The 35 Cutest Zoo Babies of 2012
Trying to figure out what to do with the kids this weekend? We found 23 zoos around the country (some with free admission!) with adorable new additions, from Anala the Indian rhino in Miami to Kiazi the De Brazza's monkey in Denver.
North Carolina Zoo, Asheboro
Ebi the Chimp
This new baby girl and her 41-year-old mom Tammy have been enjoying some serious mother-daughter time since Ebi was born on January 16. That's because Tammy—who gave birth to her last baby, Maki, in 1994—is caring for her infant on her own, without any intervention from staff members, and the two need time to bond. They also need to stay warm and cozy indoors, which is why these two won't be in the public eye until at least the start of summer, according to zoo general curator Ken Reininger. Ebi's already made her mark, though, as her birth brought the number of chimps here to a dozen, helping the troop here remain one of the largest in all U.S. zoos.
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
This perky foursome of two boys and two girls had better enjoy their newborn rest, as they'll soon be put to work as ambassadors. Deemed official Zoo Outreach Animals, they will spend their days traveling around to schools in the area to educate children about zoos and their species. The siblings, born on February 4 to mom Mali and dad Kenya, have not yet been named, and are for now being hand raised by the zoo's nursery keepers, who feed them four times daily with an easy-to-digest mixture of ground hedgehog feed and Esbilac formula. Hedgehogs, so-named for the pig-like grunting they do while hunting for food, are native to areas of Europe, Asia, and Africa. While they are covered with a coat of sharp spines that deter most predators, baby hedgehogs are born hairless and blind, and don't begin to sprout their prickly coat until 36 hours after birth.
Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium
Just like with human matchmaking, zoo-assisted mating is not an exact science. Moka, born at Zoo Miami, was brought here in 2007 in order to breed with troop leader Mrithi; but Moka was unimpressed, preferring her alone time and rebuffing all of the hairy stud's advances. Eventually, though, Mrithi won her over, and the couple's not-yet-named baby boy was born five years later on February 9. "Moka is a first-time mom, so we were anxious to see how she would handle motherhood, but she is doing a great job," notes Karen Vacco, assistant curator of mammals. Moka, she adds, loves to sit near the window in her exhibit, showing off her infant to oohing and aahing visitors. The first gorilla born here since 2001, this birth was an important one, as Mrithi comes from parents who were caught in the wild, making his genetics valuable to the endangered western lowland species. Mrithi has remained relaxed as a first-time dad, and the rest of the gorilla troop has been curious but respectful.
Virginia Zoo, Norfolk
The adorable exhibit of squirrel monkeys is now more beloved than ever, thanks to a new baby, born February 18. Zookeepers discovered the tiny primate clinging to mom Marie's back early that morning, with proud papa Jeebes nearby. The baby's sex is still unknown, so zoo staffers are waiting before deciding on a name. Shy, skittish creatures native to Central American rainforests, squirrel monkeys spend most of their time in trees, eat primarily fruits and insects, and have, proportionately, the largest brain of all primates. "The squirrel monkey family is one of our most popular exhibits, particularly with children," said Greg Bockheim, the Zoo's executive director. "And they've been prolific; this is our 18th squirrel monkey born here since 1967. A squirrel monkey birth is a sure sign that spring is on its way."
Rio Cauca Caecilian
Decidedly less warm and fuzzy than the squirrel monkey, a slithery new amphibian also recently arrived here, born on December 20, 2011. The six-inch-long, limbless creature—which resembles a large earthworm or small snake, and is part of a species often called "blue worms"—was the first caecilian to be born at the zoo. It's being held in a separate holding tank until it reaches adult size (which could take months), and its sex is still unknown. The aquatic amphibians are native to parts of Colombia and Venezuela, where they live in drainage systems, rivers, marshes and lakes, and thrive in polluted water. Their eyes are small and covered by skin to protect them-hence their poor eyesight—but they have a keen sense of smell.