36 Adorable Zoo Babies Born in 2011
Meet Chiquita the sassy wolf pup, Aurora the clingy orangutan, and plenty more cuddly newcomers at zoos across the country.
Who can resist a baby animal? Not us. That's why we've assembled some of the cutest, newest arrivals on the zoo circuit for like-minded readers to coo over. All born within the past six months, some of these tiny guys are so young they haven't even been named yet—but all are precious, be they furry, feathered, scaly, or, in the case of one little aardvark, pink and wrinkly. In addition to choosing the most photogenic newborns, we did our best to include zoos from all corners of the U.S., so you're bound to be within visiting distance of at least one. Whether or not you go for a meet-and-greet, be sure to cast your vote for the cutest baby of all by checking out our three staff-chosen finalists.
SAN DIEGO ZOO
From $40, ages 3–11 $30, ages 2 and under free, Balboa Park, 2920 Zoo Dr., San Diego, 619/231-1515, sandiegozoo.org
Adhama the Hippo
About 100 visitors were treated to a real Discovery Channel moment on January 26, when pregnant hippo Funani birthed a calf right in front of their eyes. Born in a pool, Adhama ("glory" in Swahili) popped right out of the water to draw his first breath, and soon after was swimming around alongside his mama. By March, Adhama was winning the hearts of everyone who saw him, with fans voting him the zoo's cutest baby on its Facebook page.
Satanic Leaf-Tailed Gecko
Don't let the name of this species scare you: This petite gecko is devilishly cute with its orange bug-eyes and minute, signature horns. Plus it's a tiny little thing, weighing less than a gram when it hatched on New Year's Day (as an adult, he'll be anywhere from six to 10 grams, weighing slightly less than a pack of gum). Masters of disguise, the nocturnal Madagascar natives blend into their environment in order to thwart predators. This particular one—who's unnamed but numbered 911001—has a tail that resembles a dried leaf.
Wûshi the Sichuan Takin
Wûshi arrived just before New Year's Eve—and he's been wreaking adorable havoc ever since. He has distinguished himself from the 49 other takins (hoofed mammals with characteristics similar to moose, wildebeests, and bison) born before him at the zoo by climbing with aplomb and head-butting everything in sight—including his poor grandmother Bea. The creature is named for his number (Wûshi means "50" in Mandarin) and is part of a long history of takin breeding at this zoo: The first of the species to be born outside of China, in fact, arrived here in 1989.
Yes, these creatures are technically rodents—the world's largest. But somehow, this not-yet-named baby, born on March 7 to first-time mom Rose, looks a heck of a lot more cuddly than a rat. So far, its favorite activities have been lots of scurrying around and munching on branches and trees.
Christopher and Connor, the Malayan Tigers
These two cubs, born in early April, opened their eyes for the first time two weeks after their arrival, though much like human newborns, they will only see shadows for a while. The 7.7-pound boys sleep most of the day, nurse on their 12-year-old mama, Mek Degong, when they're awake, and should be ready to make their public debut sometime in July. Malayan tigers are critically endangered, with only 500 of the cats left in the wild.
SANTA BARBARA ZOO
$12, ages 65 and older $10, ages 2–12 $10, ages 1 and under free, 500 Niños Dr., Santa Barbara, 805/962-5339, santabarbarazoo.org
Daniel the Masai Giraffe
Zookeepers got a major shock on an early January morning when they discovered that Audrey the giraffe—who hadn't shown any obvious signs of pregnancy—had delivered a calf. Dubbed Daniel, the baby boy weighed 106 pounds and stood 5'9" at birth. Audrey, an extremely young mother, would not allow him to nurse, so Daniel was hand-fed about three gallons of goat's and cow's milk a day by zoo staffers. He now has a strong bond with all members of the herd, and he's growing well. At 10 weeks, he weighed 220 pounds; fully grown, he could reach up to 2,700 pounds.