Brookfield Zoo

One Tiny Reindeer Born at Brookfield Zoo

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Bunny, a Reindeer at Brookfield Zoo, gave birth to a fawn on April 2 after a 7½-month gestation.  Within just a few minutes of the birth, the fawn was up and walking.

The fawn, Bunny’s second, weighed just over 12 pounds at birth but is expected to double her weight in just two weeks, thanks to the richness of her mother’s milk. She will soon graze on solid food but will continue to nurse from Bunny for about six months.

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DSC_0754Photo Credit: Jim Schultz/Chicago Zoological Society

Reindeer fawns are born with dark fur that absorbs radiant heat from the sun, which is important in the chilly northern regions where Reindeer live.  At about two to three months, fawns begin to shed their dark fur as lighter-colored fur grows in. At about one month of age, little antler buds begin to develop, followed by short spikes within the first year.

Reindeer differ from other Deer species because their noses are covered with fur and both sexes have antlers. The antlers are made of solid living bone and no two sets are alike. Antlers grow out of small bony platforms called pedicles and are covered with velvet, a soft tissue that supplies necessary nutrients. Males shed their antlers in November and December and females in January or February. Both genders begin growing a new set of antlers in early spring.

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This Penguin Chick Will Have An Important Job

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A Humboldt Penguin chick that hatched on February 12 at Brookfield Zoo is thriving, and in the near future, may be taking on an important role. As early as this May, and depending on whether he chooses to participate, the unnamed chick will be an animal ambassador for the zoo’s Penguin Encounters.

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29542154_10156436472994170_1738579396798709760_nPhoto Credit: Brookfield Zoo

Currently being hand-reared by animal care staff, the chick is being carefully monitored. He is weighed three times a day—once each morning to determine how much weight was gained over a 24-hour period, as well as after each feeding to calculate how much of its diet of herring and marine smelt he consumed.

The chick will molt from his down feathers into juvenile plumage by two months of age, at which time he will be introduced to a shallow pool of water. Adult plumage will not be present until the chick is about two years old. In addition to possibly being an integral member of the Penguin Encounters, the chick will be introduced to and reside in the Humboldt Penguin colony in the rocky shores habitat at Brookfield Zoo’s Living Coast.

Each Penguin Encounter begins with a member of the animal care staff sharing fun facts about the zoo’s resident Humboldt penguins and communicating how to safely interact with the penguin during the session. During the program, penguins are free to roam and waddle up to anyone they choose – and while one animal may be camera-shy, another individual may enjoy a good selfie or two. The animals appear to find the encounters as enriching as guests and each penguin ambassador chooses whether to participate in the encounters. Staff also talk about the conservation work the Chicago Zoological Society is doing in Punta San Juan, Peru, to help preserve the habitat and abundant wildlife, including Humboldt Penguins that live along the South American coastline.

Humboldt Penguins are native to the Pacific coastlines of Peru and Chile. The population has fallen due to climate change, guano mining, and competition for food with commercial fisheries. The birds are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.


Rare Baby Wombat Emerges From the Pouch

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A baby Southern Hairy-nosed Wombat, born on February 4, 2017 at the Brookfield Zoo and one of only nine living in North America, is out of the pouch and exploring her surroundings along with her mom, 17-year-old Kambora. 

At birth, a Wombat joey (that’s what a baby marsupial, or pouched mammal, is called) is tiny and hairless, and is about the size of a bumblebee. It climbs into its mom’s pouch where it attaches to a teat and remains there for the first few months of life. While in the pouch the young joey sleeps and nurses, getting all the necessary nutrients it needs to fully develop. Though she was born in February, the joey didn't peek out of Kambora’s pouch until the end of August. Gradually, she went from poking her head for a few seconds to climbing completely out of the pouch. Now weighing just over 10 pounds, the joey is very inquisitive and becoming more independent.

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22688420_10156005823034170_3338021262524645997_nPhoto Credit: Brookfield Zoo

The not-yet-named joey is Kambora’s sixth offspring and the first for the sire, 5-year-old Darryl, who arrived at Brookfield Zoo in 2016 from Australia. Several years ago, Brookfield Zoo staff worked with the five other North American zoos that have southern hairy-nosed Wombats, along with Zoos South Australia and their government, to form and develop a breeding program to ensure a genetically sustainable population for the species in professional care.

In 1969, Brookfield Zoo received three Southern Hairy-nosed Wombats, and, in 1974, became the first zoo outside of Australia to successfully breed the species in professional care. Since then, there have been 21 Wombat births at Brookfield Zoo. There are only nine southern hairy-nosed Wombats in five North American institutions, including at Brookfield Zoo.

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Sea Lion Pups Worth the Wait at Brookfield Zoo

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Guests will be seeing double when they visit Brookfield Zoo’s Pinniped Point in a few weeks. Two California Sea Lion pups were recently born, and they are the first of this species born at the zoo in nearly 30 years.

The new pups are currently behind the scenes, bonding with their mothers, and learning how to swim, as well as being monitored by animal care staff. It is anticipated the pups will have access to their outdoor habitat in a few weeks.

The first pup, a female, was born on June 4 to seven-year-old Josephine. A week later, on June 11, Arie, who is estimated to be about nine-years-old, gave birth to a male.

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4_Brookfield Sea Lion 5Photo Credits: Brookfield Zoo/Chicago Zoological Society (CZS)

California Sea Lion pups are usually born in June and July and will weigh between 13 to 20 pounds. Pups do not swim for their first few weeks of life, but rather stay in tidal pools until they can go to sea with their mothers. They nurse for at least five months and sometimes for more than a year. In the wild, after giving birth, mother Sea Lions will leave their offspring for a short time while they forage at sea. As the pups grow stronger, the mothers leave them alone for longer periods. Mother Sea Lions recognize their pups through smell, sight, and vocalizations.

The new additions at Brookfield Zoo are very important to the genetic diversity of the accredited North American zoo population for the species because of the unique backgrounds of the two moms as well as of Tanner, the pups’ sire. All three adults were wild born and deemed non-releasable by the government for various reasons. All were taken in and given homes at three accredited facilities: Aquarium of Niagara, Brookfield Zoo, and Shedd Aquarium.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled with the birth of these two Sea Lion pups, which is a coordinated effort between us and our partner facilities,” said Rita Stacey, Curator of Marine Mammals for CZS.

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Wolf Pups Trade Places to Boost Endangered Species

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Two Mexican Gray Wolf pups born at Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo swapped places with two wild-born pups in New Mexico as part of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s Mexican Grey Wolf Recovery Program. 

The pups born at Brookfield Zoo are now integrated with a wild Wolf pack in New Mexico, and the wild-born pups are being reared by the zoo’s Wolves.  This process, called cross-fostering, maintains genetic diversity in the wild and zoo-dwelling populations of this endangered species.

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DrCopper_BZexam_1250 (1)1Photo Credit:  Brookfield Zoo

In early May, teams from Brookfield Zoo gathered up the largest male and female pups from a litter of five born at the zoo on April 22.  At just 11 days old, the pups required feedings every four hours as they were transported by plane and van to the San Mateo Wolf pack’s den in New Mexico.

As the adults in the San Mateo pack moved down the canyon, the zoo’s field team entered the den and counted eight pups in the litter. Two were selected to bring back to the Brookfield Zoo.

Scents are important to Wolves, so each of the new puppies was rolled in their new den's substrate, urine, and feces to ensure that all the pups smelled the same and they’d be accepted as members of their new families.  The zoo reports that the zoo's pack is providing excellent care to the pups, and they emerged from the den with their foster siblings in late May.

Keepers Lauren Gallucci and Racquel Ardisana explained the thrill of participating in this meaningful conservation effort. “We began our careers in animal care because we want to make a difference in wildlife education and conservation, connecting zoo guests to the larger issues in our natural world. Having the opportunity to make such a direct impact on the conservation of a species for which we care every day really hit home!”

Native to southeastern Arizona, southern New Mexico, western Texas and northern Mexico, Mexican Gray Wolves were hunted to near-extinction in the 20th century. By 1927, they were thought to be extirpated from New Mexico. The last wild Mexican Gray Wolves known to live in Texas were killed in 1970.

After the species was listed as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 1976, plans to reestablish the species began. By the mid-2010s, more than 100 Wolves were living in the recovery area. 

The zoo’s participation in the Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program shows how zoos can partner with other conservation organizations to help save species.

 


Brookfield Zoo Welcomes 28th Okapi Birth

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An Okapi calf was born at Brookfield Zoo on May 16. He has access to the outside, but is currently spending the majority of his time indoors in a nesting site with his 6-year-old mother, Augusta K. When the calf is about 3 months old, visitors will have a chance to see him more regularly in the Okapi’s outdoor area. When not visible outside, guests can view a live video feed that will be set up in the zoo’s “Habitat Africa! The Forest”.

In the wild, an Okapi calf will spend most of its first two months alone and hidden in vegetation to protect it from predators. The mom will return to the nesting site only to nurse her calf. Her nutritiously rich milk helps the young animal double its starting weight of about 60 pounds to nearly 120 pounds within its first month. Calves process their mother's milk very efficiently, and they do not defecate for 30 to 70 days, which makes it difficult for predators to locate them by smell.

The new calf marks the 28th Okapi born at Brookfield Zoo. In 1959, Brookfield was the first zoo in North America to have a birth of this species.

The pairing of mom, Augusta K, and the calf’s sire, 21-year-old Hiari, was based on a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Okapi Species Survival Plan (SSP). An SSP manages the breeding of a species to maintain a healthy and self-sustaining breeding population that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable. This is the second offspring for the pair. Their last calf, also a male, was born in 2015.

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Often referred to as “forest giraffes,” Okapi’s closest relative is the giraffe. They have creamy white stripes on their hind end and front upper legs and white “ankle stockings” on their lower legs. The stripes help them blend into the shadows of the forest and make them very difficult to see, even when they are only a few feet away. Scientists speculate that Okapi’s contrasting stripes are important for calf imprinting and act as a signal for a newborn to follow close behind its mother.

Okapi (Okapia johnstoni) are rare hoofed mammals native to the dense Ituri Forest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). American and European scientists discovered them in the early 1900s.

The species is classified as “Endangered” by the IUCN, due to civil unrest in the region, habitat deforestation, and illegal hunting. In 2013, the Species Survival Commission (SSC) of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) established the Giraffe and Okapi Specialist Group (GOSG) to strategize and coordinate research and conservation efforts on behalf of both giraffid species. To assist in these efforts, in May 2016, the Chicago Zoological Society hosted the International Giraffid Conference at Brookfield Zoo. The four-day event brought together animal care professionals from around the world to network, learn, and share knowledge with specialists, curators, veterinarians, researchers, and conservationists.

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You ‘Otter’ See Brookfield Zoo’s New Pups

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The Chicago Zoological Society is thrilled to announce the birth of twin North American River Otter pups at Brookfield Zoo. The male and female pups, born on February 23, are the first successful births of this species in the Zoo’s history.

The adorable siblings are currently behind the scenes, bonding with their mom, learning how to swim. They are scheduled to make their public debut later this month.

The pups’ mother, Charlotte, arrived at Brookfield Zoo in June 2012 from Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo. The father, Benny, joined the Zoo family from Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield, Missouri, in August 2004.

Otter mating typically occurs between December and April, with most births occurring between February and April of the following year. Pups are born with their eyes closed, fully furred, and weighing about 4 ounces.

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3_North American river otter pups (38 days old)Photo credit: Jim Schulz/Chicago Zoological Society (Image 1: 18 days old / Image 2: 33 days old / Image 3: 38 days old)

The Chicago Zoological Society (CZS) is a participant in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) North American River Otter Species Survival Plan (SSP), which is a cooperative population management and conservation program for the species. The program manages the breeding of Otters in zoos to maintain a healthy and self-sustaining population that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable.

The North American River Otter (Lontra canadensis) is a semiaquatic mammal endemic to the North American continent found in and along its waterways and coasts. It is a member of the subfamily Lutrinae in the weasel family (Mustelidae).

An adult River Otter can weigh between 5.0 and 14 kg (11.0 and 30.9 lb). The River Otter is protected and insulated by a thick, water-repellent coat of fur.

North American River Otters, like most predators, prey upon the most readily accessible species. Fish is a favored food, but they also consume various amphibians (such as salamanders and frogs), freshwater clams, mussels, snails, small turtles and crayfish.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists these Otters as “Least Concern”, meaning that the populations are very stable. However, habitat degradation and pollution are major threats to their conservation.


Bunny Has a Baby Just In Time For Easter

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We normally think of Bunnies at Easter and Reindeer at Christmas.  But on April 12, a Reindeer named Bunny at the Brookfield Zoo delivered a fawn just a few days before Easter.

This is the first Reindeer birth at the zoo since 1980.  Bunny and the sire, Karl, arrived at the Brookfield Zoo in 2015 and 2016, respectively. 

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Photo Credit:  Brookfield Zoo



The male fawn weighed about seven pounds at birth, but is expected to grow rapidly, fueled by his mothers’ rich milk.  Within just one hour of birth, the fawn was up and walking.  A one-day-old Reindeer fawn can outrun a human.

Reindeer are pregnant for six-and-a-half to eight months. Fawns are born with dark fur that acts as camouflage and absorbs heat from the sun, an important feature for a species that lives in cold climates.  By the time the fawn is a few months old, it will shed its dark fur as lighter-colored fur grows in.  Little antler buds will also begin to develop in a few months.  In most Reindeer populations, both sexes grow antlers.

Reindeer, called Caribou in North America, live in Norway, Finland, Siberia, Greenland, Alaska, Canada, and a few other locations. However, herds have been reported to be smaller in size than usual. This apparent decline has been linked to climate change.  There are 14 subspecies of Reindeer, including two that have gone extinct.  Reindeer are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

 


Baby Orangutan Debuts at Brookfield Zoo

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A 2-week-old female Bornean Orangutan born at Brookfield Zoo on December 20 made her official public debut this week to the delight of zoo staff and guests.

As she clings to her mother, the unnamed female infant demonstrates a baby Orangutan’s amazing ability to hold on tight as her mother moves through the treetops.  This infant is the sixth for 35-year-old Sophia, so she is experienced at raising babies.

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DSC_7152--1-1Photo Credit: Jim Schulz/Chicago Zoological Society



For about the next 10 months, the infant will continuously cling to Sophia. An infant Orangutan relies on its mother longer than any other mammal except humans. An infant may nurse from its mother for up to five years and stays close to her up to age eight. Because of this long dependency, there is a six- to eight-year interval between births. A female remains with her mother into her teens, which gives the young Orangutan the opportunity to observe her mother raise an infant and gain the knowledge she will need once she becomes a mother herself. This birth will be a great opportunity and experience for Sophia’s daughter Kekasih, 8, to watch her mother care for and raise a baby.

Orangutans, a critically endangered species, once lived in much of Southeast Asia, but their range and population have been dramatically reduced due to deforestation, the illegal pet trade, and poaching. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the Bornean Orangutan population declined by more than 60 percent between 1950 and 2010, and a further 22 percent decrease is projected through 2025.

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Rare Leopard Cub is Ready for Playtime

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A 4-month-old Amur Leopard cub at the Brookfield Zoo doesn’t know that he’s one of only 300 of these big cats alive today.  He just wants to play!

The 20-pound male cub, named Temur (pronounced Tee-moor), has been bonding behind the scenes with his mother, Lisa, since his birth on July 22.  He made his public debut at the zoo in November.

Amur Leopards are Critically Endangered, with fewer than 70 animals left in the Russian Far East.  Approximately 200 Amur Leopards live in zoos around the world. 

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Amur Leopard Cub-3Photo Credit:  Brookfield Zoo
With such a small group of animals, managers are careful to maintain genetic diversity in the population. By pairing unrelated animals for breeding and moving individuals among zoos, they have maintained 89 percent genetic diversity in the group.  For example, Lisa, the mother, was born at the Saint Louis Zoo and the sire, Kasha, came from Le Parc Des Felins in France. 

The biggest threats to these solitary animals are poaching; retribution hunting; habitat loss from fires, logging, and human settlement; and a decline in their prey. Temur’s birth marks a crucial addition to the population and will help raise awareness about the importance of conservation and the threats this species faces in the wild.

With keen hearing, vision, and smell, Amur Leopards hunt at night in Russia’s dense forests. Amur leopards are the northernmost subspecies of leopard in the world and are often mistaken for snow leopards.

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