10 Cutest Zoo Babies of 2012

One of the definite highlights of our year has been covering all the new babies who entered the world in 2012. We just can't get enough of their tiny features, gorgeous eyes and adorable spots and stripes.

It was a very tough decision, but somehow we managed to pick our 10 favorite zoo babies of the year, and here they are!

Snow Leopards, Giraffes and Dolphins... Oh, My!

two baby red pandas

Dublin Zoo

The Dublin Zoo debuted this adorable pair of female red panda cubs in June. And these two cuties aren’t the only set of twins in this red panda brood — their mom and dad also gave birth to twins in August 2011. We hope history repeats itself next year!

white leopard cub

Courtesy of Amelia Beamish

The Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, N.Y., welcomed a handsome duo of snow leopards over the summer. The animals are perfectly adapted to cold landscapes, so they should do just fine in the snowy tundra of Syracuse!

baby elephant running

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

This African elephant calf at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park received the name Qinisa, which in Siswati means "to act with energy" or "speak the truth." Qinisa's mother, Swazi, was rescued in 2003 from the Kingdom of Swaziland, where her small habitat was threatened by long periods of drought.

baby giraffe

ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

How cute is this baby giraffe? At only a month old, he already stood six feet tall. And his keepers at the ZSL Whipsnade Zoo in England expect him to grow an inch every day of his first year! He's a reticulated giraffe — the subspecies with the most distinctive pattern: brown, box-like markings (called a reticulated pattern).

baby rhino and mom

Matt Marriott, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

This female white rhinoceros was born in October at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. She's the second calf born to mother Kisiri, and the seventh for father Tambo. Both Kisiri and Tambo were airlifted from Kruger National Park in South Africa in 2001, thanks to a nonprofit that protects the rhino species.

baby tapir

Tibor Jäger

The tapir family at the Tel Aviv-Ramat Gan Safari is growing fast. Mother Passiflora gave birth to her firstborn, Papaya, 15 months ago — and the little animal already has a new baby brother! Pinchas, the first male tapir ever born at the zoo, is named for the late Israeli politician Pinchas Sapir.

crested coua chick

Julie Larsen Maher, Wildlife Conservation Society

The hatching of this member of the cuckoo species makes the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Central Park Zoo only the fourth zoo in the U.S. to successfully rear a crested coua chick. Native to the island of Madagascar, the animals are born with markings on the inside of their mouths that are unique to each individual chick. Experts believe the markings are used by the bird’s parents for identification, or as a target for feeding them. They will begin to fade as the chick matures.

baby dolphin

SeaWorld Orlando

Starkey the dolphin is one experienced mama! The dolphin gave birth to her sixth baby on June 30 at SeaWorld Orlando, and the calf has been nursing and bonding well with mom, which is a good sign that the calf is healthy.

nubian goat kid

Julie Larsen Maher © WCS

This adorable pair of mini Nubian goats arrived at the Tisch Children’s Zoo in August. The species is a cross between the Nigerian dwarf and the full-sized Nubian goat.

pudu fawn

Bob Pitchford/Bristol Zoo

A pudu fawn born in May at the Bristol Zoo Gardens in the U.K. explored his paddock with mom and dad for the first time over the summer. The pudu is the world’s smallest deer species. In fact, when this fawn is full-grown, he’ll only be 15 inches tall (not much taller than your average ruler).

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