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Animal baby boom for Aussie zoos in lockdown

Amelia Saw, May 17, 2020 6:45PM Kids News

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Tree kangaroo joey Chimbu explores with mum Mani at Victoria’s Healesville Sanctuary. Picture: Zoos Victoria media_cameraTree kangaroo joey Chimbu explores with mum Mani at Victoria’s Healesville Sanctuary. Picture: Zoos Victoria


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While the world has been in lockdown*, zoos around the country have been welcoming a wave of cute, cuddly and not so cuddly baby animals.

Keepers at Melbourne Zoo have seen a “baby boom” of otters, snow leopards and cotton-top tamarin monkeys.

Victoria’s Healesville Sanctuary also saw its female baby platypus, Storm, emerge from her burrow* for the first time and Chimbu the baby tree kangaroo has been entertaining staff with his new-found hopping skills — using his mother’s tail as a skipping rope.

media_cameraChimbu enjoys some lunch with mum Mani at Healesville Sanctuary.
media_cameraBaby platypus Storm with keeper Jess Thomas at Healesville Sanctuary. Picture: Zoos Victoria

“We love our zoo babies and this year there has been a bit of a baby boom, which has been wonderful, especially for the endangered* species that are part of vital breeding programs,” said Zoos Victoria chief executive Dr Jenny Gray.

“That’s been the case with our Asian small-clawed otter pups and our snow leopard cubs.

“I can’t get enough of the otter pups. We’ve been watching their parents giving them swimming lessons. They are just so adorable, so full of personality.”

media_cameraThe baby Asian small-clawed otters at Melbourne Zoo are being taught to swim by their parents. Picture: Zoos Victoria

NSW and WA have also become otterly-obsessed of late, with Taronga Western Plains Zoo and Perth Zoo both welcoming litters of Asian small-clawed otter pups in April.

And just like we’ve been hosting Zoom meetings, the otters at Taronga rose to the social distancing challenge, allowing keepers to watch the birth via CCTV cameras.

VIDEO: Check out these cute dingo pups born at the Australian Reptile Park on the NSW Central Coast last year

Dingo pups at Australian Reptile Park

Taronga Zoo Sydney has been treated to double the joy with the birth of twins Santiago and Matteo, two critically* endangered cotton-top tamarin monkeys.

The twins have spent much of their life being cared for by their dad and older brother, with male tamarins often doing most of the parenting.

media_cameraTwin cotton-top tamarin monkeys Santiago and Matteo hitch a ride with mum at Taronga Zoo. Picture: Taronga Zoo

Of course, if you’re going to be born during a global pandemic, it’s only fitting to be named accordingly.

There’s Quilton, the hamadryas baboon born at Melbourne Zoo on March 10, at the peak of Australia’s toilet paper hoarding* crisis, while king penguin chick Quentin Quarantino earned his coronavirus-inspired moniker* after Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium ran a naming competition.

media_cameraQuilton the hamadryas baboon was born at Melbourne Zoo during Australia’s great toilet paper crisis of 2020. Picture: Zoos Victoria
media_cameraBaby hamadryas baboon Quilton explores at Melbourne Zoo. Picture: Zoos Victoria
media_cameraA baby male hippo born at Taronga Western Plains Zoo on April 15, 2020, is looking for a name. Picture: Taronga Zoo

If you want to get involved in the fun, Taronga Western Plains Zoo is running a similar contest to name its male hippo calf. Stay tuned to the zoo’s social media for details.

Sadly, not all baby animals in captivity have a parent to raise them. Some might be rejected* by their mothers, while others join the zoo after being found injured or orphaned* in the wild. That’s where the devotion* of keepers comes in.

Adelaide Zoo keeper Michelle Birkett, 34, is no stranger to playing mum to all sorts of species.

Most recently, she’s been co-parenting and hand-raising a greater bilby called Gibs, part of the zoo’s threatened species breeding program.

media_cameraKeeper Michelle and Gibbs the greater bilby. Picture: Zoos SA

“We often have to take the animals home, so it is taking your work home with you, but it’s not something any of us really mind,” Ms Birkett said.

“Depending on the animal, some of them have to be fed through the night, almost like a human baby, so sometimes we have very tired keepers who’ve been getting up a couple of times a night to feed their babies.”

media_cameraGibbs the greater bilby has been hand-raised by keeper Michelle. Picture: Zoos SA

Gibs stayed with Ms Birkett for almost a month, and other than some noisy digging at night, was the perfect house guest … unlike the owls she hand-raised last year.

“That was pretty crazy, having two owls in my house,” she said.

“Being animals that can fly, it was a bit different. They liked to sit on top of my TV and on top of the curtain rods.”

Thankfully her partner is also an animal-lover, but she does concede* the owls might have been “pushing it”.

“Considering that we had to store dead mice in our fridge, that probably was pretty close to a deal breaker,” she said.


  • lockdown: stopped from moving around freely
  • burrow: a hole or tunnel dug as a home
  • endangered: at serious risk of dying out
  • critically: very seriously
  • hoarding: storing away
  • moniker: name
  • rejected: pushed away
  • orphaned: lost its mother
  • devotion: love and commitment
  • concede: admit


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  1. What does baby tree kangaroo Chimbu use for a skipping rope?
  2. What are the Asian small-clawed otter pups being taught to do by their parents?
  3. True or false, male tamarin monkeys do most of the parenting?
  4. Why was Melbourne Zoo’s baby hamadryas baboon named Quilton?
  5. Why do keepers sometimes take baby animals home to care for them?


1. Profile an animal
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Time: allow 50 minutes to complete this activity
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Curriculum Links: English, Critical and Creative Thinking, Ethical Understanding

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