The Virginia Zoo welcomed a 141-pound, six-foot-tall female Masai Giraffe calf on May 20, 2019. This is the sixth calf to be born to mom Imara and seventh for dad Billy.
Photo Credit: Virginia Zoo
The calf was standing within two hours of birth and has been observed by Animal Care Staff nursing from Imara. The experienced mom is taking great care of the newborn, and the two have been spending time together indoors, with optional access to an outdoor yard. It’s important for mom and baby to bond during the calf's first few weeks of life.
Billy and the Zoo’s other adult female, Noelle, are very interested in the new arrival.
As of press time, the calf does not yet have a name. The naming rights were auctioned off for $5,000 at the Virginia Zoo’s annual fundraiser on June 1. Watch the Virginia Zoo’s social media feeds for an announcement of the name next week.
Masai Giraffe are the largest subspecies of Giraffe and the tallest land mammals 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 begin to eat leaves at the age of four months but continue to nurse until they are six to nine months old.
Giraffes are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Their population has fallen by about 40% across Africa and the species is no longer found in many parts of its historic range.
The Virginia Zoo kicked off Spring with two new babies! A Bongo calf and a Porcupette were born recently, and both will soon be seen on exhibit.
A Crested Porcupine baby, or 'porcupette', was born to parents, Wilma and Flapjack, on March 26. This is the second offspring for the parents. Keepers have been calling the new little female, Stompers. She weighed just over a pound at birth and is already starting to nibble on solid foods. Mom and baby are expected to be off exhibit in the ZooFarm for another week or so while they bond and the exhibit is “baby-proofed”. Crested Porcupines are native to various regions in Africa. The species can grow up to 25 to 32 inches long and weigh from 25 – 32 pounds.
Photo Credits: Virginia Zoo
A handsome male Eastern Bongo calf was born to mom, Betty, on April 5. He weighed 48.5 pounds at birth and is the seventh offspring for mom, Betty, and fifth for father, Bob. The new calf, which keepers named Boomer, brings the herd total to eight. Betty and new baby are out on exhibit with the rest of the herd and can be seen in their exhibit in the Africa – Okavango Delta at various times throughout the day, depending on weather conditions and their activity levels.
Bongo are large-bodied, relatively short-legged antelope with long spiraling horns that make one complete twist from base to tip. Bongos inhabit lowland forest of Kenya.
The Virginia Zoo welcomed a male Masai Giraffe calf on October 13, 2018. This is the first baby for mom Noelle, who is five years old, and the sixth calf for dad Billy.
Noelle gave birth during the early morning hours in her indoor enclosure. Zoo keepers had been monitoring Noelle throughout her pregnancy, and in preparation for the calf’s impending birth, extra bedding was added to her stall to soften the calf’s delivery (Giraffes give birth standing up).
Photo Credit: Virginia Zoo
Within an hour or two of birth, most Giraffe calves can stand, walk, and nurse on their own. However, this calf got an unusually slow start, which caused concern among the staff. Though the calf did finally stand and walk a few hours after birth, he was not observed to nurse in the first 24 hours after his arrival. After Veterinary and Animal Care Staff assessed the situation and consulted with Giraffe experts at other zoos, they decided to temporarily separate mom and baby and begin supportive care, which included a regimen of antibiotics and intravenous fluids.
The calf’s neck was shaved to accommodate his medical procedures. At birth, the calf weighed 123 pounds, and stands just under 6 feet tall. He has not yet been named.
Zoo staff have monitored the calf around the clock since his birth and continue to provide supportive care and supplemental feedings. They report that the calf appears to be gaining strength. He spends time with his mother each day so the two can bond and to encourage nursing.
“We’re hopeful that the calf will continue to respond to treatment,” said Greg Bockheim, Executive Director of the Virginia Zoo. “I’m confident our staff is providing the best care for the newborn and we’ll just have to be patient with the process.”
Masai Giraffes are one of four species and five subspecies of Giraffe found in Africa. Male Giraffes can grow up to 18 feet tall and weigh between 1,800 and 4,300 pounds. Females are between 13 and 15 feet tall and weigh between 1,200 and 2,600 pounds. Giraffes are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The Virginia Zoo welcomed two male Red Panda cubs in June. Born to two-year-old mom Masu and three-year-old dad Timur, the cubs were born at the Zoo’s Animal Wellness Campus. Red Panda cubs weigh approximately five ounces at birth, but each cub now weighs just over one pound.
Photo Credit: Virginia Zoo
Red Panda cubs are particularly vulnerable during their first month of life, and zoo staff members intervene with the cubs as little as possible.
“We wanted to give Masu the best chance possible to successfully birth and raise healthy cubs,” said Dr. Colleen Clabbers, the Zoo’s Veterinarian. “We decided to move Masu to the Wellness Campus while she was still pregnant to give her the privacy and space she needed with as few disturbances and distractions as possible,” Dr. Clabbers added. Red Panda experts have found this species has better success when the mothers are able to give birth and provide the initial few months of care of their cubs off exhibit.
First-time mom Masu gave birth in an indoor, climate-controlled den where she has been nursing and bonding with her cubs in a quiet environment. The den is off view to the public and is monitored by staff. As Masu gets more comfortable allowing people to be near her cubs and the boys can safely navigate the trees and other exhibit features, the three will make their way to the original Red Panda exhibit off the main pathway.
The cubs have not yet been named.
“This is a significant birth for the species as there are less than 10,000 Red Pandas left in the wild,” said Greg Bockheim, Executive Director of the Virginia Zoo. “There has been a sharp decline in their population due to a loss of nesting trees and food resources in their native region, they are also hunted for their pelts. We are excited for the terrific care Masu has been providing for her cubs and look forward to having them on exhibit later this year,” Bockheim added.
Red Pandas are tree-dwelling mammals native to the eastern Himalayas and southwestern China. Slightly larger than a domestic Cat and with markings similar to Raccoons, Red Pandas have soft, dense reddish-brown and white fur. They feed mainly on bamboo, but also various plant shoots, leaves, fruit, and insects. Red Pandas are shy and solitary except when mating.
Red Pandas are listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.
The Virginia Zoo is celebrating their first Bornean Orangutan birth!
Mom, Dara, gave birth to her baby just before midnight on June 22, behind the scenes in her indoor den. This is the first offspring for both 18-year-old Dara and her 15-year-old mate, Solaris.
“We couldn’t be more excited about the news of our new orangutan baby,” said Greg Bockheim, the Executive Director of the Virginia Zoo. “I’m proud of our Zoo Keepers and Vet Team who have been prepping, training and waiting for this moment for months, and now their hard work has paid off. It’s a big success to contribute this significant birth to the Zoo community and the critically endangered species as a whole,” Bockheim added.
Photo Credits: Virginia Zoo
Since Dara had her baby in her den, staff has decided to keep them indoors to let mom and baby bond without interruption.
The exact weight and sex of the baby have not yet been determined. Staff will not intervene or separate the baby from Dara unless an issue arises where the baby needs assistance and veterinary attention.
“Dara is doing a great job caring for her newborn,” said Dr. Colleen Clabbers, the Zoo’s Veterinarian. “The pair spend their time nursing, resting and snuggling in their den,” Clabbers added.
An Orangutan infant is completely dependent on the mother until at least two years old, typically nursing for several more years beyond that age. Offspring tend to stay close to their mothers for up to 10 years or more.
With the newborn, the Zoo now has five Orangutans: Dara and her baby, Solaris, 38-year-old female Pepper and 36-year-old male Schnitz.
Tune into the Zoo’s social media accounts for updates and information regarding its name in the coming weeks.
The species originates in tropical and swamp forests in Asia, specifically on the Southeast Asian islands of Borneo and the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The origin of the word “Orangutan” is from Malay and Indonesian words, meaning “Person of the Forest.” These arboreal primates are relatively large and stand between 3 and 4.5 feet tall, and can weigh up to 220 pounds. They are widely known for their vibrant, orange-colored hair. Both Bornean and Sumatran Orangutans are classified by the IUCN as “Critically Endangered”.
Virginia Zoo Keepers are delighted to share news of the birth of a baby Bongo. The male calf was born to mom, Betty, on March 23 and weighed-in at 50 pounds. This is the sixth offspring for Betty and the second for father, Bob.
The calf joins a herd that consists of his parents, two other adult females and Joy, the female calf who was born on December 25, 2017.
The Virginia Zoo invited the public to help select a name for the calf, and the winning name was recently announced---Baxter. Baxter and mom, Betty, can now be seen with the rest of their herd on exhibit in the Okavango Delta section of the Zoo.
The Bongo (Tragelaphus eurycerus) is herbivorous and mostly nocturnal. They are a large-bodied, relatively short-legged antelope species with long spiraling horns that make one complete twist from base to tip. They have a rich chestnut coat that is striped with thin white vertical lines along the sides. The face and legs have patches of black and white, with white chevrons on the breast and below the eyes.
In general, the species inhabits lowland forests of Africa. The subspecies in Kenya lives in montane forests at (6,560-9,840 feet) altitude.
Herds are comprised of females and calves, while males are typically more solitary. Females give birth to one calf per year and the gestation period is nine months. Weaning of the calf occurs at about six months.
The Bongo is currently classified as “Near Threatened” by the IUCN. In the last few decades, a rapid decline in numbers has occurred due to poaching and human pressure on their habitat.
The holiday season brought the bountiful gift of Bongos for two U.S. facilities. The Audubon Nature Institute and the Virginia Zoo both ended 2017 with the significant births of two female calves.
The groundbreaking conservation partnership between Audubon Nature Institute and San Diego Zoo Global recently welcomed the birth of a baby Eastern Bongo, a critically endangered species of antelope battling for survival in the jungles and forests of Africa.
Just months after its first animals arrived at Audubon’s West Bank campus in Lower Coast Algiers, staffers at the Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center welcomed the female Bongo calf on the morning of December 11.
Photo Credits: Audubon Nature Institute (Images 1-3; Video) / Virginia Zoo (Images 4-6)
The Bongo is the largest forest-dwelling antelope species and one of the most distinctive, sporting a glossy chestnut or orange colored coat, large ears, eye-catching vertical white stripes and long horns that spiral as high as three feet.
The Audubon Nature Institute/San Diego Zoo Global collaboration – known as the Alliance for Sustainable Wildlife – is akin to a modern-day ark designed to preserve species that are vulnerable in the wild and to sustain populations in human care.
There are only about 100 Bongos remaining in the wild, and their numbers continue to dwindle due to habitat loss from illegal logging, hunting and transmission of disease from grazing cattle.
“Zoos may be the last hope for the Eastern Bongo,’’ said Michelle Hatwood, curator of Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center.
“Bongo conservation in the wild is ongoing, but the effort continues to meet many challenges. Audubon Nature Center has joined zoos around the world to make sure this beautiful animal continues to exist.’’
Their Bongo newborn was conceived at Audubon Species Survival Center shortly after its parents arrived in mid-April from San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
Both parents were born in zoos and are part of the Species Survival Plan administered by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). That plan reviews the animals throughout its accredited facilities and makes recommendations about which should be moved where, given their genetics and personalities and the needs of potential mates at other zoos.
The soon-to-be-named calf weighed in at a healthy 46 pounds, Hatwood said. Both mother, known only as “3,’’ and father, Kibo, are five-years-old and experienced parents.
Hatwood continued, “The mother is displaying all the right behaviors to successfully raise her calf, including making sure curious herd mates behave around the little one.’’
Audubon officials expect their Bongo collection, which now comprises six females and one male, to continue to grow inside the new, four-acre enclosure.
“This is a water-loving, forest antelope,’’ Hatwood said. “And Louisiana has the perfect habitat for this beautiful species to thrive.’’
Once the new calf reaches the age when it would disperse from the herd naturally, Hatwood said the Species Survival Plan would determine the next move.
The Bongo may remain at the Species Survival Center, or it could be sent to another zoo - a decision that will consider both the animal’s needs and the genetic health of the AZA’s zoo population.
“Bongo are one of the first species of antelope I’ve ever gotten the privilege to work with,’’ said Hatwood. “They are secretive, curious and they have a special place in my heart. I hope they continue to flourish in AZA zoos so future generations can fall in love with them too.’’
The Virginia Zoo’s new African Lion cub needs a name, and the Zoo is asking for your help! By submitting and voting on potential names, you’ll also be helping to save Lions in their native Africa.
The naming contest began Monday, December 11 at 9 am and will conclude on Friday, December 22 at Noon. Participants can submit a name to the contest by paying $1. Each subsequent vote for a name is $1. The name with the most votes wins and will be announced on Christmas morning.
The Virginia Zoo will donate 100-percent of the naming contest proceeds to the Pride Lion Conservation Alliance (pridelionalliance.org), which leads efforts in four key Lion ranges, researching and protecting 20-percent of Africa’s existing wild Lion population.
“Now is your chance to name the cub and help to secure a future for all Lions!” said Greg Bockheim, Executive Director of the Virginia Zoo.
The male cub was born on October 28 to experienced mom, Zola, and dad, Mramba. The cub weighed just three pounds-five ounces at birth and was an immediate joy to all his keepers.
The cub now weighs approximately 12 pounds. According to keepers, he climbs in and out of his nest box, chases mom’s tail, and has been exploring his enclosure.
“The birth of any animal is always exciting,” said Greg Bockheim, Executive Director of the Virginia Zoo. “The birth of this Lion cub specifically is a significant contribution to its genetic population and also provides a fun educational opportunity to our community.”
Thirteen-year-old Zola gave birth in her indoor den in the Zoo’s Africa-Okavango Delta exhibit. According to keepers, she immediately displayed natural instincts of nursing and grooming the cub. Routine physical exams will be performed as the cub grows, and he will receive vaccinations to strengthen his immune system before going out on exhibit.
If you’ve ever wanted to name a tiger cub, now is your chance! The Virginia Zoo will be auctioning off the naming rights for both male Malayan Tigers born in January.
The online auction began April 14, 2016 and will conclude at the Zoo’s upcoming fundraiser, “Zoo To Do”, on May 14, 2016.
If you are unable to visit the Virginia Zoo’s fundraiser, online bids can be placed at the following link: http://bit.ly/263LhpS . Bidding starts at $100. The proceeds raised from the event and auction will go to the “Defining Moments” capital campaign which funds the Zoo’s newest expansion, World of Reptiles.
Photo Credits: Virginia Zoo
The two Malayan Tiger cubs were born at the Virginia Zoo on January 6. The males arrived, about 12 hours apart, to parents Api and Christopher.
The cubs were born after the typical 103 days gestation to a healthy mother. However, with several hours of close observation, the Zoo’s animal care and veterinary staff were not comfortable with the level of care that first-time mom Api was giving.
After much internal discussion and consulting with the National Species Survival Plan Chair for Malayan Tigers, the decision was made to remove the cubs from the mother and hand-rear them.
The cubs are getting bigger by the day. Recently, they had their 12-week vaccines and each boy weighed-in at 25 pounds.
The boys have their deciduous set (baby set) of incisors and canine teeth. They are also still teething and enjoy chewing on their toys. At around 6 months of age, their baby teeth will fall out and adult/permanent teeth will come in.
There is more news to report from the Virginia Zoo. A Yellow-backed Duiker was born there last week! The female calf was welcomed by mother, Dot, and father, Dash, and weighed 11.4 pounds at birth.
Dot arrived at the Virginia Zoo in early 2013 (via the Houston Zoo) and recently turned 5 years old. Dash is her younger-man at 2 years old, and he came from the Metro Richmond Zoo in 2014.
So far, Zoo staff have observed Dot nursing, cleaning and caring for her baby… all evidence she’s doing a great job. The family is currently being kept indoors, which gives them time to establish the needed familial bonds; and it allows the baby to stay warm in these cold winter days.
Photos and Videos Courtesy: The Virginia Zoo
The Yellow-backed Duiker (Cephalophus silvicultor) is a forest dwelling antelope found mainly in Central and Western Africa.
At maturity, they weigh a max of about 60-80 kg (132-176 lbs.). They feed selectively on plants, but their main diet is fruits.
Yellow-backed Duikers are the largest of all the duikers (primitive antelope which diverged early in bovid history). Both males and females have short cylindrical horns, which are ribbed at the base, and reddish-brown hair sits between the horns.
The species is listed as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, with a total population estimated at more than 150,000. According to the IUCN: “In much of its range, especially outside protected areas, it has been reduced to low numbers or eliminated by forest destruction, and encroachment of human settlements, coupled with uncontrolled hunting for bushmeat. The species was formerly subject to strict taboos that once protected it in some parts of its range, and it is still considered a non-preferred game species in some areas; however, many of these taboos have broken down.”