Sydney's famous Taronga Zoo cares for over 4,000 animals and regularly celebrates the births of a variety of different reptiles, mammals, and birdlife. Many of these cheerful occasions are the result of the zoo’s renowned breeding programs which importantly save threatened and decimated species; other bundles of joy are simply a consequence of mother nature, although just as cute.
Throughout its 100-year history, Taronga Zoo has experienced the miracle births of Asian elephants and chimpanzees, and even white rhinos.
Among its more recent arrivals are five tiny feathertail glider joeys, some of whom are still furless, blind and are about the size of about half a grain of rice! The zoo has shared some photos on their social media of the few older joeys, who barely cover the fingertips of the carer.
Thanks to Twitter, you don’t have to be a tourist, Tinder date or any kind of ticket holder to see the fresh faces at Taronga Zoo. Here we’ve selected some of the cutest baby animals at the wildlife conservator to be gawked and goo-gooed at.
Feathertail glider joeys
You might recognise these friendly faces from their 20 years of fame as the mascot of Australia's lowest decimal currency, the 1 cent coin.
In the wild, these tiny creatures are avoid predators with their rodent-like speed; they can also glide in the air for up to 25 metres. Like most glider species, feathertail gliders live along the east coast of Australia, where there are many trees for food and shelter.
African wild dog pups
This hungry pack are sadly now one of Africa’s most endangered animals. Their range has declined from 33 to 15 countries. Their scientific name is Lycaon pictus, which means "painted wolf" - the dogs' black, yellow and white mottled fur looks like an unusually patchy German shepherd.
These wild dogs are known for being a social species and although they don't have a wide variety of facial expressions like wolves, they greet one another with affectionate face licking. A mother can give birth to as many as 16 pups; unlike other predators, African wild dogs allow their young to feed on a kill before the adults. Taronga Zoo welcomed nine pups in February this year.
Greater one-horned rhino calf
This little guy is Rajah, meaning ‘prince’. His birth is the happy achievement of 15 years hard work and dedication from Taronga Zoo staff to support conservation efforts of these vulnerable animals, poached in great numbers due to their horns used in some Asian traditional medicine practices.
Although these native Northern Indian and Nepalese animals have extremely poor vision, their hearing and sense of smell is acute, and interestingly, Indian rhinos are also excellent swimmers and like to paddle out in water while wallowing in mud. According to zoo staff, little Rajah is a fussy eater. So much so, that if his favourite treat - banana - has brown skin, he won't eat it.
The two meerkat pups Lwazi and Serati's names reflect their African heritage in the Kalahari Desert. Lwazi is the bigger of the two and described as being more adventurous and inquisitive than his quieter sister who prefers to stay close to their mum.
Even at a few weeks old, the two are already practising for ‘sentry duty’, where they stand on their hind legs. Although meerkats may look sweet, small and cute, they have the ability to kill many venomous creatures such as snakes and scorpions.
Just when you thought that baby echidnas couldn't get any more cuter with their stocky little bodies and their miniature snout, you find out they're called 'puggles'.
Not all of Taronga Zoo's baby animals are born in captivity - Newman, named after the Seinfeld character who shares its beady eyes, was brought to the zoo in a terrible shape. The lucky puggle has made a remarkable recovery after being left seriously injured when its burrow was dug up by a bulldozer last year.
After a series of antibiotics and being palm-fed a special milk mixture from its surrogate mum, Taronga keeper Samantha Eton, Newman has almost doubled in size.
Last year the zoo welcomed more than 20 baby chameleons who hatched from eggs in a special climate-controlled area in the reptile park. These tiny hatchlings were so small, they could sit comfortably on the end of a pencil tip!
They are related to the veiled chameleon species native to Yemen and Saudi Arabia. As the chameleons are now maturing into adulthood, their colour palette will start to evolve and the reptiles will very soon be able to showcase their famous transformation tricks.
Little long-necked Nyah [Ni-ah], meaning ‘purpose’ in Swahili, got the zoo's new year off to an exciting start, being born on 1st January 2016. Giraffes are distantly related to other even-toed ungulates, such as deer and cattle, however, on account of being born with horns, they’re placed in their own separate family; only giraffes and okapi are labelled as ‘ossicones’.
Taronga zoo’s Nyah apparently has a shy character and zoo staff have reported that she spends her days coy, at the back of the giraffe exhibit.
Francois' langur baby
This stunning, bright orange primate is one of the world’s rarest monkeys. Due to his eye-catching colour, the keepers at Taronga have named him ‘Nangua’, the Mandarin word for ‘pumpkin’.
True to the behaviour of Francois' langurs (also known as Francois leaf-monkeys), Nangua has been passed around and cared for by other female mothers since his birth. This is called allomothering or ‘auntying’, a common parenting practice within these monkeys.
Oriental small-clawed otter pups
These baby otters are residents of Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo, NSW. Their species is the smallest of all the otters and their natural habitat is in mangroves and rice fields in South-East Asia and some parts of China.
They are very social creatures and the males and females form strong relationships. Parents will work together to raise their pups, which has been demonstrated at Taronga. The older siblings of these pups have even been helping mum and dad with grooming and baby-sitting duties.
Common ring-tailed possum joey
Another Australian native found injured and alone in the wild, and saved by zoo keepers at Taronga Zoo. Young Harry is sadly one of the many baby possums who end up in this situation - his mother was likely killed by a car collision or the odd dangerous electricity pole.
Although we see these critters in the backyards of suburban homes, hissing in the night and climbing outdoor decking, the natural habitat of possums is within bush woodlands and rain forests.
Another favourite at the Dubbo campus, Cheetah cub Siri, which means ‘secret’ in Swahili. She was hand-raised by Western Plains zoo staff after being rejected from her mother. Since her vulnerable first stages of life, adorable Siri has been introduced to an unlikely companion - a 7-week old retriever cross mastiff puppy named Iris.
The unique duo have short play sessions 2-3 times per day, where the two roll around together and Iris grumpily puts up with Siri’s “drama queen” behaviour.
Brush-tailed rock wallaby joey
Rock wallaby joeys usually spend 6 months in their mother’s pouch before emerging and delighting keen-eyed onlookers. This Australian native is abundant and widespread across south-east Australia and inhabits rock piles and cliff lines of rain forests and drier sclerophyll areas. However, they are slowly becoming endangered as their habitats are increasingly lost by introduced predators such as foxes and feral cats.
Australian Sea-lion pup
Sea-lion pup Max, short of 'Maximus', excitedly turned 1 this month. As wild sea-lions are often fatally injured by marine debris and are currently endangered, Max continues to grow with a vibrant personality in captivity.
He spends his time playing in the exhibit’s waterfall, trying to catch water in his mouth and barking at the splashes; Max also enjoys working with the zoo’s keepers, whom he apparently mock-charges and bellows at.
Kirra, named after an Aboriginal word for ‘leaf’, likes to explore the world outside her mother’s pouch. Equipped with amazing features, koalas are the only known animal who potentially evolved a smaller brain to help them conserve energy.
Their enormous noses help them detect the level of toxins in the leaves that they eat, and their thick fur keeps them dry in wet weather. Koala’s breed in the spring, between October to November; however, little Kirra was an early baby, arriving in June last year.
And there you have it - a collection of adorable Aussie-born animals to brighten this dark, damp Tuesday after a long weekend. You're welcome.