Pumpkins and Jack-o-Lanterns are indicative of the fall season…and Halloween.
Zoo Keepers work hard to keep their animals healthy and happy. Enrichment toys and activities are an important tool that Keepers utilize to help in that pursuit. Enrichment items encourage natural behavior and stimulate the senses…and what could be more stimulating, this time of year, than celebrating by tearing into a bright orange pumpkin!
Two litters of Bush Dog pups at the Chester Zoo have begun to venture outside their dens for the first time. The first litter, consisting of five pups, was discovered in August after keepers heard tiny squeals coming from the den. A second set arrived in September, but the number of pups is not yet known. Some pups in the second litter may still be tucked in underground burrows.
The pack of pups means non-stop action in the Bush Dog exhibit. The pups play-fight and explore most of the day. When intervention is needed, the moms carry the pups in their mouths, careful not to injure the youngsters with their sharp teeth.
Photo Credit: Chester Zoo
Bush Dogs are not well studied, so Chester Zoo keepers hope that these two litters will add to the knowledge base for the species. For example, it is rare for two litters to be produced within one pack only weeks apart. Normally, the alpha male and only one female produce offspring.
Once all the pups emerge, the zoo staff will weigh, sex, and microchip the pups, and conduct a hands-on health check. This will allow the staff to monitor each individual pup’s progress.
Bush Dogs are native to Central and South America, where they inhabit wet forests and grasslands. They hunt in packs to chase down small mammals, lizards, and birds, but can also hunt and kill animals twice their size. With a web of skin between their toes, Bush Dogs are excellent swimmers.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists Bush Dogs as Near Threatened after their wild numbers dropped by more than 25% in just 12 years. They have suffered from habitat loss from farming, a loss of prey species, and from contracting diseases spread by other canines or domestic dogs.
Four Javan Green Magpies have hatched at Chester Zoo. This is the first time the world’s rarest Magpie has been bred in a UK zoo, which provides a major boost to conservation efforts to save this species from extinction.
Conservationists and bird staff at the Zoo are making every effort to try and save the species, which has been trapped to the very brink in its native Indonesian forests. Chester Zoo has been working with assistance from Taman Safari Indonesia and conservation partners, Cikananga Wildlife Centre.
In late 2015, six pairs of the birds were flown from Java, Indonesia to Chester to establish a conservation breeding and insurance population for the species in Europe, before the birds vanish in the wild altogether.
Photo Credits: Chester Zoo
The Javan Green Magpie (Cissa thalassina) is native to western Java in Indonesia and inhabits dense montane forests. Their bright green plumage is attained through the food the birds eat: insects, frogs and lizards.
The species is listed as “Critically Endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), but bird experts are warning that the situation may have worsened in recent months, amid fears that the rare Magpies may now be close to extinction in the wild, with no recent sightings reported.
However, the breeding of the four new chicks at Chester Zoo has given a huge lift to conservation efforts to save the birds. Andrew Owen, the Zoo’s Curator of Birds, explains the importance of the breeding successes, “I have had the privilege of working with many rare and beautiful birds, but none are more precious than the Javan Green Magpie: one of the world’s most endangered species.
“We’ve been working with our conservation partners in Java - the Cikananga Wildlife Centre - for more than six years. In that time we’ve seen Javan Green Magpies disappear almost completely from the wild as they are captured for the illegal bird trade. Huge areas of forests that were once filled with beautiful songbirds are falling silent.
“Knowing that our first pair had nested was a momentous occasion for us - seeing the first chick was even more special. All four chicks have now fledged and are currently sporting blue feathers, which will eventually turn apple green as they mature.
“So far we have successfully bred from two adult pairs and these four chicks are a vital addition to the worldwide population. Every individual we breed here could help save the species as the clock is ticking and time is running out.”
Mike Jordan, Collections Director at Chester Zoo, added, “The rapid decline of the Javan Green Magpie in the wild is due to on-going trapping pressures, agricultural intrusion and a continued loss of suitable forest habitat in west Java in Indonesia.
“We started the first ever European conservation breeding programme for the species when six pairs of Javan Green Magpies arrived in Chester in December last year. Our specialist team, in conjunction with two other top European zoos, is aiming to ensure their continued survival.
“Our long-term aim is to return birds bred here in the UK and Europe to the forests of Indonesia.”
The arrival of the four chicks brings the total number of Javan Green Magpies at Chester Zoo to eleven. The Cikananga Conservation Breeding Centre currently has 19 birds, all under the expert care of Chester Zoo staff and local Indonesian experts.
A highly unusual animal has been bred at Chester Zoo, boosting the European population of this endangered species.
A Giant Jumping Rat was born in July to mum, Rokoto. The new youngster, whose sex is currently unknown, has only now started to venture out from its nest. This is the first time Chester Zoo has bred this unique species.
The Giant Jumping Rat (Hypogeomys antimena) is a large, nocturnal rodent, which conservation experts say is threatened with extinction in the near future because of habitat loss, introduced disease and predation by feral dogs.
Keepers at Chester Zoo hope that the charming new arrival will help change perceptions about the charismatic animal, which has traits similar to those of a kangaroo, and in turn boost public support for conservation efforts.
Photo Credits: Chester Zoo
Giant Jumping Rats are only found on the island of Madagascar, and as a result have evolved with unique attributes possessed by no other species of rat.
The species, which can grow to the size of a small dog, only jumps on very rare occasions but has the spectacular ability to leap almost one metre into the air.
Also known as Malagasy Jumping Rats, they form lifelong monogamous pairs, unlike other rodents. They reproduce very slowly, normally only having two babies a year. As their name suggests, their back feet are adapted for jumping and are large in comparison to their front feet.
When foraging for food, the rats move on all fours, searching the forest floor for fallen fruit, nuts, seeds, and leaves. They have also been known to strip bark from trees and dig for roots and invertebrates.
As well as being part of a carefully managed breeding programme, working to establish a healthy safety-net population of the endangered rats in Europe, Chester Zoo is also actively working in Madagascar to help protect the forests where the animals live. Working with conservation partner Madagasikara Voakajy, much of the Zoo’s work is focused on engaging local communities and persuading them that the forests, and the wildlife that live there, are worth protecting.
Five baby Otters have been thrown in at the deep end, while being taught how to swim, by their parents at Chester Zoo.
Mum, Annie, and dad, Wallace, took their new pups for their first proper dip in the water. The new pups recently emerged from their den, with their parents, for the first time since the quintet was born July 8th.
The new litter of Asian Short-clawed Otters, which currently weigh between 450g and 612g, is made up of two boys and three girls; all yet to be named by their keepers. This is the first litter for two-year-old Annie and four-year-old Wallace.
Fiona Howe, assistant otter team manager at the zoo, said, “While Otters might seem like born naturals in the water, even they need to be taught the basics in the early stages of their lives.
“Asian Short-clawed Otters are a highly social species and learning to swim is a real family effort. Mum Annie and dad Wallace have both been working together and, now that they are confident that each of the pups are ready to start swimming, they’ve been taking them by the scruffs of their necks and dropping them in at the deep end. All five of them are getting to grips with the water really, really quickly.
“Annie and Wallace are first time parents but they’re doing a fab job, sharing with the daily care of the pups, including grooming, babysitting and feeding.”
Photo Credits: Chester Zoo
Asian Short-clawed Otters, which are found in various parts of Asia from India to the Philippines and China, are listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as “Vulnerable” to extinction. Experts believe the species is likely to soon become endangered, unless the circumstances increasing the threat to its survival improve.
Sarah Roffe, otter team manager, added, “Many of the wetlands where Asian Short-clawed Otters live are being taken over by humans for agricultural and urban development, while some otters are hunted for their skins and organs which are used in traditional Chinese medicines.
“It has led to a decline in their numbers - a rapid decline in some regions - and they are now listed as one of the world's most vulnerable species. That's why it's so important to support conservation projects to safeguard the future of this important species.”
As well as a successful record with breeding exotic Otter species, Chester Zoo has also helped fund research and conservation projects in Cheshire to monitor and safeguard native otter populations, which are distant relations of the Asian Short-clawed species.
The new pups are welcome addition to the European Endangered Species Breeding Programme, a carefully managed scheme overseeing the breeding of zoo animals in different countries.
The species is also sometimes to referred to as the Oriental Small-clawed Otter, or Small-clawed Otter. As their name suggests, they have short but very flexible, sensitive claws, useful for digging, climbing and also for grabbing and holding on to prey. They are the smallest of all otters, and in the wild, they live in small groups across Asia from India and Nepal to the Philippines, Indonesia, China, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.
They mainly eat crabs, other water creatures and fish.
A baby Grevy’s Zebra caught Chester Zoo visitors by surprise after it was born before their eyes, on August 21.
The latest arrival to the Zoo’s herd of endangered Grevy’s Zebras arrived to mum, Nadine, and dad, Mac. The foal is the second to be born at the Zoo in the space of just six days!
After a 14-month-long gestation, zookeepers noticed that Nadine was showing signs of labor early on the afternoon of August 21. They carefully monitored the momentous event from a distance, and Nadine gave birth after 40 minutes, in front of astounded onlookers.
Video footage, taken by a visitor, shows Nadine rolling around on her side before getting to her feet and starting to deliver the youngster.
Kim Wood, assistant team manager at the zoo, said, “Nadine gave birth in the middle of the afternoon in front of a group of some pretty amazed visitors.
“At first Nadine was seen lying on her side trying to make herself more comfortable as she began to feel what was about to happen. She then got to her feet and picked her spot in the paddock, and a healthy youngster appeared less than an hour later. It was a really smooth delivery.
“The foal is looking great and, with it being the second to be born here in the space of just a week, we’re sure the two new arrivals will be as thick as thieves.”
Photo Credits: Chester Zoo
Nadine’s new offspring increases the number of Grevy’s Zebra, at Chester Zoo, to a herd of six. Keepers have yet to choose a name for the new arrival, as they have not yet been able to determine the sex.
In the early hours of August 15, Flo, a Grevy’s Zebra, gave birth to a brand-new member of this endangered species at the Chester Zoo.
Within an hour of birth, the foal was standing and nursing. Then, after a few stumbles, the skinny youngster figured out how to maneuver its long, striped legs and began running. Keepers don’t know the foal’s gender, so they have not yet chosen a name. The foal currently has brown stripes, but they’ll eventually turn black as the foal matures.
Photo Credit: Chester Zoo
Grevy’s Zebras are the largest and most endangered of the world’s three remaining Zebra species, and they are found only in isolated areas of Ethiopia and Northern Kenya.
Grevy’s Zebra populations have fallen by 85% in the last 30 years, and experts estimate that as few as 1,900 individuals remain in the wild. The decline is attributed to a reduction of water sources, habitat loss, hunting, and disease. The species has disappeared across most of its range and is already extinct in Somalia and Sudan. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the Grevy’s Zebra as Endangered.
The Chester Zoo’s new foal will be an important addition to the species’ breeding program.
A clutch of about 200 rare and unusual Montserrat Tarantulas has hatched at Chester Zoo.
Invertebrate keepers at the Zoo are the first in the world to successfully breed the tarantulas, marking a crucial step towards discovering more about the mysterious species.
Gravid Female Montserrat Tarantula (below image):
Photo Credits: Chester Zoo
Native to the Caribbean Island of Montserrat, very little information is known about these tarantulas and how they live.
New behavioral observations made for the first time, by experts at the zoo, have revealed crucial insights about the Montserrat Tarantulas which, prior to their breeding, had never before been seen in zoos or in the wild.
Dr. Gerardo Garcia, Curator of Lower Vertebrates and Invertebrates at Chester Zoo, said, “Breeding these tarantulas is a huge achievement for the team, as very little is known about them. It’s taken a lot of patience and care to reach this point.
“The data we’ve been able to gather and knowledge we’ve developed over the last three years since the adults first arrived has led us to this first ever successful, recorded breeding and hopefully these tiny tarantulas will uncover more secrets about the behavior, reproduction and life cycle of the species.
“We know that males have a very short life span when compared with females and gauging their sexual maturity to select the best possible time to put them together for mating, is vital to the breeding process.
“It’s successes like this which really highlight the work that zoos are doing behind-the-scenes to conserve a range of endangered species, including the smaller, less known species that contribute to the world’s biodiversity.
“Importantly, the skills and techniques the team has developed with this new breeding success will now be transferred to other threatened species.”
A Malayan Tapir calf, named Solo, has taken his first steps outside at Chester Zoo.
Solo, born July 11, was named after the longest river on the Indonesian island of Java. Zoo staff reports that he ‘reveled’ in his very first outdoor adventure, under the watchful eyes of his mum Margery.
The youngster, who is the first of his species to ever be born at the Zoo, paraded around showing off his dark brown coat covered in white spots and stripes. Juvenile Malayan Tapirs lose those patterns in the first year of their life and develop their adult coats, with one half of their bodies black and the other half white.
Chester Zoo is part of a European breeding programme for this endangered species. Keepers at the zoo say Solo’s arrival is hugely significant, as he will add valuable genetics to the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP), which is working to ensure a safety net population of Malayan Tapirs in zoos, ensuring they do not go extinct.
Photo Credits: Chester Zoo
The Malayan Tapir (Tapirus indicus), also known as the Asian Tapir, is the largest of four Tapir species and is the only Old World Tapir. They are native to the rainforests of Burma, Malaysia, Sumatra and Thailand. Their noses and upper lips are extended to form a prehensile proboscis, which they use to grab leaves. Tapirs normally measure 1.8 to 2.5m (6 to 8 feet) in length, with a shoulder height of 0.9 to 1.1m. (3 to 3.5 feet).
The animals are related to both the Horse and the Rhinoceros. They are an ‘odd-toed’ animal, having four toes on each front foot and three toes on each back foot.
Malayan Tapirs also have poor eyesight, which makes them rely heavily on their excellent senses of smell and hearing.
They are also known for their unusual courtship ritual, which involves an assortment of wheezing and whistling sounds. They will sniff each other, walking around in circles before mating. Females have a long gestation period of 13 months before giving birth to a single calf.
Listed as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List, the Malayan Tapir is increasingly threatened, with population numbers continuing to decline as a result of habitat loss and fragmentation, as well as increasing hunting pressure. The population has been estimated to have declined by more than 50% in the last three generations (36 years) primarily as a result of Tapir habitat being converted into palm oil plantations. They are also threatened by increased hunting for their fur, road-kills and trapping in snares left for other animals.
Keepers at Chester Zoo are celebrating the arrival of seven Northern Bald Ibis chicks.
The species, which was once found in abundance across North Africa, southern and central Europe and the Middle East, is now critically endangered as a result of hunting, habitat loss, pesticide poisoning and an increase in construction works around their preferred nesting sites.
The Northern Bald Ibis has undergone a long-term decline, and more than 98% of the wild population has been lost, putting the birds on the very brink of extinction. Experts estimate that only 115 breeding pairs remain in the wild (in small populations in Morocco and Turkey). The species was last seen in Syria in 2014, and it is feared that Syrian population is now extinct.
Photo Credits: Chester Zoo
Mike Jordan, collections director at the Zoo, explains more about the programme: “The breeding of seven Northern Bald Ibis chicks is a remarkable addition to the endangered species breeding programme and a welcome boost to their global numbers. Our team has been weighing the chicks daily and carefully monitoring how often the parents are bringing them food – as each one is absolutely vital to the future of the species.
“Sadly, the species has been extinct in Europe for more than 300 years, and since joining the reintroduction programme in 2007, we’ve made great efforts to breed these birds so that they can eventually go on to be released back into the wild. We hope that by reintroducing birds back into a safe, secure and monitored site in southern Spain, that they will hopefully go on to successfully breed and give the species, once more, a foothold in Europe.”
Mike added, “Breeding such critically endangered birds successfully over the years is a huge achievement, and this remarkable project really shows the important role zoos can play in conserving species that face a wide range of threats, and are on the edge of extinction.”
The chicks are part of a carefully coordinated breed and release programme at Chester Zoo. The zoo joined the reintroduction programme in 2007 and has been working closely with Jerez Zoo, the Andalusian government, and other conservation institutions across Europe to re-establish the species in Europe and help prevent the birds from disappearing from the wild altogether.
The Northern Bald ibis arrived at Chester Zoo in 1986 when its wild number started to rapidly decline. The zoo is now home to 30 individuals.