Brookfield Zoo

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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4_Brookfield Okapi 2Photo Credits: Kelly Tone/Chicago Zoological Society

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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Endangered Zebra Born at Brookfield Zoo

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A baby Grevy's Zebra born at the Brookfield Zoo is already earning his stripes as a valued addition to the population of this endangered species.

Born November 9, the foal is doing well as he bonds with Mypa, his nearly 7-year-old mom.  The not-yet-named foal weighs between 75 and 100 pounds. The pairing of Mypa and the sire, Nazim, was based on a recommendation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Grevy’s Zebra Species Survival Plan (SSP). An SSP manages the breeding of a species in order to maintain a healthy and self-sustaining breeding population that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable. Currently, nearly 175 Grevy's Zebras live at 38 accredited North American zoos. 

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Zebra foals are born with a wooly coat of russet stripes that are darker on the head, neck, and legs. A bushy mane, which a Zebra begins to shed at about 3 weeks of age, runs from just behind the ears to the tail, as well as down the midline of the belly. The coat changes to the more familiar adult short hair and black stripes at about 5 months of age. A Zebra’s stripes are like fingerprints: no two are the same.

Grevy’s Zebras are listed as endangered on the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature Resources. According to the Grevy’s Zebra Trust, the species has undergone one of the most substantial reductions of range of any African mammal. Once found more widely across the Horn of Africa, their range is now confined specifically to southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya. In the late 1970s, the global population of Grevy’s Zebras was estimated to be about 15,000 individuals. In 2008, an updated survey estimated approximately 2,800 animals representing more than an 80 percent decline over the past four decades. The species’ demise is due to habitat loss, hunting, and competition for resources with other grazers, as well as cattle and livestock.

 


Endangered Mexican Gray Wolf Pups at Brookfield Zoo

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The Chicago Zoological Society (CZS) is excited to announce the birth of a litter of five Mexican Gray Wolves at Brookfield Zoo on April 25. This is the second litter born to mom, Zana (age 4), and dad, Flint (age 6).

Currently, three of the puppies are in a den, being nurtured by their pack, at the zoo’s Regenstein Wolf Woods habitat. Animal care staff anticipates they will begin to emerge from the den site and be visible to guests in a few weeks.

As part of the Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program, the remaining two puppies, Blaze (M1471) and Brooke (F1472), were placed in the Arizona-based Elk Horn Pack of wild wolves, which will foster them with their own litter. In pup fostering, very young pups are moved from one litter to another litter of similar age so that the receiving pack raises the pups as their own. The technique, which has proven to be successful in this species, as well as in other wildlife, shows promise to improve the genetic diversity of the wild wolf population.

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Following a neonatal examination, the pups, accompanied by CZS animal care staff, were flown to Arizona on April 30. There, staff met up with a team of biologists from the Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team, who successfully placed the pups in a den in which the alpha female had just given birth to her own litter.

Since 2003, the Society has been a partner in this significant recovery program, which is a multi-agency collaboration between the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the White Mountain Apache Tribe, the USDA Forest Service, and the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service—Wildlife Services, as well as private organizations. As part of this program, adult and offspring wolves at Brookfield Zoo are potential candidates for release to the wild.

“We are extremely proud to be able to contribute to this important conservation effort for the Mexican Gray Wolf population,” said Bill Zeigler, senior vice president of animal programs for the Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo. “The collaboration with USFWS and the other participating organizations is a real team effort and demonstrates the dedication of all parties to make this a successful program while also raising awareness for this highly endangered and iconic North American species.”

The Chicago Zoological Society plays a pivotal role in the recovery program, demonstrating its commitment to helping the Mexican Gray Wolf population. The first successful fostering of Mexican Gray Wolf pups occurred in the wild and included offspring born to a wolf from Brookfield Zoo, who was the alpha female of the Coronado Pack living in the Gila National Forest in western New Mexico. Sadly, she was found deceased in January 2015, but her legacy lives on with her pups.

The fostering of Blaze and Brooke is only the second time in the history of the program that pups born in professional care were placed with an established wild pack.

“The USFWS is extremely grateful to the Chicago Zoological Society. We value our partnership with the Society and other member institutions of the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan managed breeding program who have contributed so much to the recovery of the species," said Benjamin Tuggle, the Service’s southwest regional director. “Pup fostering is just one of the management tools we can use to improve the genetic health of the wild population.”

In addition to Zana, Flint, and the puppies, the wolf pack at Brookfield Zoo also includes the pair’s four yearlings, born in 2015. The pups born last year will assist their parents in rearing the new additions by regurgitating food for them and engaging them in play, among other behaviors. In addition, the yearlings will learn important parental skills from Zana and Flint for when they have their own litters.

“As the pups grow, zoo guests will have an amazing opportunity to witness the complex social structure of the wolf pack as they interact with each other,” said Joan Daniels, associate curator of mammals.

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Snow Leopard Sisters Debut at Brookfield Zoo

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Two 4-month-old Snow Leopard sisters, named Malaya and Daania, made their public debut October 7 at Brookfield Zoo. The highlight of the ‘debut’ was the chance to explore their outdoor habitat with four-year-old mom, Sarani. 

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4_Brookfield Snow Leopard girlsPhoto Credits: Jim Schulz / Chicago Zoological Society

The Chicago Zoological Society (CZS), which manages Brookfield Zoo, happily announced the birth of the two Snow Leopard cubs on June 16. Until now, the girls and their mom have been safe and secure in their behind-the-scenes den.

Mom, Sarani, and her five-year-old mate, Sabu, arrived at Brookfield Zoo in October 2011 from Tautphaus Park Zoo in Idaho Falls, Idaho, and Cape May County Park & Zoo in Cape May Court House, New Jersey, respectively. This is the second litter of cubs for the couple. Their pairing was based on a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Snow Leopard Species Survival Plan (SSP).

An SSP is a cooperative population management and conservation program for select species in AZA zoos and aquariums. Each SSP manages the breeding of a species to maintain a healthy and self-sustaining population that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable. There are currently about 145 Snow Leopards living in 63 institutions in North America. Brookfield Zoo has exhibited Snow Leopards since 1936.

The Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) is classified as “Endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organization.

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