On April 30 the Hoofstock team at the Houston Zoo welcomed its newest member to our Gerenuk herd. Josie (a first time mom) delivered a healthy baby boy around mid-day. Forty-five minutes later, the calf was already on his feet and nursing. “Julius” is already showing his personality as a strong, spunky little calf who loves running.
Gerenuk are other worldly looking gazelles, known for their long skinny necks and legs. Actually, the term Gerenuk means “giraffe-necked” in the Somali language. Not only do they look different, they have a unique ability that sets them apart from any other antelope or gazelle species. Gerenuk gazelles are able to stand and balance themselves on their hind legs to reach the higher leaves that many other animals cannot reach. Gerenuk have been known to stand on their hind legs like this at only 2 weeks old. It shouldn’t be long until we will be seeing Julius do the same.
Next time you come to the Houston Zoo, make sure you stop by to visit our Gerenuk family. And keep your eyes wide open. Julius often likes to nap in the grass when he isn’t playing.
Miráq, our first baby Okapi at the Houston Zoo, is now about 3 months old. Miráq only weighed 40 pounds when he was first born. Now Miráq is weighing in at 195 pounds. It is typical that Okapi calves will nearly triple in size by the end of their first 2 months. Miráq will be full grown when he is about 3-4 years old.
Like any baby, Miráq’s favorite pastime is sleeping in his “fort.” In the wild, Okapi calves will hide in a very well concealed area, normally under a bush, for their first two or three months. The mother will visit frequently to allow the calf to nurse during this time. Instead of a bush, we’ve given Miráq what we call a “fort” which consists of a few hay bales stacked together with a nice fluffy straw bedding underneath. This is where he is most comfortable and enjoys spending most of his time.
Miráq has also really been showing his personality to his caretakers. Miráq is generally a very calm Okapi calf. He is a very curious fellow who loves to look at everything, but he is very hesitant to try or investigate new things. Occasionally he will have a random burst of energy and will run around the yard kicking up his heels and enjoying the day.
The best time you can see how much Miráq has grown will be anytime between 9am and 1pm on any day when the temperature is above 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Be sure to stop by the Houston Zoo soon to visit this little cutie before he gets any bigger!
Written by: Memory Mays and Jessica Sigle One of our favorite days in the hoofed stock department at the Houston Zoo is quickly approaching. Some call it May 5th. Some call it Cinco de Mayo. But here, we like to call it Cinco de Rhino! Cinco de Rhino is a holiday celebrated by spreading the word about rhinos and rhino conservation. This means talking about the five rhino species. That’s right! It’s a perfectly named holiday to talk about the cinco (“five”) rhino species.
We have three male White Rhinos here at the Houston Zoo who are named George, Mumbles, and Indy. White rhinos have the highest population numbers of the five rhino species. Currently there are about 20,000 white rhinos. White rhinos are one of the two African species of rhinos. The other African species is called the Black Rhino. The black rhino is endangered and only numbering at about 5,000 individuals in the world.
There are 3 other species of rhinos you may not have heard of. These are the Javan, Sumatran, and Indian rhinos. All three of these actually come from Asia. You might not have heard of these animals because all three are critically endangered. Currently there are about 3,300 Indian rhinos, and it is estimated that there are less than 100 Sumatran rhinos, and only 40-45 Javan rhinos.
If you total these population numbers of these five species it equals to about 28,100 rhinos. That’s a pretty small number. The reason these animals are endangered is not only because of habitat destruction, but more because of illegal poaching for the rhino horn. Unfortunately, these amazing rhinos are being killed off a lot faster than they can reproduce. The best way you can help to save these rhinos is to help spread the word about rhinos and rhino conservation. Next time you visit the Houston Zoo, be sure to stop by our White Rhino exhibit to see 3 of the last 28,000 rhinos.
We’ve already gone over what Red River Hogs look like and where they are from. But there is still more information about these cool hogs we have to share here at the Houston Zoo! If you missed the previous blog, Red River Hogs are native to the forest, swampy-like areas in Africa.
When these hogs aren’t wallowing in the mud or napping in the shade to cool down, they will be foraging for food. Their favorite foods to eat are grasses, berries, roots, insects, small vertebrates and occasionally carrion. Most of their foraging is done at night when it is dark because the darkness gives them protection from predators. Because of their nightly adventures, Red River Hogs have an exceptional sense of sight that allows them to wander through the forests in the middle of the night without bumping into obstacles. Their sense of hearing is excellent as well. So well in fact, they can detect the movement of an earthworm in the dirt.
A herd of Red River Hogs typically consists of 4-6 females, 1 dominant male, and their piglets. Like any baby animal they are adorable! The piglets have a very unique brown coat pattern that consists of orange spots and stripes. They will loose these stripes and spots over time as they grow their orange-red adult coat of fur. When the completed African Forest is open be sure to stop by to visit our Red River Hog family to see these interesting and colorful pigs at the Houston Zoo.
You may have heard that the Houston Zoo will be welcoming gorillas to our zoo again, but they won’t be the only animals you see there! We are very excited that gorillas will be sharing their exhibit with red river hogs.
Why will they be living with the gorillas? Well, the red river hog is actually a type of wild pig that roams the forests and swamps of central and western Africa. This means that the red river hogs and gorillas share the same habitat and would occasionally encounter each other in the wild. Unlike the gorillas though, red river hogs are not listed as endangered. They are actually doing very well population-wise in the wild due to the human-caused reduction of the population of the leopard (the hogs’ natural predator).
These wild hogs got their name because they are easy to spot due to their very bright coloration. What might stand out more are the long tufts of fur on their ears giving them a unique elf-like appearance. While on your path through the African Forest watching the gorillas, be sure to stop and look for these interesting red river hogs. You will see that this is a very unique species and one we are very excited to welcome to our zoo!
Since October, our hoofed stock team at the Houston Zoo have been working on crate training our very popular three white rhinos Sibindi, Lynne, and Annie Kamariah. Why would we train them to walk into a crate though? Well, we wanted to make sure that they were well prepared and comfortable for their upcoming road trip to Florida. All species of rhinos are rapidly becoming critically endangered. It is very important that these three rhinos, originally from South Africa, have the most opportunities to increase the world’s population of rhinos. In the sunshine state, there is a facility named White Oak. White Oak is very well known for their breeding success of several endangered animals, including white rhinos. We are very pleased to announce that Sibindi, Lynne and Annie Kamariah are now three representatives of the Houston Zoo and are a part of the breeding program at White Oak.
Our rhino barn at the Houston Zoo was fairly quiet during those days when our team was transporting our rhinos. However, that did not last long since our team brought back three little treasures from White Oak. These little treasures are three young male white rhinos. Their names are George, Mumbles, and Indy. They range from 2-3 years old and weigh 1600-2000 pounds. They are adjusting well to their new home and are already friends with their caretakers. You can expect to see them on exhibit when they complete the zoo’s standard quarantine period. Until then though, don’t forget to visit the rhino exhibit to say hello to our herd of Greater kudu antelope.
There is one exhibit at the Houston Zoo where there is guaranteed overwhelming cuteness. Come check out our Nyala Exhibit (located between the Okapi and Red Crowned Cranes) where there is not 1 nyala calf. Not 2 nyala calves. But 3 nyala calves!
It started in April when Ginger gave birth to Peanut. One of our other female Nyala, Ivy, gave birth to Willow in May. And now we are proud to say that Lola, a first time mom, gave birth to male calf that has been named Dallas.
Dallas weighed 14 pounds when he was born, and he began expressing his personality within the first few hours by leaping around his mom. Peanut has taken the role of the caring older brother and shows Willow and Dallas the best ways to play with and eat browse (leafed-branches trimmed from overgrown trees).
Willow is the most independent of the three and will often wander off to hang out near the bamboo on exhibit. Then there is little Dallas, the most playful of the trio. He often runs into the barn when keepers bring the Nyala inside for the night, and he will continue running and leaping until mom Lola convinces him that it’s time for some dinner.
Two popular residents at the Houston Zoo are our warthogs Rodney and Pinta. If you have ever stopped by to visit them, then you probably know that they are either taking a nap in their mud wallow or foraging for their food. Warthogs are the only pig adapted for grazing on the savanna grasslands in Africa.
They eat not only grass but also roots, tubers, and root bulbs that they dig up with their noses. Their noses are shaped kind of like a shovel and are very tough, so the warthog nose is a very useful adaptation to dig up food.
Since warthogs are also grazers, they have developed an interesting way to eat grass. To prevent straining their necks to reach the grass on the ground, warthogs rest on their front knees and shuffle around while grazing. Because of this, warthogs have developed callused knees that provide a lot of cushion so that they do not damage their joints in their front legs.
They do not only shuffle while eating though. Our female warthog, Pinta, can be pretty slow to get going early in the morning and will shuffle around for 5 minutes before actually walking!
There’s a new animal to look for on your next visit to the Houston Zoo! She can be kind of hard to see when she is hiding in the bamboo. If she is roaming the Yellow-Backed Duiker yard, you will probably declare her as odd looking. Her name is Josie and she is the first Gerenuk the Houston Zoo has had.
Gerenuk are a very unusual type of gazelle. Their most distinguishing feature is their very long necks and thin legs. These features give Gerenuk a big advantage when it comes to foraging. How? Gerenuk are what we call “mid-level” browsers. This means that they can reach and consume leaves on the lower branches in trees, places that other gazelles can’t reach. Gerenuk do this by standing on their back legs to reach their food.
Gerenuk are one of only two species of gazelle that have the ability to do this. Because of this capability, Gerenuk have very muscular back legs, and modified lumbar support in their vertebrae to help balance their weight when they stand on their hind legs. We do take Josie’s unique foraging abilities into account at our zoo. To encourage her to reach her highest height, we place her food in higher locations that her exhibit-mates (Yellow-Backed Duikers) can’t reach. Next time you visit the Houston Zoo, stop by to visit our very interesting and odd looking Gerenuk resident, Josie.
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