Belfast Zoo

Belfast Zoo Celebrates First Chimpanzee Birth in 15 Years!


Belfast Zoo is celebrating the arrival of the first Chimpanzee to be born at the zoo since 1997. On March 17, little Lucy came into the world to mother Lizzie, and father, Andy.  

Zoo curator, Julie Mansell, is delighted with the latest arrival, “We had been looking forward to celebrating Lizzie’s 40th birthday this summer and it was a wonderful surprise to discover her pregnancy. She has been a wonderful mother in the past and this time is no exception. Lewis, Kim, Phoebe, Sophie and Andy are also excited about the new arrival and are paying Lizzie and Lucy extra attention. Our visitors are always fascinated by the chimpanzees, I think, in part, because we recognize so much of ourselves in them. Humans and chimpanzees share 98% of the same DNA!”

Chimpanzees originate from Western Central Africa and The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) believes that chimpanzees are facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild. Populations have declined by more than 66% in the last 30 years due to deforestation, hunting and many other factors. It is therefore imperative that zoos play an active role in the conservation of this species. 


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Photo Credit: Belfast Zoo

Read more about Belfast Zoo's conservation work with chimpanzees after the jump:

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Meet Blossom the Blesbok Calf, Born at Belfast Zoo


The flowers at Belfast Zoological Gardens are not the only things ‘blossoming’ this spring, as keepers are celebrating the birth of Blossom, the Blesbok calf. Its father, Basel, arrived in Belfast in 2009 from Africa Alive in Suffolk and was soon joined by mother, Daphne. The pair’s relationship has since ‘blossomed’ and they welcomed their first calf on March 5. 

Blesbok are a species of antelope that are indigenous to the open grasslands of South Africa. This species was first discovered by settlers in the 17th century and their numbers were said to be so huge that they filled the horizon. However, blesbok were hunted for their skin and for meat and by the 19th century they were on the verge of extinction. Protective measures have since been put in place and the population has sufficiently increased to the point that the species has been removed from the endangered list.

Zoo Manager, Mark Challis, said, “The zoo team are all delighted to be playing an active role in the conservation of this beautiful species which has been brought back from the brink of extinction by conservation efforts.  We only became home to blesbok in 2009 and this is the first time that a blesbok has been bred in Ireland.  Let’s hope there will be many more in the future! ”

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Photo Credcit: Belfast Zoo

Meet Marjorie, the Little Malayan Tapir


Belfast Zoo’s recent baby boom has continued with the birth of Marjorie, the Malayan Tapir. Marjorie was born on March 4 to parents Gladys and Elmer.

Zoo Curator Andrew Hope said, “Malayan tapirs are a beautiful but slightly unusual looking species. They are related to horses and rhinoceroses. The adults have a distinctive coat pattern and are black on the front and white on the back. However, when the calves are born they have beige spotted and striped markings, which make them look incredibly like ‘watermelons on legs’. Marjorie will begin to lose her markings after a few months. When she is six months old, she will look like a miniature adult!”

Malayan tapirs are the only tapir from Asia and are found in Indonesia, Burma (Myanmar), Malaysia and Thailand. This incredible species faces a high risk of extinction, with studies estimating that the population could decline by up to 50% over the next 30 years. The main reasons for their decline are the destruction of their forest habitats and they are also hunted for meat and sport.


Photo Credit: Belfast Zoo

Story continues after the jump!

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A Camel Kid Named Georgie


On February 6, Belfast Zoo keepers celebrated the zoo's first birth of 2012, to parents Douglas and Colonia, with the arrival of Georgie the Vicuña.

Vicuñas are the smallest member of the camel family and originate from the mountainous regions of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru. This species was once hunted to the brink of extinction for their wool and meat. However, in the 1960’s, the creation of national parks and trade restrictions helped to protect the species.  Zoos also played their part in their conservation and vicuña are now part of a European breeding program.

Zoo Manager, Mark Challis, is delighted with the arrival, “The vicuña family live right at the top of the Belfast Zoo site and visitors can now visit Georgie and her parents in their hilltop enclosure. Their Cave Hill home is perfect, as vicuña are specially adapted to live in rocky and mountainous terrains. We are looking forward to celebrating the arrival of many more!”


Photo Credits: Belfast Zoo 

Prickly Perfection at Belfast Zoo!


Belfast Zoological Gardens is celebrating the arrival of two bundles of joy, in the form of two African pygmy hedgehog babies! Mickey and Minnie were born to parents, Tom and Geri, just six weeks ago and these prickly little creatures only measure between six and eight inches in length when fully grown! Below you get a feel for the size of both Mom (right) and baby (left).

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Education Officer Geraldine Murphy is delighted with the new arrivals, “Belfast Zoo’s education officers and our small team of animals come into contact with over 40,000 children every year and the African pygmy hedgehogs are a firm favourite with everyone!  Along with our team of animals including leopard geckos, tarantulas, royal pythons, bearded dragons and stick insects, we aim to raise awareness and understanding of the natural environment and to highlight the importance of conservation, particularly amongst young people.”


Eight Tiny Hooves: Visayan Warty Pigs Born at Belfast Zoo


Keepers at Belfast Zoo UK are delighted to hear the pitter patter of tiny trotters after the recent birth of Maleah and Malu, two very special Visayan Warty Pigs. Proud parents Malcolm and Mabel arrived at their newly renovated Belfast Zoo enclosure in March/April 2010 from Chester Zoo and Rotterdam Zoo. The pair soon became inseparable and three weeks ago welcomed their new arrivals. 

Zoo manager, Mark Challis is delighted with this achievement, saying, “The whole Zoo team is delighted and extremely proud that within just one year we have been able to renovate an enclosure, introduce two new critically endangered animals and successfully breed two piglets!"

"Visayan Warty Pigs are the most critically endangered of all wild pigs," he continued. "And while historically they were native to six islands within the Philippines they have already become extinct on four of them due to deforestation. And they are hunted for meat and by farmers to protect their harvest. With such a high risk of extinction in the wild, it makes the birth of Maleah and Malu very special and a real achievement for Belfast Zoo.” 



Photo Credit: Belfast Zoo

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Four New Meerkat Kits Add to the Mob at Belfast Zoo

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At the end of May, four meerkat kits came into the world at Belfast Zoo in the UK.For the past four weeks, mom Fraggle has been caring for her babies in their underground burrow. But just a few days ago, the four kits emerged for the first time! They are enjoying the sunlight and beginning to explore their habitat with their parents. 

Belfast Zoo manager, Mark Challis is delighted with the new arrivals, “The meerkats are definitely one of the most popular animals in the zoo and in the past few years we have had great success with our breeding group. In fact, last year several of our meerkats were transferred to other zoos in the UK and have since gone on to have their own young.”

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Photo Credit: Belfast Zoo

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Bongo Baby Boom at Belfast Zoo

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Belfast Zoo in the UK, has welcomed three new additions to the Eastern bongo herd!  Willa and Fern became mothers to Maggie and Ruby in April, while Kimbiri’s calf was named after the month in which she was born in - May. The resident male, Embu, arrived at Belfast Zoo from Chester Zoo in September 2006 and is father to all three calves! 

Eastern bongos are found in the mountain forests of central Kenya. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) considers the Eastern bongo to be facing a very high risk of extinction; it is estimated that there are as few as 75 to 140 Eastern bongos left in the wild!

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Zoo curator, Andrew Hope, is thrilled with the new arrivals. “The whole zoo team is delighted with the three new Eastern bongo calves and we are especially proud to be playing such an important role in the conservation of such a beautiful and threatened species. We take part in a collaborative breeding program to help protect the Eastern bongo and we have one of the most successful breeding herds in the UK.”

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Photo Credit: Belfast Zoo

Zoo manager, Mark Challis, said, “Experts believe that zoos around the world will play a key role in the survival and future of this important sub-species.  In fact some zoo bred animals are now part of the Bongo Repatriation Program.  In 2004 this pioneering project reintroduced Eastern bongos from American zoos to the Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy, where the animals have since formed a core breeding group, producing offspring who will eventually be released into the World Heritage Site at Mount Kenya.  Although our three latest arrivals may not be part of this project at present, it definitely shows the conservational importance of these three calves to the future of the sub-species.”

Visitors can help contribute to the care of these endangered animals by adopting an Eastern bongo at Belfast Zoo. 

Baby Crowned Sifaka Brings Hope and Joy

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Born on January 15, 2011, baby Echo, a crowned sifaka, has staff at the Belfast Zoo jumping for joy! Keepers decided to call the baby Echo, as without successful breeding programmes this species will become nothing more than an echo of the past! 

Crowned sifakas are critically endangered in the wild with numbers so low that exact figures are unknown. There are only approximately twenty crowned sifakas in zoos across the world and with infant mortality rates currently at 80%, staff at Belfast Zoo are ecstatic with the new arrival and his progress. Parents Linoa and Andry are the last breeding pair of crowned sifakas in the British Isles and Belfast Zoo’s group is extra special as they are on loan from the Madagascan government. Echo’s birth now brings Belfast Zoo’s group total to five. 

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“We were all very anxious in the first couple of weeks after Echo’s birth”, explains zoo curator, Julie Mansell. “When we discovered that Linoa was pregnant we were filled with both excitement and apprehension. We all know that the statistics are against us, but Echo is doing very well.”

Zoo manager, Mark Challis is thrilled, saying, “I am very proud of the zoo... All the hard work has certainly paid off. This achievement is colossal and let’s hope that it is an achievement that we can repeat in the future."

The crowned sifaka is a type of lemur, a group of primates found only in Madagascar.  Sifakas are classified as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as they believe Sifakas face a very high risk of extinction in the wild.

Meet Pequeño, Belfast's Newest Baby Pudu

Pequeño, the Southern pudu baby at Belfast Zoo

In early April the Belfast Zoo welcomed a Southern Pudu baby, the aptly named "Pequeño!"  The smallest member of the deer family, the Southern Pudu measures only 17 inches (43 centimeters) in adulthood. That's one tiny deer! At birth the fawn was so small that it was the same weight as a pint of milk! Zoo manager, Mark Challis, is delighted with the newest arrival “Southern Pudus are facing a high risk of extinction in the wild so the birth of the fawn is extremely important.  Southern Pudus originate from the dense lowland forests of South Chile and South-west Argentina and as Spanish is the native language we have named the fawn, ‘Pequeño’ which means small.”

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Currently there are just 70 pudu kept in European zoo’s, the European breeding programme is managed by zoologists in Wuppertal Zoo. This recent addition brings the total number of Southern Pudus at Belfast Zoo to four! Visitors can easily spot Pequeño as fawns have white spots, which provide camouflage.