Six months with lion cub Bahati & the journey to get here

 

The lucky one

Guests have fallen in love with our now 6-month-old Bahati Moja, the first lion cub born at the Dallas Zoo in 43 years. Her birth on St. Patrick’s Day this year via a scheduled C-section left nothing to chance. The positive outcome was the result of a well-coordinated and meticulously planned group effort between our animal care, veterinary, and nutrition teams.

Planning for baby

The veterinary team knew that Bahati’s mother, Lina, has a narrow pelvic canal and small hips, which had resulted in two stillborn cubs during her previous pregnancy. Once keepers noticed Lina breeding with Kamau, the planning began to try to ensure a healthy pregnancy and birth. The team determined the safest option for mom and baby would be a scheduled C-section. Then the staff planned out 105-110 days, the length of lion gestation, so that full veterinary and carnivore care teams could be on hand for the day of delivery.

Bahati nuzzles up to mom Lina.

When the big day finally arrived, all the careful planning paid off. The veterinary team performed a by-the-book C-section and ran into no issues during the procedure. Bahati was strong and vocal immediately after birth. Mother and cub returned to the carnivore barn soon after delivery so Lina could wake up from anesthesia, recover from surgery, and meet her cub in familiar surroundings. Keepers bottle-fed Bahati a special formula the first few days until mom fully recovered, but Lina showed excellent maternal instincts and took over care just 30 hours after her operation.

Meeting benchmarks

Bahati has been consistently gaining two to three pounds per week, and now weighs 60 pounds. In addition to nursing, the little predator now gets her own diet of bones and ground meat. In the wild, these carnivorous cats are opportunistic feeders and prey on zebra, wildebeest, buffalo, antelope, and other sources of meat.

This smart cub has mastered shifting from her yard to the barn and is working on target training, lying down, and sitting during voluntary training session with keepers. Soon she will advance to presenting her paws for inspection and conducting blood draws on her tail. Guests can watch her progress during training demonstrations at Predator Rock in our Giants of the Savanna habitat.

During a weighing session, newborn Bahati sticks her head out of the scale box.

Social life

Since lions are the only true social species of big cats, females tend to work together to raise all the cubs in their pride. It’s no surprise, then,  that aunt Jasiri enjoys her wild and playful niece and often helps Lina by babysitting. Even dad, Kamau, is playing a part in rearing the cub. When Bahati practices her stalking on Kamau’s thick mane and tail, dad is loving but stern in his response.

Bahati is putting her climbing skills to good use, exploring the rocks and hills in her habitat and climbing over mom, dad, and aunt Jasiri. In Africa, lions will lounge underneath trees to escape the heat and insects, and you’ll often see the same with our pride here.

Purr-fectly adorable

You may hear Bahati mew and growl, but it will still take a few more months for her to develop a full roar. As she grows, she’ll lose the spots of a newborn and will develop a full tail tuft. Come to Predator Rock – or the Serengeti Grill windows – to see our new pride and joy for yourself!

Bahati was born via C-section.
Bahati was born via C-section.
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Saving sea turtles in South Texas

 

It takes just one year for trash from DFW to make it into the Gulf of Mexico through storm drains, hurting South Texas’s marine life and other species. Dallas Zoo’s Wild Earth Action Team (WEAT) is on a Texas-proud mission to restore critical habitat for animals across the state.

The team put in sweat equity and removed 2,750 pounds of litter pollution from the beaches and dunes. They also participated in a sunrise release of 26 Kemp’s ridley sea turtle hatchlings – the ocean’s most endangered species of turtle.

“Every wildlife habitat restored and every species saved from extinction begins with us. It’s a great feeling to know we have members, guests and volunteers right beside us working to create a better world for animals,” said Ben Jones, dean of the Dallas Zoo’s Wild Earth Academy and co-leader of the trip.

When the team wasn’t squealing over baby sea turtles or picking up litter, they spent time at Sea Turtle, Inc., helping spruce up the non-profit’s building.

Dallas Zoo staff also proudly presented a check to Sea Turtle Inc. to help the conservationists continue their work to save the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle.

Take action at home to protect marine life by reducing your plastic consumption with reusable straws, water bottles and canvas bags; choose to eat sustainably harvested seafood; and help keep litter pollution out of Texas waterways.

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Introducing Dallas Zoo Lights, a bright new holiday celebration

 

The Dallas Zoo will debut a new seasonal tradition starting this November, hosting its inaugural holiday celebration – Dallas Zoo Lights Presented by Reliant. This kicks off a three-year relationship with the electricity and home services provider as the signature sponsor of the Dallas Zoo Lights event.

Dallas Zoo Lights will transform the Dallas Zoo into a winter wonderland with nearly one million twinkling lights that illuminate the night sky throughout the holiday season.

Spanning 33 select nights from Nov. 17 through Jan. 2, guests can stroll along a path that covers 25 acres within the Zoo, enjoying an array of light-wrapped trees, overhead and hanging light displays, lighted 2-D decorations, and fantastic 3-D light sculptures. Various lighted vignettes throughout the Zoo will give you the feeling of being transported from an African watering hole within the Zoo to a holiday candy land at the North Pole.

“We are thrilled to announce we’re teaming up with Reliant to bring a distinctive event like Dallas Zoo Lights to the community this holiday season,” said Gregg Hudson, Dallas Zoo president and CEO. “This is an opportunity for everyone to experience the Zoo in a whole different light, and we’re so grateful Reliant is joining forces with us to start this new holiday tradition. From the dazzling light displays to the nightly holiday entertainment, we’re excited to share our holiday spirit with guests from near and far.”

Designed as an event for all ages, Dallas Zoo Lights will feature:

  • holiday music performances,
  • a special holiday light show set to music, running multiple times during the evening,
  • tasty winter treats for kids and adults (including gourmet donuts, cookies, hot chocolate, and holiday crafted adult beverages),
  • crafts and activities for the kids,
  • great locations for fun holiday family photos, and
  • a carousel and mini-train rides, each lit up by holiday lights.

“The holidays are one of our favorite times of year at Reliant. That’s why we’re excited to bring a new family tradition to Dallas with Zoo Lights,” said Elizabeth Killinger, president of Reliant. “No one knows how to light up the night like Reliant, and we look forward to Zoo Lights bringing out the very best of the holiday season.”

Beginning Nov. 17, Dallas Zoo Lights Presented by Reliant is open every Friday through Sunday, as well as select weeknights. The event will be closed on Dec. 24 and 25. This unique holiday event is free with regular Zoo admission, meaning guests can come during the day to walk around and see the animals, and stay for the holiday celebration at night for no additional charge. Guests can also come just for the lighted holiday festivities, which are scheduled from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. each evening of Dallas Zoo Lights. A special Dallas Zoo Lights event calendar will be available soon on DallasZoo.com with details about dates, nightly entertainment, and other activities, so you can plan your visit.

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Dallas Zoo closes its Australia section ahead of TxDOT’s Southern Gateway project

We’re saying farewell to our Australian animals ahead of TxDot’s Southern Gateway I-35/US 67 project that will improve 11 miles of highway, including part of I-35 adjacent to the Dallas Zoo. The three Australian habitats, located within ZooNorth’s Koala Walkabout, are in the closest proximity to the construction project.

As you know, the comfort and welfare of our residents comes first, and we’ve found new AZA-accredited homes to ensure the interstate improvements cause no disruption to the animals. 

The closure includes the koala habitat, Lorikeet Landing, and the kangaroo, wallaby, emu and kookaburra habitats. The last day you can visit these animals will be Monday, Sept. 4. And we hope you’ll join us this Saturday and Sunday (Sept. 2-3) as we host “Farewell Australia Weekend.”

Here on loan from San Diego Zoo since March 2012, koalas Tekin and Gummy will head back to their Southern California home. Our male and female Western gray kangaroos will also be moving to San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park.

Staying in Texas, our flock of lorikeets are moving to the San Antonio Zoo, and two wallabies will call the Ellen Trout Zoo in Lufkin home. Our brother-sister kookaburra pair will move to the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo.

“The safety and well-being of our animals is always our top priority,” said Gregg Hudson, Dallas Zoo president and CEO.  “We’ve been working with TxDot on the highway improvement plans for a while now, and appreciate TxDot addressing some of our concerns. As part of the construction, TxDot will install a high sound barrier that will reduce noise, dust in other parts of ZooNorth, and will benefit our guests and animals in the area.

“Thankfully we had plenty of time to find great homes for these animals. We know the public will miss them as much as we will.”

“Farewell Australia Weekend” activities from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Sept. 2-3 include:

–          Special keeper chats at 10 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. at Koala Walkabout

–          Sign a card to wish koalas Tekin and Gummy farewell

–          Participate in a “Can you jump as far as a macropod?” activity

–          Enjoy a coloring activity featuring the Australian animals

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Dallas Zoo welcomes first-ever rare Somali wild ass babies

 

For the first time in Dallas Zoo’s 129-year history, we’re proudly welcoming two extremely rare Somali wild ass foals. Born 10 days apart, the little girls and their moms are doing great and bonding beautifully behind-the-scenes.

The first foal named Kalila, meaning “dearly loved” in Arabic, was born July 9 to 13-year-old mom Liberty. This is dad Abai and Liberty’s third foal together – the pair previously welcomed two babies at their former home, the St. Louis Zoo.

One-week-old Naima explores her behind-the-scenes habitat.

The second foal named Naima, meaning “calm” in Arabic, was born July 19 to dad Abai, and first-time mom Hani, who turns five years old next month. And just like her older half-sister, Naima was standing, walking and nursing within minutes.

“This is a big moment for our hoofstock team. Somali wild asses are critically endangered with less than 600 left in the wild,” mammal curator John Fried said. “Only nine institutions in the U.S. care for this rare species, and to be able to welcome two babies is truly one of the highlights of my career.”

Native to the arid regions of the Horn of Africa – Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea – there are many reasons the Somali wild asses’ numbers have dropped drastically in the wild. Locals hunt this species for food and traditional medicine – some believe their fat treats tuberculosis. Somali wild asses also directly compete with livestock for limited land and water sources. Plus, wild asses are crossbreeding with domestic asses, hurting the genetics of this species.

With unique zebra-striped legs, a soft gray upper body, a white belly, and a spikey black-and-gray mane, Somali wild asses are the smallest of the wild equids (horses, asses, and zebras). Standing about four feet at the shoulder and weighing roughly 600 pounds, these animals also have the smallest hooves of any equid, which help them navigate rocky slopes.

The Dallas Zoo is working with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Somali Wild Ass Species Survival Plan (SSP) to increase their numbers in human care and keep the North American gene pool genetically sound. In 2005, father Abai arrived from the Basel Zoo in Switzerland to bring a new bloodline to the U.S. Since then, he’s sired multiple foals.

Kalila nurses behind-the-scenes from mom Liberty.

“These little girls have brought so much excitement to our hoofstock barn,” mammal supervisor Christine Rickel said. “Although they were born 10 days apart, they look vastly different. We joke that Liberty has super milk because Kalila’s already a big girl. She was born weighing 65 pounds – 14 pounds heavier than Naima.”

Liberty, Hani and their foals were introduced to each other last week behind-the-scenes, but the protective mothers are hesitant to allow the little ones to play together, who just want to run in circles to their hearts’ content.

The babies will soon venture into the arid habitat off the Wilds of Africa Adventure Safari monorail. And, in time, they’ll meet the gemsbok, addax and ostriches, with whom they’ll eventually share the habitat.

Stay tuned for more updates as these precious girls continue to grow.

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