Archive for Baby Animals

This Animal Has 50 Babies at a Time!

Mantid 104pxl

If you have trouble keeping track of your kids, imagine having 50 of them at once!  That’s how many offspring the dead-leaf mantids in the Indonesian Rain Forest produce in a single batch.  These big bugs are a type of praying mantis perfectly camouflaged to look like dead leaves.

Zoo keepers are working on breeding a self-sustaining population of this species, so the 50 tiny mantids were a welcome addition.

Zoo keeper Dave Messmann explains why it’s important for the zoo to breed and support its own population of dead-leaf mantids, as opposed to relying on outside sources.  “We want to sustain our population so we don’t have to have new insects shipped to us,” he said.  “If one of our populations crashes, there is no guarantee that another zoo is still exhibiting this species. Even if they do have some, they may not have any surplus animals to send us.”

Dead-leaf mantids can reproduce in two ways.  One is fertilization, when a male mantid approaches a female in the traditional mating ritual, resulting in fertilized eggs.  As with other praying mantis species, the female is larger than the male and may become aggressive shortly after mating.  Females can also reproduce via the asexual method of parthenogenesis.  This happens when the female lays unfertilized eggs that hatch into viable young.  Parthenogenesis typically results in female offspring since there is no genetic component from a male without fertilization.

mantid fort wayne zooWhether fertilization or parthenogenesis occurs, the next step is the same:  the female produces an egg case called an “ootheca” (see photo on left) in which eggs are deposited.  In the case of fertilization, the female makes the ootheca 4-6 weeks after mating.  The material for the ootheca is excreted from her abdomen like a ribbon and formed into a case that will protect her eggs.  She adheres the ootheca to the wall of the aquarium she lives in.

The zoo currently has one adult male mantid and keepers believe that the 50 new babies resulted from fertilized eggs.

Babies emerge from the ootheca after five weeks and look like miniature adults.  They go through six instars (phases) before reaching full maturity.  The young, or “nymphs”, double in size during each instar, then shed their skin before doubling in size again.  The six instar phases take about 3-4 months.  Dead-leaf mantids live about one year.

Dead-leaf mantids eat pinhead crickets and certain types of vegetation but will sometimes prey on each other.  They are native to Southeast Asia.

Zoo babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.  Click on the photos to enlarge:

Posted in: Baby Animals, Indonesian Rain Forest, Insects

Red Panda Cub Gets a Name

baby red panda cub fort wayne

She’s strong and she’s beautiful, and now the zoo’s six-week-old red panda cub has a name to match.  Zoo keepers have bestowed the name “Maliha” on the little female cub – a name that means “strong and beautiful” in a Nepalese language.

Zoo Keeper Helena Lacey, who works with the red pandas daily, chose the cub’s name to reflect her wild heritage – red pandas are native to Nepal and China – and to fit the cub’s personality.  “I also wanted her name to reflect the whole journey we’ve been on with our red pandas for the last three years,” she said.  “Plus, she is a very strong cub, and beautiful too!”

Maliha still spends all her time in an air-conditioned nest box with her mother, five-year-old Xiao, but is gradually becoming more active, Lacey says. “Maliha rolls around, plays with her feet, and stays awake more,” she says.  “She tries to walk, but her feet still slide out from under her.”

Red panda cubs typically remain in the nest box for about three months. This means that zoo guests have little chance of seeing the cub until late August or early September.  Zoo keepers monitor Xiao and Maliha via a remote camera mounted in the nest box. This video shows Maliha as she discovers her paws:

Though Maliha is thriving, she still faces other hurdles. “Weaning is a critical time for red panda cubs as they make the transition from mother’s milk to solid food,” explained Lacey.  Weaning occurs when the cub is five to six months old.

The path to the red panda exhibit remains closed to zoo guests in an effort to minimize disturbances for the new family.  Guests can sometimes see Junjie, the cub’s father, lounging on branches in the exhibit.

Maliha is weighed regularly to ensure that she is receiving appropriate maternal care.  She has more than quadrupled her birth weight of 139 grams and now weighs 545 grams (about 1.25 pounds).

The breeding of red pandas is overseen by the Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA).  The goal of the SSP is to maximize genetic diversity in zoo-dwelling populations of endangered and threatened animals.

Red pandas are native to the forested foothills of the Himalaya Mountains in China and Nepal, where they feed primarily on bamboo.  They are classified as “Vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Though red pandas share a name with the famed black-and-white giant pandas, the two are not closely related.  The name “panda” comes from the Nepalese word ponya, which means “bamboo-eater.”

Zoo babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.  Click on the photos to enlarge:

Posted in: Baby Animals, Central Zoo, Red Panda, Zoo News

First Peek at Baby Red Panda

baby red panda Fort Wayne Children's Zoo

We’re happy to announce that our 30-day-old female red panda cub, born on June 9, has passed a critical milestone and is doing well.  These photos give you a peek at the little cub, who remains behind the scenes in the nest box with her mother.

“About half of all red panda cubs die within 30 days after birth,” says Animal Curator Mark Weldon.  “We are obviously pleased that our cub has made it this far.” 

This is the third litter of cubs to be born to female Xiao, age 5, and her 6-year-old mate, Junjie.  Two cubs were born to Xiao in 2012, and a single cub was born in 2013; none of these cubs survived longer than two weeks.  Red pandas are an endangered species.

“We remain cautiously optimistic about the cub,” said Shelley Scherer, who supervises the Central Zoo and Australian Adventure.  “This cub was born healthy and had an above average birth weight.  Xiao is also a more experienced mother, which has certainly been a factor.”

“This cub is feisty, squirmy, and chubby,” said Zoo Keeper Helena Lacey, who works with the red pandas daily. 

Though the cub has survived the first 30 days, she still faces other hurdles. “Weaning is a critical time for red panda cubs as they make the transition from mother’s milk to solid food,” explained Lacey.  Weaning occurs when the cub is five to six months old.

Zoo keepers monitor the duo via a remote camera mounted in the nest box.  “They sleep most of the time, but we also see Xiao grooming herself and the cub,” said Lacey.  Xiao leaves the nest box several times a day to eat climb in the exhibit. 

Xiao and her cub spend nearly all of their time tucked in a nest box within the red panda exhibit, where Xiao nurses, grooms, and sleeps next to her cub.  This is natural behavior for red pandas, who nest in hollow trees in the wild.  Cubs typically remain in the nest box for about three months, which means zoo guests have little chance of seeing the cub until late August or early September.

Three to four times a week, zoo keepers distract Xiao with a tasty bamboo branch and quickly weigh the cub.  So far, the cub is gaining weight, and has more than tripled her birth weight of 139 grams to 454 grams (about one pound).  Twice a week, they perform a more thorough exam on the cub, checking for any abnormalities.

The cub’s eyes are now open, and she makes high-pitched squeals during her weigh-ins and checkups. 

The path to the red panda exhibit remains closed to zoo guests in an effort to minimize disturbances for the new family. 

The breeding of red pandas is overseen by the Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA).  The goal of the SSP is to maximize genetic diversity in zoo-dwelling populations of endangered animals. 

Red pandas are native to the forested foothills of the Himalaya Mountains in China and Nepal, where they feed primarily on bamboo.  Though they share a name with the famed black-and-white giant pandas, the two are not closely related.  The name “panda” comes from the Nepalese word ponya, which means “bamboo-eater.”

Zoo babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.  Click on the photos to enlarge:

Posted in: Baby Animals, Central Zoo, Red Panda, Zoo News

This Baby is 20 Minutes Old!

baby wildebeest

Zoo guests got a wonderful surprise this morning when a wildebeest gave birth in the African savannah at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.  Zoo keepers noticed that the mother was in labor at approximately 9:38AM and she delivered a calf at 10:08AM this morning.  The calf stood and began walking within minutes.  It also began nursing shortly after birth.  These photos were taken when the baby was just 20 minutes old!

Several zoo guests were fortunate to observe the birth, since it occurred during zoo hours.  Zoo keepers and vet staff were aware of the pregnancy, but could not pinpoint a due date.  The calf’s gender has not yet been determined.

For now, the zebras are staying in the barn while the new baby adjusts to life on the pasture.

Zoo babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.  Click on the photos to enlarge:

Posted in: African Animals, Baby Animals

Baby Red Panda Born at Zoo

red panda in log

A female red panda cub was born at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo on June 9 to female Xiao (pronounced JOW), age 4, and her 5-year-old mate, Junjie. 

This is the third litter of cubs to be born at the zoo since 1997.  Two cubs were born to Xiao in 2012, and a single cub was born in 2013; none of these cubs survived longer than two weeks. 

An endangered species, red pandas are difficult to breed and rear in zoos.  About half of all cubs die within 30 days of birth.  Only a few dozen red panda cubs are born in United States zoos each year.

Contact with Xiao and her cub is extremely limited to improve the cub’s odds of survival.  For now, the pathway in front of the red panda exhibit is closed to zoo guests.   Keepers monitor the new mother, who spends most of her time in a nest box with the cub, via a remote camera system.

“We are monitoring the cub and are cautiously optimistic at this point,” says Area Manager Shelley Scherer.  “But there are still many challenges ahead for this little cub.”

An extensive protocol is in place to monitor the cub while minimizing stress on the mother.  Keepers allowed Xiao and her cub complete privacy for the first day, because data show that cubs have a better chance of survival if they are left alone with the mother for the first 24 hours.  On Tuesday, keepers quickly weighed the cub while Xiao was out of the nest box feeding; the cub weighed 139 grams.  On Wednesday, the veterinary staff performed a brief hands-on health check and determined the cub’s gender.

Daily weigh-ins will continue and supplemental feeding or hand-rearing will be implemented depending on the cub’s progress.

“We always prefer that animals raise their own young, but we are prepared to do all we can to ensure the survival of the cub,” said Animal Curator Mark Weldon.  “However, hand-rearing provides no guarantee that the cub will survive.”  Weldon noted that hand-reared cubs have a 50-50 chance of survival. 

Zoo keepers conducted weekly ultrasounds on Xiao this spring to monitor the cub before birth.  Xiao was trained to stand and accept the ultrasound, during which she was rewarded with a food treat.  Her diet, which includes commercially-produced chow and fresh bamboo, was altered to provide additional nutrition during her pregnancy.  Keepers also installed a second air-conditioned nest box in the exhibit to give Xiao comfortable options for nesting.  

Tests revealed that cub born to Xiao in 2013, which survived for only three days, never ingested any milk, though the reason for this is not known.  That cub was scheduled to undergo a complete physical on the day it died.

Mary Noell of the Cincinnati Zoo serves as North American Regional Studbook Keeper for red pandas and maintains data on all red pandas in United States and Canadian zoos.  “This is not an unusual situation,” she said last year after the cub died.  Noell visited the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo in 2013 and noted that the zoo’s facilities and protocols met all current standards for red panda care. 

Red panda cubs are born blind and deaf.  The mother spends nearly all her time nursing and grooming her cubs during the first week.  The cubs remain in the nest until they are about three months old.  Little is known about red panda cub mortality in the wild.

“If the cub survives, zoo guests are unlikely to see it outside of the nest box until sometime in August or September,” said Scherer.   Until then, the zoo will post updates on its website and social media accounts.

The breeding of red pandas is overseen by the Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA).  The goal of the SSP is to maximize genetic diversity in captive populations of endangered animals. 

Red pandas are native to the forested foothills of the Himalaya Mountains in China and Nepal, where they feed primarily on bamboo.  Though they share a name with the famed black-and-white giant pandas, the two are not closely related.  The name “panda” comes from the Nepalese word ponya, which means “bamboo-eater.”

Posted in: Baby Animals, Conservation, Red Panda, Zoo News

Teeny-Tiny Turtle Baby

black-breasted leaf turtle

Our newest zoo baby may be small, but tiny creatures are a big deal for the zoo keepers at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.  Say “hello” to our brand new black-breasted leaf turtle in the Indonesian Rain Forest

This teensy terrapin is almost three weeks old and weighs just over six grams (about the same weight as a quarter).  Black-breasted leaf turtles are an endangered species managed by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, which makes this a very important birth.  Zoo keepers are caring for the hatchling behind-the-scenes and monitoring its progress carefully. 

Dave Messmann, who works with turtles and other zoo reptiles, related the cautious enthusiasm surrounding the baby animal, “We waited for two weeks before inviting anyone to take pictures.  We wanted to be sure that the hatchling was thriving before introducing it.  We’re excited about hatching an endangered species and we’re monitoring this one very closely.”

Click on the photos to enlarge (additional text below):

Why are black-breasted leaf turtles endangered?  It all comes down to habitat destruction and over-collection.  Black-breasted leaf turtles are native to Southeast Asian countries including Vietnam and Southern China.  They are used in Traditional Asian Medicine, and are often sold as pets. These turtles’ unique facial expression and small size make them particularly attractive within the pet trade.  However, Messmann contends that this endangered species might not be as easy to rear as people assume.  “Turtles require a lot of care and proper nutrition throughout their lives.  At the zoo we give them a specific diet and document their care.  If people don’t feed and nurture them properly their shells can become deformed.”  The diet to which Messmann refers consists of fruit, vegetables, worms and crickets.

Black-breasted leaf turtles live up to 20 years but only reach an average length of five inches, making them one of the smallest turtles in the world.

Zoo babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital. 

 

 

Posted in: Baby Animals, Indonesian Rain Forest, Reptiles, Zoo News

Hello, Little Jellies

moon jellies zoo attraction

Thirty one-month-0ld moon jellyfish arrived at the Great Barrier Reef Aquarium this week!  Hatched at the New England Aquarium, these two-inch-diameter moon jellies joined 13 adult jellies in the Great Barrier Reef Aquarium.  

Because moon jellies have an average life span of six months in the wild and one year in captivity, the introduction of new moon jellies is a yearly event at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.  The babies will mature quickly and should have a bell size of six to eight inches when the zoo opens on April 26.

Zoo keepers transitioned the babies into their new aquarium slowly.   A large bag containing the new moon jellies was placed inside the aquarium but was not opened right away, allowing water temperatures to equalize.  Little by little, zoo keepers allowed small amounts of water from the bag and the aquarium to mix together.   Click on the video for behind-the-scenes footage of the acclimation process:

Moon jellies are not endangered and are a favorite food of several endangered sea turtle species.  However, balloons and plastic grocery bags closely resemble jellyfish when floating in the ocean.  If sea turtles ingest the balloons and bags, they can die.  You can help sea turtles by recycling plastic grocery bags and avoiding mass balloon releases.

Zoo babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.

Posted in: Aquarium, Baby Animals

The Baby Boom Continues

crocodile skink zoo attraction

The zoo’s baby boom continues as zoo keepers welcome a new addition to the Indonesian Rain Forest…a teeny, tiny, two-inch crocodile skink.  It’s the first time this reptile species has ever been hatched at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo!  This imperious addition to the animal kingdom weighed-in at two grams, approximately the weight of a pencil eraser. 

Although its name implies a lizard of force and stature, this particular crocodile skink began its life cycle in a fragile state.

Late last year, zoo keepers discovered by accident that the adult crocodile skinks had produced an egg.  Dave Messmann, a zoo keeper in the Indonesian Rain Forest, accidentally disturbed the egg while cleaning the skinks’ aquarium.  “We were concerned about the disturbance.  It’s a best-practice to avoid moving a reptile egg once it’s discovered, ” Messmann stated.  He also explained the reason why zoo keepers would have preferred avoidance, “An air pocket inside the egg can shift if the egg is moved, potentially causing the embryo to suffocate.” 

Hoping for the best, zoo keepers decided to incubate the egg and observe.  They constructed an incubator by filling a deli tub with wet moss and poking holes in the tub’s lid.  The egg was carefully placed atop the moss and the tub was placed on a shelf.  The egg was then allowed to incubate at room temperature, undisturbed.  After sixty days, a live hatchling was observed!

At eleven days old, the crocodile skink baby weighed-in at 2 grams.  Now thirty days old, the baby is doing fine and continues to develop normally.  It will likely reach an adult length of eight inches and top-out at one pound.

Zoo babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.

Click on the pictures to enlarge:

Posted in: Baby Animals, Indonesian Rain Forest, Reptiles

The Colobus Babies Have Names!

colobus baby zoo attraction

This just in – Zoo keepers have named the two colobus monkey babies at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo! 

~Jibini’s baby is male and named Obi (pronouced “oh-bee”).  His name means “heart.”

~Wamblenica’s baby is female and named Mchumba  (pronouced “meh-choom-ba”).  Her name means “sweetheart.”

Obi and Mchumba were born in late January.  Click here to read the zoo’s earlier blog post announcing the colobus babies’ births.

Why did keepers wait so long to name the babies?  “We wanted to wait until we found out both of their sexes so we could give them corresponding names,” says African Journey Area Manager Amber Eagleson.  Determining Mchumba’s sex took longer because the infant monkey clung very tightly to her mother, and keepers waited some time before approaching mom and baby.  This clinging behavior is typical in colobus infants.

Zoo Keeper Jessica Walker reports that the babies are developing normally and have undergone behavioral as well as physical changes.  “Since their arrival, the babies have developed rapidly!  Initially they clung tight to their respective mothers, and either nursed or slept for the majority of the day.  They vocalized only slightly.  Now, although they still display the clinging and nursing behaviors of infancy, both babies have been moving more and have found their voices.”

Walker also notes changes in Obi and Mchumba’s physical appearance.  “The first couple of days after birth the little ones were completely white.  Their coloration is slowly changing to resemble the black-and-white pattern of an adult colobus monkey.   The change will be more noticeable in the coming weeks.” 

The photos below were taken on February 27, 2014, around the time of the babies’ one-month birthday.  Click to enlarge:

Posted in: Baby Animals, Monkeys, Zoo News

For Your Zoo-to-Do List…

pheasant pigeon zoo attraction

Maggie, a very friendly green-naped pheasant pigeon in Indonesian Rain Forest, experienced a life-changing event in August when she was introduced to Zazu, a male pheasant pigeon.  Maggie and Zazu quickly became a pair, and recently welcomed a new baby!

Winter has been a busy time for Maggie and Zazu.  They built a nest on the forest floor and took turns incubating their single egg.  Now that their chick has hatched, both parents hunt for seeds, fruit, and insects to feed their chick.    

Feeding a new baby bird is a tireless job, but all their work is paying off.  The new chick is already half the size of its parents and will soon be foraging for food on its own.

Keepers are eager to learn the chick’s gender, but they’ll have to wait until they can catch it.  The chick is always on the move and darts behind vegetation when approached. “The way we determine a pheasant pigeon’s sex is by doing a blood draw.  We’re waiting until the baby gets a little older and more comfortable with the staff before we approach it,” says zoo keeper Tiffany Jones.  

Green-naped pheasant pigeons are native to New Guinea and nearby islands, and they are considered endangered in parts of their range.  Pheasant pigeons are non-flighted birds, but they can glide for short distances.  The zoo participates in the Species Survival Plan for these birds to manage breeding and maintain a genetically healthy zoo population.

Because she often strolled alongside the rain forest boardwalk, Maggie is well-known to zoo guests.  We’ll see if she returns to her old habits this summer when her chick becomes independent.  Visit Maggie and see if you can spot the new chick when the zoo opens for the season on April 26.

Click on the images below to enlarge:

 

Posted in: Baby Animals, Birds, Indonesian Rain Forest, Zoo News