MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee County Zoo has welcomed two new species to its collection: a serval named Amos and two Malayan chevrotains, also known as mouse deer, named Opal and Rain. All are on public exhibit.
“Even though we haven’t really advertised them yet, people have just been flocking in to see them," said Bryan Kwiatkowski, a zookeeper in the Aviary, where you'll find the chevrotains. "They’ve been a real joy for everyone to see.”
Amos is a 9-year-old male serval, a medium-sized cat species with 19 recognized subspecies. The zoo has not displayed serval since 1993. Found throughout the savannas of Africa, these animals have both stripes and spots, and are known for their distinct large round ears.
“For comparison to any other cat, he actually has the largest ears size-wise," said Sheri Guay, a zookeeper in Big Cat Country. "If we had ears his [relative] size, they would actually be about the size of dinner plates.”
Zoo officials said Thursday, Jan. 18 Amos was acclimating to his new indoor exhibit (which was the former home of cheetahs) and zookeepers reported he has a sassy personality and will occasionally hiss at them when they’re nearby. He’s not afraid of water and often pounces on bubbling water as his basin is filling.
"Amos has a little, I would say, sass to him," said Guay.
Serval are listed in the "least concern from extinction" category, with population sizes remaining stable. However, they are threatened by habitat loss and hunting for their fur.
Malayan chevrotains are native to southeast Asia and Africa. Despite the "mouse deer" name, these nocturnal animals are not related to deer, but rather belong in a separate category of hoofed mammals. They live among leaves and twigs, sometimes venturing onto low trees and branches. They are either solitary or live in pairs, and can be anywhere from four to 33 pounds. They have two long fangs that males use for fighting.
“We’ve put sprinklers in for them," Kwiatkowski said of one of their enrichment activities. "And we’ve noticed that one of the chevrotains, Rain, actually likes to dive through the sprinkler, which has been fun to see.”
Where you'll see them is interesting in its own right. The chevrotains are the first mammals to be incorporated into an Aviary exhibit with birds. Opal and Rain live alongside the Luzon bleeding-heart doves, black-naped fruit doves and the white-rumped shama.
"We tried to pick animals that wouldn’t spook the chevrotains, or vice versa," said Kwiatkowski. "And animals that may not spend a lot of time on the ground with the chevrotains, so the chevrotains could still have their own space and the birds could still be able to breed up above.”
The zoo last displayed chevrotains in 1995, when they were exhibited in the Small Mammals building.
Both are less than 2 years old, and zookeepers reported Opal has a more outgoing demeanor, while Rain is a bit shy.
The two chevrotains came from the Bronx Zoo. The hope is that a male will come in the future, allowing the Milwaukee County Zoo to breed little “mouse deer.”