Spring has not even officially sprung yet, but zoos and aquariums nationwide are celebrating the births of baby animals.
The Oakland Zoo in California recently announced the birth of three meerkat pups, now part of the current mob (group of meerkats).
"It has been wonderful watching the mob raise the pups," zoological manager Victor Alm said. "It has truly been a collective effort and all the adults are taking their turns caring for and teaching the new pups their different roles and jobs needed to be a productive meerkat."
Clouded leopard cubs are a rite of spring at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute's facility in Front Royal, Va.
The cubs are now part of an international program to conserve the species, which is threatened by deforestation and hunting.
Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Safari Park
"Wesa" the California condor chick is the first such chick of the season at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The chick is being "puppet reared."
"The puppet is like a fancy glove," explained Rob Webb, senior condor keeper, "It covers our hands so the chick does not get any beneficial experiences from people. We do not want it imprinting on people or getting used to us when it goes out into the wild. We want it to be a nice, wild animal, not relying on people for food."
A baby orangutan delivered by C-section is doing well at Zoo Atlanta. Mother Blaze, now recovered, spends most days running over to her son, squeaking softly to him, and then hugging him onto her chest.
Keepers are providing the baby boy with environmental enrichment so that he is stimulated both mentally and physically. He is fascinated by his own reflection in a provided mirror.
A juvenile harbor seal had a rough start to life. Found off the coast of Delaware, he was suffering from abrasions and a severe respiratory infection.
Thanks to round-the-clock care provided by dedicated staff at the National Aquarium's Marine Animal Rescue Program, he is now on the mend. He has been enjoying a hearty diet of smelt and herring fish.
Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
Five lion cubs were recently born at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. During their last exam, the three females were found to weigh 19 to 22 pounds each, while the two males both came in at 23 pounds.
Mother "Mfisha" keeps the cubs in line and gently cleans each with her tongue.
San Diego Zoo Safari Park
A baby boy southern white rhino named "Kayode" is already said to be taking charge of his habitat at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in California.
"Kayode is a little tank, a very cute little tank, and he is showing lots of personality," said Jane Kennedy, lead keeper at the park.
"He loves running and interacting with his mom, sticking out his tongue, and showing the buffalo in his enclosure he's a rhino and he's in charge."
The giant Pacific octopus at the National Aquarium is just a baby, but as an adult it could weigh up to 90 pounds.
Aquarium staff members are providing enrichment to encourage cognitive development. One such brainteaser involves providing the octopus with a container in which food has been hidden. The octopus learns how to open the container and, with its 1,800 suction cups, finds the tasty fishy morsels.
The Audubon Zoo in New Orleans is proudly showing off its baby babirusa. Babirusas are forest-dwelling wild pigs native to Malaysia.
This youngster seems to follow mom wherever she goes in their sun-filled exhibit.
Five-week-old baby gorilla "Gladys Stones" is melting hearts at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.
She was actually born at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Texas, hence her first name. "Stones" is to recognize the Stones Family who cared for her during her first few weeks of life before she traveled to Cincinnati.
Gladys appears to be very happy at her new home, affectionately grabbing primate keepers by the shirt with her fingers.
The first nearly indestructible ball designed for wild animals is a hit in zoos across the country, zookeepers report.
The ball, called the One World Futbol, will not pop or deflate, even if it’s punctured multiple times by such things as a curious lion’s teeth, a huge bird’s sharp beak, thorns, barbed wire and glass.
One particular fan of the new ball is “Ralph,” an elderly, hefty and often persnickety Aldabra tortoise.
“It is particularly difficult to find an enrichment item that can withstand the weight of a 600-pound tortoise and it’s even more difficult to find something that a 100-year-old animal will become actively engaged in,” explained Margaret Rousser, zoological manager at the Oakland Zoo in California.
“Ralph likes his One World Futbol and can even lay down on it, putting his full 600 pounds of weight on the ball, which just snaps back into shape when he gets up. The resilience of the One World Futbol has made it much easier to enrich a 100-year-old tortoise — Ralph is getting some much needed exercise!” she said.
In addition to the Oakland Zoo, the ball is also in use at Zoo Atlanta, Blank Park Zoo (Iowa), Brookfield Zoo (Illinois), Central Florida Animal Reserve (Florida); Honolulu Zoo (Hawaii), Johannesburg Zoo (South Africa), Louisville Zoo (Kentucky); A Leg Up Pet Services (Canada) and others.
Tortoises aren’t the ball’s only fans. “Enrichment is a critical part of our everyday husbandry for zoo animals,” said Rousser. “It provides mental stimulation, as well as physical activity. Though it is difficult to find toys that will hold up under pressure of exotic animals, we have found One World Futbols to be a great asset for several species at Oakland Zoo.”
The ball would also seem to be the ultimate toy for kids, not to mention parents who are tired of having to replace broken/busted balls and toys. One World is now working to deliver the balls “to disadvantaged communities where play and sport are used to foster social change,” according to the organization’s website.
As for the ball’s usage at zoos, the org’s mission is to support sustainability by reducing the need to constantly source and replace balls.
I doubt that fans like Ralph consider their environmental footprint. They’re naturally green living! He’s too busy having fun playing “let’s try to squash the ball.”
(Image: Adam Fink, Oakland Zoo)