Belfast Zoo

Meet Betty Bantu, Belfast's Blesbok Calf

(4)  For the first few weeks  keepers were giving Ariel and her calf time to bond.  The new arrival is a female who has been named Betty Bantu  after the African Bantu tribe.

Belfast Zoo is celebrating the birth of a Blesbok calf. The latest arrival was born to mother Ariel and father Aurthur on May 28. 

For the first few weeks after the calf’s birth, keepers gave Ariel and her calf time to bond. They recently learned that the calf is a female and have named her Betty Bantu, after the African Bantu tribe. She is the 11th Blesbok calf to be born at the zoo.

(1)  Belfast Zoo is celebrating the birth of a blesbok calf!
(1)  Belfast Zoo is celebrating the birth of a blesbok calf!
(1)  Belfast Zoo is celebrating the birth of a blesbok calf!Photo Credit: Belfast Zoo

Unlike most Antelope species, which hide their young in brush to avoid predators, Blesbok calves walk and follow their mothers within an hour of birth. 

Blesbok live on the open grasslands of South Africa.  They get their name from the word ‘bles,’ which means ‘blaze’ in Afrikaans, a reference to the very broad white marking on the face.  Both males and females have horns which can be up to 15 inches long.

When European settlers arrived in what is now South Africa in the 17th century, Blesbok were so plentiful that the herds were said to stretch as far as the eye could see. But by the 19th century, after decades of being hunted for their skin and meat, Blesbok faced extinction.

Protections were put in place to save the Blesbok, which is now thriving in the wild and is no longer listed as Endangered. The Blesbok’s story shows that conservation efforts can have a happy ending.

See more photos of Betty Bantu below.

Continue reading "Meet Betty Bantu, Belfast's Blesbok Calf" »


Zoo’s Red Squirrels Released Into Protected Area

(2)  (Photo credit - Jon Lees)  Belfast Zoo has been home to red squirrels since 2012.

On June 2, Belfast Zoo celebrated another conservation success when two female Red Squirrels, born at the Cave Hill site, left the zoo as part of a release programme at Silent Valley Mountain Park.

(ZooBorns shared news of the birth of the special kits in August of 2017: “Belfast Zoo Celebrates Five Kits in Red Squirrel Nook”)

Silent Valley Mountain Park was selected as the latest Red Squirrel release site, as part of a nation-wide scheme to enhance the population of this beautiful and threatened species. The site was deemed suitable due to the ongoing efforts of the Mourne Heritage Trust, Ulster Wildlife and NI Water to enhance the quality and quantity of woodland available in the area and to keep the area free of competing populations of the invasive Grey Squirrel. The Mourne Heritage Trust also had demonstrable success with the return of Red Squirrels into Mourne Park Estate, in Kilkeel, in 2014.

(1)  The zoo runs the first captive breeding programme for red squirrels in Northern Ireland.

(4)  Squirrels bred at the zoo have been released into protected areas in Northern Ireland.  Two females have recently been released to Silent Valley.

(3) The aim of Belfast Zoo's red squirrel nook is education but the zoo also plays a vital and leading role in red squirrel conservation in Northern Ireland.Photo Credits: Belfast Zoo /Jon Lees, NIEA (Image 1)

Red Squirrels are believed to have been present in Ireland for more than 10,000 years. Many people are familiar with this native species and its bright red coat, creamy white belly, bushy red tail and distinctive ear tufts. However, not everyone is aware that the Red Squirrel in Northern Ireland is in serious trouble. The population has declined dramatically due to loss of habitat and competition from the larger, invasive Grey Squirrel that carries a lethal pox virus.

Zoo manager, Alyn Cairns, said “Belfast Zoo first became home to Red Squirrels in 2012 when three animals arrived from the Glens of Antrim. The original aim of our Red Squirrel nook was predominantly education and interaction. However, the hope was that the squirrels would be content in the nook to breed and, with this in mind, release arrangements were developed by Belfast Zoo, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and the Northern Ireland Squirrel Forum (NISF). Since the arrival of our original trio, we have welcomed numerous kittens and have celebrated several successful re-introductions to protected areas in Northern Ireland.”

Alyn continued, “It is easy to look at the plight of the world’s wildlife and to feel like these problems are a world away from our own daily lives. However, the reality is that Northern Ireland’s very own species are facing increasing threats and the Red Squirrel is the perfect example of this. Here at Belfast Zoo we are committed to playing a leading role in wildlife conservation including wildlife on our own doorstep. The success of the latest release is the culmination of planning and dedication from all parties. It is extremely encouraging that, since the inception of the zoo’s squirrel nook, Belfast Zoo born squirrels have not only supported existing populations in Northern Ireland but have also been imperative in developing new habitats and populations. While this is the first release at Silent Valley we are optimistic that this will be the first of many.”

Dave Farnan, Area Ranger for the Mourne Heritage Trust, explains “The squirrels will live in a soft release pen in Silent Valley for the next few weeks, to acclimatise before being released onsite in mid-June. The two female squirrels will then be joined by two wild male squirrels, who are due to be trans located to the site, with relevant permissions from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and the Forestry Service NI. This project has been a collaborative effort of so many parties; not just Belfast Zoo and ourselves. The release pen was donated by the Woodland Trust who also donated one thousand native broad-leaved trees, to increase the woodland habitat that these squirrels call home. We have also worked closely with landowners along the Kilkeel and Annalong River who have been enthusiastic in reporting squirrel sightings and allowing Ulster Wildlife and Mourne Heritage Trust staff and volunteers to actively enhance the land for the release. We have been overwhelmed by the support we have received and I can’t wait to see Red Squirrels back in the Silent Valley.”


Belfast Zoo Says 'Hola' to Their New Babies

1_(9)  Call by the zoo this weekend and spot Belfast Zoo's latest arrivals.

Belfast Zoo keepers are saying ‘hola’ to two Capybara babies! The twins were born to mother, Lola, and father, Chester, on April 2.

The Capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) is a South American mammal that resembles a giant Guinea Pig. They are the largest rodents in the world and measure up to 130 centimeters in length (4.2 feet).

The scientific name for this species “hydrochaeris” is Greek for ‘water hog’. This refers to the fact that the Capybara is a semi-aquatic mammal.

The species is native to Central and South American riverbanks, ponds, and marshes. When the Capybara swims, its eyes, ears and nostrils are positioned above the water to help with vision and breathing. This unusual animal has webbed feet and can even hold its breath for up to five minutes underwater!

2_(1)  Belfast Zoo keepers are saying ‘hola’ to more new arrivals as two capybara have been born!

3_(2)  The capybara babies were born on 2 April 2018 and are beginning to explore their home with their family.

4_(3)  Capybara are the largest rodents in the world and closely resemble giant guinea pigs.Photo Credits: Belfast Zoo

The arrival of the two latest Capybara babies means that Belfast Zoo is now home to a total of thirteen. In the wild, these rodents live in large family groups of ten to 40 individuals. They are incredibly vocal and communicate through barks, whistles, huffs and purrs.

Zoo Curator, Raymond Robinson, said, "Our Capybaras share their home with some other South American 'amigos', including Giant Anteaters and Darwin's Rhea. While the Capybara is not currently classified as an endangered species, it is hunted and poached for its meat and skin. It is important that zoos, such as Belfast Zoo, help to raise awareness of this species and the increasing dangers which Capybara face in their natural habitat. We have no doubt that our South American babies will soon be a firm favourite with visitors!"

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Red Titi Monkey Parents Share Duties at Belfast

1_(4)  As the baby clings to mum or dad's back  keepers have been unable to confirm the gender or name of the latest arrival.

Belfast Zoo is celebrating the birth of a tiny Red Titi Monkey. The latest arrival was born to mum, Inca, and dad, Aztec, on January 26.

Although Inca has her hands full, Aztec is willing and able to help, as male Titi Monkeys play a very active role in parenting and are the main childcare providers.

Aztec can be seen carrying the infant on his back and returning it to mum in time for nursing. The infant will cling to Aztec and Inca for approximately four to five months and, for this reason, keepers have been unable to confirm the sex of the latest arrival.

Zoo curator, Julie Mansell, said, “Belfast Zoo has been home to Red Titi Monkeys since 2010, when Inca and Aztec arrived from London Zoo and Blackpool Zoo respectively, as part of the collaborative breeding programme. Red Titi Monkeys are an unusual primate, as they are monogamous and mate for life. Aztec and Inca can often be seen sitting or sleeping, with their tails intertwined. The pair welcomed their first daughter in July 2011 and have continued to build their family in subsequent years. With the latest arrival, Belfast Zoo is now home to a total of six Red Titi Monkeys.”

2_(5)  This species is found in the rainforests of South America including Brazil  Bolivia  Colombia  Venezuela and Peru.

3_(3)  Inca will be having a relaxing Mother’s Day while Aztec has his hands full  as male titi monkeys are the main childcare providers.

4_(1)  Belfast Zoo is celebrating the birth of a tiny red titi monkey.Photo Credits: Belfast Zoo

As their name suggests, the Red Titi Monkey (Callicebus cupreus) has red, fluffy fur and a small grey face. Also known as ‘Coppery Titi Monkey’ or ‘Coppery Titi’, this primate species is found in the rainforests of South America including Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela and Peru.

This Red Titi Monkey is currently listed as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The species’ relatively large range in a pristine region of the Amazon, and no known major threats have influenced the decision to classify the species at that level.

Zoo manager, Alyn Cairns, said, “It’s the perfect time to visit Belfast Zoo as, for the month of March, we will be offering some ‘zooper’ special offers. If you are planning to visit, you can book your discounted adult and concession tickets on our website. We are also offering up to 25% off penguin, giraffe and lemur experiences, up to 24% off elephant keeper for a day experiences and up to 25% off all animal adoption packages. You can find out more about our ‘March Madness’ offers at www.belfastzoo.co.uk .”

5_(2) The latest arrival was born to mum  Inca and dad  Aztec  on 26 January 2018.


Rare Langur Swings Onto the Scene at Belfast Zoo

(2) Our little 'rascal' was born on 7 November to mum Nicoleen and dad AJ but only now have we been able to catch a gimpse of him!

A rare François’ Langur born in late 2017 has finally made his first appearance for visitors at Belfast Zoo

This endangered primate was born on November 7, 2017 to mom, Nicoleen and dad, AJ, but spent most of his time clinging tightly to Nicoleen’s belly until just recently. 

While adult François’ Langurs are black in color with striking white sideburns, infants are born with ginger fur and their color changes slowly as they mature. The baby has been named Huaidan, which means ‘rascal’ in Chinese, thanks to his cheeky attitude.

(1) Endangered Francois langur finally makes his first appearance at Belfast Zoo!
(1) Endangered Francois langur finally makes his first appearance at Belfast Zoo!
(1) Endangered Francois langur finally makes his first appearance at Belfast Zoo! Photo Credit: Belfast Zoo

Huaidan’s arrival means that Belfast Zoo’s Monkey House is home to five of these leaf-eating primates.  François’ Langurs live in small family groups consisting of one adult male and a harem of adult females and their offspring. All females in the group take an active interest in the care of an infant. This allows Nicoleen to rest and eat while the other females babysit Huaidan.  

Andrew Hope, Curator at Belfast Zoo, said, “François’ Langurs are found in the tropical forests and limestone hills of China, Vietnam and Laos but they are facing increasing threats and are endangered in their natural habitat.  This is primarily due to habitat loss, hunting, the traditional medicine trade and the pet trade.”

The wild population of François’ Langurs has declined by at least 50% over the past three decades. Scientists estimate that the total wild population is less than 2,500 individuals.

Belfast Zoo works with others zoos around Europe to ensure the survival of François’ Langurs through an active breeding program. Huaidan’s arrival is important to the genetic diversity of the European population of this primate, which is listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

 


Endangered Tree Kangaroo Emerges at Belfast Zoo

1_(2)  “Our ‘good little fellow’  Kayjo  was born to mother Jaya and father  Hasu Hasu on 9 June 2017.

A Goodfellow’s Tree Kangaroo joey has been spotted peeking out of the pouch for the first time at Belfast Zoo!

Senior keeper, Allan Galway, explained, “Our ‘good little fellow’, Kayjo, was born to mother, Jaya, and father, Hasu Hasu, on 9 June 2017. Like all marsupials, female Tree Kangaroos carry and nurse their young in the pouch. When the joey was first born, it was the size of a jellybean and remained in the pouch while developing and suckling from Jaya. Female Tree Kangaroos have a forward facing pouch, containing four teats and we carry out routine ‘pouch’ checks as part of our normal husbandry routine with this species.”

Allan continued, “Jaya moved to Belfast Zoo in January 2013, as part of the collaborative breeding programme. Since then, we have incorporated training into her daily husbandry routine. This involves getting Jaya used to being touched by keepers through a process of ‘positive reinforcement’. We started by providing Jaya with her favourite treat, sweetcorn, until she gradually became used to the keepers touching her. We then built this up to allow keepers to open her pouch. This allows us to check Jaya’s pouch for health purposes and to track the development of the young during these crucial early months. However, it is completely optional, and if Jaya does not want to take part, she has the freedom to move away from the keeper.”

Zookeeper, Mitchell Johnston, is part of the Belfast Zoo team who care for the Goodfellow’s Tree Kangaroos: “I have been a keeper for four and a half years and I definitely have a soft spot for the tree kangaroos. Through the daily training routine, I have developed a strong relationship with the Kangaroos but especially Jaya. Having worked with her for a while now, I have a strong understanding of her behaviour and, last summer, I started to notice signs that a joey may be on the way. Following further behavioural changes on 9 June, I carried out the pouch check and was delighted to find the jellybean-sized joey. Being able to witness and photograph the infant’s development over the last six months has been fascinating. In fact, I have become so fond of both mother and baby that I decided to name him Kayjo which is a play on words of my eldest child’s name, as the joey certainly feels like one of the family!”

2_(1)  Endangered tree kangaroo pops out of pouch at Belfast Zoo!

3_(10)  This species is listed as Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red list.

4_(11)  Keepers treated the new mum and the rest of her family to some Christmas themed enrichment with a wreath of their favourite foods.Photo Credits: Belfast Zoo

As their name suggests, the Goodfellow’s Tree Kangaroo (Dendrolagus goodfellowi) is a tree-dwelling mammal, which is native to the mountainous rainforests of Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. These animals are well adapted to a life in the trees by climbing up to 20 feet high and leaping more than 30 feet through the air from branch to branch. However, this species is facing increasing threats due to habitat destruction and hunting.

Zoo manager, Alyn Cairns, said, “As part of our commitment to conservation, we take part in a number of global and collaborative breeding programmes. Until this year, Belfast Zoo was the only zoo in the United Kingdom and Ireland to care for Goodfellow’s Tree Kangaroo, and we were the first in the UK to breed the species back in 2014. Since then, we have bred three joeys. This species is listed as ‘Endangered’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red list, as the population has dramatically declined in Papua New Guinea by at least 50% over the past three generations. The efforts of zoos around the world, are becoming ever more vital in ensuring the survival of so many species under threats. We are delighted that our team’s efforts have led to the arrival of Kayjo, and that we are playing an active role in the conservation of this beautiful and unique species.”

Kayjo is following in the footsteps of big sister, Kau Kau, who hopped out of Jaya’s pouch earlier this year. At this age, visitors who are patient may be rewarded with a glimpse of the new joey. The new arrival will continue to develop in the pouch. As the joey grows it will begin to explore the world outside of the pouch, officially moving out at about 10 months but will continue to feed from mum until at least 16 months old. The youngster will live with the family group at Belfast Zoo until old enough to move to another zoo as part of the collaborative breeding programme.

Amazing pics below of Kayjo's life-in-the-pouch!

Continue reading "Endangered Tree Kangaroo Emerges at Belfast Zoo" »


Belfast Zoo Celebrates Five Kits in Red Squirrel Nook

1_(4)  Photo credit - Jon Lees    Belfast Zoo born red squirrels have been released to protected areas as a ground-breaking conservation effort.

Belfast Zoo is celebrating another conservation success with the birth of five Red Squirrel kittens.

The kits were spotted outside of their drey (squirrel nest) for the first time at the start of July and can now be spotted in the zoo’s Red Squirrel Nook.

2_(6) The kittens stay in the drey (nest) for the first few months and are starting to explore their surroundings.

3_(1)  Photo credit - Jon Lees    Belfast Zoo is celebrating another conservation success with the birth of five red squirrel kittens.

4_(2)  Photo credit - Jon Lees     The kits were spotted outside of their drey for the first time at the start of July and can now be spotted in red squirrel nookPhoto Credits: Images 1,3-5: Jon Lees (Northern Ireland Environment Agency) / Images 2,6: Belfast Zoo

The Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) is a small, tree-living rodent, which is believed to have been present in Ireland for more than 10,000 years. Many people are familiar with this iconic native species, its bright red coat, creamy white belly, bushy tail and distinctive ear tufts. However, the Red Squirrel in Northern Ireland is in serious trouble. The population has dramatically declined due to the loss of their forest habitats in addition to competition from the invasive Grey Squirrel that carries a lethal pox virus.

Zoo Manager, Alyn Cairns, explained, “Here at Belfast Zoo, we care for some of the most endangered species from around the globe but the problem is closer to home than most people think! Animals on our own doorstep are facing increasing threats and populations are disappearing at an alarming rate. Recognizing this alarming trend, the Belfast Zoo team formed a native species group in 2004 to work on a number of native species projects. In 2012, following the culmination of many years of work and consultation with local wildlife organizations, we opened Red Squirrel Nook.”

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Tiny New Pudu for Belfast Zoo

(1)  Belfast Zoo keepers have said ‘hello deer’ to the latest arrival as the world’s smallest deer  the Southern pudu  has given birth!

Belfast Zoo keepers have said ‘hello deer’ to a new arrival as one of their Southern Pudu has given birth!

The latest arrival was born to father, Mr Tumnus, and mother, Susan, on June 18.

The Southern Pudu originates from the lowland forests of Southern Chile and Southwest Argentina and is the smallest member of the deer family! Adults measure only 43 centimeters in height when fully grown and, at birth, a fawn is so small that it weighs less than a bag of sugar.

(2)  The latest arrival was born to father  Mr Tumnus and mother  Susan on 18 June 2017.

(4) .  When fawns are born they are a light brown colour and their fur is covered with small white spots.  This helps the infant to camouflage in the undergrowth.Photo Credits: Belfast Zoo

Senior keeper, Allan Galway, said “Although small in size, our fawn is massively important to Belfast Zoo and to the European breeding programme for the Southern Pudu. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) considers this species to be vulnerable to the threat of extinction and numbers in the wild have dramatically declined in recent years due to loss of habitat through deforestation, hunting and predation.”

Allan continued, “We have been giving Susan and her new arrival some space to bond, so have not yet determined the sex of the new arrival or given the fawn a name. When fawns are born they are a light brown color, and their fur is covered with small white spots. This helps the infant to camouflage in the undergrowth especially when they are left alone while the mother feeds.”

Belfast Zoo’s Southern Pudu family share their home with some other South American “amigos” including: Southern Screamers and Red Howler Monkeys.

Belfast Zoo visitors can now experience a new reptile and amphibian house. Summer visitors can also witness daily feeding times, a new visitor photography base camp, the Adventurers’ Learning Centre and can visit all the latest zoo babies.

(3)  Adult Southern pudus measure only 43 centimetres in height when fully grown (pictured is father  Mr Tumnus)


Belfast's Baby Gorilla Is a Girl!

(6)  Zoos are increasingly important in the conservation of species under threat.  Belfast Zoo takes part in a breeding programme for this species.
A critically endangered Western Lowland Gorilla born at the Belfast Zoo on August 28 is a girl! 

Because baby Gorillas cling to their mother’s belly for the first few months of life, keepers were unable to determine the baby’s gender until now.  The baby has been named Olivia.

(2)  The latest arrival was born to mother, Namoki, and father, Gugas, on 28 August 2016.
(5)  All ape species are endangered or critically endangered.  Gorillas are facing the real and severe risk of extinction in the
(3)  For the first months, the newborn clings to the mother's stomach.  Keepers recently discovered the infant is a female and she has been named Olivia.
(1)  Belfast Zoo is celebrating the birth of a critically endangered Western lowland gorilla!Photo Credit:  Belfast Zoo

Olivia’s arrival is significant because her father, Gugas, was born in the wild and his genetic background is important to the zoo population.  But Gugas had an unfortunate start to life as his parents were killed, probably for bushmeat.  As a young, orphaned Gorilla, he was acquired by a Portuguese circus and became very ill.  He was abandoned at the gates of Lisbon Zoo and was then moved to Stuttgart Zoo to live in a nursery group for orphaned Gorillas. He arrived at Belfast Zoo in 1998 and in 2012, with no sign of any pregnancies, the zoo tested Gugas’ fertility and the results were not promising.  In fact, it was felt that Gugas would never father any young. 

“Gugas has defied the odds.  In fact he has had an extremely busy few years, as this is the third infant that he has fathered since 2013,” says Julie Mansell of the Belfast Zoo. 

The Belfast Zoo’s Gorilla breeding program is part of a global effort to create a safety net population should this species become extinct in the wild – a very real possibility, given that Gorillas are under threat from habitat loss, the bushmeat trade, the pet trade, trophy hunting, and other human activity. 

Western Lowland Gorillas come from the dense forests of western central Africa.  Gorillas are the largest of all primate species.  They are listed as Critically Endangered, with the wild population shrinking by 80% within the past three generations.


Zoo "Bear-ly" Able to Contain Excitement Over Cub

(1)  Belfast Zoo is celebrating the first Andean bear birth, at Cave Hill, in more than 20 years!
A little cub named Lola is the first Andean Bear birth at the Belfast Zoo in more than 20 years.

Keepers didn’t have high hopes when the Lola’s parents, Spook and Alice, were first introduced, as the two scarcely seemed to tolerate one another.

Then, in late 2015, Alice began to show signs of pregnancy.  Keepers gave Alice a private den for the latter stages of her pregnancy, and Lola was born on February 6.

(2)  Andean bears give birth in dens and remain there with the cubs for the first few months.
(4)  Lola has recently started to come out of the den to explore her enclosure.  Visitors can catch a glimpse of the bears betwe
(3)  On 6 February 2016 keepers discovered a cub.  The cub is a female and has been named Lola.Photo Credit:  Belfast Zoo

Andean Bear cubs remain in the den with their mother exclusively for several months.  On May 31, the zoo’s veterinary staff performed their first health check on the cub, confirmed her gender, and pronounced her healthy.

Now that Lola is in the Bear habitat, zoo guests are enjoying her antics as she navigates the rocks and tries out new foods. 

Andean Bears are also known as Spectacled Bears due to the light fur around their eyes, which can look like spectacles against the Bear’s darker fur.  No two bears have the same pattern.

These Bears live in cloud forests on the slopes of the Andes Mountains, stretching Venezuela to Peru.  There are eight species of Bear species worldwide, but the Andean bear is the only one native to South America. Andean Bears are listed as Vulnerable to Extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to habitat destruction and fragmentation caused by agriculture.  They are also hunted for meat and for their supposed medicinal properties.