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.

Baby White Rhinoceros at Busch Gardens

Baby white rhino at Busch Gardens

A rare white rhino was born at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay under the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan.

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay welcomed a female baby white rhinoceros on Tuesday, October 23, 2012. The baby is the second calf born to mother Kisiri and the seventh calf born to father Tambo. Busch Gardens has celebrated a total of seven white rhino births since October 2004. The new baby weighed an estimated 140 pounds at birth. The newborn – who has yet to be named – will gain approximately four pounds each day until it reaches an adult weight of approximately 3,500 to 4,000 pounds.

Baby white rhino

Busch Gardens participates in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) to ensure genetic diversification among threatened and endangered animals in zoological facilities. The birth brings the total white and black rhino population at the adventure park to eight.

Kisiri, Tambo and another female white rhino were airlifted from Kruger National Park in South Africa in 2001 through the efforts of the International Rhino Foundation (IRF), a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of rhinos. Fewer than 15,000 white rhinos remain in the wild, and approximately 200 live in zoological facilities across North America.

Rising Sea Levels Threaten Marsh Rabbit

Marsh rabbit

Photo by Tomfriedel.

In the Florida Keys, a very endangered species of rabbit faces a tough future. As sea levels rise, suitable habitat for the Lower Keys marsh rabbit shrinks. Increased development in the area further impacts the rabbits’ chance of survival because it not only blocks the rabbits from moving inland, it also blocks the necessary vegetation from “migrating” inland as well.

Once abundant in the keys, only a few hundred Lower Marsh rabbits remain. According to Jeff Gore, a statewide wildlife biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, “Obviously, it’s already having an effect on the marsh rabbit, but in a state like Florida with so much coastline and so many endangered species, it’s going to be a major concern for decades to come.”

Read more at Science Blog.

Conservation Canines: Dogs Helping Endangered Animals

Did you know you don’t have to be human to be an environmentalist?  Specially-trained dogs from the group Conservation Canines have been assisting scientists protect endangered species since 1997.

With their highly sophisticated sense of smell paired with their insatiable urge to play (their reward at the end of the day), dogs can track scat, or animal droppings, from miles away.  Once located, the scientists can analyze the scat for genetic, physiological, and dietary information.  This provides clues to the animal’s behavior and environment which helps conservationists determine the best way to protect it.

The dogs, which are adopted from animal shelters and then trained by the crew at Conservation Canines, track scat from a variety of endangered animals. The list includes tigers, orcas, fishers, spotted owls, bears, wolves, caribou, giant armadillos, giant anteaters, pumas, jaguars, and Pacific pocket mice.

Watch a video below about Tucker, a black labrador mix who specializes in tracking orca scat. This is a tricky task because he must catch the scent over open water, the scat can move around and/or sink in the water, and he must provide signals to his human coworkers so they can steer the boat in the correct direction.

To learn more, see:

Conservation Canines website
NY Times

Rare Sumatran Rhino Calf Born

On June 23, Ratu, a rare Sumatran rhino living at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Indonesia, gave birth to a healthy male calf who weighs between 60 and 70 pounds.

“We are overjoyed that Ratu delivered a healthy calf and are cautiously optimistic that the calf will continue to thrive,” said Dr. Susie Ellis, executive director of the International Rhino Foundation. “The little guy is absolutely adorable, and none of us has been able to stop smiling since the moment we were sure he was alive and healthy. We have been waiting for this moment since the sanctuary was built in 1998. The International Rhino Foundation is honored to play an important role in protecting rhinos. We are hopeful the Sumatran rhino population will thrive once again.”

Ratu had miscarried two calves prior to this pregnancy, but this time, sanctuary staff gave her a hormone supplement that prevented her from miscarrying again. (Read all our posts about Ratu here.)

With fewer than 200 Sumatran rhinos living in Indonesia and Malaysia, this birth is a significant step in preserving the population. They face threats such as continuing loss of their tropical forest habitat and hunting.

For more information, see the International Rhino Foundation website.

Bison: America’s National Mammal?

American bisonThe bald eagle has been the national emblem of the United States since 1782, when it was adopted as a symbol of freedom and its imagery was incorporated into the Great Seal.  Its symbolic status helped people rally around it when it faced extinction in the mid twentieth century due to human encroachment and the pesticide DDT.  In recent years, the bald eagle population has recovered, and it was taken off the endangered species list in 2007.

Similar to the role of national bird, Senator Mike Enzi (R) of Wyoming and Senator Tim Johnson (D) of South Dakota introduced a bill that would recognize the bison as America’s national mammal.  Vast herds of American bison once roamed from Canada to Mexico.  From a population that numbered in the millions, American bison dwindled to near extinction by the 1880s, driven there by American settlers.

Today, bison populations have started to recover.  There are about half a million bison living today. However most of the bison live in commercial herds and carry genes from cattle. Only a few thousand bison are pure descendants of the vast herds that dominated the Great Plains centuries ago.

To urge your senator to co-sponsor the National Bison Legacy Act, which will help preserve this great species and honor it for its significant role in American history, visit Vote Bison and sign the petition.

To learn more about bison, see Animal Fact Guide’s article, American Bison.

SeaWorld Rescues Two Endangered Baby Turtles

SeaWorld Orlando‘s animal rescue team is currently caring for two hawksbill turtle hatchlings.  Both are about two months old. One of the babies was found in a weakened, lethargic state on Melbourne Beach in Florida by a tourist.  The other hatchling was found on Cocoa Beach covered in algae and fauna.

Baby hawksbill turtle found lethargic on Melbourne Beach.

Baby hawksbill turtle found lethargic on Melbourne Beach.

Baby hawksbill turtle found on Cocoa Beach covered in algae and fauna.

Baby hawksbill turtle found on Cocoa Beach covered in algae and fauna.

SeaWorld turtle experts (or aquarists), are monitoring and caring for the turtles around the clock. The hatchlings are living in a brooder (a heated shelter) which is kept at a constant 84 degrees F. Although recovery will be tough, the turtles are showing positive signs.

Hawksbill turtles are considered critically endangered by the IUCN Redlist due to loss of habitat and human exploitation.

Rare Sumatran Rhino is Pregnant

Ratu the Sumatran rhino

Ratu, a rare Sumatran rhino, is pregnant!

In February 2010, we posted about Ratu, a rare Sumatran rhino, being pregnant. Unfortunately, she miscarried after two months. However, the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Indonesia has announced that Ratu is pregnant again! Currently, she is in her eleventh month of gestation. Her pregnancy will most likely last another four or five months.

To help prevent Ratu from miscarrying again, sanctuary staff give her a hormone supplement daily. Within the sanctuary, she is free to roam and graze in a large forested area with natural plants and mud, just as she would in the wild.

Ratu was originally a wild rhino. She was taken into the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary, which offers 250 acres of protected land, after coming in contact with villagers nearby. Andalas, who mated with Ratu last year to produce this recent pregnancy, was a captively-bred rhino from the Cincinnati Zoo.

Sumatran rhinos are in grave danger of becoming extinct. According to the International Rhino Foundation:

The Sumatran rhino is one of the world’s most critically endangered species, numbering no more than 200 individuals in Indonesia and Malaysia. The species is seriously threatened by the continuing loss of its tropical forest habitat and hunting pressure from poachers, who kill rhinos for their valuable horns. Every Sumatran rhino birth – in the wild, in a zoo or in a special sanctuary – represents hope for the survival of this species, which runs the risk of going extinct by the end of this century.

Learn more at the International Rhino Foundation website.