Zoo Boise connects our visitors with animals to inspire and involve our community in the conservation of wildlife worldwide.
2013 was one of the most “reproductive” years ever at Zoo Boise! 19 babies were born at the zoo between March and December, three of which are endangered in the wild. To continue this “baby boom” trend for years to come, we need to ensure we have the facilities to properly house and care for these animals as they start their furry families. So, how do we make this happen? How do you make a zoo baby?
The answer is threefold:
- The zoo needs to have the right animals;
- The zoo needs a plan to make sure the animals are set up for success;
- The zoo needs space.
First, what are the “right animals?” The first thing you need is breeding age females. The second thing you need is breeding age males. While this may seem obvious, it is more complicated than it sounds. The zoo has to make sure that the breeding age females and the breeding age males aren’t related. In order to maintain a healthy and genetically diverse population of an animal species, Zoo Boise works closely with other AZA accredited zoos through Species Survival Plans (SSPs). SSP coordinators will make breeding recommendations for zoos, which, in cases like Zoo Boise’s snow leopards and red pandas, may include moving animals from one zoo to another to find the perfect match. Participating in SSP programs and pairing the “right animals” are key steps in the conservation of endangered and threatened species and an important part of Zoo Boise’s mission.
Second comes the plan. Once the animals are paired up, it is up to the zoo to “set the mood.” This does not include candlelight dinners and rose petals, but if conditions aren’t right then the outcome will be wrong. It turns out that absence really does make the heart grow fonder and this can lead to a baby animal. Abstinence, however, does not. In the wild, many animals are solitary. Males and females are off doing their own thing and then find each other at the right time. Once all the….finding….is over, they are often on their own again. In order to be successful, Zoo Boise has to artificially create these conditions by separating the male and the female for a period of time.
This leads us to the issue of space. In order to have the right mix of animals and the ability to move them around in the most romantic way possible, Zoo Boise needs to have off-exhibit holding space. Our animal care staff needs the ability to put animals together in a quiet space where they can get to know each other. As mentioned above, they need the space to keep the males and females apart in preparation for just the right moment. And since the males and females don’t normally stay together in the wild, many times, we need to separate mom and the baby from dad.
Zoo Boise would like to continue having even more baby animals for your future zoo visits. The one part of the breeding equation that we need in order to do this is more space. Our goal is to construct a new building that will provide us with significantly more space and possibilities when it comes to playing Cupid. The building will be behind the scenes, so we can give the romantic couples all the privacy they need. The two current coati exhibits between the snow leopards and carousel will be remodeled to serve as the outdoor yards and public viewing for the animals. This building will be designed for small mammals and birds, so we can feature more baby animals such as ocelots, servals, bat-eared foxes, porcupines, coatis and wallabies, just to name a few.
Design and construction will be complete this fall. In addition, this project will not only provide for additional animal holding space at Zoo Boise, it will also help protect animals in the wild. Whenever Zoo Boise builds a new exhibit, 10% of the entire project budget goes to support wildlife conservation.
Thank you, in advance, for your support of this project and for helping to keep your world wild!