Cute Overload: New Animals Arrive at LA Zoo

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LA Zoo

The Los Angeles Zoo announced Thursday the arrival of four rock hyrax and four antelope ground squirrels, as well as the birth of a black duiker and a Brazilian agouti.

With the addition of the rock hyrax, the Los Angeles Zoo is now home to the closest living relative to the elephant.

Although the hyrax has a rodent like appearance, it is the hyrax's DNA that links it to the largest land mammal, the elephant. However, the hyrax's stature is of a completely different nature. When full grown, male Asian elephants can reach a height of about 11 feet and weigh from 3 to 6 tons; while rock hyraxes grow to a length of 17 to 21 inches and weigh between 4 and 12 pounds. Native to most of Africa, they feast on a variety of grasses, shrubs and forbs. The hyrax share a habitat at the zoo with two species of African birds.

Taking up residence in the Winnick Family Children's Zoo, the Harris antelope ground squirrel holds the distinction of being the zoo's smallest mammal. These little creatures weigh in around 1/4 to 1/3 pounds and stand about 5 1/2 to 6 3/5 inches tall with a tail that reaches approximately 2 1/5 to 3 3/4 inches.

Native to southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico, these squirrels eat seeds, fruit, plant stems, roots, some insects and carrion. These adorable antelope ground squirrels are extremely entertaining and delight visitors as they scamper excitedly about their habitat.

On Jan. 9, a black duiker was born at the Los Angeles Zoo. Hailing from West Africa, the duiker lives in dense lowland forests. The word "duiker" means dive in Afrikaans, which fits the duiker perfectly as they have a habit of diving for cover in the forest or brush.

Living by themselves or in pairs, duikers eat leaves, fruit, shoots, buds, seeds and bark. They can also capture and eat small birds, rodents, insects and carrion. The Los Angeles Zoo is one of only four zoos in the United States to display this species.

A Brazilian agouti was born on Jan. 11 at the zoo. Native to parts of South America and the Lesser Antilles, these rodents are able to jump straight in the air as high as 6 feet from a standstill.

Agoutis tend to eat fallen fruits and nuts as well as succulent plants. One of the few animals capable of breaking open the pods of the Brazil nut tree, they have a symbiotic relationship with the tree. After they open the pods, agoutis bury the extra nuts over a wide area. The seeds that aren't later retrieved by the agoutis for food will grow into new trees.

The Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens is located in Griffith Park at the junction of the Ventura (134) and Golden State (5) freeways. Admission is $12 for adults and $7 for children ages 2 to 12. The Zoo is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. For information, call 323-644-4200 or visit the zoo's Web site at www.lazoo.org.

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