Cotswold Wildlife Park

Rhino Calf ‘Crashes’ the Party at Cotswold Wildlife Park

1_Baby Rhino resting on mother's horn

On August 18, Cotswold Wildlife Park, in the UK, had a rather unexpected arrival. Their Southern White Rhino, Nancy, gave birth to her second calf. Keepers knew Nancy was pregnant, but the actual time of birth came as a bit of a surprise and was a little earlier than expected.

Births in captivity are considered extremely rare, with only fourteen White Rhinos being born in European zoos in the last twelve months. Cotswold Wildlife Park was responsible for two out of the three recorded UK births. The new addition is the sixth member to join the ‘crash’ (the collective noun for a group of Rhinos).  

2_Baby Rhino paddock 1

3_Baby Rhino in paddock with Nancy (9)

4_Baby Rhino in paddock with Nancy (6)Photo Credits: Cotswold Wildlife Park

 Curator Jamie Craig commented: “After almost forty years of desperately trying to breed from our old group of Rhinos with no success, we are delighted to now have had three calves since 2013. The newest member of the crash was somewhat more of a surprise than we’d like, but at present, all seems to be going well.”

It’s been a remarkable few years for the Rhino family. In 2013, first-time parents, Monty and Nancy (both nine years old), delighted staff and visitors when they produced the first calf in the Park’s forty-three year history - a female named Astrid. Two years later, she has been joined by a baby brother, who is yet to be named. To add to the celebrations, earlier this year, another of the Park’s breeding females, Ruby, gave birth to a male calf, named Ian.

Southern White Rhinos (Ceratotherium simum simum) are the largest of the five Rhino subspecies and range throughout the grassland of Southern Africa. They are currently classified as “Near Threatened” on the IUCN Red List and have always been an important species at Cotswold Wildlife Park, which was founded by Mr. John Heyworth in 1970. His son Reggie Heyworth, Managing Director of Cotswold Wildlife Park, commented: “You wait forty years, then it seems like three come along at once!  This is such a happy event for the Park, and I have to pinch myself when I see six rhinos on the lawn.”

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‘Punk-Rock’ Primates Born at Cotswold Wildlife Park

1_Cotton-top with parent looking at camera

It has been fourteen years since Cotton-top Tamarins produced young at Cotswold Wildlife Park, so keepers were thrilled when their newest female gave birth to twins. The striking infants were born to first-time parents and have been named Tilly and Tammy. 

2.2_Cotton top Tamarin baby close up

2_Cottons head tilt

3_Cotton twins on parentPhoto Credits: Cotswold Wildlife Park

Cotton-top Tamarins (Saguinus oedipus) are considered to be one of the world’s 25 most endangered primates and are classified as “Critically Endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), making them one of South America’s rarest monkeys. Rampant deforestation and gold mining have destroyed an estimated 95% of their natural habitat. In the wild, these exceptionally rare creatures are restricted to a tiny corner of north-west Colombia. Approximately 6,000 individuals remain in the wild, which is a devastatingly low figure, considering their numbers once ranged between 20,000 to 30,000 in the 1960s and 1970s.

The twin’s new father Johnny (named for punk star Johnny Rotten) is an important individual for the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP). He has an impressively pure bloodline, so these new births are considered significant additions to the EEP, helping to ensure the genetic diversity of this rare and wonderful species.

Curator of Cotswold Wildlife Park, Jamie Craig, said, “This is the first time we have bred this species for many years, and the keepers are delighted at the progress of the youngsters so far!”

Each member of the family plays a specific role when it comes to rearing the young. The dominant male spends the most time carrying the infants. The mother carries them for the first week of life, and then holds them only to suckle. Females are pregnant for six months and the babies weigh about 15 per cent of their mother’s body weight, which is equivalent to a nine-stone woman giving birth to two ten-pound babies.

Cotton-top Tamarins boast a fantastic crest of long white hair, like a mane of white cotton. The white fur can be raised and lowered, creating a punk-like fan display. Cotton-top Tamarins also have more than 40 vocalizations used to communicate everything from the discovery of food to the approach of predators. 

More incredible pics, below the fold!

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Rare Wolverine Triplets at Cotswold Wildlife Park

1_Wolverine triplets NI

Meet ‘Sunshine’, ‘Liv’ and ‘Gutt’: the new Wolverine cubs at Cotswold Wildlife Park, in the UK. After spending approximately nine weeks hidden away in their den, the rare cubs are beginning to venture out and explore their new woodland enclosure under the watchful eye of parents ‘Sarka’ and ‘Sharapova’. 

2_Wolverine cub (1)

3_Wolverine 4 NI

4_Wolverine 5 NIPhoto Credits: Cotswold Wildlife Park

Cotswold Wildlife Park made history in 2012 as the first in the UK to successfully breed Wolverines in captivity. These new arrivals are Sarka and Sharapova’s second litter and are testament to the Park’s excellent European Endangered Species Programme (EEP). Only around eighty Wolverines are believed to exist in captivity worldwide. Breeding is notoriously difficult with this species, so the new cubs are encouraging news for future generations.

Keepers were unsure exactly how many cubs had been born until mother Sharapova started bringing the youngsters out of the den. Jamie Craig, Curator of Cotswold Wildlife Park and member of the EEP committee for Wolverines, commented: “Once the female enters her den, we are pretty confident that the kits have arrived. She is an excellent mother, only leaving the kits for very brief periods to eat and drink. Once the kits are old enough, she will allow them out to investigate their surroundings but always under her vigilant eye. We were delighted to be the first UK collection to breed this species, and in many ways, it is even more rewarding to repeat our success.”

The tiny kits are born blind and covered in white fur with a pungent waxy substance on their pelage. This acts as a great defense against predation while the kits are vulnerable.

A Wolverine’s start in life is a unique one. Adult females have a fascinating reproductive strategy known as embryonic diapause or delayed implantation. The embryo does not immediately implant in the uterus, but is maintained in a state of dormancy which allows pregnant females to fine-tune births and wait for the best possible conditions. Reproduction is hugely energetically expensive for any animal. If the environmental conditions aren’t able to support a female through the intense periods of pregnancy and nursing, it makes no sense to put energy into giving birth to young that may not survive. Diapause can last up to ten months in Wolverines.

The Wolverine is the largest land-dwelling species of the family Mustelidae (weasels). They are a stocky and muscular carnivore and have a reputation for ferocity and strength that is out-of-proportion to their size. The adult Wolverine is about the size of a medium dog. 

Wolverines prefer colder habitats and can be found primarily in remote reaches of the Northern boreal forests and subarctic and alpine tundra of the Northern Hemisphere, with the greatest numbers in northern Canada, Alaska, Nordic Europe, western Russia, and Siberia.

The Wolverine is currently classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. However, their populations have experienced a steady decline since the 19th century due to trapping, range reduction and habitat fragmentation.

More amazing pics, below the fold!

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White Rhino Born at Cotswold Wildlife Park

Baby Rhino with both ears up

Cotswold Wildlife Park celebrated an incredible milestone, recently. First-time mother, ‘Ruby’, gave birth to the Park’s first male White Rhino. The comparatively tiny calf is healthy and nursing well from Ruby, who is proving to be an exceptional mother. 


Baby Rhino and Ruby together

DSCF6823Photo Credits: Cotswold Wildlife Park

Keepers, and a few lucky visitors, were present when Ruby gave birth at 12.30 pm on Friday, March 27th. In less than ten minutes, the fifteen month pregnancy was over, and thankfully, after a relatively quick labor, a new baby was welcomed into the family-run Burford Collection. Keeper Chris Kibbey caught the special moment on film.

Curator of Cotswold Wildlife Park, Jamie Craig, commented: “Although we were expecting the birth, it still took us by surprise, at the time. After careful preparations for a nice, quiet arrival, ‘Ian’ was born in full view of many of the staff here at lunchtime on Friday, and Ruby allowed us a full graphic view of his entry into the world – an experience we will never forget. Although still very early days, he seems strong and Ruby appears to be an attentive mother.”

The Rhino calf’s father, ‘Monty’, and mother, ‘Ruby’, are both nine years old. In 2009, Ruby (along with another female called ‘Nancy’) made the eleven thousand kilometer journey from Mafunyane Game Farm, in South Africa, to the UK to join the young male, Monty, at their new Oxfordshire home. It was hoped that, one day, they would successfully produce the Park’s first ever Rhino calf. Monty has since fathered two calves. Nancy gave birth to a female, ‘Astrid’, in 2013, and now Ian has followed twenty months later.

Females only reproduce every two-and-a-half to five years, so the window of opportunity for successful reproduction is limited. Unbelievably, these iconic animals were once the rarest subspecies of any Rhino, and they were on the verge of extinction in the early 1900s. It was believed only twenty to fifty animals remained in their native African homeland, during that time period. However, thanks to excellent and sustained protection, they are now the most common of the five Rhino subspecies. The White Rhino is currently classified as “Near Threatened” on the IUCN Red List.

The calf has been named ‘Ian’ in memory of the highly respected South African conservationist, Ian Player, who spearheaded efforts to rescue the Southern White Rhino from extinction. The Park’s original Rhino pair, called ‘Lebombo’ and ‘Somtuli’, arrived from Umfolozi in 1972 as a direct result of Ian’s Rhino conservation initiatives with South Africa’s Natal Parks Board. His memory lives on in the Park’s Rhino family.

Visitors to Cotswold can see the new calf daily from 10am to 6pm (last entry at 4.30pm) in the solar powered Rhino House.

More pics and incredible video, below the fold!

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Rare Electric Blue Geckos Hatch at UK Park

Electric Blue Gecko baby on pen (EBG1)The reptile team, at Cotswold Wildlife Park, is celebrating the arrival of three Electric Blue Gecko babies. 

Electric Blue Gecko (EBG4b)

Electric Blue Gecko baby on pen (EBG12)

Electric Blue Gecko baby on finger (EBG3)Photo Credits: Cotswold Wildlife Park

It is the first time the park has successfully bred this species. Electric Blue Geckos are only found in a small area in Tanzania and are classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).

Survival for these striking creatures in the wild is fraught with peril. They inhabit less than eight square kilometers of the Kimboza Forest in Tanzania, within which they exclusively dwell in the leaf crowns of one specific tree (Pandanus rabaiensis). Tragically, these beautiful lizards are in high demand from the illegal pet trade, which alone wiped out at least 15% of the population in Kimboza Forest between 2004 and 2009. Illegal collectors cut down the Pandanus rabaiensis trees to collect the rare geckos, destroying their delicate habitat and population numbers at the same time.  They also face severe habitat loss from illegal logging, agricultural demands and climate change. Based on a recent study, this species is considered to be threatened with extinction in the near future.

Curator of Cotswold Wildlife Park, Jamie Craig, commented, “Our specialist Reptile Department has been working on perfecting their husbandry techniques with this species, and these hatchlings are an excellent reward for their dedication. It is a real achievement for the park and we are continuing to get eggs and have a high success rate.”

They are a brand new species to the park. Not long after their arrival, the reptile team noticed tiny eggs in the corner of their off-show enclosure. After approximately sixty to ninety days, three tiny Electric Blue Geckos hatched. The babies are healthy and currently off-show in climate-controlled incubators.

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New Azara’s Agouti Duo at Cotswold Wildlife Park

Close up baby Agoutis

Cotswold Wildlife Park is home to two new Azara’s Agouti babies!

Close up of baby Agouti on log

Agouti Mother and baby close up

Two baby Agoutis perching on logPhoto Credits: Cotswold Wildlife Park

Jamie Craig, Curator of Cotswold Wildlife Park, said, “Our Agouti family continues to thrive in the exhibit they share with our group of Squirrel Monkeys. The monkeys can be wasteful feeders and the two new baby Agouti have already learned from their parents that loitering under the trees can provide a little extra food from above!”

Agoutis are one of the largest wild rodents of the Americas. They were discovered by 18th century Spanish naturalist Félix de Azara. The scientific name “Dasyprocta” means hairy rectum. The hair on their rump is much longer than the hair on the rest of their bodies. When threatened, they can actually hold it erect much like a Porcupine does with its quills. Related to Chinchillas, they can jump as high as six feet straight up in the air from a standing position to escape predators.

Agoutis have such a great sense of hearing that they can hear fruit hit the forest floor. They also boast an exceptional sense of smell, hiding any extra food that they may have and later locating it with their nose. They are also one of a few species that can open Brazil nuts unaided, using their sharp teeth and jaw strength.

Females give birth to litters of two to four young, after a gestation period of three months. The babies are born in burrows and can run just an hour after birth. It is believed that Agoutis pair-bond for life.

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Lolita the Tapir Explores Her Neighborhood

1_Baby Tapir Lolita at Cotswold Wildlife Park

Cotswold Wildlife Park, in the UK, is celebrating their first Brazilian Tapir birth since 2006! The calf has been named ‘Lolita’ and was born to first-time parents, ‘Gomez’ and ‘Cali’. 

2_Tapir and Capybara by visitor Georgia Hicks aged 11

3_Baby Lolita nose-to-nose with mother Cali

4_Tapir baby walkingPhoto Credits: Georgia Dicks-age 11 (photo 2); Cotswold Wildlife Park (photos 1,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10)

Visitors can see the new calf exploring the enclosure she shares with her parents, alongside the world’s largest rodent species, the Capybara. Both species are native to South America, but Tapirs can also be found in Central America and Malaysia.

Baby Tapirs are striking in appearance and visually differ greatly from the adults. For the first few weeks of their lives, the mother will make sure the vulnerable calf is hidden in thick foliage in the forest while she leaves to browse for food. The young Tapirs coats are covered with stripes and spots, which mimic the speckled sunlight on the forest floor. This enables the calf to brilliantly camouflage itself, in the wild, against predators. When Lolita was first born, visitors were unaware that a newborn Tapir was just feet away from them until keepers pointed the baby out.

Cotswold Wildlife Park has a successful history breeding Tapirs, as part of an Endangered Species Breeding Programme. Tapirs have a gestation period of approximately 13 months, and now that the baby has arrived, the young breeding pair, Gomez and Cali, are proving to be excellent parents. Lolita is growing up to be a confident, independent youngster, as well as a welcome addition to the Mammals section.

Curator of Cotswold Wildlife Park, Jamie Craig, said, “We have done incredibly well with this species in the past, but we are delighted to have a first calf from our new pair. The initial introduction between the adults did not go exactly to plan, and it was a relief to us all when they finally settled together.”

These unusual creatures have changed little over tens of millions of years. Fossils of Tapir ancestors have been found on every continent except Antarctica. Tapirs are Brazil’s largest mammal and are related to horses and rhinoceroses. Brazilian Tapirs live in wet forests and grasslands in South America where population numbers are declining due to habitat loss and hunting. They are classified as “Vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

Tapirs are a key species in shaping the biological diversity of tropical forests. A recent study of lowland Tapirs revealed 122 different seed species in their dung, making them masters at dispersing seeds and vital components in their ecosystem. 

More amazing pics, below the fold!

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Clouded Leopard Cub Makes Herself at Home


Recently, a keeper from Cotswold Wildlife Park, in the UK, became foster parent to an abandoned Clouded Leopard Cub. 


10683701_10152314996532217_4399768394874041920_oPhoto Credits: Cotswold Wildlife Park


The young female cub was found, at one-day-old, shivering and close to death. Jamie Craig, a zookeeper at Cotswold Wildlife Park, decided to care for the orphan at his home. With the help of his young children, Mr. Craig diligently tended to the cub, named Nimbus. 

In order to avoid any interruption from his family dogs, he decided the safest place for Nimbus was in an upstairs bathroom. "We wanted to keep her warm and somewhere secure, and the bathroom was as good a place as any," he said. "She could be messy with the milk and what comes out the other end, so we thought something with a wipe-clean floor was definitely needed."

After six weeks of care and nurturing at Mr. Craig’s house, Nimbus is now back at the park, in her own area. She is currently too young and small to be placed with older leopards, but, when the time is right, keepers anticipate she will be living with other Clouded Leopards in the park.

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Cold Blooded Baby Boom in the UK


Cotswold Wildlife Park, in the UK, is experiencing a summer baby boom of the cold blooded variety.  The Reptile Section is awash with new births, including some of the smallest newborns in the entire collection. These include: four Mangrove Snakes (bred for the first time at the Park), six Blood Pythons, three Crested Geckos, four Asian Giant Forest Scorpions and a multitude of Lyretail and Checkerboard Cichlids.

Cotswold_Mangrove Snake

Scorpion 5 DR CWP

Lyretail Cichlids with fry 2 DR CWPPhoto Credits: Cotswold Wildlife Park

Curator of Cotswold Wildlife Park, Jamie Craig, said, “The Keepers at the Park are delighted with the boom in births and hatchlings in the Reptile House.  It is a real achievement to breed some of these species and a testament to the hard work and dedication of the Reptile Department in species that do not always get the same attention as the cute and cuddly!”

Three Crested Gecko babies were hatched on July 10th. Geckos are one of the most diverse groups of lizards on Earth and are an incredible example of animal engineering. The ribbed flesh on their toes enables them to scale vertical surfaces, even polished glass! Engineers with the US Department of Defense’s research project, DARPA, have been looking into creating ‘bio-inspired’ gloves for soldiers based on the Gecko’s ribbed toes.

The new breeding pair of Mangrove Snakes has successfully produced young for the first time. Two yellow and black striped snakes hatched in June. These reptiles are brilliantly camouflaged in the brightly sunlit, leafy mangrove habitat, making them masters of disguise in the wild. The Park’s Blood Pythons also produced six young.

An unexpected birth came from a new species to the collection, the Asian Giant Forest Scorpion. Keepers were pleasantly surprised when the female produced young just weeks after arriving at the Park. The young are born one by one after hatching and expelling the embryonic membrane. The brood is carried on the mother’s back until the young have undergone at least one molt.

Meanwhile, the Insect and Invertebrate House has seen multiple fish births of two species of Lake Tanganyika Cichlids. The Park’s Lyretail and Checkerboard Cichlids have recently produced young. These fish are secretive shelter spawners, and their fry are smaller than a grain of rice.

See more photos below the fold.

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Cotswold Wildlife Park Keeper Hand-rears The "Skunk of The Air"

DR Frogmouth 6

This striking Tawny Frogmouth chick is being hand-reared by Bird keeper Jade Stott at Cotswold Wildlife Park. She took on the role of surrogate mother to the beautiful baby bird when, unfortunately, the breeding adults didn't prove to be the most capable of parents. To give it the greatest chance of survival, the Bird section decided to hand-rear the chick.

It is the first time Jade has hand-reared this particular species and she has dedicated the last month to raising the tiny chick at home. It was no small task as the newborn required twenty-four hour care in those precious early days and feeds every two hours. The youngster has been soley dependent on Jade for survival. The Park’s Bird section are delighted with the blossoming healthy chick, who is growing day-by-day thanks to Jade’s dedicated parenting skills. Weighing just 21 grams when it hatched on 4th June 2014, the fluffy chick now weighs 231 grams and has made quite an impression on its surrogate mother.





Jade Stott said: "Hand-rearing the Tawny Frogmouth has been a massive learning curve. Having a tiny chick absolutely dependent on you is a little daunting at first, but the rewards of seeing it grow and develop its own cheeky character are more than enough payback for the sleepless nights. I'm definitely a proud mother hen!"

Jade has named the chick Murray, but it is too early to determine the sex of the bird. Visitors can see the chick in the Park’s specialist incubation room (next to the Penguin enclosure) where it will remain for a few more weeks.

Tawny Frogmouths (Podargus strigoides) are a fascinating species but little is known about their behaviour. Professor Gisela Kaplan, who teaches animal behaviour at the University of New England in Australia, is the author of the most comprehensive single study* ever conducted about these intriguing and endearing birds. Her ten year project unearthed completely new and unexpected findings. She learnt that Tawny Frogmouths are very affectionate and pair for life. When a partner dies, the mate will stay with it for days and will grieve with a high trill for hours on end. The study also uncovered another side to these birds. Gisela describes them as “skunks of the air” as they can send out a foul smell with enormous force over a wide area, perhaps to ward off snakes and big lizards that eat their eggs and chicks. Frogmouths also scream like prowling Tomcats when distressed, fight with lightning speed and defend nest sites from reptilian predators by mobbing and spraying pungent faeces at these dangerous opponents. Even their eye colour changes when threatened by a rival. The irises of the males’ eye turn from yellow to red before they attack any male or female that attempts to enter their territory.