Lions, rhinos and bears: Baby boom at Toronto Zoo
Published Tuesday, March 8, 2016 9:20AM EST
Zookeepers are being kept busy by a baby boom, with bear and lion cubs and a rare rhino born in the last few months at the Toronto Zoo.
On Monday, two of the zoo's newborns were introduced to high-profile visitors including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The zoo revealed the names of its five-month-old panda cubs, Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue, in a ceremony attended by all three levels of government.
"I really feel privileged to be here," Senior Zookeeper Karyn Tunwell told CTV's Canada AM on Tuesday. Tunwell has been caring for the cubs since they were born.
Tunwell said she's been at the zoo for years and has raised dozens of baby animals, but called the pandas the "icing on the cake, being able to breed such an endangered species, such an iconic species."
She said there were many challenges for the zoo, which hasn't played host to pandas since 1985.
"Things have really changed with panda husbandry, so really we were starting from scratch. We didn't know what to expect," Tunwell said.
"Without the help of the Chinese experts to really guide us through that, we wouldn't know what we were doing."
Born in October, the black-and-white bears were the second batch of babies born during the months-long boom in zoo births.
"We have a lot of babies. Baby rhino, baby polar bear, baby white lions… throw some baby giant panda cubs in the mix," the zoo's Curator of Mammals Maria Franke told Canada AM.
"It's been very crazy. We've had babies everywhere."
Just weeks before the cubs' birth, the zoo welcomed a litter of rare white lion cubs, born to feline zoo resident Makali, and fathered by Fintan. Toronto Zoo staff named the cubs Hank, Gus, Harrison and Oliver by Toronto Zoo staff.
In November, the zoo welcomed another baby. Two polar bear cubs were born to mother Aurora, but one of the cubs did not survive the first 24 hours. The second bear, Juno, appears to be thriving after spending time in the zoo's intensive care unit.
Last month, the zoo's most recent baby was born to an 11-year-old Indian rhinoceros. The baby, who has not been named, is the first surviving calf for the mother.
The baby appears to be feeding well, but its first 30 days will be critical, the zoo said at the time.
"It's all primarily for conservation breeding, so it's very, very good," Franke said.
She said zoo staff hope that visitors will use the opportunity to learn about endangered species, and what they can do to help.