Awwwwww … photos of the two baby gorillas born last week at the Bronx Zoo have people calling them “adorable.” This is the time of nature’s renewal, however, and these newborn primates are just two of the many cute zoo babies popping out all over this spring.
The two, born March 10 to 33-year-old Julia and April 17 19-year-old Tuti, share the same father. Passing out cigars was Ernie, a 31-year old male Western Lowland gorilla who sired both babies. A baby gorilla weighs about four to five pounds. The gestation period for gorillas is eight and a half months, just days short of the human equivalent. Both mothers and babies are reported to be doing well.
The first-born zoo baby of 2014 was probably the Grey Seal pup, whose mother Lily delivered him at 7 am on January first at Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo. The pup, christened Charles, weighed 25 pounds at birth. At last report, Charles had gained considerable weight, tipping the scale at 100 pounds at last report. Both momma and baby are being kept off exhibit for several weeks after the birth, and zoo visitors will have to wait until later this spring for a peek at the new arrival.
Following closely on the heels of the Grey Seal pup was a Coguerel’s sifaka Lemur born on January 5 at the Sacramento Zoo in California. Coquerel’s Lemurs are rare, and this baby brought the number in captivity to just 59. This type of lemur thrives in dry deciduous forests, where the small primates live up to 30 years in Madagascar’s southern desert. There are believed to be only about 10,000 of these lemurs on earth.
Staffers at the Denver Zoo no doubt felt mile-high when mother Clouded Leopard Lisu gave birth to twins this March 14. Named Pi and Rhu, they are also being hand-raised by zoo staff members. The two, originally confined to an incubator, now inhabit a “whelping box,” a large enclosure that gives them a place to play and learn to walk. Upon graduation from this enclosure, they’ll go to the zoo’s Clouded Leopard exhibit.
Mammals are not the only cute babies popping out all over. The Denver Zoo was also the site for the hatching of a single Steller’s Sea Eagle chick, a rare event in the United States, and the first ever at the Denver Zoo. The chick, as yet unnamed, hatched this March 4 and is currently under the care of its mother. Steller’s Sea Eagles weigh an average of 15 to 18 pounds and are the largest of the eagle family. The inhabit remote areas in East Asia and northern Russia, and little is known about them.
Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo recently announced the birth of a female Klipspringer, a dwarf antelope that frequents central and southern parts of Africa. The calf, born on March 30, Is a result of the Klipspringer Specials Survival Program. Since her mother is unable to care for her, she is currently being hand-fed by members of the zoo staff. She is reportedly healthy and eating well, and her weight has nearly doubled since her birth. Full-grown, a Klipspringer antelope weighs just 24 pounds.
Most of the rare babies on the list are the products of zoo’s species survival programs dedicated to the breeding and raising of animals on the vulnerable or endangered list. That is another good reason to celebrate the fact that cute zoo babies are popping out all over.
Commentary by B. David Warner