Chester Zoo

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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Tiny Twin Marmosets Born at Chester Zoo

1_World’s smallest monkey gives birth to tiny twins at Chester Zoo (53)

An Eastern Pygmy Marmoset, the world’s smallest species of monkey, has given birth to twins at Chester Zoo.

The tiny babies, weighing in at just 15 grams, will measure just five inches in length when fully grown.

Arriving to mum Audrey and dad Gumi, the mini-monkeys were born on July 25 but have only now grown to a size whereby they’re big enough to spot.

2_World’s smallest monkey gives birth to tiny twins at Chester Zoo (1)

3_World’s smallest monkey gives birth to tiny twins at Chester Zoo (50)

4_World’s smallest monkey gives birth to tiny twins at Chester Zoo (43)Photo Credits: Chester Zoo

Dr. Nick Davis, Deputy Curator of Mammals at the zoo, said, “Pygmy Marmosets actually have relatively large babies for their tiny size. An adult will only weigh up to around 150 grams and so each baby equates to around 10% of its body weight.”

Davis continued, “After giving the babies their regular feeds, mum Audrey, like all other female Eastern Pygmy Marmosets, steps aside while dad takes on the parental chores. The youngsters can therefore often be seen being carried by dad, Gumi, for long periods of time as mum takes a well-deserved break.”

Eastern Pygmy Marmosets (Cebuella pygmaea) are native to the rainforests of western Brazil, southeastern Colombia, eastern Ecuador and eastern Peru. They are generally found in evergreen and river edge forests and are known to be a gum-feeding specialist, or a “gummivore”.

The Pygmy Marmoset is the world’s smallest “true monkey”. They have a head-body length ranging from 117 to 152 millimeters (4.6 to 6.0 in), a tail of 172 to 229 millimeters (6.8 to 9.0 in), and the average adult body weighs in at just over 100 grams (3.5 oz.).

They are currently classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. They are threatened by both habitat loss and from being captured for the pet trade.

More great photos below the fold! 

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Chester Zoo Introduces Their New ‘Fab Five’

1_Fab five! Dwarf mongoose pups emerge from their den at Chester Zoo (1)

Five tiny Dwarf Mongoose pups, born at Chester Zoo, recently emerged from their den for the first time.

The pups were spotted following in the footsteps of mum as they took their maiden steps into the outside world.

2_Fab five! Dwarf mongoose pups emerge from their den at Chester Zoo (18)

3_Fab five! Dwarf mongoose pups emerge from their den at Chester Zoo (26)

4_Fab five! Dwarf mongoose pups emerge from their den at Chester Zoo (3)Photo Credits: Chester Zoo

The quintet is the first litter for mum, Mini, and dad, Cooper. Both parents arrived at Chester Zoo in late 2016.

Keepers were first alerted to the new arrivals several weeks ago when they heard “little squeaks” coming from their nest box.

Nick Davis, Deputy Curator of Mammals at Chester Zoo, said, “Dwarf Mongooses are curious characters and are incredibly adventurous and playful. The babies are certainly keeping mum and dad on their toes.”  

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Tiny Rock Hyrax Triplets Born at Chester Zoo

!Rock hyrax triplets born at Chester Zoo (10)

Three baby Rock Hyraxes have made their public debuts at Chester Zoo.  The pocket-sized pups, which are yet to be named or sexed, arrived to mother Dassie and dad Nungu on July 21 weighing just over half a pound (250g) each – no heavier than a bar of soap!

SQUARE Rock hyrax triplets born at Chester Zoo (21)
Rock hyrax triplets born at Chester Zoo (19)Photo Credit: Chester Zoo

Rock Hyraxes may be short in stature but these tiny animals have a surprising genetic link: they are more closely related to Elephants than any other species on Earth. Scientists posit that Hyraxes and Elephants evolved from a single common ancestor.

Rock Hyraxes’ two tusk-like incisor teeth constantly grow, just like the tusks of an Elephant. The two species also have similarly-shaped feet and similar skull structure.  

Small mammals often experience a short pregnancy period, but Rock Hyraxes are different, with their pregnancy lasting more than seven months. The young are well developed when born, just like miniature adults.

David White, Team Manager of small mammals at Chester Zoo said, “Rock Hyraxes have helped conservationists learn so much about the evolution of different animals, and how animals can evolve and adapt to the environments where they live – they really are special little creatures."

In the wild, Rock Hyraxes are known as ‘Rock Rabbits’ or ‘Dassies’ and can be found in large colonies across Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Scientists believe they even have their own form of language, using 20 different vocalizations in particular tones and orders to convey meaning.

More photos below!

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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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