Cute babies for days
Get ready to squee: It's time for LiveScience's annual look back at all the adorable babies born at zoos around the world over the past year, one birth for each month. From a U.S. panda cub boom to fluffy swan hatchlings, we've got enough cute to get you through to the New Year.
January – Przewalski’s Horse foal
A Przewalski’s Horse foal came into the world on Jan. 29 at Sydney's Taronga Zoo, a boon for the endangered species. The horse, the only true species of wild horse left in the world, is native to the steppes of central Asia. Once listed as extinct in the wild, captive Przewalski’s horses (Equus ferus przewalskii) were re-introduced into the wild to re-establish the population, though there are only about 250 wild horses in Mongolia and about 1,500 horses in captivity. The species was named after the Russian explorer Nicolai Przewalski (pronounced sheh-val-skee).
February – California condor chick
This baby is so ugly it's cute. The California condor chick was the first of the hatching season born at the San Diego Zoo this year, on Feb. 24. Dubbed "Wesa," the chick was eating up to 15 mice a day at just two weeks old! The senior condor keeper used a condor hand puppet to help him rear the baby bird so that it identified with condors and not humans. California condors are listed as critically endangered, and the zoo's breeding program helps replenish the wild population.
March – Sumatran tiger cub
Here's the first entry to feed your fuzzball fix: a Sumatran tiger cub born at the Sacramento Zoo on March 3 to mom Bahagia. As you can tell from the photo, tiger cubs are born with their eyes close and depend on mom. Fewer than 500 Sumatran tigers, the smallest tiger subspecies, are thought to exist in the wild. Breeding tigers in zoos helps maintain the genetic diversity of the species.
April – Asian elephant calf
Weighing in at a whopping 251 lbs. at birth, baby Asian elephant Priya is still as cute as a button. Born at the St. Louis Zoo to mom Ellie on April 26, Priya quickly began exploring, picking things up with her trunk and playing with her mom and sisters. Asian elephants are endangered, with only an estimated 35,000 to 50,000 left in the wild.
May – White rhino calf
The birth of a little male white rhino calf at the Taronga Zoo was much welcomed considering the plight of rhinos in Africa thanks to poaching. The wee rhino was born to mom Mopani on May 14. The birth was also welcome because several of the zoo's rhinos died from illness earlier in the year.
June – Swan hatchlings
The six fluffy little swans born at Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo on June 5 are no ugly ducklings. Once they grow up, the cygnets (the name for a young swan) will be released into the wild to bolster their species, the trumpeter swan. These swans were on the brink of extinction just a few decades ago, but release efforts have brought the bird back.
July – Panda cub twins
A squee-inducing panda baby boom began in the United States with the rare birth of twin cubs to Zoo Atlanta's resident female panda, Lun Lun, on July 15. In the wild, the mother would only raise one cub, but keepers alternated the two babies between Lun Lun and an incubator so that both would survive. The fuzzy cubs are both boys, named Mei Lun (may loon) and Mei Huan (may hwaan). And they weren't quite as fluffy and cute when they were born, as panda cubs are born pink and largely without fur.
August – Panda cub
The panda baby bonanza continued into August, with the birth of a much-anticipated new cub at the National Zoo on Aug. 23. Born to Mei Xiang, the little female cub was named Bao Bao (meaning "precious" or "treasure" when she reached 100 days old on Dec. 1. The adorable addition can be viewed with her mother on the zoo's popular panda cam.
September – Addax calf
You may never have heard of the addax before, but like most baby animals, their calves are pretty darn cute. This male addax calf was born at Chicago's Brookfield Zoo on Sept. 4, to 15-year-old mom, Mona. The calf was the fourth male born at the zoo this year and all are important births for the species (Addax nasomaculatus), which is a critically endangered type of antelope native to the Sahara that is threatened by hunting and habitat loss.
October – Orangutan baby
Look at those wild tufts of hair! Orangutan mom Indah inspects the hands and fingers of her two-week-old female infant, born at the San Diego Zoo on Oct. 25. The baby, with her spindly limbs, has a natural instinct to hold tight to her mom. Orangutans are native to the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, and are critically endangered by the destruction of their habitat as forests are cleared for planting palm oil and harvesting timber.