Lynx Trio Explores Highland Wildlife Park

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At almost three months old, the Northern Lynx triplets, at RZSS Highland Wildlife Park in Scotland, spent their first few weeks huddled together in the warmth of various dens with their mother, but they are now bravely venturing out to explore their whole enclosure. 

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4_RZSSHWP_2015NorthernLynxCubs9_creditAlexRiddell.JPGPhoto Credits: Alex Riddell/RZSS

Born to mum, Dimma, and dad, Switch, on May 25, this is the fourth consecutive year the couple have had cubs. Una Richardson, Head Keeper for Carnivores at RZSS Highland Wildlife Park, commented, “This is the fourth year in a row they have produced cubs - a real testament to the quality of the animal husbandry and the enclosure here. Dimma gave birth to her previous litters in the bushes at the front of the enclosure, which required us to rope-off the adjacent visitor path, but this year she has opted for the privacy and security of the nest boxes provided in the lynx house.”

Dimma, which means 'fog' in Swedish, was born on the 24 May 2010, at Boras Wild Animal Park, in Sweden, and she arrived at Highland Wildlife Park in February 2012. Switch was born May 2010, in Latvia, and came to the Park one month after Dimma

The cubs’ antics are generating quite a stir with keepers and visitors to the Park. Richardson remarked, “Watching the cubs play fighting with each other, running and tumbling about the enclosure, it’s easy to see why they are quickly becoming favorites with both staff and visitors, over the past few weeks. They have been putting on quite a show, especially at feeding time when they routinely play stalk and pounce on sections of meat as big as themselves.”

RZSS Highland Wildlife Park's Lynx are part of the European Zoo Association's coordinated breeding programme and, although the species is not endangered, it has become locally extinct in many areas across Europe, resulting in some sub-populations being considered “endangered” or even “critically endangered”. The Lynx occurred in the UK until possibly as late as the Middle Ages. Loss of habitat, reduced prey availability and illegal hunting are the biggest threats to wild Lynx populations. There have been a number of successful Lynx reintroduction projects within Europe, including in Switzerland and France.

Northern Lynx have a short, thick tail with a blunt black tip. They have distinctive dark tufts on their ears, which are thought to act a bit like antennae in helping to locate prey using their excellent hearing. The Lynx also has exceptional leaping ability, as it is an ambush predator

They also have a pale sandy-grey to rusty-red colored coat, with indistinct spots. In winter, the coat becomes much denser and the large, rounded feet help them travel over deep snow.

Northern lynx mate in late February to early March. They usually have 2 or 3 kittens, which stay with their mother until next breeding season.

More great pics, below the fold!

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Israel's Sand Cat Kittens Back by Popular Demand

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Since so many of you loved our story about Zoological Center Tel Aviv-Ramat Gan's Sand Cat kittens yesterday, we couldn't resist sharing new pictures we received this morning.  The more recent images show the kittens a bit older and with their eyes fully open! Enjoy!

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Photos by Tibor Jager

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Kittens Surprise Their Keepers at Tel Aviv Safari Park

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Rotem is a rare Sand Cat, and she lives at the Zoological Center Tel Aviv-Ramat Gan. After her partner, Sela, died about a year ago, keepers began searching for a young male Sand Cat who could take Sela's place. After intensive searching, a match was located at a zoo in Sweden, 3-year old Kalahari.

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4_0924_2015_08_07_014Photo Credits: Tibor Jager

The connection between the two seemed rather hesitant. After a period of getting acquainted, the zookeepers put Rotem and Kalahari together, but they weren't sure that the relationship was going in the right direction. In order to try and ensure a bond, the zookeepers decided to leave the two together in the same enclosure for the night.

Until that point in time, it wasn't customary to leave the Sand Cats together at night, in order to eliminate the possibility of tension and fights when the zookeepers weren't around. Since no violent behavior had been observed between the two since Kalahari's arrival, it was decided to leave them together day and night.

Three weeks ago, early in the morning when the zookeepers arrived at the Safari, they found three tiny kittens in a burrow in the enclosure. Rotem had given birth, and was already devotedly caring for her kittens!

During the period when Sela was Rotem's mate, the zookeepers had managed to document every time the pair mated during the day, as this took place only in the outside yard. Now, as Kalahari and Rotem remained together at night, the night matings weren't documented, so it wasn't possible to count the 60-69 days between mating and birth. Even though Rotem's stomach grew larger, the zookeepers couldn't know when she was expected to give birth.

The small, stocky Sand Cat (Felis margarita) is a species of great importance. They are classified as “Near Threatened” on the IUCN Red List. There are only 200 Sand Cats in European zoos, and many attempts are being made to breed them with the hope that it will be possible to reintroduce them back to the wild.

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Red Panda Cub Born at Longleat Safari Park

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A rare Red Panda cub has been born at Longleat Safari & Adventure Park, in the UK, after keepers launched an international “lonely-hearts ad” to find a mate for the cub's father. It’s the first time the famous Wiltshire safari park has successfully bred Red Pandas, and keepers are delighted with how well the cub, which has yet to be named, is doing.

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4_Red panda mum and dad at Longleat PIC Ian TurnerPhoto Credits: Ian Turner / Longleat Safari & Adventure Park

Dad Ajenda, which means ‘King of the Mountain’, came to Longleat from Germany in 2012, and mum Rufina, meaning ‘red-haired’, arrived from Italy just over a year later, following an appeal by keepers. The birth is particularly welcome as this particular pairing is deemed to be critical to the ongoing success of European Endangered Species Programme for the Red Panda.

Like their famous, but unrelated, namesakes the Giant Pandas, Red Pandas are increasingly endangered in the wild. The species was officially designated as ‘Vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2008 when the global population was estimated at about 10,000 individuals. A ‘Vulnerable’ species is one which has been categorized as likely to become ‘Endangered’ unless the circumstances threatening its survival and reproduction improve.

“We’re delighted with how well Rufina is looking after the young cub, and both mother and baby are doing brilliantly,” said keeper Robert Curtis.

“Cubs don’t tend to start venturing out on their own for the first three months, and Rufina, like all Red Panda mums, regularly moves the cub to different nesting areas. This is perfectly natural behavior but makes keeping track of the baby...somewhat problematic for us!” Curtis added.

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Panda Twins Cause Giant Stir at Smithsonian’s Nat. Zoo

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Giant Panda Mei Xiang (may-SHONG) gave birth to twins at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo on August 22. The panda team witnessed the first cub’s birth at 5:35 pm.  A second cub was born at 10:07pm. 

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4_20191285443_22e6b35e63_kPhoto Credits: Smithsonian's National Zoo / (Images 9 & 10: Connor Mallon)

A panda team of three keepers retrieved one of the cubs per the Zoo’s Giant Panda Twin Hand-Rearing protocol. The cub was placed in an incubator and was cared for by veterinarians and panda keepers. At this time, it has not been confirmed if the retrieved cub was the first born or second born. The retrieved cub was vocalizing very well and appeared healthy. It weighed 138 grams.

Giant Pandas give birth to twins approximately 50 percent of the time. This is only the third time a Giant Panda living in the United States has given birth to twins.

The panda team will alternately swap the cubs, allowing one to nurse and spend time with Mei Xiang, while the other is being bottle fed and kept warm in an incubator. The sex of the cubs won’t be determined until a later date.

As of this morning (August 24), the zoo reports that the panda cubs are doing well, but the panda team had a challenging night. When they tried to swap the cubs at 11p.m., Mei Xiang would not set down the cub she had in her possession. Consequently, the panda team cared for the smaller cub throughout the night until 7:05 am, when they successfully swapped the cubs. The panda team supplemented the smaller cub with formula by bottle-feeding. They were concerned that the smaller cub was not getting enough volume, so they moved to tube feeding which went well and quickly.  Their goal is for each cub to spend an equal amount of time with their mother.  Keepers stated, the newborn cubs are vulnerable and this first week is incredibly important and the risk remains high. The panda team is doing great work, around the clock, and will continue to keep the public posted.

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Baby Sloth Cuddles With Furry Friend

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A baby Two-toed Sloth at the London Zoo has two special friends:  a zoo keeper and a stuffed toy Sloth to cuddle with.Yawning sloth baby at ZSL London Zoo - July 2015 (c)ZSL

Sloth baby on toy sloth at ZSL London Zoo - July 2015 (c)ZSLPhoto Credit:  ZSL London Zoo
The baby, born in June to second-time parents Marilyn and Leander, needed a helping hand when his mother stopped producing milk and was unable to care for her infant.

Keepers have named the young male Edward after the character Edward Scissorhands, due to his impressive claws, which will grow up to four inches in length and enable him to cling on and climb easily through the trees in his habitat.

To help strengthen Edward’s little limbs, keepers fitted his Sloth-teddy with carabiners so that it can be hung from a branch, enabling the youngster to cling the same way he would with mom.

Edward gets a bottle of goat’s milk every three hours, but, befitting the notoriously slow nature of Sloths, keepers sometimes have to wait for him to stir from a deep slumber before feeding can begin.  When Edward is hungry, he lets keepers know by emitting a loud, sneeze-like squeak.

Detailed records are maintained on everything the infant does, including eating , sleeping, and even Edward’s potty-habits. Sloths leave their high tree-top habitats only once a week to go to the toilet, so by keeping track of his poop, Edward’s keepers can account for any weight losses or gains.

Two-toed Sloths are slow-moving, tree-dwelling, nocturnal herbivores, found in tropical forests in Central and South America. Sloths are strong swimmers and can drop from a tree branch into a river to swim across it. When sleeping, Sloths often curl up in a ball in the fork of a tree.


Black-footed Ferrets Get a Boost From Science

19919848834_168797a6a5_oThese Black-footed Ferret kits born in 2015 are more than cute -- they represent a breakthrough for this critically endangered species that could benefit rare animals around the world. 

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19919841354_371f4469e2_kPhoto Credit:  Mehgan Murphy, Smithsonian's National Zoo

 

In 1981, scientists found only one small wild population of Black-footed Ferrets in Wyoming.  Wildlife organizations, including zoos, have since brought this critically endangered species back from just 18 individuals to more than 2,600 in the wild today.  This summer, the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) broke the genetic bottleneck facing the species by using semen that had been cryopreserved for 10 to 20 years to artificially inseminate live female ferrets. This breakthrough will increase the number of black-footed ferrets born in human care while enhancing genetic diversity within the species.

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) developed and oversees the Black-footed Ferret Recovery Program. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan (SSP) manages the Black-footed Ferret breeding program with a breeding population composed of about 300 animals. For this study, all the males were managed either at SCBI or at the USFWS National Black-Footed Ferret Conservation Center. Scientists collected semen samples from adult Black-footed Ferrets that ranged in age from one to six years old. All females were solely managed at SCBI.

Initially, scientists used fresh semen to artificially inseminate females who failed to naturally mate with males, resulting in 135 kits. With just a few founders to rebuild an entire species, early managers of the Black-footed Ferret recovery program knew that genetic diversity could be lost. Loss of genetic variation can lead to increased sperm malformation and lower success of pregnancy over time. Researchers routinely collected and preserved Black-footed Ferret semen for later use as part of standard operating procedures.

Read more about Black-footed Ferret breeding and see more photos below.

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Snowy Owlets Hatch at Zoo Osnabrück

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In June, keepers at Zoo Osnabrück, in Germany, made the observation that their Snowy Owl was no longer attempting to incubate the three eggs she laid in her nest. Staff removed the eggs, and an incubator took over the work, warming the eggs at 37.5 degrees Celsius. The owlets began emerging from their eggs on July 12, and the youngest hatched on July 14. 

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Andreas Wulftange, research associate, said, “I had to feed them four times a day. They cried for attention and craned their beaks, demanding food. You can hear them before you see them.”

Staff are currently attempting to teach them the ways of being a predatory bird. The owlets practice balancing on logs, placed on ground level. For now, they are only able to hop about their aviary, but some flight feathers are starting to emerge on their fuzzy bodies.

Wulftange, a trained falconer, continued, “We want to enable the Snowy Owlets free flight and let them fly over the zoo grounds, so visitors can see how these special birds silently glide through the air and land with pinpoint accuracy.”

The trio will remain in the aviary until they have matured and grown the feathers they need to master flight.

The Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) is a large white owl of the typical owl family. They are native to Arctic regions in North America and Eurasia. Younger owls start with darker plumage, which turns lighter as they mature. Males are mostly white, while adult females have more flecks of gray plumage.

Snowy Owls are highly nomadic and their movements are tied to locating their prey. The powerful bird relies on lemmings and other small rodents for food during the breeding season. At times of low prey density, they may switch to eating juvenile ptarmigan. Like other birds, they swallow their prey whole. Strong stomach juices digest the flesh, while the indigestible bones, teeth, fur, and feathers are compacted into oval pellets that the bird regurgitates 18 to 24 hours after feeding.

Their mating season is in May, and eggs are incubated for about 32 days. The size of the clutch varies, depending on food availability. Only females incubate the eggs. The male provides the female and young with food. Young owls begin to leave the nest around 25 to 26 days after hatching. They are not able to fly until at least 50 days of age. They continue to be fed by the parents for another 5 weeks after they leave the nest.

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Endangered Crocs Hatch at Smithsonian’s National Zoo

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Five critically endangered Cuban Crocodiles recently hatched, at the Reptile Discovery Center of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, between July 29 and Aug. 7. Dorothy, a 57-year-old genetically valuable crocodile, laid the eggs. The hatchlings are less than a foot long, but they could reach up to 10.5 feet long when fully grown.

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4_19893839283_12d67c93ac_kPhoto Credits: Amy Enchelmeyer/Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Dorothy laid a clutch of 24 eggs in a hole nest on May 12. Crocodiles build either mound or hole nests. Hole nests are not always easily visible after females dig them; however, keepers had been monitoring Dorothy carefully and noticed physical changes indicating she had recently laid eggs. After a week of searching the exhibit for her nest, they found it and excavated the eggs. Ten of the eggs were fertile and moved to an incubator. Half of those fertile eggs continued to develop during the entire gestation period.

A crocodile embryo will develop into a male or female depending on the incubating temperature of the eggs. Only eggs incubated between 89.6 and 90.5 degrees Fahrenheit will hatch out males; any temperature higher or lower will result in females. The surface temperature of Dorothy’s nest was 84.7 degrees Fahrenheit when keepers reached it, and it was seven inches deep.

Keepers incubated the eggs in the temperature range to hatch out males, but it is too early to definitively determine the sex of each crocodile.

The Species Survival Plan (SSP) for Cuban Crocodiles requested that the Zoo hatch all males to ensure that the Cuban Crocodile population in human care continues to be sustainable. In the wild, a Cuban Crocodile’s nest will range in temperature. Depending on an egg’s temperature in the nest, some eggs could incubate at much warmer temperatures than others, resulting in males and females hatching out of the same clutch.

Keepers are behind the scenes, at the Reptile Discovery Center, caring for the baby crocodiles. Guests can see adult Cuban Crocodiles: Dorothy, Blanche, Rose and Jefe, on exhibit as usual.

Cuban Crocodiles are listed as “Critically Endangered” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature. They are threatened with habitat loss, hybridization and illegal hunting. They are only found in two swamps in Cuba.

More pics, below the fold!

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Four New ‘Rock’ Stars at Chester Zoo

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Four baby Rock Hyraxes have been born at Chester Zoo, in the UK. The tiny quartet arrived on July 25, after a seven-month gestation, weighing just a few ounces.

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As soon as Rock Hyrax babies are born, they look like miniature adults, with their eyes and ears open, sporting the same coat. And despite being small in stature, the species actually has an incredible genetic link to the elephant.

Nick Davis, assistant curator of mammals at the zoo, said, “It’s quite an oddity, but Rock Hyraxes and elephants share a number of common features. For example, a small mammal would typically go through a short gestation period, but the Rock Hyrax is different, with pregnancies lasting over seven months (245 days) – highlighting a connection to their much larger relatives.”

“There are also other physical similarities between the two species, such as the shape of their feet and their continually growing incisors, which are reminiscent of an elephant’s tusks,” Davis continued.

The Rock Hyrax (Procavia capensis) is one of the four living species of the order Hyracoidea, and the only living species in the genus Procavia. Like all hyraxes, it is a medium-sized terrestrial mammal, superficially resembling a guinea pig with short ears and tail. The closest living relatives to hyraxes are the modern-day elephants and sirenians (sea cow).

The species lives primarily in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, where it is known natively as a ‘dassie’ or ‘rock rabbit’. As their name indicates, Rock Hyraxes occupy habitats dominated by rocks and large boulders, including mountain cliffs, where they use their moist and rubber-like soles to gain a good grip to clamber around steep slopes.

They typically live in groups of 10 to 80 animals, and forage as a group. They feed on a wide variety of plants and have been known to eat insects and grubs. They have been reported to use sentries: one or more animals take up position on a vantage point and issue alarm calls on the approach of predators. They are said to have excellent eyesight. They are able to survive their dry habitat by getting most of their water from food supplies.

They are currently classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

More amazing pics, below the fold!

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