Virginia Zoo

Masai Giraffe Calf ‘Smiles for the Camera’


The Virginia Zoo is proud to announce the birth of a baby Masai Giraffe on July 23.  The yet-to-be-named male calf was born to five-time mother Imara and father Billy.  At birth, the calf weighed in at 152 pounds and measured in at 75 inches tall. 

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4_giraffe measuring upPhoto Credits: Virginia Zoo

Giraffes give birth standing up, so newborns get an abrupt introduction to the world by dropping up to 6 feet to the ground. The baby could stand and walk within the first few hours after birth.

Zoo staff are monitoring the baby’s health and will keep the public posted on the baby’s well being. “We are keeping a close watch on mom and baby,” said Dr. Amanda Guthrie. “So far the baby looks healthy, Imara is an experienced and attentive mother and we’re optimistic that she’ll do a great job.” 

Under the watchful eye of mother Imara, the baby giraffe will begin to explore his surroundings in the upcoming weeks. Visitors to the indoor giraffe exhibit might catch a glimpse of mom and baby. For those who can’t make a trip to the Virginia Zoo, a “Giraffe Cam” has been set-up in their living quarters.

Check out the Giraffe Cam on the Zoo’s website and see what the new calf is up to:

This birth is a significant contribution to the North American population of Masai Giraffe, as there are only a little over 100 in North America.  “This birth is important to the Species Survival Plan (SSP) as Billy, the father, is a genetically important male for the species,” commented Joseph Svoke, Zoological Manager. The Virginia Zoo is committed to these large and charismatic species, from captive management to field conservation.

Masai Giraffe are the largest subspecies of giraffe and the tallest land mammal on Earth. They are native to Kenya and Tanzania and are characterized by their jagged spots. Males reach heights of up to 18 feet tall and females grow to 14 feet tall. Giraffes may bear one offspring, after a 15-month gestation period. When a giraffe baby is born, it comes into the world front feet first, followed by the head, neck, and shoulders. Newborn giraffes can stand and walk within one hour of birth. They can also eat leaves at the age of four months, but they will continue to nurse until they are 6 to 9 months old.

New Birth Has Virginia Zoo Seeing Stripes

Foal With Abbey

‘Abbey’, a 14-year-old Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra, at the Virginia Zoo, gave birth to a female foal April 13th. This is the second foal for Abbey and the first for 11-year-old father ‘Zack’.

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Foal Scale

Photo Credits: Virginia Zoo

This is a significant birth for the species, as Hartmann’s Mountain Zebras are threatened in the wild, and there are less than 60 captive individuals in the North American Species Survival Plan (SSP).

“The foal appears very healthy and Abbey is an excellent, experienced mother,” says Virginia Zoo veterinarian Dr. Amanda Guthrie. “We are optimistic that this youngster will thrive and be an important member of the Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra SSP population.”

Female zebras produce a single foal every one to three years, after a gestation of approximately one year.  Each zebra has a unique stripe pattern, and after giving birth, the mother will position herself, between her foal and the rest of the herd, so the foal can imprint upon her stripe pattern. The foal will stay with its mother for a little over a year before being weaned.

Abbey and the filly are being given plenty of time to bond behind the scenes before being introduced to the rest of the herd. The Zoo will also make a special announcement when the time comes for the pair to go on public display.

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Prickly Situation for Porcupine Newborn

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On December 6, 2014, a Prehensile-Tailed Porcupine was born, on exhibit, at the Virginia Zoo. 


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VirginiaZoo_prehensile-tailed porcupine_3Photo Credits: Virginia Zoo / (Image 2: Meg Puckett)

After several days of close observations, animal care and veterinary staff were not comfortable with the level of care that first-time mom,‘Cayenne’, was giving the youngster, so after much internal discussion as well as consultation from experts at the National Zoo, it was decided to remove the baby from the parents and hand-rear it.  The baby is yet to be named and its sex is not physically able to be determined at this point.

The birth of this unique animal illustrates the Virginia Zoo’s breeding and conservation success. This birth is significant because it provides opportunities for Zoo staff and visitors to learn more about these unique animals and their role in our world. It also helps to maintain and support a healthy and self-sustaining population that is genetically diverse and demographically stable.

Prehensile-Tailed Porcupines are native to Central and South America. They are closely related to other Neotropical tree porcupines. Aside from their unspined prehensile tails, their other notable features are: front and hind feet modified for grasping, enabling them to be adept climbers.

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Screaming Animal Ambassador Born at Virginia Zoo


The Virginia Zoo has a new addition, a baby Screaming Hairy Armadillo! The little guy was born on August 18 to parents ‘Savanna’ and ‘Chaco’. 


ScreamingHairyArmadillo_1Photo Credits: Virginia Zoo

The armadillo parents, Savanna and Chaco, serve a dual purpose at the Virginia Zoo. They're a breeding pair, but they're also part of the Program Animal collection. They are used for education and special animal encounters. It will be a while before the new baby makes his public debut, but he will mostly likely join his parents as an Animal Ambassador once he's all grown up.

The Screaming Hairy Armadillo is native to central, southern South America, specifically the Chaco region of Bolivia, Argentina, and Paraguay. They are omnivores and thrive in tropical and subtropical dry forests, grasslands, savannas, scrublands, pastures, sandy soils, and deserts, where they can burrow. The Screaming Hairy Armadillo is distinguished from other species of armadillos by its long, wiry hairs sticking out through its hard shell and over its body, making it more hairy than most armadillos. One of the smallest of their genus, Chaetophractus, the adjective “screaming” comes from their squeal-like response to being threatened or bothered.

Although, they are classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List, this armadillo is heavily hunted for its meat in parts of the Chaco region in Bolivia. It is at times considered an agricultural pest and killed by hunting dogs. The disjunctive population, of coastal Buenos Aires Province, Argentina, is adversely affected by mining activities. The carapace is particularly sought for making ‘charangos’, a South American musical instrument akin to a lute.  

Rock Hyraxes Play "Hide and Seek" at Virginia Zoo


Three new baby Rock Hyraxes are receiving visitors at the Virginia Zoo's Africa - Okavango Delta exhibit.  Born July 5, the little mammals can now be seen with the four adults in the Hyrax habitat –but visitors may have to work to find them.

"Like their parents, the babies like to wedge themselves into crevices, so look for them in between the rocks," said Greg Bockheim, the Virginia Zoo's executive director. He added that the adults often sit high on the rocks and freeze in place to avoid being seen, and that the babies will develop similar behavior as they grow.

Hyraxes are small, heavy-set mammals native to Africa and the Middle East. Their feet have rubbery pads with numerous sweat glands, which together form a kind of suction cup that helps their grip when climbing steep, rocky surfaces.


Photo Credit:  Virginia Zoo / Winfield Danielson

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Diminutive Duikers Give Birth to Descendant!


Look closely, or you might just miss this tiny baby Duiker, born Saturday April 21 to first time mom Peanut and dad Cinco at Virginia Zoo. The baby, named Todd, weighs just one pound and is about the size of a Guinea pig! “This is Peanut’s first baby, and she seems to be doing a great job,” noted zookeeper Aubry Hall.  

Blue Duikers are found in the forests of  Central and South Africa. They can weigh  nearly 12 pounds and stand just shy of 16 inches tall at the shoulder. Their brown coat has a slight blue tinge.  The name "Duiker" is Dutch  for "diver" and Duikers use their long hind legs and short forelegs to dive into the underbrush when threatened. 


Photo credit: Virginia Zoo

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Baby Squirrel Monkey Clings to Mom at Virginia Zoo


A new baby squirrel monkey is now receiving visitors at the Virginia Zoo.

The mother, Marie, delivered sometime late Friday night or early Saturday morning on February 17/18. She was discovered with the baby squirrel monkey clinging to her back Saturday morning by zookeepers. The tiny primate joins its mother, proud papa Jeebes and two other adult females.

"We probably won't name the baby until we know its sex," said zookeeper Aubry Hall, who works with the squirrel monkeys.

Found in the tropical forests of Central and South America, squirrel monkeys spend most of their time in trees and are primarily active during daylight hours. The tiny primates live together in groups of up to 500 males and females. Squirrel monkeys are omnivorous, eating primarily fruits and insects. They live roughly 15 years in the wild, but zoo residents can reach 20 years old.



Photo Credit: Virginia Zoo

More after the jump:

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What's a Caecilian? Virginia Zoo's Newest Baby


"This is the first Caecilian born at the Virginia Zoo," said Craig Pelke, Birds and Cctotherms Curator at the Virginia Zoo. Resembling large earthworms or small snakes, Caecilians completely lack limbs and swim like an eel. Their skin is smooth and a dark-matte blue-grayish-brown in color. Their eyes are small and covered by skin for protection; Caecilians have poor eyesight, which is limited to light and dark perception, but have a great sense of smell.

Just over 6 inches long (15.2 cm), the baby Caecilian has been moved off exhibit to a separate holding tank away from the adults. It's still too early to tell if it is male or female. "We first brought them here in 2008 to help celebrate the Year of the Frog and we recently acquired 4 juveniles from the Turtleback Zoo in West Orange, New Jersey."

"When it gets closer to adult size, we'll move it back on exhibit, but that could be months," said Martha Hamilton, a zookeeper who cares for the Caecilians.

This species fo Caecilian, the Rio Cauca (Typhlonectes natans), is also referred to as "blue worms." They are aquatic amphibians that give live birth in the water. They range from western and northern Colombia to the Lake Maracaibo Basin in Venezuela, where they live in drainage systems, rivers, marshes and lakes, thriving in polluted water.


Photo Credit: Winfield Danielson/Virginia Zoo

African Crane Chicks First March Outside

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Two African crowned crane chicks were recently introduced to their outdoor habitat at the Virginia Zoo and are now accepting visitors.

"They hatched in late August, but we wait until they bulk up and are less vulnerable before putting them in the outdoor habitat," said zookeeper Dennis McNamara, who works on the team that cares for the chicks. He added that the chicks still spend the night indoors, and will continue to do so until they are nearly full grown.

Named for what appears to be a crown of golden pins on their head, which are actually modified feathers, African crowned cranes are native to the savannah south of the Sahara. The birds stand just over 3 feet tall and weigh nearly 8 pounds, with the males tending to be slightly larger. They feed on insects and other invertebrates, reptiles, small mammals and seeds.

"This is a fantastic opportunity for people to observe the chicks' transformation into the striking adult birds," said Greg Bockheim, the Zoo's executive director.

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Photo Credites: Winfield S. Danielson/Virgina Zoo

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Diving Six Feet Head First into the World


The Virginia Zoo is pleased to announce the birth of a baby Giraffe. After a two-hour labor and a six-foot headfirst drop, giraffe parents 10-year old Billy and 9 year-old Imara welcomed their new baby Thursday, July 28 at 4:20 p.m. The gestation period for Giraffes is 15 months, so this birth has been long anticipated by Zoo staff. Many Zoo visitors were lucky enough to watch the entire labor and birth.



Photo credits: Craig Pelke

"The idea of a six-foot drop sounds scary to people, but it's normal for a Giraffe," explains executive director Greg Bockheim. "It helps stimulate breathing to get the baby on its own - and since baby Giraffe can be 6-feet tall and 150 pounds, the fall doesn't seem so far to them." Zoo staff and board members are ecstatic about this new baby, he added. Mom and baby can be viewed by Zoo visitors now.

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