Wildlife Blog

Scientific Breakthrough for Critically Endangered Starfish Recovery

Sunflower starfish

The sunflower sea star is now critically endangered due to a mysterious illness called sea star wasting syndrome. But researchers have made a breakthrough for their recovery. Photo credit: Marco Mazza/Courtesy of San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance.

A mysterious disease called sea star wasting syndrome decimated 95% of the sunflower sea star population in 2013. Since then scientists have been working to learn more about the disease and figure out ways to save the sunflower sea star from extinction.

For the first time, researchers with the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance’s reproductive sciences team, in collaboration with Sunflower Star Laboratory and Dr. Jason Hodin, senior scientist at Friday Harbor Laboratories were able to hatch dozens of baby sunflower sea stars using cryopreservation technology.

Cryopreservation is the process by which live tissues and cells are frozen in order to keep them for an extended amount of time. In this case, the researchers successfully froze sunflower sea star sperm, thawed it and fertilized eggs that developed into larvae.

According to Nicole Ravida, laboratory manager for San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance,  “Cryopreservation is one method reproductive scientists can contribute to the preservation of gene diversity in sunflower sea star populations.”

The researchers believe maintaining gene diversity is the best way for sea stars to adapt to future stressors.

To learn more about this scientific sea star breakthrough, visit the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance website.

To learn more about starfish, read our Starfish article.


Oakland Zoo Cares for Orphaned Cougar Cubs

Orphaned cougar cub at the Oakland Zoo

Female cougar cub during an examination at Oakland Zoo Veterinary Hospital. Photo credit: Oakland Zoo.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife transported two cougar (or mountain lion) cubs to the Oakland Zoo for care after their mother was struck and killed by a car. Oakland Zoo’s Veterinary Hospital staff conducted thorough exams on the cubs, including virus testing, parasite treatment, and bloodwork testing. They also provided vital fluids as the cubs were underweight and dehydrated.

“Our team will be caring for the cubs daily to restore them to full health and for their overall animal wellbeing,” said Dr. Alex Herman, Oakland Zoo’s Vice President of Veterinary Services.

In the wild, cougar cubs stay with their mothers for two years to learn survival and hunting skills. Since these cubs are only 6-10 weeks old, they cannot be returned to the wild and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife will find a suitable home for them in a few months.

For more information, see the Oakland Zoo’s website.

To learn more about cougars, see our Cougar article.

PHOTOS: Endangered Baby Zebra Born at Lincoln Park Zoo

Baby Grevy's zebra at Lincoln Park Zoo

An endangered Grevy’s zebra was born at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Photo credit: Christopher Bijalba / Lincoln Park Zoo

A female baby zebra was born on August 21 at Lincoln Park Zoo. The foal, a Grevy’s zebra, was able to run just one hour after birth. She will be dependent on her mother, Adia, for the first seven months.

Grevy’s zebras are considered endangered by the IUCN. There are fewer than 2000 Grevy’s zebras in the wild, due to hunting and habitat loss.

Baby Grevy's zebra

Pictured with her mom, Adia, the newborn was able to run just one hour after birth. Photo credit: Christopher Bijalba / Lincoln Park Zoo

To learn more about the Grevy’s zebra newborn, see the Lincoln Park Zoo website.

VIDEO: Aww! Bear Cub Cuddles

Fern and Juniper are two orphaned brown bear cubs living at Woodland Park Zoo. Juniper was found wandering around alone at an air base in Anchorage, Alaska. Fern was rescued from Montana. At Woodland Park Zoo, they have become fast friends.

Watch a video below of them playing:

To learn more about this adorable duo, see the Woodland Park Zoo website.

To learn more about grizzly bears, see our Grizzly Bear article.

BOOK REVIEW: Even More Lesser Spotted Animals

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org Ever heard of the dingiso or the tamandua or the gerenuk? Yes? You’ve actually heard of the dingiso?? Oh.

But for those of you who maybe don’t know about the Blainville’s beaked whale or the Artai argali or the black and rufous sengi (yes it’s both black AND rufous), it’s about time you did! In Even More Lesser Spotted Animals, Martin Brown shines the spotlight on some lesser known, but incredibly fascinating animals.

With fun, cartoony illustrations, Brown gives these animals personality and pizazz. His text is funny and engaging. You’ll discover some not-so-famous animals, pick up a few strange facts, and learn how to help some animals at risk for extinction — all while being wholly entertained.

Aimed at readers ages 7 years and older, this hilarious, informational picture book will be a hit for animal lovers and/or people who like jokes.

Author/Illustrator: Martin Brown
Publisher: David Fickling Books / Scholastic
Pub Date: July 30, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-338-34961-0

Purchase from your local bookstore at:

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org
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Featured Animal: Short-beaked Echidna

Meet our featured animal, the short-beaked echidna!

Short-beaked echidna walking

Here are five fun facts about echidnas:

  • Baby echidnas are called puggles! [Check out this adorable puggle from the Taronga Western Plains Zoo.]
  • Echidnas are monotremes, or mammals that lay eggs.
  • Their long spines are made of keratin, the same material that makes up our fingernails.
  • The echidna’s pointy snout can sense electrical signals from insect bodies.
  • Echidnas do not have teeth, but they do have horny pads in their mouths and on the back of their tongues which grind the prey.

Learn more >

Featured Animal: Tasmanian Devil

Meet our featured animal, the Tasmanian devil!

Tasmanian devil

Here are five facts about Tasmanian devils:

  • Tasmanian devils inhabit the island state of Tasmania, although they once lived throughout Australia.
  • The Tasmanian devil is the size of a small dog.
  • Tasmanian devils are not picky eaters. They eat carrion (dead animals), including rotten flesh, fur, and bones!
  • Female Tasmanian devils give birth to up to 50 babies (joeys).
  • Tasmanian devils are considered endangered. Threats include being hit by cars and Devil Facial Tumour Disease.

Learn more >

PHOTOS: Baby Animals from Taronga Western Plains Zoo

Come enjoy the baby animal cuteness from Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo, Australia.

Black rhino calf running

Rompin’ rhino! This black rhino calf, named Mesi, was born in April and has only recently gone on public display with her mom. Photo by Rick Stevens, Taronga Western Plains Zoo.

Two baby giraffes

Mirror image: The two giraffe calves, born 1 week apart, check each other out. [Read more about Zuberi and Kibo.] Photo by Rick Stevens, Taronga Western Plains Zoo.

Baby hippo and mom

Kendi, a three-month-old hippo calf, soaks up the sun with her mom. Photo by Rick Stevens, Taronga Western Plains Zoo.

You can learn facts about these animals in our articles: Giraffe and Hippopotamus.

Seeing Double: Two Baby Giraffes Born at Taronga Western Plains Zoo

Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo, Australia is doubly pleased to announce the birth of two baby giraffes- born just one week apart!

The first calf has been named Zuberi, which means “strong” in Swahili. He was born in the exhibit around noon on August 8.

Giraffe calf and his mother at Taronga Western Plains Zoo

Photo courtesy of Taronga Western Plains Zoo.

According to zookeeper Pascale Benoit, “It was a smooth delivery and was followed by a number of giraffes in the herd getting up close to meet the new calf within moments of its arrival. They were a great support for experienced mother, Asmara, helping her to lick her new calf and encouraging him to stand.”

The second calf arrived on August 15 in the middle of the night. He has been named Kibo, which means “the highest”.

Baby giraffe at Taronga Western Plains Zoo

Photo courtesy of Taronga Western Plains Zoo.

“Both pairs of mother and calf are doing very well, and have integrated nicely back into
the herd,” Pascale said.

Two giraffe calves

Photo courtesy of Taronga Western Plains Zoo.

Learn more about giraffes at our giraffe facts article.