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Zoo New England welcomes nyala and whooping cranes

Visitors to both Zoo New England’s Franklin Park Zoo and Stone Zoo will notice new furry and feathered faces with the recent exhibit debut of lowland nyala at Franklin Park Zoo and whooping cranes at Stone Zoo.

Two young lowland nyala, half-brothers named Kondoo and Blue, recently made their exhibit debut. They are the first of this species to reside at Franklin Park Zoo. As these year-old antelopes continue to grow, their large spiral horns, for which this species is known, will be very impressive.

The lowland nyala are acclimating to their new home in Franklin Park Zoo’s Kalahari Kingdom, which they will share with the red river hogs. While they become familiar with this space, they are expected to be in the outdoor habitat every other day until they are introduced to the red river hogs.

"We couldn’t be happier about the arrival of the lowland nyala," said Chris Bartos, Assistant Curator at Franklin Park Zoo. "As an ambassador for African wildlife, the nyalas’ will further connect guests to the rich biodiversity of our planet and serve as a reminder of the importance of protecting this beautiful species.”

Nyala are found in the thickets and dry savanna woodlands of southeastern Africa. They are closely related to several species of spiral horned antelopes, including bongo, sitatunga and bushbuck. Only males develop the trademark twisted horns; they start growing at a young age and become spiralized as the males mature. Nyala are herbivores, and eat leaves, twigs, flowers, fruits and grass. They are often found in close proximity to foraging monkeys and eat the fruit these monkeys drop from the trees.

At Stone Zoo in Stoneham, a new whooping crane pair is causing a flurry of excitement. Visitors to the zoo can now see the feathered faces of whooping cranes Lightning and Kipling. Lightning, a 2-year-old male and Kipling, an 18-year-old female, have been on exhibit together for about three weeks.

Zoo New England is an active participant in the whooping crane Species Survival Plan (SSP), which is a cooperative, inter-zoo program coordinated nationally through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. SSPs help to ensure the survival of selected species in zoos and aquariums, most of which are threatened or endangered, and enhance conservation of these species in the wild. Lightning and Kipling were paired together on an SSP recommendation.

"For many years, we have been committed to the conservation of this endangered species," said Pete Costello, Assistant Curator at Stone Zoo. "While people may have heard of whooping cranes, few have had the privilege of seeing one in real life. We hope that when guests see these magnificent birds in person, they will better understand the importance of the conservation work we do every day.”

Whooping cranes are one of only two crane species are found in North America. After declining to only about 22 wild birds in the 1940s, there are about 800 whooping cranes left in the world today. While this represents less than 4% of its historic size, the whooping crane population continues to increase by about 4% a year due to extensive conservation efforts on their behalf. Zoo New England is proud to support the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' SAFE initiative: a commitment to harness our collective resources, focus on specific endangered species (including whooping cranes), and save them from extinction by restoring healthy populations in the wild.

Whooping cranes are named after their distinctive whooping call, which can carry over several kilometers as a way to announce their breeding territory to other whooping cranes. They are the tallest of the North American bird species. Both males and females grow to about 5 feet tall with a 7- to 8-foot wingspan.