NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Nashville Zoo is celebrating the birthday of its very first spotted fanaloka, Pépite, born April 29, 2022.
“It’s been really awesome getting to kind of be a leader and highlighting the species,” said Cameron Luna, Nashville Zoo Ambassador Keeper. “It has been such a rewarding process for me just as a keeper getting to work with an animal that’s so unique.”
He is the first of his kind born at Nashville Zoo and in the United States, according to the AZA.
Fanalokas are native to Madagascar. Some say if there ever was a cross between a ferret and a racoon, this would be it.
At first, Pépite was very shy, but overtime, he learned how to be around people and become a zoo animal ambassador.
Luna said she started working with him when he was four-months-old.
“We would have him come out on a table, explore his area, and play with different puzzle feeders. And then slowly, I would start to go down to our ‘Unseen New World’ and get small groups of guests and have them come up and get this really special experience getting to encounter an animal that literally no one else in the zoo gets to see,” Luna said.
This summer he will be visiting with the zoo’s summer campers every week, which is about a hundred kids each week.
Pépite also visits with zoo goers during the afternoons at the Unseen New World Exhibit sometimes.
“”I usually do an encounter with him there every day that I am at the zoo. So, a good chance to see him,” she said.
Luna continued, ” But it’s just so amazing to see his growth from being this animal that no one’s ever seen before, getting to introduce him to so many people, see how he’s become more confident over the months that I’ve been working with him, and more comfortable in front of different groups of people.”
You may remember getting a chance to watch Pépite grow during his stay in the zoo’s HCA Healthcare Veterinary Center nursery. We streamed a live feed around the clock on WKRN.com.
News 2 has partnered with Nashville Zoo to bring you weekly segments of Zoopalooza. You can watch them on News 2 on Good Morning Nashville on Saturday and right here on WKRN.com.