Adorable Babies at the San Diego Zoo

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Courtesy Zoological Society of San Diego
Mali gets seven bottle feedings daily

Four playful meerkat pups, two large Caiman lizards, and a bonobo named Mali are a few of San Diego's cuties. As these fun facts and photos prove, baby animals are (almost) just like us!

Balboa Park, 2920 Zoo Dr., San Diego, Calif., sandiegozoo.org, 619/231-1515, $34, ages 3-11 $24, children under 3 free. Note that the Wild Animal Park is located off-site in the San Pasqual Valley near Escondido, Calif. A two-park ticket is $60 for adults and $43 for children.

2008

GIRAFFE: Born Feb. 28, 2008
Basel has just made his public debut alongside mother Peggy at the Wild Animal Park. While Basel likes to jump and run around with four other giraffe youngsters (not to mention a white rhino and an African buffalo), he still makes time to nuzzle with mom.
Who Knew? Different subspecies of giraffes have different spots. Basel is a reticulated giraffe—most common in Somalia—and has large caramel-brown spots and cream-colored lines.
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MEERKATS: Born Feb. 21, 2008
After spending their first few weeks in the den with their protective mother, Ngami, these four adorable pups can be spotted darting around with their tails up and barking.
Who Knew? Life's rough for the zoo's 12 meerkats, who love to spend the morning lying out in the sun and snuggling. If you notice any odd bald spots, not to worry—senior keeper Laura Weiner trims the pups' hair to help tell them apart.
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TURTLES: Hatched Jan. 4-Apr. 17, 2008
This new batch of aquatic matamata turtles represents the first time the species has successfully reproduced at the zoo. Their diet includes a special treat the keepers refer to as Jell-O wigglers: a gelatin ball that has pellets with vitamins and minerals.
Who Knew? Matamatas come from Brazil, Guyana, and Trinidad, and the name means "I kill, I kill" in Spanish. The turtle doesn't bite, but it does have a highly effective method of feeding: It waits for a fish to come by and then suddenly opens its mouth and expands its throat, sucking in the fish.
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LION: Born Nov. 2, 2007
African lion cub Tamu has plenty of playmates at the Wild Animal Park: Three siblings were born the same day to mom Oshana, and a litter of three cubs was born to lioness Mina on Nov. 6.
Who Knew? Lions are the only cats to live in close-knit, female-led prides—groups of anywhere from three to 30. Yawning, grooming, and roaring tend to be contagious.
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LIZARDS: Hatched Oct. 18, 2007
The arrival of two large Caiman lizards in San Diego marks only the third such hatching in the U.S. They have bright blue and green skins—which put them at risk during hunts in the wild—and can look fearsome. Insects and snails are their main prey.
Who Knew? At home in the Amazon Basin in Peru and Brazil, these lizards grow to four feet long and six pounds.
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KANGAROO: Born Sept. 11, 2007
Here's something you don't see everyday—a baby Buerger's tree kangaroo peeking his head out of his mom's pouch. These kangaroos like the tropical rain forests of Papua New Guinea.
Who Knew? The kangaroo's family name, Macropodidae, means "big feet." When a kangaroo senses danger, it puts those feet to use by thumping them on the ground as a warning to other 'roos.
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BONOBO: Born Sept. 4, 2007
Mali, whose name means "something valuable" in Swahili, was in critical condition after her mom went through a very difficult delivery. But both pulled through, and Mali is growing stronger and healthier—thanks partially to her regimen of seven daily bottle feedings.
Who Knew? Bonobos are slightly smaller than chimpanzees and have dark pigmentation on their feet, hands, and faces. They live under threat in the conflict-ridden forests and lowlands of the Democratic Republic of Congo and in a handful of U.S. zoos.
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PANDA: Born Aug. 3, 2007
Bai Yun's giant panda cub, Zhen Zhen, already weighs 31 pounds and is learning to climb. She has an independent streak, according to zookeepers, but is also learning to get along with older sister Su Lin. You can get an up close look at the whole family—including dad Gao Gao—thanks to the zoo's panda cam.
Who Knew? The San Diego Zoo, which has the country's largest collection of giant pandas, harvests 10.5 tons of bamboo annually to keep them fed.
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Last Year's Babies: Where Are They Now?

SUN BEAR: Make time for a San Diego visit soon if you want to catch Bornean sun bear cub Bulan. She's gotten so big—almost 86 pounds—that she won't be there much longer. Public relations representative Andrew Circo warned us there are plans in the works to transfer Bulan to another zoo in agreement with the Species Survival Plan, which promotes maximum genetic diversity in a breeding population.

ELEPHANT: Litsemba's African elephant calf is now named Punga, a nickname for Impunga ("experienced advisor" in SiSwati). He whiles away the time with best friend and half sister Khosi, who's just six months older, and baby Kamile, whose mom, Umoya, was pregnant at press time last year.

OKAPI: Akin Ali, a calf with zebra-like legs and a velvety dark brown upper body, is temporarily on loan to the Los Angeles Zoo.

RED RIVER HOGS: Triplets Oboi, Okang, and Mosi have undergone dramatic changes in the past year—and not necessarily for the better. They're as big as any healthy adult hog now and have traded their cute stripes and perkiness for a lumbering, heavyset look.

2007

RED RIVER HOGS: Born March 27, 2007
These yet-to-be-named newborn triplets are nursing and keeping their first-time mother very busy. Red river hogs are native to the forests of western and central Africa and, like most swine, they have a keen sense of smell and use their snouts to dig for roots and tubers. These piglets have another use for snouts; they butt them together when wrestling each other.
Who Knew? Also called bush pigs, the animals are primarily active at night and tend to hide in bushes by day—their stripes help them blend in with the surroundings.

ELEPHANT: Born March 11, 2007
African elephant Litsemba, which means "the timid one" in SiSwati, gave birth to a male calf in the zoo's Wild Animal Park. Litsemba is one of seven African elephants rescued in August 2003. She was living in a national park in Swaziland, where limited space and droughts threatened the elephants' survival. The zoo hosts elephant shows daily at 1 P.M. and 3 P.M., and has an elephant webcam.
Who Knew? African elephants are much bigger than their Asian cousins, and Litsemba's baby can be expected to reach an adult weight of 7 to 8 tons.

SUN BEAR: Born September 23, 2006
Bulan is one of just two Bornean sun bears born in the U.S. (both at the San Diego Zoo). The littlest of the eight bear species, sun bears have distinctive yellowish marks—suggesting a glowing sun—on their chests.
Who Knew? In Malay, the tree-dwelling bears are called basindo nan tenggil ("he who likes to sit high"). The zoo has more fun facts and a video clip on its website.

OKAPI: Born September 21, 2006
Rarely seen in zoos, okapis have striped zebra-like legs yet velvety brown upper bodies. They're native only to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where they're threatened by deforestation, fighting, and hunting. More than 30 okapis, including this newcomer named Akin Ali, have been delivered at San Diego's Wild Animal Park, which boasts the highest birth rate outside of Africa.
Who Knew? Okapis have long tongues like giraffes, their relatives, and use them to clean their eyes and ears.

EXPECTING

ELEPHANTS: Two African elephants, Umoya and Lungile, are pregnant. The typical gestation term is about 21 months, and the zoo expects them give birth later this year (one in May or June and the other at the end of 2007).

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