Washington Zoo Welcomes First Baby Armadillo in 116-year History

A Washington zoo has welcomed its very first armadillo pup in its 116-year history.

Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium's southern three-banded armadillos Vespa and Scooter became parents to a female pup in late October. The pup is the first armadillo birth in the zoo since its establishment in 1905.

Zookeepers monitored mother Vespa 24/7 in the lead up to the birth, and both mother and baby have been kept under watchful eye in the time since too.

The pair are being kept behind the scenes for the time being, while the two-week-old pup bonds with her mother, but visitors will be able to see her once she is old enough.

At the moment, the pup is only just beginning to open her eyes. "She is a healthy and perfect little replica of her parents," said head veterinarian Dr. Karen Wolf.

Newborn southern three-banded armadillos often appear just like miniature adults and litters consist of just one pup.

During her pregnancy, armadillo Vespa was reportedly open to help from the zookeepers, allowing ultrasounds and for people to feel her belly.

"Vespa was trained to allow us to give her voluntary ultrasounds throughout her pregnancy," assistant curator Maureen O'Keefe said, adding that she would "even let us feel her belly without curling up in a ball, allowing us to give her the care she needed."

"Vespa is a natural at parenting and caring for her pup," said O'Keefe.

The southern three-banded armadillo is classed as "near threatened" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species, with the species being in "significant decline" due to widespread habitat loss.

The animal is close to qualifying for "vulnerable" status according to the IUCN.

The pup's birth is the result of a breeding recommendation for Scooter and Vespa by the Species Survival Plan (SSP) for southern three-banded armadillos.

The SSP considers the genetic makeup of each parent before making the recommendation, in a bid to ensure diversity of armadillos in North American zoos.

Unlike other armadillo species, the southern three-banded armadillo is the only one to be able to roll into a ball. They also do not dig burrows as most species do, and instead take refuge in abandoned burrows made by other animals.

Last month, a zoo in Ohio similarly welcomed a new animal in the form of a newborn Gorilla, but unlike Vespa, the mother was not so happy to take care of it.

The baby male western lowland gorilla was born on October 26 and announced by the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo on November 4.

The zoo noted that when the mother, a 23-year-old gorilla named Nneka, did not show the expected maternal care, another female gorilla called Fredrika stepped in.

Fredrika is the oldest female gorilla at the zoo and had already raised four baby gorillas previously.

Since the baby gorilla's birth, Fredrika has been taking the newborn to be bottle-fed by zoo staff.