Chester Zoo

Biggest Bush Dog Litter Ever Born at Chester Zoo Emerges From Den

1Puppy love! Biggest ever bush dog litter born at Chester Zoo emerges from den (16)

The biggest Bush Dog litter ever born at Chester Zoo has emerged from its den.

The six pups, born to mother Mana, age 7, and dad Franco, age 4, have made their public debuts after spending their first few weeks of life tucked away in their underground burrows.

Puppy love! Biggest ever bush dog litter born at Chester Zoo emerges from den (13)
Puppy love! Biggest ever bush dog litter born at Chester Zoo emerges from den (21)Photo Credit: Chester Zoo


Keepers believe the first of the sextuplets arrived on May 13, which is when they first heard tiny cries coming from the dens as they performed their morning rounds.

The litter, which is above the average size for Bush Dogs and is made up of two boys and four girls, is the largest to be born at the zoo.

Now, the youngsters have come out to play and have begun exploring the outside world under the watchful eye of their parents.  

Tim Rowlands, Curator of Mammals at the zoo, said, “Mana is doing a wonderful job of caring for her new pups but with it being her biggest litter ever, she’s certainly got her paws full. We’ve seen fairly big litters of four or five pups born in the past, but never have we had a litter of six.

The zoo’s Bush Dog pack now contains 16 individuals. In the next few weeks, the newest pups will be weighed and sexed by the care team.

Bush Dogs belong to the canine family and live in small isolated populations in the wet forests and grasslands of Central and South America. They have evolved over thousands of years to have a web of skin between their toes, which makes them excellent swimmers.

Sightings of Bush Dogs in the wild are becoming increasingly rare with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listing the species as Near Threatened. Their wild numbers have dropped by more than 25% in just 12 years. This decline is caused by destruction of natural areas for farms and other human developments, poaching for their meat, and diseases contracted from domestic dogs.

Chester Zoo has supported partners in Misiones, Argentina, where conservationists helped to create a biological corridor of habitat for a range of carnivorous species to help improve the movement between different areas of fragmented forest.

See more photos of the sextuplets below.

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Chester Zoo Waits Almost Decade for New Chimpanzee

1_The first chimpanzee to be born in nearly a decade at Chester Zoo has arrived to doting mum ZeeZee (83)

A critically endangered Western Chimpanzee has been born at Chester Zoo. Primate experts say the baby, born June 4, is in good health and inseparable from 24-year-old mum, ZeeZee.

ZeeZee was born at Chester Zoo on February 15, 1994. Her new infant marks the first time in almost ten years that the Zoo has welcomed a baby Chimpanzee. The last, Tina, was also born to mum ZeeZee in February 2009.

The birth follows a scientific project, spanning several years, which has carefully assessed the genetics of all Chimpanzees in zoos across Europe. The study has confirmed that the chimps at Chester Zoo are the highly threatened West African subspecies – one of the rarest in the world – establishing the group as a critically important breeding population.

Mike Jordan, Collections Director, said, “The new arrival is particularly important as it contributes to better genetic diversity in the European Western Chimpanzee population. It comes after a five-year-long scientific study of Chimpanzees in zoos across Europe confirmed that the group of chimps at Chester is one of the rarest in the world – making it even more important to conservation breeding than was ever thought.”

“In the wild, the Western Chimpanzee is under huge threat from bush-meat hunting as well as extensive and increasing habitat loss and fragmentation from human activity, so much so that it is the first ever Chimpanzee subspecies to join the list of critically endangered great apes. It makes the group at Chester an important conservation insurance population and the new baby is hugely significant.”

2_The first chimpanzee to be born in nearly a decade at Chester Zoo has arrived to doting mum ZeeZee (27)

3_The first chimpanzee to be born in nearly a decade at Chester Zoo has arrived to doting mum ZeeZee (30)

4_The first chimpanzee to be born in nearly a decade at Chester Zoo has arrived to doting mum ZeeZee (18)Photo Credits: Chester Zoo

The Western Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes verus) is found in West Africa where it is patchily distributed from Senegal to Ghana and is already thought to be extinct in Benin, Burkina Faso and Togo.

At Chester Zoo, the new arrival has increased the number of their group to twenty, and zoo primate experts say the baby has excited other chimps in the family.

Tim Rowlands, Curator of Mammals, added, “Mum and baby have bonded positively, and ZeeZee is naturally being incredibly protective of her newborn. She’s a wonderful, experienced mother and has learnt much of her parenting skills from her own mum Mandy, who is also part of the group and always on hand to lend her support.”

“The interactions between the group are incredibly fascinating to watch. A new baby brings a new dynamic and the group is in a real state of excitement – particularly given that they haven’t seen a baby in their group for the best part of a decade.”  

Chester Zoo is also actively involved in the conservation of some of the world’s rarest Chimpanzee subspecies in the wild and, for more than 20 years, has supported the last stronghold of another of the rarest Chimpanzee subspecies, the Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee, in Gashaka Gumti National park in Nigeria.

The Western Chimpanzee is classified as “Critically Endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It is estimated that there could be as few 18,000 remaining in the wild.

More beautiful photos, below the fold!

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Meet Akeno the Baby Rhino at Chester Zoo

Zoo reveals baby rhino’s name (22)

Zookeepers at Chester Zoo have revealed the name of a rare baby Rhino born on May 3.

Meet Akeno, the Greater One-horned Rhinoceros calf – only the second of his kind to ever be born at the zoo. The name Akeno is of Asian origin, meaning “beautiful sunrise.”

Zoo reveals baby rhino’s name (37)
Zoo reveals baby rhino’s name (37)Photo Credit: Chester Zoo

Although he is just six weeks old, Akeno has bundles of energy and is proving to be a real handful for his 11-year-old mother, Asha.

Greater One-horned Rhinos can weigh up to 2.4 tons as adults, but despite their bulky size, they can run at speeds of up to 25 mph.

Also known as Indian Rhinos, Greater One-horned Rhinos live in northeastern India and southern Nepal. Like all Rhinos, they feed on grasses and other vegetation. And, like Rhinos in Africa and other parts of Asia, Greater One-horned Rhinos are illegally hunted for their horns, which are mistakenly believed to have medicinal properties in some cultures. In reality, Rhino horns are made of keratin, the same substance that makes up human hair and fingernails.

Due to overhunting and habitat loss, only about 200 Greater One-horned Rhinos remained in the wild by the middle of the 20th century. Steps to protect the Rhinos were taken just in time and today, about 3,500 live in the wild. They are currently listed as Vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

See more pictures of Akeno below.

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Elephant Calf Born Three Months Late Gets a Name

Baby elephant born at Chester Zoo three months after due date named Anjan (27)
An Asian Elephant calf born three months after its due date has been named Anjan by zoo keepers at Chester Zoo.

The male calf, born May 17, astonished experts when he was born to mum Thi Hi Way last month following an assumed gestation of 25 months.

Because the typical gestation for Asian Elephants is about 22 months, scientists believed Thi, who was already a great-grandmother and matriarch of the herd, had started a natural resorption process. 

Baby elephant born at Chester Zoo three months after due date named Anjan (33)
Baby elephant born at Chester Zoo three months after due date named Anjan (33)Photo Credit: Chester Zoo

Hormone tracking originally showed that Thi Hi Way was due to give birth in February, and after her due date passed, she was slowly returning to her normal weight.  

But, despite the unusual circumstances, Thi gave birth to the healthy baby boy and zoo staff say both mother and calf are doing incredibly well.

Mike Jordan, Chester Zoo’s Collections Director, said, “Thi is a wonderful matriarch to our family herd and a really experienced mum. She has successfully given birth to seven calves before, but this time around circumstances were really quite astonishing.”

“We believed Thi had exceeded her normal gestation period, which we were monitoring closely. Her hormone levels, behaviour and drop in weight gave us every indication that she may have been resorbing the calf – a natural process that some Elephants experience. However, nature always has that incredible ability to surprise you and that was certainly the case,” Jordan said.

Asian Elephants are listed as Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, threatened by habitat loss, poaching, disease and direct conflict with humans.

Conservationists from Chester Zoo have been working to combat these threats in the Elephant’s native India for more than twelve years, utilising the skills and knowledge developed working with the herd in Chester.

Zookeepers chose the name Anjan in honour of Anjan Nath, one of the leading conservation figures the zoo works with on a project in Assam, northern India, which has successfully eliminated conflict between local communities and the nearby Asian Elephant population, offering a blueprint for the future conservation of the species.

See more photos of Anjan below.

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Chester Zoo Has ‘Colorful’ New Trio

1_!Stars in stripes! Trio of red river hoglets born at Chester Zoo (28)

A trio of Red River Hogs was recently born at Chester Zoo. The tiny triplets arrived to mum Mali on May 4, following a four-month-long pregnancy.

The piglets stayed safely tucked in their den, bonding with mum, for the first few weeks of life, but they can now be seen on-exhibit, frolicking in the sun. According to keepers, the piglets are yet-to-be-sexed and yet-to-be-named.

2_!Stars in stripes! Trio of red river hoglets born at Chester Zoo (14)

3_Stars in stripes! Trio of red river hoglets born at Chester Zoo (30)

4_!Stars in stripes! Trio of red river hoglets born at Chester Zoo (41)Photo Credits: Chester Zoo

Red River Hogs are instantly recognizable for their bright red fur, which helps them blend into their Sub-Saharan African habitat. This coloring has made the pigs renowned as being the world’s most colorful member of the pig family.

They are native to the swamps and forests of West and Central Africa, but hunting for their meat has led to a decline in numbers where they were once commonly found.

Sarah Roffe, team manager at the Zoo, said, “It’s early days, but the piglets are doing great so far. They’re so small at the moment and their coats are covered in spots and stripes, which will slowly start to fade after about six months when they’ll take on their more iconic rusty coloring.”

“The trio are sticking very close to mum Mali (age 9), but it’s great to see them spending time with dad Con-Fetti. In fact, they can often be seen enjoying a nap whilst sat on top of him.”

Sarah continued, “This is the pairings first set of triplets, so they’ll soon be a real handful for mum and dad as they become more adventurous and playful. It’s amazing to see the family of seven together!”

Conservationists at Chester Zoo are keen to develop a greater understanding of how to care for the species in conservation breeding programmes, should the worst happen to the species and they become extinct in the wild.

Red River Hogs (Potamochoerus porcus) are also known as "tufted pigs" due to the white whiskers and tufts found on their ears. They are currently classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

More great pics, below the fold!

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Greater One-horned Rhino Born at Chester Zoo

1_Rare greater one-horned rhino born at Chester Zoo (8)

A rare Greater One-horned Rhino calf was born May 3 at Chester Zoo.

After 16 months gestation and a 20-minute labor, the male calf arrived to mum, Asha (11-years old), and dad, Beni (13).

The Zoo captured the birth on CCTV and footage shows the soon-to-be-named calf getting to his feet to take his first wobbly steps before feeding for the first time.

Zoo conservationists have hailed the birth of the “precious, bolshie newcomer” as a big boost to the endangered species breeding programme, with the Greater One-horned Rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis) listed as “Vulnerable” to extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The animals are threatened in the wild by the illegal poaching of their horns and habitat loss.

2_Rare greater one-horned rhino born at Chester Zoo (4)

3_Rare greater one-horned rhino born at Chester Zoo (1)

4_Rare greater one-horned rhino born at Chester Zoo (2)Photo Credits: Chester Zoo

Tim Rowlands, Curator of Mammals, said, “Asha is a superb mum and delivered her little bundle of joy in very relaxed fashion – almost lying down completely to give birth.”

“Greater One-horned Rhinos are a vulnerable species and every new calf is ever so special. This is a momentous new arrival.”  

Rowlands continued, “Rhinos around the world are under increasing pressure due largely to the senseless poaching of their horn. We need more people to be aware of their plight and join us in the fight to end the slaughter and ensure these magnificent animals are around for the future. Asha’s precious new arrival, which is already developing into quite a bolshie little character, will hopefully go some way to keeping rhinos and the surrounding issues in the spotlight.”

Chester Zoo is part of a breeding programme coordinated by the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums (EAZA) that is focused on sustaining the Greater One-horned Rhino population.

Mike Jordan, Collections Director, added, “At one stage, the Greater One-horned Rhino was hunted almost to extinction and there were less than 200 in the wild. Thankfully, steps to protect them were taken just in time, and today there are around 3,500 in India and Nepal.”

“That number though is still desperately small, and they continue to face threats to their long-term survival. As with the rhinos in Africa, they are targeted for their horns by poachers and much of the land where they once lived has been taken over by humans. It’s therefore vitally important that we act for wildlife to ensure the population doesn’t dip to critically low levels again.”

More great pics, below the fold!

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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