WRAP-UP: Our 2014 bundles of joy

The delivery stork had a direct flight path to the Dallas Zoo last year! With more than 2,000 animals, we often welcome little ones. From (really) long-legged babies to ones the size of your palm, here’s a roundup of some of our exciting and noteworthy births in 2014:

TASANEE: Born Jan. 25, Asian small-clawed otter Tasanee needed more than 100 days of devoted care from her keepers, because single otter pups usually don’t survive. Tasanee weighed just a little over 2 ounces at birth, about the size of a “C” battery. She’s now a healthy five pounds and is full of sass! She’s very close with her parents Jimmy and Daphane who can often be seen diving deep down into their pools together or snoozing away, cuddled up with each other.

Otter Tasanee gets the hang of swimming with mom Daphne.

Otter Tasanee gets the hang of swimming with mom Daphne.

MSHINDI: Look at that face! Still very much a baby, Mshindi turned one year old on Jan. 26. For another two years or so, he’ll remain completely dependent on his mother, Ramona, for care. He’s now eating small amounts of food (bananas are his favorite), but also will nurse for another few years. Mshindi is the ninth member of the troop, and the first baby born since his brother, Kona, arrived in 2009. He’s added a positive dynamic to the troop’s complex social structure, especially with Kona, who has proven to be a great big brother.

1-year-old Mshindi swings from the habitat ropes./Daniel Zappia

1-year-old Mshindi swings from the habitat ropes./Daniel Zappia

OBI: Born March 28, Obi is the first mandrill baby at the Zoo in 24 years. This little guy has a lot of energy and is often seen bouncing all over his habitat, throwing small branches in the air and playing peek-a-boo with guests. Monkeys develop much faster than great ape babies, like chimp Mshindi. Obi no longer nurses and is now completely independent from mom Saffron. But she’s still the little guy’s favorite playmate (she has incredible patience!). 

Little mandrill Obi will celebrate his 1st birthday March 28.

Little mandrill Obi will celebrate his 1st birthday March 28.

KOSOKO: This kori bustard chick still has some growing to do before he officially becomes the largest flying bird on Earth, weighing nearly 40 pounds. Born June 25 at just a half a pound, Kosoko is now a healthy 15 pounds. After multiple years of trying, Kosoko is the first surviving offspring for his parents — which is where he gets his name. From the African Yoruba language in Nigeria, “kosoko” means “child born after mother has had other children die.” It’s meant as a prayer for babies’ survival — and we couldn’t be more thankful for Kosoko’s health and well-being.

Kori bustard chick Kosoko will grow up to 40 pounds.

Kori bustard chick Kosoko will grow up to 40 pounds.

KOPANO: We welcomed this leggy, 6-foot-tall baby Oct. 26. Born weighing about 120 pounds, Kopano is now nearly 8 feet tall and over 300 pounds! He’s starting to munch on vegetation like mom, but will keep nursing until he’s about a year old. He’s doing great mixing with the other species in his habitat, including impala, ostriches and guineafowl. He’s also still meeting all 11 members of his herd. Guests can often see him running laps around his habitat while mom Chrystal eats.

Four-month old Kopano is already nearly 8 feet tall!

Four-month-old Kopano is already nearly 8 feet tall!


Categories: Africa, Birds, Chimpanzee, Conservation, Giraffe, Mammals, Mandrill, Otter | Leave a comment

Longtime animal couples set the bar for love

It’s not just humans who show love and affection toward each other. During this season of love, we wanted to share with you some of our longtime animal couples who just can’t get enough of each other. Humans: take note of these inspiring, lovable partnerships.

Mason & Julius: These gibbons have been together for four years, earning the name “the newlyweds” by their keepers. While they haven’t had a baby yet, Mason and Julius couldn’t be more bonded. Gibbons are one of the few serial monogamous primates. These two are constantly hugging and cuddling — making some of the simplest tasks, like separating them to work on training techniques, nearly impossible for their keepers.

Gibbons Mason and Julius share a sweet embrace./Dallas Zoo

Gibbons Mason and Julius share a sweet embrace./Dallas Zoo

Cory & Bolivia: Together for more than 13 years, with 11 babies together, these titi monkeys know how to keep the love going! Adult titi monkeys form lifelong partnerships. Cory and Bolivia are often seen sitting in the Primate Place treetops with their tails intertwined while they groom one another. Cory is very protective of his leading lady and can’t stand to be away from her for very long.

Titi monkeys Cory & Bolivia caught on the "kiss cam!"/Dallas Zoo

Titi monkeys Cory & Bolivia caught on the “kiss cam”/Dallas Zoo

Curtis & Darlene: These true “love bids” have been together for six years and remain a very affectionate and faithful couple. Guest favorites in Travis & Zach’s Birds Landing, cockatiels Curtis and Darlene have hatched four chicks together. The duo and their offspring are usually the first to greet visitors as they walk into the aviary, even if they don’t buy food! Curtis likes to woo guests with his whistle song and preen their hair. Darlene’s a cool chick and never gets jealous — she usually watches his antics from atop the nearest guest’s head or shoulder.

Cockatiels Curtis and Darlene share a meal together./Dallas Zoo

Cockatiels Curtis and Darlene share a meal together./Dallas Zoo

Batt & Carol Lee: Brought together in 2005, Batt didn’t need to court Carol Lee – there was an instant attraction. And shortly after meeting, their three pups were born. Batt is one of the oldest Asian small-clawed otters on record, at almost 19 years old. As he’s aged, he’s developed sight issues but Carol Lee has proved to be a loyal partner, guiding him with a nudge of her nose and bringing him food. The two can be seen sharing quite a few snuggly naps together.

Otters Batt and Carol Lee cuddling during a nap./Dallas Zoo

Otters Batt and Carol Lee cuddling during a nap./Dallas Zoo

Ramona & KC: Ramona came to the Zoo in 2006 and instantly caught KC’s eye. Three years later, they welcomed little Kona. KC also may be the father of 1-year-old Mshindi, but we’re awaiting paternity results to confirm. Their relationship has its ups and downs just like any, but they show sweet moments of affection, which make for great photo opportunities!

KC and Ramona hug with little Mshindi in between./Dallas Zoo

KC and Ramona hug with little Mshindi in between./Dallas Zoo


Categories: Africa, Birds, Chimpanzee, Monkey, Otter | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

BIRTHDAY BASH! Dallas Zoo celebrates chimp & otter’s 1st birthdays


Chimp Mshindi at 6 months old/Keeper Will Bookwalter

Chimp Mshindi at 6 months old/Keeper Will Bookwalter

Born one day apart, guest favorites Mshindi & Tasanee turn one

WHAT: Our babies are growing up! The Dallas Zoo is throwing a first birthday party bash for chimp Mshindi and Asian small-clawed otter Tasanee tomorrow (Saturday, Jan. 24), and everyone’s invited. The first 100 guests at both habitats will receive a free mini-cake from Nothing Bundt Cakes. Join us at 10 a.m. at the decorated Kimberly-Clark Chimpanzee Forest, as we sing “Happy Birthday” while Mshindi and his eight troop members tear into a massive, chimp face-shaped birthday cake filled with his favorite treats. Shortly after at 10:45 a.m. at the Betty Moroney Norsworthy Otter Outpost, we’ll sing to Tasanee as she and her parents dive into her floating sashimi boat loaded with her favorite food.

Otter Tasanee at 3 months old gets the hang of swimming/Dallas Zoo

Otter Tasanee at 3 months old gets the hang of swimming/Dallas Zoo

WHEN: Saturday, Jan. 24. Schedule:

10 a.m.: Birthday cake presentation at Chimpanzee Forest in Wilds of Africa

10:45 a.m.: Birthday cake presentation at Otter Outpost in ZooNorth

WHERE: 650 S. R.L. Thornton Freeway

WHY: Born just one day apart, Mshindi and Tasanee’s births have been major success stories for their endangered species. Asian small-clawed otter Tasanee beat the odds to survive; she needed more than 100 days of devoted care from her keepers, because single otter pups usually do not make it. Chimp Mshindi has been an integral addition to the now nine-member troop. He’s the first baby since his brother, Kona, arrived in 2009, adding a positive dynamic to the troop’s complex social structure.




Categories: Africa, Chimpanzee, Conservation, Enrichment, Events, Media, Otter | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Goatscaping: Eating away a poison ivy nuisance

The guests are gone, the zoo is quiet – now it’s time to get to work. One by one, eight goats make their way into the 19,000-square-foot chimpanzee habitat.

With the chimps safely in their night quarters, the lights are left on for the goats, who’ll work into the morning. Their experimental task: eat all of the poison ivy that’s grown in the chimp and gorilla habitats.

To these nature’s lawnmowers, it’s just another green meal. The plant causes no harm to our primates or the goats, but it makes zookeepers’ jobs increasingly difficult. Preparing the habitats in the morning becomes a game of dodgeball as they try to avoid the toxic plants.

“They’re getting ivy all over their bodies,” said Keith Zdrojewski, mammal curator. “They’re out there wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants to trim the grass in 100-degree weather. It’s pretty cumbersome for everyone.”

The goats mow through the poison ivy with ease. “They’re an incredible species that can survive on a diet that other animals would starve on,” said Dr. Jan Raines, one of the Zoo’s veterinarians. “The compound in ivy that gives people allergic reactions is called urushiol. Goats lack a sensitivity to it. Their gastrointestinal tract is amazingly efficient at pulling every last nutrient out of anything they ingest.”

Zookeeper Ashley Orr’s personal goats are eating up our problem, saving us money by not having to hire a company to kill the ivy. And we’re doing it in an eco-friendly fashion. “This way, we’re eliminating chemicals from entering our animal’s habitats, and they’re leaving behind a clean natural fertilizer for the landscape,” Zdrojewski said.

When the sun rises, they’re back in their holding barn, waiting for the zoo to close again.

The goats enter the chimp habitat with owner and zookeeper, Ashley Orr.
The goats enter the chimp habitat with owner and zookeeper, Ashley Orr.
Dallas Zoo/Cathy Burkey
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Categories: Chimpanzee, Mammals, Nutrition, Veterinary Care, Zookeepers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

Big brother Kona, chimp troop make warm home for baby Mshindi

No mom or dad likes to see their baby grow up. Thankfully for chimpanzees, they get to be babies for quite a while.


Dallas Zoo guest Matt Gomez took this incredible photo of little Mshindi, his brother Kona (right), and mom Ramona. Kona is taking Mshindi’s arm for one of their playtimes. Matt Gomez/Special to the Dallas Zoo

Born Jan. 26, Mshindi is the second baby for mom Ramona. He joins 5-year-old big brother Kona, along with seven other troop members in the Kimberly-Clark Chimpanzee Forest.

For two to three years, Mshindi will be completely dependent on Ramona for care. Don’t expect to see him running around the habitat on his own. For now, he remains safely on mom’s belly– or in the arms of his big bro. Kona’s recently taken to scooping up Mshindi, playing with him and even carrying him around the habitat and high up into the trees.

“Ramona controls a lot of the milestones. But with her second baby, she’s a little more relaxed this time around,” said Sarah Villarreal, mammal supervisor. “She’s allowed the baby to step off her belly and into the arms of Kona. Kona loves to climb to the top of the trees with Mshindi and just hang out.”

Kona takes off for a romp around the chimp habitat with his little brother, Mshindi, in tow. Matt Gomez/Special to the Dallas Zoo

For about five years, a white tuft of hair will remain on Mshindi’s bottom, distinguishing him as a young chimp. The tuft tells group members he’s a baby and they need to be careful. It also means for the next few years he can get away with just about anything.

“As the baby develops, there will be times when he’ll just go and take food from the alpha male and he will let him,” Villarreal said. “They’ll be very tolerant of the infant because they know he’s learning, and the whole troop works to raise the baby.”

With Kona’s tuft now beginning to thin out, he’ll have to start learning how to be a respectful member of the troop — and yes, no more stealing food from the adults. Going from the troop baby to big brother hasn’t been the easiest transition for Kona, but he’s been a great big brother.

“Kona was jealous at first. He would throw tantrums sometimes,” Villarreal said. “But now he’s doing well. It’s amazing to watch him hold his baby brother. But if Ramona ever gets nervous, she will take the baby back.”

Ramona used to be a lower-ranking female, but now holds a higher ranking status in the troop after birthing another baby. Her new status can cause some jealousy among the other females, but Villarreal says that’s how Mshindi learns the troop dynamic. “Around the baby, troop members will still fight,” she explains. “That’s how the baby learns what a troop is and what it’s about.”

Chimpanzees develop very slowly, so it could be years until Mshindi stops nursing. His big brother nursed until he was 4. You can track Mshindi’s development with the timeline below, which our keepers have used for decades to follow our baby chimps’ milestones:


Zookeeper Will Bookwalter took this great closeup shot of little Mshindi. Will Bookwalter/Dallas Zoo

12-16 weeks: Reaches towards an object and grasps, shows coordination

12-16 weeks: Shows play face and laughs during tickling

16-20 weeks: Chews and swallows first piece of solid food

16-24 weeks: Starts to take first quadrupedal steps; climbs small branches

20-24 weeks: Takes first step

20-24 weeks: Mother-infant contact broken

20-24 weeks: Climbs up sapling or branch

26-52 weeks: Small amount of solid foods eaten

28-32 weeks: Attempts to groom another, inefficiently

64-68 weeks: Runs at and hits another infant aggressively

64-68 weeks: Reassures another in correct context

72-76 weeks: Grooms with adult technique


Check out this uber cute video of our little ones!

Categories: Africa, Chimpanzee, Exhibits and Experiences, Mammals | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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