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A Potto First

Potto Ultrasound

Michael Guilfoyle holds Lucy while an ultrasound exam is conducted by CREW veterinary intern Dr. Yolanda Markley.

The Cincinnati Zoo is one of only three zoos in the country to exhibit Pottos.  Pottos are nocturnal primates that live in the tropical forests of Africa.  Potto in Afrikans means “softly-softly” for the fact they move throughout the trees without making a sound.  In addition, Pottos have a modified spinal process on their vertebrae which projects through the shoulder blades to create a “shield”.  They use this shield as defense and actually “neck butt” their opponents, pretty cool!

While distantly related to monkeys and apes, Pottos are grouped with primitive primates called Prosimians which includes lorises and lemurs.  If you know your latin, “Pro” means before and “simian” means monkey or ape, so developmentally they come before these higher primates.

We are one of the only zoos to have successfully bred and reared Pottos in captivity.  However, little is known about their reproductive biology.  Michael Guilfoyle, Head Keeper of Cincinnati Zoo’s Nocturnal House, has successfully managed our Potto population and has been lucky enough to have discovered many Potto babies shortly after their birth.  The most recent baby still had the placenta attached when Michael discovered it less than one hour old.  The baby arrived on December 8, 2010 to proud Potto parents Lucy and Jabari.

Michael was interested in incorporating reproductive science into managing Cincinnati Zoo’s Potto population.  He convinced the research arm of the Zoo, CREW, to conduct a longitudinal hormone and ultrasound study of the species.  Michael feeds a small amount of yogurt mixed with food dye to each Potto several times a week so he can then identify  and collect fecal samples excreted from known individuals.  The samples are then  analyzed in CREW’s endocrine laboratory.  In addition, every month, we conduct an ultrasound exam of each female Potto housed with a male to detect signs of pregnancy.


October 7, 2010 ultrasound exam of Lucy’s baby.  The baby was quite active during the exam- you can see it moving its head and arms.

Thanks to the romantic sparks generated by Lucy and Jabari, we were able to generate the first fecal hormone profile of pregnancy in the Potto!  In addition, we were able to detect the pregnancy via ultrasound.  Check out the video at the end of blog!  Right now we are monitoring another female Potto named Tiombe.  Based on fecal hormone results, Tiombe is exhibiting regular reproductive cycles.  In October, Michael paired Tiombe with a male.  Keep your fingers crossed that this pair will soon breed so Tiombe can become a first time Potto mom.

December 24, 2010   5 Comments

Day 480 of Pregnancy for Nikki

Nikki - Indian Rhino

Today is day 480 of Nikki’s pregnancy. Indian rhinos are pregnant for 462 – 491 days, so she could deliver her calf any day. Many visitors ask the same questions when they’re watching Nikki, so here are the answers to your FAQs…

Q: Why doesn’t she have water in her pool?
A: The water temperature is too cool for Nikki and would be too cool for the baby. She still has access to plenty of drinking water.

Q: Does she give birth lying down?
A: She’ll probably be lying down for the final push but goes up and down during labor.

Q: How long does labor last?
A: About 3 hours.

Q: How much will the calf weigh?
A: 80 – 100 pounds

Q: How much does Nikki weigh?
A: 4,299 pounds!!

Q: When will the calf start to nurse?
A: About 30 minutes – 2 hours after birth

If you have any other questions, please post them.

October 19, 2010   26 Comments

Nikki Relaxin?

It was a beautiful Fall day in Cincinnati and Nikki was out walking around her exhibit and eating some of the fallen leaves.  Just like in pregnant humans, Nikki has been walking to help promote a fast and easier labor.  Her ability to exercise is more important than ever, now that it appears that she is feeling the effects of Relaxin hormone.  Relaxin is a hormone that Nikki (and other pregnant animals) produce prior to birth that helps “relax” the pelvis in preparation for the big event.  Each day, Nikki’s keepers and scientists observe how she looks and the effects of Relaxin have recently been noted.  In addition, the ZVO’s have recorded that Nikki is drinking more water, another effect of Relaxin.

A mother and baby watch Nikki. Soon Nikki will have her own bundle of joy!

Knowing that Nikki is getting closer to birth, it is more important than ever that she can continue to do some exercise outside.  When Nikki walks, her hips sway side to side and that helps position the calf correctly.  Because she is due to give birth any day, her keepers watch over her when she is on exhibit.  We Can’t Wait!

Head Keeper Randy Pairan keeps a close eye on Nikki while Zoo Visitors stop by to see her.

October 16, 2010   9 Comments