Being an animal lover isn’t all sharable viral videos of cats in boxes and memes involving terrified red pandas. It also entails being reminded (often in heartbreaking fashion) just how many species we’re losing on an annual basis. The World Wildlife Fund reports that “the rapid loss of species we are seeing today is estimated by experts to be between 1000 and 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate,” which means that even on the low end of things, there are between 200 and 2000 extinctions that occur every year (a number that could go as high as 100,000 per year, if we consider “upper estimates” that there are 100 million different species on the planet).
But despite disheartening facts and figures, the news isn’t all bad (we promise!)—in fact, there are plenty of endangered and threatened species slowly getting their bearings back, thanks to the effort of various wildlife reserves and zoos. In need of some extremely cute proof? We can provide that, in the form of 16 newborns from 11 very different species, all of which have recently entered a world desperate for more of their special brand of unique adorableness!
1. Northern White-cheeked Gibbon
Though the Northern White-cheeked Gibbon is extinct in China, nearly extinct in northern Vietnam (a large portion of their estimated 450-strong population can be found there), and is listed as Critically Endangered in Laos, the primate species is getting a big boost from various captive breeding programs, including the Gibbon Conservation Center in California. Their newest infant, Dennis, arrived late last month, joining five other baby gibbons born at the center in the last 18 months. Though Dennis is buff-colored now, his fur will soon turn darker like all other gibbon males. Dennis’s parents, Ricky and Vok, have already proven to be successful gibbon parents over the years—Dennis is their sixth child in a 26-year period.
2. Pygmy Slow Loris
Another rare primate that’s recently added to its all-important numbers is the Pygmy Slow Loris, perhaps the “highly threatened primate” most adept at staring into people’s souls. This little guy was born back in August at the Akron Zoo as part of their specialized Pygmy Loris Specialized Survival Plan. The species is indigenous to Vietnam, Laos, China, Thailand, and Cambodia (though they’re nearly impossible to spot in the wild) and it’s estimated that there are around 175 currently living in captive breeding programs, including Akron’s stellar set-up.
3. African Hunting Dog
Late last month, the Edinburgh Zoo welcomed their first newborn African Hunting Dog, an adorable ball of sass that is currently unnamed and unsexed (he or she could be named anything!). The new pup was born to the zoo’s dog pack’s non-dominant female, Jet, and its father is presumed to be dominant dog Blade (while it’s rare for non-dominant females to give birth, it’s not unheard of, and it certainly gives the zoo’s breeding program an auspicious start). There are less than 5500 hunting dogs in the wild, and their numbers are consistently threatened by diminishing habitats and farmers who kill them, despite the fact that the dogs rarely attack livestock. The zoo’s first pup is a crucial kickstart to breeding efforts both at Edinburgh and across the world.
4. Asiatic Lion
Parken Zoo via Zooborns
Sweden’s Parken Zoo had a summer worth celebrating when they got no less than three brand new Asiatic Lion cubs, born to mom Ishara and dad Kaja, back in July. The cubs are all thriving and were recently introduced to their older siblings, two-year-olds Khana and Gir (who had been in the care of other members of their pride while the triplets were getting raised up by Ishara). While Asiatic Lions once populated large portions of southern Asia and the Middle East, the majority of their slim 400-strong population now lives principally in India’s Gir Forest. Despite their small numbers, their population has nearly doubled over the past four decades, giving hope to the species.
5. Somali Wild Ass
Go ahead, laugh it up, we can wait. The Somali Wild Ass certainly has a silly name, but the critically endangered African natives are getting serious about their breeding efforts. Over at England’s wonderful Woburn Safari Park, the species is in the middle of a well-deserved baby boom, with three (currently unnamed) foals born over the last few months. The herd’s proud (and apparently virile) stallion Simon sired all three bouncing babies. The trio joins a sparsely populated breed (estimates hold that there are as few as 280 left in the wild), and with only two other zoos in the UK currently breeding the species, each baby is a serious gift to the population.
6. Giant Otter
Singapore’s Wildlife Reserve might have a bit of a leg up when it comes to Giant Otter breeding – their River Safari is the only zoo in all of Asia that houses the big guys, making it pretty easy for them to tout some cool facts, like that they welcomed the first pup to be born in all of Asia back in August. Jumps on the competition aside, the River Safari provides a wonderful home for their Giant Otters, which are some of the most endangered otters on the planet. This little guy weighed about three pounds at birth, but he’ll eventually grow to weigh a staggering 75 pounds (and he could be six feet long!). It’s estimated that there are only about 5,000 Giant Otters in the wild, and they are still rare finds even in captivity.
7. Pampas Deer
M’Bopicuá via Zooborns
In late September, Uruguay’s own Estación de Cría de Fauna M'Bopicuá welcomed a tiny Pampas Deer female fawn, a special birth for their breeding station, considering the species’ threatened status in the country and the station’s dedication to protecting and repopulating native species. Once easily found across South America, the species’ population has been threatened over the years by hunters, habitat conversion, and feral dogs. Despite their heavily reduced habitat area, they continue to live in small areas in Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay, and they are legally protected in Argentina (where they have homes on both private and federal reserves).
8. Red Panda
Patrick Bolger / Dublin Zoo via Zooborns
If there is any species poised to usurp the Internet throne from felines, it is the beloved Red Panda and, fortunately for the species’ many fans, their population is continuing to grow. The Dublin Zoo welcomed twin cubs back in July, marking the third litter born to their parents Angelina and Chota (who the pair, one boy and one girl, have reportedly bonded with quite strongly). Though Red Pandas are listed as a “Vulnerable” species, they are protected in a number of areas, including parts of China, India, and Nepal. There are currently an estimated 10,000 adult Red Pandas in the wild, but the breeding efforts of zoos (and all that Internet love) are an attempt to help the species' numbers grow larger.
9. Eastern Black Rhinoceros
Todd Rosenberg / Lincoln Park Zoo via Zooborns
Loyal subjects, please meet King. King, please meet your loyal subjects. Lincoln Park Zoo’s baby King (the Eastern Black Rhinoceros was named after the zoo’s longtime patron, King Harris) was born back in August at the Illinois zoo, and he’s been busy winning hearts ever since. The zoo has housed rhinos for over three decades, and they also contribute to helping the species (a Critically Endangered one) by way of their breeding program and extensive fieldwork in South Africa. King’s species is a subspecies of the Black Rhino, and one that was almost declared extinct back in the '90s. It’s currently estimated that there are about 5000 rhinos out in the wild. Heartbreakingly enough, the Western Black Rhino subspecies has officially been declared extinct, making the birth of baby King more important to rhinos than ever before.
10. Western Lowland Gorilla
Belfast Zoo via Zooborns
While the birth of any endangered or threatened animal can be marketed as a miracle, the birth of baby Western Lowland Gorilla Baako is actually quite strangely miraculous. Baako’s wild-born dad, Gugas, was long considered to be infertile, so when Baako’s mom Kwanza ended up pregnant, it was a joyful surprise for the team at the Belfast Zoo. Even better? Baako is the first gorilla of his kind to be born at the zoo in 16 years, and the little guy (born in August) is already thriving. Western Lowland Gorillas are considered Critically Endangered, despite being the most numerous subspecies of gorilla, because of threats from poaching, habitat loss, and the Ebola virus. While the exact number of wild gorillas is unknown, there are currently about 550 in zoos and reserves around the world.
11. Rothschild’s Giraffe
Budapest Zoo via Zooborns
The Budapest Zoo added to their Rothschild’s Giraffe herd back in August with the birth of the very charming Sempala. The calf is reportedly already a “fan favorite” and has kept busy hamming it up for her many visitors. Of the nine African giraffe subspecies, Rothschild’s are the most rare, and they are currently classified as an endangered species. While there are only about 700 Rothschild’s Giraffes in the wild (and only in Kenya and Uganda), there are a hefty number of breeding programs in place for the subspecies, mainly dedicated to keeping its gene pool pure (not mingled with other subspecies of giraffe).
For more photos of these adorable animals—and many more—head over to Zooborns!