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The Zoo’s Baby Animals: A Mother’s Tale

I recently returned to work after the most incredible time of bonding with my baby and discovering life as a new mom. As the Sacramento Zoo’s Marketing Coordinator, I get to spend some of my work time enjoying the baby animals that were born during my leave. It’s wonderful to see and learn more about the recently born giraffe, monkey, lemur, hog and bird babies.

The Sacramento Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), which requires the highest standards not only in animal care but also in overall operation. There are less than 250 AZA zoos in the United States, compared with thousands of facilities with exotic animals that are only licensed by USDA. AZA zoos work together in research, conservation, education and animal management.

Each type of animal has a unique way of helping their young survive – through direct rearing, or other times a parent may never interact with its offspring, as when amphibians and certain reptile species lay eggs in a protected area and move on. Luckily, like other mammals at the zoo, I have the joy of nurturing an infant.

Rocket the Giraffe Calf - Photo by Mike Owyang

Rocket the Giraffe Calf Photo by Mike Owyang

On April 10, I  received news Shani, the zoo’s female Masai giraffe, had ironically given birth to her calf only hours after my son was born. Since that most memorable day, Shani and I have been tending to our little boys and their growing contrasts. While Rocket was born at 163 pounds and a height of 6 feet, 1 inch; my little one was a mere 6 pounds 11 ounces and 19.5 inches long. Just like I was cautious before exposing my baby to too many people and environments, Shani and the animal keepers initially also shielded Rocket from high exposure to the other giraffes and the public. Today, both boys have more than doubled their birth weight and have much more exposure to visitors as Rocket is on exhibit daily now.

Earlier that week in April, four red river hogs were born. Red river hogs are native to forests in Central and West Africa. These cuties are born dark brown with yellow markings, which aide in camouflage but will turn reddish-brown as they age. In the wild these hogs live in large social groups, called sounders. Up to 20 in a group work together to forage for food and offer protection from predators.

Mongoose Lemur Mom and Infant - Photo by Tonja Candelaria

Mongoose Lemur Mom and Infant by Tonja Candelaria

Later in April, a baby mongoose lemur was born. Unique in the animal world, this critically endangered lemur species is monogamous.  The mating pair often live with their offspring until it is time for the youngsters to start their own families, between two and three years of age. When infants are born, until about five weeks old, they cling to mom’s belly like a fanny pack. This new mongoose lemur is the fourth born to the Sacramento Zoo’s adult pair. The older sister, born last year, is also on exhibit and is learning important parenting skills by watching mom and dad with the little one.

On June 5 a baby Wolf’s Guenon was born. The Sacramento Zoo is one of eight AZA Zoos that are home to these monkeys. Due to their limited numbers, little is known about this species; however, this birth will add to the overall knowledge that can help lead to more awareness and protection of the species in the wild. Like the mongoose lemur, the baby Wolf’s guenon also has an older sister who will observe valuable parenting skills as she helps participate in caring for her sibling.

Adult Burrowing Owl - Photo by Mike Owyang

Adult Burrowing Owl by Mike Owyang

The Zoo is not just bustling with baby mammals, four burrowing owls also hatched. These distinctive owls have long legs and lack ear tufts. They are native to North and South America, living locally in the Sacramento Valley. These owls are active during the day and hunt at dawn and dusk. Unique for owls, this species nests in burrows underground, thus getting its name. Mothers incubate the eggs for 28-30 days and the male brings food to her during this time. Both parents will feed the chicks after they hatch.

As I continue in my own parenting journey, it is truly incredible to discover the variety of parenting skills and family dynamics in the animal kingdom. Though cute babies are fun to see, each of the zoo’s new residents also serve as ambassadors for their wild counterparts. The Sacramento Zoo participates in more than 60 AZA Species Survival Plan (SSP) Programs that focus on the national management of a species, with the goal of sustaining healthy, genetically diverse populations while increasing the awareness and conservation.

Visit the Sacramento Zoo soon to see the new residents and to learn more about these and other incredible animals.

Featured photo: Wolf’s Guenon Mom, Baby and Older Sister by Chris Llewellyn

About the author

April Mae Saenz Johnson

On a daily basis, I see animals from all over the world in one special place: the Sacramento Zoo. I am happy to share inside info, fun facts and photographs of the zoo's animals, staff and events.

In my personal life, I enjoy the sleepy, gross and amazing moments of motherhood, time with my husband and our labradoodle, with a bit of traveling, yoga and volunteering on the Leadership Team for Social Media Club Sacramento.

I am embarking on a new adventure as co-founder of Aging UP, a nonprofit empowering youth with experience in foster care to successfully transition into adulthood.

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