Pittsburgh Zoo

Pittsburgh Zoo Cares for Preemie Elephant Calf

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Seeni, one of three African Elephants rescued from Botswana in 2011 by the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, delivered her calf one month early. The premature little female was born on May 31 at the International Conservation Center’s Maternal Care Barn.

“To say that we were shocked when we walked into the barn that morning is understatement,” says Willie Theison, Elephant Manager at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium and International Conservation Center. “Seeni wasn’t expected to calve until the end of June, so to walk in in the morning and see this tiny little elephant attempting to stand on wobbly legs was a total surprise.”

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4_Baby Elephant 1Photo Credits: Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium

Keepers immediately began using towels to warm the calf. “Our first concern was to ensure that the calf was ok,” says Dr. Barbara Baker, President & CEO of the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. “Being born one month early, she weighted only 184 pounds, which is 52 pounds below the median birth weight of a calf born full-term.” Normal elephant calf weighs between 207-290 pounds at birth.

After a physical exam of both mother and calf, it was determined that Seeni had not begun producing the milk needed to feed the little calf, so Theison immediately began teaching the calf to bottle feed, using cow calf bottles.

It is very important in the first 48 hours that the elephant calf receives colostrum through milk to stimulate its immune system. Normally the calf would nurse and mom would pass along the important antibodies. Cow colostrum was used initially to feed the calf, and then the switch was made to African Elephant milk that was shipped in for the daily feedings.

Theison knew that there was a possibility that Seeni might not bond with her calf. “Seeni was orphaned at an early age due to the culling of her parents in South Africa,” says Theison. “Her only companions were Thandi and Sukuri, so she never had a bonding relationship with her mother. She doesn’t understand how to care for a young calf.”

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Pittsburgh Zoo's Amur Tiger Cub Makes June a Little More Fierce

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Pittsburgh Zoo's Amur Tiger cub makes an appearance in the zoo's digital calendar, as the face of June. Born on March 31st of this year, the cub was previously featured on ZooBorns. Since then, he's come out of his den and now loves to play with his mother, Toma. Though tigers are usually born in litters of two or three cats, it's not unusual for a single cub to be born at one time. The cub is happy, healthy, and preparing to make his public debut in the next coming weeks.




Amur Tigers, also known as Siberian Tigers, are the largest of the six subspecies of Tigers. Males can reach a full body length well over six feet and a weight of more than 400 pounds. The species is native to the remote mountain areas of the Russian Far East. Still, the population is subject to poaching and is classified as endangered. There are fewer than 400 individuals with a breeding population of about 250 adults. The future of the species is threatened by low genetic diversity within this breeding population, making genetically diverse cubs crucial to the species' success.

Photo credits: Pittsburgh Zoo

Baby Rhino Born at Pittsburgh Zoo - the First in Forty-five Years

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The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is celebrating some big news! For the first time in over 45 years there, a baby Black Rhinoceros was born to mom Azizi. The female calf weighs about 70 pounds and appears to be doing very well.“We are so excited to welcome a big, beautiful, bouncing, female rhino,” says Dr. Barbara Baker, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. “The birth of a Black Rhino is significant because they are critically endangered and Azizi’s calf will introduce new blood lines into the zoo population.”

There are 4,800 Black Rhinoceroses left in the wild. Between 1970 and 1992, the Black Rhino population decreased by 96% — the most dramatic of all Rhino species. Black Rhino populations are recovering slowly despite intensive efforts to end poaching, the biggest threat to animals worldwide. Mom and baby will not be on exhibit for the public until after they have had the appropriate amount of time to bond, and until the weather and temperature conditions are ideal for this African native. Visitors are asked to check the Zoo’s website and social media sites for details of when baby will be viewable.


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Photo Credit: Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium

Keepers noticed Azizi was acting differently last week. She started pacing and appeared uncomfortable. “At one point she put her feet on her water trough and was stretching,” says Dr. Baker.

“Labor lasted roughly 50 minutes with no complications,” says Dr. Ginger Takle, director of animal health. “We wanted to be close in case Azizi should need us, but she did very well for a first time mom. Keepers and zoo veterinary staff monitored the birth nearby, but out of sight to allow for a natural delivery. The baby was nursing within two hours of her birth. Nursing is an important first step in bonding with mom. Calves gain about 30 pounds each week from the nutrients in the mother’s milk.

Dr. Takle added, “It is important for the calf to continue to nurse and gain weight especially during the first three months which are critical. As she continues to grow, we will begin to introduce solid food at about one month of age, starting with alfalfa and sweet potatoes.”

Baby on Deck! Sea Lion Pup Born at Pittsburgh Zoo


It’s a girl! Sea Lion mom Zoey gave birth to her second pup at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium; her first baby is 3-year-old Sidney. “At first Zoey was very protective of the baby,” says Henry Kacprzyk, curator of Kids Kingdom and reptiles. “But after a couple of days, Zoey relaxed enough to let the other sea lion members near. Especially curious were Sidney and Sophie, another young sea lion, who kept trying to get close to the pup but were chased away by mom.”

She weighed in at 18.4 pounds, a healthy weight for a newborn sea lion. “As long as the baby is continuing to nurse and vocalize with mom, we won’t interfere,” says Mr. Kacprzyk. 

In the coming weeks, the pup will learn to swim. “Pups instinctively know to start paddling in the water, but being young, they tire easily and need mom to help out,” says Mr. Kacrpzyk. “Zoey is always right there with the pup and helps if needed. We also put little steps in the pool that the pup can use to get out of the water.”


Photo Credit: Paul A. Selvaggio

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Newborn Alaskan Sea Otter Finds Safe Haven at Pittsburgh Zoo

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The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, working along with the Alaska SeaLife Center, has provided a safe home for a newborn Sea Otter pup found stranded along an Alaskan coastline. He was found lying next to other sea otters, all who had died from exposure when they were cut off from the ocean by a frozen bay; In an attempt to get to the ocean, they accidentally beached themselves off the coast of Port Heiden.

“We told the caregivers how to keep him alive until we could arrive,” said Brett Long, husbandry director at the Alaskan SeaLife Center. The most important concern was to ensure the pup was in a cool environment, that its temperature remained steady, and it received fluids and electrolytes. The residents used a baby bottle filled with Pedialyte, a milk replacer, to feed the pup every couple of hours.

The next milestone for the little pup will be to acclimate to his new environment in Pittsburgh, begin eating solid food, respond to keeper’s cues which will teach him cooperative and husbandry behaviors. These behaviors will allow him to participate in his own care such as voluntary weigh-ins, and presentation of paws and flippers. He will develop his natural instincts as he grows and when he is bigger will be slowly introduced to Alki and Chugach, the Zoo’s current sea otter residents. Visitors are able to see the little pup in a special nursery in the lower level of Water’s Edge.

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Photo Credit: Alaska SeaLife Center

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Orphan Otter Finds New Home in Pittsburgh


Back in March we brought you the story of a young Sea Otter rescued by the residents of Port Heiden, Alaska. Discovered alone on the beach next to his deceased mother, the pup was cared for overnight by concerned citizens, then flown to the Alaska SeaLife Center. One month and one FedEx plane ride later, the pup begins a new life at the Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium and will go on exhibit next Friday, April 27th. FedEx specializes in transporting animals between zoological institutions safely and comfortably. 


20120418_Meshik-0334Above photo credits: Alaska SeaLife Center

The next milestone for the little pup will be to acclimate to his new environment in Pittsburgh, begin eating solid food, respond to keeper’s cues which will teach him cooperative and husbandry behaviors. These behaviors will allow him to participate in his own care such as voluntary weigh-ins, and presentation of paws and flippers. He will develop his natural instincts as he grows and when he is bigger will be slowly introduced to Alki and Chugach, the Zoo’s current sea otter residents.

Otter Pup at Pittsburgh ZooSea Otter pup arriving in Pittsburgh. Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Zoo.

NEW Photos: Welcome to the World Gorilla Baby!


The Pittsburgh Zoo welcomed a new baby gorilla on the morning of February 9. Since giving birth, Mom Moka is often found sitting near the indoor viewing window in the gorilla area holding the baby, offering visitors a fantastic view of their bonding time, as captured in the video below. 

“Moka is a first time mom so we were anxious to see how she would handle motherhood, but she is doing a great job,” says Karen Vacco, assistant curator of mammals. “The baby is nursing and Moka holds him tightly against her chest.” Moka was raised by her mother and has a younger sister, so she learned maternal behavior from her mother.

First time dad Mrithi visited the baby after its birth and has been staying close to Moka, but not interfering. “The rest of the gorilla troop has been curious but respectful,” says Roseann Giambro, gorilla keeper. “They will take their cues from mom who will let them know when she is comfortable with them being close to her baby.”

Western lowland gorillas are endangered. In 2007, scientists had estimated their populations to be just about 100,000 in the wild, but an outbreak of Ebola destroyed much of the population dropping their numbers close to 30,000. 



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Photo Credit: Sage RossCreative Commons License

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Sweet Sea Lion Pup in Pittsburgh

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The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is barking with excitement over the birth of their new Sea Lion pup! Callie, a 6-year old California Sea Lion, gave birth to the pup last Friday in a behind-the-scenes area. 

“Both mother and baby are doing very well,” says Henry Kacprzyk, curator of KidsKingdom. “They are communicating and the pup is nursing. Callie is a first-time mom, but she is doing very well. We think that Callie, having watched both Zoey and Maggie with their pups, has learned how to care for her pup. Right now, she is being very protective while and she and the pup rest on the deck. She barks aggressively if she thinks keepers are getting to close,”  Mr. Kacprzyk continued. “The other Sea Lions are keeping a safe distance until Callie is comfortable with them being near her pup.”

Keepers will not interfere with Callie raising her pup unless they suspect the baby isn’t nursing or communicating with mom. The mortality rate for Sea Lion pups is 10 to 15 percent in the first month, so keepers and vet staff are keeping a close eye on mother and baby.

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Photo Credit: Pittsburgh Zoo/PPG Aquarium

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Tiger Cub Goes from the Hospital to the Kiddie Pool!

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In September of 2010 the Pittsburgh Zoo welcomed a litter of little tiger cubs. Shortly thereafter, one of the cubs developed an infection and was hospitalized for weeks as Zoo vets struggled to save her life. Happily, by December the cub was happy and healthy and ready to be reunited with her siblings and mom. Since tiger cubs love to rough-house, keepers wrestled with the little cub to prepare her for the reintroduction. When they put out a tray of water for the active, thirsty cub, she decided to jump right in for more play time.

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The “menacing” look on the cub’s face represent typical play behavior that helps prepare wild young cubs for hunting in the wild.  

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Rare Amur Tiger Triplets Debut in Pittsburgh

The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium welcomed three little Amur Tiger cubs back in September and they have just made their big public debut! Growing bigger and braver by the day, the trio enjoy exploring their new den and met reporters and a few lucky guests last week. Amur tigers were once called Siberian tigers because originally they were found throughout Siberia. Residents of Siberia and Northern China once considered these majestic cats god-like and in fact the most elite military unit if the Chinese Imperial Army was called the Tiger God Battalion. Unfortunately, throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries these tigers were hunted extensively by livestock owners and as part of a Russian army eradication program. Today they are almost completely confined to the Far East portion of Asia along the Amur River.

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Tiger cub pittsburgh zoo 1Photo credits  ©2010 Paul A. Selvaggio