Spring is breathing a lot of new life into the Baltimore Zoo.
Two little joeys are beginning to be active in the pouches of their wallaby mothers, a month-old 16-pound baby llama named Sundae is frolicking around the Buffalo habitat, there are baby corn snakes in the Children's Zoo and a newborn Chinese crocodile lizard, an endangered species, is lounging in the Reptile House.
Perhaps the most impressive new arrival at the zoo is an African lappet-faced vulture, the result of a longtime breeding effort on the part of the zoo and the first such bird to be bred and hatched in captivity in North America.
The Baltimore Zoo has three lappet-face vultures -- one male and two females -- which were brought from Africa in 1978. There were four vultures originally but a female died last year. "We have invested much time ... hoping to get a baby," says Fred B. Beall, the zoo's curator of birds for the past 20 years. Mr. Beall adds that a hidden video camera is presently recording the 3-week-old baby and its mother.
Unfortunately, because the baby vulture is at such a delicate stage of development, it will not be on public display. But there are plenty of other animals to see, large and small, at the zoo this weekend.
Tomorrow, the zoo celebrates its annual "Easter with the Beasts" program, beginning at noon. Clowns, magicians, the Easter Bunny and the Zoo's mascot Wally Woodchuck will be on hand. Children will be able to make Easter cards and parents are advised to bring cameras for a few posterity shots of the Bunny Hop through the Hippo Plaza.
The farmyard exhibit, closed through the winter, has just opened in the Children's Zoo, featuring baby chicks and chickens, cows, calves, pigs, goats, sheep and ponies. Children will see cows being milked and will be able to pet some of the animals and take pony rides.
The Baltimore Zoo, third oldest in the United States and located on 158 acres in Druid Hill Park, is home to more than 1,200 birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians housed in the zoo's many exhibits.
Sundae the llama was born, appropriately, Sunday, Feb. 24, to mother who doesn't have a name and a father called Chile, says Sandy Kempske, the zoo's curator of mammals. The baby is already as haughty looking as her parents, and she'll likely grow lengthy eyelashes even Elizabeth Arden would envy.
No one knows exactly when the baby wallabies were born, nor has their sex been determined. The two joeys were first noticed in late January -- wallaby babies often go unnoticed until they begin to move in their mothers' pouches and can be seen. Wallabies are native to Australia and are cousins to the kangaroo. A baby stays in its mother's pouch for four months. The zoo's species is the King Island wallaby. There are two adult females and one male housed in the Buffalo Road exhibit area.
On your visit down the zoo's main valley, check out the Arctic fox babies born last May. Their coats were brown then. As summer progressed, the little fellows' fur went to brownish gray, and then from soft gray to stark white by fall. Now, they are getting ready to reverse their color to become brown for the summer.
There are more than 600 birds and hundreds of species in areas such as the Crane Conservation Center -- where four out of the eight species there are endangered and on a breeding program -- and in the African aviary, tropical bird kiosks and the marsh aviary, Mr. Beall says.
One of the most popular spots is the Children's Zoo, a recreational and educational playground in which children of all ages can participate and learn about Maryland's different ecosystems.
The Children's Zoo, on more than eight acres, has 48 exhibits and 100 animal species that live in the ponds, hills, caves, rivers and skies representing the state's various terrain.
The exhibit is chock full of diversions for youngsters -- trees that double as sliding boards and explorable underground caverns -- as well as broad jumping frogs and reptiles such as the corn snake mother who has colorful new babies.
Perhaps gorgeous only to his mother, the baby Chinese crodcodile lizard, with its blunt nose, is at least photogenic. kThe zoo's curator of reptiles, Anthony Wisnieski, says the lizard is a threatened species. The lizard won't be on view until mid or late summer, he adds, when remodeling of the Reptile House is completed.
The "Easter with the Beasts" program takes place tomorrow from noon until 3 p.m. The zoo is open from 10 a.m. to 4:20 p.m. daily. Admission: $6.50 for adults; $3.50 for seniors and children from ages 2 to 15; under 2 admitted free. For more information call the zoo hotline, 366-LION. A comprehensive map, available with admission, provides exhibit locations as well as nting general information such as animal eating habits.
In addition, the zoo's education department offers workshops, talks, trips and other activities. For details of these programs call 467-4387.