Tiny Takin Takes Delicate Steps

Life at the zoo brings daily changes and new discoveries. Today we witnessed the birth of a baby belonging to a rare species (my favorite, actually): the Sichuan takin. The newborn female, who weighs in at 21 pounds, was born to Mei Li shortly after 11 a.m. This is her second calf.

The new arrival caused quite a stir not only for zoo staff and visitors, but also the takin family group. Takins are tough, territorial and hierarchal creatures. An adjustment period is sometimes required when new members arrive into a well-established group. Herd members adhere to takin-appropriate behavior and boundaries.

The newborn’s sire, Quanli, who is a proven successful and protective father, may have been surprised by the new arrival and unsure what to make of her. The newborn, a particularly gregarious girl, immediately ran toward him and he may have been startled by her boldness. He snorted a warning at her (which is takin for “back off”), but being only hours old she probably didn’t yet understand the terms of takin language. Zookeepers, who were assessing the encounter, responded immediately to separate the animals when it became clear the situation could escalate.

Takin sire Quanli with sons Mengyao and Xing Fu at Lincoln Park Zoo

Takin sire Quanli, shown here with his two sons Mengyao and Xing Fu in March 2013, has shown appropriate protective behavior toward the herd’s offspring but may have been surprised by his daughter’s sudden arrival today.

Thankfully, animal care staff was able to intervene to protect the calf from aggression, but the male did push the calf around a bit before they could get to her and she did endure a leg injury. Once the keepers and veterinarians were able to safely gain access to the calf she was transported to the veterinary hospital for assessment and care.

I’m happy to report that, while the little gal will require a cast to help her leg heal, she seems in otherwise good health, and keepers are working to reintroduce her to Mei Li this afternoon.

The goal is always to have animal parents raise their own young whenever possible, but when necessary keepers will intervene to care for youngsters if a parent is unable. In this case, we are working diligently toward a mother-raised calf while keepers and veterinarians keep a close eye on the pair and ensure her leg heals appropriately. The two will remain separated from the herd in a controlled space during this time. We’ll be providing updates on the calf’s health and developments and share some photos in the days ahead.

In the meantime, enjoy the spring temperatures and plan a visit to the zoo. There is always something exciting underway!

Kevin Bell

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