Author Archives: wentworth

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New Gray Wolf Exhibit

The Metro Richmond Zoo is thrilled to announce the opening of a new Gray wolf exhibit. The Gray wolf is native to North America and can live in a variety of habitats: forest, woodland, grassland, tundra, and arid locations. They are the largest member of the family Canidae. The Gray wolf is known for its legendary howl that can be heard up to seven miles away in wooded areas. The Gray wolf can be gray, white, black, or a mixture of these colors.

The new exhibit is located in the North American section of the Zoo near the alligators, elk, and bison. The large habitat is nestled in a forested and hilly area of the park. Visitors have great views of the wolves from an elevated boardwalk that wraps around the perimeter of the habitat.

A pair of wolves arrived at the Metro Richmond Zoo from another zoological park. Wolves are highly social animals that develop strong bonds with one another. They are monogamous, meaning a pair will mate for life. A pack consists of an alpha male and alpha female and their offspring from the previous few years. Pack size can be as few as two and occasionally up to fifteen or more. We hope our pair of wolves will build their pack here at the Zoo with future offspring. The Gray wolf’s breeding season in northern United States is from January to March.

Construction on the exhibit started in early 2020. This is the third opening of a major exhibit this year following the new otter and sloth exhibits. Additionally, this is the first time the Zoo has housed Gray wolves.

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Baby Pygmy Hippo

The Metro Richmond Zoo is excited to announce the birth of a female pygmy hippo. She was born on July 26th to parents Iris and Corwin. The baby is doing well and growing rapidly. This is the first pygmy hippo calf to be born at the Zoo and in Virginia.

The pygmy hippo is a rare, endangered species native to West Africa. With only 3,000 individuals left in the wild, their survival in zoological parks is more certain than their survival in the wild. This birth plays a vital role in helping protect this incredible species.

The gestation period of the pygmy hippo is 7 months, and we closely monitored Iris during her pregnancy. 2 days after birth, the baby had her first vet check, and she weighed 14.5 pounds. A full-grown pygmy hippo can weigh up to 600 pounds!

Iris is a fantastic mother. Initially, she and the calf stayed in a super comfy, hay-bedded enclosure so they could have privacy to bond and allow time for the baby to grow stronger.

When the baby was two weeks old, it was time for her first swim. We moved mom and baby into the indoor pool area and lowered the water level so the baby’s head could stay above the water. Iris and her baby quickly entered the water, and they loved playing in the pool. Since then, we have been conditioning the calf to swim by slowly increasing the water level each day.

Iris and her baby will stay in the indoor pool area until she is large enough to navigate the outdoor exhibit. There are viewing windows into this indoor area, and guests can see mom and baby every day at the Zoo. Our pygmy hippo exhibit opened summer 2018, and the Metro Richmond Zoo is currently the only place in Virginia where people can see hippos.

On October 14, 2020, the baby was officially named Violet after fans participated in an online voting poll.

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New Sloth Exhibit

The Metro Richmond Zoo is pleased to announce the opening of a new sloth exhibit. The new habitat, called Animals of the Amazon, features different species of animals native to the Amazon rainforest and other parts of South America. These species include: Two-toed sloth, Red-rumped agouti (a type of rodent), 2 species of tortoise, and 2 species of turtles.  

The Animals of the Amazon exhibit allows guest to see different species of animals coexisting as they might in the wild. It is designed to mimic layers of a natural ecosystem: turtles in the water below, tortoises and rodents on the forest floor, and sloths living in the foliage above.  

Here are some interesting facts about some of the animals in this exhibit:

Water below: The Matamata turtle has a flattened triangular head with a large, rough knobby carapace. Skin flaps along head and neck help detect prey. They have a tubular snout that acts as a snorkel- only the tip needs to be above water for breathing.

Forest floor: The Red-rumped agouti is a rodent native to forested areas of South America. They prefer access to water because they can swim. They love Brazil nuts, and they are the only mammal in their range that can open Brazil nut husks.

Foliage above: Two-toed sloths are solitary, arboreal, and nocturnal animals. They sleep about 15 hours per day and move very slowly when they are awake. They have a very slow metabolism. Food may take up to one month to ferment and digest in their multi-chambered stomach.

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New Otter Cove Exhibit Now Open!

The Metro Richmond Zoo is pleased to announce the opening of a new African Clawless otter exhibit. Otters have been a favorite at the Zoo for years, and now they have new and upgraded habitat. This exhibit, called Otter Cove, is more than 5 times the size of their previous home and it features a 12,000 gallon pool of water.

The African Clawless otter is the third largest species of otter in the world. Their hands are clawless and their feet are partially webbed. They are native to Africa near permanent bodies of water in the savanna or lowland forests. Otters are very intelligent, curious, and acrobatic. They love to swim, play, chase, and spin. Their whiskers are highly sensitive and can detect changes in water currents and nearby prey or predators.

Guests can now come face to face with Pili and Max, our two African Clawless otters, through 4 different viewing windows. Otter Cove provides our visitors with incredible views of the otters on land and in the water. Pili and Max are enjoying their new exhibit. Pili is 15 years old, a very old age for an otter, and Max is 6 years.

Construction on this exhibit began in the summer of 2018. It is the Metro Richmond Zoo’s most artistic and detailed exhibit to date. It is part of an ongoing process to remodel and improve many of our existing habitats.

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Celebrating 25 Years

Twenty five years ago, the Metro Richmond Zoo opened to the public on April 22, 1995, with 250 animals.

The Zoo has experienced tremendous growth over the years. Currently, the Zoo is situated on 150 acres and is home to 2,000 animals representing 190 species from around the world. The animals at the Zoo act as animal ambassadors for their wild counterparts to help inspire people to care about the survival of all animals. In 2019, an additional 30 acres of adjacent land was purchased which will allow for an expanded parking area and future animal exhibits.

The Metro Richmond Zoo is accredited by the Zoological Association of America (ZAA). The Zoo participates with many other zoological parks from around the world in conservation programs directed by ZAA and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to manage captive populations of many species. The Zoo is especially known nationwide for its successful conservation programs for the following endangered species: cheetah, African penguin, and Diana monkey. More information about our conservation efforts:


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Septuplet Cheetah Cubs Born

The Metro Richmond Zoo is pleased to announce the birth of 7 cheetah cubs! Vaila, a second time mother, gave birth to septuplets on November 30, 2018!

This is a very special birth to us because not only is it a big boost for Cheetah conservation by increasing the captive population, but also a cheetah having 7 cubs at once only happens 1% of the time! In addition, the sire is Kalu, a first time dad who was born and raised here at the Metro Richmond Zoo.

All 7 cubs have had several checkups and their first set of shots. They are in great health and growing fast!! Vaila and cubs are currently in our cheetah conservation center and are not on exhibit; however, we plan to move them into the zoo sometime in March 2019. We will make an announcement when they can be seen on exhibit.

The Cheetah is Africa’s most endangered cat, and the wild population has drastically declined from 100,000 to only 7,000 individuals.

The Metro Richmond Zoo works with both The Association of Zoos and Aquariums and Zoological Association of America cheetah conservation management programs.

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Pygmy Hippo Exhibit Now Open

The Metro Richmond Zoo is pleased to announce the opening of our new Pygmy hippo exhibit. The Pygmy hippopotamus is a rare species native to swamps and rivers in forested areas of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and the Ivory Coast. They are highly endangered, with only 3,000 individuals remaining in the wild.

At the Zoo, guests can come face to face with Corwin and Iris, our two Pygmy hippos. Corwin is a 2 year old male and Iris is an 11 year old female. The new exhibit provides our visitors with incredible views of the Pygmy hippo on land and in the water. People can interact with the hippos through our underwater viewing window.

Pygmy hippos share the same general form as the Nile hippo. However, the pygmy hippo is half as tall as the Nile hippo. Adult pygmy hippos stand 2.5-3 feet tall and are 4.9-5.7 feet in length. They weigh 350 to 600 pounds. Pygmy hippos are semi-aquatic and rely on the water to keep their skin moist and cool.

Construction on this exhibit began in the Fall of 2016. It is the Metro Richmond Zoo’s most expensive and detailed exhibit to date.


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3 White Lions Cubs

The Metro Richmond Zoo is pleased to announce the birth of 3 White lion cubs born to parents, Xonga and Basa, on April 2nd, 2018. After a 110 day gestation period, Xonga, a 3 year old, first time mother, gave birth to 1 male and 2 female cubs.

Xonga has shown excellent maternal care for her cubs. Both mom and babies are in great health. The cubs have been nursing, and they are growing rapidly. Xonga and her babies are currently in their off exhibit, private den. This allows time for the cubs and mom to bond. Once they are old enough, Xonga and her cubs will go outside on exhibit.

White lions are a rare color mutation of the African lion that occurs naturally in the Timbavati region in South Africa. They are not albino; they are leucistic, which is a lack of dark pigmentation. They get their coloring from a recessive gene known as a color inhibitor. While similar to albinism, this gene is far less severe. White lions still have pigmentation present in their eyes, paws, and lips. White lions can range in color from pale blonde to completely white. To produce a white lion, both parents must possess the recessive gene.

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ZAA Excellence in Breeding Award

The Metro Richmond Zoo is the recipient of the 2017 ZAA Excellence in Breeding award for our work in cheetah conservation! In 4 years, we have had 40 cheetah cubs born.

Zoo Director, Jim Andelin, receiving the award at the 2017 ZAA conference.

Thank you for the recognition, Zoological Association of America.

Read more about our highly successful cheetah conservation program. 

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Cheetah Cubs born July 20th, 2017

The Metro Richmond Zoo is pleased to announce the birth of 4 cheetah cubs to parents, Khari and Hatari. This is Khari’s 2nd  litter, Hatari’s 4th litter, and the Zoo’s 8th litter of cheetah cubs. Khari gave birth to 2 females and 2 males on July 20th, 2017 after a 3 month gestation.

These are the 37th, 38th, 39th, and 40th cheetah cubs born at the Metro Richmond Zoo since 2013. All four cubs are doing well and are in great health. The cubs were born in our off-exhibit Cheetah Breeding Center, but have just been moved to the cheetah exhibit in the Zoo. Khari and her 2 month old cubs can now be seen by zoo guests everyday. These are the youngest cheetah cubs we have ever had on exhibit.


The cheetah is Africa’s most endangered cat. In 1900, the cheetah population was around 100,000 individuals. However, due to habitat loss, human conflict, and illegal animal trade, the cheetah’s current wild population is in drastic decline. It is estimated there are around 7,000 cheetahs left in the wild. Cheetahs in the wild have an extremely high mortality rate. 90% of cubs die within the first three months of life. 50% of these deaths are attributed to predation and the other 40% fall victim to a lack of genetic diversity. Khari’s litter will make a significant addition to the captive cheetah population.

Come visit Khari and her cubs soon!

Otter Cove Now Open!

Kumbali and Kago

Zoo News

New Gray Wolf Exhibit

Baby Pygmy Hippo

New Sloth Exhibit

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