Not long ago, New York’s Central Park Zoo said a sad farewell to one of its own: Gus the polar bear. He was a fixture at the zoo for more than 25 years and had some…well, problems. Sure, he was neurotic (like a true Manhattanite), but he was beloved by many. (It’s reported that nearly 20 million people visited him during his time at the zoo.) On a happier note, we can’t help but think about the new baby animals that draw visitors to zoos across the country each year. And let’s face it, no matter how young or old we are, it’s hard not to ‘ooh and ahh’ over a cute baby cheetah (or elephant, or snow leopard). If you’re looking for a pick-me-up, here are some new furry friends that have recently arrived at America’s zoos…
It doesn’t get much cuter than these adorable kittens. At the Memphis Zoo, a male leopard was born in July, and while he doesn’t have a name yet, the public will have a hand in picking it from seven choices. Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo also welcomed a male cub in June, and he’s set to make his public debut this month when he turns three months old. Poaching and other factors have lead the species to be listed as endangered and only about 3,500 to 7,000 exist in the wild.
When to go: While you can’t see the Memphis cub just yet (the zoo is reconfiguring the cage so there are no spaces in the caging where he could slip out), stay tuned for updates on their Facebook page. In Chicago, you’ll be able to see the newborn by the end of next week.
2. Cheetahs in Dallas, Texas
The Dallas Zoo welcomed these two cubs back in July. As if they could get any cuter, these two are actually being raised right alongside a black labrador puppy named Amani. According to the zoo: “Because dogs are naturally comfortable in public settings, Amani will provide a calming influence for the cubs.” Right now, Winspear weighs around eight pounds, while Kamau is around six; when they grow up, they’ll weigh close to 140 pounds. You’ll eventually be able to head the to the zoo’s Wild Encounters stage to catch a glimpse of these adorable endangered brothers.
When to go: Unfortunately, there’s no firm date on when these guys will be out in public, but check their site and Facebook for updates.
3. African elephant in Tampa, Florida
The Lowry Park Zoo welcomed Mavi, the African elephant, at the end of July. Oddly, she was only recently named by her mom – Matjeka chose between two stacks of hay that were topped with food and represented the choices. Fun fact: African elephants carry their babies for nearly two years. (Their gestation period is 22 months – or around 660 days.)
When to go: The baby and mom can be found wandering around in the Africa Safari exhibit until the early afternoon every day.
4. Eastern black rhino in Lincoln Park, Illinois and Atlanta, Georgia
Who knew baby rhinos could be so cute? But seriously, this little guy weighed in at a whopping 60 pounds… at birth. Born at the end of August in Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo, mom and baby can be found wandering around the Regenstein African Journey. At the Atlanta Zoo, a seven-year-old eastern black rhinoceros gave birth to a healthy boy earlier in August. The yet-to-be-named calf is the first rhino birth at the zoo since it’s opening, 124 years ago. Back in the 1980s, the species was hunted to near extinction, but conservation programs and strict control over their habitats have helped to bring the population back – though they’re still considered critically endangered.
When to go: You can visit both rhinos right now.
5. Sumatran tigers in Washington, D.C.
In early August, the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C. welcomed two cubs, a male and a female. The species is listed as critically endangered and fewer than 400 tigers are left in the wild.
When to go: You won’t be able to see the cubs until they turn four months old, so mark your calendar for December. Can’t wait that long? Watch them grow and play via the zoo’s tiger cub cam.
6. Giant pandas in Washington, D.C. and Atlanta, Georgia
At the end of August, Mei Xiang, a giant panda, gave birth to a healthy girl. (The zoo announced the sex just last week.) In mid-July, Lun Lun, a 15-year-old giant panda in Atlanta gave birth to twin male cubs. Giant pandas are endangered and it’s believed that fewer than 1,600 still exist in the wild.
When to go: The panda house in D.C. is currently closed until late fall (most likely early November), but you can watch the cub and her mom on the panda cams. The Atlanta cubs will make their debut in late fall, but you can watch mom and her babies here.
7. Western lowland gorilla in Buffalo, New York
A few days ago, the Buffalo Zoo welcomed a new addition to their team – a baby gorilla. While staff haven’t been able to get close enough to determine a sex, they think it’s a girl. It should be interesting to see how the new, 12-year-old first-time mom handles motherhood. Western lowland gorillas typically live in the tropical forest in Africa and are critically endangered.
When to go: Check the gorilla area frequently as mom and baby are roaming around already.