Even if you weren’t really paying attention to the news this past week, it was hard to avoid coverage of the birth of the baby now known as Prince George Alexander Louis on July 22. The newborn, otherwise known as the “royal baby,” was hardly the only notable birth this year. Quite a few new babies who are endangered species — rarer even than a royal baby — have been born in 2013.
1. A Malayan Tapir
Earlier this month and for the first time in 20 years, the Minnesota Zoo welcomed the birth of a rare Malayan tapir, a tropical animal that is one of the most endangered in southeast Asia. The new calf was born after a 419-day gestation period (a pregnancy that was long even by tapir standards). For the first six months, the tapir calf will look like a “furry watermelon with legs,” albeit one weighing about 20 pounds — but it will weigh about 450 pounds in a year. With a face more resembling an anteater’s or pig’s, the tapir’s closest relatives are horses and rhinoceroses.
2. Twin Giant Panda Cubs
Photo via Jay Alvin Dimla/Flickr
A giant panda, Lun Lun, gave birth to twin panda cubs on July 15. The cubs (both boys) are the first pandas to be born this year in the U.S. and the first twins to be born since 1987; they join three older brothers born to Lun Lun and Yang Yang at the Atlanta Zoo. As pandas can only care for one cub at a time, keepers are placing one in an incubator while his brother remains with Lun Lun. Now with a brood of five, she is certainly an experienced mother.
3. A Clouded Leopard
Reshmi, a clouded leopard, gave birth to a baby on June 8 at the Sipahijala Wildlife Sanctuary in Tripura, one of 42 breeding centers in India. Fewer than 10,000 clouded leopards remain in their habitat in the Himalayan Mountains between India and China; six clouded leopards, who are listed as a vulnerable species by the IUCN and endangered in the U.S.. live at the Sipahijala Wildlife Sanctuary. They are thought to be the evolutionary link between small cats and big cats and to have a primitive form of saber-toothedness like that of saber-toothed cats 10,000 years ago; due to their rarity, scientists have not been able to study them much.
4. A Spectacle Monkey
The Sipahijala Wildlife Sanctuary welcomed the birth of another rare animal, the spectacle monkey or Phayre’s leaf monkey, on May 28. Living exclusively in trees, the adults have distinct white rings around their eyes. The spectacle monkey is now listed as endangered as a result of habitat degradation, hunting and human settlement; their numbers have declined more than 80 percent in the last 20 years in Bangladesh alone.
5. Three Chacoan Peccaries
Video via SDZoo/YouTube
Three endangered Chacoan peccary babies were born on June 19 at the San Diego zoo. Peccaries are medium-sized piglike mammals that are thought to be the closest living relative to Platygonus, an extinct genus that lived thousands of years ago. Only about 5,000 peccaries remain in the wild in Paraguay, with several thousand more estimated to live in Argentina and Bolivia. Habitat destruction and disease have taken a huge toll on the numbers of peccaries in the wild.
Photos via Thinkstock (unless otherwise noted)
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