October 4, 2008

Oh, Baby, Baby, Baby, Welcome!


By Debbie Messina

The Virginian-Pilo t


One is furry. Two are leathery. Three have shells. And four are scaly.

Yet they're all babies.

There's a baby boomlet at the Virginia Zoo.

Ten baby animals were born in the past couple of months. No headliners like giraffes or lions. But zoo staff have their fingers crossed there.

A bongo, four copperhead snakes, a bog turtle and two box turtles were born in September.

In addition, two six-banded armadillos were born in July. They are the only six-banded armadillos to survive beyond a month in an accredited zoo in the United States.

"The births of diverse animals and reptiles illustrate that the Virginia Zoo's breeding and conservation programs are successful," Greg Bockheim, zoo executive director, said.

The Virginia Zoo is one of two zoos accredited by the Aquarium and Zoo Association that have a breeding pair of six-banded armadillos. The male is on loan from the other, the Memphis Zoo, for breeding.

Craig Pelke, reptile and amphibian curator, said he thinks the young brothers, Beauregard and Ed, are out of danger. They've passed the critical four-week mark and their leathery armor has turned from pink to brown.

" Breeding pups that survive past the fourth week is quite rare," Bockheim said.

Pelke is looking after several other babies. The zoo acquired an additional copperhead snake last summer after it bit an Eastern Shore resident. She joined two copperheads on exhibit after her quarantine, then gave birth to four babies mid-September.

The 5-inch long snakes are born fully equipped with venom.

While their genders have not been determined, zookeepers are calling them Larry, Darryl, Darryl and Darryl for now.

A baby bog turtle, an endangered species in Virginia, hatched. Then two common eastern box turtles hatched last week.

On the other end of the zoo, a female eastern bongo, Eva, was born Sept. 23. A type of antelope, bongos are striking in appearance with their large ears, bright chestnut coat, vivid white stripes and spiraled horns. They're highly endangered in the wild.

The zoo has raised four other bongo calves.

One of them was flown to Africa about five years ago as part of a program at Mount Kenya to repopulate the area with bongos, which were eradicated by hunting, poaching and habitat destruction.

Mount Kenya's herd of 18 has had 11 offspring.

"The Virginia Zoo is proud to be part of these important efforts to breed, conserve and protect our fragile ecosystem and animal populations," Bockheim said.

Debbie Messina, (757) 446-2588, [email protected] pilotonline.com


A female Eastern bongo, Eva, was born Sept. 23. A type of antelope, bongos are highly endangered in the wild. armadillo

The two six-banded armadillos born in July are the only ones to survive beyond a month in an accredited U.S. zoo. box turtle

Two eastern box turtles hatched on Sept. 24. One bog turtle and four copperhead snakes also were born recently.

Originally published by BY DEBBIE MESSINA.

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