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Giant Panda Cub is a Boy!

National Zoo
Aug. 28, 2015. Scientists at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s Center for Conservation and Evolutionary Genetics confirmed that the giant panda cub born to Mei Xiang Aug. 22 at the National Zoo is male. A paternity analysis showed that Tian Tian is the cub’s father.

Baby Elephant Shrew - February 2009

National Zoo
The Smithsonians National Zoo now has a new baby giant elephant-shrew—also known as a sengi. Keepers at the Small Mammal House did not know it had been born until they saw three elephant-shrews in the exhibit instead of two. The birth was planned as part of a captive breeding program, but baby elephant-shrews typically remain buried deep in their nest for the first several weeks of life. The baby, now about three-weeks-old, is busily exploring the exhibit with its parents. Elephant-shrews are neither elephant nor shrew, but belong to their own group of ancient mammals. They are distantly related to aardvarks, sea cows, like manatees and dugongs, hyraxes and elephants. Native to eastern Kenya and Tanzania, the black and rufous giant elephant-shrews is listed as vulnerable to extinction.

Asian Small-Clawed Otters Celebrate Enrichment at the Smithsonian's National Zoo

National Zoo
Move over, Mozart! Asian small-clawed otter paws fly across the keyboard as part of their #ZooEnrichment. The otters are given the choice to play the keyboard or just sit back and enjoy the show—engaging their sight, touch, and hearing senses. Give a gift to your favorite animal! Your donation enables keepers to purchase toys, training tools and other items for the Zoo's animals. DONATE: https://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/animal-enrichment.

Tracking Asian Elephants with Satellite Collars

National Zoo
Aug. 12, 2016—Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute ecologist Melissa Songer studies Asian elephants and tracks them with satellite collars. The collars help scientists mitigate poaching and human-elephant conflict. For every $4,000 raised through Conservation Nation, she and her colleagues can buy a satellite collar to track a wild Asian elephant.

Atelopus limosus release trial: Panama

National Zoo
Smithsonian Scientists Release Frogs Wearing Mini Radio Transmitters Into Panamanian Wilderness First Release Trial To Help Pave the Way for Reintroduction Programs for Critically Endangered Frogs Ninety Limosa harlequin frogs (Atelopus limosus) bred in human care are braving the elements of the wild after Smithsonian scientists sent them out into the Panamanian rainforest as part of their first-ever release trial. The study, led by the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project, aims to determine the factors that influence not only whether frogs survive the transition from human care to the wild, but whether they persist and go on to breed. “Only by understanding the trials and tribulations of a frog’s transition from human care to the wild will we have the information we need to someday develop and implement successful reintroduction programs,” said Brian Gratwicke, international program coordinator for the rescue project and Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) amphibian conservation biologist. “Although we are not sure whether any of these individual frogs will make it out there, this release trial will give us the knowledge we need to tip the balance in favor of the frogs.” The Limosa harlequin frogs, which were released at the Mamoní Valley Preserve, have small numbered tags inserted under their skin so researchers can tell individuals apart. The scientific team also gave each frog an elastomer toe marking that glows under UV light to easily tell this cohort of frogs apart from any future releases. Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation doctoral student Blake Klocke is currently monitoring the frogs daily at the site, collecting information about survivorship, dispersal, behavior and whether the warm micro-climate in the area provides any protection against disease. The study is also looking at whether a “soft release” boosts the frogs’ ability to survive. Thirty of the newly released frogs spent a month at the site in cages, acclimating to their surroundings and foraging on leaf-litter invertebrates. Eight of these frogs, and eight that were released without the trial period, are wearing miniature radio transmitters that will give Klocke and the team a chance to look at differences in survival and persistence between the two groups. The researchers also collected skin-bacteria samples from the soft-release frogs to measure changes during their transition from captivity to the wild. “The soft release study allowed us to safely expose captive-bred frogs to a more balanced and varied diet, changing environmental conditions and diverse skin bacteria that can potentially increase their survival in nature,” said Angie Estrada, Ph.D. student at Virginia Tech and a member of the team leading the soft release, which was funded through a Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) grant. “It allowed us to monitor health and overall body condition of the animals without the risk of losing the frogs right away to a hungry snake.” Limosa harlequin frogs are especially sensitive to the amphibian chytrid fungus, which has pushed frog species to the brink of extinction primarily in Central America, Australia and the western United States. The Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project brought a number of individuals into the breeding center between 2008 and 2010 as chytrid swept through their habitat. The Limosa harlequin frogs in this release trial are the first captive-bred generation of the species and only part of the rescue project’s total insurance population for the species. “After all the work involved in collecting founder individuals, learning to breed them, raising their tadpoles, producing all their food and keeping these frogs healthy, the release trial marks a new exciting stage in this project,” said Roberto Ibáñez, in-country director of the rescue project and STRI scientist. “These captive-bred frogs will now be exposed to their world, where predators and pathogens are ever-present in their environment. Their journey will help provide the key to saving not only their own species, but Panama’s other critically endangered amphibian species.” The Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project is a project partnership between the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, the Houston Zoo, Zoo New England, the SCBI and STRI. SCBI plays a leading role in the Smithsonian’s global efforts to save species from extinction and train future generations of conservationists. SCBI spearheads research programs at its headquarters in Front Royal, Va., the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and at field research stations and training sites worldwide. SCBI scientists tackle some of today’s most complex conservation challenges by applying and sharing what they learn about animal behavior and reproduction, ecology, genetics, migration and conservation sustainability.

Baby Gorilla at the National Zoo

National Zoo
On January 10, a baby western lowland gorilla was born at the Smithsonians National Zoo. Staff estimate the baby was born at approximately 1:45 pm to 26-year-old female Mandara and 16-year-old Baraka. The newborn represents the seventh successful gorilla birth for the Zoo since 1991. This is the sixth offspring for Mandara. The newborn joins siblings Kigali, Kwame and Kojo, as well as group member Haloko at the Great Ape House. All of the Zoos gorillas will remain on exhibit. Both mother and baby appear to be doing well. The babys sex has not yet been determined. The gorilla birth is significant for the National Zoo. Western lowland gorillas, which are native to tropical forests of West and Central Africa, are listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources Red List of Threatened Species, primarily due to habitat loss and fragmentation and poaching. They are also a focus of the Zoos participation in Species Survival Plan, in which North American zoos collaborate to encourage the development of a self-sustaining zoo gorilla population, helping to ensure the survival of this endangered species. Each SSP manages the breeding of a species in order to maintain a healthy and self-sustaining population that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable.

Animal Artists at the Smithsonian's National Zoo

National Zoo
Painting is ‪#‎ZooEnrichment‬ that engages the animals’ senses of touch, smell, and sight and allows them to exercise control and choice over their masterpieces. You can help our artists express themselves! Gift online at http://nationalzoo.si.edu/GivingTree. All animals at the Smithsonian's National Zoo create works of art using non-toxic, water-based paint.

The National Zoo Welcomes a Baby Howler Monkey

National Zoo
Zoo visitors will note that the ambiance in the Small Mammal House is a bit noisier; we welcomed a black howler monkey baby March 22! It is the first surviving howler baby in the Zoo's history of exhibiting this species. Keepers are watching first-time parents Chula (mother) and Pele (father) from a distance, allowing the family to bond. The baby—a boy—grows more independent every day. Zoo visitors can see the howler family on exhibit in the Small Mammal House. Their thick necks house a unique voice box, including an enlarged hyoid bone, that enables male howler monkeys to penetrate three miles of dense forest with a single rumbling growl. These booming territorial calls have earned the primates, which are native to Central and South America, the title of loudest animal in the New World (North, Central and South America). The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the black howler monkey as least concern.

Partners in the Sky Initiative: Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute

National Zoo
Partners in the Sky: Aviation and Aerospace Industry Leaders Join The Smithsonian In Worldwide Conservation Efforts Partnership Will Revolutionize Animal Tracking Unlocking the mysteries of animal migration through precise, near real-time tracking can solve major conservation challenges and transform wildlife science worldwide. For the past year, scientists at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute have been working with aviation and aerospace leaders, led by Airbus to launch the "Partners in the Sky" program using aviation and aerospace technology to create a first-of-its-kind global animal-tracking system. Movement of animals is essential to maintaining ecosystems and ultimately a healthy planet. Migrations are common among more than 6,000 species and occur almost everywhere in the world, often spanning thousands of miles. More than 90 percent of the globe's wildlife is too small to track. For larger species like elephants, conservation-tracking technologies are prohibitively expensive, have high failure rates and are limited in range and resolution. SCBI scientists are leaders in studying animal movement and its consequences for species, communities and ecosystems. A comprehensive tracking program that SCBI can share across the conservation community has enormous potential. Integrating that information with key environmental and satellite data from other sources, potentially through one platform, will help scientists pinpoint what drives animal movement. The worldwide conservation community could track animals over their lifetime, discover unknown migration routes, understand the spread of infectious disease, reduce human-animal conflicts, combat poaching, pinpoint the root causes of migratory bird population declines and save species from extinction. SCBI scientists identified specifications for the ideal tracking system and presented them to the Partners in the Sky consortium—Airbus, Intel, Iridium Communications Inc., Joubeh, Lockheed Martin, Michael Goldfarb Associates, Raytheon, Rockwell Collins and United Airlines. Pennsylvania State University's Applied Research Laboratory joined the effort thanks to a donation from the Rick Bowe and Karen Nemeth Charitable Fund. Together with the Partners and Penn State's ARL, SCBI scientists charted a course of action that includes four key parts: • The 1 Gram Challenge. Miniaturizing tracking devices to 1 gram or less will help pinpoint precise movement of birds and other small migratory animals, like amphibians remotely. Existing devices are too large and heavy to track small animals. A tracking device should not weigh more than 5 percent of an animal's total body weight to minimize impact on the health of the animal. • Satellite Technology. Industry and scientists are working together to increase data transmission and make tracking devices more affordable and reliable, ideally lasting the lifetime of an animal. Increasing the use of low-orbit satellite networks will help track animals anywhere in the world at any time. • Commercial Aircraft. Aircraft equipped with antennae and receivers will collect tracking data from transmitter-tagged wildlife on passenger routes and automatically download information to users on the ground. Partnering directly with commercial airlines to use existing transmitters and leverage a network of this scale is unprecedented in animal tracking. • Big Data. By integrating tracking with environmental satellite data, scientists will be able to predict why, how, where and when animals move. These movement models can reveal connections between important conservation issues, such as climate effects on animal movement, infectious disease spread and human-wildlife conflict. Together with the Partners, SCBI will explore working with existing wildlife programs to integrate tracking data into one comprehensive platform. The Partners in the Sky program is still in its beginning stages: expanding the markets to make the satellite solution affordable; developing high-power, 1 gram tracking devices; engineering, building, and certifying aircraft antenna to pick up tagged wildlife on overfly routes. To showcase the potential of the technology, the Zoo's Asian elephant Shanthi and elephants in the wild at the Centre for Conservation and Research in Sri Lanka, have been collared with tracking devices. Using the Iridium satellite constellation, their positions will be displayed on a kiosk at the Elephant Community Center and on the Zoo's website. Position reports from three recently tagged black-crowned night herons will also be included, marking the first time that scientists will know the migratory route and winter destinations of these birds after they leave the National Zoo each summer. An "Animal Trax" module will be integrated into the Zoo's existing App in early 2014. Through "Animal Trax," users can keep track of the movements of their favorite animal.

Pandas in Snow 2019

National Zoo

Giant Panda Update: Two-and-a-Half Weeks Old

National Zoo
Video Credit: Smithsonian's National Zoo Mei Xiang and her cub are still doing well! Keepers and veterinarians expect that Mei will leave begin leaving her den for longer periods of time soon. When she does leave the den for longer periods of time keepers and veterinarians hope to be able to perform another health check on the cub. In the meantime, keepers are continuing to do short training sessions with Mei in her den, and offer her small snack-sized treats for participating.

Tian Tian Playing

National Zoo
Aug. 27, 2018—This silly ol' bear turned 21 today! But he can still play like a big cub.

A Croc's Tale

National Zoo
With the recent hatching of two Cuban crocodiles, the National Zoo just got a little snappier! These feisty reptiles hatched July 6 and 14 and are among the most genetically valuable individuals in the Cuban crocodile population under human care. Their wild-born mother hadn't laid eggs in many years, which made this year's event a very pleasant surprise for the keepers at the Zoo's Reptile Discovery Center. Cuban crocodiles are charismatic, acrobatic reptiles with beautiful coloration. But because of hunting and hybridization with American crocodiles, the species is critically endangered with only an estimated 4,000 left in two small areas in Cuba. The two crocs born at the Zoo are part of the Species Survival Plan's goal of maintaining a population that is genetically viable for the foreseeable future. One or both of the crocodiles will likely be on exhibit for a few months at the Reptile Discovery Center.

Training: Measuring Sloth Bear Blood Pressure at the Smithsonian's National Zoo

National Zoo
Dec. 3, 2015. When sloth bear Francois's lips mysteriously turned blue, Zoo veterinarians diagnosed him with high blood pressure. Now, with ongoing treatment and medication, his condition has improved and he seems his old self. But what is the average blood pressure of a geriatric sloth bear? Asia Trail keeper Stacey Tabellario is hoping to learn exactly that, as she trains Francois to use a blood pressure cuff. The information gathered from his medical training will help other zoos that care for elderly sloth bears!

#GorillaStory: Calaya and Moke in the Great Ape House Outdoor Yard

National Zoo
Our 1-week-old western lowland gorilla Moke is doing great! Primate keeper Melba Brown dishes on the troop's reaction to their newest member in the latest #GorillaStory update: https://s.si.edu/2vEldZh.

Young dama gazelle explores yard

National Zoo
Just a few weeks old, the Zoo's youngest dama gazelle explores his yard. The gazelle was born Sept. 4, 2012.

National Zoo Gorillas are the First to Participate in Heart Disease Study

National Zoo
The same device used to detect early warning signs of heart disease in humans will now benefit two male sub-adult gorillas at the Smithsonian's National Zoo. Twelve-year-old Kwame and 10-year-old Kojo are the first western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) to participate in a study lead by the Great Ape Heart Project that will help veterinarians better detect and treat heart disease, the leading cause of death of male gorillas in human care.

Mei Xiang Giving Birth to Second Cub Aug. 22 at 10:07 p.m.

National Zoo
Mei Xiang gave birth to a second giant panda cub at 10:07 p.m., Aug. 22. The panda team retrieved one of the cubs per "twin hand rearing" protocol and placed it in an incubator. Both cubs appear to be doing well. #PandaStory

Giant Panda Mei Xiang Giving Birth to Cub August 22, 2015

National Zoo
Giant panda Mei Xiang (may-SHONG) gave birth to a cub at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo today, Aug. 22. The panda team witnessed the birth at 5:35 pm. Mei Xiang reacted to the cub by picking it up. The panda team began preparing for a birth when they saw Mei Xiang’s water break at 4:32 pm and she was already having contractions. The sex of the cub won’t be determined until a later date.

Zoo Jobs: Meet an Endocrinologist

National Zoo
Ever wonder what it’s like to be an endocrinologist at the National Zoo? Middle school students should check out, “Other Duties as Assigned: The Secret World of Zoo Jobs.” Meet Sarah Putman, endocrinologist at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.

Field in Focus: Hlawga National Park

National Zoo
The first step to eventually predicting the next pandemic is studying infectious diseases in places where humans and animals frequently come into contact. About 75 percent of emerging infectious diseases begin in wildlife. Their research to help prevent the next pandemic has led wildlife veterinarians with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute's Global Health Program to a wild animal park in Myanmar, where they are collecting samples from animals ranging from sambar deer to elephants. They are learning what types of infectious diseases animals carry to help humans interact with them safely.

FIELD IN FOCUS | Elephants in Myanmar: Elephant Poaching

National Zoo
Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute scientists are tracking Asian elephants in Myanmar’s Ayeyarwady region using GPS collars. Though they set out to understand how elephants use the land, their research has also revealed a troubling rise in poaching. Unlike African elephants, Asian elephants are poached for their skin and eat — making males, females and calves equal targets. Conservation efforts in Myanmar are shifting to stop this urgent threat.

African Lioness Naba and Her Two Cubs

National Zoo
The Smithsonian's National Zoo's Great Cats team celebrated the arrival of its first litter of African lion cubs in four years. On Jan. 24, the Zoo's 10-year-old lion Nababiep gave birth to three cubs—two surviving—in an eight hour period. These cubs are the third litter for Nababiep and the fourth for 8-year-old father, Luke. Animal care staff watched Nababiep give birth via a closed-circuit webcam and continue to monitor the family's behavior. The first cub was born at 3:58 a.m. and appeared active and healthy. Five hours later at 8:51 a.m., Nababiep delivered her second cub, but it was stillborn. The third cub was born at 11:24 a.m. and appeared active and healthy. It is not uncommon for animals, in this case a lion, to have some healthy and one or more stillborn cubs in the same litter. Nababiep and her two cubs have been under close observation throughout the weekend by the Zoo's animal care team. They appear to be nursing, moving and vocalizing well, so keepers have not needed to intervene. "The first few days of a lion cub's life are very fragile," said Rebecca Stites, an animal keeper at the Great Cats exhibit. "Naba continues to prove that she has great maternal instincts, so the best course of action is for us to allow her to care for and bond with her cubs. We have every indication that she will successfully raise these cubs just as she did her previous litter." (Note: Nababiep gave birth to one cub in May 2010 that lived for 48 hours.) The mortality rate for lion cubs (including those that are younger than a year) in captivity in 2009 was about 30 percent, compared to a 67 percent mortality rate for cubs in the wild. Animal care staff are cautiously optimistic that the cubs will thrive and are giving Nababiep the solitude she needs to care for her young. The Zoo received a recommendation to breed the lions from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plan for African lions. An SSP matches individual animals across the country for breeding in order to maintain a healthy, genetically diverse and self-sustaining population. About one month after Luke bred with Nababiep, he and her 9-year-old sister Shera also bred. Animal care staff are closely monitoring Shera and suspect she is pregnant based on her physical changes and weight gain, among other cues. Keepers gradually separated Nababiep from Luke and Shera to give Nababiep the privacy she needs to emulate the natural process. As Shera's expected delivery date draws near, animal care staff will separate her from Luke as well. In the wild, female lions will typically leave the pride for a secure area and give birth alone. A lioness may wait up to six weeks before introducing her cubs to the rest of the pride. The formation of prides makes lions unique among the great cats, many of which are solitary animals. Hunting, disease and habitat loss have contributed to a decline in the population of African lions, which are considered a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. "One of the best parts of this job is seeing all of our planning and preparation come to fruition," said Kristen Clark, an animal keeper at the Great Cats exhibit. "In 2010, we had a remarkable opportunity to watch seven cubs grow, master husbandry training, and go on to other zoos to contribute to their breeding programs. To watch this litter follow in their siblings' footsteps will be incredibly exciting and rewarding." Nababiep's cubs will not be on exhibit until late spring, which will give the Zoo's animal keepers and veterinary team time to examine them. However, National Zoo visitors can see 5-month-old Sumatran tiger cubs Bandar and Sukacita on exhibit every day that weather permits staff to give them outdoor access. To follow the Zoo's progress in caring for the cubs, check for news on the Zoo's Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Smithsonian's National Zoo's Amazonia exhibit

National Zoo
Highlights of the Smithsonian's National Zoo's Amazonia exhibit
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