Two polar bear cubs were born at the Detroit Zoo on November 17, 2020, to 8-year-old mother Suka, and 16-year-old father, Nuka. The cubs, who have not been named yet, are the first polar bears to be born and successfully raised at the Detroit Zoo since 2004.
The cubs were born in a specially-designed, private maternity den away from the other bears. It is equipped with infrared video cameras that allow staff to monitor the mother and cubs without disturbing them. On November 19, it was observed that one of the cubs was becoming inactive and appeared to be weak. The staff allowed Suka out of the den so that the weak cub could be retrieved.
The cub, a female, was taken to the Detroit Zoo’s Ruth Roby Glancy Animal Health Complex where she was examined by veterinarians and given fluids and formula. She has continued to receive around-the-clock care and bottle feeding.
Over the years, Detroit Zoo officials have had the pleasure of caring for a number of adorable babies, but in the opinion of Dr. Ann Duncan, director of Animal Health at DZG, their current nursery resident – a female red panda cub – is arguably the most adorable animal in Detroit Zoo history. She was born July 6, and weighed 112 grams (around 4 ounces), a good weight for a red panda cub. While the cub’s mother Ash was pregnant, she allowed officials to ultrasound her abdomen while she happily ate treats, so they knew she was pregnant with a single cub that was growing well. Ash delivered the baby with no problems, and showed the newborn lots of attention, but this was her first pregnancy, and she didn’t have all of the skills needed to raise the cub. Red panda cubs have been hand-reared at several zoos, including the Detroit Zoo, and they had prepared in advance to care for the panda cub, just in case. A hand-rearing manual that compiles collective experiences of zoo professionals was used to determine the formula and feeding schedule and help to develop a care plan.
The Detroit Zoological Society’s (DZS) conservation breeding program for the Wyoming Toad continues to make strides for this federally endangered amphibian. Seven hundred tadpoles have been produced in the Detroit Zoo’s National Amphibian Conservation Center and were scheduled to be shipped to Wyoming on July 5 for eventual release into the wild.
“It’s exciting to share our continued success with this program. We’ve had recording-breaking years in the past and are committed to ensuring the survival of this species as well as many others,” said Scott Carter, DZS chief life sciences officer. “Amphibians are the most endangered animals in the world, with more than 40 percent of all species at risk.”
The tadpoles were scheduled to be released into a protected Wyoming wetland in the Laramie Basin, where they will hopefully metamorphose into toadlets. The metamorphosis usually occurs in mid-July, and takes approximately four to five weeks.
Photo Credits: Jennie Miller / Detroit Zoo
The Wyoming Toad (Anaxyrus baxteri) is a dark brown, gray or greenish amphibian with small, dark blotches. The average length is 2.2 inches, with the females slightly larger than the males.
Once abundant in the wetlands and irrigated meadows of Wyoming’s southeastern plains, the Wyoming Toad was listed as extinct in 1994, meaning populations are no longer producing offspring that survive to adulthood in the wild. The cause of the decline is not well understood, but it is likely that more than one factor contributed to the situation in the past, with habitat loss and infectious diseases suspected as major drivers.
In 2007, the DZS’s collaborative breeding program for the Wyoming Toad was “No.1” on the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ list of the Top 10 wildlife conservation success stories. The breeding partnership has successfully released more than 8,000 tadpoles, toadlets and toads in Wyoming since the program’s inception in 1995. Once released, these latest tadpoles should add to that number.
The National Amphibian Conservation Center opened at the Detroit Zoo in 2000 and was distinguished as the first major conservation facility dedicated entirely to conserving and exhibiting amphibians. It houses a spectacular diversity of frogs, toads, salamanders, newts and caecilians – including the Wyoming Toad. Dubbed “Disneyland for toads” by The Wall Street Journal, this award winning, state-of-the-art facility is world renowned for amphibian conservation, care, exhibition and research.
Pumpkins and Jack-o-Lanterns are indicative of the fall season…and Halloween.
Zoo Keepers work hard to keep their animals healthy and happy. Enrichment toys and activities are an important tool that Keepers utilize to help in that pursuit. Enrichment items encourage natural behavior and stimulate the senses…and what could be more stimulating, this time of year, than celebrating by tearing into a bright orange pumpkin!
Visitors to the Detroit Zoo were recently treated to their first look at a female Red Panda cub. The new cub, born June 22, has been named Tofu and is the offspring of 10-year-old mother, Ta-Shi, and 6-year-old father, Shifu.
“Ta-Shi took her time bringing her adorable baby girl out into public view, but it was worth the wait,” said Scott Carter, Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) chief life sciences officer. “We’re happy to welcome Tofu to the Detroit Zoo and to contribute to the captive population of this threatened species.”
Photo Credits: Roy Lewis/DZS (Images 1-5); Patti Truesdell/DZS (Image 6)
The Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens) is a shy and solitary animal, except when mating. It is about the size of a house cat, with rust-colored fur and an 18-inch white-ringed tail. Red Pandas are skilled and agile climbers, spending most of their time hanging from tree branches or lounging on limbs.
The Detroit Zoological Society conducts fieldwork in Nepal to study and conserve Red Pandas in the wild. Part of this work requires the use of trail cameras triggered by motion and heat to take pictures and remotely monitor populations of Red Pandas and other species.
The Detroit Zoological Society (DZS)– a nonprofit organization that operates the Detroit Zoo and Belle Isle Nature Zoo – is recognized as a leader in conservation, animal welfare and sustainability as well as providing sanctuary for animals in need of rescue.
The Detroit Zoo, in Royal Oak, is 125 acres of award-winning naturalistic habitats and home to 2,500 animals representing 270 species. The Belle Isle Nature Zoo sits on a 5-acre site surrounded by undisturbed forested wetlands on Belle Isle State Park in Detroit and provides year-round educational, recreational and environmental conservation opportunities for the community. For hours, prices, directions, visit: www.detroitzoo.org.
For the second time in two years, the Detroit Zoo is celebrating the birth of North American River Otters. Two male pups – born April 2, 2014, to mother Whisker, 11, and father Lucius, 8 – made their public debut today.
The female River Otter delivers a litter of one to six pups after an eight-week gestation period. At around two months, the young ones get their first swimming lesson when their mother pushes them into the water. Otters are natural swimmers and, with maternal supervision, the pups quickly catch on.
Photo credit: Jenny Miller
“Whisker is an experienced and attentive mother, guiding her pups through many new experiences – the most important of which is to encourage and reassure them as they strengthen their swimming abilities,” said Detroit Zoological Society Curator of Mammals Elizabeth Arbaugh.
The yet-to-be-named pups can be seen showing off their newfound aquatic skills at the Detroit Zoo’s Edward Mardigian Sr. River Otter Habitat. The naturalistic environment features a 5,900-gallon pool with a waterfall and waterslide, and the habitat is designed so that small children can view the otters at eye level as they swim.
The North American River Otter (Lontra canadensis) can weigh 20-30 pounds, and its slender, cylindrical body can reach 2-3 feet in length. The aquatic mammal sports short, dense, waterproof fur and profuse whiskers. The playful River Otter is swift on land as well as in the water, though its loping trot can look somewhat ungainly compared to its graceful slide through the water.
Once abundant in U.S. and Canadian rivers, lakes and coastal areas, River Otter populations have suffered significant declines as a result of fur trapping, water pollution, habitat destruction, pesticides and other threats. Today, they can be found in parts of Canada, the Northwest, the upper Great Lakes area, New England and Atlantic and Gulf Coast states.
A female Aardvark born at the Detroit Zoo on February 11 weighed less than four pounds at birth and has since more than quadrupled in size. The baby, named Kaatie, is the third offspring for 10-year-old Rachaael and 11-year-old Mchimbaji.
Photo Credit: Tom Ray
“Kaatie is healthy and adorable, and seems to be enjoying her time with mom, nestling in close and nursing throughout the day,” said Detroit Zoological Society Curator of Mammals Elizabeth Arbaugh.
Animal care staff have been monitoring Rachaael and Kaatie closely since the calf was born. Aardvarks are small and fragile at birth, and the mothers are sometimes clumsy and can accidentally injure their little ones. “We are ready to intervene should mom decide to roll over or get up for a snack,” said Arbaugh.
The Aardvark is an African mammal whose name derives from the Afrikaans word “earth pig.” The animal’s unusual appearance plays a role in its success as a forager. Its large ears point forward, enabling it to hear tasty insects during nocturnal feeding forays. The snout is long and filled with hair that acts as a filter, letting scents in and keeping dirt out. Strong limbs and spoon-shaped claws can tear though the sturdiest of termite mounds, allowing the Aardvark to trap insects with its sticky tongue, which can be up to 12 inches long.
The latest big thing at
the Detroit Zoo is actually quite small. A
female Southern Pudu, the smallest species of deer, was born on May 20th.
The fawn is the fifth Pudu born at the zoo since the species was introduced in
The fawn is a welcome addition to the captive
population of Pudus, according to Detroit Zoological Society Curator of Mammals
Robert Lessnau. “There are less than thirty Pudus in U.S. zoos, so this birth
is significant, especially since the baby is a female.”
The fawn joins her parents, 6-year-old Carol and
7-year-old T. Roy, and sister Hamill Girl – born in 2012 – in their habitat
near two other South American mammals, the giant anteaters and bush dogs.
Photo credits: first photo by Lee Fisher, second photo by Patti Truesdell
Found in the temperate rainforests of southern
Chile and Argentina, the Southern Pudu can reach a height of 18 inches at the
shoulder and weigh up to 25 pounds at maturity. The tiny deer has reddish-brown
fur and diminutive features, including rounded ears, small black eyes and short legs. Fawns are weaned at two months old, and reach their full adult size at three months old. The Southern Pudu is listed as ‘threatened’
on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. A decrease in available habitat, subsistence hunting and poaching for the exotic pet trade contribute to their decline. Additional factors include predation by domestic
dogs and competition with non-native species of deer.
A tiny female Pudu fawn was born at the Detroit Zoo on September 7 to parents T. Roy and Carol. Weighing only 2.3 pounds (1.06 kg) at birth, the diminutive deer is the fourth Pudu born at the zoo since 2008.
Due to habitat loss, Pudus are listed as Threatened by the IUCN. Many programs are underway to protect Pudus from possible extinction, including releasing Pudus born in South American zoos back to their wild habitat.
Pudus are the world's smallest deer species. Weighing only about 26 pounds and standing 15 inches at the shoulder as adults, Pudus live in South America's temperate rain forests. They feed on leaves and fruit as they move through the dense underbrush, and rarely need to drink due to the high water content of their diet. Little is konwn about Pudus in the wild, because they inhabit remote regions on mountain slopes at relatively high elevations over 6,000 feet. Despite their small size, they are agile climbers and jumpers.
Photo & Video Credits: Lee Ann Fisher & Patti Truesdell
Detroit Zoo welcomed a brown and white bundle of joy to its fold on April 17th. After a 13 month gestation period, Jimmy the Grevy's Zebra foal stumbled onto the scene and was up on his feet in just a few hours. Wild Grevy's Zebras must quickly learn to stand and run to escape the potential threat of predators. This endangered East African species is declining in numbers due to habitat loss and competition with livestock.