The Cincinnati Zoo is celebrating a baby bonanza – dozens of babies have been born at the zoo in the past few months. In fact, there are so many babies that the zoo is celebrating “Zoo Babies” month in May.
Photo Credit: Cassandre Crawford, Jeff McCurry, Cincinnati Zoo
All the little ones have kept their parents – and zoo keepers – busy. The three female African Lion cubs are particularly feisty, testing their “grrrl” power on a daily basis with their father John and mother Imani.
Other babies include three Bonobos, two Gorillas, a Bongo, a Serval, two Capybaras, a Rough Green Snake, Giant Spiny Leaf Insects, Thorny Devils, Little Penguin chicks and Kea chicks. “This is the largest and most varied group of babies we’ve had. We’re particularly excited about the successes we’ve had with the endangered African Painted Dogs and the hard-to-breed Kea,” said Thane Maynard, Cincinnati Zoo Executive Director.
See more photos of Cincinnati's Zoo's babies below.
The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden holds the largest collection of Kea (Nestor notabilis) in North America. The facility is home to 19 of the 45 total birds in Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) accredited institutions. Locally, nationally, and internationally, Cincinnati Zoo staff has worked to improve captive Kea husbandry standards and reproductive success. They also aim to increase public awareness of Kea reproduction research.
Photo Credits: Cincinnati Zoo/ Cassandre Crawford
The Cincinnati Zoo’s determination and hard work was rewarded, recently, when it was announced that the facility had received the Plume Award for Noteworthy Achievement in Avian Husbandry, from the Avian Scientific Advisory Group.
The award recognizes excellence in a single facet of husbandry, such as: first-time breeding, reintroduction programs, breeding consortiums, reproduction of a difficult species or taking a leading role in population sustainability. Robert Webster, the Zoo’s Curator of Birds, and the Cincinnati Zoo Bird Department (Kimberly Klosterman, Jennifer Gainer, Cody Sowers, Dan Burns, Aimee Owen, Rickey Kinley, Steve Malowski and Jackie Bray) have worked tirelessly to achieve breeding success with a species known to have reproductive challenges. The Cincinnati Zoo’s Kea program consists of a breeding flock, an interactive exhibit and a partnership with Kea Conservation Trust in New Zealand.
The bird staff credits flocking and free mate choice as key contributors to the success of its breeding program, as well as assistance from many other Zoo departments and devoted volunteers. “Best of all, we are able to share the insights we are learning with captive Kea-holders throughout the world and with the conservationists whose work we support in the birds’ native New Zealand,” said Webster.
During the last three years, the Cincinnati Zoo has successfully hatched 13 chicks, more than any other zoo in North America. 2014 was especially bountiful, with the fledging of six chicks. During the summer, the Kea flock shares the exhibit with several other avian species, including Nicobar Pigeons, Pied Imperial Pigeons, Magpie Geese, and Cape Barren Geese. Most recently the Aviculture department formed a partnership with the Zoo’s Lindner Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) to start a foundation in Kea reproduction research.
“I couldn’t be more excited about Cincinnati Zoo’s success with breeding Kea this year! This flock includes a number of genetically important birds and the population has been struggling with breeding in recent years, so these chicks represent a great move in the right direction. Cincinnati’s unique way of housing and managing Kea in a large flock has proven to be a great combination of guest experience and breeding opportunity for this species,” said Jessica Meehan, AZA Kea SSP Coordinator.
“The international community has great interest in Kea because of their unique ecology, amazing intelligence, and charismatic personalities. There is no other avian species on Earth quite like them,” said Webster. “The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden recognizes that Kea are a wildlife gem and that their loss would be tragic. We have attempted to do everything in our power to ensure that Kea are around for future generations.”
The Cincinnati Zoo is home to five species of penguins, and their colony of Blue Penguins recently increased their census with the hatching of their newest chicks!
Photo Credits: Cassandre Crawford/ Cincinnati Zoo
The Blue Penguin (also known as: Little Blue Penguin, Fairy Penguin, or Little Penguin) is the smallest species of penguin. It is native to the coastlines of southern Australia and New Zealand. They grow to an average of about 13 inches (33 cm) in height and 17 inches (43 cm) in length. Their name alludes to their slate-blue plumage.
Blue Penguins are diurnal and spend the biggest part of their day swimming and foraging for food at sea. During breeding and chick rearing seasons, they leave their nests at sunrise, forage for food throughout the day and return to nest just after dusk. Blue Penguins rub tiny drops of oil, from a gland above their tail, onto every feather. This task of preening with oil helps keep their feathers waterproof while swimming.
Blue Penguins mature at different ages. A female will mature at around two-years, and a male will, however, reach maturity at about three-years-old. They remain faithful to their partner during breeding season and hatching. They will swap burrows at other times of the year, but they also exhibit site fidelity to their own nesting colony.
Nests are situated close to the sea in burrows excavated by the birds or other species. They will also nest in caves, rock crevices, under logs or in a variety of man-made structures (nest boxes, pipes, stacks of wood, buildings). They are the only species of penguin capable of producing more than one clutch of eggs per breeding season. The one or two, white or mottled brown, eggs are generally laid from July to mid-November. Incubation can take up to 36 days, and the chicks are brooded for 18-38 days. They fledge after 7-8 weeks.
The Blue Penguin is classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List. However, their populations are threatened by a variety of terrestrial creatures, such as: cats, dogs, rats, foxes, and large reptiles. Due to their diminutive size, some colonies have been reduced in size by as much as 98% in just a few years. A small colony near Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia was reduced from approximately 600 penguins in 2001 to less than 10 in 2005. Because of this threat, conservationists pioneered an experimental technique using Maremma Sheepdogs to protect the colony and fend of potential predators.
The Cincinnati Zoo’s newest resident is a two month old male Serval kitten! ‘Zeke’ was born at the Gladys Porter Zoo, in Brownsville, Texas.
Photo Credits: Cassandre Crawford
The feisty boy is currently in quarantine, at the Zoo’s nursery, to ensure he is healthy before introduction to the other animals. He will remain in nursery, for the remainder of the spring. During this time, staff will also have the opportunity to work hands-on with him and prepare him for future participation in the Zoo’s Cat Ambassador Program.
Cincinnati Zoo’s Cat Ambassador Program is a unique experience that allows visitors, by special arrangement, to see some of the beautiful cats, up-close and without bars. Not only are guests allowed to witness the cat’s athletic abilities, they are provided an opportunity to learn more about their importance to the world and the challenges they face as a species. Zeke will, eventually, become a member of the Cheetah Encounter Show, which features cats with exciting running and jumping prowess.
The Serval is a medium-sized African wild cat. They have the longest legs of any cat, relative to body size. Most of the increase in length is due to the greatly elongated metatarsal bones in the feet. The toes are also elongated, and unusually mobile, helping the animal to capture partially concealed prey. The Serval also possesses an acute sense of hearing, which is attributed to their large ears and auditory bullae in the skull.
In the wilds of Africa, they prefer to inhabit the savanna. They do, on occasion inhabit mountainous areas, but tend to avoid equatorial jungles. They are able to climb and swim, but have no partiality to either.
The Serval is mainly nocturnal, and they generally stick to hunting of smaller prey. Because of their legs, they are record jumpers and are also able to run at speeds of, up to, 50mph /80 km/h. They are also known to be highly intelligent and lovers of mischief.
The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s three lion cubs, born November 13 to three-year-old mother Imani and four-year-old father John, got their first health checkup last week. The zoo’s veterinary staff and animal care team weighed the feisty felines, administered vaccines, and determined that all cubs are female!
Photo Credit: Cinncinnati Zoo Now that genders are known, the zoo is inviting fans to suggest names on the zoo’s Facebook and Twitter accounts using the tag #CZBGLionCubs.
“The three cubs behaved just as you would expect during their first wellness physical. Being handled by strange two-legged creatures who poked and examined them, all the while being separated from the safety and security of mom, the cubs hissed and tried to get away,” said Josh Charlton, Curator of Mammals.
According to vet staff, the cubs are healthy and right on track with each weighing about 20 pounds. The next big step will be to introduce John to Imani and the cubs. “The introduction process has already begun. John and the cubs have had positive interactions during several nose-to-nose ‘howdy mesh’ sessions in the past two weeks. We’ll continue to monitor their behavior and will put the pride together when the time is right,” said Charlton.
“African Lions in the wild are disappearing at an alarming rate. These cubs will be great ambassadors for their species and inspire people to act for wildlife,” said Thane Maynard, Executive Director of the Cincinnati Zoo. “We look forward to seeing the whole Lion family out in the Africa exhibit together this spring.”
Imani was born at the Saint Louis Zoo and came to the Cincinnati Zoo as the result of a breeding recommendation from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) Lion Species Survival Program (SSP). She was introduced to John earlier this year, and this is the first litter for both of them.
Lions are considered vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as the result of climate change, hunting, and habitat loss. Following a review of the best available scientific information, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently proposed listing the African Lion as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The agency’s analysis found that Lions are in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future.
“Kamina” (Kuh-me-nuh), born August 16th at the Oklahoma City Zoo, was abandoned by her mother, “Ndjole”, immediately after her birth. Keepers at Cincinnati Zoo were previously successful in raising another Gorilla baby, “Gladys”, via surrogate human moms, and were eager to assist Kamina and provide the care she needed.
Ron Evans, head of primates, and Head Nursery Keeper, Dawn Strasser went to Oklahoma City to spend time with Kamina and her caregivers before bringing the baby back to Cincinnati. Kamina came to Cincinnati on a private jet, held by Evans and Strasser.
Non-stop holding is a vital part of the human surrogacy program. The bond between a mother Gorilla and her baby is intensely close, so infant Gorillas need to be held and loved. It needs to be part of their growth process even if their mother cannot provide it. The human surrogates wear a felt vest covering when holding Kamina to their chest. It resembles the chest of a Gorilla mother.
There is no known reason why mother Gorillas reject their babies. Ndjole had successfully connected with her first child. One theory is that it may have been a difficult birth that put Ndjole off to motherhood this time around.
Today, Kamina's outlook is positive. She will be raised by a team of 10-15 people at the Cincinnati Zoo who are responsible for her 24 hours a day, seven days a week. These people will also wear knee pads and mimic gorilla behavior. This will take place for the next three months, at least. During this time, Kamina will be shown to the other gorillas at the zoo. They will be able to observe each other, but for the time being, they will not be able to touch.
The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s Center for Conservation & Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) and the Buffalo Zoo are excited to announce the birth of a female Indian Rhino calf produced by artificial insemination (AI), and born on June 5. This is the first offspring for a male Rhino who never contributed to the genetics of the Indian Rhino population during his lifetime – a major victory for endangered species around the world and a lifetime of work in the making.
Photo Credit: Kelly Brown of the Buffalo Zoo
The father, “Jimmy,” died at the Cincinnati Zoo in 2004 and was dead for a decade before becoming a father for the very first time. During those ten years, Jimmy’s sperm was stored at -320°F in CREW’s CryoBioBank™ (the white tank shown in these photos) in Cincinnati, before it was taken to Buffalo, thawed and used in the AI.
“We are excited to share the news of Tashi's calf with the world as it demonstrates how collaboration and teamwork among the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) organizations are making fundamental contributions to Rhino conservation,” said Dr. Monica Stoops, Reproductive Physiologist at the Cincinnati Zoo’s CREW. “It is deeply heartening to know that the Cincinnati Zoo's beloved male Indian Rhino Jimmy will live on through this calf and we are proud that CREW's CryoBioBank™ continues to contribute to this endangered species’ survival.”
Tashi, the Buffalo Zoo’s 17-year-old female has previously conceived and successfully given birth through natural breeding in both 2004 and 2008. Unfortunately, her mate passed away and the Buffalo Zoo’s new male Indian Rhino has not yet reached sexual maturity. Because long intervals between pregnancies in female Rhinos can result in long-term infertility, keepers at the Buffalo Zoo knew it was critical to get Tashi pregnant again and reached out to Dr. Stoops for her expertise.
In February of 2013, Dr. Stoops worked closely with Buffalo Zoo's Rhino keeper Joe Hauser and veterinarian Dr. Kurt Volle to perform a standing sedation AI procedure on Tashi. Scientifically speaking, by producing offspring from non or under-represented individuals, CREW is helping to ensure a genetically healthy captive population of Indian Rhinos exists in the future. This is a science that could be necessary for thousands of species across the globe as habitat loss, poaching, and population fragmentation (among other reasons) threaten many with extinction.
Read more about the Rhino calf's amazing story below.
A Bactrian Camel born on February 25 is already winning fans at the Cincinnati Zoo. Keepers announced the male baby’s name, Jack, one week and one day later – on Hump Day, of course.
Photo Credit: Cincinnati Zoo
Zoo keepers filmed Jack’s first steps, which were taken just an hour after he was born. Because the weather was so cold during his first week, Jack wore a coat to help him stay warm! Luckily, the cold spell did not last and the zoo captured photos of Jack and his mother, Sarrai.
Bactrian camels are native to the steppes of Central Asia. They have two humps, in comparison to the one-humped Dromedary Camel native to the Middle East and northern Africa. They were domesticated thousands of years ago and transported humans vast distances in ancient times. Able to survive up to 10 months without drinking water, Bactrian camels are listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Fewer than 1,000 Bactrian Camels survive in the wild; interbreeding with domestic populations is diminishing the genetic integrity of the species.
Do you remember Santos, Cincinnati Zoo's little Ocelot kitten? Since we last saw him in November, he has grown up from a tiny ball of fuzz into a healthy and playful young hunter. Here he is having a great time with his canine playmate, Blakely.
What do a two-year-old Beagle named Elvis and pregnant Polar Bears have in common? Scientists at the Cincinnati Zoo’s Center for Conservation & Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) have brought them together to detect pregnancy in Polar Bears living in zoos.
Photo Credit: Cincinnati Zoo
Traditional pregnancy detection methods like hormone monitoring and ultrasounds don’t work well in Polar Bears. With climate change threatening wild Polar Bear populations, CREW’s staff is getting creative to help save this important species, and they’ve found a possible helper in Elvis the Beagle.
Working with professional dog trainer Matt Skogen, CREW is trying to determine if the sensitive noses of canines like Elvis can distinguish a pregnant Polar Bear from a non-pregnant Bear simply by smelling fecal samples.
“This is the first time sniffer dogs have been used in biomedical research as it relates to any wildlife species, making this project truly one-of-a-kind,” said CREW’s Dr. Erin Curry. Currently, Elvis is demonstrating 97% accuracyin positive identification of samples from pregnant females – which is not only incredible but nearly as accurate as over-the-counter human pregnancy tests.
Since January, Matt has used more than 200 training samples collected from Polar Bears of known pregnancy status to help Elvis refine his detection technique.
Last month, Elvis’s skills were put to the test. He tested samples from 17 female Polar Bears whose pregnancy status is unknown. The zoos are eager to know if these females are pregnant so they can monitor these Polar Bears and make preparations. Pregnant Bears could be isolated with minimal disruption while being closely monitored by camera 24/7 in anticipation of a birth, whereas non-pregnant females would remain swimming and socializing all winter with their exhibitmates.
Read more about Elvis and Polar Bears below the fold.