The Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo, got a Valentine's day delivery that didn't include flowers, chocolate or teddy bears.
Instead, it came in the form of a tiny black-footed cat that was born on February 14 - a first for the zoo.
At birth, the kitten's future didn't appear so bright. Cleo, its 4-year-old mother, was not providing proper maternal care. The kitten wasn't nursing, his body temperature was severely low and he was significantly underweight.
The CZS staff took hands-on control and provided the animal with 24-hour care. He was also placed in an incubator in attempts to raise his body temperature levels. Now that he is six weeks old, he is doing much better and gaining weight. He drinks milk formula and has started accepting solid foods.
Cleo and her three-year-old mate Butch were placed on a breeding loan from Brookfield Zoo from Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo in Nebraska and John Ball Zoological Gardens in Michigan.
There are currently sixty black-footed cats in 16 North American zoos. Brookfield Zoo has exhibited black-footed cats since 2009.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species, the black-footed cat is classified as "vulnerable." They are the smallest of the African felines (native to Southern Africa) and are half the size of a house cat (measuring between 19 and 25 inches in length). The males generally weigh between four to five and a half pounds, and the females are typically between two to three and a half pounds.
In Botswana, South Africa and Namibia, where they are most prevalent, there is estimated to be less than 10,000 individuals of this species left. They continue to decline in population due to habit degradation and dwindling numbers of prey.