BROWNSVILLE, Texas (KVEO) – The Gladys Porter Zoo is celebrating a special first-time dad this Father’s Day, after successfully breeding one of their inhabitants for the first time in 24 years.
If you had been to the Gladys Porter Zoo in the past few months, you may have noticed that there was a privacy tarp around the Cassowary exhibit.
This was to give the zoo residents, Clementine, 36, and Irwin, 6, some privacy from visitors, as they were working on becoming parents.
Cassowaries are native to northern Australia, Indonesia, and New Guinea, and are considered the world’s most dangerous bird.
They can grow over five feet tall and have a five-inch dagger-like claw that they use for defense on each foot.
The female, Clementine’s last successful set of eggs hatched 24 years ago in 1997, but for Irwin, this is his first Father’s Day.
Fathers are especially important in the cassowary species, as they are the ones that incubate the eggs for 52-56 days and take care of the chicks for up to nine months after they hatch.
Clementine laid several eggs throughout the weeks beginning on March 23, so far, three of those eggs have hatched.
The zoo saw its first hatchling on May 20 and the following on May 22 and 27. Three more eggs are currently in the zoo’s industrial incubators, and two of those eggs are expected to hatch.
Once a day for an hour, several volunteers sit outside with the three chicks in a cage, so they can run around and get used to seeing humans.
Despite being birds, the chicks have various silly dog-like behaviors. They come running to you if you catch their attention, enjoy rolling around in the water bowl, and are curious about their surrounds.
Once they are old enough, they will likely be sent to other zoos to help with breeding programs.
The sex of the three chicks is not known yet, but Curator of Birds at the zoo, Natalie Lindholm said if there is a female in the bunch, they may keep her to try and breed her with another male cassowary that lives at the zoo.
This is part of the zoo’s mission to preserve endangered species.
In the wild, cassowaries are endangered due to habitat loss, getting hit by cars, and poaching.
“Any time we can produce a live animal that’s endangered, that’s for the good of the population,” said Lindholm.
The chicks are not currently on display, but you can visit Clementine and Irwin any time of the week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on weekends.