CUTEST. STORY. EVER.
Zoo Babies 2009
Meet panda Xi Lan, voted cutest in our poll, plus Miles, a giraffe who wants to be like his big sis, and more aww-inspiring newcomers. Browse the babies, and add your photos and videos from zoos nationwide.
4001 SW Canyon Rd., Portland, Ore., 503/226-1561, oregonzoo.org, $9.75, ages 3–11 $6.75, ages 65+ $8.25, ages 2 and under free; $1 discount if you arrive by MAX light-rail.
Samudra the Elephant: Born August 23, 2008
Life got off to a precarious start for Samudra, whom friends call Sam. His mom, Rose-Tu, got confused and almost trampled the baby at birth. Staff speculate that Rose-Tu was startled because she'd never seen a birth before—she was the zoo's youngest elephant until Sam came along. Sam now fits in just fine and will soon meet Tusko, his 13,500-pound dad. (See a photo | Watch a video)
RIPLEY'S AQUARIUM OF THE SMOKIES
88 River Road, Gatlinburg, Tenn., 865/430-8808, ripleysaquariumofthesmokies.com, $22, ages 6–11 $12, ages 2–5 $5.50.
Jellyfish: Born mid-April 2009
These translucent bell-shaped moon jellyfish can't quite compete for cuteness, but they are fascinating and tiny, just under an inch long for now. Within a year, the jellyfish will reach dinner-plate size; once they get about half that size, they will be put on view. (See a photo)
Sea Horses: Born early April 2009
Here's a role reversal: It's the female who lays the sea horse eggs in the male's pouch, where he fertilizes and cares for them until their birth. Lined sea horses, which eventually grow to be six inches tall, are poor swimmers and rely on their colors for camouflage. (See a photo)
SAN DIEGO ZOO'S WILD ANIMAL PARK
15500 San Pasqual Valley Rd., Escondido, Calif., 760/747-8702, sandiegozoo.org/wap, $35, ages 3–11 $26; a two-park ticket for the Wild Animal Park and the San Diego Zoo, $60, ages 3–11 $43.
Amara the Cheetah: Born February 18, 2009
This lovable cub likes to be tickled—just watch out for those claws! Zookeepers are raising Amara, born to first-time mom Kenya, as a precaution. A cheetah's natural impulse is to abandon a single cub because raising it takes too much effort and there's a limited chance of its survival. Besides, the staff has played a proud role from the very start. Researchers set the lovin' mood for Amara's parents by playing sounds that cheetahs make when mating. It's the first time bioacoustics have successfully resulted in an animal's birth. (See a photo)
Ramir the Rhino: Born December 23, 2008
Indian rhinoceros calf Ramir, whose name means "interesting" in Hindi, put on 200 pounds in his first six weeks—that's what happens when you slurp more than a gallon of milk five timesa day. All that milk has Ramir revved up. He runs laps with the keepers, climbs on hay bales, and plays with balls. (See a photo)
Damai, Kucing, and Harimau Kayu the Tigers: Born November 13, 2008
It's easy to stir up trouble with siblings in tow, as precocious Sumatran tiger cub Damai was quick to figure out. She's been known to try sneaking up on mom with her partners in crime, brothers Kucing and the shy Harimau Kayu. The three wrestle together and enjoy ripping stuff apart and chewing on things like hay inside a paper bag. (See a photo)
SAN FRANCISCO ZOO
1 Zoo Rd., San Francisco, Calif., 415/753-7080, sfzoo.org, $15, ages 4–14 $9, ages 65+ $12, ages 3 and under free; discount rates for San Francisco residents.
Hasani the Gorilla: Born December 8, 2008
Six-month-old Hasani has already proven he's a survivor. Abandoned by his mom shortly after birth, the gorilla was been cared for by zookeepers, who filled in with feedings, cleanings, and cuddles. They recently found a surrogate mom, Bawang—a pro who's brought up three kids of her own and survived some hard knocks. (She, too, was raised by humans.) The two hit it off when they met in late April: Bawang snuggled with her new boy and lifted him over her head, winning a smile. (See a photo | Watch a video)
Grant Park, 800 Cherokee Ave., SE, Atlanta, Ga., 404/624-5600, zooatlanta.org, $19, ages 3–11 $14, children under 3 free.
Xi Lan the Panda: Born August 30, 2008
Spunky cub Xi Lan is the younger brother of Mei Lan, who will be 3 in September. There isn't much sibling rivalry so far. In fact, the two barely spend time together as giant pandas are solitary by nature. Zookeepers do note that Xi Lan is the more adventurous one; he loves to clamber right to the top of his climbing structures. He's expected to reach 255 pounds by adulthood. (See a photo | Watch a video)