Clinton’s Little Ponderosa Zoo and Rescue is on 24-hour watch for the birth of what probably will be the biggest baby of the year among the zoo’s animal population.
Tinkerbelle, Little Ponderosa’s resident female Asian water buffalo, is on the verge of birthing her first calf, which could be any minute now, says zoo founder and director James Cox.
A resident of the zoo for nearly five years, Tinkerbelle was impregnated nearly a year ago by a young Asian buffalo steer who was able to knock down a fence and get to the cow, Cox said.
During a visit to the zoo about two weeks ago, veterinarian Kate Goldin from Butler Veterinary Services of Valley performed an ultrasound exam and determined that Tinkerbelle was no more than about three weeks from giving birth.
Shortly after that, the Little Ponderosa started a live 24-hour video stream from Tinkerbelle’s indoor enclosure so fans of the zoo could witness the birth. The “Baby Buffalo Watch” can be seen on the home page of the zoo’s website at littleponderosazoo.com.
After the birth, as soon as the baby is up to it and the weather is nice, both mother and baby will be put on display in an outdoor space at the Little Ponderosa. The decision on when that will happen will be made by the veterinarian, Cox said.
In the meantime, though, “We will be looking for the community to help us choose a name for the baby,” Cox said.
Both Tinkerbelle and her male friend came to the zoo as rescues, he said.
“We had no intentions of Tinkerbell having a baby, but the bull came in on a rescue and found a way to break through the fence,” Cox said.
One detail Cox and others at the zoo will be looking for is whether Tinkerbelle’s body turns to a shade of pink just before the baby is born, which is what Cox has heard about Asian water buffalo females.
Cox is probably more excited than anyone at the Little Ponderosa over the impending birth, as all the animals there are special to him. He founded the zoo and rescue 30 years ago and has seen plenty of animals born there. But this will be the first water buffalo, he said.
“My passion and my heart is for these animals,” he said.
Several babies that have arrived within the past couple of weeks, including an alpaca, twin lambs, and a bunch of very cute little goats. Most of them can be seen in videos on the zoo’s website or Facebook page.
The Little Ponderosa, which is still recovering from a disastrous fire two years ago, now has about 700 animals that it feeds every day, and it’s always looking for donations of money and feed to achieve that task, Cox said.
“We feed our animals about two-and-a-half tons of grain a week, and 60 to 100 tons of hay each year,” he said. “Because we have no pasture, we have to feed year-round.”
Walmart stores in Clinton and Oak Ridge donate tons of leftover produce and meat to the zoo, Cox said.
The Little Ponderosa Zoo and Rescue, at 629 Granite Road, is open to visitors 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays.
Regular admission prices are $15 plus tax for ages 18-64; and $10 for juniors (3-17) and seniors (65-plus). Children under 3 are admitted free.
Buckets of feed are available for purchase for zoo visitors to give to many of the resident animals.