Meet some of the popular mammals living at the Virginia Zoo. In addition to these favorites, we have lots more mammals, too, so come see us soon.

African Lion

Our male lion, Mramba weighs 364 pounds, and has a laid back nature. Zola, the Zoo’s female lion, is Mramba’s mate. She weighs 344 pounds, is quick tempered and likes playing with balls and cones. Our lions are very vocal, and their roars can be heard across the Zoo.

African lions are found throughout the south Sahara desert and in parts of southern and eastern Africa. Lions are the only truly social cat species, and the only cats that live in large family groups. They spend their lives clustered into groups called prides, which consist of a single dominant male and several closely related females. Females hunt as a team to kill a communal meal. Males eat first, then the females, and finally the cubs. The male lion’s mane serves as form of intimidation by making him seem larger, and it also protects his throat from enemies. A lion is a “digitigrade” or toe walker – that means his heel does not touch the ground.

Asian Small-Clawed Otter

We have two Asian small-clawed otters: male Sawyer and female Merrill, that we are hoping will breed. The habitat features an underwater viewing area through which visitors can watch the otters swim.

The Asian small-clawed otter is the smallest of the 13 species of otters found throughout the world. They are generally no more than two feet long and weigh less than 10 pounds. The hind feet are fully webbed, while the front are only partially webbed, giving them the kind of flexibility found in “hands” rather than feet. These otters are carnivorous, eating mostly mollusks and crustaceans, but also frogs, fish and eggs. Asian small-clawed otters can be found in freshwater streams and rivers in southern India, China and the Philippines, and throughout Southeast Asia, but populations are declining due to habitat destruction, pollution and hunting.

Asiatic Black Bear


Also known as “moon bears,” because of the patch of white fur on their chest resembles a crescent moon. The Virginia Zoo has two Asiatic black bear brothers, Chai and Thai. Very active, they like to wrestle and can frequently be seen tearing up bamboo in the

Moon bears are omnivorous and can be found throughout Southern Asia, Korea and northeastern China. Though similar in size to North American black bears, Asiatic black bears have a thicker mane of fur around their neck.ir habitat. Chai is the bigger of the two, weighing in at around 450 pounds.


We have four binturongs: males Rungus and Tasik, and females Suzy and Bee.

Sometimes called Asian bearcats, binturongs are not related to bears or cats; some people just thought they looked like a combination of the two animals. They are arboreal, and about half of their four to six foot body length is a long prehensile tail they use to help them climb through the trees. In the wild, they can be found in the upper tree canopy in rainforests in China, Inonesia, the Philippines and India. Binturong are omnivorous, eating fruit, leaves, small mammals, birds, invertebrates, carrion and eggs.



The bongo is the largest and heaviest forest antelope. The bright chestnut color of its coat becomes darker with age until old males are almost black. The body is highlighted with 12 to 14 narrow white stripes on the shoulders, flanks and hindquarters. The large ears are believed to sharpen hearing, and the distinctive coloration may help bongos identify one another in their dark forest habitats. Both males and females have spiraled horns. Bongos are found in rain forest with dense undergrowth in the Lowland Rain Forest of West Africa and the Congo Basin to the Central African Republic and Southern Sudan. They are timid and easily frightened. They will move away after a scare, running at considerable speed, even through dense undergrowth.

Malayan Tapir


Visitors to the Zoo often think our tapirs look like giant anteaters, or that they must be related to elephants, because of their prehensile nose. In fact, Tapirs are among the most primitive herbivores, dating back 20 million years and are most closely related to the horse and rhinoceros. In Thailand, tapirs are called “P’som-sett,” meaning “mixture is finished,” which refers to the local belief that tapirs were created from the leftover parts of other animals.

Our tapir female Hattie, enjoy bananas and taking a dip in her habitat’s small pond.

In the wild, tapirs can be found in the dense rainforests of Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia and Indonesia. They are herbivores, eating grasses, aquatic vegetation, leaves, buds, soft twigs and fruits of low shrubs. Excellent swimmers and divers, tapirs often breathe with their snouts poked above the water surface like a snorkel. Tapirs are endangered and their numbers are decreasing due to habitat destruction and fragmentation. Large scale deforestation, including illegal logging and the growth of palm oil plantations, is a major factor in the loss of their habitat.

Malayan Tiger

Christopher and cubs Stubbley and Osceola are our three Malayan tigers. Though obviously much larger and more dangerous, they exhibit many of the same qualities found in house cats, lounging in the sun, stalking potential prey and playing with toys.

Malayan tigers are endangered and recent counts showed there may be as few as 400 left in the wild. It is perhaps the smallest subspecies of tiger, with an average weight of nearly 300 pounds for adult males and just over 200 pounds for females. In the wild, Malayan tigers mainly prey on deer and wild boar. They are found in the tropical forests of the southern and central Malay Peninsula.

Masai Giraffe

We have three giraffes at the Virginia Zoo: adult male Billy, older female Imara, and Noelly who arrived in April 2015.

Giraffes are the tallest land mammals, and that height allows them to see danger sooner than smaller animals.  They also have excellent eyesight. They frequently are the first to start running when they sense danger is near, which is a signal to other animals nearby. Like most mammals, the giraffe has seven neck vertebrae. However, each can be over 10 inches long. Their tongues are over 18 inches long, and they are blue. The color helps prevent the tongue from being sunburned when they use it to pluck leaves from trees.



We have 4 orangutans at the Zoo; Schnitz, Pepper, Dara and Solaris. Schnitz, a male orangutan, and Pepper, a female, were actually playmates when very young, but spent some time apart at separate zoos before being reunited in 1995. They have been together since and came to the Virginia Zoo together in 2011. Both were zoo born and the outdoor habitat at the Virginia Zoo will be their first outdoor habitat.

Male orangutans can weigh as much as 300 pounds and stand up to five feet tall, while females are generally less than half that weight and stand about four feet tall. As males mature, they develop pronounced cheek pads of fatty tissue and acquire broad jowls and long beards. An orangutan’s arms can be more than six feet long, while the legs are 30 to 50 percent shorter. This body type suits an animal that spends most of its time swinging from branch to branch; a movement known as brachiating. They are omnivorous, eating fruit, young shoots, bark and insects.

Orangutans once ranged throughout Southeast Asia and into southern China, and were found on the island of Java and in southern Sumatra. Orangutans are now found only on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra with the Sumatran species limited to the northern part of the island. Sumatran orangutans are fragmented into nine separate populations, all of which are located in the Indonesian provinces of Aceh and North Sumatra. Bornean orangutans are much more widely distributed and are found in Kalimantan, Sabah and Sarawak. Their habitats include lowland and hilly tropical rain forests, mangrove and coastal peat swamp forests, and mountain forests.

Red Panda

Thomas, born on June 20, 2013, and Sunny can frequently be spotted exploring the trees and logs in their exhibit in Asia Trail of the Tiger. Timora, also known as Timmy, resides in the red panda habitat to the right of the path leading to the event field from fountain plaza.

Red pandas, which resemble raccoons, are about 42 inches long with a long, bushy tail. Their soft, dense fur covers their entire body – even the soles of their feet. Red pandas use their long, bushy tails to help them balance when they are in the trees.  They also cover themselves with their tails to keep warm in the winter. Red pandas live in the cool temperate bamboo forests in Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces in China, the Himalayas and in Myanmar. They share part of their range with giant pandas.  Red pandas eat bamboo leaves, berries, blossoms, and bird eggs. Red pandas are endangered primarily due to habitat loss. Red panda births are significant as they are a threatened species with fewer than 2,500 adults left in the world.


The siamang is the largest member of the gibbon family. Like other primates, siamangs have four long fingers and a smaller opposable thumb. Their feet have guntur3five toes with an opposable big toe. Their arms are longer than their legs. Siamang are distinctive from other gibbons for two reasons: 1) Two digits on each foot are partially joined by a membrane and 2) A large gular sac which can be inflated to the size of its head, allowing the siamang to make loud resonating calls or songs.

We have four siamangs, an adult male, Bali, and female, Hitam, and their offspring Lola and Guntur, who was born on November 21, 2014. They are acrobatic and agile, and can be seen leaping with confidence across formidable gaps between ropes or branches on Siamang Island, their outdoor habitat, or in their indoor playroom.

Siamangs range through Southeast Asia and are found in some numbers on the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra. They are arboreal, preferring the middle canopy level, but will travel from tree tops to low bushes while feeding. Like other primates, they are omnivores; though roughly half of their diet consists of leaves, siamangs also eat fruit, insects, nuts, small animals, birds and birds’ eggs. They are endangered and their numbers are declining as humans invade their habitat, often killing the mothers while capturing the young for a lucrative pet market.

Slender-Tailed Meerkats


Slate, a male, and Pat, a female, weigh about two pounds each and are very territorial. They are enthusiastic diggers, and their exhibit features extensive tunnels. Their other favorite pastime is to bask in the sun. Their favorite food is meal worms.

Meerkats live in the Kalahari Desert in South Africa. They live in grass-lined burrows that they share with ground squirrels and yellow mongooses.  However, they are very territorial with other meerkats and will fiercly defend their homes from other meerkat gangs also known as mobs. They are close knit with their own mob, and live in extended family structures. Security is an important concern, so they stand sentry and send out emergency calls to each other.

Squirrel Monkey

DSC_7179aThis gang is curious and playful, swinging from the vines in their exhibit like professional trapeze artists. They weight between one and one and one-half pounds and are fascinated by mirrors. They also love marigolds and eating bananas.

In the wild, squirrel monkeys live in big groups that include more than one male and lots of youngsters. Mothers carry the babies around on their backs. Their home range is east of the Andes from Columbia and northern Peru to northeastern Brazil. They live in forests and in cultivated areas, usually along rivers and streams. Squirrel monkeys’ tails are the same length or longer than the length of their bodies.

They find safety in numbers by feeding in large groups that are too great for the larger monkeys to chase from the trees.

White-Cheeked Gibbon


We have two white-cheeked gibbons, Dexter, a male, and Asia, a female. Asia loves getting back scratches from her keepers. Dexter enjoys snacking on crickets and teasing the Asian small-clawed otters, with whom he shares his outdoor habitat.

Male and female white-cheeked gibbons are so strikingly different in color that they look like different species. Females have white fur, with a tiny patch of black on top of their head. Males are all black except for white patches on their cheeks. When baby gibbons are born, their fur is white like their mom’s (an effective form of camouflage), but they turn all black by one year of age. Then, as they become young adults, females turn white again, while males remain black. Adults are 18 to 25 inches tall and weigh about 12 to 20 pounds.

White-cheeked gibbons are frugivores, eating eat mostly ripe fruits, but they also eat leaves and occasionally small invertebrates. In the wild they occupy the upper canopy of tropical rainforests and monsoon forests in Laos, Vietnam and southern China. White-cheeked gibbons are listed as Critically Endangered due to hunting and habitat loss.

White Rhino



White rhinos are highly endangered, with less than 3,000 living in the wild. Their horn is made of keratin, a fibrous protein that makes up human hair and nails. Rhinos have poor vision, but a very keen sense of smell. The white rhino is more placid and sociable than other types of rhinos. As the second largest land animal, typically a rhino yields only to an elephant.

More Mammals

Below is a list of many other mammals that make the Virginia Zoo their home. Most can be seen on exhibit, and some are popular Animal Ambassadors through the Education Department.  You can meet Animal Ambassadors at Zoo special events, birthday parties, education programs and private parties. Come visit the amazing mammals at the Virginia Zoo!

  • Alpaca
  • American bison
  • Black-tailed prairie dog
  • Chinchilla
  • Dexter cow
  • Domestic goat
  • Domestic rabbit
  • Eastern grey kangaroo
  • Fennec fox
  • Grant’s zebra
  • Hoffman’s two-toed Sloth
  • Southdown babydoll sheep
  • Northern tree shrew
  • Prehensile tailed porcupine
  • Red river hog
  • Rock hyrax
  • Southern three-banded armadillo
  • Small Madagascar hedgehog tenrec
  • Virginia opossum
  • Watusi cow
  • Yellow armadillo