Saint Louis Zoo

Adult Ozark hellbenders can reach up to two feet in length, making them one of the largest salamanders in the world.
Ray Meibaum | Saint Louis Zoo

The Saint Louis Zoo is sharing its expertise in matchmaking ... for salamanders.

It's part of the 7th Hellbender Symposium, which has drawn more than 100 participants from the Midwest, the Eastern U.S., Japan and China.

Jeffry Smith drinks a bottle of water inside the Saint Louis Zoo while wearing an empty gun holster on Saturday, June 13, 2015.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Ohio gun-rights activist Jeffry Smith walked into the south entrance of the Saint Louis Zoo Saturday wearing an empty gun holster. One other man with an empty holster entered with him. Smith walked to the fountain on the far end of the entryway, took a drink of water, then turned around and walked back outside the zoo’s gates.

Smith originally planned to enter the zoo with a handgun, but decided Friday to wear an empty holster instead after a St. Louis judge issued a temporary restraining order against him and anyone else who might try to test the zoo’s rule against weapons.

Áine O'Connor

Following a conversation of the Saint Louis Zoo’s new polar bear exhibit with its curator of mammals, Steve Bircher, St. Louis Public Radio science reporter Véronique LaCapra and “St. Louis on the Air” producer Alex Heuer took a field trip to the nearby Penguin and Puffin Coast.

“It’s been a while since I’ve been to the zoo, and this opened up in March,” Véronique said. “But I have not yet had a chance to see it, so we’re going to take a sneak peek inside.”

Kali takes a swim at the Saint Louis Zoo.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

This Saturday, St. Louisans will get their first chance to see the new polar bear at the Saint Louis Zoo.

The 2 1/2 year-old, 850-pound Kali arrived at the zoo in early May, but he has been kept out of sight since then for a health quarantine and to give him time to get used to his new surroundings.

Members of the media got an early look at Kali and the zoo's new polar bear exhibit space on Thursday. Here's St. Louis Public Radio's sneak preview!

The Saint Louis Zoo's curator of birds Michael Macek works to conserve Humboldt penguins in Punta San Juan, Peru.
Courtesy of Saint Louis Zoo

The St. Louis Zoo is spotlighting its efforts to save threatened wildlife Saturday with educational activities and a children's scavenger hunt during its 10th annual Endangered Species Day.

Zoo CEO Jeffrey Bonner called the institution a leader in animal conservation, but he acknowledges that many people don't know about its vital role in saving wildlife.

(Via Flikr/Derringsdo)

Who has the best zoo?

“We always say that the best zoo is the accredited zoo closest to where you live,” said Saint Louis Zoo CEO and president Jeffrey Bonner. “I think, for me at least, it’s the quality of the exhibits, the quality of the visitor experience and, of course, underpinning that is the conservation programs, the research programs, the education programs. I happen to think that our zoo is the best in terms of the visitor experience.”

He’s not alone.

You may have stayed away from the Zoo over the Fourth of July weekend, because of the festivities in  Forest Park. But you have plenty of time to get there this summer. As you make your plans, here are a few things about our Zoo that might surprise you.

For example, did you know the Zoo studied camels in Kenya this year to evaluate their milk as a human beverage? Or that it documented the number of endangered Humboldt penguins in Punta San Juan, Peru?

Lincoln Brower

The City of St. Louis and several partners are launching a project to help monarch butterflies.

It involves encouraging area residents to plant milkweeds -- a plant with large fruit pods that release fluffy seeds in the fall.

The Saint Louis Zoo is one of the partners in the “Milkweeds for Monarchs” initiative, along with the Missouri Botanical Garden and the Missouri Department of Conservation.

The zoo's curator of invertebrates, Edward Spevak, says milkweeds are critical to the monarch’s survival.

Roger Brandt/Saint Louis Zoo

A sea lion has died at the St. Louis Zoo.

“Bennie,” as he was known, was born at the zoo in 2002 and would have been 12 years old in June.

The 500 pound sea lion was one of the stars of the zoo’s sea lion show. But he stopped performing two weeks ago and had been under veterinary care.

The zoo says a necropsy will be performed by its pathologist, but it will take several weeks for the zoo to get the lab results needed to determine the cause of death.

(Saint Louis Zoo)

The Saint Louis Zoo is forging ahead with building a new, state-of-the-art polar bear exhibit.

The 40,000-square-foot McDonnell Polar Bear Point will more than double the zoo’s previous polar bear habitat, which closed in 2009.

Features of the exhibit will include:

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

In a slight departure from the cute-beyond-debate baby animal post, today we bring you a look at a group of highly endangered baby snakes born at the Saint Louis Zoo. 

The Zoo says nine ocellate mountain vipers were born there on Aug. 16. The species is from northeastern Turkey.

(Kim Downey/Saint Louis Zoo)

The Saint Louis Zoo has released photos and video of one of its newest editions, a baby okapi named Umeme. 

The zoo says the name is Swahili for “lightning."

Umeme, a female, weighed in at just over 52 pounds when she was born on June 17. Okapis are also known as "forest giraffes" and the zoo says they're likely endangered in the wild due to hunting and political crises in their native area of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The zoo says the animals are one of the last mammals "discovered" by the scientific community, as the "discovery" came in 1901.

Dan Kirk/Saint Louis Zoo

For a second year, the St. Louis Zoo is continuing efforts to bring back an endangered beetle to southwestern Missouri.

Sharon Deem, Saint Louis Zoo

Camels are known for their ability to travel long distances across the desert without water.

But they’re also becoming an increasingly important source of milk for people in drought-prone regions. That includes East African countries like Kenya, where camel numbers have skyrocketed over the past few decades.

But introducing camels — or any species — to a new region, could mean bringing in new diseases.

The St. Louis Zoo has been studying camel diseases in Kenya to help assess their risks.

Katie Pilgram / St. Louis Zoo

Updated with photos of new calf & naming information May 6:

The St. Louis Zoo has announced that the elephant has been named Priya (pronounced Pree-yah) after 53,692 votes from the public were counted.

The name means "dear" or "beloved" and received just over 29 percent of the votes. The runner-up name was "Willow."

Original story from April 27:

Late Friday night the St. Louis Zoo's 42-year-old Asian elephant, Ellie, gave birth to a female calf.   With the new addition the zoo’s elephant herd now grows to ten. 

(Ray Meibaum/Saint Louis Zoo)

Another little one has arrived at the Saint Louis Zoo -- this time it's a colobus monkey named Kivuli, which is Swahili for ghost or shadow.

The name is appropriate for her birthday Oct. 31, 2012, Halloween. Kivuli is her mother Cecilia's first baby. All colobus monkey babies are born with white hair and a pink face, and eventually change color to have predominantly black hair with white accents. 

In the wild, colobus monkeys are found throughout the forests of east and central Africa. Kivuli, Cecilia and the father, Kima, are all on view now at the Zoo.

(Rachael Macy/Saint Louis Zoo)

I'm always a sucker for baby animal photos, but, in this case, the animal will one day have quite a "sucker" of her own.

A giant anteater, named Sabia, was born Aug. 14 and will eventually have a tongue that can extend up to two feet to capture the up to 30,000 ants she'll eat each day. 

Sabia is scheduled to make her Zoo debut today with her mother, weather permitting, from about 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.

The historic range of the giant anteater is in Central America, but the Zoo says the species is in danger of extinction in the wild.

Jill Utrup/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The Saint Louis Zoo once again is teeming with baby giant salamanders.

For the second year in a row, the zoo has successfully bred endangered Ozark hellbenders in captivity.

This time, a total of eight females laid 2,809 fertile eggs. Two-hundred and fourteen salamander larvae have hatched so far, with many more expected.

Even though the salamanders are smaller than a quarter when they first hatch, as adults they can reach lengths of up to two feet.

(Courtesy Saint Louis Zoo)

Updated 5:52 p.m.

Carol Perkins, a conservationist and humanitarian and the widow of famed zoologist Marlin Perkins, has died.

The Saint Louis Zoo says Carol Perkins died Saturday at her home in Clayton, Mo. She was 95 and had been in declining health.

Marlin Perkins was the director of the Saint Louis Zoo who gained international fame after becoming host of television's "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" in 1962. The program aired for 26 years until his death in 1986.

(via Saint Louis Zoo)

Updated at 3:25 with comments from Zoo officials.

Plans to expand the Saint Louis Zoo are moving forward with the zoo's purchase of the 13.5-acre property of the former Forest Park Hospital.

The Saint Louis Zoo Association, a private non-profit, closed the purchase on Friday. Price and contract terms were not disclosed. Plans for the deal were announced in March

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