Chester Zoo

Two Rhinos Born Days Apart at Chester Zoo

Kitani's calf was the first of the two rare rhinos to be born at Chester Zoo in a week (22)

Two rare Eastern Black Rhino calves were born within days of each other at the Chester Zoo, boosting global numbers of the Critically Endangered species.

The new mothers, Kitani and Zuri, delivered their babies on June 19 and June 26 after 15-month-long pregnancies. The babies were delivered safely onto soft sand.

Kitani's calf was the first of the two rare rhinos to be born at Chester Zoo in a week (27)
Zuri's calf was the second of two rare rhinos to be born at Chester Zoo in just a week (10)Photo Credit:  Chester Zoo

Video footage shows Kitani spinning around as she delivers her calf. The youngster was on its feet within a few minutes of birth, and took its first wobbly steps as amazed zoo visitors watched.

Both calves are doing well, and Kitani and Zuri are excellent mothers, according to their care team at Chester Zoo.

Less than 650 Eastern Black Rhinos now remain across Africa, and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the animals as Critically Endangered in the wild.

The two births are a boost for the endangered species breeding program for Eastern Black Rhinos, which are teetering on the brink of extinction in the wild. Zoo births are managed to retain the highest level of genetic diversity as a hedge against possible extinction in the wild.

In addition, knowledge obtained from the zoo’s Rhino breeding program is being used right now in Africa to boost conservation efforts in the field.  

A huge surge in illegal poaching, driven by a global increase in demand for Rhino horn to supply the traditional Asian medicine market, resulted in around 95% of Rhinos being wiped out since the turn of the 20th century. 2014 was branded ‘the worst poaching year on record’ by leading conservationists after more than 1,200 Rhinos were hunted in South Africa alone - a 9,000% increase from 2007.

The issue is being driven by the street value of Rhino horn, which sells for more per gram than gold or cocaine, although modern science has proven it completely useless for medicinal purposes.  Rhino horn is made from keratin – the same material as human hair and nails.

See more photos of the calves below.

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Andean Bear Cub is a First for Great Britain

GB first. Rare Andean bear cub born at Chester Zoo (4)
The first Andean Bear to be born in mainland Great Britain has emerged from its den at Chester Zoo.

The rare cub, which is yet to be sexed, arrived to parents Lima, age 5, and Bernardo, age 7, on January 11.  After spending months snuggled away in its den, the cub has started to venture out and explore for the first time.

GB first. Rare Andean bear cub born to mum Lima at Chester Zoo (9)
GB first. Rare Andean bear cub born at Chester Zoo (5)Photo Credit: Chester Zoo

Made famous in the UK through the classic children’s character Paddington Bear, the Andean Bear is the only Bear to inhabit South America. They are found in Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia.

The species is listed as Vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Conservation experts from the zoo say the birth of this cub is especially significant given how threatened the species is. 

Tim Rowlands, curator of mammals at the zoo, said, “The cub was tiny when it was born but Lima is doing a fantastic job, particularly given that she’s a first-time mum, and the cub is developing quickly. Lima is keeping her new charge close and she certainly has her paws full. But even though she’s not letting it stray too from her side, we can already see that her cub has a real playful side."

“This is a momentous breeding success for us. To become the first zoo in mainland Great Britain to ever breed the species is an amazing achievement,” Rowlands said.

Little is known about Andean Bears in the wild. Information learned from the zoo birth will aid conservationists working to protect these Bears in South America.

Population estimates for the species were last made a decade ago, placing wild numbers at just 20,000. Conservationists are convinced that the Bears' numbers have decreased further, but are unsure how many remain in the wild.

The main threat to the Andean Bear is habitat loss, with some 30% of the forests that contain sufficient food disappearing in the past 20 years. Hundreds of Bears are also illegally killed by farmers and business owners every year, largely to prevent them from raiding crops and livestock.

Chester Zoo works with scientists in Bolivia to study Bear-human conflict.

See more photos of the cub below.

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"Pocket-sized" Piglets Born at Chester Zoo

!Tiny trotters! Red river hog piglets born at Chester Zoo (4)Two “pocket-sized” Piglets have been born at Chester Zoo.  The tiny pair of Red River Hogs, which are as yet unsexed and unnamed, arrived on May 13 to first-time mother Mali, age 8, following a four-month-long pregnancy. 

Red River Hogs live in swamps and forests in western and central Africa and are said to be the most colorful member of the Pig family. They are also the smallest of all African pigs. 

!Tiny trotters! Red river hog piglets born at Chester Zoo (13)
!Tiny trotters! Red river hog piglets born at Chester Zoo (1)Photo Credit: Chester Zoo


Sarah Roffe, team manager, said, “We’re ever so pleased with our delightful duo and mum Mali is so far doing a fantastic job of caring for them. They’re only pocket-sized Piglets at the moment but they’re already full of personality and have bundles of energy.”

The Piglets will sport the spotted and striped coats of juveniles until they’re about six months old. At that time, they’ll take on the distinctive rusty coloring of adults.

Once common in their range, Red River Hogs are declining in some areas due to overhunting for their meat.

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Meet Ping and Pong, Chester Zoo's Newborn Sengi Twins

Tiny sengi twins born at Chester Zoo (13)
Two baby African Sengis at Chester Zoo named Ping and Pong are about the size of – you guessed it – ping pong balls. The twins were born on May 5.

African Sengis, also known as Round-eared Elephant Shrews, grow to a maximum size of just four inches and weigh 1.5 ounces – about the same as seven US quarters.

Despite their small stature, Sengis have a genetic link to much larger animals, including Manatees, Aardvarks and Elephants.

Tiny sengi twins born at Chester Zoo (18)
Tiny sengi twins born at Chester Zoo (3)Photo Credit: Chester Zoo



Dave White, team manager of small mammals at Chester Zoo, said, “They may be tiny but our new Sengi duo are hugely fascinating creatures, whose closest living relative is eight thousand times their size. They were once thought to be linked to the Shrew but their genetic makeup is actually closer to that of an Elephant - the giveaway is their amazing trunk-like snout.”

The prehensile snout is used to sniff out insects to eat. The bugs are collected with a quick flick of the tongue.

“Sengis are extremely energetic little critters and have a top speed of 18 mph. If scaled up, they would actually be twice as quick as the world’s fastest land mammal – the Cheetah. They’re incredibly charismatic and one of the very few mammals that pair up for life,” White said.

African Sengis are native to Botswana, Namibia and South Africa where they are found in a range of habitats including deserts, forests and savannahs.

There are nineteen different species of Sengi, and little is known about most of them.  A new species was discovered by conservationists working in Namibia as recently as 2014.

More photos below!

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Great Argus Pheasant Chicks Hatch at Chester Zoo

1_Rare pheasant chicks hatch in Chester Zoo first  (25)

A rare Pheasant, usually found in the rainforests of South East Asia, has been successfully bred at Chester Zoo for the first time. Two Great Argus Pheasant chicks hatched on May 3, after a 24-day incubation.

With Great Argus Pheasant numbers in steep decline across much of its native range, keepers at the Zoo have hailed the arrival of the young pair.

The birds, which are found on the Malaysian peninsula, south Myanmar, South West Thailand, Borneo and Sumatra, are iconic in their homeland but are threatened by hunting and habitat loss.

2_Rare pheasant chicks hatch in Chester Zoo first  (23)

3_Rare pheasant chicks hatch in Chester Zoo first  (18)

4_Rare pheasant chicks hatch in Chester Zoo first  (22)Photo Credits: Chester Zoo 

Andrew Owen, Curator of Birds, said, “The Great Argus Pheasant [Argusianus argus] is under real pressure in parts of South East Asia. Like so many bird species in that part of the world, they are the victim of rapid deforestation and illegal trapping.”

“Great Argus males, in particular, are amongst the most unusual and distinctive of all birds, with their astonishingly long wing and tail feathers adorned with thousands of eye-spots. It is their beauty, which is, in part, what makes them so prized by hunters. To have two chicks hatch here for the very first time in the zoo’s long history is a great achievement; they’re certainly important young birds.”

As part of its mating ritual, the male constructs a ring on the ground out of sticks and twigs, then calls to entice a female to enter into the circle. He then performs a mating dance, culminating in him spreading his wings wide to show off a complex pattern of eyespots in his plumage.

It is these ‘eye-spots’ that give the Argus Pheasant its name: Argus Panoptes (or Argos) being a many-eyed giant in Greek mythology.

The Great Argus Pheasant has been evaluated and is currently classified as “Near Threatened” on the IUCN Red List.

More great pics below the fold!

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Chester Zoo’s Giraffe Birth Caught on Camera

1_Giraffe calf born at Chester Zoo - first pictures (6)

CCTV cameras at Chester Zoo recently captured the beautiful moment a rare Rothschild’s Giraffe calf was born. The five-foot-tall male arrived April 3 to eight-year-old mum Orla. His fall to earth and first wobbly steps were also caught on camera.

Zookeepers say that Orla delivered her youngster smoothly following a four-hour labor; bringing an end to her 15-month pregnancy.

Sarah Roffe, Giraffe team manager, said, “Orla went into labor at around noon and, for a little while, we could just see two spindly legs poking out. She’s an experienced mum and a few hours later she delivered the calf safely onto soft straw as the rest of the herd, including her other young Kidepo and Millie, looked on.”

“Although it might be quite a drop, and they may fall to the ground with a bit of a thud, it’s how Giraffe calves arrive into the world and it stimulates them into taking their first breaths. That whole process, from a calf being born to it taking its very first steps, is an incredibly special thing to see.”

“Those long legs take a little bit of getting used to but the new calf is doing ever so well, as is mum. She’s an excellent parent and is doing a fantastic job of nursing her new arrival.”

“The world may be waiting for April the Giraffe to have her calf over in America, but Orla has beaten her to it!”

2_Giraffe calf born at Chester Zoo - first pictures (4)

3_Giraffe calf born at Chester Zoo - first pictures (2)

4_Giraffe calf born at Chester Zoo - first pictures (5)Photo Credits: Chester Zoo

The calf is the second Rothschild’s Giraffe to be born at the Zoo in the space of just four months, following the arrival of male, Murchison, on Boxing Day. Chester Zoo’s Giraffe keepers have chosen to call the new calf “Narus” in honor of a valley in Kidepo National Park in Uganda, where some of their Giraffe field conservation work is based.

Conservationists at the Zoo hope that both arrivals will help to throw a spotlight on the plight of the endangered species and the different threats faced in the wild. Rothschild’s Giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis camelopardalis) are one of the world’s rarest mammals and recent estimates suggest that less than 1,600 remain.

Tim Rowlands, curator of mammals, added, “Poaching in the wild over the last few decades has led to a 90% decline in wild Rothschild’s Giraffe numbers. Despite ongoing conservation efforts, the species is really struggling to bounce back as the constant threat of habitat loss continues to push the last remaining population ever closer to extinction.”

“Right now the Zoo is working hard out in Africa on a conservation action plan to ensure that populations don’t fall to an even more critical level. We’ve got to stand tall for these amazing animals.”

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Chester Zoo Welcomes Critically Endangered Baby

1_First Bornean orangutan born in almost a decade at Chester Zoo (9)

Keepers at Chester Zoo are celebrating the birth of a critically endangered Bornean Orangutan.

The new arrival was born on the morning of April 2, in front of a handful of amazed onlookers. The first of its kind born at the Zoo in almost a decade, the newborn arrived following an eight-and-a-half-month pregnancy for mum Sarikei. The baby is a first offspring for dad, Willie.

Zoo conservationists say that the baby is a huge boost to a breeding programme, which is working toward saving the iconic species.

The most recent estimates indicate there could be as few as 55,000 Bornean Orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus) left on the island of Borneo in Indonesia, the only place they can be found in the wild. The species is heavily threatened by actions that have pushed the species to the very brink of existence: illegal hunting, habitat destruction and the conversion of their forest to palm oil plantations.

Chris Yarwood, primate keeper at the zoo, said, “Seeing mum Sarieki holding her tiny baby close is an amazing sight. It has been eight years since we last celebrated the birth of a Bornean Orangutan at the zoo, but it’s well worth the wait.”

“This is Sarikei’s third baby and although it’s very early days, she is so far doing a wonderful job of caring for her little one. She’s a great mum. It’s also the first youngster that our male Willie has sired. He has a great personality and we’re very hopeful that he will make a great father as he is still young himself and enjoys playing with the other Orangutans.”

2_First Bornean orangutan born in almost a decade at Chester Zoo (8)

3_First Bornean orangutan born in almost a decade at Chester Zoo (12)

4_First Bornean orangutan born in almost a decade at Chester Zoo (11)Photo Credits: Chester Zoo

Last year the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) changed the status of the Bornean Orangutan from “Endangered” to “Critically Endangered”. Now more than ever, the species faces a very high risk of extinction in the wild.

Tim Rowlands, the zoo’s curator of mammals, added, “Bornean Orangutan numbers are plummeting at a frightening rate. A major threat to the survival of these magnificent creatures is the unsustainable oil palm industry, which is having a devastating effect on the forests where they live. They are also the victims of habitat loss and illegal hunting.”

“Those who are responsible for their decline have pushed them to the very edge of existence. And if the rate of loss continues, they could very well be extinct in the next few decades. It’s therefore absolutely vital that we have a sustainable population of Bornean Orangutans in zoos, and every addition to the European Endangered Species Breeding Programme is so, so important.”

“It’s also imperative that we continue to tackle the excessive deforestation in Borneo and show people everywhere that they too can make a difference to the long-term survival of Orangutans. Simple everyday choices, such as making sure your product purchases from the supermarket contain only sustainably sourced palm oil, can have a massive impact.”

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Rare Macaque Born at Chester Zoo

Baby Sulawesi macaque Amidala born to mum Lisa at Chester Zoo (5)
Zoo keepers at Chester Zoo have just released the first photos of a rare baby Sulawesi Crested Macaque born in January.

The tiny female baby, which keepers have named Amidala, is a welcome boost to the European endangered species breeding program that is working to protect Sulawesi's Macaques.  The species is listed as Critically Endangered, with fewer than 5,000 individuals remaining in the wild.

Baby Sulawesi macaque Amidala born to mum Lisa at Chester Zoo (2)
Baby Sulawesi macaque Amidala born to mum Lisa at Chester Zoo (9)Photo Credit:  Chester Zoo

Sulawesi Crested Macaques are the rarest of the seven Macaque species living in rain forests on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. 

The illegal wildlife trade and large scale habitat loss due to illegal logging has pushed the Sulawesi Crested Macaque to the edge of extinction. They are also targets for poachers and are over-hunted for food. The species’ wild number is believed to have plummeted by around 80% in the last 30 years.

With Amidala’s arrival, there are now 18 Sulawesi Crested Macaques living at Chester Zoo. Amidala was born to parents Lisa and Mamassa.

Conservationists from Chester Zoo works with communities in Sulawesi to help protect forests and the diverse animal species living in them.

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Chester Zoo Releases Rare Footage of Tuatara Hatching

1_Rare footage of ancient reptile hatching caught on film (2) (1)

Incredibly rare footage of a Tuatara hatching from its egg has been caught on camera at Chester Zoo. It is the first time the intricate process has ever been filmed in such stunning detail.

The egg, from which the youngster hatched in the footage, was laid on April 11, and it hatched on December 5, 2016.

The Tuatara is an ancient reptile that has lived on the planet for more than 225 million years…older than many species of dinosaur.

Last year, reptile experts at Chester Zoo became the first in the world to successfully breed the rare animal outside the species’ native New Zealand.

Now, six more have hatched at the Zoo and leading keepers to believe that they have found the ‘winning formula’ when it comes to breeding the mysterious creatures.

2_Rare footage of ancient reptile hatching caught on film (19)

3_Rare footage of ancient reptile hatching caught on film (10)

4_Rare footage of ancient reptile hatching caught on film (2)Photo Credits: Chester Zoo

Only a handful of zoos worldwide work with the species, and the new arrivals are a huge boost to the global population of the reptiles, which are notoriously hard to care for. The Tuatara takes more than 20 years to reach sexual maturity and only reproduces every four years.

Isolde McGeorge, reptile keeper, said, “It took nearly 40 years of research and dedication to achieve the very first breeding of a Tuatara outside their homeland in New Zealand last year. Now, after waiting all that time for the first to successfully hatch, six more have come along.”

“Hatching these remarkable animals is real testament to the skill and expertise of the herpetology team at the zoo. Hopefully this means we’ve found the winning formula in terms of breeding the species, which has been a mystery to science for so long. Tuatara lived before the dinosaurs and have survived almost unchanged to the present day. They really are a living fossil and an evolutionary wonder.”

“Breeding the species is an amazing event and almost as special is the fact we’ve now caught a Tuatara hatching on film for the first time. It’s very, very special footage - footage which has barely ever been recorded before, certainly not in this level of detail. We will be able to learn more and more about these amazing animals from this footage. It’s incredibly unique and a real privilege to be able to witness something so rare.”

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Tiny Orphaned Dik-dik Hand-reared at Chester Zoo

Keepers step in to hand-rear orphaned baby dik dik antelope at Chester Zoo (17)
A tiny Dik-dik is making a big impression at Chester Zoo. The little Antelope is being cared for by zoo staff after its mother passed away soon after giving birth.

Standing only about 8 inches tall at the shoulders, the tiny Kirk’s Dik-dik is being bottle fed by staff five times a day. He will continue to receive a helping hand until he is old enough to eat by himself. 

Keepers step in to hand-rear orphaned baby dik dik antelope at Chester Zoo (19)
Keepers step in to hand-rear orphaned baby dik dik antelope at Chester Zoo (3)Photo Credit:  Chester Zoo



Assistant team manager Kim Wood and keeper Barbara Dreyer have both been caring for the new arrival, who is currently so light he doesn’t register a weight on the zoo’s set of antelope scales.

Kim said, “The youngster is beginning to find his feet now and is really starting to hold his own. We’re hopeful that, in a few months’ time, we’ll be able to introduce him to some of the other members of our group of Dik-diks.  He may be tiny but he is certainly making a big impression on everyone at the zoo.”   

Kirk’s Dik-diks grow to a maximum size of just 16 inches tall at the shoulders, making them one of the smallest species of Antelope in the world.

The species takes its name from Sir John Kirk, a 19th century Scottish naturalist, as well as the alarm calls made by female Dik-diks.  

Kirk’s Dik-diks are native to northeastern Africa and conservationists say they mark their territory with fluid from glands between their toes and just under their eyes, not dissimilar to tears. Populations in the wild are stable.

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