Orphaned Tree Kangaroo Saved in World First

Tree kangaroo at Adelaide Zoo

World conservation first: An orphaned tree kangaroo was cross-fostered by a rock wallaby and survived! Photo by Adelaide Zoo.

The keepers and veterinarians at Adelaide Zoo have saved the life of an orphaned Goodfellow’s tree kangaroo by using a surrogate wallaby mother! This exciting achievement is a world first for conservation.

One morning in November of last year, zoo keepers discovered that a tree branch had fallen and killed the zoo’s three-year-old tree kangaroo overnight. She was carrying a five week old joey. Since the joey was so young, hand-rearing was not an option. They decided to use a technique called “cross-fostering”, which involves transferring the joey to the pouch of another animal.

Tree kangaroo joey being transferred.

The orphaned tree kangaroo joey was transferred to the pouch of a rock wallaby. Photo by Adelaide Zoo.

In the 1990s, Adelaide Zoo pioneered this cross-fostering technique on endangered wallabies. In this situation, zoo keepers would transfer the endangered wallaby joey to the pouch of a surrogate wallaby of another, non-endangered species. The original endangered wallaby female would then be able to restart her breeding cycle, increasing her reproduction rate up to six or eight times.  This allowed the zoo to build up the endangered population much more quickly.

According to Adelaide Zoo veterinarian Dr David McLelland, “We’ve had great success over the years’ cross-fostering between wallaby species, but the specialized breeding technique has never been used on a tree kangaroo. Not only are tree kangaroos distant relatives of wallabies, they also have many behavioral and physical differences. We had no idea if the yellow-foot rock wallaby would accept the tree kangaroo joey, but if we wanted to save the joey we had to try our luck.”

The gamble worked, and the orphaned tree kangaroo thrived in the pouch of his surrogate rock wallaby mother. The joey, named Makaia, spent about three and a half months in the pouch until being hand-reared by zoo staff.

Tree kangaroo joey in rock wallaby pouch

Makaia, the tree kangaroo joey, can be seen here inside the pouch of his surrogate mother, a rock wallaby. Photo by Adelaide Zoo.

The amazing rescue story of Makaia will be featured in the July/August edition of Australian Geographic, available July 3.

Watch a video of Makaia below:

Can You Spot Them? Clouded Leopard Cubs on View at Nashville Zoo

Clouded leopard cub at Nashville Zoo.

Photo by Mary Brenna Corr / Nashville Zoo.

Two clouded leopard cubs born in March are making public appearances at Nashville Zoo every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 10:30-11:30am. Visitors can view the cubs, named Sip Saam and Natida, at the lynx exhibit.

“It’s been several years since we have exhibited clouded leopard cubs, so I know the public is anxious to see them,” said Karen Rice, carnivore supervisor at Nashville Zoo. “At nearly four months old, Sip Saam and Natida enjoy exploring the habitat, climbing trees and chasing one another around.”

Clouded leopard conservation and captive breeding is difficult because the cats are reclusive (or solitary) and male clouded leopards have been known to attack and kill potential female partners. At Nashville Zoo, animal care staff hand-raise cubs and introduce them to mates at a young age. These practices help improve the success rate of the program. Since 2009, the zoo has successfully raised 24 clouded leopards who have gone on to zoos worldwide.

In the wild, clouded leopards are considered vulnerable of extinction due to deforestation, poaching, and the pet trade.

Help Save Cholita the Circus Bear


Cholita, an abused spectacled bear and former circus animal, waits for her trip to the United States, where she can live out the rest of her life in a sanctuary. Photo provided by Animal Defenders International (ADI).

Cholita has had a hard life. She is an Andean/spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus), a species considered vulnerable of extinction in the wild. She was kept illegally at a circus in Peru.  There, she was severely abused.

Due to the gruesome abuse she suffered at the circus, Cholita now has no claws, teeth or hair. She is barely recognizable as a spectacled bear.  But there is hope for Cholita, to live out the rest of her days in a United States sanctuary.

Animal Defenders International (ADI) has worked with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Peruvian authorities to get Cholita on a special ‘Spirit of Freedom’ flight to Colorado scheduled for April 20.  The huge rescue mission, which also includes the rescue of 70 other circus animals, is expected to cost ADI over $1.2 million.

Please donate to help save Cholita and the other animals saved during Operation Spirit of Freedom: www.ad-international.org/CholitaAppealUS or call 323-935-2234.

To learn more, visit ADI’s website.

Baby Cheetahs at Busch Gardens

Cheetah cubs at Busch Gardens.

Aww! Busch Gardens Tampa welcomed a pair of cheetah cubs!

A pair of cheetah cubs have joined the ranks at Busch Gardens in Tampa, FL. The cubs, named Tendai and Thabo, weighed 12 pounds when they were born on November 22, 2014. Once old enough, they will start their own coalition of cheetahs at the Cheetah Run habitat.

Cheetah cubs at Busch Gardens

Zzz… These cheetah cubs are all tuckered out.

Watch a video below:

Learn more about cheetahs at our cheetah facts article.

World Elephant Day

World Elephant DayToday, August 12, is World Elephant Day!

World Elephant Day focuses on raising awareness to help elephants. African and Asian elephants face many threats including poaching, habitat loss, human-elephant conflict, mistreatment in captivity, and more.

According to the World Elephant Day site:

World Elephant Day asks you to experience elephants in non-exploitive and sustainable environments where elephants can thrive under care and protection. On World Elephant Day, August 12, express your concern, share your knowledge and support solutions for the better care of captive and wild elephants alike.

African elephantWhat can you do to help elephants?

  • Learn about elephants and the important role they play in the ecosystem. (See our article, African elephant, to read more.)
  • Participate in eco-tourism whose operators treat elephants with respect. Boosting Africa’s economy through eco-tourism helps placate local residents who view elephants as pests.
  • Never buy, sell, or wear ivory.
  • Write to your politicians to speak out against poaching. (Americans can write a letter to the Secretary of State on the Wildlife Conservation Society website.)
  • Encourage the ethical treatment of elephants in captivity. Boycott circuses, whose unethical treatment includes chaining elephants up by their feet and trunks, as well as beating them frequently. Urge zoos to create environments similar to African elephants’ native habitat.

See the World Elephant Day’s page, How to Help Elephants, for more ideas.

VIDEO: Bonobos and Kindness

Much like humans, bonobos show kindness to strangers.  Through experiments and observation, researchers have seen bonobos demonstrate empathy and go out of their way to help others.

Watch a video below about bonobos, kindness, and their unfortunate predicament in the wild:

Source: National Geographic.

Learn more about bonobos in our bonobo facts article.

Honk! Honk! Trumpeter Swan Cygnets Arrive at Lincoln Park Zoo

Trumpeter swans

Four trumpeter swans were born this week at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Photo by Todd Rosenberg / Lincoln Park Zoo.

Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago welcomed four baby trumpeter swans (called cygnets) on June 2 and 3 to two sets of parents. The cygnets are already exploring the zoo’s McCormick Swan Pond with their parents.

The young swans will learn all the necessary survival skill at the zoo, including swimming and feeding independently on seeds, grains, wetland plants, insects, and small fish. Then, in the fall, the swans will be released into the wild in Iowa as part of a collaborative reintroduction program with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“It’s amazing to see how resilient this species truly is,” said Hope B. McCormick Curator of Birds, Sunny Nelson. “Twenty years ago these birds were nearly extinct and are beginning to make quite the comeback, due in part to reintroduction collaborations such as with the Iowa DNR.”

Trumpeter swan cygnets

Photo by Todd Rosenberg / Lincoln Park Zoo.

Trumpeter swans are the largest waterfowl in North America. They are easily identified by their black bills, white plumage, and 8-feet wingspans. Usually, trumpeter swans mate for life.

For more info, see the Lincoln Park Zoo website.

VIDEO: How Wolves Change Rivers

As we discussed in our gray wolf facts article, gray wolves are keystone predators. They help maintain a healthy ecosystem by preying upon weak animals, thereby strengthening the herd as a whole.

In this video, George Monbiot reveals how the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park after a 70-year absence not only changed the ecosystem of the park, it also altered the physical landscape.

Amazing Close-Up Photos of Bees

Closeup of a bee face

A close-up portrait of a type of bee called Osmia georgica. Photograph by Sue Boo / U.S. Geological Survey Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab.

The U.S. Geological Survey Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab has been studying the decline of bees over the past ten years. According to Sam Droege, who heads the lab, there are 4,000 bee species in North America, but most people can’t identify the different species.

“We [needed] really high-definition pictures that people can drill into and say, ‘You know the pattern of the crosshatching between the pits on the skin of the upper part of the bee is really different than this one.'”

Side view of the Osmia georgica. Photograph by Sue Boo/ U.S. Geological Survey Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab.

Side view of the Osmia georgica. Photograph by Sue Boo / U.S. Geological Survey Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab.

So Droege developed a system of taking high-definition photographs of the bees in order to document their specific features. Using a high-quality 60 mm macro lens and a device called a StackShot Rail, he takes a series of photos in increments where various parts of the bee are in focus. He later uses program called Zerene Stacker to combine the photos into a single, high-def photo all in focus.

You can learn how to take your own high-resolution photos of insects by watching the video below:

For more information, see NPR’s “Beauty is in the Eye of the Bee-Holder”.

See more high-def bee photos on the U.S. Geological Survey Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab’s Flickr page.