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St. Louis Zoo Welcomes Baby Elephant, The Second Male Born In The Zoo

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Rani, the St. Louis Zoo's 23 year-old Asian elephant gave birth to a male on July 6, 2020.
St. Louis Zoo

Editor's note: This story was originally published in the Belleville News-Democrat.

The St. Louis Zoo’s 23-year-old Asian elephant has given birth to a male calf — only the second ever male elephant born in the zoo.

In a news release, the zoo said the baby was born at 1:55 p.m. on Monday. Both the baby and his mother, Rani, were doing well on Monday evening. The baby has not been named yet.

A visitor looks at pieces on display at the St. Louis Art Museum's 'The Shape of Abstraction: Selections from the Ollie Collection' exhibit. Oct. 9, 2019
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis museum and zoo lovers can start planning visits once again.

The Metropolitan Zoological Park and Museum District confirmed Tuesday that all of its member organizations are in the process of reopening. The district includes the region’s largest cultural institutions such as the St. Louis Art Museum, Zoo and Science Center.

The coronavirus pandemic had shut down museum and zoo operations since March.

May 7, 2020 Geoffrey Soyiantet
Courtesy of Geoffrey Soyiantet

In Swahili, the word “vitendo” means action. And taking action is what Geoffrey Soyiantet had in mind when he founded Vitendo4Africa in St. Louis 10 years ago: action to help connect and empower African immigrants in Missouri, action to preserve their culture.

A native of Kenya, Soyiantet moved to St. Louis 16 years ago after graduating from college in Nairobi. Now he works full time as Vitendo4Africa’s executive director, seeking to provide the support and community he wishes he had been able to find as a newcomer to the Midwest.

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, Soyiantet explained that he initially struggled. “It was a big challenge,” he said. Even language was a barrier, as Soyiantet was proficient in English, but had learned to speak in the British way.   

Aaron Sprowl (left) and Charmaine Vonkriegenbergh dive in a tank at St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station while Amber Lanwermeyer relays questions from folks watching at home.  [4/8/20]
St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station via Facebook

The doors to St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station are closed to the public for the foreseeable future. But frequent visitors to the aquarium can still return there through video livestreams, available on Facebook.

They recently got a peek inside with a virtual scuba diving lesson from general curator Aaron Sprowl as he swam around a water tank, surrounded by fish.

His mask was equipped with a headset that allowed him to talk to the audience at home. The diving livestream was one way aquarium employees are staying in touch with the facility’s audience and providing some content for would-be visitors who are sheltering at home. 

The Sichuan takins enjoying a bubble party at the St. Louis Zoo.
St. Louis Zoo

Things have been pretty quiet lately at one of the region’s most visited attractions — the St. Louis Zoo. On March 17, it closed its doors to the public to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

While the organization is operating under unusual circumstances and with limited staff, zoo fun continues on its social media feeds. Their #BringTheStlZooToYou initiative involves photos and videos of the zoo’s residents from its animal care teams. 

A visitor looks at pieces on display at the St. Louis Art Museum's 'The Shape of Abstraction: Selections from the Ollie Collection' exhibit. Oct. 9, 2019
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The Metropolitan Zoological Park and Museum District may recommend that its institutions consider consolidating services to save money. 

ZMD leaders will launch its shared services project this year. It will include a comprehensive review of the services and utilities used by each of its subdistricts. They include the St. Louis Zoo, Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis Art Museum, Missouri Botanical Garden and the St. Louis Science Center.

“Of that almost 11,000 vendors, only 6% of the services are supplied to two or more institutions together,” said J. Patrick Dougherty, Zoo Museum District executive director. “It seems like there’s plenty of opportunity for joint services.”

Dr. Deem examines a lemur while working in Madagascar.
St. Louis Zoo

The director of the St. Louis Zoo Institute for Conservation Medicine, Dr. Sharon Deem, wants people to understand just how much human health is dependent on the health of other animals and the environment.

She often shares the fact that since 2006, about 7 million bats in the U.S. have died from a disease called white-nose syndrome. The often-fatal disease derives from a fungus that arrived in the U.S. from Europe in 2006. While many people think of bats as pests, they are productive pollinators and eat a lot of mosquitoes. One bat eats roughly 6,000 mosquitoes in 24 hours. 

A box turtle
Shawn Klein

On a chilly, gray morning in Forest Park, three St. Louis Zoo scientists switched on 20-inch-long antennas to begin their search for a turtle named Pumpkin. 

Pumpkin is one of nine box turtles in Forest Park that scientists have tagged with tracking devices. Researchers at the St. Louis Zoo and St. Louis University are tracking box turtles in the city’s largest park and in a remote area in southwest St. Louis County to study how they thrive in urban and rural environments.

Palmer and her colleagues at the zoo recently reported in the journal Frontiers that the three-toed box turtles in the park have a higher mortality rate than the ones they tracked in the woods near Washington University’s Tyson Research Center.

The fossa is one of the mammals that scientists are studying in Madagascar.
Fidisoa Rasambainarivo

For nearly three decades, the Whitney R. Harris World Ecology Center at the University of Missouri-St. Louis has bestowed its World Ecology Award on prominent biodiversity-minded individuals ranging from John Denver to E.O. Wilson. But this year the center is instead honoring a pair of world-class local institutions — the Missouri Botanical Garden and the St. Louis Zoo — for their critical research and conservation work in Madagascar.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked with the center’s interim director, Patty Parker, and with a Malagasy scientist, Fidisoa Rasambainarivo, who is in St. Louis to speak at an upcoming gala where the zoo and garden are being honored.

Ben Jellen, an associate professor of biology at St. Louis College of Pharmacy, using a radio receiver to track a copperhead snake at Powder Valley Nature Center on August 30, 2019.
Shahla Farzan | St. Louis Public Radio

Only a few of the more than 40 snake species in Missouri are venomous, including the one Ben Jellen is looking for: the copperhead.

Copperheads have extraordinarily well-camouflaged bodies, which blend in with fallen leaves and branches. Although it’s the most common venomous snake species in Missouri, scientists know surprisingly little about its basic biology. Jellen, an associate professor of biology at St. Louis College of Pharmacy, is leading a small group of researchers who hope to learn more about this elusive snake.

Tobias prances around in an enclosure in the "Antelope Yards" at the St. Louis Zoo.
Emily Woodbury | St. Louis Public Radio

On July 30, St. Louis gained a new resident — Tobias, the Somali wild ass. His birth is special, since he is part of a subspecies that is both critically endangered in the wild and underrepresented in zoos nationwide. In fact, just by being born, Tobias increased the number of Somali wild asses in the United States by 1.5%.

Tuesday on St. Louis on the Air, Sarah Fenske spoke with Tim Thier, the acting curator of antelope at St. Louis Zoo, about the Somali wild ass and the zoo’s conservation efforts in the Horn of Africa, where the Somali wild ass resides.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 27, 2012 - Carol Perkins said her 26 years with renowned zoologist Marlin Perkins was more than a marriage. It was an adventure.

She would often recall in interviews a trip to the Belgian Congo with her then newly minted husband. She awoke one night to find a large lizard under her pillow.

Eric Miller (at left) and Jack Grisham have put in a combined 66 years of work at the St. Louis Zoo.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

It takes a village to raise a child, and it might take even more than that to care for the nearly 15,000 animals that call the St. Louis Zoo home.

Jack Grisham and Eric Miller are two people who know this well. They are retiring from the St. Louis Zoo after a combined 66 years of work experience there.

Grisham began his zoo career flipping burgers in high school and eventually became vice president for animal collections, and Miller came to St. Louis to work as one of the zoo’s veterinarians in the 1980s.

While part of the St. Louis Box Turtle Project, Georgette survived a serious bacterial infection and an animal attack. She died during the polar vortex at approximately age 15.
Jamie Palmer | St. Louis Zoo Institute of Conservation Medicine

For those who knew her, Georgette was a feisty drifter who lived and died in Forest Park.

She was also somewhat of a local celebrity.

The three-toed box turtle was one of the oldest subjects in the St. Louis Box Turtle Project, a study designed to understand the health and movement of urban turtles. Even among her armored prehistoric kin, Georgette was particularly tenacious. In 2014, she survived a serious bacterial infection, and a few months later, lost her front leg in an animal attack.

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger and political strategist Ed Rhode celebrate in Stenger's home. He defeated Republican challenger Paul Berry in Tuesday's election.
Chad Davis | St. Louis Public Radio

Steve Stenger, the incumbent St. Louis County executive, has won another four years in office.

Stenger, a Democratic, handily beat his opponents, Republican Paul Berry, a bail bondsman, and two third-party candidates with 57 percent of the vote. He will enter his second term as county executive in January facing a hostile County Council on which he has no reliable allies.

Also Tuesday, St. Louis County voters approved a zoo tax and four changes to the county charter, while St. Charles County residents passed a smoking ban.

Zoo backers want to build a breeding facility and outdoor attraction offering a safari-like experience in Spanish Lake.
Stephanie Richmond | St. Louis Zoo

When St. Louis Zoo president and CEO Jeffrey Bonner sketches out his plans for a proposed zoo annex in Spanish Lake, he evokes an idyllic scene based on an experience he had at a Florida zoo.

“If you can imagine sitting in a kayak and looking up maybe two or three feet up to the [river] bank,” he said in a recent interview, “and then looking up beyond that and seeing a 14-foot tall giraffe — it was amazing.”

The Zoo could make such activities possible if St. Louis County voters approve a ballot question in November, increasing the sales tax by one-eighth of a cent. The tax would add about an extra 12 cents to a $100 purchase.

Ben Uchitelle (left) and Jeffrey Bonner (right) debated their stance on Proposition Z, a 1/8th of one cent sales tax increase that ill help fund and maintain the St. Louis Zoo’s operations.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Earlier this year, the St. Louis Zoo Association bought a 425-acre complex in north St. Louis County through private funding to breed endangered and at-risk animals.

County voters will decide in the Nov. 6 midterm elections whether they will help fund and maintain the St. Louis Zoo’s operations through a 1/8th of one cent sales tax increase. The ballot measure, titled Proposition Z, would also allow free admission to the Conservation and Animal Science Center in Spanish Lake for county residents. The tax would add about 12 cents to a $100 purchase.

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh examined both sides of the ballot issue. Joining him to talk about it were St. Louis Zoo CEO Jeffrey Bonner, who supports the bill, and former St. Louis Zoo-Museum District board chair Ben Uchitelle, who opposes it.

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

St. Louis County residents will decide in November whether to spend more tax money to bolster the St. Louis Zoo.

The proposal would help spruce up the world-class attraction and build a new breeding facility and potential adventure park in north St. Louis County. But backers will need to convince county voters to raise the sales tax when some surrounding areas don’t directly contribute to the zoo.

President Donald Trump arrives at St. Louis Lambert International Airport to attend a fundraiser for GOP U.S. Senate hopeful Josh Hawley.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

This week’s Politically Speaking zeroes in on how President Donald Trump will affect Missouri’s election cycle — particularly U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill’s re-election bid against Attorney General Josh Hawley.

On the surface, Trump should benefit Hawley — especially because the GOP chief executive won Missouri by nearly 19 percentage points in 2016. Missouri’s public opinion polls show his approval ratings hovering around 50 percent. But Trump has faced a torrent of controversy this week with the Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen court proceedings.

Zoo staff decided to bottle-feed the baby lemur after observing that her mother was unable to nurse her.
Ethan Riepl | St. Louis Zoo

A new, tiny resident will now greet visitors to the St. Louis Zoo Primate House.

Princess Buttercup, a female mongoose lemur, is the first of her species to be born and reared successfully at the zoo. The critically endangered lemur species, which is found only on Madagascar, is the focus of a national cooperative breeding program intended to build a healthy population in captivity.

Michael Dawson of the St. Louis Zoo shows an American toad to a group of fourth-graders from Community School on May 4, 2018.
Shahla Farzan | St. Louis Public Radio

Armed with clipboards and binoculars, students from the St. Louis area got a chance to explore nearby forests, fields and ponds, all while cataloging local wildlife.

Local naturalists and wildlife experts helped guide small groups of students as part of the first BioBlitz at Principia School in Town and Country on Friday. The BioBlitz, which happens each year in communities across the U.S., is an effort to record plants and animals, while also helping “citizen scientists” feel more connected to nature.

Councilwoman Hazel Erby, D-University City
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of Politically Speaking, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies welcome back Councilwoman Hazel Erby to the program.

The University City Democrat represents the council’s 1st District, which takes in a number of municipalities in central and north St. Louis County. Erby represents most of Ferguson, and she was a key figure in the aftermath of the shooting death Michael Brown in that city in 2014.

A child looks at one of two grizzly bear cubs at the St. Louis Zoo in September 2017.
File photo I David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Members of the St. Louis County Council are placing an one-eighth of one cent sales tax on the November ballot to benefit the St. Louis Zoo.

While proponents of the measure believe it could enliven a part of the county that’s struggled economically, others believe it places too much of a burden on residents already shelling out property taxes to fund the zoo.

Curious Louis question-asker Rachel Duncan, left, and St. Louis Public Radio reporter Shahla Farzan, center, speak with Bill Houston of the Saint Louis Zoo.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Rachel Duncan doesn’t remember the first time she visted the St. Louis Zoo, but she’s pretty sure she was an infant.

“There’s not a summer in my life that I have not come to visit the St. Louis Zoo and enjoyed what it has to offer,” said Duncan. “It’s a part of my entire life.”

Like many St. Louisans, she feels personally connected to the animals at the zoo. That prompted her to ask our Curious Louis reporting series: What happens when an animal passes away at the zoo? Do they have a funeral? And how does it impact the workers?


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

The St. Louis County Council is close to placing a sales tax hike on the November ballot to pay for improvements for the St. Louis Zoo.

While council members appear to want to let the voters decide, the one-eighth of one cent sales tax could face sharp questions later this year — especially since only St. Louis and St. Louis County directly pay for the attraction.

Two grizzly bear cubs arrived at the St. Louis Zoo in the summer of 2017.
File photo I David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County voters may be asked to put more tax money into improving the St. Louis Zoo.

St. Louis County Councilwoman Rochelle Walton Gray introduced a 1/8th of one cent sales tax increase at Tuesday’s council meeting. If County Council members put it on the ballot, St. Louis County voters would decide on the measure on Nov. 6. The tax would add about 12 cents to a $100 purchase.

A child looks at one of two grizzly bear cubs at the St. Louis Zoo in September 2017.
File photo I David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 3:30 p.m. with additional information — The St. Louis Zoo Association is buying a 425-acre complex in north St. Louis County to breed endangered and at-risk animals, officials announced today.

The zoo is obtaining the land from the United Association of Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 562 for $7.1 million. The purchase is funded through donations from two undisclosed philanthropists.

Two grizzly bear cubs arrived at the St. Louis Zoo in the summer of 2017.
File photo I David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Visitors to the St. Louis Zoo will be able to watch two grizzly bear cubs from Montana starting Friday.

The male, Huckleberry and female, Finley, are both 2 1/2 years old. They and their mother were found disturbing residences and livestock, posing a risk to public safety. Montana wildlife officials killed the mother and sent the cubs to St. Louis Zoo, because zoo officials already had plans to revamp the grizzly bear exhibit.

File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis’ $10-an-hour minimum wage is a thing of the past. So is a Missouri resident’s ability to sue when he or she thinks age or race was part of the reason for being fired.

That’s because several new laws have taken effect as of Monday.

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

The fate of a sales tax hike to support the Saint Louis Zoo will be in voters’ hands, as Gov. Eric Greitens signed a bill into law Monday.

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