Chester Zoo

Four Mischievous Meerkats Born at Chester Zoo

Four playful meerkat pups born at Chester Zoo (57)

Four mischievous Meerkat pups have been born at Chester Zoo.

The quadruplets have been tucked away in their den since being born on March 26, but have started exploring their habitat for the very first time.

Four playful meerkat pups born at Chester Zoo (5)
Four playful meerkat pups born at Chester Zoo (5)
Four playful meerkat pups born at Chester Zoo (5)Photo Credit: Chester Zoo

The new arrivals, which have not yet been sexed or named by keepers, were born to first-time parents Huskie and Beagle.

Lead keeper Kirsten Wicks said, “Parents Huskie and Beagle have been minor celebrities since they appeared on Channel 4’s The Secret Life of The Zoo last month. Visitors have been really keen to know how they’re getting on, so it’s amazing to be able to share the great news about their new arrivals.”

“This is their first litter and the pups are doing incredibly well, they have already began learning how to forage for food and are spending lots of time grooming and playing together. It’s the start of a growing, happy new mob!” Wicks said.

Meerkats are native to South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, and Angola and inhabit open country and sparse woody scrublands. Most live in underground burrows in groups of about 30 individuals called a gang or a mob. They mark their territories with scent glands, which are located below their tails. 

Expert diggers, Meerkats can close their ears to keep dirt out while excavating. The dark patches around their eyes help reduce glare on the sunny African savannah. They feed primarily on insects and other invertebrates. At this time, Meerkats are not threatened and are listed as a species of Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

See more photos of the quadruplets below.

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Mischievous Orangutan Caught on Camera

3_Mischievous Sumatran orangutan Tuti pesters her aunt in the most adorable way at Chester Zoo

Chester Zoo recently shared video of their five-year-old Sumatran Orangutan, named Tuti, pestering her aunt Emma in a most mischievous way.

Thirty-year-old Emma gave birth to a female, Kesuma, on December 18. (See the ZooBorns feature on Kesuma: “Chester Zoo Introduces Early Spring ‘Flower’).

Chester Zoo’s adorable new footage shows the attention-seeking Tuti using multiple sticks to “wind up” new-mum Emma, as she looks to play with her baby cousin.

2_Mischievous Sumatran orangutan Tuti pesters her aunt in the most adorable way at Chester Zoo (1)

1_Mischievous Sumatran orangutan Tuti pesters her aunt in the most adorable way at Chester Zoo

4_Adorable video shows young orangutan poking her aunt with sticks at Chester ZooPhoto & Video Credits: Chester Zoo

Chester Zoo is currently the only zoo in mainland Britain that cares for Sumatran Orangutans, which can be found in its South East Asian Islands habitat.

Sumatran Orangutans (Pongo abelii) are one of the world’s most endangered great apes and are currently listed as “Critically Endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with recent estimates suggesting just 14,000 remain in the wild.

It is among the many species being pushed to the brink of extinction in South East Asia by hunting, forest clearance and the planting of oil palm plantations, which are destroying vast areas of rainforest.

Unfortunately, there is an intense demand for palm oil, which can be found in more than 50% of every day products in the UK, and around the world, including food, cleaning and cosmetic goods.

Cat Barton, Field Conservation Manager at Chester Zoo, said, “All species of Orangutan are under enormous pressure in the wild, as their forest homes are cleared to make way for oil palm plantations. Right now we are fighting for these amazing animals in South East Asia – helping restore depleted forests and building bridges so Orangutans can roam between forests freely.”

“We can all help make a huge difference here in the UK by being vigilant when shopping in supermarkets and checking labels to make sure products only contain sustainable palm oil. It’s a small action that will, in time, make a huge difference to their future. Without urgent action they could be the first great apes to go extinct. We just cannot let that happen.”

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Five Otter Pups Get First Check-Up at Chester Zoo

1_Vets give a clean bill of health to five newborn Asian short-clawed otter pups at Chester Zoo (8)

Five baby Asian Short-clawed Otters were recently given their first ever health check-ups at Chester Zoo.

The quintet of tiny pups, born February 22, are reported to be in ‘tip-top condition.’ They were checked over by Chester Zoo’s keepers and vets who determined their sexes (four girls and a boy), weighed them, listened to their heartbeats and gave them all a physical examination.

2_Vets give a clean bill of health to five newborn Asian short-clawed otter pups at Chester Zoo (7)

3_Vets give a clean bill of health to five newborn Asian short-clawed otter pups at Chester Zoo (6)

4_Vets give a clean bill of health to five newborn Asian short-clawed otter pups at Chester Zoo (1)Photo Credits: Chester Zoo

The adorable litter of Otter pups was born to three-year-old mum, Annie, and five-year-old dad, Wallace.

Keeper Hannah Sievewright said, “Each of the five pups showed themselves to be feisty little characters! We’re thrilled though that every one of them is in tip-top condition and they’re all doing ever so well.”

“We can’t wait to see them start to take to the water as they continue to grow, become more and more confident and gain independence from mum and dad.”

Asian Short-clawed Otters have the amazing ability to close their nostrils and ears underwater to stop water entering. They also have highly sensitive whiskers to help them find prey underwater, and they have partially webbed feet for powerful movement in water and land.

The species can eat up to a quarter of their body weight every day and have large upper back teeth for crushing hard shelled prey like crabs. They have sensitive paws to feel-out and catch fish, frogs, and mollusks on riverbeds. Their thick, waterproof fur protects them against cold water. Their under fur has around 70,000 hairs per cm2.

Asian Short-clawed Otters are classified by the IUCN as “Vulnerable” to extinction and face increasing threats to their survival in the wild. Many areas of wetland where they are found are being taken over by human populations and some are also hunted for their skins and organs, which are used in traditional Chinese medicines.

In the UK, Chester Zoo has helped fund research and conservation projects in Cheshire, which are monitoring and safeguarding threatened native Otter populations – distant relatives of the Asian Short-clawed species.

5_Vets give a clean bill of health to five newborn Asian short-clawed otter pups at Chester Zoo (11)

6_Vets give a clean bill of health to five newborn Asian short-clawed otter pups at Chester Zoo (14)


Rare ‘Forest Dragons’ Hatch at Chester Zoo

1_Rare baby forest dragons hatch at Chester Zoo. Pictured with zookeeper Nathan Wright (1) CROP

A clutch of rare baby ‘Forest Dragons’ have hatched at Chester Zoo.

The Bell’s Anglehead Lizard (Gonocephalus bellii), also known as the Borneo Forest Dragon, is found in parts of South East Asia. Reptile experts at Chester Zoo say very little is known about the mysterious reptile. Population estimates on the species have never been carried out; therefore, no one is aware of exactly how many exist in the wild or how threatened they might be.

However, the emergence of the four tiny lizards at the Zoo is helping reptile conservationists discover some of the secrets about how they live.

2_Rare baby forest dragons hatch at Chester Zoo. Pictured with zookeeper Nathan Wright (3) (1)

4_Rare baby forest dragons hatch at Chester Zoo (2)

5_Rare baby forest dragons hatch at Chester Zoo (1)Photo Credits: Chester Zoo (Image 1,2: "Reptile keeper Nathan Wright holds rare lizard at Chester Zoo / Image 5: Adult Bell's Anglehead Lizard)

Matt Cook, Lead Keeper of Reptiles at Chester Zoo, said, "The Bell’s Anglehead Lizard is an elusive a little-understood species. Reliable information about them is incredibly scarce, so much so that even to reptile experts they are somewhat of a mystery.”

“What we do know is that, as their name suggests, these ‘forest dragons’ live in forests in South East Asia. This is habitat which, across the region, is being completely decimated to make way for unsustainable palm oil plantations – a threat which is pushing all manner of species, big and small, to the very edge of existence.”

Matt continued, “Breeding these rare lizards at the Zoo allows us to increase our knowledge of the species. For example, we’ve already discovered that their incubation period is between 151 and 155 days; that they reach sexual maturity at around three-years-old and that the females deposit up to four eggs per clutch in a small burrow in deep soil.”

The recently hatched youngsters are currently being cared for in a special behind-the-scenes rearing facility at the Zoo, but visitors can see their parents in its Realm of the Red Ape habitat.

6_Adult Bell's angle-headed lizard at Chester Zoo


Chester Zoo Introduces Early Spring ‘Flower’

1_Chester Zoo’s latest orangutan arrival has been named Kesuma by primate keepers (2)

Chester Zoo’s new female Sumatran Orangutan has been named Kesuma, which means ‘flower’ in Indonesia. Primate keepers chose the name soon after they were able to confirm the infant’s sex.

Kesuma was born to her 30-year-old mum, Emma, and 30-year-old dad, Puluh, on December 18, 2017.

2_Chester Zoo’s latest orangutan arrival has been named Kesuma by primate keepers (3)

3_Chester Zoo’s latest orangutan arrival has been named Kesuma by primate keepers (4)

4_Chester Zoo’s latest orangutan arrival has been named Kesuma by primate keepers (5)Photo Credits: Chester Zoo

The birth marked a major success story for an acclaimed international breeding programme for the highly threatened species. Sumatran Orangutans are currently listed as “Critically Endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with recent estimates suggesting 6,500 remaining in the wild.

Tim Rowlands, Curator of Mammals at Chester Zoo, said: “Emma’s baby girl, Kesuma, is her fifth youngster, and she’s such a good mum. She’s incredibly attentive, and it’s wonderful to see her and her latest arrival forging close bonds.”

“She’s an incredibly important arrival for the conservation breeding programme and can hopefully throw a spotlight on the huge pressures that her cousins are facing in the wild.”

The Sumatran Orangutan (Pongo abelii) is one of the world’s most endangered great apes. It is among the many species being pushed to the brink of extinction in South East Asia by hunting, forest clearance and the planting of oil palm plantations, which are destroying vast areas of rainforest. There is intense demand for the oil, which features in all sorts of every day products, throughout the world, from food to cleaning materials and cosmetics.

Chester Zoo, in the UK, is currently leading a major new campaign to make Chester the world’s first ‘Sustainable Palm Oil City.’ Zoo conservationists are working with restaurants, cafes, hotels, fast food outlets, schools and workplaces in the city to introduce sustainable palm oil policies into their supply chain. The campaign is striving to increase the use of palm oil that is produced sustainably and help to protect the rainforests of South East Asia.

Chester Zoo is currently the only zoo in mainland Britain caring for Sumatran Orangutans.

5_Chester Zoo’s latest orangutan arrival has been named Kesuma by primate keepers (1)


Tiny New “Dear” Debuts at Chester Zoo

1_Adorable rare Philippine spotted deer makes Chester Zoo debut (7)

A rare, tiny Philippine Spotted Deer now makes her home at Chester Zoo. The fawn was born December 15 to five-year-old mum, Tala, and six-year-old dad, Bulan. The new little “dear” was led out for her first public appearance by the proud parents.

The zoo’s new arrival is the latest to be born to an acclaimed conservation breeding programme, set up at the request of the Philippine government, which is working to ensure a healthy and genetically viable back-up population of the animals in Europe.

2_Adorable rare Philippine spotted deer makes Chester Zoo debut (9)

3_Adorable rare Philippine spotted deer makes Chester Zoo debut (1)

4_Adorable rare Philippine spotted deer makes Chester Zoo debut (2)Photo Credits: Chester Zoo

The species is currently listed as “endangered” on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s red list, and conservation experts fear that fewer than 2,500 now remain in the wild. They have already become extinct on several islands in the Philippines, largely due to intensive, illegal hunting and huge deforestation.

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Playful African Painted Dog Pups Make Their Debut

Rare African painted dog pups make their playful debuts at Chester Zoo (49)

Seven endangered African Painted Dog pups have made their first public appearances at Chester Zoo.

The playful pups scampered out of their underground den, led by their mother K’mana who had kept them safely tucked away since giving birth to them on November 19.  Also known as African Wild Dogs, it is the first time the endangered animals have ever been bred at the zoo.

Rare African painted dog pups make their playful debuts at Chester Zoo (7)
Rare African painted dog pups make their playful debuts at Chester Zoo (7)Photo Credit: Chester Zoo


Tim Rowlands, Curator of Mammals at Chester Zoo, said, “After spending six-weeks deep inside their den under the watchful eyes of mum, the pups have now come out and they’ve most certainly come out to play!  These rare pups are incredibly important new arrivals and a major boost to the international breeding programme which is working to try and ensure a brighter future for these impressive and beautiful animals.”

African Painted Dogs are one of Africa’s most threatened carnivores and are listed as Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Conservation experts fear there may now be fewer than 1,500 breeding Dogs left in isolated regions of eastern and southern Africa.

Mike Jordan, the zoo’s Collections Director, added, “With human populations increasing in Africa and villages expanding, Painted Dog numbers have plummeted as their habitat is converted to farmland. This puts them in direct conflict with local people, where they are hunted and poisoned for killing livestock and exposed to infectious diseases transferred from domestic Dogs.”

For more than 10 years, Chester Zoo has been a vital part of the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust African Wild Dog Programme in Tanzania, working to return healthy and genetically diverse populations of Painted Dogs back to the wild. Zoo experts have helped conservationists working in Africa to re-establish viable populations of Painted Dogs, bred in special protected breeding areas in Tanzania, in two national parks – Tsavo and Mkomazi.

African Painted Dogs are named for their mottled coat with splotches of black, yellow, white, and brown. They live in packs and hunt cooperatively to bring down prey many times their size. They are known for their speed, reaching 44 miles per hour, and their stamina during hunts.

See more photos of the pups below.

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Rare Baby Chameleons Fit on Your Fingertip

Baby chameleons hatch in Chester Zoo first. Pictured with lead herpetology keeper Adam Bland  (6)

Three colorful Chameleons, so tiny they each fit on the end of a finger, have hatched at Chester Zoo.

This is the first time the zoo has successfully bred the species, known as Cameroon Two-horned Mountain Chameleons. The first in a clutch of three eggs, laid by a female named Ruby, hatched in late August with two more following soon after.

Baby chameleons hatch in Chester Zoo first (8)
Baby chameleons hatch in Chester Zoo first. Pictured with lead herpetology keeper Adam Bland  (3)Photo Credit: Chester Zoo

Lead Herpetology Keeper Adam Bland said, “These Chameleons have a really unusual appearance. They’re sometimes referred to as the Cameroon Sailfin, owing to a sail-like flap of skin running along their backs. The males of the species boast two large horns just above their upper jaw which they use for jousting with other males.”

“Even as babies they have their iconic large eyes which, at their current size, may appear a little too big for their body. However these give them 360° arc vision so they can see in two different directions at once and look out for predators,” added Bland.

As the name suggests, the Cameroon Two-horned Mountain Chameleons live at altitude in the West African nation of Cameroon. These lizards are usually green in color, but males turn blue when trying to attract a mate.

Dr Gerardo Garcia, Curator of Lower Vertebrates and Invertebrates at the zoo, added, “These Chameleons are thought to live in just 10 locations in the highlands of Cameroon as they only thrive at a very particular altitude (between 700m and 1,900m), in very specific forest habitat. As much of the highlands of Cameroon comprise of savannah and grasslands, it really restricts their range. Sadly, with that already small amount of available habitat being affected by human activity - degradation, agriculture and climate change - it’s making these Chameleons more and more vulnerable.

“Another big threat to their survival is the international pet trade. Thousands of live Chameleons have been taken from the wild and traded from Cameroon in the last dozen years,” Garcia added. The species is listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List.

See more photos of the little lizards below!

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Rhino Calf 'Pesters' Mum at Chester Zoo

1_A two-month-old baby rhino  named Ike  tries to get the attention of his mum Zuri in the most adorable way at Chester Zoo (22)

A two-month-old Eastern Black Rhino calf was filmed trying to get the attention of his mum in the most adorable way at Chester Zoo recently.

The footage of baby Ike playfully jumping on mum, Zuri, was released just ahead of “World Rhino Day” on September 22.

Ike is one of two critically endangered Eastern Black Rhino calves that was born just weeks apart at Chester Zoo earlier in the year. (See our article from earlier in the summer: "Two Rhinos Born Days Apart at Chester Zoo")

2_A two-month-old baby rhino  named Ike  tries to get the attention of his mum Zuri in the most adorable way at Chester Zoo (4)

3_A two-month-old baby rhino  named Ike  tries to get the attention of his mum Zuri in the most adorable way at Chester Zoo (32)

4_A two-month-old baby rhino  named Ike  tries to get the attention of his mum Zuri in the most adorable way at Chester Zoo (31)Photo Credits: Chester Zoo

The arrival of the precious pair of Rhinos was hailed as remarkable by conservationists. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), there are less than 650 of the sub-species across Africa.

In the wild, a huge surge in illegal poaching, driven by a global increase in demand for Rhino horn to supply the traditional Asian medicine market, has resulted in around 95% of all Rhinos being wiped out in the last century.

The issue is being driven by the street value of Rhino horn, which is currently changing hands for more per gram than gold, diamonds and cocaine. However, modern science has proven that Rhino horns are made primarily of keratin, the protein found in hair, fingernails and animal hooves.

Stuart Nixon, Chester Zoo’s Africa Field Programmes Coordinator, said, “You’re likely to get exactly the same health benefits by chewing your own fingernails as you are taking powdered Rhino horn. Yet in South African alone, more than 500 rhinos have been killed so far this year.”

“The IUCN estimates that, on average, almost two Rhinos have been killed every day in Africa for nine straight years and they could be extinct in as little 10 years. Rhinos need protecting, not poaching.”

Chester Zoo is currently home to 10 critically endangered Eastern Black Rhinos (Diceros bicornis michaeli) and two Greater One-horned Rhinos.

Through its Act For Wildlife conservation movement, the zoo has also recently provided support for Rhino protection to its partners the Big Life Foundation in Chyulu Hills National Park in Kenya and the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust in Mkomazi National Park in Tanzania.

More great photos below the fold!

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Critically Endangered Skinks Hatch at Chester Zoo

1_World first as rare Bermudian skinks hatch at Chester Zoo as part of bid to save species (10)

Two clutches of critically endangered Bermudian Skinks have hatched at Chester Zoo. This is the first time conservationists have bred the species outside their homeland.

Known as ‘rock lizards’, the small Bermudian skinks are a much-loved cultural icon in the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda and are an important part of the ecosystem.

The species is on the brink of extinction in the wild, as habitat destruction and introduced predators have almost wiped them out. In a last gasp attempt to prevent the species being lost forever, the Bermudian government called on experts at Chester Zoo to help breed the species in the UK. Now, after years of work by conservationists and 43 days of incubation, seven Skinks have hatched.

2_World first as rare Bermudian skinks hatch at Chester Zoo as part of bid to save species (7)

3_IN BERMUDA_Coloration study on wild Bermudian skinks (2)

4_World first as rare Bermudian skinks hatch at Chester Zoo as part of bid to save species (1)Photo Credits: Chester Zoo

The major success at Chester Zoo is a dramatic breakthrough in the fight to save the Skink: a flagship animal in Bermuda’s species recovery programme.

It is possible that individuals bred at Chester Zoo will be reintroduced to the wild in Bermuda, whilst the zoo’s experts will also travel to the island to set up in-country breeding facilities.

In parallel with the breeding project, a team from the zoo is also working in collaboration with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources of Bermuda on an intensive ecological study following the last remaining populations of the Skinks on both the main and offshore islands.

Dr. Gerardo Garcia, Curator of Lower Vertebrates and Invertebrates at Chester Zoo, said, “The world’s biodiversity is under threat and we must protect our living world. Conservation is critical and breeding these skinks is a momentous event. Not only is it providing us with vital new data which will help to inform future decisions in terms of protecting the species, it will engage future generations with these fascinating animals too.”

“It has taken years of work, both out in Bermuda and here in our zoo breeding facilities, but to finally hatch these clutches of Bermudian Skinks is magnificent news.”

The Bermuda Skink has been listed as “Critically Endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Mike Jordan, Collections Director at Chester Zoo, said, “We are working hard to prevent the extinction of this unique species, found nowhere else but Bermuda – and with so few endemic vertebrates – they are incredibly important to the country. This breeding breakthrough, in tandem with our extensive work out in the field alongside the Bermudian government, is a hugely significant boost for their long term survival hopes.”

Dr. Mark Outerbridge, Wildlife Ecologist for the Bermuda Government and the zoo’s partner in Bermuda, added, “I was thrilled to hear of the recent breeding success at Chester Zoo. Skinks have been living on Bermuda for over 400,000 years, and I believe we need to do all that we can to ensure their continued survival. The captive breeding is a critical step in this process and I am very grateful to all the staff there.”

The first Bermudian Skink (Plestiodon longirostris) hatched at Chester Zoo on June 7th from an egg that was laid on May 9th. The zoo’s reptile experts were able to photograph the moment the first skink popped its head out of its egg. Two clutches, one of four and one of three, have hatched at the zoo, with seven individual new Skinks in total.

Chester Zoo’s Curator of Lower Vertebrates and Invertebrates, and PhD student, Helena Turner, are currently in Bermuda collecting vital data from the last remaining wild skink populations.

More great pics below the fold!

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