The Hattiesburg Zoo has welcomed the only surviving hyena born in North America in 2022. The baby, born October 17th at 12:45 p.m. was a single birth. Hyenas usually bear litters of two to four cubs, but approximately 60% of them don’t survive. The mothers are also in danger as the birth canal is only an inch in diameter, often making the birthing process fatal, as evidenced by the high death rate for first-time mothers.
Hyena births are tricky both in the wild and in a Zoo environment. “We are thrilled with the birth of this cub,” said Kristen Moore, animal curator for the Hattiesburg Zoo. “We feel good that Pili is doing well and is being a great mom to her first-born cub.” “Pili is nursing her baby who is suckling well, but we have hurdles yet to cross so we are cautiously optimistic at this point,” continued Moore.
The day after her birth, the animal care team was able to weigh the cub, and at that time weighed 1.45 kg. Today the cub weighs 2.05 kg, indicating that it is gaining weight at an appropriate rate. The baby reached another milestone yesterday when it met dad, Niru through the meshing of the hyena’s indoor enclosure. “Dad was great, and acknowledged his cub in a mild-mannered fashion,” said Moore.
Because of the delicate nature of hyena births and the importance of monitoring the care of both the cub and the mother, the Zoo’s animal care team has made the decision to close the walkway in front of the hyena habitat, which will prohibit guest viewing the pair at this time. “We ask our guests to be patient while our animal care team closely monitors the cub and mother in these important early stages as they acclimate to their habitat and spend time together,” said Rick Taylor, Executive Director of the Hattiesburg Convention Commission, which manages the Hattiesburg Zoo.
Niru came to the Hattiesburg Zoo in May of 2021 and Pili arrived in October of 2021 with the goal of breeding the pair. “This is an incredibly important birth for the Spotted Hyena’s Species Survival Program,” said Jeremy Cumpton, Director of Conservation, Education and Wildlife at the Hattiesburg Zoo. “This program ensures genetic diversity is maintained in populations and can only be maintained if proper breeding and rearing takes place.” “Due to the hierarchal nature of hyenas and the fact that they are social creatures, hand rearing a cub is not an option,” continued Cumpton.
Interestingly, spotted hyena cubs are born with their eyes open, contrary to the other two species (the striped hyenas and brown hyenas). It also takes time to tell if it the baby is a little girl or boy. Blood test will be done to determine the sex, and then the fun of giving it an appropriate name will begin.
This is not the first exciting birth for the Hattiesburg Zoo in 2022. Earlier this year, the zoo welcomed three more newcomers: a baby Colubs monkey, an expected baby giraffe and an expected baby sloth. All doing well and reunited with their peers for patrons to visit and enjoy.