Hattiesburg Zoo welcomes only surviving hyena cub born in North America in 2022

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Get ready to have your heart melt from pure adorableness!

The Hattiesburg Zoo has welcomed the only known surviving hyena born in North America in 2022.

The baby, which was born last Monday, Oct. 17, at 12:45 p.m., was a single birth.

According to the zoo, hyenas usually have litters of two to four cubs, but approximately 60% of them do not survive. The mothers are also in danger as the birth canal is only an inch in diameter, often making the birthing process fatal, as evidenced by the high death rate for first-time mothers.

“We are thrilled with the birth of this cub,” said Kristen Moore, animal curator for the Hattiesburg Zoo. “We feel good that Pili is doing well and is being a great mom to her first-born cub.”

“Pili is nursing her baby who is suckling well, but we have hurdles yet to cross so we are cautiously optimistic at this point,” added Moore.

The day after her birth, the animal care team was able to weigh the cub, and at that time weighed 1.45 kg. By this Wednesday, the cub weighs 2.05 kg, showing that it is gaining weight at an appropriate rate.

The baby reached another milestone Tuesday when it met dad, Niru, through the meshing of the hyena’s indoor enclosure.

“Dad was great, and acknowledged his cub in a mild-mannered fashion,” said Moore.

Due to the delicate nature of hyena births and the importance of monitoring the care of both the cub and the mother, however, the zoo’s animal care team has made the decision to close the walkway in front of the hyena habitat, which will prohibit guest viewing the pair at this time.

“We ask our guests to be patient while our animal care team closely monitors the cub and mother in these important early stages as they acclimate to their habitat and spend time together,” said Rick Taylor, executive director of the Hattiesburg Convention Commission, which manages the Hattiesburg Zoo.

In 2021, Niru came to the Hattiesburg Zoo in May, and Pili arrived in October with the goal of breeding the pair.

“This is an incredibly important birth for the Spotted Hyena’s Species Survival Program,” said Jeremy Cumpton, director of conservation, education and wildlife at the Hattiesburg Zoo. “This program ensures genetic diversity is maintained in populations and can only be maintained if proper breeding and rearing takes place.”

“Due to the hierarchal nature of hyenas and the fact that they are social creatures, hand-rearing a cub is not an option,” added Cumpton.

A blood sample will be taken in 2-4 weeks to determine the sex of the cub. Officials said they are looking at naming options now, but they will wait until after they have determined the cub’s sex before picking a name.

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