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How many animals are born at zoos?

How often are animals born at zoos?
How often are animals born at zoos? 02:45

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Welcoming a baby to the world is an exciting time for families, no matter the species.

A recent birth at Como Park Zoo captured attention and had us wondering: How many animals are born at the zoo? And are there rules on which can breed? Good Question.

Jill Ezrar is a senior Zookeeper helping curious kids learn about wild animal parenting and helping WCCO learn about zoo births in general.

How often does a birth happen at Como Park Zoo?  

"I would say as far as mammals go, we usually have three to five big births a year," she said. As for giraffe specifically, there's been 25 in the past three decades.

Before the recent giraffe birth, a snow leopard was born in May named Willow

How many animals in zoo exhibits were born in the same zoo? Not as many as people think. Ezrar said about half of the animals at Como were also born there.  The other half that were born somewhere else likely entered the world at another zoo. Older research shows 90% of mammals and 74% of birds in zoos were born in captivity.

The animals at zoos that do come from the wild are mainly rescues, said Ezrar, like seals and sea lions thatgot trapped in fishing nets or injured birds that can no longer fly.

"We partner with all of the zoos in AZA which is the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. We collaborate with them and we look at species diversity, species genetics, and we really swap animals quite a bit," said Ezrar.

There are 238 facilities in the AZA all working as a unified body.

For example, Ruby the bison was at the Minnesota Zoo, but the 16-month-old now calls the Como Park Zoo home.

Meanwhile, the new giraffe calf will head off to another zoo when she's a little older, around the time giraffe would search for a new herd in the wild.

"Giraffe usually don't breed until the age of six or seven. And so (the AZA is) saying 'Where do we put this animal now at the age of one that when it is six, it will be successful in a breeding situation'," said Ezrar. 

There are 8,700 species of animals across all AZA facilities. Within that massive number is a census of sorts, determining which animals should be bred based on population.

Gorillas, tigers, and snow leopards are just three of the hundreds of animals that have the green light to make babies. It's a called an SSP or Species Survival Plan.

How often are the animals born in zoos released back into the wild? 

"It really depends. There are a couple flagship type species that we do that for," said Ezrar.

Typically, it's animals near extinction like the Wyoming Toad. Como Park Zoo is actively growing the amphibian's population, then releasing them to their natural habitat in Wyoming.

Several species have been saved from extinction thanks to breeding in zoos. They include the California condor, black-footed ferrets, golden lion tamarins, and American red wolves.

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