furby is the first member of its species to hatch at the Melbourne, Florida zoo.

Furby’s parents, Nathan and Hotdog, had yet to successfully hatch and rear a chick at the facility. Therefore, Furby is being hand-reared by animal care staff. The sex is unknown at this time.

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The Tawny Frogmouth (Podargus strigoides) is a species of frogmouth native to Australia and is found throughout the Australian mainland and Tasmania. They are bigheaded stocky birds often mistaken for Owls due to their nocturnal habits and similar color.

Tawny Frogmouths can measure from 34 to 53 cm (13 to 21 in) long. Weights have been recorded of up to 680 g (1.50 lb) in the wild (perhaps more in captivity) but these are exceptionally high.

Tawny Frogmouths and Owls both have mottled patterns, wide eyes, and anisodactyl feet. However, Owls possess strong legs, powerful talons, and toes with a unique flexible joint as they use their feet to catch prey. Tawny Frogmouths prefer to catch their prey with their beaks and have fairly weak feet. They also roost out in the open relying on camouflage for defense and build their nests in tree forks, whereas Owls roost hidden in thick foliage and build their nests in tree hollows. Tawny Frogmouths have wide, forward facing beaks for catching insects, and Owls have narrow downwards facing beaks used to tear prey apart. The eyes of Tawny Frogmouths are to the side of the face while the eyes of Owls are fully forward on the face. Furthermore, Owls have full or partial face discs and large asymmetrical ears while tawny frogmouths do not.

Tawny Frogmouths are carnivorous and considered to be among Australia's most effective pest control birds, as their diet consists largely of species regarded as vermin/pests in houses, farms, and gardens. The bulk of their diet is composed of large nocturnal insects such as moths, as well as spiders, worms, slugs, and snails. Their diet also includes a variety of bugs, beetles, wasps, ants, centipedes, millipedes, and scorpions. Large numbers of invertebrates are consumed in order to make up sufficient biomass, and small mammals, reptiles, frogs and birds are also eaten.

Tawny Frogmouths form partnerships for life, and once established, pairs will usually stay in the same territory for a decade or more. Establishing and maintaining physical contact is an integral part of the lifelong bond.

The breeding season of Tawny Frogmouths is from August to December, however individuals in arid areas are known to breed in response to heavy rains. Males and females share in the building of nests by collecting twigs and mouthfuls of leaves and dropping them into position. Nests are usually placed on horizontal forked tree branches.

The clutch size is one to three eggs. Both sexes share incubation of the eggs during the night, and during the day, males incubate the eggs. For the duration of the incubation period, the nest is rarely left unattended. One partner will roost on a nearby branch and provide food for the brooding partner. Once hatched, both parents cooperate in the supply of food to the young. The fledging period is 25 – 35 days, during which they develop half their adult mass.

The Tawny Frogmouth is classified as "Least Concern" on the IUCN Red List due to their widespread distribution. However, there are a number of ongoing threats to the health of the population. Many birds and mammalian carnivores are known to prey upon them.

They also face a number of threats from human activities and pets. Tawny Frogmouths are often killed or injured on rural roads during feeding as they fly in front of cars when chasing insects illuminated in the beam of the headlights. As they have adapted to live in close proximity to human populations, Tawny Frogmouths are also at high risk of exposure to pesticides.


Giraffe Calf Is Tallest Born at Brevard Zoo

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Standing at 6’4”, Brevard Zoo’s newest addition is the tallest Masai Giraffe ever born at the facility.

After a gestation period lasting more than a year, 14-year-old Milenna gave birth to the male calf early on March 7.

The little one is the second Giraffe born at the Florida zoo in under four months. A female, who has yet to be named, was born to Johari on November 29, 2015. Seventeen-year-old Rafiki is the father of both calves.

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“Our team conducted a neonatal exam on Tuesday afternoon [March 8] and everything looks good so far,” said Michelle Smurl, the Zoo’s director of animal programs. “He’s very energetic, which is always a positive sign.”

The calf is not expected to make its public debut for several weeks while he bonds with his mother behind the scenes. In the meantime, the public is encouraged to monitor Brevard Zoo’s social media channels for updates.

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UPDATE: Baby Giraffe Meets Her Fans

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A baby Giraffe born November 29 recently made her public debut at Florida’s Brevard Zoo.

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The female calf, who has not yet been named, was behind the scenes with her mother Johari since her birth.  This allowed the calf to bond with her mother and slowly be introduced to other members of the zoo’s giraffe herd. 

Giraffes are pregnant for about 15 months, and the mother gives birth standing up.  This calf weighed 152 pounds at birth and stood about six feet tall. ZooBorns shared the calf’s first photos here.

This calf is a Masai Giraffe, which is one of nine subspecies of Giraffe.  All Giraffes are native to Africa, but their numbers are shrinking due to habitat loss and human encroachment into formerly wild lands.