Friday, July 09, 1999

Zoo babies take the stage

The Cincinnati Enquirer




[polar bear]
Polar bear




        Close to 40 babies equipped with fluffy cowlicks, squeaky cries and wobbly legs are in the spotlight starting this weekend at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden.

        Born in 1986 to celebrate the success of the zoo's breeding program, Zoo Babies has taken on a life of its own. It is the zoo's second most popular annual event.

        July attendance is expected to hit 200,000 (vs. June and August averages of 150,000). Festival of Lights, the most popular event, brings in 225,000, said marketing director Donna Oehler.

  • Who: More than 30 baby animals.
  • What: Zoo Babies.
  • When: July 10-Aug. 1
  • Where: Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, 3400 Vine St., Avondale. You'll find zoo babies at all exhibits displaying a 7-foot stork with the baby's name and birth date.
  • Tickets: $10, $7 seniors, $4.75 children.
  • Information: 281-4700.
  • Among the featured babies: Ganesh, the Asian elephant; two polar bears; three gorillas; two baby bongos; four black-footed penguins; one rock-hopper penguin; four Indochinese tigers; sand cat; crowned lemur; Japanese macaque.
        Zoo Babies' uniqueness — “No other zoo does it,” Ms. Oehler said — also draws tourists; 60 percent of the visitors are out-of-towners.

        Zoo Babies was the brain child of zoo director Ed Maruska, who thought the zoo “should do something big” to celebrate its bumper crop of spring and summer babies, Ms. Oehler said.

        Zoo Babies came to life that year and has been a hit every year it has been held. (It skipped 1988 because so many Cincinnati Bicentennial events were scheduled.)

        Traditionally a June event, it was delayed this year so it wouldn't conflict with the opening of the new Manatee Springs exhibit.

        The 1999 babies include:

        • Three gorillas. The youngest, 8-month-old Cecil, usually is hanging on mama Muke's fur at Gorilla World.

        • A 9-week-old hooded crane and a 7-week-old Manchurian crane. They're among the few babies allowed to wander the grounds, always at keeper Matt Miller's heels. They usually are out at 1-2 p.m. on the Centroid (the oval lawn adjacent to Swan Lake).

        • A 16-month-old Asian elephant. Ganesh is the largest baby at 1,325 pounds.

        • Four 3-month-old Indochinese tigers. They make their debut at noon today in Cat Grotto. Until now, only their keepers have seen them.

        • A 4-month-old female sand cat. She has stand-up, rust-colored fur and a growing talent for climbing rocks in her Cat House enclosure.

        • Seven baby goats: four Oberhasli and three Nigerian dwarfs, ages 4 to 6 months. They stand at the Children's Zoo fence and cry until someone pets them.

        Someone always does.

Nursery keepers have mothered hundreds of animals

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