Chicago had a banner year in what famed movie anchorman Ron Burgundy called some of the most “compelling and rich” reports in the news biz: the classic, time-honored animal stories.
And who doesn’t like pics of a baby gorilla when the rest of the news appears to be a countdown to the apocalypse?
Here’s a rundown of five of the biggest animal stories in Chicago from 2019.
1. Chance the Snapper takes a dip in Humboldt Park … and our hearts
The saga of the Humboldt Park lagoon alligator, nicknamed “Chance the Snapper,” mesmerized Chicago. The alligator was first spotted on July 9 and almost instantly became a hit, with hundreds of folks visiting the lagoon to grab a peek at Chance living it up.
Even the people tasked with capturing Chance became celebrities. First there was the mysterious, canoe-riding trapper known as Alligator Bob, a volunteer with the Chicago Herpetological Society.
Then there was Alligator Robb (no relation to Alligator Bob), who was flown in from Florida at the request of city officials. Alligator Robb, whose real name is Frank Robb, captured the elusive reptile about a week after it was first spotted. Alligator Robb also caught a girlfriend during his brief stay in Chicago.
As for Chance the Snapper, the hometown hero was sent to Florida’s St. Augustine Alligator Farm.
“It’s pretty much a five-star resort for crocodilians,” Alligator Robb told Block Club Chicago.
2. Rose and Monty, the piping plovers who ended an EDM festival
As Chance the Snapper grabbed the spotlight, another major animal story had been spreading its wings on Chicago’s North Side: A pair of endangered piping plovers were nesting in Chicago for the first time in 64 years.
The birds, named Rose and Monty, met at Chicago’s Montrose Beach in June and, as the Chicago Tribune reported, “began having a lot of sex.” The couple successfully reared two chicks despite a number of struggles, such as nesting in a well-traveled area, seeing their beach home flooded, and dealing with dogs and Fourth of July fireworks.
But a major threat loomed for the birds when the EDM festival Mamby of the Beach was scheduled to take place at Montrose Beach, raising concerns about the well-being of the piping plovers and sparking a campaign from bird watchers and community members to have the festival relocated.
Those efforts paid off when event organizers announced in July that they were cancelling the EDM festival, cementing this story’s place in the annals of great “nerds vs. jocks” tales.
3. Not ONE but TWO baby gorillas were born at the Lincoln Park Zoo
The baby gorillas were the first ones born at the North Side zoo since 2015.
The first gorilla was born on Mother’s Day (awwww) and was named Mondika (mon-dee-kah). The second gorilla was born on June 12 and was named Djeke (jek-ay). Both lil’ gorillas have the same father, Kwan, who is the family’s silverback.
Both babies are adorable. And both will totally rip your face off when they’re older.
4. Endangered baby rhino rams its head horn thing into your feelings at Lincoln Park Zoo
Wow, the Lincoln Park Zoo really was a baby factory this year.
A rare, male eastern black rhinoceros was born at the zoo on May 19. The eastern black rhinoceros is a critically endangered animal, with an estimated 5,042 and 5,455 living today.
The little dude was only 53 minutes old when he began standing up, a good sign. But it wasn’t until June when the zoo applied the calf to take his first steps outside.
5. Baby beluga whale makes a splash at the Shedd
Meanwhile, at the Shedd Aquarium, an adorable baby beluga whale was born on July 3. The Shedd allowed the public to weigh in on the baby’s name.
After a weeklong voting campaign in November that netted more than 20,000 votes, the calf was named Annik (AH-nik), which means “blizzard” in the Intuit language. Other Intuit names up for consideration were Imavik (which means ocean), Ikullak (confident), Naniitchuk (brave) and Kulu (a term of endearment for babies and young children).
Hunter Clauss is a digital editor who writes the station’s daily newsletter, The Rundown. You can follow him on Twitter at @whuntah.