ZOOBORNS

36 Adorable Zoo Babies Born in 2011

Meet Chiquita the sassy wolf pup, Aurora the clingy orangutan, and plenty more cuddly newcomers at zoos across the country.

By Raven Snook, Friday, Jun 3, 2011, 9:00 AM

orangutan

Aurora the Bornean orangutan was born at the Houston Zoo on March 2.

Who can resist a baby animal? Not us. That's why we've assembled some of the cutest, newest arrivals on the zoo circuit for like-minded readers to coo over. All born within the past six months, some of these tiny guys are so young they haven't even been named yet—but all are precious, be they furry, feathered, scaly, or, in the case of one little aardvark, pink and wrinkly. In addition to choosing the most photogenic newborns, we did our best to include zoos from all corners of the U.S., so you're bound to be within visiting distance of at least one. Whether or not you go for a meet-and-greet, be sure to cast your vote for the cutest baby of all by checking out our three staff-chosen finalists.

CALIFORNIA

SAN DIEGO ZOO

From $40, ages 3–11 $30, ages 2 and under free, Balboa Park, 2920 Zoo Dr., San Diego, 619/231-1515, sandiegozoo.org

Adhama the Hippo
About 100 visitors were treated to a real Discovery Channel moment on January 26, when pregnant hippo Funani birthed a calf right in front of their eyes. Born in a pool, Adhama ("glory" in Swahili) popped right out of the water to draw his first breath, and soon after was swimming around alongside his mama. By March, Adhama was winning the hearts of everyone who saw him, with fans voting him the zoo's cutest baby on its Facebook page.

Satanic Leaf-Tailed Gecko
Don't let the name of this species scare you: This petite gecko is devilishly cute with its orange bug-eyes and minute, signature horns. Plus it's a tiny little thing, weighing less than a gram when it hatched on New Year's Day (as an adult, he'll be anywhere from six to 10 grams, weighing slightly less than a pack of gum). Masters of disguise, the nocturnal Madagascar natives blend into their environment in order to thwart predators. This particular one—who's unnamed but numbered 911001—has a tail that resembles a dried leaf.

Wûshi the Sichuan Takin
Wûshi arrived just before New Year's Eve—and he's been wreaking adorable havoc ever since. He has distinguished himself from the 49 other takins (hoofed mammals with characteristics similar to moose, wildebeests, and bison) born before him at the zoo by climbing with aplomb and head-butting everything in sight—including his poor grandmother Bea. The creature is named for his number (Wûshi means "50" in Mandarin) and is part of a long history of takin breeding at this zoo: The first of the species to be born outside of China, in fact, arrived here in 1989.

Capybara
Yes, these creatures are technically rodents—the world's largest. But somehow, this not-yet-named baby, born on March 7 to first-time mom Rose, looks a heck of a lot more cuddly than a rat. So far, its favorite activities have been lots of scurrying around and munching on branches and trees.

Christopher and Connor, the Malayan Tigers
These two cubs, born in early April, opened their eyes for the first time two weeks after their arrival, though much like human newborns, they will only see shadows for a while. The 7.7-pound boys sleep most of the day, nurse on their 12-year-old mama, Mek Degong, when they're awake, and should be ready to make their public debut sometime in July. Malayan tigers are critically endangered, with only 500 of the cats left in the wild.

SANTA BARBARA ZOO

$12, ages 65 and older $10, ages 2–12 $10, ages 1 and under free, 500 Niños Dr., Santa Barbara, 805/962-5339, santabarbarazoo.org

Daniel the Masai Giraffe
Zookeepers got a major shock on an early January morning when they discovered that Audrey the giraffe—who hadn't shown any obvious signs of pregnancy—had delivered a calf. Dubbed Daniel, the baby boy weighed 106 pounds and stood 5'9" at birth. Audrey, an extremely young mother, would not allow him to nurse, so Daniel was hand-fed about three gallons of goat's and cow's milk a day by zoo staffers. He now has a strong bond with all members of the herd, and he's growing well. At 10 weeks, he weighed 220 pounds; fully grown, he could reach up to 2,700 pounds.

Golden Lion Tamarin
Fully grown, these miniature Brazilian monkeys weigh only about one pound and stand 10 inches tall. So imagine how small a newborn is: Upon his February 19 arrival, this bright orange baby (still unnamed) was roughly the size of a C-size battery. It's no wonder the little one clings tightly to Mama's back, letting go only long enough to nurse. Although he's now showing more independence by running around on his own, he's still the smallest tamarin on display!

 

COLORADO

CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN ZOO

May–Labor Day $17.25, ages 65 and older $15.25, ages 3–11 $12.25; post Labor Day–April $14.25, ages 65 and older $12.25, ages 3–16 $10.25; ages 2 and under free year-round; 4250 Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Rd., Colorado Springs, 719/633-9925, cmzoo.org

Goeldi's Monkey
Mom Lola already has nine other children, so she's clearly an expert at her job—which may explain why her as-yet-unnamed baby clung to her constantly for the first several weeks. Born in late March, the monkey's height, weight, and even gender can't be determined until the little one ventures out on its own, at least for a few minutes. (That's expected to happen soon, but at present the baby is still clinging, now to its dad.) Native to South American rain forests and known for relying on their long tails for balance, and for leaping from tree to tree in search of food, Goeldi's monkeys are only slightly larger than your average squirrel, so this darling newborn will stay rather compact.

Akoni and Safara, the Red River Hogs
First-time parents Ari and Huey welcomed a boy and a girl on March 23. The hogs, who originally hail from Africa, are learning how to root, wallow, and squeal, and are growing quickly thanks to a steady diet of mother's milk and fresh vegetables. After getting to know their personalities for just over a month, the zookeepers chose appropriate names: Akoni (Swahili for "brave warrior") for the boy and Safara (Wolof for "fire") for the girl.


DENVER ZOO

From March–November 1 $13, ages 65 and older $10, ages 3–11 $8; November–February $10, ages 65 and older $8, ages 3–11 $6; ages 2 and under free year-round; eight free-admission days throughout the year (for exact dates, check the free-admission calendar here); City Park, 2300 Steele St., Denver, 303/376-4800, denverzoo.org

Rusty, Bordeaux, Chianti, and Mena, the Red-Ruffed Lemurs
After a quick gestation period of just over 100 days, first-time mom Sixpence gave birth on March 12 to a brood of four: a boy, Rusty, and his three sisters, Bordeaux, Chianti, and Mena. Since then, the furry, red, diurnal siblings have spent lots of time running around—except when they're being carried in Mama's mouth, that is. When fully grown, the Madagascar natives will be about three feet long, with tails about the same length—all the better to swing by.

 

FLORIDA

BUSCH GARDENS TAMPA BAY

From $77.99, ages 39 from $70, ages 2 and under free, 10165 N. McKinley Dr., Tampa, 888/800-5447, buschgardens.com/bgt

Aardvark
The zoo's newest arrival, born April 10, is a male aardvark, which is incredibly rare considering that North American zoos harbor about 35 aardvarks total (not to mention the fact that there are less than a dozen aardvarks born each year). The animals, native to Africa, are nocturnal creatures that use their keen sense of smell to root around for their favorite food: termites. For now, though, this wrinkly, pink, as-yet-unnamed baby is getting sustenance from a bottle, as zoo staffers had to step in to care for the cub when his mama showed herself to be inattentive. The babe is so friendly that he was named one of the park's Animal Ambassadors (a select group of critters that are taken to schools, community centers, and festivals to educate the public).

Kasi the Cheetah
This cute cub, named Kasi (Swahili for "one with speed"), was transferred here as a newborn in February from the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, where the baby's mother was unable to care for him. These days, he is being tended to around the clock by zoo staff. He's also cohabitating with a seemingly unlikely friend: a female Labrador puppy, brought in to help the cub form an important social bond. (Zoos often bring in canines to befriend orphaned cheetahs, as the two species get along surprisingly well.) Since being introduced to each other in April, the furry tots have become fast friends—there's no fear of separation anxiety either: Animal curator Tim Smith says that Kasi and Mtani (Swahili for "close friend") will live out the rest of their lives together.

Thomson's Gazelle
This still-unnamed mammal weighed in at four pounds when she was born on February 25. When she refused to take milk from her mother, staff members began bottle-feeding her five times a day, and she put on weight quickly. By April, she clocked in at six pounds, which is at least a fifth of her adult weight—female Thomson's gazelles, which are native to the East African plains, can reach 30 to 50 pounds when fully grown.

 

JACKSONVILLE ZOO AND GARDENS

From $13.95, ages 64 and older $11.95, ages 312 $8.95, ages 2 and under free, 370 Zoo Pkwy., Jacksonville, 904/757-4463, jacksonvillezoo.org

Chessie the Grevy's Zebra
Mom Eclipse gave birth on February 26 to this foal, who weighed in at 108 pounds and stood 3.5' tall upon arrival. Recently dubbed Chessie, he's got brown stripes that will turn black like Mama's by his first birthday. His arrival was cause for extra celebration as, unlike other types of zebras, this species is rapidly moving toward extinction: Only an estimated 2,200 remain in the wild today.

Brute the Giant Anteater
The zoo auctioned off naming privileges for this baby at a recent fund-raising event, and the winners decided to name the guy Brute. But tough as his name may be, he's pretty tender, clinging to mom Stella-Abril's tail—standard behavior for these little guys—while dad Killroy looks on. When mom was pregnant, zookeepers were able to perform ultrasounds by bribing Stella-Abril with a special treat of ripe avocado (anteaters have a soft spot for ripe fruit). As adults, these Central and South American creatures' palates are mainly focused on one thing, as they ingest up to 35,000 ants and termites a day. No teeth are required, which is good, since they don't have any. Their long, fast tongues do all the work.

Baker the Bonobo
One of the newest arrivals on the zoo circuit is Baker, a baby girl born on April 19 to mama (and bonobo-group matriarch) Lorel. A new bonobo is always cause for excitement, as it is the most threatened primate species, with only about 20,000 left in the Democratic Republic of Congo (and 290 in less than 20 zoos around the globe). But in this case, it's even more of a thrill than usual, as Baker's mom is 42—the third-oldest bonobo in the nation and the oldest bonobo in North America to give birth to a living offspring.


ILLINOIS

LINCOLN PARK ZOO

Free, 2001 N. Clark St., Chicago, 312/742-2000, lpzoo.org

Hoffman's Two-toed Sloth
Who knew slothfulness could look so sweet? This babe hugs his first-time mom tightly as she hangs upside down from the trees (which is the main activity for these mammals, the slowest in the world). The unnamed offspring, whose gender is still unknown (and whose name thus undecided), arrived on February 15 and will get around by being carried by his mama, like all baby sloths, for up to five months. Now that's attachment parenting.

Sai the White-Cheeked Gibbon
Parents Burma and Caruso (who may very well be together forever, as scientists believe that gibbons mate for life) welcomed their third baby on January 6. Sai, which means "son" in Taiwanese, is currently a golden tan shade, but he'll turn black with signature white cheeks by age 2. This species is endangered, but Sai seems to enjoy living dangerously: He's been hard at work learning how to swing on vines, sans mama, which puts him right on track developmentally.

 

INDIANA


MESKER PARK ZOO
& BOTANIC GARDEN

March–October $8.50, ages 3–12 $7.50; November–February $5.50, ages 3–12 $4.50; ages 2 and under free year-round; 1545 Mesker Park Dr., Evansville, 812/435-6143, meskerparkzoo.com


An Ma the Francois Langur
As a langur, baby An Ma belongs to a group of leaf-eating monkeys who are native to East Asia. She was born on February 8 to mom Sai, and though her fur's starting to turn black and gray, she started off bright orange, which makes her hard to miss—even when she's being cradled by her mother, which is most of the time. Lucky for Sai, fellow female langur Liang is a good friend, occasionally stepping in to babysit so Mom can have a break.


NEW YORK


CENTRAL PARK ZOO

From $12, ages 65 and older $9, ages 312 $7, ages 2 and under free, Central Park, 64th St. and Fifth Ave., New York, 212/439-6500, centralparkzoo.com

Dawn, Lucy, Ringo, and Cole, the Mini-Nubian Goats
Collectively known as the "new kids on the block," Dawn, Lucy, Ringo, and Cole—goats of a breed that comes from pairing a Nubian with a Nigerian dwarf—arrived in February. Cole was spoiled from the onset, as he needed to be nursed, and zookeepers regularly plied him with fresh bottles of goat's milk from gourmet Manhattan supermarket Fairway. All four babies (which include a set of twins) run, jump, and leap in the Children's Zoo, where visitors are welcome to pet and feed the critters—provided they hold still long enough.

ROSAMOND GIFFORD ZOO

March–December $8, ages 62 and older $5, ages 3–8 $4; January–February $4, ages 62 and older $2.50, ages 3–18 $2; ages 2 and under free year-round; 1 Conservation Pl., Syracuse, 315/435-8511, rosamondgiffordzoo.org

D.J. the Patas Monkey
Do all primates like to monkey around? This baby patas (a type of African primate, known for its remarkable abilities to outwit predators) certainly does. Born to mom Addie and dad M.J. in January—and named in honor of a veteran zoo employee who recently passed away—D.J. is a total ham who likes to make faces at the visitors, especially when they're snapping her photo. (You can check out some of the particularly animated pics on the zoo's Facebook page, where a few fans have posted shots of D.J. gleefully sticking out her tongue.)

Humboldt Penguins
In March, lucky mom and dad Poquita and Frederico welcomed a pair of penguins, and another couple had a third within four days. Though all three remain nameless, it's not because of neglect: These birds need to undergo a blood test to determine their gender, and since it's zoo tradition to give the Chilean and Peruvian natives Latino names, the boy-girl facts are a must (think: Julio and Yolanda, not Fluffy and Baby).

 

NORTH CAROLINA


NATURAL SCIENCE CENTER OF GREENSBORO

$8, ages 65 and older $7, ages 3–13 $7, ages 2 and under free, 4301 Lawndale Dr., Greensboro, 336/288-3769, natsci.org

Chiquita, Bonita, and Vinny, the Triplet Maned Wolves
On February 6, Lana and Nazca welcomed a trio of pups. Zookeepers deliberately kept their distance for the first few weeks because they didn't want to make the new parents nervous and put the pups' safety at risk. Once the kids were allowed to blossom a little, their personalities began to emerge: Chiquita is sassy, Bonita is mellow, and Vinny (a big eater) is so far inscrutable. But all three enjoy running and hiding—especially from humans. You can track their progress through blog entries and video clips.

 

OHIO


CINCINNATI ZOO & BOTANICAL GARDEN

From $14, ages 62 plus and ages 2–12 $10, ages 1 and under free, 3400 Vine St., Cincinnati, 513/281-4700, cincinnatizoo.org

Zuri the Masai Giraffe
Four-year-old Tessa became a first-time mom on April 2, when her little Zuri (Swahili for "beautiful") became the first giraffe to be born at the zoo since 1985. Masai Giraffes are the largest of the giraffe subspecies; they can grow up to 17', and their tongues alone extend a foot and a half in length. Less than a half hour after Zuri's arrival, she attempted to stand for the first time, and an hour after that she was nursing, no doubt worn out and hungry from her eventful day.

Garnett's Galago
Born April 5 to mom Sandy and dad Andy, this wide-eyed creature—an East African primate—is also called a "greater bushbaby," due to its childlike cry. Because its highly protective parents have been keeping their bundle of joy tucked safely away in a cozy box, not much is yet known about the infant—not even its gender, which is why the zoo staff has yet to come up with a name.

Pancake Tortoises
Parents Dagwood and Blondie welcomed a pair of babies on April 4. Details on them are scarce, as they have not been named (reptiles at the zoo, said a spokesperson, are often not given names at all) and their genders are yet to be determined (the only way to figure out whether a turtle is a boy or a girl is through blood tests, which can take some time). But, just like Mom and Dad and the rest of the African species, they have flat, flexible shells, making them much more agile than your average turtle.

Caspian the Eurasian Eagle Owl
This fluffy owl chick hatched on March 30—and though he emerged at only around a quarter of a pound, he is part of one of the largest owl species in the world and could grow to have a wingspan of six feet. Eurasian eagle owls, found all across Europe and Asia as well as in parts of North Africa, feed mostly on small mammals (Caspian likes mice) and as adults can prey on larger ones such as foxes and young deer.

 

COLUMBUS ZOO AND AQUARIUM

$14, ages 60 and older $10, ages 2–9 $9, ages 1 and under free; 50 percent off admission in January and February; 4850 West Powell Rd., Powell, 800/666-5397, colszoo.org

Ariki the North Island Brown Kiwi
Humans aren't the only species to experience fertility issues: The Columbus Zoo had been trying to breed its female kiwi (an endangered species) for nine years. Its efforts paid off on March 23, when, after pairing the gal with a new male, this fluffy brown male chick was born. The arrival of Ariki (a Polynesian word for "chief") was quite a monumental one: The Columbus Zoo is only the third zoo in North America since 1975 to successfully hatch a kiwi chick.

Wilbur the Bonobo
The entire social structure of the bonobo community revolves around sex, which explains why it took some time—and the aid of a paternity test!—to identify the father (a male named Donnie) of baby Wilbur, born just before the new year. Doting mama Ana Neema has two other offspring, nine-year-old Bila Isa and four-year-old Gilda. Bonobos are endangered inhabitants of the Congo jungle who eat mainly fruit. The creatures share more than 98 percent of the same DNA with humans—which may explain that preoccupation with carnal relations.

 

THE WILDS

From $20, ages 60 and older $19, ages 4–12 $15, ages 3 and under free, 14000 International Rd., Cumberland, 740/638-5030, thewilds.org

Sichuan Takins
Talk about a birthday party! Between March and April, each of the seven Sichuan takins living in this 10,000-acre open-range habitat gave birth to a baby. Since the facility simulates the animals' wild habitat, all of the takins live in herds and the kids are cared for in nursery groups, just as they would be in the Himalayan Mountains. Colloquially known as "goat antelopes" since they have characteristics of both of those animals, the takin babes weighed just 12 to 15 pounds at birth, but eventually they'll reach 500 to 800 pounds.

 

PENNSYLVANIA


ERIE ZOO

Open March 1–November 30, $8, ages 62 and older $6, ages 2–12 $5, ages 1 and under free423 W. 38th St., Erie, 814/864-4091, eriezoo.org


Huey and Opie, the Goats
Born in March on a farm in southwest Pennsylvania, two male kids—a curly Angora named Huey and a Nubian named Opie—are being raised at the zoo. They're bottle-fed by staffers three times a day as they bleat with joy and wag their little tails (much to the delight of onlookers). They may look small now, but they grow up fast—especially the Nubian, who should reach about 175 pounds by his first birthday.

 

TENNESSEE


NASHVILLE ZOO

$14, ages 65 and older $12, ages 2–12 $9, ages 2 and under free3777 Nolensville Pike, Nashville, 615/833-1534, nashvillezoo.org


Rajasi, Lisu, and Yim, the Clouded Leopards

Mid-March was a busy time at this zoo: In less than one week, two litters of endangered clouded leopards arrived. First, on March 19, Jing Jai gave birth to three cubs, though only two survived: Rajasi, a male (named for a fierce forest creature in Thai mythology), and Lisu, a female (named for a tribe in northwest Thailand). Four days later, Lom Choy delivered a single baby, Yim ("smile" in Thai). All three weighed just a half pound at birth, but now they're gaining that same amount every week, thanks to a special feline milk diet. The later that clouded leopards are introduced to potential mates, the more likely they are to be aggressive, so these cubs are being hand-reared to make it easier to introduce them to potential mates at a younger age and help them adapt to a zoo environment.

 

TEXAS


HOUSTON ZOO

$12, ages 2–11 $8, ages 65 and older $6.50, ages 1 and under free; free admission on the first Tuesday of every month after 2 p.m.; 6200 Hermann Park Dr., Houston, 713/533-6500, houstonzoo.org


Aurora the Bornean Orangutan
And you thought your kid was needy: Baby orangutans cling to their mothers 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for at least their first six months of life. That fact was complicated for baby Aurora, who was rejected by her mom after she was born on March 2; as a solution, a mix of zoo employees from every department, as well as trained volunteers—50 in all—are taking turns wearing a furry faux orangutan vest and holding the baby round the clock until she's ready to move about by herself. Talk about being raised by a village.

Asali the Masai Giraffe
After 14 months of pregnancy (yikes!), mom Tyra delivered this little—make that big—bundle of joy on March 4: Asali ("honey" in Swahili) weighed 150 pounds and stood more than 6' at birth, and she was nursing and standing on her own just an hour after arriving. Mom Tyra, who has had five other calves, must have been very proud of her quick learner.

 

WASHINGTON, D.C.


SMITHSONIAN NATIONAL ZOOLOGICAL PARK

Free, 3001 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, D.C., 202/633-4888, nationalzoo.si.edu

Wattled Crane
On March 20, a male crane was hatched at the Smithsonian, just the third of its kind in the zoo's history. Unlike its white parents, the baby has soft yellow-and-white feathers (mature, brilliant white plumage won't appear till age 2), and its signature below-the-beak wattle is quite small. That wattle, similar to a dog's tail, is a good indicator of the bird's state: It contracts when the crane's scared and expands when it's being aggressive.

Clouded Leopards
On March 28, mom Sita and dad Ta Moon welcomed a pair of cuddly cubs, one boy and one girl. But these two won't be on view at the National Zoo, instead being raised at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va., which is not open to the public, and then most likely sent to other institutions once they turn 6 months old. For now, the Smithsonian has made some YouTube videos available to track the cubs' progress. One helpful hint for telling who's who: The little guy is laid-back, and his sis is the fussy one!

 

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