Home / Blog / Animals / Photo Gallery: Zoo Mothers and Their Young

Photo Gallery: Zoo Mothers and Their Young

Meerkats live in “mobs” headed by females, so when a mother with pups is called to leadership duty, babysitting falls to non-alpha females. Photo by Jamie Pham

It Takes a Village

A birth at the Zoo is always exciting. Often the result of careful, sometimes global planning in coordination with a Species Survival Plan, a newborn can mean a conservation success that helps build a hedge against extinction in the wild. So it is exciting — for the animals themselves, for visitors, for staff, and especially for the animal care teams who work so closely with our animals at every stage of their lives. And just like for people, once those babies are born, there are lots of adorable photos. Here are some of our favorites of species currently with young of different ages at the Zoo.

When female chimpanzees are pregnant, keepers make sure they get nutritional supplements and in increase in food portions. Like humans, chimpanzee mothers and offspring stay in close relationship long after weaning. Young males, especially, are usually last to live independently from their mothers. Photo by Jamie Pham
Yellow-backed duiker mothers use the scent glands to mark their young. Photo by Jamie Pham
Recently our animal care team delivered a pair of babirusa piglets via Cesarean section. C-sections are rare for zoo animals, but the position of one of the piglets and the lack of contractions from mom Kristina called for veterinary assistance from our well-prepared animal care team. Photo by Tad Motoyama
Flamingos of both sexes produce the “crop milk” that feeds their chicks. Photo by Tad Motoyama
At birth, sifakas receive a full physical from our veterinary staff. Moms carry their youngest offspring on their bellies, then shift them to their backs when the babies are ready. Photo by Jamie Pham
François’ langur females participate in allomothering, a behavior in which other females help the mother by holding, carrying, and babysitting the infant. Photo by Jamie Pham
A mandrill mother focuses on one infant at a time. The youngster stays with its mother until the next offspring is born, then makes room for the new infant to take center stage. Photo by Jamie Pham
Except for when nursing, Speke’s gazelle mothers leave their babies to lie motionless in the grass so they are invisible to predators. Photo by Jamie Pham
Spotted thick-knees are fierce defenders of their nests. They’ll block with spread wings, peck intruders, and fake injuries at a distance from their nests in order to misdirect predators. Photo by Jamie Pham
The South American bushmaster is one of the few snakes known to guard its eggs, but once the eggs hatch, the mother departs, and the babies are on their own. Photo by Tad Motoyama

The Circle of Life

Teams of curators, keepers, vets, and volunteers put in a magnificent amount of effort behind the scenes to make sure Zoo mothers are supported when they give birth and care for their newborns. For some species, this effort involves ultrasounds, birth plans, backup plans, and more, all based on best practices and the latest research. Our teams have years of experience, including with animals who were born at the Zoo and have become juveniles and adults. Under the care of their mothers and with support from our curators, vets, and keepers, the circle of life continues! Take a stroll down memory lane with these photos of our mothers and offspring over the years.

The Zoo’s first successful giant otter births took place in July 2011. When the parents demonstrated difficulties in caring for the pups, Animal Care stepped in. For the first time in human care, infant giant otters were hand-reared from birth. They were later reintroduced to their parents and formed a family group. One of these hand-reared pups matured and went on to produce her own offspring and successfully raise them on her own—another first for any zoo. Photo by Tad Motoyama
Because they live in environments often plagued with drought, Grevy’s zebras are able to nurse their foals for an extra-long interval before the young begin drinking water. Photo by Jamie Pham
Wombats are avid diggers, so mothers’ pouches open toward their tails to ensure any flying dirt does not smother baby joeys. Photo by Jamie Pham
Okapi mothers’ stripes may serve as a “follow me” pattern for youngsters that are big enough to start browsing. Photo by Jamie Pham
Markhor females often give birth to twins. Photo by Jamie Pham
Ocelot mothers teach their kittens to hunt when the young reach two months of age. Photo by Tad Motoyama
A pregnant snow leopard sheds fur from her underbelly and gathers it together to provide a soft place for her cubs to be born. Photo by Jamie Pham
Chacoan peccaries give birth in hollow logs or shallow pits dug in the ground, where they can hide their babies underneath themselves to help protect from threats. Photo by Tad Motoyama
Peninsular pronghorn (a.k.a. berrendo) mothers call their fawn with a very quiet bleat. A loud bleat means danger. Photo by Jamie Pham
Sumatran tiger females raise their cubs completely on their own for the first 18 months. Photo by Tad Motoyama
Our veterinary care team can provide ultrasounds to pregnant and potentially-pregnant harbor seals, an especially helpful tool for these marine mammals, whose gestation time isn’t fixed but depends on the presence of ideal environmental conditions for pupping. Photo by Tad Motoyama