Johannesburg Zoo

Two Fluffy Flamingo Chicks Hand Raised in Johannesburg


Every spring in South Africa, Johannesburg Zoo’s flock of flamingos gets busy with preparations for their new chicks. Flamingos start laying eggs around September & October, after carefully building raised nests from mud in their enclosure. Weeks before breeding season starts keepers provide clay-like substrate to the enclosure for the birds to build with. Initially the clay is kept wet once a week to ensure nest stay moist and keep their shape.

Unfortunately, the hen sometimes makes the mistake of laying an egg on the grass or the egg may roll off the nest. For those eggs abandoned by the parents’ zookeepers collect and incubate them for 28 to 30 days in the hope that the chicks will hatch and survive. This is no easy task as the eggs need very specific conditions of 99.5 degrees (37.5 degrees celcius) and 75% humidity to grow.

The first egg laid this season unfortunately rolled off of the nest and was collected by birdkeeper, Elaine Bratt. It was incubated from September 22, and to Elaine’s delight a little chick hatched on October 20! Named Nu, it is the first official flamingo chick of 2011 and is being cared for around the clock, just as its parents would do. Nu was joined by Kuba on November 8. The two live in the zoo’s bird rearing facility called “The Brooder Room”. Each has its own room with a heat lamp to keep the temperature constant. The chicks are fed every 2 to 3 hours a special diet of sardines, shrimp, boiled egg, maize meal, calcium and multi-vitamins.



With adults

Photo Credits: Photos 1-2 Lorna Fuller, Photos 3-4 Candice Segal/Joburg Zoo

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Birds? Reptiles? Endangered Ground Hornbill Chicks!


Southern Ground Hornbills are charismatic and highly intelligent birds but they are also endangered. Their main threats are the loss of suitable habitat and trees for nesting as well as secondary poisoning. To make matters worse, they breed at a mature age of 8 years and older and on average they only raise one chick to fledgling every 9 years. They lay 2 eggs but raise only one. The Johannesburg Zoo has formed a partnership with the Mabula Ground Hornbill conservation project to make a difference. Kate Meares, Project Manager, explains that they carefully observe nests of these very private birds and only collect the second chick for hand-rearing but only if the first chick appears healthy. Chicks are collected form Kruger National Park and the Association of Private Nature reserves in Mpumalanga. These chicks (transported in a polystyrene traveling box) are driven to Johannesburg Zoo on the same day and into the safe and caring hands of Lara Jordan, Curator of birds at the Johannesburg Zoo.



Photo credits: The Johannesburg Zoo

Once hatched, they are fed every 2 hours. The time in between is spent preparing their diet, cleaning the chicks and doing necessary health checks. Food preparation includes skinning, mice, rats, day old chicks and rabbits and chopping up meat, as these birds are carnivorous.  This intensive period lasts for approximately 1 month. To ensure consistent care (as if you were the parent bird) Lara says it is better to have one person taking care of these precious chicks, hence the lack of sleep. She has been successful with all four chicks and they are now at a stage where they have daily visits to the adult pair of Southern Ground Hornbills housed at the Zoo. The chicks can be viewed at the Ground Hornbill enclosure at the Zoo in the mornings and afternoons depending on the weather. They are in a smaller separate holding space carefully looked after by keepers. They will be at the Zoo for some time and the hope is that they shall be released back into the wild.

Meet Badger Girl - the Baby Honey Badger!

Baby Honey Badger Joburg Zoo at 10-14 days old

Feisty, stubborn, smelly, and adventurous, at 14 weeks old "Badger Girl," the Honey Badger cub, is exhibiting all the trademark charms of her species. Truth be told, veterinarians at the Johannesburg Zoo are still not totally sure about Badger Girls' sex... first they thought it was a girl, then a boy, and now they are just plain unsure. Time will tell.

Despite the "sweet" name Honey Badgers are actually quite fearless and, when necessary, ferocious. They get their name for following the call of the Honey Guide (bird) to a beehive. This partnership works well as the badger opens the beehive, surviving the attack from angry bees, and shares some of the spoils with the bird.

Baby Honey Badger Joburg Zoo at 10-14 days old feeding

Baby Honey Badger Joburg Zoo at 10-14 days old feeding
(Above: Badger Girl at 10-12 days old)

Badger Girl was an unexpected discovery in her den after her parents were moved to a different exhibit. Zoo staff shared this first hand description with ZooBorns: She was raised on Royal Canine puppy formula, drank quite easily once the correct feeding nipple was found but proved to be very stubborn, only drinking when she needed to drink and not when you wanted her to do so. She is now more on solids. She is showing the signs of adult honey badgers, stalking guinea fowl in the Zoo, tail upright and crawling low to the ground. She is extremely smelly and scent marks everything and everyone.

Badger Girl at 9-10 weeks(Immediately above and below: Badger Girl at 10-11 weeks)

See more of Badger Girl below the fold!

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