New Kids on the Block
Four playful meerkat pups, an endangered Bonobo named Mali, and a leaf froglet—teeny enough to perch on a fingertip—are a few of the adorable newcomers to U.S. zoos. As these fun facts and photos suggest, baby animals are (almost) just like us!
  |  Monday, May 19, 2008

Philadelphia Zoo
Fairmount Park, 3400 W. Girard Ave., Philadelphia, Pa., 215/243-1100, philadelphiazoo.org, $13 Dec.-Feb. and $18 Mar.-Nov., ages 2-11 $13 Dec.-Feb. and $15 Mar.-Nov., children under 2 free.

PENGUIN: Hatched Apr. 2, 2008
It's too early to tell whether baby Spud is a boy or girl, but it's already clear that this tiny, fuzzy, charcoal-grey Humboldt penguin is a crowd pleaser. Spud can be spotted in the zoo's Bird Valley, while its distant relatives live along the rocky western coast of Peru and Chile.
Who Knew? The male Humboldt preps the nest burrow by using his wings and feet to mold dried guano (seagull poop) and then cement it with soil and rocks. Parents alternate sitting on the eggs until they hatch, typically in 39 days.
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MONKEY: Born Mar. 15, 2008
Celebrities aren't the only ones to take some creative license with baby names. Bolivian titi monkeys Marjorie Belle and Bellini are the parents of Jack Sparrow—a likely nod to Pirates of the Caribbean's chattering monkey, Jack.
Who Knew? The Pirates trilogy stars not a furry orangish titi but capuchin monkeys, which have a different look: dark-brown or black body and cream-colored face and upper arms.

SIFAKA: Born Feb 8, 2008
The results from the popular vote are in. With a tally of 1,498 votes, Loka ("prize" in Malagasy) is the winning name for this baby sifaka. He joins his parents and other lemurs in PECO Primate Reserve.
Who Knew? In the wild, Coquerel's sifakas like Loka dwell in trees on the island of Madagascar. Their strong hind legs allow them to cover more than 30 feet in a single jump.
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OTTER: Born Nov. 3, 2007
Giant river otter Banjo is very protective of his youngest pup, whom zookeepers have named Rose. Like her five family members, Rose is playful and outgoing by nature. She likes to splash around the giant heated pool in the Carnivore Kingdom exhibit and fuels up on trout, tilapia, and herring.
Who Knew? Giant river otters are one of the rarest otter species, with only 2,000 to 5,000 left in the wild (mostly in the rivers of South American rain forests). A river otter's fur is so dense that water never gets past the outer hairs to the skin. Find more interesting facts at philadelphiazoo.org.
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San Diego Zoo
Balboa Park, 2920 Zoo Dr., San Diego, Calif., sandiegozoo.org, 619/231-1515, $34, ages 3-11 $24, children under 3 free. Note that the Wild Animal Park is located off-site in the San Pasqual Valley near Escondido, Calif. A two-park ticket is $60 for adults and $43 for children.

GIRAFFE: Born Feb. 28, 2008
Basel has just made his public debut alongside mother Peggy at the Wild Animal Park. While Basel likes to jump and run around with four other giraffe youngsters (not to mention a white rhino and an African buffalo), he still makes time to nuzzle with mom.
Who Knew? Different subspecies of giraffes have different spots. Basel is a reticulated giraffe—most common in Somalia—and has large caramel-brown spots and cream-colored lines.
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MEERKATS: Born Feb. 21, 2008
After spending their first few weeks in the den with their protective mother, Ngami, these four adorable pups can be spotted darting around with their tails up and barking.
Who Knew? Life's rough for the zoo's 12 meerkats, who love to spend the morning lying out in the sun and snuggling. If you notice any odd bald spots, not to worry—senior keeper Laura Weiner trims the pups' hair to help tell them apart.
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TURTLES: Hatched Jan. 4-Apr. 17, 2008
This new batch of aquatic matamata turtles represents the first time the species has successfully reproduced at the zoo. Their diet includes a special treat the keepers refer to as Jell-O wigglers: a gelatin ball that has pellets with vitamins and minerals.
Who Knew? Matamatas come from Brazil, Guyana, and Trinidad, and the name means "I kill, I kill" in Spanish. The turtle doesn't bite, but it does have a highly effective method of feeding: It waits for a fish to come by and then suddenly opens its mouth and expands its throat, sucking in the fish.
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LION: Born Nov. 2, 2007
African lion cub Tamu has plenty of playmates at the Wild Animal Park: Three siblings were born the same day to mom Oshana, and a litter of three cubs was born to lioness Mina on Nov. 6.
Who Knew? Lions are the only cats to live in close-knit, female-led prides—groups of anywhere from three to 30. Yawning, grooming, and roaring tend to be contagious.
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LIZARDS: Hatched Oct. 18, 2007
The arrival of two large Caiman lizards in San Diego marks only the third such hatching in the U.S. They have bright blue and green skins—which put them at risk during hunts in the wild—and can look fearsome. Insects and snails are their main prey.
Who Knew? At home in the Amazon Basin in Peru and Brazil, these lizards grow to four feet long and six pounds.
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KANGAROO: Born Sept. 11, 2007
Here's something you don't see everyday—a baby Buerger's tree kangaroo peeking his head out of his mom's pouch. These kangaroos like the tropical rain forests of Papua New Guinea.
Who Knew? The kangaroo's family name, Macropodidae, means "big feet." When a kangaroo senses danger, it puts those feet to use by thumping them on the ground as a warning to other 'roos.
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BONOBO: Born Sept. 4, 2007
Mali, whose name means "something valuable" in Swahili, was in critical condition after her mom went through a very difficult delivery. But both pulled through, and Mali is growing stronger and healthier—thanks partially to her regimen of seven daily bottle feedings.
Who Knew? Bonobos are slightly smaller than chimpanzees and have dark pigmentation on their feet, hands, and faces. They live under threat in the conflict-ridden forests and lowlands of the Democratic Republic of Congo and in a handful of U.S. zoos.
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PANDA: Born Aug. 3, 2007
Bai Yun's giant panda cub, Zhen Zhen, already weighs 31 pounds and is learning to climb. She has an independent streak, according to zookeepers, but is also learning to get along with older sister Su Lin. You can get an up close look at the whole family—including dad Gao Gao—thanks to the zoo's panda cam.
Who Knew? The San Diego Zoo, which has the country's largest collection of giant pandas, harvests 10.5 tons of bamboo annually to keep them fed.
Aww… See the photo