After a 22-month gestation, the longest of any mammal, Kandula, a 325 lb. male calf, was born to 25-year-old Shanthi on Nov. 25, 2001. Shanthi became pregnant as a result of artificial insemination (AI), using technology pioneered by National Zoo researchers working in collaboration with other scientists. Because there are so few elephant bulls in U.S. zoos, and because few zoos have proper facilities for bulls, breeding Shanthi at the National Zoo was not possible. For this pregnancy, Zoo staff chose to use AI rather than send Shanthi away from her herd to another zoo facility, as was done for her first pregnancy. The sperm came from Calvin, a 13-year-old Asian bull from Calgary, Canada. Shanthi's pregnancy is only the fourth successful AI of an elephant in the United States and the fifth in the world. Asian elephants are endangered in the wild. Every birth is important to preserving this species.
Sumatran Tiger Cub
A rare Sumatran tiger cub, named Berani, made its outdoor public debut on April 24, 2002. Berani, born Sept. 18, 2001, was too small to go outside during the winter months. Sumatran tigers are highly endangered and births in zoos are rare. Fewer than 500 survive in the wild, and about 250 live in zoos around the world. Berani's birth was a success for the Sumatran Tiger Species Survival Plan coordinated by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association. Berani and his mother, nine-year-old Soyono, and father, eleven-year-old Rokan, are ambassadors for wild tigers and help the public understand the vital need to conserve them. They also reflect the National Zoo's mission: to study, celebrate and protect animals.
Birth of 100th Black-Footed Ferret Via
A team of reproductive biologists, veterinarians and animal managers at the National Zoo produced in May 2002 the 100th black-footed ferret by artificial insemination. The black-footed ferret, once the most endangered mammal in all of North America, has made a remarkable recovery, in part, due to the natural and assisted breeding techniques developed by National Zoo scientists. The Zoo has been involved in the conservation and reintroduction program since the mid-1980s when the last 18 surviving black-footed ferrets were discovered in Wyoming. Artificial insemination is often used to breed the most valuable animals to maintain high levels of genetic diversity.
"The Gathering," a bronze sculpture group depicting seven life-size chimpanzees by Maryland artist Bart Walter, now has a permanent home at the National Zoo. The figures reflect concepts about animals and thinking explored in the nearby Think Tank exhibit. The chimpanzee figures, posed on boulders, illustrate nonverbal communication and individual roles within a community of chimpanzees. " The Matriarch" occupying the central position in the group, sits comfortably next to "The Servant," who reaches out submissively. The matriarch, with a ragged right ear that might have resulted from a bite by another chimp, reminds visitors that a chimp's life is not always peaceful. "The Observer" sits upright and alert, watching the entrance to the garden and "The Alpha," controlling the highest boulder, presides over the group. "The Ally," "The Explorer," and "The Youth" complete the group, which is displayed in a verdant nook off Olmsted Walk near the Think Tank.
Mandara, a 19-year-old lowland gorilla gave birth to her fifth offspring, a male, on Nov. 5. The newborn, named Kojo, is the latest addition to the Zoo's six-member group. The infant's father is Kuja, a 19-year-old male. This is Kuja's second offspring. A total of 10 lowland gorillas, forming two groups now reside at the National Zoo. Lowland gorillas, which are native to the tropical forests of West and Central Africa, are listed as endangered. Through the Species Survival Plan, which is coordinated by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, North American zoos are engaged in a collective effort to propagate gorillas to create a self-sustaining zoo population.
Two South American red-legged seriemas hatched in May 2002 at the National Zoo.
Seriemas (Cariama cristata) are large predatory birds with long legs, necks, and tails. Red-legged seriemas stand up to three-feet tall and may weigh more than three
pounds. Although seriemas can fly, they rarely do.
The female usually lays two eggs, which hatch in 24 to 30 days. It is common, however, for only one of the two chicks to survive to fledging at about one month of age. Young reach adult weight and develop adult plumage at four to months. The Zoo's pair has been raising chicks since 1998.
The National Zoo is the only zoo now breeding red-legged seriemas. The new chicks will stay with their parents until October when they will be old enough to be transferred to breeding programs at other institutions. While not considered endangered in the wild, little is actually known about their numbers. Some scientists believe their abundance is over estimated.