For the Fourth, bring out the (San Diego Zoo) babies!
At the San Diego Zoo, the Baird’s tapirs live in a mixed-species habitat, sharing their space with capybaras and guanacos. Guests visiting the Zoo can view the new tapir calf in the upper yard when he ventures into his outdoor area.
The San Diego Zoo has babies on board.
If you want to be sure to see something new at the zoo, check out the young ones.
There’s enough new life at both the zoo and Safari Park to make a visit worthwhile. So if you want a different July 4th, here are some choice suggestions among the recent arrivals.
SAN DIEGO ZOO
Don the Tapir
Nine months of pregnancy? Luna, a Baird’s tapir, had to wait 13 months for her new son to arrive on June 13. He was the first of the endangered species born at the zoo in 30 years.
Then Luna had trouble caring for him, so keepers took over.
The calf has a name: Don, as in Don Tapir. (Fans of the TV series “Mad Men” may get the punning reference to the fictional ad man Don Draper).
The Baird’s tapir resembles a silly cross between a pig and an elephant with a truncated trunk. The partially prehensile proboscis helps the species probe the ground for leaves and fallen fruit. For now, the calf is getting milk and protein supplements.
Don’s characteristic watermelon spots and stripes camouflage young tapirs in their forest habitat in Mexico, Central America and Colombia. After a few months, calves lose the markings. Around eight months, they resemble miniature adults.
Don and the other tapirs share space with two South American natives; capybaras, huge rodents, and guanacos, wild relatives of llamas.
Where: See Don in the Grace and Harry Steele Elephant Odyssey near the guanacos.
When: Anytime, but early morning is best.
Tony the Hippo
If baby tapirs look vaguely humorous, baby hippos have — how do we say this delicately? — a face made for radio. The adults, too.
With their mouths open, their gaping dentition provokes horror. And rightly so, as an angry hippo is one of the most dangerous animals around.
But Tony and his mother, Funani, radiate pure love, in a distinctly hippo fashion. They’ve been observed giving each other open-mouthed kisses, under water.
Despite their love of water, hippos can’t actually swim, or even float. They move underwater by pushing off the bottom with their slightly webbed toes.
Tony, born Sept. 22, can be seen during the daytime basking in the sun alongside his mom.
Where: Hippo Trail, in the Lost Forest.
When: Tuesdays, Thursdays, and weekends, early mornings and evenings.
Amur Leopard cubs
Satka, the Amur leopard, normally lives alone. But on April 5, she got energetic companionship in the form of two cubs.
Zookeepers cheered the result of Satka’s dalliance with Oskar earlier this year. Amur leopards inhabit the Primorye region of Russia, near the Pacific Coast city of Vladivostock.
Unlike most leopards, which live in tropical or subtropical regions, Amur leopards live in temperate forests.
The forests are relatively near towns and villages, which means their habitat is easily accessible. And that means it’s vulnerable to poaching.
Just over 100 are left in the wild, making Amur leopards a critically endangered subspecies — the most endangered cat in the world. It’s hunted for its fur, which can sell for $1,000 per skin. Worse, humans also hunt the animals — deer, badgers and hares — that wild Amur feed on.
Breeding programs, at the San Diego Zoo and elsewhere, provide a measure of security against extinction.
Where: In Asian Cats exhibit near Panda Trek
When: Early mornings are your best bet
Basically junior kangaroos, wallabies roam with their bigger brothers at the Safari Park’s new Walkabout Australia section.
But three young red-necked wallabies aren’t quite ready to join their elders. These girls are being lovingly nurtured in the Safari Park’s Ione and Paul Harter Animal Care Center Nursery.
About eight months old, the girls still spend a lot of time in pouches at the nursery, much like they would do with a mother wallaby.
Like kangaroos, wallabies are marsupials. They are born basically as embryos that must find their way by scent to the safety of the pouch, which opens on the front of the belly. There, the embryos find a nipple and actually attach to it.
The pre-infant remains attached to the nipple for several weeks. Later, they detach, but still nurse, and begin to venture outside the pouch.
In captivity. female red-necked wallabies reach sexual maturity around 14 months.
Where: Ione and Paul Harter Animal Care Center Nursery.
When: Most of the day, but often are in their pouches.
Justin the Southern White Rhino
Rhinos have a reputation for aggression and ferocity. But southern white rhinos like Justin, born Feb. 7, and his mother, Kacy, have a more placid temperament. It’s a trait they share with their close relatives, northern white rhinos, which are on the verge of extinction.
Well, perhaps placid isn’t the word to describe Justin. As a very young rhino, Justin is on the go. His keepers describe him as “curious and energetic.” When just nine days old, Justin trotted right up to a Cape buffalo, with Kacy keeping a watchful eye.
Southern white rhinos are big; Justin weighed an estimated 125 pounds at birth; he could nearly double that by the time he’s six months old. At adulthood, he could weigh up to 6,000 pounds.
Southern white rhinos are a success story. About 18,000 live in the wild in Southern Africa, compared to around 100 at the beginning of the 20th century. Once thought extinct, they’re now classified as “near threatened.”
The Safari Park has had a bit to do with that resurgence. Justin is the 97th southern white rhino calf born there since it opened in 1972.
Where: African Plains, or from the Africa Tram ride.
When: Possible all day from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., but there’s no guarantee he’ll be visible at any one time.
One look at the freakishly huge ears and you know how the bat-eared fox got its name. As you can guess, it has great hearing. But more than that, the extensive supply of blood vessels in the ears serve as a natural radiator for these tropical and subtropical animals.
The resemblance runs deeper than those ears. Like many bats, the bat-eared fox eats insects, especially termites. Its keen hearing helps it find these bugs in the savanna and brush habitats.
Three kits, just 11 weeks old, live in a den with two females and one male in their exhibit in the African Outpost area of the Safari Park.
These kits are just beginning to venture out of their den, under the watchful eye of the adults. Bat-eared foxes weigh from seven to 12 pounds, and measure 18 to 26 inches long.
Both sexes take care of the kits. Mothers forage for their own food, while fathers often bring food to the pups or watch over them while the mother is out. Fathers also teach their kits how to forage, play with them and even groom them.
Where: African Outpost.
When: Mornings are best.
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