At the Indianapolis Zoo, we have very different ideas about what makes a baby adorable. For example, if a human baby had bristles, tusks, webbed feet or a dorsal fin, there would be cause for alarm. But at the Zoo, we're fortunate enough to welcome to the world baby animals of many species. Our animal breeding efforts are a key part of our animal conservation mission as they help to ensure the sustainability of a healthy, genetically diverse and demographically varied animal population. Take a closer look at some of the adorable and amazing babies born at the Zoo within the last 12 months. Thanks to our friends Hendricks Regional Health for presenting our Zoo Babies.
Even as a newborn, this Zoo Baby already stood 6 feet tall! In the early morning hours of Jan. 9, our Plains family welcomed the birth of a male reticulated giraffe, the first for the Zoo since 2011. The calf is the sixth — all males — for 18-year-old mother Takasa. Following a 15-month pregnancy, female giraffes give birth standing up. While their arrival into the world is somewhat abrupt, newborn giraffes are extremely resilient and are typically up on their feet in less than an hour. The Zoo's spirited newcomer stood up and began nursing soon after birth. Zookeepers said the calf is also curious and adventurous, exploring his surroundings though never venturing too far from his watchful mom.
Native to Sub-Saharan Africa, giraffes bear a beautiful coat of brown spots that helps provide camouflage on the arid plains. While every giraffe's pattern is unique, the Zoo's youngster currently takes after his first-time father, 5-year-old Majani, with his coloration. Both have lighter, caramel-colored patches compared to Takasa's darker, cinnamon-colored spots.
You can help choose his name through a poll on the Zoo's Facebook page. Plus, you can meet the whole family later this spring in the giraffe exhibit presented by Meijer.
Sing it out — we have a new arrival in our Forests
family! A baby white-handed gibbon was born at 7:15pm on Oct. 23, which
was a day before International Gibbon Day. This is the first baby for
mother Koko and father Elliot.
The baby's name, Kopi, is the Indonesian word for "coffee" to match with mom Koko since the infant also shares mom's dark hair. Koko has shown great maternal instincts and is a
caring and protective mother to her baby.
In the wild, gibbons live high up in the rainforest canopy
throughout Southeast Asia. These lesser apes use their long arms to swing
effortlessly between tree branches. While a baby gibbon will use its great grip
and arm span to hang on tight to mom as she travels, Koko also provides her
infant a seat by holding her legs up.
Known for their elaborate daily vocalizations, gibbons sing
to attract mates and announce their territory. When a baby joins the family,
the youngster will eventually start singing along with its parents’ duets.
Since gibbons are native to warmer regions, our new family
will only be outside when temperatures reach at least 60 degrees. Throughout
the winter, our gibbons will remain warm and cozy in a private indoor area, and
guests can expect to see them in the spring in the gibbon exhibit presented by ARAB Termite & Pest Control.
We've been mobbed by cuteness! Our Deserts family welcomed two tiny meerkat pups on Oct. 13 — the first ever born at the Indianapolis Zoo. This is also the first litter for mom Rue. The pups, a boy and a girl, were named Cato and Cashmere after characters from the Hunger Games, just like mom and her sisters, Katniss and Prim.
The births bring the number of meerkats in our mob up to seven. In the wild, meerkats give birth in underground burrows to help keep the newborns safe from predators. To shield the pups from dust in their subterranean homes, they are born with their eyes and ears closed. The Zoo's newcomers opened their eyes for the first time on day 11. Meerkat babies are also nearly hairless at birth, though a light coat of silver and brown fur begins to fill in after just a few days.
These desert-dwellers are highly social critters and live in groups, called mobs, which can include dozens of individuals from multiple families. Within the Zoo's mob, all of the meerkats have been taking turns caring for the pups throughout the day, including the males. The babies will continue to nurse for about nine weeks, and they grow very quickly. Though they weigh only about an ounce at birth, by six months old, the pups will be about the same size as the adults.
Our pride of African lions just got three times cuter! That's because three cubs, two males and a female, were born on Sept. 21 to first-time parents, mother Zuri and father Nyack. When Zookeepers arrived that day, they found that 9-year-old Zuri had already delivered her first cub sometime during the night or early morning. The others followed around 10am and 1:15pm. These are the first lions born at the Zoo since 2003.
Through a poll on the Zoo's Facebook page, the public helped to choose the names of the cubs. For the male names, Enzi (ehn-ZEE), meaning “powerful”, and Mashaka (mash-AH-kah), meaning “troublemaker”, received the most votes while Sukari (sue-CAR-ee), meaning “sweet”, was the top female name.
Adult lions are one of the most fearsome predators on Africa's plains, yet newborns are defenseless and rely solely on their mothers for survival. Zuri has shown excellent maternal behavior and is a caring, protective mom to her trio. Like all lion cubs, the Zoo's babies were born with mottled fur. Their dark spots will eventually fade, though some young lions still show hints of brown marking their sleek, golden coats. The cubs are expected to make their debut in spring 2016 in the lion exhibit presented by MainSource Bank.
Our greater kudu herd has recently expanded! A female calf named Shani was born on July 29 to first-time dad Baraki and experienced mom Taraja. Shani, who was named for a Swahili word meaning "marvelous", weighed about 30 pounds at birth. A second calf, another girl named Lulu, joined the herd on Sept. 9; born to mother Jojo.
Greater kudus are native to eastern and southern Africa. These woodland antelopes can weigh up to 600 pounds, however females, like Shani and Lulu, are noticeably smaller than males. Their tan coats marked with thin, white stripes offer great camouflage on the arid African savannas.
In the wild, female kudus will form groups of mothers and calves. Moms will give birth in areas of tall grass that provide the babies with protection from predators, which is especially important during the first few weeks. During that time, kudu mothers spend most of their time grazing and only tend to the calves for short periods to nurse. When the calf is a little older, mom returns and the two spend the next several months together bonding.
We're tickled pink over our newest additions to Flights of Fancy. On June 26, 2015, at only 94.5 grams, a little male chick pecked its way into the world — the very first Caribbean flamingo hatched from an egg laid at the Indianapolis Zoo!
These bright pink birds are native to the Caribbean and Galapagos regions and get their color from eating shrimp. But don't worry, when our feathered flamboyance (yes, that's what a group of flamingos is called) makes room for one more this fall, you'll still be able to tell the chick apart from the rest. Born with white-gray plumage, the chick won't be fully pink until 9 months old and will reach full plumage by age 4.
Make sure to check out the flamingo exhibit in Flights of Fancy: A Brilliance of Birds to see this beautiful new Zoo baby! Plus, you might even see our chicks from last year now participating in our Flamingo Mingle, offered seasonally as one of our many animal keeper chats.
Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin
Our Atlantic bottlenose dolphin pod welcomed its newest arrival this spring with the birth of a healthy baby girl. Born to mother Kalei (kuh-LAY) and father Kimo (kEE-mo), our Marine Mammal team named her Calypso to match the consonant sounds of her parents' names. The new calf is also the granddaughter of Nova, who is the matriarch of our dolphin pod.
Dolphin calves are very fragile within the first few weeks of life, but both mom and calf are doing well. When she was born on April 24, Calypso weighed 39 pounds and she grew to more than 70 pounds by week six. Kalei is an attentive and relaxed mother, and the calf began nursing well right away. Additionally, our Marine Mammal team monitored mom and baby 24/7 for the first 30 days and our vet staff conducted important medical checks and daily monitoring.
Kalei and Calypso will remain in a private area of the Dolphin Pavilion for the first few months to allow them some quiet time to bond. However, you can still see the other members of our dolphin pod in the underwater viewing dome.
Calypso and the other members of our dolphin pod are ambassadors for their counterparts in the wild. The daily dolphin presentations shed light on the health of the waters where dolphins live in the wild and what we can do to help make their world a healthier place.