Houston Zoo

Houston Zoo Cares for Valuable New Gem ‘Opal’

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Opal is one of four baby Nyala born at the Houston Zoo over the past two months, and keepers have formed a special attachment to the new calf. 

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4_Houston Nyala OpalPhoto Credits: Houston Zoo

The Zoo’s keeper team noticed, soon after she was born on August 25, that she wasn’t nursing very well from mom, Ruby. They quickly intervened and taught the calf to bottle-feed, but kept her living with her mother so the pair could continue to bond behind-the-scenes. Soon, however, the keepers saw Opal nursing from Ruby! Recently, the team ended all bottles for Opal, and she is continuing to successfully nurse from mom. Opal now eats solid food, as well, which includes grain, hay, and produce.

Opal and her mom will continue to stay in their barn for a few more weeks, but guests and Zoo members can see the other three new Nyala frolicking around the yard, every day, at the Houston Zoo’s West Hoofed Run. Additional baby Nyala include: Wallace (mom Willow), born July 29; Fancy (mom Lola), August 12; and Fern (mom Ivy), September 8.

The Nyala (Tragelaphus angasil), also called inyala, are mid-sized members of the antelope family. Native to southern Africa, the spiral-horned males can weigh up to 275 pounds, and females weigh up to 150 pounds. When born, Nyala generally weigh around 10 pounds.

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Little Giants Come Out Of Their Shells

Baby Malaysian Giant Pond Turtle-0005-6886Four rare Turtles have come out of their shells at the Houston Zoo!  These Malaysian Giant Pond Turtles are not often seen in zoos due to their large size and low rate of reproduction in captivity.

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Baby Malaysian Giant Pond Turtle-0004-6878Photo Credit:  Stephanie Adams/Houston Zoo

Getting out of a shell can be tough work but baby turtles have a special adaptation on their snout: an egg tooth. Also called a caruncle, the egg tooth is a temporary structure that is used to cut through the egg membrane and break through the shell.  Once there is a hole in the egg, the turtle can break out.

The zoo’s journey to this remarkable hatching began when they acquired a group of juvenile Malaysian Giant Pond Turtles in 2002.  The Turtles have reached maturity, and these hatchlings are the result.

At the Houston Zoo, this species inhabits the moat surrounding the Orangutan exhibit, but the Turtles are very secretive and not often seen.  They feed on fish, plants, and fruits.

Malaysian Giant Pond Turtles are found in rivers and lakes on the Malay Peninsula, Borneo, and Sumatra.  Adults can reach almost three feet in length and can weigh over 100 pounds. Listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Malaysian Giant Pond Turtles are heavily exploited for their meat, and populations are in decline throughout their native range.

See more photos of the Turtles below.

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Baby Capybara Munches on Mom's Salad

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The first Capybara in over 10 years has been born at Houston Zoo in Texas! The little male, named Mr. Pibb, was born to mom, Sunkist, and dad, Pop (not pictured). He is a very curious youngster and wasn't at all camera-shy. On December 10, he went outside for the first time with his mom. 

The baby was eating solid foods after only a few days, and even started 'borrowing' his mom's food to eat. He wanted to try everything in his mom's food bowl, and after eating it, he decided to get inside!

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Capy 1Photo credit: Houston Zoo

See more after the fold!

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First Okapi Birth at Houston Zoo


The Houston Zoo is proud to announce the birth of a baby Okapi. The yet-to-be-named male calf was born on November 6 and has been thriving under the care of his mother, Tulia. 



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The pair will continue to bond behind the scenes for the next several weeks.  This is the first successful birth of a baby Okapi at the zoo.

Okapis are also known as the “forest giraffe” and are native to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa. Since 2013, the species has been classified as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List, due to habitat destruction and poaching.

Zebra and giraffe live in herds, but Okapi usually live alone in the forest. Sometimes a mother will live with its one calf until the calf is grown. Like giraffes, Okapi have long tongues they use for plucking leaves, buds, and branches from trees to eat. Okapi are solitary creatures that hide in the dense forest where they live. They were not discovered until 1901. Okapi need thick rainforests to live, but their homes are being cut down. People are working to protect the rainforests to make sure Okapi have the food, water, and shelter they need to survive. 

More amazing pics below the fold!

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Clouded Leopard Cubs Show Mad Skills

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The Clouded Leopard cubs, born at Houston Zoo on June 6, are growing and developing their big cat skills. So far, the pair has mastered the art of being adorable!

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Clouded leopard_6Photo Credits: Houson Zoo/Stephanie Adams

The cubs are a result of the first pregnancy for two-year-old Suksn, who gave birth in a private den off-exhibit.  A few hours after their birth, in June, the cubs were moved to the veterinary clinic to begin receiving 24-hour care by the zoological team at Houston Zoo.

The birth is not only the first birth for Suksn, but also the first Clouded Leopard birth for the Houston Zoo.  This is also the first offspring for the cubs’ father, Tarak, also two years old.  Suksn and Tarak have been residents of the Houston Zoo since 2012.

Clouded Leopards are classified as ‘vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List, due to deforestation and hunting.  Since this animal is so rare, it is important to do everything possible to ensure the health and well-being of every Clouded Leopard born in captivity. The common practice among zoos is to hand-raise all newborn Clouded Leopards. 

See more photos below.

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Fantastic Leaf-tailed Gecko Hatches at Houston Zoo

1922048_10152349918072526_38494264_nThis tiny Fantastic Leaf-tailed Gecko hatched at the Houston Zoo on February 17 is easy to spot perched on top of a pencil.  But in the wild, these lizards are so well camouflaged that they’re nearly impossible to find. 


1911713_10152349855352526_734417867_nPhoto Credit:  Stephanie Adams / Houston Zoo

Fantastic Leaf-tailed Geckos are found only on Madagascar, where their coloration mimics dead leaves and twigs.  Their legs look like tiny branches and their tails resemble dead leaves – complete with veins and ragged edges.  Even zoo keepers have a hard time finding the lizards in their enclosure.

This species is also called the Satanic Leaf-tailed Gecko, due to their pointy, raised brow ridges.  Like other Geckos, these lizards lack eyelids, so they clean their eyeballs with a swipe of the tongue.  They are nocturnal, feeding mainly on insects.

Due to extensive habitat destruction from cattle grazing, logging, and agriculture, Fantastic Leaf-tailed Gecko populations are decreasing.

See more photos below.

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Asian Elephant Calf Has a Muddy Family Playdate

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After a pregnancy lasting almost 23 months, Shanti, a 24-year old Asian Elephant at Houston Zoo, delivered a healthy 385-pound (174.6 kg) male calf on February 7!

The calf, named Duncan, is doing well, and recently had his first outdoor adventure. He spent about 90 minutes outside on February 10, spending some quality mud-time with his mom Shanti, his Aunt Methai, his half-brother Baylor, half-sister Tupelo, and Tupelo’s mother Tess. 

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It takes a lot of work to get ready for an elephant birth. Attended by the Houston Zoo’s elephant care team and assisted by the zoo’s veterinary staff, Shanti delivered her baby at 2:13 a.m. on February 7.

“After months of preparation and tender loving care, Shanti’s labor was very brief and the delivery was  quick and easy for her,” said Houston Zoo Large Mammal Curator Daryl Hoffman.  “The keepers helped the calf to his feet and he was standing on his own within about an hour after his birth,” he added.

“The calf started nursing at nine this morning,” said Hoffman on the day of the birth.  “In the first 90 minutes after his first meal we saw him nurse more than 15 times.  Duncan has a very good appetite.” 

Immediately after the calf was born, the elephant care team and the Zoo’s veterinary staff performed a neonatal exam. 

“We weighed and measured the calf and took a blood sample.” said Houston Zoo Chief Veterinarian Dr. Joe Flanagan. “Duncan is almost 40 inches (1 m) tall at the shoulder."

Elephant keepers will keep Shanti and Duncan under a 24-hour watch for the next few weeks. The viewing windows in the barn at the McNair Asian Elephant Habitat are temporarily closed to the public. The windows will reopen to the public after the elephant care team has seen signs that Duncan is well-bonded with his mother and is comfortable in his new home. Duncan is Shanti’s fourth calf.  Thai, the baby’s father, is 48 years old.

See and learn more after the fold.

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Say Hello to Houston Zoo's Giraffe Calf


A male Masai Giraffe calf born at the Houston Zoo on February 4 was standing and nursing just over an hour after his birth – all signs that point to a healthy and strong baby.



Photo Credit:  Houston Zoo

The calf was born to female Giraffe Tyra after a 14-month gestation.  “Tyra went into labor at approximately 10:45 AM on Tuesday, February 4 and delivered her baby boy at 12:49 PM,” said Houston Zoo Giraffe Senior Keeper Kim Siegl.  “The calf was standing on his own by 1:17 PM and was nursing by 1:57 PM.”

As soon as Tyra gave birth, she began grooming her calf while he was lying down. Once the calf was on his feet, Tyra was even more attentive. The rest of the Giraffe herd stood by, watching as mother and calf got to know each other.

“The calf weighs 165 pounds and is six and a half feet tall. He’s a big healthy boy,” said Siegl.  This is the eighth calf for 15-year-old Tyra.  The calf’s father, Mtembei, is six years old.  With this new arrival, the Houston Zoo’s herd of Masai Giraffe has grown to nine.

The Giraffe keepers who cared for Tyra during her pregnancy and were present for the birth will have the honor of naming the newest addition to the Houston Zoo’s Giraffe herd.

About 100 Masai Giraffes currently live in 28 North American zoos.  The tallest living land animal, Giraffes can stand up to 17 feet tall and weigh more than 3,000 pounds.

World's Smallest Monkey Joins the Family at the Houston Zoo

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The Houston Zoo welcomed a Pygmy Marmoset, born July 27. The baby, whose sex is still unknown, was born to veteran parents Oko and Per. The baby is born to an already large family with 3 older brothers and 1 older sister. While it will spend most of its time riding on the back of its dad or brother, everyone in the family will take a turn in helping to care for the little one.

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Pygmy Marmosets are generally born in pairs, but "singlets" such as this are not uncommon. Singlets tend to be larger that babies born in pairs, and this baby is no exception. It already weights .08 pounds (36 grams), which is huge in comparison to most baby pygmy marmosets. Interestingly enough, the baby is weighed by weighing both dad and the baby, then subtracting dad's weight.

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Pygmy Marmosets are the world's smallest true monkeys. They live in rainforests of the Amazon Basin of South America. They are currently threatened by habitat loss as well as pet trade.

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Photo Credits: Photos 1,2,3,6  Abby Valera/Houston Zoo; Photos 4,5 Dale Martin/Houston Zoo

Enadangered Turtles Hatch at Houston Zoo


A few months ago, ZooBorns reported on two endangered Madagascar Big-headed Turtles who laid a total of 33 eggs at the Houston Zoo.  Because the ground was too cold for the eggs to develop, the females were induced to lay the eggs in the safety of the zoo clinic.  On May 18 and 19, three of the eggs hatched!


Photo Credits:  Beth Moorehead/Houston Zoo (1); Tina Carpenter/Houston Zoo (2,3)

Though the remainder of the 33 eggs were infertile, zoo keepers say this result is not unusual in young female turtles who have just reached maturity. 

The hatchlings are currently behind the scenes until they are old enough to be on exhibit.  In the meantime, zoo visitors can see their older siblings, who hatched on September 15, inside the reptile house.

The Big-headed Turtles live in the moat of the zoo's Lemur exhibit.  Zoo keepers have created a sandy spot for the female turtles to dig in and lay their next clutch of eggs.

The hatching of these Turtles is significant because they are one of the world's most endangered Turtle species.  Found only on the island of Madagascar, they are traded illegally for use in traditional Asian medicine.