Chester Zoo

Four New ‘Rock’ Stars at Chester Zoo


Four baby Rock Hyraxes have been born at Chester Zoo, in the UK. The tiny quartet arrived on July 25, after a seven-month gestation, weighing just a few ounces.



4_RockHyrax-13Photo Credits: Chester Zoo

As soon as Rock Hyrax babies are born, they look like miniature adults, with their eyes and ears open, sporting the same coat. And despite being small in stature, the species actually has an incredible genetic link to the elephant.

Nick Davis, assistant curator of mammals at the zoo, said, “It’s quite an oddity, but Rock Hyraxes and elephants share a number of common features. For example, a small mammal would typically go through a short gestation period, but the Rock Hyrax is different, with pregnancies lasting over seven months (245 days) – highlighting a connection to their much larger relatives.”

“There are also other physical similarities between the two species, such as the shape of their feet and their continually growing incisors, which are reminiscent of an elephant’s tusks,” Davis continued.

The Rock Hyrax (Procavia capensis) is one of the four living species of the order Hyracoidea, and the only living species in the genus Procavia. Like all hyraxes, it is a medium-sized terrestrial mammal, superficially resembling a guinea pig with short ears and tail. The closest living relatives to hyraxes are the modern-day elephants and sirenians (sea cow).

The species lives primarily in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, where it is known natively as a ‘dassie’ or ‘rock rabbit’. As their name indicates, Rock Hyraxes occupy habitats dominated by rocks and large boulders, including mountain cliffs, where they use their moist and rubber-like soles to gain a good grip to clamber around steep slopes.

They typically live in groups of 10 to 80 animals, and forage as a group. They feed on a wide variety of plants and have been known to eat insects and grubs. They have been reported to use sentries: one or more animals take up position on a vantage point and issue alarm calls on the approach of predators. They are said to have excellent eyesight. They are able to survive their dry habitat by getting most of their water from food supplies.

They are currently classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

More amazing pics, below the fold!

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Seeing Double: Two Rare Onagers Born In One Day


Keepers at the United Kingdom's Chester Zoo are celebrating the arrival of two exceptionally rare Onagers.  The foals were born within hours of each other to two different mothers on July 4 after year-long pregnancies.

Photo Credit:  Chester Zoo
The Onager is an Asiatic wild ass and was once found in abundance across the deserts of Mongolia, China, and Iran. Now, they are found in just two protected areas and over the past 16 years their numbers have declined by more than 50%.

“Onagers are the rarest equid species in the world and one of the rarest animals that we have here at the zoo, so we were absolutely delighted to have two foals arrive - one male and one female - during same night!” said Tim Rowlands, curator of mammals at Chester Zoo.

“We hope the foals themselves will one day go on to contribute to the international breeding program for the species, which is working to ensure there’s a sustainable population in zoos,”  Rowlands said.

The species is listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature after decades of illegal poaching, overgrazing, and disease passed on from farm animals. Research suggests that only 600 Onagers remain in the wild and very few zoos in the world work with the animals due to the challenges of breeding and keeping the species.

Chester Zoo is part of an international conservation effort and is helping to save Onagers from extinction through this successful breeding program.

Ducklings Stand Beak to Beak Against Extinction

White Winged Ducklings-1 (2)With fewer than 250 remaining in the wild, hopes are high that a pair of rare white-winged ducks hatched at the Chester Zoo can boost this endangered species.

White Winged Ducklings-6
White Winged Ducklings-5
White Winged Ducklings-17Photo Credit:  Chester Zoo

The duo can be seen swimming in their exhibit pond, but zoo staff are keeping a close watch on the ducklings. Curator of Birds Andrew Owen said, “Our two new white-winged ducklings are very important birds given that their numbers are extremely low in the wild. Our dedicated bird team will be keeping a very close eye on them to make sure they make it through to adulthood."

White-winged ducks are on the brink of extinction, with their wetland and forest habitats significantly destroyed by human activity.  Only a few populations remain along riverbanks in India and Indonesia.  In some locations, such as Java, Thailand, and Malaysia, white-winged ducks have not been seen for many years.  They are listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Chester Zoo participates in the European breeding program, which builds an insurance population in zoos should the wild population be lost completely.  In addition, zoos are working in Southeast Asia to preserve habitats, which will benefit this and many other species.

Baby Giraffe Tries Out His New (Very Long) Legs

At just five days old, Sanyu the Giraffe calf is already walking -and sometimes running - tall with the rest of the herd at the United Kingdom’s Chester Zoo

GiraffePaddock-29Photo Credit:  Chester Zoo
The five-foot-tall  youngster – a rare Rothschild’s Giraffe – took his very first steps in the sunshine after being born on June 7. He is the second calf to be born at the zoo in just six months. Sanyu, whose name means “happiness” in Swahili, is the first male to be born at the zoo in recent years, with the previous four calves before him being female. 

“Sanyu has had a busy week getting used to his long legs, learning about his surroundings and settling in with the rest of the herd. He’s doing really well so far under the watchful guidance of his mum Dagmar,” said Giraffe team manager Sarah Roffe. 

Also known as Baringo or Ugandan Giraffes, this subspecies can be identified by the broader white lines dividing its spots and the lack of spots below the knees.

There are fewer Rothschild’s Giraffes left in the wild than either African Elephants or Giant Pandas.  Rothschild’s Giraffes were listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 2010 after estimates suggested less than 1,100 are left in the wild – making them one of the world’s most endangered Giraffe subspecies.  Once wide-ranging across Kenya, Uganda, and Sudan, Rothschild’s Giraffes have been almost totally eliminated from much of their former range and now survive in only a few small, isolated populations in Kenya and Uganda.

See more photos of Sanyu below.

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Okapi Calf Makes Reluctant Debut at Chester Zoo

1_New okapi calf Usala with mum Stuma (3)

An Okapi calf recently made his public debut at Chester Zoo, in the UK.

The youngster, named Usala, was born April 30th to parents, Stuma and Dicky. Okapi calves are notoriously elusive, and Usala’s first public outing required some steady persuasion from mum Stuma.

2_New okapi calf Usala (3)


4_11393328_10153314472135912_8934405666939726885_oPhoto Credits: Chester Zoo

Keeper, Fiona Howe said, “Okapis are rather secretive animals. Up until now, Usala has been out of the spotlight, cozied up in his nest. But thanks to the support of mum Stuma, he’s now starting to explore.”

“A trademark of the Okapi is the stripy markings on their legs; designed to help offspring follow them through deep forest. And that’s exactly where you’ll tend to see Usala - sticking closely to his mum’s legs as she moves around foraging for food. Stuma is an excellent mum, and she’s doing a great job of helping her new charge gain confidence on his legs. She can often be seen offering him an affectionate nuzzle as reassurance that he’s doing well,” Fiona continued.

Usala’s arrival is an important boost to the breeding programme for the endangered animals, increasing the number of Okapis in UK zoos to 14. This is only the second Okapi ever born at Chester Zoo. Tafari, a female, was born in 2012.

The Okapi, also known as the “forest giraffe”, is a rare hoofed mammal, native to the dense Ituri Forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They are closely related to the Giraffe, and along with their long-necked cousin, they are the only living members of the family Giraffidae. American and European scientists did not discover the species until the early 1900s. Because of the Okapi’s elusiveness, little has been known about their behavior in the wild, including how they raise their calves.

Okapis are herbivores, feeding on tree leaves and buds, grasses, ferns, fruits, and fungi. Females become sexually mature when about one-and-a-half years old, while males reach maturity after two years.

After successful mating, there is a gestational period of around 440 to 450 days, which results, usually, in the birth of a single calf. Only male Okapi have horns, and females are commonly a bit taller than males.

Okapis are currently classified as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Population numbers of Okapi, in the wild, have been declining and are predicted to continue on this downward trend due to habitat loss, human settlement, mining, war and political instability in these animals’ region, and the bushmeat trade.

Chester Zoo is working with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN’s) Giraffe and Okapi specialist advisory group to develop a conservation strategy for Okapis. Chester Zoo also supports the DRC Wildlife Authority and their efforts to protect the species in the Ituri Forest in the DRC. 

More amazing pics and video, below the fold!

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Eight Fuzzy Penguin Chicks Hatch At Chester Zoo

PenguinChicks-19The first Humboldt Penguin chicks of 2015 have emerged from their eggs at Chester Zoo.

Weighing only two ounces, baby chick Panay – named after an exotic island in the Philippines – was the first of eight to hatch at the zoo.  The next seven hatchlings were named after other islands: Papua, Bali, Sumatra, Sulawesi, Sumba, Java, and Tuma.

PenguinChicks-18Photo Credit:  Chester Zoo
Since the chicks hatched, zookeepers have been carefully observing their nutrition, weight, and development in the nest.  The chicks are weighed daily, and their parents receive extra fish so they can feed their new babies.  It’s working – some of the chicks weigh seven times their hatch weight after only a few weeks.

Each pair of the South American species, which come from the coastal areas of Peru and Chile, lays two eggs and incubates them for 40 days. Both parents help rear the young until they are fully fledged, before making their tentative first splash in the pool with the rest of the colony.  Humboldt Penguins are named after the chilly Humboldt current that parallels South America's west coast and carries abundant marine life.

Of the world’s 17 Penguin species, Humboldt Penguins are among the most at risk, being classified as Vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.  Their decline is due in part to extensive mining of guano beds.  The guano beds, consisting of hundreds of years of accumulated bird droppings, make excellent fertilizer.  But the Penguins need the guano beds as nesting grounds, so when the guano is removed, the Penguins have nowhere to nest.  Overfishing of the Penguins’ prey species, climate change, and rising acidity levels in the ocean also contribute to their decline.

See more photos of the chicks below.

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Sumatran Tiger Trio Got Their Stripes...and Names

The three cubs together after their check ups (1)

In late January, Chester Zoo announced the birth of three endangered Sumatran Tiger Cubs. ZooBorns was excited to share the news and introduced our readers to the tiny trio.

The three cubs together after their check ups (3)

The cubs get a lick from Kirana after their check ups (2)

One of the tiger cubs is carried by a keeper to its health check up (1)Photo Credits: Chester Zoo

The cubs, born to 8-year-old mum, ‘Kirana’, and 7-year-old dad, ‘Fabi’, were found to be two males and one female.  The, now 12-week-old, triplets were carefully examined, weighed and vaccinated by the zoo’s specialist vets and carnivore keepers.

Supporters of the Zoo were given the opportunity to vote on the names for the trio, and the top-voted monikers were recently announced. The two boys were named ‘Jaya’ (meaning victorious) and ‘Topan’ (hurricane). The girl was given the name ‘Kasarna’ (beautiful melody).

Gabby Drake, vet at Chester Zoo, said, “Sumatran Tigers are one of the rarest big cat species in the world, and our new triplets are very special cubs indeed. It’s really important for us to make sure they’re healthy and in good physical condition and we’re happy to report that all three of the cubs have been given a clean bill of health – they’re in tip-top shape.”

Gabby continued, “The cubs were given similar vaccines to those a pet cat receives when it’s taken to the vets. Of course we were much more cautious about handling the cubs than we would be with domestic kittens though. We checked them over as quickly as we could before returning them to their mum, Kirana. She’s a very good mother and fiercely protective of her young charges, so we certainly didn't want to hang around for long.” 

Sumatran Tigers are found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. They are the smallest of all tigers and have the narrowest stripes.

Critically endangered in the wild, there are believed to be just 300-400 Sumatran Tigers left, as they are often targeted by poachers who use their body parts as traditional medicine. Much of their jungle habitat has also been destroyed.

More amazing pics, below the fold!

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Black Rhino Birth Caught on Camera at Chester Zoo

Baby black rhino born at Chester Zoo (1)The amazing moment of a Rhino giving birth has been caught on camera at Chester Zoo. The 50-second footage shows the mother deliver her newborn and the tender first moments as she checks over her calf. 



10980701_10153007305125912_5799333752593217516_nPhoto Credits: Chester Zoo

Born on January 31st, the female calf, which keepers have named ‘Fara’, is the offspring of 17-year-old ‘Kitani’ and 15-year-old dad, ‘Sammy’. 

Sammy’s genes are extremely valuable as he has never before sired a calf since moving from Japan in 2002 to join the European Endangered Species Breeding Programme for the critically endangered animals. 

Curator of mammals at Chester Zoo, Tim Rowlands, said, “Kitani’s delivery was textbook. We got a ‘maternity suite’ ready for her with deep sandy floors and beds of hay but ultimately she chose her own spot.

“The footage has enabled us to witness this really special moment and both mum and youngster are doing really, really well.

“Every birth is cause for great celebration but given that Eastern Black Rhino face a real threat of extinction our new arrival is even more significant. The calf is super important to the breeding programme in Europe and her arrival is another step towards sustaining a black rhino population which, in the wild, is being ravaged by poachers on an almost daily basis.”  

In the wild there are thought to be less than 650 Eastern Black Rhinos remaining, pushing the species perilously close to extinction.

Numbers in Africa are plummeting as a result of a dramatic surge in illegal poaching, fuelled by a global increase in demand for Rhino horn to supply the traditional Asian medicine market.

The problem is being driven by the astonishing street value of Rhino horn, which is currently worth more per gram than gold and cocaine.

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Rare Tiger Cubs Venture Out of Den


A trio of tiny Sumatran Tiger cubs has made their first public appearance at Chester Zoo. 



10952268_10152996809300912_3374509011826957704_nPhoto Credits: Chester Zoo

The four-week-old Tiger triplets were born on January 2nd but have just started to emerge from their den, as their proud mother starts to show them off. 

The cubs are the off-spring of eight-year-old ‘Kirana’ and seven-year-old dad ‘Fabi’.

There are believed to be just 300-400 Sumatran Tigers left in the wild, as they are often targeted by poachers who use their body parts as traditional medicine and much of their jungle habitat has been destroyed.

Curator of mammals, Tim Rowlands, said, “Sumatran Tigers are one of the rarest big cat species in the world. That’s what makes our new Tiger trio so incredibly special; they’re a rare boost to an animal that’s critically endangered.

“It’s still early days but Kirana is an experienced mum, and she’s keeping her cubs very well protected. She’s doing everything we would hope at this stage.” 

Sumatran Tigers are found only on the Indonesian islands of Sumatra. They are the smallest of all Tigers and also have the narrowest stripes. 

Mr. Rowlands added, “The arrival of this latest trio of cubs is vital to the ongoing survival of the species and the back-up population found in zoos. They are now part of a safety-net against the population in the wild becoming extinct which, to me, is incredibly humbling.”

It will be several weeks until keepers can discover the sexes of the Tiger triplets and a decision can be made on their names. 

More amazing pics, below the fold!

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