Animals to See at Chicago Zoos and Aquariums This Summer

A red wolf pup at Lincoln Park Zoo (Christopher Bijalba / Lincoln Park Zoo)A red wolf pup at Lincoln Park Zoo (Christopher Bijalba / Lincoln Park Zoo)

From rare blind salamanders to adorable red wolf pups, there are a variety of new animal arrivals waiting to greet you at local zoos and aquariums this summer.

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Maybe you can’t get enough of the newborn gorillas seen clinging to their moms at Lincoln Park Zoo. Or you’re curious about Snowflake, one of just 100 albino alligators in existence who now lives at Brookfield Zoo. Or you want to check in on Piquet, a 31-year-old Pacific white-sided dolphin at Shedd Aquarium who is pregnant and expected to give birth in just a few months.

Not sure where to start? Here’s your guide to the newest and most unique animals to visit in and around Chicago.

Lincoln Park Zoo

Eastern Black Rhino Calf

A yet-to-be-named black rhino calf debuted June 19 at Lincoln Park Zoo. (Christopher Bijalba / Lincoln Park Zoo)A yet-to-be-named black rhino calf debuted June 19 at Lincoln Park Zoo. (Christopher Bijalba / Lincoln Park Zoo)

A black rhino calf born May 19 wasted no time lying around, standing up on all four legs just 53 minutes after birth.

Come mid-June, the still-unnamed male was making his public debut, poking his head outside before returning quickly to his mother, 13-year-old Kapuki.

The calf’s arrival is a major development for the critically endangered eastern black rhinoceros species, which has an estimated 5,000 to 5,400 individuals living in the wild, mainly in East Africa.


Newborn Western Lowland Gorillas

Rollie, a western lowland gorilla at Lincoln Park Zoo, with her male infant, who was born May 12. (Christopher Bijalba / Lincoln Park Zoo)Rollie, a western lowland gorilla at Lincoln Park Zoo, with her male infant, who was born May 12. (Christopher Bijalba / Lincoln Park Zoo)

Mother’s Day 2019 was extra special for Rollie, a western lowland gorilla who gave birth to her second offspring May 12.

Soon after the birth, Lincoln Park Zoo staff captured some adorable photos of the yet-to-be-named male interacting with his mom (see above). 

Exactly a month later, Bana, another western lowland gorilla, gave birth to her own offspring. Like with Rollie and her baby, cute photos of Bana and her offspring followed soon after (see below). The sex of the newborn has yet to be determined.

Western lowland gorilla Bana and her offspring at Lincoln Park Zoo (Christopher Bijalba / Lincoln Park Zoo)Western lowland gorilla Bana and her offspring at Lincoln Park Zoo (Christopher Bijalba / Lincoln Park Zoo)

As with the zoo’s new black rhino calf, the arrival of two western lowland gorillas is a big deal for the species, which is critically endangered due to habitat loss and poaching in Central Africa.


Red Wolf Pups

A red wolf pup at Lincoln Park Zoo. Once fully grown, red wolves typically weigh about 90 pounds. (Christopher Bijalba / Lincoln Park Zoo)A red wolf pup at Lincoln Park Zoo. Once fully grown, red wolves typically weigh about 90 pounds. (Christopher Bijalba / Lincoln Park Zoo)

A quartet of red wolf pups was born this spring, marking a bright spot for one of the most endangered wolf species in the world.

Two male and two female cubs were born April 13 to Becca, the dam, and Rhett, the sire. The couple was recommended as a breeding pair by the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan, a coordinated population management effort to save the species.

Four red wolf pups were born April 13 at Lincoln Park Zoo. (Christopher Bijalba / Lincoln Park Zoo)Four red wolf pups were born April 13 at Lincoln Park Zoo. (Christopher Bijalba / Lincoln Park Zoo)

Once common throughout eastern and southern parts of the U.S., red wolf populations were decimated in the early 1900s from hunting and altering of the species’ habitat. Today, just 30-40 red wolves remain in eastern North Carolina, with another 200 living in zoos and other controlled environments in the U.S.

The four new pups are the first litter of red wolves born at the zoo since 2010.

Brookfield Zoo

Albino Alligator

Snowflake, a 7-foot-long albino American alligator, will reside at Brookfield Zoo through September. (Kelly Tone / Chicago Zoological Society)Snowflake, a 7-foot-long albino American alligator, will reside at Brookfield Zoo through September. (Kelly Tone / Chicago Zoological Society)

A rare albino alligator is spending summer in Chicago this year.

Snowflake, a 16-year-old American alligator, is estimated to be one of just 100 or so albino alligators in existence. Albinos are offspring of parents that carry the recessive gene for albinism, which prevents them from creating melanin to color their skin or eyes.

Snowflake arrived at Brookfield Zoo this spring and will remain there through September, at which point the 7-foot-long gator is scheduled to return to St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park in Florida.


Giant Anteater Pup

A male giant anteater pup was born at Brookfield Zoo on Dec. 15, 2018. (Jim Schulz / Chicago Zoological Society)A male giant anteater pup was born at Brookfield Zoo on Dec. 15, 2018. (Jim Schulz / Chicago Zoological Society)

A giant anteater pup born late last year spent much of his first few months latched onto the back of his mom, Tulum. But visit Brookfield Zoo today and you’re much more likely to see the pup exploring on his own.

The unnamed pup was the third offspring for Tulum and Lupito, the newborn’s father. Their other offspring, both females, live at other North American zoos.

Giant anteaters are the largest of the four anteater species and can weigh up to 100 pounds. Pups are born with a full coat of hair, which provides needed camouflage from predators in the wild. Giant anteaters have notoriously poor eyesight, making them vulnerable to attackers. But the anteaters compensate with a strong sense of hearing and smell, which alerts them to approaching predators and helps them find termite mounds and anthills.

Brookfield Zoo has been caring for the species since 1958. 


Blind Salamanders

A Texas blind salamander at Brookfield Zoo (Kelly Tone / Chicago Zoological Society)A Texas blind salamander at Brookfield Zoo (Kelly Tone / Chicago Zoological Society)

Eight Texas blind salamanders arrived in the Chicago area last year, making Brookfield Zoo one of just three North American institutions to host the rare creatures.

Found only in the water-filled caves of the Edwards Aquifer in San Marcos, Texas, the salamanders are a translucent white color with bright red gills that protrude from their throats. A finned tail makes up a large portion of their body, which is about 3.5 to 5.5 inches in length.

Despite their ability to sense their prey’s movement by subtle changes in water pressure, Texas blind salamanders are classified as endangered, facing threats from water pollution and overuse of water.


Young Porcupine

A porcupine born last summer at Brookfield Zoo (Jim Schulz / Chicago Zoological Society)A porcupine born last summer at Brookfield Zoo (Jim Schulz / Chicago Zoological Society)

A porcupine born last year was the first species of its kind to be born at Brookfield Zoo.

Quilbert, who turned 1 last week, is a prehensile-tailed porcupine, a species native to the high-elevation rainforests of South America that uses its long tail to wrap around branches while climbing.

Quilbert, a prehensile-tailed porcupine, celebrated his first birthday at Brookfield Zoo with a specially made cake. (Jim Schulz / Chicago Zoological Society) Quilbert, a prehensile-tailed porcupine, celebrated his first birthday at Brookfield Zoo with a specially made cake. (Jim Schulz / Chicago Zoological Society)

The male porcupette, or baby porcupine, was born to mother Lucia, 5, and father Eddie, 4.

To celebrate his big day, zoo staff presented Quilbert with a nutritious layered cake of biscuits, sweet potato, peanut butter, jelly, butternut squash, cucumbers, carrots and zucchini. On top of the cake was a green bean with a dollop of sweet potato that acted as a candle and flame. 


Leopard Cubs

Two Amur lopeard cubs were born last year at Brookfield Zoo. (Cathy Bazzoni / Chicago Zoological Society)Two Amur lopeard cubs were born last year at Brookfield Zoo. (Cathy Bazzoni / Chicago Zoological Society)

Two Amur leopard cubs were born last year to mother Lisa and father Kasha, who were introduced to each other several years ago as part of an international population management program.

Amur leopards are nocturnal and known for their keen senses of hearing, vision and smell. But the animals have suffered greatly at the hands of humans.

There are fewer than 65 Amur leopards living in the wild, a decline attributed to poaching, hunting and a decrease in habitat from fires, logging and human settlement, according to Brookfield Zoo. Another 82 of the leopards live in zoos across North America.


Dwarf Mongoose Pups

 Five mongoose pups were born on May 20 at Brookfield Zoo. (Courtesy Chicago Zoological Society) Five mongoose pups were born on May 20 at Brookfield Zoo. (Courtesy Chicago Zoological Society)

Five dwarf mongoose pups were born May 20 and can now be seen playing, napping and nursing from their mother, Aurora.

The dwarf mongoose is a small carnivore native to Africa. The animals are known to be very social and communicate using a variety of vocalizations, such as whistles and trills. The species lives in groups that include both a dominant male and female: The female decides when the group needs to move to a new location, while the male looks out for predators and protects the group’s territory.


Peafowl Chicks

Peafowl chicks with mom Gouda at Brookfield Zoo (Courtesy Chicago Zoological Society) Peafowl chicks with mom Gouda at Brookfield Zoo (Courtesy Chicago Zoological Society)

Seven peafowl chicks that hatched recently can now be seen roaming the zoo’s grounds, primarily on the south end.

The chicks were born to three different mothers: two to Noel, four to Gouda and one to Brie.

Peafowl are members of the peasant family, with males referred to as peacocks and females as peahens. Males feature the signature vibrant feathers on their train which they display during courtship. Females have spotted brown plumage that allows them to blend in with their surroundings while incubating eggs.


Sea Lion Pup

A California sea lion pup born June 10 at Brookfield Zoo (Jim Schulz / Chicago Zoological Society) A California sea lion pup born June 10 at Brookfield Zoo (Jim Schulz / Chicago Zoological Society)

In the coming weeks, visitors to Brookfield Zoo will be able to see a baby California sea lion pup born June 10.

For now, the male pup and his mom, 9-year-old Josephine, are bonding behind the scenes. But they are expected to begin using their outdoor habitat by mid-July.

A male California sea lion pup born at Brookfield Zoo on June 10 with his mom, 9-year-old Josephine. (Jim Schulz / Chicago Zoological Society) A male California sea lion pup born at Brookfield Zoo on June 10 with his mom, 9-year-old Josephine. (Jim Schulz / Chicago Zoological Society)

The newborn, who has not yet been named, is Josephine’s second pup. She gave birth to Lucy in 2017.

Shedd Aquarium

Sibling Penguin Chicks

A pair of sibling Magellanic chicks hatched in May at Shedd Aquarium. (Brenna Hernandez / Shedd Aquarium)A pair of sibling Magellanic chicks hatched in May at Shedd Aquarium. (Brenna Hernandez / Shedd Aquarium)

Two Magellanic penguin chicks hatched in May at Shedd Aquarium following the annual penguin breeding season, which kicked off with nesting in March.

Both chicks were laid by parents Chile and JR. The first chick to hatch immediately began bonding with the couple and has remained in their nest. However, the second egg was given to a set of foster parents, Howard and Georgia, to raise.

Attending to chicks is a full-time job for penguin parents, which usually take turns caring for their young. By having the newborn siblings raised by two different pairs, each chick will get the attention it needs to thrive, according to Shedd.


Baby Beluga Whale

Mauyak with her newborn calf (Brenna Hernandez / Shedd Aquarium) Mauyak with her newborn calf (Brenna Hernandez / Shedd Aquarium)

Mauyak, a 38-year-old beluga whale, gave birth to a healthy calf July 3. The entire birthing process – starting with the emergence of the baby’s flukes (lobes on the tail) through the complete delivery – took 33 minutes. 

Shortly after birth, the calf swam to the surface and took its first breath, assisted by Mauyak. The mother and calf then began to swim together and bond.

Earlier this year, Shedd Aquarium’s veterinary team performed a routine ultrasound on Mauyak, a 38-year-old beluga whale, to check in on her developing calf. (Brenna Hernandez / Shedd Aquarium)Earlier this year, Shedd Aquarium’s veterinary team performed a routine ultrasound on Mauyak, a 38-year-old beluga whale, to check in on her developing calf. (Brenna Hernandez / Shedd Aquarium)

The calf’s sex has yet to be determined. Shedd staff estimate that the calf was born measuring about 5 feet long and weighing 150 pounds. 

Mauyak – whose name means “soft snow” in the language of the Inuit, the native people of the Canadian Arctic – is already mother to 6-year-old Kimalu, the last beluga whale born at the aquarium (in 2012).


Pregnant Pacific White-Sided Dolphin

One of Shedd Aquarium’s Pacific white-sided dolphins, Piquet, is expected to give birth in the fall. (Brenna Hernandez / Shedd Aquarium) One of Shedd Aquarium’s Pacific white-sided dolphins, Piquet, is expected to give birth in the fall. (Brenna Hernandez / Shedd Aquarium)

Piquet, a 31-year-old Pacific white-sided dolphin, is pregnant and expected to give birth this fall.

Piquet is an experienced mother, having given birth to two calves at Shedd, Makoa and Sagu.

This isn’t the first time that Piquet and Mauyak have shared the spotlight. Both of the cetaceans gave birth to healthy calves in 2012.


Contact Alex Ruppenthal: @arupp aruppenthal@wttw.com | (773) 509-5623


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