When Sekani gave birth to Adelina, she celebrated like most proud mothers, with a baby shower, a gift registry and a Facebook page for showing off photos of the adorable girl. Except, Sekani and Adelina are western lowland gorillas who live at the Little Rock Zoo.
More than 800,000 animals live at U.S. facilities accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and every year, thousands of those animals have babies. We've scoured the country to select the cutest baby animals at U.S. zoos. Because, let's face it, zoo babies are innately irresistible. Just try not to smile while looking at a baby panda.
"Scientists believe humans are programmed to find baby animals cute because they remind us of our own young," says Chris Eastland, co-founder of ZooBorns.com, a website that obsessively chronicles baby zoo animals, and co-author of ZooBorns: The Next Generation.
Of course, no survey of zoo newborns would be complete without those lovable pandas. At the San Diego Zoo, mama Bai Yun gave birth to Xiao Liwu, her sixth panda cub -- whose name was selected by thousands of participants in an online vote. He can be found toddling around the Panda Trek habitat and is doing his part to bring in crowds to San Diego, the number one most-visited zoo in America.
Read on for more heartwarming stories and photos of newborn animals at zoos near you.
See More of the Cutest Baby Animals at U.S. Zoos Lulu was a social media star before she was even born. As her mother, five-year-old Tessa, delivered her in October 2012, every detail was live-tweeted on Twitter with a #giraffebirth hash tag that quickly went viral. At 8:27 a.m., followers learned that the 150-pound calf was out. At 9:14 a.m., they found out that she stood up for the first time. And at 9:44 a.m., they heard that she was nursing. Those who want to glimpse Lulu and Tessa “IRL” (that’s “in real life”) can visit mom and baby at the Giraffe Ridge exhibit. Photo: Courtesy of Cincinnati Zoo
See More of the Cutest Baby Animals at U.S. ZoosXiao Liwu is the sixth giant panda cub to be born at the San Diego Zoo from mama bear Bai Yun. His name means “little gift” (cue the “awws”!) and was selected by thousands of fans who participated in an online vote. These days, you can catch Xiao Liwu toddling around the Panda Trek habitat as he learns to walk. Photo: Courtesy of San Diego Zoo
See More of the Cutest Baby Animals at U.S. ZoosKito means “jewel” in Swahili, and this adorable zebra colt is certainly a prized animal at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo. The energetic, long-legged youngster lives with his mom, Adia, and spends his days prancing around his yard in the Antelope & Zebra Area.Photo: Courtesy of Lincoln Park Zoo
See More of the Cutest Baby Animals at U.S. ZoosGat and Lita came into the world, this spring, under harrowing circumstances. Their mother, Ally, 5, birthed Gat, then underwent a cesarean section to deliver three more cubs, but only one, Lita, survived. Mom and the two cubs spent several days afterwards in intensive care and have since fully recovered -- and bonded. Cheetahs are the fastest land animals, and because they were born in an Olympics year, the cubs were named after the speediest American man and woman at the London Games. "Gat the Cat" takes his name from Justin Gatlin, who won bronze in the men's 100-meter sprint, and "Lita the Cheetah" was named after Carmelita Jeter, who won silver in the women's 100 meters.Photo: Smithsonian National Zoo
See More of the Cutest Baby Animals at U.S. ZoosThough he was born in early 2012, Bexley, a Matschie's tree kangaroo, only recently started venturing from his mother's pouch to walk around and explore. As he gets bigger, the furry marsupial will be able to jump great distances, too -- tree kangaroos, native to Papua New Guinea, can leap as much as 30 feet, from a treetop to the ground.Photo: Courtesy of St. Louis Zoo
See More of the Cutest Baby Animals at U.S. ZoosMara, 5, and Foli, 9, became the parents of two male cubs in June 2012. They weighed just two to three pounds apiece and were placed into intensive care when one did not nurse for a dangerously long time. Luckily, the two youngsters are now healthy and living together in their habitat. The orange-and-black-striped cuties are still waiting on their names (the rights to name them were recently auctioned off at a zoo fundraiser), but in the meantime, they’re happy to pass their days eating, dozing, and exploring their surroundings.Photo: Courtesy of Columbus Zoo
See More of the Cutest Baby Animals at U.S. ZoosThis little one emerged from her mom’s pouch so recently that, as of November 2012, she has yet to receive a name. The Brookfield Zoo’s female wombat is the fourth child of 12-year-old Kambora, who was born at the San Diego Zoo, and the second of Wilbur, 20, from Australia, the native country of wombats. This rambunctious baby lives at the Brookfield Zoo’s Australia House and likes staying close to mom—sometimes even clambering onto her back.Photo: Courtesy of Brookfield Zoo
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