Must-see zoo animals in New York City

When watching pigeons in the park and counting rats on the subway tracks gets old, more exotic species are plentiful at New York City's zoos. From a baby southern tamandua in Staten Island to crazy-eyed coquerels in the Bronx, you'll leave with a whole new view of animal life in the boroughs.

Snow leopard cubs

Where: Himalayan Highlands at the Bronx Zoo

Why they're cool: Snow leopards are an endangered species, but the Bronx Zoo has had more births than any other zoo in North America. These male cubs, born May 6 to first-time parents, made their public debut on Aug. 19. They are part of the Species Survival Plan, and though they might be trying to look ferocious, they sure are adorable!

Aldabra giant tortoises

Where: Zoo Center at the Bronx Zoo
Why they're cool: The smaller of these two giant dudes weighs a light 400 pounds... while the other hits 600. In addition to their impressive size, we give them props for longevity-- their life span can be more than 200 years! Aldabra is one of just two remaining giant tortoise species, and though they live on land, they are able to swim.

Baby Angolan colobus monkey

Where: Congo Gorilla Forest at the Bronx Zoo
Why he's cool: Besides the fact that he's holding it together while apparently totally creeped out by his new acquaintances (who happen to also be his parents), we're admiring this little guy's fuzzy, all-white coat... while we still can.


North American River Otter triplets

Where: Discovery Trail at Prospect Park Zoo
Why they're cool: Baby otters! Is there anything cuter? These little furballs-- all males-- were born in February, but they just made their zoo debut. You'll find them swimming, diving, playing (and cuddling, we hope) in a space made to mimic their natural habitat.

Roosevelt elk calf

Where: Woodland Habitat at the Queens Zoo
Why he's cool: This calf, the fifth elk in the herd, was 25 pounds at birth, but he won't be little for long. Roosevelt elk are one of the largest land animals in North America, and he could reach more than 1,000 pounds when full-grown.

Baringo giraffe calf

Where: African Plains at the Bronx Zoo
Why he's cool: Bronx Zoo giraffe Margaret Sukari gave birth to a son this winter, but he finally joined the herd this spring. Giraffes are already around six feet tall and 100 pounds at birth, and as an adult this guy could grow up to more than 17 feet tall and 3,000 pounds, with an 18-inch-long tongue.

Komodo dragons

Where: Amazing Monitors at the Bronx Zoo
Why they're cool: This is the first time since the 1950s that komodo dragons are back in the Bronx, and the zoo is lucky enough to have three of them-- two female and one male. All are still growing, and the male could reach around nine feet long and 360 pounds one day. The dragons are rare, with possibly only 350 breeding females left in the wild, according to the WCS.

Baby western lowland gorillas

Where: Congo Gorilla Forest at the Bronx Zoo
Why they're cool: The Congo Gorilla Forest has been a top attraction for visitors since it opened in 1999, but two new additions make it even more of a sight to see this spring. Two western lowland gorillas were born on March 10 and April 17, 2014, the first to be born at the zoo since 2006. Julia, 33, and Tuti, 19, are the mothers, and Ernie, 31, fathered both. There are now 20 gorillas in the exhibit.

Baby lemurs

Where: Madagascar! at the Bronx zoo
Why they're cool: Collared lemurs are found only in Madagascar, and there are just 34 of them in zoos around the world. Of those 34, three were born in the Bronx in April, including a rare set of twins.

Southern tamanduas

Where: The Staten Island Zoo
Why they're cool: MJ the southern tamandua was born in Staten Island on Jan. 12, 2014, becoming just the second surviving zoo-born tamandua in New York State. His parents, EJ and DJ, were donated to the zoo by Z100 radio host Elvis Duran.

Kihansi spray toads

Where: World of Reptiles at the Bronx Zoo
Why they're cool: Although this species was declared extinct in 2009, the Wildlife Conservation Society and its partners worked to breed the toads in captivity, and then successfully reintroduced them back into the wild. The Bronx Zoo is one of only two zoos in the world where they can be seen today.

Southern pudu

Where: The South American Trail at the Queens Zoo
Why they're cool: This endangered species is the tiniest type of deer in the world, growing to only about 12 to 17 inches tall. Unlike most deer, southern pudu, native to Chile and Argentina, bark when they sense danger, and are skilled at climbing.

Snow leopards

Where: Allison Maher Stern Snow Leopard Exhibit at the Central Park Zoo
Why they're cool: The zoo welcomed their first snow leopards born on-site in 2013, twin cubs, a male and female born to parents Zoe and Askai. They have only been on display to the public for about six months, and they have already won the hearts of countless visitors.

Geoffroy's marmosets

Where: Animal in Our Lives building at the Prospect Park Zoo
Why they're cool: These twin marmosets, the first to be born at the Prospect Park Zoo, were welcomed to the world in November by parents Gordon and Xing. They are native to an area of rainforest in Brazil in danger of deforestation, but luckily these adorable primates are not considered endangered.

Amur tigers

Where: Tiger Mountain at the Bronx Zoo
Why they're cool: Amur tigers, also known as Siberian tigers, are the largest cats in the world. Experts once predicted they would be extinct by the year 2000, but thanks to conservation efforts, they have held on. Bachuta, a 400-pound tiger, made headlines for a 2012 encounter with David Villalobos, who jumped into the animals' den, but on an undisturbed day you'll find these majestic creatures to be calm, poised and even playful.

Albino Burmese python

Where: Reptile Wing at the Staten Island Zoo
Why she's cool: After 16 years at the Brooklyn Children's Museum, Fantasia the albino Burmese python found a more spacious home in Staten Island in February. She may not have as many Twitter followers as the Bronx Zoo's Egyptian cobra, but at 23 feet and 300 pounds, she is the largest snake in New York City.

California sea lions

Where: Astor Court and Sea Lion Pool at the Bronx Zoo
Why they're cool: While all the California Sea Lions are fun to watch, our favorite has to be Halftime, who got his name when he was found near a waterfront bar in California during a football game. He may be a mammal, but Halftime won't miss out on any parties below sea level-- sea lions are able to reduce their heart rates when underwater in order to conserve oxygen and stay submerged for long periods of time.

Brown bears

Where: Big Bears exhibit at the Bronx Zoo
Why they're cool: The Bronx Zoo's big bears include grizzlies and New York City's only polar bear, Tundra, but don't forget the brown bears, as charismatic as they are fuzzy, who love to lounge, climb, swim and play in the snow.


Where: World of Birds at the Bronx Zoo
Why they're cool: The Bronx Zoo is the only facility in the world to successfully breed these rare birds, and the only place they can be seen outside of their native habitat in Sulawesi, an island of Indonesia. In order to breed them, the zoo had to replicate their unique incubation period-- maleos do not use body heat, but instead bury their eggs in nests up to three feet below the ground. Once hatched, babies then dig their way up out of the earth, and are able to fly and forage that very same day.

Coquerel's sifakas

Where: Madagascar! at the Bronx Zoo
Why he's cool: An endangered type of lemur hailing from Madagascar, there are just 51 sifakas in captivity in the world. They are known for unrivaled acrobatic skills-- they can leap up to 33 feet and love to swing from tree to tree. Plus, who can resist those big, yellow eyes?

Alligator snapping turtle

Where: World of Reptiles at the Bronx Zoo
Why they're cool: Snapping turtles can spend up to 50 minutes suspended motionless in the water at a time, which is how the Bronx Zoo's most famous snapping turtle, Izzy A. Live, ("Is he alive?") got his name. Izzy's bragging rights include setting the world record for largest turtle in captivity. Alligator snapping turtles have been around for approximately 20 million years, and can live past 100.