Audubon Zoo

What's In a Name? Ask These Babirusa Piglets

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Ginger and Ivy, two rare Babirusa piglets born at the Audubon Zoo, recently made their public debut. The piglets are the third litter born at Audubon Zoo to mom Betty and dad Wrigley.

Born October 14, the piglets’ names have significance:  Ivy gets her name from the foliage which adorns the walls of the Chicago Cubs’ Wrigley Field. The theme started with dad Wrigley and continued with the two of the newborns' siblings - Clark and Addison - who are named after two streets that intersect outside the ballpark.

The choice of Ginger is simpler: It's a favorite browse treat of Audubon Zoo's Babirusa family.

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Babirusapiglets5098Photo Credit:  Audubon Zoo



Audubon Zoo, which has produced eight Babirusa piglets since 2005, is one of the few facilities in the United States that exhibit this species.  The zoo participates in the Babirusa Species Survival Plan in partnership with other Association of Zoos and Aquariums members.

Babirusa are found primarily on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi north of Borneo. Even though Babirusa are a protected species, they are threatened in the wild due to illegal hunting and habitat loss.

Babirusa are omnivores and will eat fruits, nuts, leaves, small invertebrates, birds, and even turtles in the wild. Males typically have two sets of tusks, one on the lower jaw and one that grows from the top jaw through the top of the snout towards the head. Babirusa means "pig deer'' in the native Malay language. One theory posits that the Sulawesi people gave the Babirusa this moniker because its large canines are similar in appearance to deer antlers.

Like most pigs, Babirusa enjoy wallowing in mud, which helps protect their skin from insect bites and the tropical sun. Babirusa are excellent swimmers and very intelligent, social animals who enjoy interaction with animal care staff, particularly when training.

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PUPDATE: First Medical Exam for Litter of 10 Painted Dogs

Painteddogphysical3771Audubon Zoo's 10 newborn African Painted Dogs had their first doctor's visit last week and passed with flying colors.

Examining 10 pups is a big job, but veterinary staff and zoo keepers conducted the exam in just one hour, moving quickly to return the pups to their parents.

The exam, conducted inside the pups’ habitat, revealed for the first time the gender breakdown of the litter: five females and five males.

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Painteddogphysical3965Photo Credit:  Audubon Zoo

The pups received vaccinations along with eye, ear, and heart exams. They were weighed and photographed from multiple angles to assist animal care staff with visual identification.  The vets also inserted transponder microchips under the skin of the neck between the shoulders of each pup - identical to the procedure used for domestic pets.

The chips can be scanned whenever the animal is in hand to determine its identity. This will be especially important when a Dog moves on to another zoo to join or develop packs as they would in the wild.

Born on September 11, the pups’ birth is a first for the Audubon Zoo and a significant development for the highly endangered species.

ZooBorns first reported on the pups when they were released into their habitat after spending the first weeks of their lives in the den with their mother.

The pups will get two more sets of vaccinations over the next two months. Now that the sex of each Dog has been determined, zoo staff will name them in the near future.

The newborns are the offspring of first-time parents Sienna, 4, and Pax, 9. Only a handful of accredited members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) has bred Painted Dogs, one of the most endangered carnivores on the African continent.

See more photos of the pups below.

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Pack of Pups Takes it Outside

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It didn’t take long for a litter of ten African Painted Dog pups at the Audubon Zoo to figure out how to enjoy the great outdoors on their first foray outside their den. 

The family remained behind the scenes at the zoo for about six weeks after the pups’ birth on September 11.  But last week, the pups entered their outdoor habitat for the very first time.  They were hesitant at first, but after lots of sniffing and encouragement from their parents, the pups began to do what pups do – play! 

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Photo Credit:  Audubon Zoo



The pups are the first litter for parents Sienna, age 4, and Pax, age 9.  Because African Painted Dogs are endangered and are bred in only a few zoos, this birth is highly significant for the species.  Pax is one of the most genetically valuable members of the African Painted Dog population under human care.

Also known as African Wild Dogs, the animals can be found on the open plains and sparse woodlands of sub-Saharan Africa. Due to the threats posed by habitat loss, poaching, snares, and poisoning, the Painted Dog population is at an all-time low of about 5,000 individuals in the wild.

There are approximately 112 African Painted Dogs in 37 North American zoos, and the pup survival rate is about 52 percent, so the survival of all ten of Sienna’s cubs is unusual.

Audubon Zoo and other accredited Association of Zoos & Aquariums member institutions work together to manage Species Survival Plan programs for African Painted Dogs and other endangered species to maintain a healthy, genetically diverse, and demographically stable population. Audubon Nature Institute has raised funds to help renowned British wildlife biologist Greg Rasmussen, the founder and director of the Painted Dog Conservation Project, who has studied the species for more than two decades.

See more photos of the pups below.

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Penguin Chick's Name May Stick Like Glue

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A Black-footed Penguin chick hatched at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas was named for the glue used to repair its shell, which cracked during incubation.

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Photo Credit:  Audubon Aquarium of the Americas
 

Elmer, as keepers are temporarily calling the chick, hatched on August 31 and was reared by zoo keepers behind the scenes – a routine practice that allows the Penguins to become accustomed to daily hand feedings. 

Elmer’s name may not stick, though, because keepers don’t know yet if the chick is male or female.  They’ll determine its gender in a few months. 

Though less than months old, Elmer has grown rapidly, as all Penguins do.  Elmer’s downy feathers will soon begin to fall out in a process called molting, and they’ll be replaced by the sleek gray feathers of a juvenile Black-footed Penguin.  Until those feathers come in and Elmer is able to swim, the young Penguin is segregated from the rest of the flock and most importantly, the exhibit pool. For now, Elmer can see the Penguin flock through a Plexiglas partition.

To maximize genetic diversity among zoo-dwelling birds, Black-footed Penguins are managed by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums Species Survival Plan.  Elmer is the second chick for parents Millicent and Puddles.  

Native to southern Africa, Black-footed Penguins are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.  Populations have decreased dramatically in the last decades as Penguins' prey has been reduced by overfishing, and oil spills have killed thousands of birds.

See more photos of Elmer below.

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True or False: Rare Gharials Hatch at Audubon Zoo

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It's true!  Two False Gharials hatched at the Audubon Zoo in September are the first ever to hatch there and the first to hatch in captivity in the United States since 2009.

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Fbb7f315-9b9e-4814-95e3-a3eb9fd32b13Photo Credit:  Audubon Zoo
False Gharials are freshwater crocodilians native to Southeast Asia.  They have long, very thin snouts and inhabit swamps and rivers in Malaysia, Borneo, and Sumatra.

The two hatchlings increase the population of False Gharials at the Audubon Zoo to four.  Only about 30 False Gharials live in American zoos.

Breeding False Gharials is difficult because they require jungle-like conditions in captivity.  Audubon Zoo had been trying for years to breed their pair of False Gharials, and finally achieved success. Melanie Litton, senior reptile keeper at Audubon, said the success may be due, in part, to putting the male Gharial on a diet. “Obesity can effect potency in all kinds of animals, including humans,” Litton said.

Of a clutch of about 20 eggs, two were successfully fertilized, she said. Audubon Zoo will keep one hatchling, while the other will go to the Houston Zoo.

They are only a few inches long now, but will grow up to 15 feet long in adulthood.

False Gharials are considered one of the most threatened of all crocodilians, and were alarmingly close to extinction in the 1970s. They are threatened by habitat loss due to human encroachment and disruption of populations through fishing and hunting.  In recent years, however, there have been signs of recovery in the wild population. 


Trio of Endangered Penguins at the Audubon Aquarium

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Three endangered African Blackfooted Penguins were born at the Audubon Aquarium in March. The chicks were born to parents Voodoo and Tag, Snake and Quatloo, and Endymion and Kenickie. They are growing quickly and have already joined the penguin colony exhibit.

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The chicks were initially fed a special hand-blended formula of fish, krill, half-and-half, an electrolyte solution, proteins and vitamins. This provided them with the nutrients they needed to grow healthy during their first few weeks. 

Penguin Number Three resting on Darwins finger

The chicks are a testament to the success of the Audubon Penguin Breeding Program. “With their numbers decreasing by as much as 90% in the past century, the hatching of multiple African penguin chicks is especially significant and makes me incredibly proud of the program’s accomplishments,” says Audubon Senior Aviculturist Darwin Long. Audubon Aquarium works to build genetically-diverse captive populations to ensure the survival of the species. They have raised 46 chicks since the Aquarium opened in 1990.

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Photo Credit Audubon Aquarium

See more photos below the fold.

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Rare Cats Born Through Amazing Science!

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Some adorable newborn kittens at Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species have no idea just how special they are.  Two African Black-Footed kittens, members of an endangered species rarely seen in captivity, are the first of their kind to be born from a frozen embryo via in-vitro fertilization. This ground-breaking birth is the latest advance in assisted reproduction for endangered species from Audubon Nature Institute in New Orleans.

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Photo credits: Audubon Institute

The youngsters, both males, were born to surrogate mother Bijou on February 13, 2011, but their story goes all the way back to 2003, when sperm was collected from a 6 year old male named Ramses in Omaha, Nebraska. Experts at the Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo Center for Conservation and Research – Reproductive Sciences Department froze the sperm and sent it to Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species.  It was combined with an egg from Zora, a Black-Footed Cat living at Audubon research center, creating embryos in March, 2005. Those embryos were frozen for almost six years before being thawed and transferred to Bijou on December 7, 2010. Sixty-nine days later, the two kittens became the first of their species to be born as a result of in-vitro fertilization utilizing frozen/thawed sperm and a frozen/thawed embryo.

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