By: Patti Conley, Calkins
Pittsburgh -Oh, baby, baby, baby. It’s a wild world at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium.Boom. Make that 12 babies.
Since May, a dozen babies – a tiger cub, six beaver kits, a penguin chick, two elephant calves and two cotton-top tamarins – have been born on the fertile grounds at the Highland Park facility.
“The energy is right here,” a relaxed and smiling Amos Morris, the zoo’s curator of mammals, said Wednesday morning. Morris makes sure all is going well with the zoo’s elephants, cats, bears and primates.
All was well Wednesday morning.
The zoo’s new famous trio – a rambunctious but yet-unnamed male tiger cub born on Mother’s Day and two baby elephants, Angelina, born July 9 and a yet-unnamed female, born July 25 – were outside for all to see.
At 9 each morning when the zoo opens, visitors race out of the gate and up the African Savanna for a chance to watch the herd of six elephants mosey about until 11 a.m.
Three-week-old elephant calf Angelina, who’s added 45 pounds to her 286-pound birth weight, was tentative when she approached, then poked her foot into a pond of murky water, and later was determined to climb up a small hilly grade. She succeeded at both as Savanna, her mother, watched.
The young female, not yet a week old and wobbly as her legs supported her 248 pounds, stayed in the shadow of her mother, Moja.
The two cows are pros at pregnancy and motherhood.
Moja gave birth to Victoria in September 1999. A year later, Savanna gave birth to Callee at the zoo.
This time around, for 22 months plus, the zoo staff closely monitored and patiently waited for both to give birth naturally, in what can be precarious for cow and calf, Morris said.
Moja’s new calf made the zoo folks wait. Her 688-day gestation was the longest recorded in captivity, Morris said. But her birth was quick. It took all of five minutes, he added.
It took Savanna 12 hours to give birth to Angelina on July 9, who is steadily gaining two pounds per day.
The cows eat more than 150 pounds of hay and produce a day, and each will nurse their calves for more than three years.
All’s going well with the herd’s family dynamics, too.
Callee, who’s all boy, and Victoria, who’s a bit high-strung, have been adjusting to the two new members, Morris said. And keepers are mindful of the matriarch Tasha, who’s apt to knock to the babies over.
“She wants to make sure they know who she is,” Morris said.
Meanwhile, Jackson, the very virile male elephant who’s sired the zoo’s four calves among perhaps a half a dozen more at zoos in other cities, lives his days alone, but content in the barn. When he’s outside, the herd’s inside.
And best of all, all is well with the *Lemur tiger cub.
The little guy, all of 2 pounds or so, was born on May 11, Mother’s Day. Mom, Toma, attended to him that day, then rejected the cub the next day.
The zoo crew went into action, taking turns hand-feeding the cub 20 ounces of formula every three to four hours. That meant that zoo staff took the cub home at night and attended to his needs at all hours for the past 11 weeks.
Now weaned, the tiger cub eats meat, is steadily gaining weight and is as playful as a kitten.
( *Lemur should be AMUR. )