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.
Spring has sprung, and zoos around the country are celebrating a baby boom! We can't get enough of all critters cute and cuddly, even if some have a face only a mother could love (check out the baby aardvark). They were all born within the last six months, some thanks to strategic matchmaking from zoo to zoo (did you know there was online dating in the animal world?). A few of the babes don't have names—or even a gender!—yet, and zoos are letting the public weigh in on names. The creatures run the gamut from great and small, from a 120-pound camel and a 72-inch giraffe to a two-ounce golden lion tamarin and a six-inch-long Rio Cauca Caecilian (aka a rubber eel). And while a new baby is always something to be excited about, many of these are part of endangered species (including one that is officially extinct in the wild) and represent the future of their kind. Click through the slideshow to see the animals to see all the fascinating faces, and don't forget to vote for the cutest zoo baby of 2012!
Cooper the Red Brocket Deer
Just like his namesake—awkward intellectual Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory—young Cooper has some issues with his social skills: He is, just like the rest of his species, extremely shy and wary of others, explains Michelle Hatwood, hoofstock manager at the Phoenix Zoo. You can hardly blame him, though, as Red Brockets average only two feet high and a mere 30 pounds when fully grown—which is not much when compared to the 100-300-pound average of white-tailed deer. The Big Bang Theory is a favorite show of the zookeepers, and Cooper was born on December 17, 2011, to mom Penny and father Leonard (who unfortunately passed away last year). Despite his bashfulness, Cooper is on exhibit with the rest of the herd daily.
Amelia the Gerenuk
This long-necked antelope, born on December 23, 2011, to mom Claire and dad Boone, spent the first couple months of her life in the zoo's animal hospital—but only to keep her warm while a new gerenuk barn was being built (native to East Africa, gerenuks don't take well to the cold). They are also fragile and skittish by nature, especially females. That's why the keepers are hand-raising this playful girl, bottle feeding her goat-milk formula five times a day and recently starting her on a diet of leaves, apples, carrots and dietary pellets. Amelia, named after a character on the TV show Lost just like the rest of the gerenuks here, was nonetheless thrilled the first day she joined the public exhibit, and she made it known with her joyous pronking—jumping high into the air by lifting all fours off the ground simultaneously (something also done when evading a predator).
Marabou Stork Chicks
The stork delivered to a couple of its own on February 8 and 11, when a pair of female chicks hatched, one after the other, to the delight of mom Mabel and dad Milton. The first-time parents have been together for 27 years, and the births were a coup for them as well as for the zoo: Marabous, native to Africa, are quite difficult to breed without a very large group of birds around. The chicks have been growing quickly, thanks to feedings from both Mom and Dad and the keepers—though Dad in particular has become more territorial around his girls, so zoo staffers have had to be cautious when helping out with food and cleanings.
Maggie the Giraffe
Maggie—the zoo's first female giraffe baby in more than a decade—was born to mom Twiga and dad Mabusu, away from onlookers, on January 12. She was a massive bundle of joy at 80 pounds, 72 inches, and she had excellent timing, arriving just a few weeks before the zoo hosted a conference for the International Association of Giraffe Care Professionals, which drew a slew of giraffe-loving zookeepers, vets and researchers. Maggie is part of the reticulated giraffe species, so named for their distinctive pattern of brown, box-like patches. Their numbers in the wild have been greatly decreasing; a decade ago there were 30,000, and today there are fewer than 5,000 reticulated giraffes, found mainly in northeast Kenya.