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Zoo Welcomes
Baby Animals



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Grades 2-up

News Content

The San Francisco Zoo is doing its part to help protect endangered species.

Anticipation Guide

Before reading, use a world map to familiarize students with the locations of Africa, Sumatra (western Indonesia), and San Francisco (California). Write the location names on a board or chart so students can refer back to them. Invite students to share their thoughts about what those three locations might possibly share in common.

News Words

Next, introduce these words that appear in the News Word Box on the students printable page: Sumatra, maintain, extinct, recent, bonanza, and survival. Discuss the meanings of any of those words that might be unfamiliar. Then ask students to use one of those words to complete each of these sentences:

  • The huge elephant-like mastodon has been _____ for more than 6,000 years. (extinct)
  • A big earthquake caused a tidal wave to wash ashore on the island of _____. (Sumatra)
  • The hikers _____ kit included a sharp knife, rope, and fishing tackle. (survival)
  • Seven lucky miners stumbled on a _____ of gold and other minerals. (bonanza)
  • Have you read the most _____ issue of Sports Illustrated magazine? (recent)
  • It can cost a lot of money to _____ a car in good working condition. (maintain)

Read the News

Click for a printable version of this weeks news story Zoo Welcomes Baby Animals.

Reading the News

You might use a variety of approaches to reading the news:

Read aloud the news story to students as they follow along.

Students might first read the news story to themselves; then you might call on individual students to read sections of the news aloud for the class.

Photocopy the news story onto a transparency and project it onto a screen. (Or use your classroom computer's projector to project the story.) Read the story aloud as a class, or ask students to take turns reading it.

Arrange students into small groups. Each student in the group will read a paragraph of the story. As that student reads, others might underline important information or write notes in the margin of the story. After each student finishes reading, others in the group might say something -- a comment, a question, a clarification -- about the text.

More Facts to Share

You might share these additional facts with students after they have read this weeks news story.

  • The baby giraffe born at the San Francisco Zoo on January 26 (2009) is a reticulated giraffe. [see video of the baby giraffe]
  • Reticulated giraffes, one of eight or nine giraffe subspecies (depending on the source), are found in Central and South African regions and are the tallest of all living land animal species. The species is listed as near-threatened." Their population is declining due to poaching and humans encroaching on their habitat. They are poached for meat and for their body parts: hair for making bracelets and thread, skin for shield covers, and sinew (tendons) for bowstrings.
  • "The population management plan [in which the San Francisco Zoo is a participant] is a long-term, proactive program that focuses on maintaining the population numbers," stated Ingrid Russell-White. "We don't want to wait until species are at a critical level; we want to help maintain the strength of a population and its genetic line before it reaches that point."
  • Zookeepers are keeping another female giraffe, Kristin, near Bititi and her baby. They are hoping that Kristin learns a thing or two about mothering from Bititi, because they believe Kristin might be pregnant.
  • The baby giraffe is the fifth giraffe to be born at the zoo since 2004. It is Bititi's second baby. Her first, a male named Bulldozer, was born July 11, 2007. The newborn is its father Floyd's fifth offspring.
  • A female giraffe is pregnant for 14-15 months. Calves can be up to 6 feet tall at birth. Female giraffes give birth standing up; the newborns first experience is a 6-foot drop into the world!
  • The zoos baby western lowland gorilla was born December 8 (2008). He was the first gorilla born at the zoo in a decade. After the birth, his first-time mother, Monifah, showed no interest in mothering him. The Zoos primate team called in a support team from the Columbus Zoo; the teams have worked together to train another of the zoos gorillas, Bawang, to be the mother. According to an MSNBC news report, the strategy seems to be working. Bawang is a proven mother, and is showing behavior that indicates she wants to mother the boy. [see video of Bawang and the young gorilla]
  • The Sumatran tiger cubs were the first litter for 5-year-old mother, Leanne, and 10-year-old dad, George. Leanne and George are part of the zoos breeding program for the purpose of increasing the genetic diversity of the Sumatran tiger population in zoos through the Species Survival Plan of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). More than 200 Sumatran tigers live in zoos around the world. The Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) is the smallest of the tiger species. [see video of the tiger cubs]

More Facts About Giraffes

  • The leaves and fruits of trees -- including acacia, mimosa, and wild apricot trees -- are a giraffes favorite foods. Since leaves provide a lot of moisture, giraffes don't need to drink very often. They can go without water for many weeks -- even months -- at a time.
  • Giraffes have great eyesight. They can spot a moving person a mile away.
  • Giraffes can run about as fast horses run -- about 35 miles per hour.
  • Much like human fingerprints, each giraffe has a unique pattern of spots.

Comprehension Check

Revisit the Anticipation Guide at the top of this lesson; ask students share how the three locations (Africa, Sumatra, and San Francisco) are connected.

Recalling Detail
You might follow-up that activity by asking some of these questions:

  • Which three animals have given birth at the San Francisco Zoo in recent months? (a giraffe, a gorilla, and a Sumatran tiger)
  • What was the name of the giraffe that gave birth? (Bititi)
  • Was the baby giraffe a boy or girl? (a girl [female])
  • Why are giraffes in danger in their natural habitat in Africa? (hunters hunt them and people are building homes on lands that used to be their habitat)
  • Which species of gorilla gave birth? (a western lowland gorilla)
  • How many Sumatran tigers live in the wild? (about 450)

Think About the News
Discuss the Think About the News question that appears on the students news page. Challenge students to learn more about one of the three species and design a habitat for it.

Think Some More
Challenge students to answer the following question:
The baby giraffe born recently at the San Francisco Zoo has not been named yet (as of the end of January). If you could name the baby, what would you name it?
Challenge students to think creatively, and to be ready to share the thought process they used to come up with their baby name.

Follow-Up Activities

Science animal babies. A baby giraffe is called a calf. A baby tiger is called a cub. But a baby gorilla is called an infant. Present the following matching activity to students and challenge them to use library resources or this Animal Babies Glossary to match each animal type to the name of its baby.

Animal Baby
1. alligator a. eyas
2. beaver b. farrow
3. fish c. foal
4. goat d. fry
5. hawk e. hatchling
6. koala f. joey
7. mule g. kid
8. pig h. poult
9. platypus i. puggle
10. turkey j. kit

ANSWERS: 1.e, 2.j, 3.d, 4.g, 5.a, 6.f, 7.c, 8.b, 9.i, 10.h.

Geography read a map. Provide each student with a copy of this map of the San Francisco Zoo. (Note: It might take a minute to download the map.) Challenge students to locate the Gorilla Preserve and the giraffes habitat (both in the African Savanna), and the Lion House. Then instruct students to use different colored crayons to trace a route along the paths between each of the following parts of the zoo.

Wild Lessons

Find additional lessons for teaching about endangered species in the Education World article Wild and Wonderful Lessons About Endangered Species.

  • Use a green crayon to trace a path from the Gorilla Preserve to the giraffes habitat.
  • Use a red crayon to trace a path from the giraffes habitat to the Lemur Forest.
  • Use a blue crayon to trace a path from the Lemur Forest to the flamingo exhibit.
  • Use a brown crayon to trace a path from the flamingo exhibit to Koala Crossing.
  • Use an orange crayon to trace a path from Koala Crossing to the Lion House.

Word Search endangered species. Print out this word search puzzle or let students circle the endangered species in this online word search.

Language arts writing fun. Have children use the Build Your Wild Self tool to create the wild" version of themselves. Then have them print out their wild self" pictures and write about their transformations and their new lives.


Use the Comprehension Check (above) as an assessment. Or have students work on their own (in their journals) or in their small groups to respond to the Think About the News questions on the news story page or in the Comprehension Check section.

Lesson Plan Source

Education World

National Standards

NL-ENG.K-12.2 Reading for Understanding
NL-ENG.K-12.4 Communication Skills
NL-ENG.K-12.8 Developing Research Skills
NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills

NS.K-4.2 Physical Science
NS.K-4.3 Life Science
NS.K-4.6 Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
GRADES 5 - 8
NS.5-8.2 Physical Science
NS.5-8.3 Life Science
NS.5-8.6 Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
GRADES 9 - 12
NS.9-12.2 Physical Science
NS.9-12.3 Life Science
NS.9-12.6 Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

NSS-G.K-12.1 The World in Spatial Terms
NSS-G.K-12.5 Environment and Society

NT.K-12.1 Basic Operations and Concepts
NT.K-12.4 Technology Communications Tools
NT.K-12.5 Technology Research Tools

See recent news stories in Education Worlds News Story of the Week Archive.

Article by Ellen Delisio and Gary Hopkins
Education World®
Copyright © 2009 Education World