Baby Porcupine at Seattle Zoo

Baby porcupine

The new porcupette at one day old at the Woodland Park Zoo. Photo by Ryan Hawk / Woodland Park Zoo

The Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, WA welcomed a baby North American porcupine on April 18. The male porcupette (baby porcupine) and his mother Molly are living in a den and are being monitored by zoo staff. The pair will be on exhibit in just a couple weeks!

Porcupettes are born with soft quills that harden a few hours after birth, providing quick protection against predators. After a few weeks, the babies develop their tree-climbing abilities. Once they wean themselves off their mother’s milk, they climb trees to forage for leaves, twigs, and bark.

Learn more about the porcupette at the Woodland Park Zoo blog.

Baby Meerkats at Oakland Zoo

Meerkat pups at Oakland Zoo

Photo by Oakland Zoo.

Three meerkat pups were born at the Oakland Zoo. Their names are African in origin and are Ayo (joy), Rufaro (happiness), and Nandi (sweet). The pups are approaching six weeks of age and are doing well.

According to Victor Alm, Zoological Manager:

“It has been wonderful watching the mob [group of meerkats] raise the pups. 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.”

In the wild, meerkats inhabit the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa. They are physically adapted to living in the harsh desert environment. Dark patches around their eyes help them be effective lookouts by reducing the glare of the sun, much like a baseball player who paints dark lines beneath his eyes.

To learn more about meerkats, see our our Meerkat Facts page.

Baby Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin at Discovery Cove

Discovery Cove in Orlando, FL welcomed a male Atlantic bottlenose dolphin calf on Monday. The calf weighs 44 pounds and measures 44 inches long.

Baby dolphin

The baby calf swims and bonds with his mother Kendall. Photo by Discovery Cove.

To learn more about bottlenose dolphins, see our Bottlenose Dolphin Facts Page.

Great White Shark Tracker

Do you know how many times have you been swimming at the beach in the vicinity of a great white shark? Thanks to a team called Ocearch, now you can find out if there’s a great white near you. Using GPS-satellite tagging technology, Ocearch is tracking the movement of around 40 great white sharks.

Shark Tracker

A screenshot from Ocearch’s Global Shark Tracker tool. This shows the path of a great white shark called Mary Lee, who has swum along the east coast as far north as Cape Cod.

You can view the movement of these sharks at the Ocearch Global Shark Tracker website.

To learn more about great whites, see our Great White Shark Fact Page.

Rethinking Dinosaur Extinction

On February 14, a small asteroid known as the Chelyabinsk object hit southwestern Russia. The next day, a 40-meter-long asteroid called 2012 DA14 passed by the earth, coming closer than our own satellites. These recent encounters with large space rocks bring to mind one of the theories of what killed the dinosaurs millions of years ago: an asteroid strike.

Asteroid strike that killed the dinosaurs

A painting by Donald E. Davis that depicts an asteroid crashing into the Yucatan Peninsula in southeast Mexico.

By studying a 110-mile (180-kilometer) wide crater in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, scientists have determined that the asteroid that struck the earth 66 million years ago was 6 miles in diameter. The collision with Earth would have caused wildfires, tsunamis, and particles in the atmosphere. These particles would have blocked the sun, killing the plant-life and causing temperatures to drop significantly. Many scientists believe this series of events led to the demise of dinosaurs.

Dinosaurs dying from volcanic eruptions

Dinosaurs may have been killed by a series of volcanic eruptions in what is now India. Credit: National Science Foundation, Zina Deretsky

But perhaps this wasn’t the only cause of extinction. Many scientists believe that a series of volcanic eruptions that occurred 60-68 millions of years ago in what is now India began killing off the dinosaurs before the asteroid strike. These eruptions would have caused dramatic climate change that would threaten many dinosaur populations.

Learn more about these theories at  National Geographic.

African Penguin Gets Custom Wetsuit

Penguin in wetsuit

Photo by Abigail Pheiffer

At the Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, CT, a 14-year-old penguin named Yellow Pink molted his waterproof feathers last year. They never grew back. Without the waterproof feathers, swimming became uncomfortable for the penguin.

Fortunately, a team of veterinarians, trainers, and research staff made him a custom neoprene wetsuit out of an old aquarium diving suit. Now Yellow Pink can stay warm as as swims.

Watch a video of Yellow Pink swimming in his suit below:

For more information about Yellow Pink, visit the Mystic Aquarium website or find them on Facebook.

Learn more about African penguins on our African Penguin Facts Page.

Giant Squid Video

Now for the first time you can see footage of the giant squid living in its natural habitat.  Giant squid are longer than school buses (40 feet long!) and weigh nearly a ton. Their eyes are the size of dinner plates. They live in the deep waters of the Pacific Ocean. A few years ago, a team of Japanese scientists took still photos of the elusive creature. After hundreds of deep sea dives in a submersible, scientists finally captured the giant squid on video.

Watch a special on the giant squid, Monster Squid: The Giant is Real, on the Discovery Channel on Sunday, January 27 at 8pm EST. For more info, see discovery.com/giantsquid.

Exploring Panda Bear Cuteness

Prompted by the public debut of Xiao Liwu at the San Diego Zoo, NPR’s The Two-Way discussed why we find panda bears utterly adorable.

For example, why do we find pandas so cute…

…while eating bamboo?

…while eating leaves?

…while hanging on a fence?

…while sleeping on a branch?

…while sleeping on some logs?

…while sleeping on a rock?

…or while just plain sleeping?

The reason according to NPR is that their big eyes, button noses, round faces, and clumsy yet cuddly bodies invoke parenting instincts in humans.

Read more about various panda bear cuteness research at NPR’s The Two-Way.

Learn more about pandas in Animal Fact Guide’s article, Giant Panda.

Tiger Diaries: Sumatran Tigers at the National Zoo

Two Sumatran tigers

Kavi and Damai are the National Zoo’s resident Sumatran tigers.

Will Kavi and Damai hit it off? Will we see babies in the near future? The Tiger Diaries takes you behind the scenes at the National Zoo, following the lives of their resident Sumatran tigers, Kavi and Damai.

In the wild, Sumatran tigers are found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Only 400 Sumatran tigers exist today. The National Zoo’s program to breed Sumatran tigers plays a major role in preserving this rare species.

Learn more at the National Zoo website.

Baby Pygmy Hippo at Tampa Zoo

Baby pygmy hippo and mother

Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Florida welcomed a baby pygmy hippo on November 15. The female pygmy hippo calf weighs about 10 pounds. As an adult, she will grow to be about 350-550 pounds and stand about three feet tall at the shoulder. Pygmy hippos are much smaller than their relative, the Nile hippo.

The little calf has not yet been named, but the zoo is launching a naming contest on its Wild Wonderland website. The zoo’s animal care team has selected several African names starting with the letter Z in honor of mother hippo “Zsa Zsa.” The name that receives the highest number of votes through Monday, December 3, will be declared the winner.

The birth is the second in the zoo’s history and a great step in preserving the population of these rare hippos. “The birth of this rare and endangered nocturnal forest species marks only the 55th individual in the managed population within North American and underlines the importance of our
conservation efforts with this species,” said Dr. Larry Killmar, vice president of animal science and conservation. “With fewer than 3,000 pigmy hippos in the wild, each birth is vital if we have any hope of saving this truly unique species.”

In the wild, the pygmy can be found in West Africa in lowland forests. The species is mainly confined to Liberia, with small numbers in neighboring countries. The animals are comfortable both on land and in water, but rest and forage near waterways. They can most often be seen in shady sites near swamps, riverbanks or muddy areas.