The Cost of Cute Baby Animals
Everyone loves babies. The cute, cuddly bundles of joy can melt even the coldest hearts. But those adorable creatures aren't cheap.
Raising a child — a human one — is expensive. The same goes for animals. Whether an animal is in a zoo, humane society or loving home, taking care of them costs money.
How much? We're glad you asked. From tigers to killer whales, this is what it takes to feed and care for some of the world's exotic animals.
Ok, so they're not pets, but we're using this as a point of comparison. Plus, they're cute.
Feeding a Human Baby
Newborns are fed breast milk or formula until they are about 6 months old (and sometimes longer). Then solid foods, like simple cereals and pureed veggies, are introduced.
A 6-month newborn will drink about eight ounces of milk or formula every four to five hours.
Human Baby Facts and Figures
To raise a child from birth to the age of 17, American parents spend an average of $233,610. That's a lot, but it's nothing compared to raising a lion. Just tell yourself that when your teenager wrecks his first car.
The average American eats 1,966 pounds, or nearly one ton of food, each year.
Humans also are the only animal with chins.
This is Lingga, at 3 months old in 2004. The Bengal tiger is being fed by his keeper at an animal nursery at Ragunan Zoo in Jarkata, Indonesia.
Tiger cubs are commonly fed a formula of Esbilac (a fortified powdered milk replacement), goat milk and Nutri-Cal (high-calorie supplement paste), according to the International Exotic Animal Sanctuary.
Feeding a Baby Tiger
In addition to the formula, the cubs are fed baby food and jars of meat during their first four weeks of life.
A typical daily meal consists of six 2.5-ounce jars of turkey, chicken and beef and a jar of Gerber baby food.
Tiger Facts and Figures
Tigers can grow to six feet long and up to 720 pounds.
Tigers in zoos live twice as long as those who live in the wild, where their lifespan is about 10 years.
A tiger, which can typically eat 9.6 pounds of raw meat a day (plus some bones), costs about $5,950 to feed per year.
There are between 5,000 and 10,000 tigers in the United States, and they’re not all in zoos. Some (very wealthy) people treat tigers as luxury accessories. The Observer found that tigers for sale in the United States can be had for $800 to $2,000, but the cost of owning a big cat — provided you’re doing it right — is much more.
At a zoo, food and general care for a large cat cost about $18,000, while habitat construction costs about $200,000, not including a $50,000 pool or $50,000 holding area.
Meet Layla, the world's first rhinoceros born through artificial insemination, in Budapest, Hungary, in 2007.
Zoo staff decided to take her away from her 27-year-old, 2,500-kilogram (5,511 pound) mother, Lulu, who could not nurse her offspring. Due to the brother-sister relationship of the zoo's rhinos, there was no chance for natural breeding. Veterinarians of the Budapest Zoo in cooperation with colleagues from Germany and Austria used artificial insemination.
Layla, whose name was chosen via a public vote, is a southern white rhino, a species whose status is listed as "near threatened" by the World Wildlife Foundation.
Feeding a Baby Rhino
Baby rhinos are fed a special milk formula of two liters every three hours. Here, a rhino calf is fed by zookeeper Martina Kayser in Leipiz, Germany, in early 2000. The rhino was 10 days old at the time and weighed 61 pounds.
Rhino Facts and Figures
Rhinos are one of the most poached species in the world because of their horns, which can fetch $65,000 to $100,000 per kilogram (rhino horns weigh 1-3 kilograms).
The difference between a black rhino and a white rhino isn't its skin. Its the shape of their lips. White rhinos have squared lips while black rhinos have a pointed upper lip.
White rhinos grow from 1.6 to 4 tons (3,200 to 8,000 pounds), while black rhinos grow from 1.76 to 3 tons (3,520 to 6,000 pounds), according to National Geographic.
A 2-day-old, 44-pound hippo is being bottle-fed after he was refused to be breastfed by his mother at the Dusit Zoo in Bangkok in 2002.
Feeding a Baby Hippo
When possible, baby hippos are fed the milk from their mother. Hippo milk is high in protein and low in fat and sugar, similar to giant anteater milk.
It's rare that a hippo won't naturally take to its mother's teat, although that was the case with Fiona, a hippo premature-born at the Cincinnati Zoo, who was too weak to drink.
Hippo Facts and Figures
In Africa, in places where it's legal to hunt big game, a 10-day hippo hunt costs over $12,000.
In the early 1900s, hippo ranching in America was almost a thing — some people thought hippos could be the new beef, and wanted to raise them in the bayous of Louisiana.
Hippos live up to 40 years and weigh 1.5 to 4 tons.
Hippos kill an estimated 500 people in Africa every year.
A 2-week-old African elephant named Paulchen plays in a park near Hamburg, Germany, in 2006.
A healthy adult elephant requires about $70,000 in food and care per year, while older or unhealthy elephants can total at least $100,000, according to the Performing Animal Wellness Society.
Paulchen might look small, but newborn calves can weigh 250 pounds at birth.
Feeding a Baby Elephant
A handler feeds a baby elephant in the Nairobi National Park in Kenya in 2009. Calves drink about three gallons of their mother's milk each day, and they don't wean easily — elephants can feed on their mother's milk for up to 10 years.
Orphaned elephants require specialized formulas that are high in the nutrients found in natural elephant milk (if you ever find yourself caring for a baby elephant, do not give it cow's milk). One naturalist, Daphne Sheldrick, found a milk formula containing coconut milk to be effective.
Researchers at Elephants Now also are trying to make the best type of synthetic milk for elephants.
Elephant Facts and Figures
Constructing an elephant exhibit can cost a zoo over $10 million.
Elephants eat between 200 and 600 pounds of food in vegetation, twigs and tree parks and consume 50 gallons of water each day.
While the ivory trade is the biggest risk to the global elephant population, people have found other, stranger ways to profit from the beasts. The world's most expensive coffee comes from elephant dung.
The elephants are fed coffee beans and poop out partially digested beans. Their stomach enzymes break down some of the beans, producing a smoother flavor. A single package — 1.23 ounces — of Black Ivory Coffee sells for $100.
Sounds like a load of expensive crap to us.
This rare white lion is one of two white lion cubs born at Mogo Zoo in Australia in 2006. Since the then-8-week-old cub was born in captivity, it's likely drinking its mother's milk. But if the mother wasn't around, there are other options.
In Australia, a small company called Wombaroo sells powdered milk formulas for a variety of exotic animals, including kangaroos, pandas and lions.
Feeding a Baby Lion
A three-week old lion cub named Akinta is being hand-fed in the Attica Zoological Park in Athens, Greece, in 2013.
Lion cubs start eating meat two to three months after being born and wean themselves off the lioness' milk when they are 6 or 7 months old.
Lions start hunting for their own meat at 1 years old — if they make it. In the wild, up to 80 percent of lions perish within their first two years. Considering that, the zoo life sounds pretty sweet.
Lion Facts and Figures
Lions start to vocalize right after they're born, with cute little yelps. The roaring starts after about one year.
The cost to feed one large African lion 10.5 pounds of raw meat, plus occasional dead prey animals, is an estimated $6,760 per year.
A lion can roar as loud as 114 decibels, which is nearly as loud as a thunderclap or chainsaw.
In this 2008 photo, a keeper feeds a 10-day-old Rothschild giraffe named Margaret, who is already five feet tall and weighs 75 pounds.
Margaret was born two weeks early and couldn't rear properly, so she was hand-fed by staff at the Chester Zoo in Chester, England.
Baby giraffes can drink nine quarts of whole cow's milk per day.
Feeding a Baby Giraffe
Giraffes can grow to 15 feet tall and weigh 2,200 pounds. But before they're munching on leaves, flowers, seeds and other vegetation, they need milk.
Sometimes, a giraffe won't take to his mother, and its handlers have to get it involved. Animal handlers at a Norway wildlife park had to feed one giraffe from a drip inserted into its throat. When the local paper got wind of this, it asked its readers for suggestions to get the giraffe to feed naturally — some reader responses included showing the giraffe films of suckling giraffes, while another suggested smearing the teats with honey.
No word on if any of those suggestions were considered, much less taken seriously.
Giraffe Facts and Figures
The first sensation a baby giraffe experiences is free fall. The mother gives birth standing up, and the baby plops five feet to the ground. They're up and running with their mothers just 10 hours after birth, according to National Geographic.
How much is a giraffe worth? As it was going bankrupt, the city of Detroit made an assessment of its valuables. Among them was a giraffe from its zoo, which the city said could fetch $80,000 at market (it wasn't sold).
The giraffe population is currently listed as "vulnerable" by the African Wildlife Foundation.
In 2002, this then-2-month-old polar bear cub named Siku (which means "Sea ice" in Greenlandic language) had to be hand-reared because his mother had no milk.
Siku was born at the Skandinavisk Dyrepark, a wildlife park in Djursland, Denmark.
He's still there and is now a polar bear ambassador of sorts.
Feeding a Baby Polar Bear
Substitutes for polar bear milk include Esbilac, which can be mixed with cream, half-and-half, or Multi Milk, according to Wild Pro.
A full-grown polar bear can eat 100 pounds of blubber in a single sitting.
In the wild, they mainly feast on seals.
Polar Bear Facts and Figures
How much does it cost to house a polar bear? Based on numbers provided by a German zoo to Statista in 2010, each month, a polar bear eats about $370 worth of food, needs about $6,300 in care and requires roughly $7,142 in housing costs (numbers converted and adjusted for inflation).
The Canadian people value their polar bears at $420,000 each. In 2013, the Canadian government commissioned a report that found its citizens would pay $6.3 billion per year to protect their fluffy, slightly murderous denizens.
Churchill, Canada, has a booming tourism industry. About 10,000 people visit the town during its five- to six-week bear season each year.
We've been nurturing seals for quite some time, as can be seen in this photo from 1945.
Here, Antonio G. Nicosia feeds a seal puppy he and a colleague found near an amphibious training base at Little Creek, Virginia.
Nicosia is giving him condensed milk mixed with water and cod liver oil.
Feeding a Baby Seal
Today, we still use cod liver oil as an ingredient in some milk replacements used for hand-rearing seal pups.
Sometimes no milk is required, and liquidized herring can be blended with vitamins, supplements and electrolytes.
Seal Facts and Figures
If they're lucky, seals won't end up as polar bear, shark or whale food. But like their predators, they require a lot of food to feed that blubber. According to the Marine Mammal Center, a seal pup eats 50 pounds of fish smoothie (yum!) per day, which costs $50.
In Belgium, the Sea Life Blackenberge aquarium and sanctuary spends around 2,500 euros ($2,700) to rescue a single seal pup found washed ashore.
The demand for seal products has declined, drastically. In 2006, Canada exported $18 million worth of seal products. A decade later, it exported less than $1 million worth of seal products.
Granted, this orangutan isn't a baby, but he's awesome. This is Pacquiao, an orangutan from Malabon Zoo in the Philippines. He's celebrating a 2017 Christmas party with his owner and zoo founder Manny Tangco, a tiger cub named Lenlen, and 200 orphans and Roman Catholic nuns.
Feeding a Baby Orangutan
This is Alifah, a 10-month-old orangutan in 2010. He's being fed from a bottle at a zoo in Indonesia because his mother stopped producing milk. As he gets a bit older, he'll ditch the bottle to drink from a tray of milk.
Orangutans drink milk for about three and a half years before switching to their vegetarian diet.
Orangutan Facts and Figures
Orangutan means "person of the forest" in Malaysian.
The orangutan's natural habitat is in the rain forests of Borneo and Sumatra.
Orangutans are critically endangered species. Their natural habitat is being destroyed for agricultural use, with palm oil plantations being one of the biggest threats.
Orphaned orangutans can be adopted for $12 a month via The Orangutan Project.
Puppies! There's nothing quite like having a puppy dog. We're not quite sure who this little guy is, but the Staffordshire terrier sure is cute.
Sure, they're not exotic, but did you know how much you're spending on your dog each year?
Feeding a Puppy
Orphaned dogs or dogs that need help feeding are fed milk replacements like Esbiliac. When they're very young, puppies need to be bottle-fed.
This tiny puppy is 4 days old and is being bottle-fed at the St. Francis CARE Animal Shelter in Murphysboro, Illinois.
Dog Facts and Figures
According to the American Kennel Club, the average lifetime cost of raising a dog from puppy to its later years is $23,410, or around $3,085 each year.
It's theorized that dogs "tell time" via their smell. Dogs might expect their owner to come home at a certain time by sniffing the amount of their scent left lingering in the air and figuring out when it smells like they're about to come home.
The most popular name for a dog is Max, followed by Molly, Sam, Zach and Maggie, according to the MSPCA-Angell.
Again, they're not exotic, but they're attainable. This rescued kitten named Unicef is being fed milk by syringe at the Best Friends Animal Society in Los Angeles in 2013.
Feeding a Baby Kitten
Like puppies, kittens can be fed a milk substitute such as Esbilac. Kittens don't drink regular milk, since it can cause diarrhea and isn't nutritious enough for the little felines.
Cat Facts and Figures
Cats sweat through their paws.
In order to cool themselves down during hot weather, they use their saliva.
Cats cost about $1,035 a year on average, according to the ASPCA. If your kitty lives till 15, she’ll cost you around $15,500.
These two twin pandas relax during a name-giving event at the Berlin Zoo in Germany in 2019.
The two 4-month-old pandas were born at the zoo on Aug. 31, 2019. They were given the names Meng Yuan and Meng Xiang.
Newborn pandas — those younger than these two — are born 1/900th the size of a regular panda.
Feeding a Baby Panda
Baby pandas drink their mother's milk, which is rich in nutrients.
The panda mother's colostrum period is much longer than most mammals. Whereas a deer may produce this phase of milk for only a few hours, the colostrum phase for a panda lasts 30 to 40 days, according to The Conversation.
Eventually, pandas will move on to bamboo after six months.
Panda Facts and Figures
All pandas are rented from China on loan from the Chinese government.
A pair of pandas cost about $1.15 million, according to Al Jazeera.
A panda feasts on 26 to 84 pounds of bamboo each day.
Orcas, also known as killer whales, can be fed milk from a bottle without a trip to the hospital or the graveyard.
In this 2005 photo, an animal care specialist at the SeaWorld San Antonio feeds a 5-week-old orca named K Calf some milk.
The mother rejected K Calf from birth, and the baby was being fed a combination of her mother's milk, which had to be pumped, and formula.
Feeding Baby Killer Whales
Killer whale calves are born around 8.5 feet long and weigh around 265-353 pounds.
The milk of a killer whale is high in fat and helps the calves develop a thick layer of blubber, according to SeaWorld.
They nurse for about one year.
Killer Whales Facts and Figures
Killer whales eat 100 to 300 pounds of food per day in captivity but consume around 375 pounds of food in the wild.
They weigh up to six tons, are almost the size of a school bus and live from 50 to 80 years old.
Killer whales aren't whales. They're actually dolphins, whale-eating dolphins.
China pays a minimum of $1 million for a captured killer whale, which fuels an illicit Russian whaling industry.
Chimpanzees are our closest biological ancestors. We share about 98 percent of our DNA with these great apes.
That might be why we put primates in diapers, as these twin dancers from Germany did with a pair of gorilla twin babies, while they fed them with milk bottles at the Frankfurt Zoo in 1967.
The women, the Kessler Twins, were a popular act in Germany and Italy during the 1950s and 1960s, and they adopted the gorillas — the first gorilla twins born in captivity — as "godchildren."
Feeding a Baby Chimp
Chimps nurse for at least five years. Those without mothers are fed a specialized milk formula.
Chimps can be kept as pets in several states, such as Alabama, Idaho and Kansas. Although it's pretty clear chimps can make absolutely terrible pets.
Chimpanzees grow up to 130 pounds and are 1.5 times as strong as humans relative to their body mass, research has shown.
Chimp Facts and Figures
Slate found that a chimpanzee can be purchased for $60,000 in America.
BBC found that chimps in countries like China, the Gulf states and Southeast Asia can be had for $12,500. Again, not a good idea.
Chimps in the wild live to around 45 years old.
They're smart. Chimps can be taught basic human sign language.
In this 2007 photo, Esed Behlulovic, then-a 72-year-old Bosnian Muslim feeds five baby goats, or kids, in the mountain village of Donji Petrovici.
The baby goats' mother did not have enough to feed them and required some human help.
Feeding Baby Goats
Unlike most animals on this list, having a baby goat is pretty common.
Goats cost $75 to $300 each, depending on age, sex, breed and health.
Goat Facts and Figures
As a pet, goats are cheap. A single goat eats around 13 bales per year, plus supplements like alfalfa pellets. It costs about $240 a year to feed a single goat. Not bad when compared to cats and dogs.
Some new evidence suggests that we have been domesticating goats for about 10,450 years.
Like dogs, goats can get destructive when they're on their own. That doesn't mean one goat needs more goats. Goats can accept a human as a herd member if it was raised by itself by people.
Like goats, pigs can also make good pets. They're smart, friendly and can be trained.
Many states allow pigs to be kept as pets, although some places and states don't allow it.
It's illegal to keep a pig in South Dakota, and they're banned in New York City, although many New Yorkers are defying the ban.
Feeding a Baby Pig
Pigs nurse for around six weeks. If they're orphaned or the mother can't produce milk, a colostrum replacement or goat's colostrum can be used.
The little guys need to feed within 24 hours of their life, or they could perish.
Baby Pig Facts and Figures
Pigs cost around $600 to $700 or more. It might even cost up to $1,500, depending on the kind of pig you want.
In Denmark, there are more pigs than people. The country has 215 pigs per every 100 residents.
Pigs aren't picky eaters, but the cost of feed ranges from $20 to $60 per month, according to Cost Helper.
Even fish can be fed from bottles. A Thai visitor feeds dried fish food to koi fish out of a small bottle at the Dusit Zoo in Bangkok, Thailand, in 2012.
Feeding Baby Fish
Fish aren't mammals, so they don't produce or need milk.
If other adult fish don't eat them, baby fish chow on liquid fry food.
Fish Facts and Figures
There are over 33,600 species of fish known to man.
One of the most expensive kinds of fish is koi fish, which can run between $100 to $3,000, depending on the variety.
Not including sharks, the biggest fish ever caught with a rod and reel is a 1,560-pound black marlin. It was captured in Cabo Blanco, Peru, in 1969.
Including sharks, the biggest fish ever captured with a rod and reel is a 2,664-pound great white shark, which was caught in 1959.
Related:Most Expensive Dog Breeds in the World