Rhino Birth Viewed Live at Burgers' Zoo

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As thousands of viewers watched via live webcam on August 10, Izala the Southern White Rhinoceros gave birth to a healthy female calf at Burgers’ Zoo.

Zoo staff members were anxious about the birth because Izala’s first calf was stillborn in January 2016. It is not uncommon for a White Rhino’s first pregnancy to be unsuccessful. Fortunately, this calf appears healthy and strong, and she was walking and nursing within just hours of birth.

The lively calf, named Wiesje, runs and plays in her large exhibit, with Izala usually trotting close behind.

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LI9A9453Photo Credit: Burgers' Zoo

 

Seven Rhinos have been born at Burgers’ Zoo in the past 17 years, and around 12 are born each year in European zoos. Last year, 22 Rhino births occurred in European zoos, due in part to increased cooperation among zoos. This cooperation resulted in more Rhinos being transferred among zoos into more favorable breeding situations.

While other Rhino species live mostly solitary lives, White Rhinos live in small social groups which typically include adult females and their young.  Males’ territories overlap those of females. Researchers have learned that the hormonal cycles of lower-ranking females in these groups are suppressed, resulting in only higher-ranking females being bred.

In zoos, this research has a practical application: moving a young female to a new environment increase the odds that her hormonal cycle will be restored, which improves the odds that she will breed. Thus Izala, who lived at the Kolmarden Zoo with her mother, was brought to Burgers’ Zoo so she could successfully breed and rear her own baby.

Southern White Rhinos are the largest of all five Rhino species, and are also the most numerous in the wild, with about 20,000 individuals found mainly in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Kenya. 

Southern White Rhinos are listed as Near Threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The main threat remains poaching for the illegal Rhino horn trade. As prices for Rhino horn increase, hunting increases as well. Rhino horn, which is used for ornamental purposes and in Traditional Asian Medicine, is made of solid keratin, the same material in human fingernails.  It has no proven medical benefits, yet has driven some Rhino species to the brink of extinction: only about 60 Javan Rhinos and 200 Sumatran Rhinos remain in Asia.

See more photos of Wiesje and Izala below.

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Meet Nala the Serval Kitten

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On July 1, Colchester Zoo welcomed a baby Serval named Nala. The kitten currently lives behind the scenes, where she is under the expert care of zoo keepers.

Like most kittens, Nala is playful, as you can see in the video below. During play, she exhibits the amazing skill that Servals are known for: leaping into the air to pounce on top of their prey.

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IMG_9662Photo Credit: Colchester Zoo

Servals live in much of Africa south of the Sahara Desert. Weighing 20-40 pounds as adults, these medium-sized Cats have the longest legs relative to body size of any feline. Their super-sized ears help them locate prey. Because Servals favor habitats with tall brush, long legs give them an advantage when tracking small mammals, birds, frogs, and reptiles through the grass. Once prey is within reach, Servals can leap more than six feet upward and ten feet forward to forcefully pounce on prey with their forepaws. A quick bite to the prey animal’s head or neck delivers the fatal blow.

Much of Africa’s Serval population lives on protected land and hunting of Servals is prohibited in many, but not all, countries. Though Servals are currently listed as a Species of Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, continued degradation of habitats, especially wetlands and grasslands, could pose a threat in the future.

See more photos of Nala below.

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Amazing Birth of Two Rare Foals at Dallas Zoo

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For the first time in Dallas Zoo’s 129-year history, they are proud to announce the birth of two extremely rare Somali Wild Ass foals. Born ten days apart, the little girls and their moms are doing great and have been bonding beautifully behind-the-scenes.

The first foal, named Kalila (“dearly loved” in Arabic), was born on July 9 to 13-year-old mom Liberty. This is dad, Abai, and Liberty’s third foal together; the pair previously welcomed two offspring at their former home, the St. Louis Zoo.

The second foal, named Naima (“calm” in Arabic), was born July 19 to the same dad, Abai, and first-time mom, five-year-old Hani. Just like her older half-sister, little Naima was standing, walking and nursing within minutes after birth.

“This is a big moment for our hoof stock team. Somali Wild Asses are critically endangered, with less than 600 left in the wild,” mammal curator John Fried said. “Only nine institutions in the U.S. care for this rare species, and to be able to welcome two babies is truly one of the highlights of my career.”

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4_IMG_9502Photo Credits: Dallas Zoo

The Somali Wild Ass (Equus africanus somaliensis) is a subspecies of the African Wild Ass. Native to the arid regions of the Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea), there are many reasons the Somali Wild Asses’ numbers have dropped drastically in the wild. Locals hunt this species for food and traditional medicine. Some believe their fat treats tuberculosis. Somali Wild Asses also directly compete with livestock for limited land and water sources. Additionally, wild assess are crossbreeding with domestic asses, hurting the genetics of this species.

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Zoo Hatches First Horned Puffin Chick

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A tiny Horned Puffin is doing well at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. The chick hatched in July at the Rocky Shores habitat for sea birds.

This is the first Horned Puffin ever hatched at the zoo, which has been home to four adult members of this species since October 2014.

The chick will be visible, periodically. However, zoo guests are likely to only catch glimpses of its tiny beak as it ventures to the front of its nesting area.

“The chick’s parents take turns feeding it, and visitors can see them going to and fro with food, or watching over the nest box,” said staff biologist, Cindy Roberts.

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4_Puffin 4Photo Credits: Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium (1-4) / Ingrid Barrentine (5-7)

Earlier this year, zookeepers took the initiative to build nest boxes for the Horned Puffins. They consulted with experts at the Alaska Sea Life Center to build boxes for the mating pair.

Zookeepers at Point Defiance Zoo give daily feeding presentations and talk to visitors about Horned Puffins, Tufted Puffins and Common Murres.

“Staff won’t know whether the chick is male or female, until it’s old enough for staff to collect a small blood sample from which gender and general health status can be determined,” Roberts continued.

A “well-chick-check-up” from a zoo veterinarian recently found the baby Puffin to be in good health.

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Bristol Zoo Gardens First to Breed Rare Spider

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One of the rarest spiders on earth has bred at Bristol Zoo Gardens in a world first.

Over 1,000 tiny Desertas Wolf Spiderlings have hatched in the Zoo’s Bug World. So valuable are the babies, some have even been hand-reared by dedicated keepers from tiny eggs.

The hatchings are a huge boost for the species, which is only found in one valley on one of the Desertas Islands, near Madeira, Portugal. There is thought to be a single population of just 4,000 adult spiders left in the wild – an alarmingly small number for an entire invertebrate species.

It is hoped that some of the spiderlings can be returned to their native island in the future to boost dwindling numbers in the wild.

2_An adult female Desertas wolf spider with young on her backPhoto Credits: Bristol Zoo Gardens

Desertas Wolf Spiders (Hogna ingens) are classified as “Critically Endangered” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species but are not protected by any specific legislation.

The baby spiders are just 4mm in diameter but grow to be huge, impressive-looking black and white adults up to 12cm in size with a body size of 4cm. They are under threat from habitat loss, due to invasive grass binding the soil where they burrow and blocking their natural shelters.

Bristol Zoo has joined forces with Instituto das Florestas e Conservação de Natureza (IFCN) and the IUCN to develop a conservation strategy to protect the species in an effort to prevent it becoming extinct.

As part of the vital conservation effort, Bristol Zoo’s Curator of Invertebrates, Mark Bushell, travelled to Desertas Grande last year with Zoo vet Richard Saunders and collected 25 Desertas Wolf Spiders to be brought back to the Zoo to breed as a ‘safety net’ population.

The effort has been a great success, as Mark explains: “Because this was the first time this species had ever been taken into captivity to breed, it was a steep learning curve. After some of the female spiders were mated, it was an anxious wait to see if they would produce egg sacs. We were thrilled when they did, and to see the tiny spiderlings emerge was fantastic – a real career highlight.”

Such was the keepers’ dedication, that when one of the female’s egg sac broke, eggs were carefully transferred into a miniature incubator for rearing. Once the eggs hatched, they were put into separate containers with sterilized soil, kept in quarantine and individually fed with fruit flies.

Bristol Zoo now plans to send hundreds of the tiny spiderlings to other Zoos in the UK and Europe to set up further breeding groups as part of a collaborative conservation programme for the species.

Mark added: “Establishing the world’s first captive breeding programme for this species is a fantastic step towards protecting it for the future. It is a beautiful and impressive creature, but its natural habitat is being altered by invasive plants. There are simply not enough rocky and sandy areas of habitat left for the spiders to burrow and hide in. The result is a deadly game of musical chairs, whereby the spiders are competing for fewer and fewer burrows.”

Mark added: “In addition to the loss of habitat, one single catastrophic event could wipe out the species entirely. Now we have successfully created a ‘safety net’ population here at Bristol Zoo to help safeguard this impressive creature for the future.”

In future it is also hoped that Bristol Zoo’s team of horticulture experts can visit Desertas Grande to work with park rangers to control the invasive grass, which is destroying the spiders’ habitats and help restore the original landscape.

Bristol Zoo Gardens is a conservation and education charity and relies on the generous support of the public, not only to fund its important work in the zoo but also its vital conservation and research projects spanning five continents.

For more information about visiting Bristol Zoo Gardens, visit their website at www.bristolzoo.org.uk .


London Zoo Welcomes First Birth at New Exhibit

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Zookeepers at ZSL London Zoo are celebrating the arrival of the first Hanuman Langur born at the Zoo’s Land of the Lions exhibit.

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4_Hanuman langur birth (c) ZSL (3)Photo Credits: ZSL London Zoo

Born to first-time parents Saffron and Rex after a 200-day gestation, the tiny female Hanuman Langur was spotted by zookeepers early in the morning on July 23.

Zookeeper Agnes Kiss said, “The first Hanuman Langur to be born to this troop at ZSL London Zoo and the first new arrival at Land of the Lions, this tiny primate is an exciting symbol of the success of this project.”

“To mark the occasion we’ve called her, Kamala, which means ‘lotus flower’ in Gujarati – the sign of beauty, fertility and prosperity.”

“Everyone is very pleased with Kamala’s progress so far,” said Agnes. “At the moment she has a pale face and downy dark fur, but it won’t be long before her skin turns black and her coat thickens and turns a magnificent silver - just like her parents.”

“She’ll also grow into her large ears, which are perfect for picking up subtle noises over long distances; in the Gir National Park, Hanuman Langurs act as an early warning system for other wildlife – making loud ‘barks’ from high in the treetops to warn of a lion’s approach. In Land of the Lions, the troop can often be heard vocalizing in response to the lions’ roars, which Kamala will learn how to do from her parents.”

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Banded Palm Civets Born at Nashville Zoo

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Nashville Zoo recently welcomed the birth of two Banded Palm Civets. The brother and sister were born on June 29.

At their first well check, the male measured 19 cm (7.5 in) with a weight of 105g (3.7 oz). The female’s body length was 20.5cm (8 in) with a weight of 100g (3.5 oz).

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Photo Credits: Dr. Heather Robertson/Nashville Zoo

For the past decade, this is only the second successful birth in an Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) institution for the species. The first Banded Palm Civet birth was also at Nashville Zoo in September 2015.

Nashville Zoo is the only AZA accredited facility breeding this species. There are now a total of 11 Banded Palm Civets in the AZA’s collection, with ten being at Nashville Zoo and one at Cincinnati Zoo.

Nashville Zoo is heading a breeding research project to determine if Banded Palm Civets are seasonal breeders, as well as discovering other factors for fecundity.

The Banded Palm Civet (Hemigalus derbyanus), also called the Banded Civet, is rare species found in tropical forests across Myanmar, Malaysia, Thailand and on the Indonesian islands of Sipura, Sumatra and Borneo.

Roughly the size of a domestic cat, adults of the species measure from 41 to 51 cm (1.3 to 1.7 ft) in total length, and can weigh between 1 to 3 kg (2.2 to 6.6 lbs).

The Banded Palm Civet is carnivorous, and like other species of civet, it survives on a meat-based diet, supplemented by the plants or fruits.

After a gestation period that lasts for a couple of months, a female can give birth to up to four young.

The Banded Pam Civet is currently listed as “Near Threatened” on the IUCN Red List. It is under threat from deforestation and the loss of much of its natural habitat. Extensive deforestation in their habitat is a result of logging or to clear the land to make way for palm oil plantations.

Nashville Zoo currently does not have plans to place the Banded Palm Civet siblings on exhibit.


Meet Mini Yuan Zi, France's First Giant Panda Cub

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The long-awaited birth of a precious Giant Panda cub at Zoo de Beauval, the first to be born in France, occurred on August 4 under the close scrutiny of zoo staff and their Chinese counterparts.

Now just over one week old, the male cub, affectionately called Mini Yuan Zi after his father, Yuan Zi, is gradually gaining weight as his mother, Huan Huan, learns to care for him. Pandas typically receive their official name on their 100th day, following Chinese tradition.

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Newborn Giant Pandas are extremely weak and vulnerable, weighing less than a quarter of a pound (120 grams) at birth. For the first week of Mini Yuan Zi’s life, zoo staff supplemented him with bottle feedings. They also placed Mini Yuan Zi in an incubator between feedings to keep him warm because Huan Huan, a first-time mom, was not yet adept at nursing him or holding him. The staff has now discontinued bottle feedings as the cub and Huan Huan have successfully bonded.

Mini Yuan Zi was one of two infants born to Huan Huan. The second baby was very weak and despite the intensive efforts of the staff, did not survive its first day. In the wild, twins are born in about half of all Giant Panda pregnancies, and the mother typically cares only for the strongest infant.

The zoo has been working for years to reach this moment. Huan Huan and Yuan Zi were very young when first introduced in 2014. Female Pandas go into heat only once per year, for just 24 to 48 hours, meaning there is just one opportunity per year for them to mate. Huan Huan did not go into heat in 2015, and no mating occurred in 2016. In 2017, the two adults showed great interest in each other but did not successfully mate. That’s when the zoo team decided to try artificial insemination, and it worked!

Giant Pandas are pregnant for three to four months. Urine analyses, which measure hormone levels, were used to pinpoint the date of Mini Yuan Zi’s birth.

For now, Mini Yuan Zi will remain behind the scenes with his mother. In a few months, zoo visitors will be able to glimpse him in a special viewing area.

Giant Pandas are found only in a few areas in central China – a fraction of their original range – where they feed on bamboo in cool mountain forests. Fewer than 2,000 Giant Pandas live in the wild, and another 400 live in zoos and breeding centers. For many years, Giant Pandas were classified as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In 2016, they were downlisted to Vulnerable, a reflection of the intense conservation efforts underway in China. The program to save the Giant Panda is regarded as one of the most intensive, high-profile efforts ever undertaken to save an endangered species.

All Giant Pandas living in zoos belong to China and are merely loaned to the zoo. The young eventually return to China and are introduced into the breeding program.

See more photos of the baby Panda below.

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Tiny Rock Hyrax Triplets Born at Chester Zoo

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Three baby Rock Hyraxes have made their public debuts at Chester Zoo.  The pocket-sized pups, which are yet to be named or sexed, arrived to mother Dassie and dad Nungu on July 21 weighing just over half a pound (250g) each – no heavier than a bar of soap!

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Rock hyrax triplets born at Chester Zoo (19)Photo Credit: Chester Zoo

Rock Hyraxes may be short in stature but these tiny animals have a surprising genetic link: they are more closely related to Elephants than any other species on Earth. Scientists posit that Hyraxes and Elephants evolved from a single common ancestor.

Rock Hyraxes’ two tusk-like incisor teeth constantly grow, just like the tusks of an Elephant. The two species also have similarly-shaped feet and similar skull structure.  

Small mammals often experience a short pregnancy period, but Rock Hyraxes are different, with their pregnancy lasting more than seven months. The young are well developed when born, just like miniature adults.

David White, Team Manager of small mammals at Chester Zoo said, “Rock Hyraxes have helped conservationists learn so much about the evolution of different animals, and how animals can evolve and adapt to the environments where they live – they really are special little creatures."

In the wild, Rock Hyraxes are known as ‘Rock Rabbits’ or ‘Dassies’ and can be found in large colonies across Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Scientists believe they even have their own form of language, using 20 different vocalizations in particular tones and orders to convey meaning.

More photos below!

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New Kid Makes Her Mark at Stone Zoo

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Stone Zoo recently announced the birth of a Markhor. The female kid was born on July 16 to parents, Maya and Tyrion. She recently had her first health check and was a healthy 8.8 pounds.

The new family can be seen within the Himalayan Highlands exhibit. Stone Zoo is now home to ten Markhor, including the new kid.

“Maya is very attentive to the kid, who has been nursing well and is strong and active. As with any new birth, we are closely monitoring the mother and baby,” said Dr. Alex Becket, Zoo New England Associate Veterinarian in the department of Animal Health and Conservation Medicine.

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3_markhor kid on exhibit - credit Bridget Collins LymanPhoto Credits: Zoo New England (Image 1) / Bridget Collins Lyman (2,3)

Zoo New England participates in the Markhor Species Survival Plan (SSP), which is a cooperative, inter-zoo program coordinated nationally through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). SSPs are designed to maintain genetically diverse and demographically stable captive populations of species. This birth is the result of a recommended breeding.

Markhors (Capra falconeri) are the largest species of wild goat. They are native to the Himalayan Mountains, and their range includes northern India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. They can typically be found living around or above the tree line.

Markhor have broad hooves and striking spiral horns that can grow to three feet long in mature males. The long corkscrew horns that males develop as they mature are much sought after by trophy hunters.

The Markhor is currently classified as “Near Threatened” on the IUCN Red List.

In the wild, this species faces a number of threats including hunting as well as competition for food. These animals are also competing against domestic livestock for food and water resources in their native habitat.

Zoo New England has supported a project in Pakistan that works with local communities to sustainably manage Markhor and other wildlife.

* "Zoo New England manages Franklin Park Zoo in Boston and Stone Zoo in Stoneham, MA. Both are accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Zoo New England's mission is to inspire people to protect and sustain the natural world for future generations by creating fun and engaging experiences that integrate wildlife and conservation programs, research, and education."