Adelaide Zoo

Orphaned Kangaroo Raised by Wallaby at Adelaide Zoo

1_Adelaide Zoo Tree Kangaroo April 2015

In a world first for conservation, Adelaide Zoo Keepers and Veterinarians saved the life of an orphaned Goodfellow’s Tree Kangaroo, by utilizing a surrogate wallaby mother. It’s a technique never attempted before with a Tree Kangaroo!

2_Adelaide Zoo Goodfellows Tree Kangaroo Cross Foster Photo © Zoos SA

3_Adelaide Zoo Tree Kangaroo March 2015

4_Adelaide Zoo Goodfellows Tree Kangaroo April 2015 Photo © Zoos SA Dave MattnerPhoto Credits: Zoos SA

In November last year, zookeepers arrived early one morning to make a horrible discovery. Overnight, a falling branch had crushed the zoo’s three-year-old female Tree Kangaroo, orphaning a five-week-old joey.

Acting on pure adrenalin, zookeepers made the decision to try and save the tiny joey. Due to the young age of the joey, hand rearing was not possible, which meant the only option available was to try and ‘cross-foster’ the joey into the pouch of a surrogate wallaby mother.

‘Cross-fostering’, a special breeding technique that Adelaide Zoo began pioneering in the 1990s, involves the transfer of endangered joeys to the pouch of a surrogate mother of a different wallaby species. This accelerates the breeding cycle of the original wallaby, allowing the female to increase its reproduction rate up to six or eight times in some species. This means Adelaide Zoo can build the captive population of an endangered species much more quickly.

Adelaide Zoo Veterinarian, Dr. David McLelland, says cross fostering has never been attempted on a Tree Kangaroo until that fateful morning. “We’ve had great success over the years’ cross-fostering between wallaby species, but the specialized breeding technique has never been used on a Tree Kangaroo,” David said.

“Not only are tree kangaroos distant relatives of wallabies, they also have many behavioral and physical differences. We had no idea if the Yellow-Foot Rock-Wallaby would accept the Tree Kangaroo joey, but if we wanted to save the joey we had to try our luck.”

The cross-foster procedure, to get the Tree Kangaroo joey to latch on to the new teat, ran smoothly and an anxious couple of days followed as zoo keepers closely monitored the wallaby to determine if the attempt was successful.

Adelaide Zoo Team Leader of Natives, Gayl Males, says tiny ripples of movement over the following days confirmed the joey was alive and thriving, tucked carefully away in its surrogate mother’s pouch.

“We were so excited when we confirmed the joey had made it past the first critical 24 hour period. We were uncertain as to whether the joey was going to be accepted. This joey was completely different from other joeys in body shape and behavior. It certainly wriggled around more than a wallaby joey!” Gayl said.

“The joey, which we named Makaia, first popped its head out of the pouch around the end of January. It was certainly a sight to see a Tree Kangaroo joey, with its reddish-tan fur, bright blue eyes and long claws riding around in a wallaby!”

“He stayed with his wallaby mum for about three and half months until I took over caring for him and in effect became his third mum. He’s certainly a cheeky little fellow and loves running amok, testing the boundaries, using my home as his personal playground, climbing on everything, pulling toilet paper off the rolls, but he also loves quiet time cuddling with my husband in the evening while we watch TV.”

“He truly is a special little guy and I am so pleased that Adelaide Zoo has the staff and expertise to successfully perform this world first cross-foster. Makaia is the result of all our hard work; we can’t wait to share his amazing story with the world!”

Makaia spends the day at the zoo and goes home with Gayl over evenings and on her days off. He will continue to be cared for full-time until he no longer requires overnight feeds and will be weaned at around 15-18 months old.

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Red Panda Twins Pull a Fast One on Adelaide Keepers


On the morning of January 28th, Adelaide Zoo Panda Keepers made a delightful, yet surprising, discovery during a routine clean of the Red Panda night quarters. Inside were two tiny Red Panda cubs!




Photo Credits: Dave Mattner

Zoo keepers had ruled out the possibility that the Zoo’s eight-year-old female Red Panda was pregnant in December, after the yearly birthing season passed without the arrival of cubs.

Since the discovery, the two ten-week-old cubs have spent most of their time in a private den snoozing, like most newborns do, while tended to by their mum, ‘Imandari’.

The cubs had their first veterinarian exam recently. They received a general health check, and had their first round of vaccinations. It was also confirmed that both cubs are male!

Adelaide Zoo Panda Keeper, Constance Girardi, said Imandari’s previous litter of cubs was still living with her, which would normally inhibit pregnancy. The discovery of the new cubs came as a great surprise.

“While we had noticed a few behaviors that could indicate pregnancy early on, these behaviors soon subsided and when the birthing season (usually around December) passed, we assumed she was not pregnant,” Constance said. “You can imagine our surprise when we noticed some extra bedding in the nesting box, and upon discovery, uncovered two very tiny, very cute red fluff balls!”

Constance continued, “Red Panda cubs are born quite underdeveloped, so it was important that we followed a hands-off approach and allow time for them to grow and develop a bond with their mum. Red Pandas are known for their slow rates of reproduction and high infant mortality rates, so to have two litters of cubs born within 13 months is a fantastic result and a testament to Imandari’s stellar mothering skills.”

As the pair grows, they are expected to become more adventurous and confident with their surroundings. Once they start exploring their habitat, visitors can hope to catch a glimpse of the duo.

Despite their name, Red Pandas are more closely related to raccoons than to their black-and-white counterparts. Native to eastern Himalayas and south-western China, Red Pandas spend most of their time in trees eating bamboo and a variety of fruits, leaves and eggs.

Red Pandas are classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List. It is estimated there are fewer than 10,000 left in the wild. The major threats facing Red Pandas in the wild are habitat loss and fragmentation, inbreeding depression, and poaching.

Teeny Tortoises Have Big Conservation Impact

WST-3Four Western Swamp Tortoises hatched at Australia’s Adelaide Zoo may be small, but they are extremely important to the future of this critically endangered reptile species.

WST-4Photo Credit:  Zoos SA

The first of the Tortoises hatched on March 28, but the three remaining eggs hatched over a three-day period from May 13-15.  It is not unusual for Western Swamp Tortoises to remain in the egg, fully developed, until the right weather conditions are present for hatching.

Zoo staff report that the baby Tortoises are developing well and feast regularly on their favorite foods – brine shrimp and mosquito larvae.

In the wild, these small Tortoises live in fresh water and rarely weigh more than one pound (500g) as adults. 

With these four hatchlings, Adelaide Zoo now holds fifteen Western Swamp Tortoises.  In the wild, these reptiles are found in just two reserves in Western Australia - Ellen Brook Reserve and Twin Swamp Reserve.  Only about 200 of these Tortoises are thought to remain in these areas.  Adelaide Zoo and Perth Zoo work together to reintroduce the species to the wild and many of the zoo’s Tortoises will be released into their native habitat.

See more Tortoise photos below the fold.

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Little Langurs Swing into Australia

Francois Langur Baby at Taronga Zoo 1

ZooBorns was seeing double today when two Australian zoos shared pictures of their new langur babies within minutes of one another. Taronga Zoo announced the birth of an endangered, bright orange Francois Leaf Monkey, the first to be raised by its mother in Australia. The male infant was born to mother, ‘Saigon’, and father, ‘Hanoi’, and discovered cradled in its mother’s arms in the early morning of Saturday 30 January by zoo keepers who had been monitoring the pregnancy.

Taronga Zoo Primate Keeper, Roxanne Pellat, said: “Obviously we were all very relieved when we discovered Keo-co cradled in Saigon’s arms. He had been licked clean, was warm, alert and the two adult females began sharing the role of caring for him. This is exactly what we hoped to see as this birth is particularly significant.” 

Francois Langur Baby at Taronga Zoo 3

Meanwhile at the Adelaide Zoo, three-time Dusky Leaf Monkey mom, Flier, gave birth to a healthy little girl, who is already proving to be a very mischievous, cheeky monkey... she is in to everything and is always trying to go off exploring, meaning Flier is constantly chasing after her. She will lose that brilliant coloring by the time she's three months and will begin to turn grey to match the rest of her family.

Dusky Leaf Monkeys or Dusky Langurs are native to Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand.  In the wild the species is under threat from hunting for food, as is habitat loss and degradation due to expanding oil palm plantations, agriculture, and urbanization.  In Peninsular Malaysia the animals are frequent victims of road-kill. 

Dusky Langur at the Adelaide Zoo 1

Dusky Langur at the Adelaide Zoo 2

Learn and see more below the fold.

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First Palm Cockatoo in (almost) 40 Years!


On October 5 an egg hatched at Adelaide Zoo in South Australia and out popped a Palm Cockatoo chick with a face that only a mother Palm Cockatoo could love! She has since grown into a gorgeous bird! This is the first successful Zoo birth of a Palm Cockatoo in Australia since 1973 and Adelaide Zoo is the only Zoo in Australia to house Palm Cockatoos.  Adelaide Zoo keepers decided to take the egg away from her parents as they had a poor history of incubating their own eggs.  The egg was then placed in an incubator and once hatched the chick was cared for by keepers.  For the first few weeks of her life she needed feeding every hour and a half.  This kept the keepers very busy who in turn took her home over night for those 2am feeds!  Since the Palm Cockatoo are native to warm regions such as northern Queensland, Australia, New Guinea island in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, the chick had to be kept at a constant temperature of 35C/95F degrees during her early development.




Photo credits: Adelaide Zoo

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Little Mandrill Girl Greets the World

This past October Australia's Adelaide Zoo welcomed a newborn female Mandrill to first time mother Niari. Adelaide Zoo’s Mandrills have not bred in a number of years but first time mom Niari is reportedly doing quite well with her little one. To date no keeper assistance has been needed, which can be the case with some first time mothers. The baby is almost two months old now and can be seen throughout the exhibit riding along with Mom, suckling, and starting to explore her surroundings. Although inquisitive she still stays close to Niari.

Baby Mandrill Adelaide Zoo 1

Baby Mandrill Adelaide Zoo 1

The Mandrill is the world's largest species of monkey and is found in the tropical rainforests and occasionally woodlands of southern Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, and Congo.  Mandrills are listed as vulnerable as a result of intensive hunting pressure and habitat loss across their native region.

Baby Mandrill Adelaide Zoo 2

Baby Mandrill Adelaide Zoo 4Photo credits: David Mattner for Zoos South Australia

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A Peculiarly Wonderful Ball of Fluff

Longtime ZooBorns readers (or book owners!) will be no strangers to the peculiarly wonderful balls of fluff that are baby Tawny Frogmouth chicks. This little bird was born at Australia's Adelaide Zoo in October. The parents are both hand raised and it is unusual for hand raised birds to successfully raise their own young.  However these parents are doing a great job caring for the chick and are also feeding it well, with minimal supplementary feeding from the keepers. The chick weighed only 22 grams at birth (.8 ounces!) but is now a few months old and weighing in at 197 grams and can be seen flying around the exhibit but still staying close to its parents.

Tawny frogmouth chick adelaide zoo 1b

Tawny frogmouth chick adelaide zoo 1b

Don't miss this video which shows the chick at an even younger age.

Tawny Frogmouths are found throughout the Australian mainland, Tasmania and southern Papua New Guinea. They are often hard to spot within the trees as they camouflage so well. The Zoo is currently holding a naming contest for the chick. Vote today!