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In Animals & Plants

New Arrivals

More Red Panda Cubs!DSC_5436

Sharp-eyed visitors may spot two new red panda cubs at the Virginia Zoo!

Although not old enough to explore on their own, mother Bernadette occasionally carries the female cubs around the habitat by the scruff of the neck.

“Everybody loves red pandas, and though it doesn’t seem possible, the babies are even cuter than the adults,” said Greg Bockheim, the Zoo’s executive director. “They’re a timely addition since Charlie and Thomas will be heading to new zoos soon, and we hope they will inspire visitors to learn more about the challenges these amazing creatures face in the wild.”

The cubs were born June 19 to Bernadette and father Oscar. The pair produced two male cubs last year on June 20, and this year’s cubs are the second set born at the Virginia Zoo. The cubs have been examined twice by Zoo veterinarian, Dr. Amanda Guthrie, and she said that they are looking healthy.

Red pandas are small tree-dwelling animals native to the eastern Himalayas and southwestern China. Slightly larger than a domestic cat and with markings similar to a raccoon, red pandas have soft, dense reddish-brown and white fur that covers their entire body.

Cassowary Chicks boris with chicks

Three cassowary chicks hatched at the Virginia Zoo, Friday, June 20, 2014.

Boris, the Virginia Zoo’s male cassowary, incubated the eggs and is raising the chicks. This is the second clutch for him and Earline, a female cassowary. The pair produced a single male chick, Hallagar, in June 2013.

“He’s a great dad,” said Alexandra Zelazo-Kessler, the Virginia Zoo’s lead bird zookeeper, about Boris. “He seems a little calmer around keepers this time around, but still protective.”

Cassowaries are flightless birds native to the tropical forests of New Guinea, north-eastern Australia and area islands. They feed mainly on fruit, though they are omnivorous and also eat various plant shoots, seeds, insects, and small reptiles and mammals. They are among the largest birds, slightly smaller than the ostrich and emu. Cassowaries are actually very shy, but are capable of inflicting serious injuries with their claws. They have a reputation as world’s most dangerous bird, but in reality attacks are rare and usually involve people who feed the birds.

“We were very excited last year when Hallagar arrived, and three chicks is three times the excitement!” said Greg Bockheim, the Virginia Zoo’s executive director. “We’re learning a lot about raising cassowaries, and hope to combine that knowledge with other zoos and assist with their conservation in the wild.”

Sharp-eyed visitors can see the cassowaries on the far side of the Australia exhibit behind the barn, Bockheim added, but the chicks may be difficult to spot as they are brown and less than a foot tall. The chicks will be named after their sex is determined. A public cassowary habitat is planned for the Asia – Trail of the Tiger exhibit.


Bouncing Baby Bongo CalvesIMG_1120c

Another baby bongo, born at the Virginia Zoo Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013 is now accepting visitors.

A female calf, Belle, is the fourth baby for mother Betty, and the second for father A.J. This follows the birth of half-sister Callie, born Nov. 2.

The bongo breeding program is part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan, which strives to preserve endangered species. As part of the effort, the Virginia Zoo sent one of its captive-born calves to Africa in 2004, to create a herd with other bongos from North American zoos.

Wild bongos live in dense forests in Kenya and other regions of Africa. The wild population is rapidly diminishing as its habitat is destroyed by human encroachment, and the animals are over-hunted for meat and for their horns.

Bongos are the largest and heaviest type of forest antelope, standing over 50 inches tall at the shoulder and weighing around 450 to 550 pounds. Their chestnut coats with white stripes provide camouflage in the forest shadows. Herds are comprised of females and calves, while males are more solitary. Bongos are most active at dawn and dusk. Females give birth to one calf per year and the gestation period is nine months.

Charlie and Thomas, Red Panda CubsDSC_8975b

Our two red panda cubs, Charlie and Thomas are receiving visitors at the Virginia Zoo’s red panda habitat near the Event Field.

Born June 20, 2013, to mom Bernadette and father Oscar, the twin male cubs tipped the scales at 95 and 106 grams.

Red pandas are tree-dwelling animals native to the eastern Himalayas and southwestern China. They were the first panda discovered, about 40 years prior to giant pandas. Although very different, both species share the name. Slightly larger than a domestic cat and with markings similar to a raccoon, red pandas have soft, dense reddish-brown and white fur. They feed mainly on bamboo, but also various plant shoots, leaves, fruit and insects. Red pandas are shy and solitary except when mating. Females give birth in the spring and summer, typically to one to three young. Red Pandas remain in their nests for more than 90 days, during which time their mother cares for them.

The Virginia Zoo’s Baby Giraffe is Named Kellen! DSC_9208b

Of the top five names, Kellen was the favorite, capturing a majority of the votes. Patches was second, followed by, Zarafa, Mandela and finally Twiga.

The baby giraffe was born June 6, 2013 to father Billy and mother Imara. At birth, the baby weighed in at 150 pounds and was 6 feet 4 inches tall.

Members of the public suggested names via a Web-based survey linked to the Virginia Zoo’s website and Facebook Fan Page up until July 15, after which, the top names were voted on by Zoo staff, members and social media followers.

Masai giraffe are the largest subspecies of giraffe and the tallest land mammal on Earth. Males reach heights of up to 18 feet tall and females can grow to 14 feet tall. Giraffes may bear one offspring after a 15-month gestation period. Newborn giraffe can stand and walk within an hour of birth. They can eat leaves at four months old, but continue to nurse until 6 to 9 months.

Madonna Delivers Baby DSC_7179cat the Virginia Zoo

Of course we mean Madonna the squirrel monkey…

The material monkey was discovered with the new baby clinging to her back Saturday morning, March 9, 2013 by zookeepers.

The tiny primate joins its mother, proud papa Jeebes and four other squirrel monkeys in the Zoo’s Exhibit Building.

Squirrel monkeys have the proportionately largest brain of all primates, with a brain to body mass ratio of 1-to-17. Humans, by comparison, have a 1-to-35 ratio. Adult squirrel monkeys range from nine to nearly 14 inches, plus a 13 to 17-inch tail, and weigh in from one to just over two pounds. The males are usually larger.

Found in the tropical forests of Central and South America, squirrel monkeys spend most of their time in trees and are primarily active during daylight hours. Unlike many other New World monkeys, their tail is not directly used for climbing, but for maintaining balance as they run and jump among vines and branches. The tiny primates live together in groups of up to 500 males and females. Squirrel monkeys are omnivorous, eating primarily fruits and insects. They live roughly 15 years in the wild, but zoo residents can reach 20 years old.

Baby Siamang BornIMG_9795a

A new baby siamang was discovered clinging to her mother’s stomach Aug. 21, 2012 by zookeepers. First time mother Hitam came to the Virginia Zoo from the San Diego Zoo, while her father, Bali, came from Howletts Wild Animal Park in England.

Siamangs are critically endangered and facing increasing pressure in the wild. They are native to the rainforests of Southeast Asia and are the largest species of gibbon. Siamangs have black shaggy hair and a naked face. They have large gray or pink throat pouch that can be inflated, allowing them to make loud resonating calls that can be heard more than two miles away. Siamangs are omnivorous, eating mostly leaves, but also fruit, insects, nuts, small animals, birds and bird’s eggs. Males and females are similar in size, growing to 30 to 35 inches in length and weighing approximately 17 to 28 pounds.

Siamangs bear one offspring after a 7 to 8 month gestation period. For the first few months, the baby clings to the mother’s abdomen. By age two, the baby is independent, but still very much a part of the family. At about seven years old they reach sexual maturity and leave their parents.

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