Babies, babies, babies. It is that wonderful time of the year where the little pitter patter, growls, whines and yips can be heard in zoos around the country. Every kit, cub, chick or calf is a small sign of success toward our goal of keeping animals around for our future. Recently, we have had many exciting births at Lee Richardson Zoo. From the alpaca, the Goeldi's monkey, the Bactrian camel and, most recently, the addax, we have been able to experience the joy of success. Personally, I am most excited about the birth of the addax calf.

The addax is one of the rarest mammals in the world! In the wild they are found in Saharan Africa, where their broad hooves help them traverse the fine sands of the desert. Unfortunately, broad hooves don't work as well on solid surfaces such as asphalt, and as humans move into their habitat for resources and tourism, the addax becomes too slow to evade predators and poachers. This dropping population in the wild just makes it all the more critical that we are successful with our breeding program. Joy has had three calves while at Lee Richardson Zoo. Calves from previous years were sent to San Diego Wild Animal Park and Zoo Miami to continue the Species Survival Plan for the addax. Species Survival Plans (or SSPs) are very intricate breeding plans that are created for each of the threatened and endangered species found in zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. In essence, SSPs are international dating services for the animals.

When populations drop to very low levels it can be difficult to reduce the problems that can arise from a small gene pool. The addax is an example of this with less than 300 individuals in the wild. Specialists examine everything from family trees, genetic samples and bloodline representation. Then you throw in the individual will and personalities of the animals. If you have ever been on a blind date, then you can understand that what others might think is a good match really isn't. When the personalities turn out to be incompatible, specialists re-examine their charts, graphs and data and try to find another match which may turn out to be better. On top of all this, the recommendation that the SSP gives to zoos then needs to be figured out logistically. If animal A needs to be with animal B, where does animal C go? What is the safest way to transport the animals?

After all the data crunching, transport logistics and poop cleaning, you get to witness a rare and beautiful animal of our planet experience this wonderful world for the first time. Every sound is new, scary and intriguing to all baby creatures of the Earth. Come on down to the zoo and witness this for yourself. Enjoy being a part of our diverse and connected planet through some of the rarest animals that we help protect at Lee Richardson Zoo.