A Bumper Crop of Babies 2

The Fort Worth Zoo Has New Additions To Its Family And A Baby Bash To Celebrate Them

The Fort Worth Zoo’s baby boom leaves one curious about the strategies that encouraged the recent string of births. Candlelit dinners for two in the elephant habitat? A solo violinist outside the lion enclosure? It’s easy to imagine the giraffes grooving to some piped-in Barry White, but what about the spot-tailed earless lizards? Maybe it’s just luck, or the result of the Fort Worth Zoo’s exceptional environment and animal care standards.

Regardless, the public has benefited from a rare opportunity to witness the arrival and growth of exotic animals, some of which — like the famous baby elephants — have woven themselves into the fabric of Fort Worth culture. If you or your children haven’t visited the zoo in awhile, then make haste: babies grow fast, and you don’t want to miss your chance to see such a bumper crop of cuteness.

“The baby elephants both turn two this year,” says Avery Elander, public relations manager. “Belle’s birthday was July 7th, and Bowie’s birthday is August 5th. They’re both doing great and growing nice and big. Right now, Belle is 1800 lbs., and Bowie weighs 1500. He’ll soon surpass her in weight, but she’s the bigger at the moment.”

Though many people believe the elephants are siblings, Belle, the one-month older female, is actually Bowie’s aunt. The latter’s tusks — a feature limited to males among Asian elephants — have just begun to peek out to provide a hint of his future formidability. Bowie will probably one day move to another zoo, a transition meant to mimic male elephants’ natural migration away from home. For now, though, Bowie and Belle have only one concern: playtime.

“Since the temperatures have heated up, both of the baby elephants have been enjoying the water,” says Elander. “Guests at the zoo can often see them splashing around in their pool.”

Of course, the elephants are not the only babies at the Fort Worth Zoo. Another trio of youngsters have even greater visibility — at least from a distance. Three giraffe calves, named Dilly, Willie and Waylon, were welcomed into the world earlier this year. Visitors can identify Dilly, the female, thanks to a heart-shaped spot on her neck. The two males, Willie and Waylon, received their names in tribute to two of Texas’s musical giants. The young Waylon is a heavyweight for an entirely different reason as well.

“Waylon was the largest giraffe born in the history of the Fort Worth Zoo,” says Elander. “He weighed 187 pounds at his birth.”

Many visitors will get excited at the chance to see the zoo’s three lion cubs. Each cub has a traditional African name that reflects the circumstances of its birth. The male’s name, Siyanda, means “we are increasing,” while the two females’ names, Lindelani and Thabisa, mean “to be patient” and “to bring joy,” respectively. The Fort Worth Zoo’s lion pride, which includes the cubs’ parents, Jabulani and Abagebe, fulfills a vital function for the greater lion population. As a member of the African Lion Species Survival Program, the Fort Worth Zoo brought the parent lions from South Africa, and thus introduced a new bloodline into the United States’ lion population.

While elephants, giraffes and large cats receive the “lion’s share” of attention, the zoo has other babies throughout its collection. Earlier this year, the zoo welcomed a bonobo — a type of primate — that was only the third of its kind ever born in Texas. It joins the previous two Texas bonobos, which were also born in the Fort Worth Zoo, in the “World of Primates” exhibit. The tiny ape can be hard to see, so look for its mother; chances are you’ll find baby Kabili firmly attached. Additional new arrivals at the zoo include 19 lesser flamingos, four Caribbean flamingos, 19 spot-tailed earless lizards and 550 Chiricahua leopard frogs. The zoo breeds these last two as part of conservation programs, and plans to eventually release them into the wild.

If you’d like to visit some of the babies, then you’re in luck.

“The babies are out and viewable in exhibits,” says Elander. “As far as the time of day, it’s hit or miss, however. They’re babies, so they play hard and sleep hard.”

The first weekend of August brings an opportunity to celebrate the babies directly. August 1st and 2nd will see the zoo host a Baby Bash. Visitors can hear zookeeper talks on the various babies and learn about maternal care, baby characteristics, and facts about the animals’ growth. For those who want to bring gifts to this “baby shower,” the zoo welcomes donations to its enrichment program, and requests items like non-toxic bubbles, unused brown paper bags, phone books, and gift cards to Home Depot, Michael’s, or pet stores.