1 Marcella Leone, founder and director of the Leo Zoological Conservation Center. The center is home to 43 species of rare and endangered animals. Here she is with one of the eight baby cheetah born last month at the center.
2 LEO has 16 cheetah. This is a male named Raphael. The name cheetah comes from a Hindi word meaning 'spotted one.' Cheetah are the world’s fastest land animal - they can run up to 75 mph. Cheetah have large hearts, large nostrils, flat aerodynamic heads, and flexible spines which act like a spring to aid their speed.
3 I took this photo of Raphael from the open air viewing deck. Here he is laying down after running a lure course, which gives the cheetah regular exercise for enrichment. It's an amazing experience to see a cheetah like this.
4 This is a female cheetah named Donatella. The habitats at LEO are very naturalistic, tranquil and really large. It’s clear why all the animals here are thriving.
5 A litter of eight cheetah was born at LEO last month. Their mother, a five-year-old King cheetah named Mona Lisa, is one of only thirty left in the world. Cheetah very rarely reproduce out of the wild but two of these cubs will actually go back to Africa! LEO has pioneered a successful program to release captive bred cheetah to restore wild areas. These cubs could share their rare genes back into the wild. These three baby cheetah are being hand reared in the nursery to ensure their survival.
6 I took this photo of the three precious little cubs in the nursery.
7 This is the rest of the litter of eight. These five cubs are being raised by their mother, Mona Lisa. There is a naming contest through The Today Show to name one of the five http://goo.gl/NgWuFw and you can also make a donation to name one and visit the three hand reared ambassador cubs at the center! http://leozoo.org/meetcheetahcubs/namecheetahcub.
8 This is Adaeze (Daisy is her nickname), one of the eight new babies born to Mona Lisa, who is the only king cheetah in all of the Americas!
9 This is Patrick - a 23-year-old male orangutan. 'Orang' and 'Utan' are the Malay words for 'Man' and 'Jungle.' (Malay is an Austronesian language spoken in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and Thailand.) Dominant males like Patrick develop cheek flanges or pads and throat pouches which enables the males to make loud calls.
10 This is Artie riding on his mother, Maggie. He is the first endangered orangutan ever to be born through Artificial Reproduction Technology. This breakthrough completes the first step of LEO's Wild Cycling Program, which began two years ago. Wild Cycling, first coined by Founder and Director Marcella Leone, aims for the eventual recycling of genes in and out of zoological institutions and wild populations in order to expand genetic diversity.
11 This scientific advancement comes at a critical time as Earth’s wild forests are being removed 10 times faster than any possible rate of re-growth. Many experts estimate that orangutans will be extinct in their natural habitat by 2023.
12 Patrick is filled with joy as it’s raining grapes in his enclosure. Orangutans eat over 300 different kinds of fruit, as well as bark and leaves, young shoots, insects and an occasional bird egg or small vertebrate.
13 Artie and mom, Maggie, forage in their enclosure for their daily enrichment. Maggie is on a mission to find every piece of granola hidden in the grass in the enormous enclosure. Males are usually solitary, but mothers and their young share a very strong bond.
14 This is Puzzles, a seven-year-old male giraffe, who loves to get cuddles and attention at the feeding platform. He is one of eight giraffes at the center. Giraffes are the tallest living land mammal. Males can be 16-18 feet tall. Females can be 14-16 feet tall. Males weigh about 2600 pounds. Females about 1800 pounds.
15 Marcella with Puzzles and my grandchildren at the center. Giraffes have the largest heart, the highest blood pressure and the largest eyes of any land mammal. Every giraffe has a unique pattern of spots, much like a human fingerprint.
16 These three giraffes broke off from the rest of the herd to greet us as we arrived.
17 Even though they live in herds, giraffes usually don’t stay in the same herd forever. Individuals may come and go, so the makeup of a group is always changing. Giraffes are fast runners, reaching speeds of 35 miles per hour.
18 Here are two giraffes with guinea fowl in the foreground. The guinea fowl eat ticks and keep them off the animals. They can eat thousands a day!
19 We got to meet Sandy Hope, the first giraffe ever to be born in Connecticut. She’s one of only 670 endangered Rothschild giraffes left. She was named in honor of the families of the Sandy Hook tragedy; through LEO's Special Cause Group program, many of the affected families visited the center last summer.
20 At LEO there is colony of endangered African black footed penguins. They are also called jackass penguins because they sound like donkeys! There are less than 55,000 left in the world. They are indigenous to South Africa and the Penguin Islands.
21 Endangered African black footed penguins love to frolic near the waterfall. African penguins have pink glands above their eyes used for thermoregulation.
22 Marcella with Jude and one of the many red kangaroos at LEO. They are indigenous to Australia. Kangaroos are not endangered but they are wonderful for teaching children about animals and conservation.
23 Kangaroos give birth to one baby at a time, which at birth is smaller than a cherry. The infant immediately climbs into its mother’s pouch and does not emerge for two months. Until they reach about eight months of age, threatened young kangaroos, called joeys, will quickly dive for the safety of mom’s pouch.
24 Kangaroos’ legs cannot move independently of one another, so they must hop everywhere. They can reach speeds over 35 miles (56 kilometers) an hour and bound 25 feet (8 meters) in a single leap. They live in groups which are called mobs.
25 This is Piggie Sue, a red river hog. She, and her mate Spock, were very happy to see us! Red river hogs are from Africa. They are very social animals, making it necessary for them to live together in groups as large as 20. Males and females mate for life.
26 How cute is this face? Red river hogs can weigh between 95 and 250 pounds. Their diet includes roots, bulbs, fallen fruit, eggs, insects, small reptiles, birds, and mammals!
27 Ostriches like this one are the fastest animals on two legs!
With their great eyesight and hearing, ostriches warn other animals of approaching predators. Ostriches only use their wings for balance when they are running.
Ostriches can kick hard enough to kill a lion!
28 Here I am holding on to Jude as we look at two of the three bactrian camels at LEO. This is Gobi and Luke Skywalker. They are indigenous to Mongolia. These camels have two humps and long wooly coats which can range in color from dark brown to sandy beige.
They can go for several months without water but when it is available to them they can drink up to 15 gallons.
29 This critically endangered eastern mountain bongo was extinct in the wild until conservationists united and intervened. Now there are about one hundred found in the Aberdare Mountain range. LEO will be expanding their breeding program in order to send back more of these treasured creatures for repatriation in Africa in 2019.
30 Here is a beautiful close up shot of the eastern mouton bongo. They are indigenous to Kenya. Both males and females have spiraled shaped horns. They are known to eat dirt, in order to obtain salt. They are browsers, using their prehensile tongues to strip the leaves off branches.
31 This is Snook, a two-toed sloth. These sloths are from Central and South America. Sloths are the world's slowest animal. Although they are slow moving, some predators are wary, as a sloth’s bite passes harmful bacteria. They are arboreal and only come to ground about once a week to defecate, losing as much as 30% of their body weight!
32 Here is Snook’s baby, about a month old! Sloths are so sedentary that algae grows on their furry coats. The algae gives their coats a greenish tint that is useful camouflage in the trees.
33 This is Morticia, a striped hyena. These hyenas are from North and Northeast Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Female hyenas are dominant over males. An adult hyena’s bite pressure can reach 800 pounds per square inch!
34 A giant anteater and her baby! It’s nature amazing!? Look how the baby cameflouges into her back. These threatened animals eat 30,000 insects a day! They eat insects such as termites, ants, beetles, insect larvae. Occasionally they eat fruit. The giant anteater fulfills its need for water by licking wet vegetation.
35 Two young endangered grevy's zebras. There are fewer than 1,400 left. I just love their round ears, so different than other zebras. These zebras can be up to nine feet long and weigh up to 900 pounds. The grevy’s zebra is the largest wild member of the horse family. The total wild population is probably fewer than 6,000 animals.
36 This is Quilber, the African crested porcupine. They have black and white quills on their neck and backs, which they shed naturally. The quills are narrow and hollow and can be up to 20 inches long. But not all quills are the same length, they vary in length throughout the body. The quills are used for protection, and they make a rattling sound when the animal feels threatened.
37 Here we areas leaving the incredible LEO Zoological Conservation Center. LEO is open to the public by appointment only. You can visit their web site to find out more. http://leozoo.org