Smithsonian National Zoo

Giant Panda Cub Brings Smiles to Smithsonian's National Zoo

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There was excitement in the air on Friday, August 23 at the Smithsonian's National Zoo. The zoo's panda team watched the panda cam anxiously as Mei Xiang, the zoo's female panda, went into labor around 3:36 pm. After two hours, at 5:32 pm, she gave birth to a cub! Viewers heard the cub vocalize and caught a quick glimpse before Mei Xiang immediately began cradling it. The cub had its first neonatal exam on Sunday morning. It appeared robust, active and a healthy shade of pink. The cub weighed 4.8 ounces (137 grams) and is nursing and digesting successfully. At the time of the exam, it had a full belly. 

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“I’m glued to the new panda cams and thrilled to hear the squeals, which appear healthy, of our newborn cub,” said Dennis Kelly, director of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. “Our expansive panda team has worked tirelessly analyzing hormones and behavior since March, and as a result of their expertise and our collaboration with scientists from around the world we are celebrating this birth.”

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Panda pregnancies can be tricky. Artificial insemination has been long used and is one of the more successful methods of producing cubs for Giant Pandas in captivity. Changes in hormone levels and behaviors indicate a pregnancy or pseudopregnancy. The only way to definitively differentiate between a true pregnancy and a pseudopregnancy is seeing a fetus on an ultrasound. In Mei's pregancy, a secondary rise in urinary progesterone on July 10 indicated that she would either give birth or experience a pseudopregnancy in just over a month. Her behavior was consistent with this. She experienced decreased appetite and began spending more time in her den. An ultrasound on August 5 showed no evidence of a fetus. However, by August 11 she began body licking and cradling toys, which indicated that she could give birth soon. Luckiy, she did! A paternal analysis will determine the father of the pup within a few weeks. Mei Xiang was artificially inseminated twice on March 30 with semen from both Tian Tian, the zoo's male Giant Panda, and San Diego Zoo's male Giant Panta, Gao Gao.

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This is Mei Xiang's third cub as a result of artificial insemination. Her first cub, Tai Shan, was born in 2005. He now lives at the Panda Base in BiFengxia in Ya'an China. The zoo's pandas live in the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda habitat, where they conduct cutting-edge research crucial to the survival of this endangered species.

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Photo Credits Courtney Janney, Smithsonian's National Zoo


Sumatran Tiger Cubs are a Long-Awaited Victory at Smithonian's National Zoo

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The Smithsonian's National Zoo's family of Sumatran Tigers has grown by two! On Monday, August 5, the Zoo's female tiger, Damai, gave birth to a pair of cubs. Damai has been a great mother to the cubs, who are her first litter. She has been observed grooming and nursing them. Keepers are remotely monitoring Damai and her cubs, allowing the new family time and space to bond.

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Damai arrived at the Zoo in over two years ago and Kavi, the father, arrived one year ago. The two were paired as a recommendation from the AZA's Sumatran Tiger Species Survival Plan. Over the course of six months, they were slowly introduced to each other. In June, Damai began gaining weight and exhibiting behaviors that indicated she could be pregnant. On June 21, staff performed an ultrasound and confirmed the pregnancy. “It’s taken more than two years of perseverance getting to know Damai and Kavi and letting them get to know each other so that we could reach this celebratory moment,” said Craig Saffoe. “All I can do is smile because the team has realized our goal of producing critically endangered tiger cubs. Damai came to us as a young tiger herself, so it’s really special to see her become a great mom.”

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The cub comes as a victory for the species. Sumatran Tigers are Critically Endangered, with an estimated 400-500 individuals in the wild. In addition to these cubs, there are just 65 Sumatran Tigers living in North American accredited zoos.

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Photo Credit Smithsonian National Zoological Park


First Wild Horse Born from Artificial Insemination at Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

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In a huge breakthrough for the survival of an endangered species, the first Przewalski’s Horse to be born via artificial insemination was delivered at the National Zoo's Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) on July 27.  

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Photo Credit:  Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

SCBI reproductive physiologist Budhan Pukazhenthi and the Przewalski’s Horse husbandry team spent seven years working closely with experts at The Wilds and Auburn University in Alabama to perfect the technique of assisted breeding. Both the filly and the first-time mother Anne are in good health and bonding.

“It seems reasonable to assume that reproduction for the Przewalski’s Horse would be similar to domestic Horses, but it simply isn’t the case,” said Pukazhenthi. “This is a major accomplishment, and we hope our success will stimulate more interest in studying and conserving endangered equids around the world.” 

Anne was born at SCBI and is the daughter of a mare imported from Europe and the most genetically valuable stallion in the U.S. The filly’s father Agi also lives at SCBI. The Przewalski’s Horse is considered the last wild Horse on the planet, although it is often mistaken for a breed of domestic Horse, the Norwegian Fjord. Little is known about wild equids despite the extensive knowledge of domestic Horses.

Read more and see additional photos below the fold.

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It's Twin Maned Wolf Pups for the Smithsonian Institute

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The onset of summer for the Animal Care staff at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va., means patiently awaiting endangered-animal births, hand raising youngsters, and saying farewell to cubs that are ready to be matched with mates. All of the species—which range in International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List status from near threatened to endangered—are significant and represent great conservation successes.

One of the new births of these important animals were two male Maned Wolf pups, born on April 14 to 2-year-old female Vitani and 8-year-old male, Paul. The pups received a clean bill of health at their first veterinary exam, appearing robust and healthy. Keepers have nicknamed the pups “Bold” and “Shy” for their distinctive personalities. 

Only 85 Maned Wolves are part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan, and these pups account for 40 percent of successful Maned Wolf births in the United States this year. A leader in Maned Wolf conservation, SCBI has had 74 pups born there since 1975—more than any other institution.

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Photo Credit: Janice Sveda

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Every Day is Play Day for Clouded Leopard Cubs

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Two Clouded Leopard cubs born at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute on February 6 have three goals:  to play, play, and play some more!

At two-and-a-half months old, the cubs are growing fast and becoming more adventurous.  Recently, as a zoo keeper cleaned their enclosure, the cubs decided to play in the water spraying from the hose.  This was the first time the cubs experienced getting wet – but as you can see from the photos, they didn’t seem to mind at all.

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Photo Credits:  Janice Sveda, Smithsonian's National Zoo

The cubs, a male and a female, recently had a routine veterinary check-up and were proclaimed healthy and strong.  You can see their baby photos here, here, and here.

These two cubs are genetically valuable to the zoo population of Clouded Leopards.  The cubs’ parents, Jao Chu and Hannibal, were born in Thailand and came to the Smithsonian as part of a collaborative research program. 

See more playful photos and read more below the fold.

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UPDATE! Clouded Leopard Cubs at Smithsonian's Front Royal are Growing Up

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The Clouded Leopard cubs born at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute-Front Royal recently turned 2 months old, which means they’re big enough to have access to a larger enclosure with big climbing structures. Keepers report that the cubs spend most of their time playing and like to climb as high as they can! They’ve also mastered eating solid foods and are steadily gaining weight. The male weighs just over 4.5 pounds, and the female weighs about 3.5 pounds.

Read more about the cubs and see pictures of them as newborns in earlier posts on ZooBorns HERE and HERE.

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Photo Credit: Janice Sveda, Smithsonian's National Zoo

Continue after the fold to more of these playful baby pictures!

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Nothing Says "It's Springtime" Like The Birth of Clouded Leopard Cubs

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Nashville Zoo is pleased to announce the births of two litters of Clouded Leopard cubs. On March 26, Jing Jai gave birth to one female cub and Baylie gave birth to one male and one female. All three are doing well and are being hand-raised by the Zoo’s animal care staff.

“Nashville Zoo is a leader in Clouded Leopard conservation, with 18 Clouded Leopards born at our off-exhibit breeding facility since 2009,” said Karen Rice, carnivore supervisor at Nashville Zoo. “These cubs will remain a part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Clouded Leopard population as breeding cats, education or exhibit animals. Whatever role they play, they will contribute to the ongoing conservation effort.” 

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Photo credits: Amiee Stubbs

 

Clouded Leopards are considered endangered because of deforestation, poaching and the pet trade. Nashville Zoo is a member of the Thailand Clouded Leopard Consortium, an ongoing collaboration with the National Zoo, Point Defiance Zoo, Clouded Leopard Species Survival Program and Zoological Park Organization of Thailand (ZPO) to develop a multi-faceted clouded leopard conservation program that includes a viable self-sustaining captive population. 

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(UPDATE!) National Zoo Clouded Leopard Cubs Grow Up and Chow Down

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The Clouded Leopard cubs born at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va., Feb. 6, are healthy and growing. At nearly two months old, they just received their first vaccinations. As they have grown, their diet has changed to match their appetites and nutritional needs. When the cubs were first born they were bottle-fed by keepers every couple of hours, but they recently graduated from bottle-only feedings. In addition to fewer bottle feedings, they receive four feedings of chopped and cooked chicken meat mixed with a small feline diet. The male cub weighs almost three and a half pounds and his female sibling just over two and a half pounds. The cubs will remain at SCBI until they are three and a half months old. They will then move to other zoos for eventual breeding as recommended by the Species Survival Plan. Listed as vulnerable to extinction in the wild, SCBI has successfully bred more than 70 clouded leopards over the past 30 years and is a leader in conservation science initiatives to save the species.

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Photo credits: Janice Sveda, Smithsonian's National Zoo

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Ever Seen a Frog This Tiny? Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and Collaborators Successfully Breed Endangered Species

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The Limosa Harlequin Frog (Atelopus limosus), an endangered species native to Panama, now has a new lease on life. The Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project is successfully breeding the chevron-patterned form of the species in captivity for the first time. The rescue project is raising nine healthy frogs from one mating pair and hundreds of tadpoles from another pair.

“These frogs represent the last hope for their species,” said Brian Gratwicke, international coordinator for the project and a research biologist at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, one of six project partners. “This new generation is hugely inspiring to us as we work to conserve and care for this species and others.”

Nearly one-third of the world’s amphibian species are at risk of extinction. The rescue project aims to save priority species of frogs in Panama, one of the world’s last strongholds for amphibian biodiversity. While the global amphibian crisis is the result of habitat loss, climate change and pollution, a fungal disease, chytridiomycosis, is likely responsible for as many as 94 of 120 frog species disappearing since 1980.

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Photo Credit: Brian Gratwicke, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

See more pictures and read much more about these frogs, and the great efforts to preserve their species, after the fold:

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Rare Kiwi Hatches at Smithsonian National Zoo's Front Royal Facility

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In early February, the National Zoo's very successful Kiwi breeding program continued in their contributions to the conservation of this rare flightless bird hailing from New Zealand. The chick was born at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute's Front Royal campus. The facility, which is not open to the public, is designed with the sole purpose of breeding rare and endangered species. 

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Photo credits: Chris Crowe / Smithsonian National Zoo

The National Zoo is one of the foremost experts in the world when it comes to the breeding of Kiwis. Back in 1975, the zoo was the first facility outside of New Zealand to hatch one of these precious chicks. As experts, they are often tasked with helping with helping other zoos hatch their eggs. This chick came from an egg that was shipped over to their facility in January from the Columbus Zoo. 

Kiwis are difficult to sex, so researchers sent out shards of the egg shell for genetic testing to help make this determination. The results came in...it's a girl! Caretakers have reported that this little girl is doing well. She is very active, eating and drinking well, and gaining weight each and every day.