03/31/14 4:13pm

Photo: Connor Mallon, Smithsonian’s National Zoo

From the National Zoo:

“It’s a great big world outside and soon it will have a little Bao Bao in it! Seven-month-old Bao Bao will have access to her mother Mei Xiang’s larger yard this week beginning each day around 8 a.m., weather depending. Bao Bao will be given the option to explore outside with her mother if the temperature is at least 35 degrees Fahrenheit with no precipitation. Although Bao Bao will have the option to go outside, she may decide to stay inside the panda house. It may take several weeks before Bao Bao is venturing outside with Mei Xiang regularly.

In preparation for Bao Bao’s outdoor debut, keepers have cub-proofed the giant panda yards. Giant pandas are very adept climbers, and cubs especially spend time climbing trees. The trees in Mei Xiang’s yard have been collared, and some tree limbs have been trimmed for Bao Bao’s safety. Keepers have placed bales of hay around the grotto and yard to cushion any potential falls.”

02/13/14 3:23pm

Photo by PoPville flickr user pablo.raw

From the National Zoo:

“One of the keys to raising a healthy giant panda cub is mother’s milk. Since her birth on August 23, Bao Bao has grown from 4.8 ounces to just over 20 pounds. She’s packed on the pounds almost exclusively by nursing from Mei Xiang; she’s only recently started to eat sweet potato and maybe a little bamboo. Zoo scientists can learn much from panda milk, and with help from keepers they are banking small samples from Mei Xiang. In this update giant panda keeper, Juan Rodriguez, explains how keepers collect milk samples from Mei Xiang.

With the birth of Bao Bao, Mei Xiang has been producing a lot of milk, so we developed a procedure for collecting the extra milk. This would allow us to not only study the nutrients in giant panda milk, but to have some milk stored in case future cubs were to need supplemental feedings. We knew collecting milk would be a complicated process, but we were fortunate enough to be able to see how our colleagues around the world do it. (more…)

02/12/14 2:45pm

Photo Credit: Abby Wood, Smithsonian’s National Zoo

From the National Zoo:

“We are very sad to announce that Pandora, our giant Pacific octopus, died yesterday. She was curious, charismatic and taught all who visited the Invertebrate Exhibit so much about octopus behavior.

Animal care staff estimate that Pandora was about 5 years old. (The median lifespan for giant Pacific octopuses is about 3 to 5 years.) Pandora came to the Zoo in November 2011 when she was about 1.5 years old. She lived at the Zoo’s Invertebrate Exhibit for 27 months—longer than any of her predecessors. Pandora was a wonderful ambassador for her species and will be greatly missed!”

02/11/14 5:17pm

Photo credit: Karen Abbott, Smithsonian’s National Zoo

From the National Zoo:

“Healthy and well-fed! That was the ruling animal care staff gave to Naba’s two-and-a-half-week-old cubs during their first veterinary exam yesterday. The complete physical involved listening to the cubs’ hearts and lungs; checking their mouths, eyes, legs, and feet; and feeling their bellies. Both cubs weigh-in at about 9 lbs. Keepers gave the cubs a touch-up on their identifying shave marks (one on the shoulder, the other on the base of the tail). As the cubs continue to grow and develop, animal care staff will be able to determine whether we have boys, girls, or one of each!”

02/06/14 1:46pm

Photo Credit: Karen Abbott, Smithsonian’s National Zoo

From the National Zoo:

“A few days ago, African lion mother Naba spent some time away from her cubs and enjoyed a special oxtail treat with her sister, Shera. Keepers took the opportunity to get their first in-person look at the cubs. Their report: they are adorable! In order to distinguish the two, keepers shaved a small mark on each cub. The smaller, who weighs 7.6 lbs, has a shave mark on his/her left shoulder. The larger cub, who weighs 8.26 lbs, has a small shave mark at the base of his/her tail. Animal care staff have not yet verified the cubs’ sex. (Just shy of 2 weeks old, the cubs’ genetalia have not fully developed.)

When Naba returned to the cubbing den, she groomed and nursed the cubs. She didn’t show any signs of stress. Keepers gave her the option to move the cubs to a different set of cubbing dens, but Naba choose to keep them where they were. Watch our little lion family grow on the Cub Cam.”



01/31/14 12:45pm

Photo: Christina Castiglione, Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Following on the heels of the two baby lion cubs comes more good news from the National Zoo:

“Our keepers on American Trail have been working around the clock to care for the newest addition to the gray seal exhibit – a pup born Jan. 21. Within 48-hours of the birth our team of keepers, veterinarians and nutritionists who had been closely monitoring mom, Kara, and pup prepared to hand-feed the pup if it became necessary. When it became clear that Kara was not able to produce enough milk to support the pup without supplemental feedings they intervened. The keepers are now tube-feeding the pup six times every day. And yesterday they were able to hand-feed the pup a small capelin fish for the first time!

After this morning’s feeding and weigh-in the team is cautiously optimistic that the pup is headed in the right direction. She now weighs 43 pounds, up from her birth weight of about 35 pounds! The last pup born at the Zoo was Kara’s sister, gray seal Kjya in 1990. Both females are offspring of elderly female gray seal Selkie. Kara was born at the Zoo in 1983, and is the oldest gray seal in to give birth in human care. Male gray seal Gunther sired the pup. If all goes well, we expect the pup to make her debut on exhibit with the adult gray and harbor seals in the spring!”

01/30/14 12:25pm

Photo by PoPville flickr user J Sonder

Ed. Note: You can read a tribute to Red Pandas here and relive Rusty’s temporary escape here.

From the National Zoo:

“Red pandas Rusty and Shama have moved from the Smithsonian’s National Zoo to our Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va. Rusty and Shama are paired as a result of a breeding recommendation based on the Species Survival Plan. Shama has bred successfully in the Zoo’s exhibit, but it’s possible the increased visitor traffic for giant panda Bao Bao could have compromised successful breeding for this pair. Out at SCBI, Rusty and Shama will get a little extra peace and quiet. Animal keepers report that Rusty and Shama are adjusting well to their new surroundings. Rusty immediately began to explore his new enclosure before munching down some bamboo grown onsite at SCBI. (more…)

01/27/14 12:45pm

Photo by Smithsonian’s National Zoo

From the National Zoo:

“The Smithsonian’s National Zoo’s Great Cats team celebrated the arrival of its first litter of African lion cubs in four years. On Jan. 24, the Zoo’s 10-year-old lion Nababiep gave birth to three cubs—two surviving—in an eight-hour period. These cubs are the third litter for Nababiep and the fourth for 8-year-old father, Luke.

Animal care staff watched Nababiep give birth via a closed-circuit webcam and continue to monitor the family. The first cub was born at 3:58 a.m. and appeared active and healthy. Five hours later at 8:51 a.m., Nababiep delivered her second cub, but it was stillborn. The third cub was born at 11:24 a.m. and appeared active and healthy. It is not uncommon for animals, in this case a lion, to have some healthy and one or more stillborn cubs in the same litter. Nababiep and her two cubs have been under close observation throughout the weekend by the Zoo’s animal care team. They appear to be nursing, moving and vocalizing well, so keepers have not needed to intervene. (more…)