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Spring brings baby boom to L.A. Zoo

A koala, twin peninsular pronghorns and a desert bighorn may be 'the first of many births coming this year,' a zoo official says.

April 15, 2011|By Ann M. Simmons, Los Angeles Times
  • A baby koala clings to her mother's back at the Los Angeles Zoo. The female koala was born in July, but since newborns spend about six months developing in the mother's pouch, she just recently started to emerge.
A baby koala clings to her mother's back at the Los Angeles Zoo. The… (Wally Skalij, Los Angeles…)

Spring has sprung at the Los Angeles Zoo, where recent births of a koala, twin peninsular pronghorns and a desert bighorn sheep have heralded a baby boom.

First came the baby koala, known as a joey. The female koala was born in July, but since newborn koalas spend about six months developing in the mother's pouch, the new joey has just recently started to emerge, zoo officials said in a statement.

Next came male and female pronghorn twins, born March 1, and, 19 days later, a female bighorn sheep.

"We're always excited to showcase babies," said Jason Jacobs, director of public relations for the Los Angeles Zoo. "Not only does the public enjoy seeing them, it's a testament to the great programs that the zoo is involved in. Hopefully, this is the first of many births coming this year."

Koalas, which are native to Australia and belong to the marsupial family, are typically just three-fourths of an inch long when born, zoo officials said. They spend their first year in their mother's pouch, being "weaned from milk to eucalyptus as they stick their heads out of the pouch to eat partially digested leaves," zoo officials said.

The peninsular pronghorns are native to Baja California and are members of their own family of hoofed mammals known as antilocapridae, Jacobs said. And they are endangered.

"Once numbering in the thousands, today there are only about 250 left in the wild," he said.

For the last decade, the Los Angeles Zoo has been participating in a pronghorn recovery program, and the Griffith Park center was the first zoo to breed the species, Jacobs said.

"We have been involved for a decade now, bringing them back from the brink of extinction," he said.

Pronghorn mothers typically will have one or two fawns weighing 7 or 8 pounds each, zoo officials said. Newborn pronghorns take their first steps within 30 minutes of birth, and by the time they are four days old they can outrun humans.

As adults, they can weigh up to 125 pounds and reach a height of 35 inches.

Desert bighorn sheep are native to the high mountains and deserts of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico and can be spotted in the San Gabriel Mountains.

Males of the species are easily identifiable by their "massive, spiraled horns and their majestic faces," a zoo official said.

ann.simmons@latimes.com

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