Zoo News: It’s a Bountiful Year

by Paul Swen

There’s a rhythm to the natural world. There are ups and downs with heat waves and cold fronts. The moon waxes and wanes across the night sky. Cool, sleepy winters are followed by days of warm, vibrant sunshine. Nature tends to move along whether we notice or not. But then there are some things that just demand our attention. Certain actions cut through all the repetition and infuse excitement into the moment. There’s simply nothing more exciting than new life. Even if we think we’ve seen it all before, a birth will grab our collective attention.

As a center of wildlife, the Caldwell Zoo has a pretty special relationship with the natural world. Guests from all over visit our park throughout the year and there are two questions we get asked all the time, “What’s new?” and “Do you have any babies?” If you think about it, those are kind of the same question. Babies are essentially “new.” But the point is, people like to know of any new features that are being offered. Maybe there’s a new activity for the kids. Maybe there’s a new treat at the cafe. Maybe there are new items at the gift shop. But let’s be real. There’s nothing more exciting than new, adorable, cute, cuddly babies! And wow, do we have a bounty of wonderful “newness” to share!

To begin, we welcome vibrant, fluffy balls of energy romping around our specially designed Cheetah Breeding Center. Yes, after months of careful planning, dedicated care, and patience, the experts in our mammals team are thrilled to announce the birth of three male cubs, the offspring of first-time mother Orchid and the father Flap. Beyond being indescribably cute, the three cubs are a big deal because cheetah have become vulnerable to extinction in their native, wild habitats. That’s why the Caldwell Zoo has been an active member in several breeding programs supported by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to help protect the survival of different species for generations to come.

“We are obviously thrilled with these cubs. Orchid has been a wonderful mother, being very attentive and providing all they need,” explains Ricki, one of the experts of mammals at the Caldwell Zoo. “Considering the dangers cheetah face in the wild, every cub is precious. So, we are proud to be making a real difference.” The cubs are growing stronger under the doting care of their mother and will be available for guests to see at the zoo in the coming weeks.

Staying in the same region, there is new life all across the savanna and forests of our African habitats. Not long ago Ndizi, a strikingly svelte impala buck, joined the herd in Tyler and he has certainly made an impact. We are elated to share the births of two male impalas, Pesto and Ragu, along with a female who was born just days ago. (A suitable name for the newborn female will be announced soon.) Impalas are famous for being among the most elegant antelope on the planet and we are delighted to see these calves nursing their doting mothers and growing in strength and confidence. Alongside the impala, another species of antelope grazes the savanna, the impressive and powerful greater kudu. Here again, three seems to be the magic number as we welcome two male calves, Orion and Zinc, along with a female named Wasabi. The mothers, Cosmos, Copper and Ginger are taking good care of the young ones and will soon reunite with DJ, the resident bull, and the rest of the herd.

Just down the hill, tucked under the leafy canopy, a troupe of black and white colobus monkeys carefully tuck cherished babes among their silky fur. This year three babes were added to the family. Oakleigh and Juniper were the first arrivals, followed by a newborn who, at the time of this writing, is still too young to determine the gender. Colobus monkeys are very gregarious and thus, the youngsters receive delicate attention from aunts, grandmothers, and even older siblings. It’s wonderful to witness the dedication the entire troupe gives to the little ones. Considering that the black and white colobus species was almost hunted to extinction, it’s certainly rewarding to help strengthen the population through our conscientious breeding programs.

Efforts in conservation are not limited to animals from distant and exotic locations. The Caldwell Zoo is also a champion of native, Texas species, like the Texas Horned Lizard and the Attwater Prairie Chicken.

“When we release these lizards into protected environments in the fall, it will be a significant boost to the wild population.”

For years, we have contributed to special efforts to strengthen the wild populations of these iconic animals through meticulous programs. “This has been a big year for us and the Texas Horned Lizards,” shared reptile supervisor William Garvin. “We have been fortunate enough to have two dutches of eggs. Right now, we have thirty-two hatchlings and thirty-one more eggs in the incubator. When we release these lizards into protected environments in the fall, it will be a significant boost to the wild population.”

This dedication continues with the prairie chickens. “We are wrapping up the breeding season with great results,” bird supervisor Nichole Moore explains. “We hatched thirty-six chicks and this autumn we will be releasing over a dozen birds onto the refuge set up by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service!” You can understand the excitement considering that this particular species of grouse became critically endangered. Nichole continues, “These are amazing birds, and we want to help them survive and thrive. We’ve been involved in this breeding program for a long time, and we know that every chick is precious and important.”

And there’s more great news regarding our feathered friends. Everyone is familiar with the famously pastel-colored flamingos. But there’s another icon of bold, pink plumage, the roseate spoonbill, whose native habitat includes wetlands of Texas. Like their more famous cousins, the roseate spoonbills are adorned in bright, rose-hewed feathers derived from their diet they forage from shallow waters. We are unabashedly delighted that three chicks have hatched, adding their grace and bold aesthetic to our North American habitat.

“We have a responsibility to care for all creatures, great and small. And that’s why we do what we do. We are dedicated to doing all we can for wildlife, and we want to share those wonders with all our guests.”

Perhaps the most enchanting new arrivals are also the most inconspicuous. You may have never heard of the Waldrapp ibis. That may be because they have become critically endangered with only two small colonies surviving in the plateaus of Morocco. The Caldwell Zoo participates in the AZNs Species Survival Program for these unique and intriguing birds and the two chicks that hatched this summer are the first to be bred at our zoo.

“Not many people have heard of the Waldrapp ibis,” says Steve Marshall, President and CEO of the Caldwell Zoo, “but that doesn’t mean chat they are not important. They are. Every species is important. From the glorious cheetah to the humble ibis, every animal is a special part of our world. We have a responsibility to care for all creatures, great and small. And that’s why we do what we do. We are dedicated to doing all we can for wildlife, and we want to share chose wonders with all our guests.”

This dedication is certainly on display all across the grounds of the zoo. Babies, fledglings, and hatchlings are bounding, trotting, and leaping, while adding excitement and energy throughout the wide variety of habitats. As the cool breezes of autumn break through the hot days of summer, you might want to do yourself a favor and cake time to meet some new friends at the wonderfully familiar and surprisingly special Caldwell Zoo.