SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- Earlier this year, the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park were closed to guests due to pandemic restrictions. But behind closed doors, the animals continued to thrive. Despite dark times, babies being born at the Zoo became a sign of hope.
Staff at the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance welcomed a lot of cute animal babies in 2021.
After years of careful planning, the Safari Park welcomed little Jamila, a Western Egyptian Vulture born from the only breeding pair in North America. But some births were surprises.
"We definitely we're not expecting these two," Wildlife Care Specialist Joey Boucree said.
In October, they found twin endangered Radiated Tortoises, native to Madagascar, in one of their displays.
"We actually had a guest let us know, 'Hey have you seen the little baby tortoises in there?' And sure enough, we found these two walking around," Boucree said.
Also at the Zoo, staff welcomed little Mei Ling, a Golden Takin calf, born in April.
There was also a brand new Tamandua pup. She is a smaller type of anteater, born in July. She never leaves mom Cora's side.
Speaking of moms, seven koalas became moms this year.
"I don't know if our closure over COVID had anything to do with it, but we had a big baby boom," Sr. Wildlife Care Specialist Lindsey King said.
The zoo usually welcomes about two to four joeys annually. But this year, they really multiplied. The babies clutching onto their mom's backs, eating eucalyptus leaves captivate guests of all ages.
One of the newest members at the San Diego Zoo is the baby giraffe born on Nov. 29, 2021.
At 5'10", 147 pounds, she was already walking on day one. She was one of two calves born at the Zoo this year.
"Don't be fooled because if you look at the size of the animal and think, 'Oh, it must be an older calf.' It's very young," Lisa Martin, Wildlife Care Supervisor, said.
Looking back at the year, Zoo staff said they were so lucky to share and learn from the beautiful circle of life.
"Babies being born at the Zoo this year has been a light amidst the darkness of the pandemic," King said. "It's been a really special time for us as care specialists to be at work and see that our work is still making a difference."