Keepers at the Zoo's Conservation and Research Center in Front Royal, VA, had their hands full last week when three different animals delivered three babies just hours apart.
First, a 3-year-old clouded leopard, named "Jao Chu" delivered another cub last Thursday at 5:30 PM. The same mother made news in March when she delivered two genetically valuable cubs (meaning they were bred from individuals outside the zoo population and so bring new genetic material to the breeding population). Jao Chu and her mate, Hannibal, are now the proud parents of three. It's difficult to breed these animals, which are native to Southeast Asia and parts of China, because unless the conditions are just right, the male will kill or maim the female instead of mating with her. Talk about ruining the mood.
Meanwhile, Brandy, a pregnant Przewalski horse had been under close scrutiny. But apparently the keepers missed the actual birth, because the next thing they knew, a foul was seen nursing at the mother's side. Bonding between mother and child, the keepers report, is going well. (Przewalski horses are extinct in the wild. Only a few hundred remain in their native China and Mongolia habitats, but only in protected areas, and the individuals were reintroduced there by researchers working on a species survival plan.)
But the cutest of them all, arrived Friday morning, July 10. A wee little thing born to "Panya," a red panda. (Red pandas are indigenous to China and are endangered in the wild because of habitat loss. There are fewer than 2,500 left in the wild). This was the fifth red panda birth at the CRC to have occured in the last three weeks. Must be something in the water.