New in the Zoo

Zoo Conference Brings Black Voices to the Forefront of the Conservation Conversation
October 9, 2020

This sarus crane chick is the first of her species to hatch at the L.A. Zoo. Photo by Elena S. Mavros

On August 9, a sarus crane chick hatched—a first for this species at the L.A. Zoo. The chick is being raised by her parents in their habitat located near the China section of the Elephants of Asia exhibit. These birds are part of a Species Survival Plan program. The Zoo received its first sarus crane in 1979, and since then has housed several individuals before the current breeding pair.

Our work with Indian gharials through the Wildlife Trust of India supports conservation efforts within the geographic range of saurus cranes and gharials, which you can see outside the LAIR building. Sarus cranes are considered Vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and are found in the plains of northwestern India, the western half of Nepal’s Terai Lowlands, and parts of Pakistan. According to the International Crane Foundation, the sarus crane is revered in many parts of its range. In Myanmar, it is celebrated as one of the reincarnations of Buddha. In Cambodia, sarus cranes are engraved on the ancient temple walls of Angkor Watt. In Vietnam, it is the holy bird that carries the souls of the dead to heaven.

Sarus cranes are the world’s tallest flying birds and feed on aquatic plants, invertebrates, small vertebrates, and grains. Habitat loss and degradation, including the conversion of wetlands for farming and human development, are major threats, as are collisions with human structures. Like many other waterbirds in their range, sarus cranes often take up residence in flooded rice paddies, which has led to human conflict as they are regarded as agricultural pests in these areas.

Sarus cranes call to each other while their chick scampers at their feet. Video by Stephanie Zielinski

Bird staff artificially incubated and hatched out a Critically Endangered blue-billed curassow egg that the parents had abandoned. On August 24, a day after hatching, the chick was introduced to the Congo peafowl group that is rearing two of their own chicks that hatched earlier in August, and so far, the fostering is going well. Both species are Galliformes, and because they are related and practice similar chick rearing behaviors, this interspecies adoption is possible. All are being cared for in the Avian Conservation Center (ACC).

One of these birds is not like the others… if you look closely, you can see how the blue-billed curassow chick’s markings differ from its two Congo peafowl foster siblings. Photo by Jamie Pham; Video by Lori Rogalski

A female gerenuk was born on August 30 and is being raised in the nursery. The older females that had been in the Nursery were moved back to their habitat on September 3. As with duikers and certain other hoofstock species, newborn gerenuks spend some time at the Nursery so that they can become acclimated to humans and our often unpredictable sounds and movements before taking up residence in their regular habitats.

A large litter of ten mangrove vipers was born. These snakes are native to India, Bangladesh, and Southeast Asia, and like our native pit vipers—rattlesnakes—they give birth to live young. This species exhibits tremendous variation in color forms. Some local populations are distinctly mottled with patterns in tones of purple, brown, and green. The Zoo’s individuals are a melanistic form from a population found in Singapore that are almost entirely black. Two more Catalina Island rattlesnakes were born.


Mangrove vipers are highly variable in color and scale patterns. Photo by Ian Recchio

The Zoo received a new giant desert centipede, one of the popular residents of the Desert LAIR. These hefty invertebrates dwarf any of the species commonly found in the Los Angeles Basin and at the Zoo. Unlike herbivorous millipedes, with which they are often confused, centipedes are voracious, venomous predators. Local species consume many pest insects in the home and garden, but their more massive relatives can eat prey as large as mice, lizards, and snakes.


Centipedes and millipedes differ in more than the number of legs they have. Millipedes scavenge on fallen plant matter while centipedes are carnivorous. Centipedes have long antennae and one pair of legs per body segment while millipedes have short antennae and two pairs of legs per body segment. They also move very differently—millipedes are slow crawlers while centipedes are able to move quickly, sprinting after prey. Photos by Tad Motoyama

Rosy boas are being introduced to the red diamond rattlesnake habitat in the Desert LAIR. These snakes are a great example of two species that share overlapping ranges because they occupy different ecological niches. Of course, guests will not be able to see them yet, but this new mixed-species display will be ready when the LAIR does re-open. Also, the now-adult L.A. Zoo-bred fringe-limbed treefrogs are currently on view in the Rainforest of the Americas in the habitat that was previously home to the marine toad.


Red diamond rattlesnakes share a portion of rosy boas’ range, so these two species can be found sharing habitat in the wild. Photos by Jamie Pham


The fringe-limbed tree frogs that hatched at the beginning of the year have fully transformed into adults and can be seen in the Rainforest of the Americas. Photo by Jamie Pham