Blue-spotted Stingrays Smile for the Camera

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The National Sea Life Centre Birmingham, in the UK, is celebrating the arrival of three Blue-spotted Stingray babies. This is a first-ever for the city centre based Breed, Rescue, Protect team.

Native to the eastern and western Indian Ocean and the western Pacific Ocean, the graceful creatures are a high-risk species, also known as Maskrays, and are currently being threatened by overfishing, exploitation and the destruction of coral reefs. Only breeding once a year, three successful Blue-spotted Stingrays births, from two different mums, is a huge success for The National Sea Life Centre Birmingham.

The babies weighed less than 170g, measured less than 30cm long and 16cm wide, when they were first born a few weeks ago. The miniature miracles could grow up to 47cm wide and 70cm long, with a very venomous barb of up to 30cm long. They are easily distinguished by their reddish brown bodies, distinctive blue centers, and scattered black and blue spots.

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3_Blue-spotted Stingrays born at The National Sea Life Centre BirminghamPhoto Credits: National SEA LIFE Centre Birmingham

The National Sea Life Centre Birmingham’s Aquarist, Naomi Bird, is perfectly placed to help the three very precious babies. A mum to be herself, it isn’t the first time her maternal instinct has been called upon at the attraction. She has already raised the penguin colony, which absolutely adores her.

Naomi commented, “Blue-spotted Stingrays face serious threat from human-induced problems. If we want them around in our children’s lifetime, it is important we act now. So we are absolutely delighted that two of our resident Blue-spotted Stingrays have bred successfully. I’d encourage everyone to take time to explore our underwater world in the heart of the city centre to learn more and support SEA LIFE’s work to protect and preserve our precious sea creatures.”

The Blue-spotted Stingray (Neotrygon kuhlii), or Kuhl's stingray, is a species of stingray of the Dasyatidae family. It was recently changed from Dasyatis kuhlii in 2008 after morphological and molecular analyses show that it is part of a distinct genus, Neotrygon.

The body of the species is rhomboidal and green with blue spots. Maximum width is estimated 46.5 centimeters (18.3 in).

The stingray's lifespan is estimated thirteen years of age for females and ten years for males.

The Blue-spotted Stingray feeds on shrimp, small bony fish, mollusks, crabs and other worms. Due to the fact that this ray is a shallow bottom feeder, it has a small variety of marine life to prey on. The species overpowers its prey by pinning them to the bottom of the seafloor with its fins. It has numerous tiny teeth, with the lower jaw being slightly convex. Like most stingrays, they also have plate-like teeth to crush prey.

They are generally found from Indonesia to Japan, and most of Australia. This stingray species is also targeted by many parasites such as: tapeworms, flatworms, and flukes.

The Blue-spotted Stingray is ovoviviparous (the embryos are retained in eggs within the mother's body until they are ready to hatch). The embryos receive nourishment from the mothers' uterine fluid. Mothers give birth to up to seven pups per litter; these pups range from 6 inches (150 mm) to 13 inches (330 mm) long at birth.

The species currently has no official classification by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. According to the IUCN Red List: “The Bluespotted Maskray (Neotrygon kuhlii) is reported throughout a wide range in the Indo-Pacific region, but may be a species-complex of more than five species. Investigation is vital to resolve the taxonomic issues associated with this species-complex and due to this taxonomic uncertainty it is not possible to assess the species beyond Data Deficient at present. The Bluespotted Maskray species-complex is extensively exploited in parts of its range, and is often abundant in Asian fish market landings. A relatively small stingray (to 47 cm disc width), it is likely more resilient to exploitation than larger inshore batoids, but overall management of catches is lacking across most of its range. It is a common bycatch of Australian prawn trawl fisheries where it is discarded. Information is generally required on catch rates and rates of fishing mortality across its range; the significance of this may be dependent on the taxonomic status of the species-complex as some species may be found to have restricted occurrences. It is also exhibited in some public aquariums, but does not constitute a major species in aquarium trade. Further work is required to identify the species involved and make full assessments of their status.”

Visitors to the National Sea Life Centre Birmingham can catch a glimpse of the new arrivals as part of the attraction’s “Behind the Scenes Tour” experience (available to pre-book with the best value or ultimate tickets packages online or for purchase at admissions). For further information, or to pre-book tickets online before your visit, please go to: www.SEALIFE.co.uk/birmingham/

For regular news, updates and competitions, The National Sea Life Centre Birmingham is also on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/sealifebirmingham and Twitter https://twitter.com/sealifebham


Zoo Awash With Hurricane-Stranded Baby Turtles

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Tossed by the violent winds and powerful waves of two Atlantic hurricanes, hundreds of tiny Sea Turtles have been rescued by Florida’s Brevard Zoo – and more wash ashore every day.

The little Loggerhead, Green, and Hawksbill Turtles would normally be living in their nursery habitat on masses of seaweed in the open ocean.  But waves generated by hurricanes Matthew and Nicole pushed the Turtles, along with seaweed and tons of discarded plastic, ashore on Florida’s east coast.

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Photo Credit:  Brevard Zoo

The Turtles, known as “washbacks” because they’ve washed back onto the shore, are retrieved by volunteers from the Sea Turtle Preservation Society and taken to the zoo’s Sea Turtle Healing Center.  The young Turtles are typically lethargic and weak upon arrival, but the zoo is committed to nursing them back to health.  The zoo staff has observed that many of the turtles have swallowed tiny bits of plastic and foreign debris, which obstructs their digestive systems and contributes to their weakened state.  About a dozen young Turtles have died, probably as a result of ingesting plastic, according to Elliot Zurulnik, Brevard Zoo Communications Manager.

The zoo plans to release as many of the young turtles as possible, but will only do so when an individual is eating well, actively swimming, and able to dive underwater.

Seven species of Sea Turtles are found in oceans worldwide, and all are under threat.  Hawksbill Turtles are Critically Endangered, Green Turtles are Endangered, and Loggerhead Turtles are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.  Threats to Sea Turtles include loss of beach nesting habitat, bycatch from improper fishing operations, poaching for eggs and meat, marine debris, and climate change. 

See more photos below.

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Belfast's Baby Gorilla Is a Girl!

(6)  Zoos are increasingly important in the conservation of species under threat.  Belfast Zoo takes part in a breeding programme for this species.
A critically endangered Western Lowland Gorilla born at the Belfast Zoo on August 28 is a girl! 

Because baby Gorillas cling to their mother’s belly for the first few months of life, keepers were unable to determine the baby’s gender until now.  The baby has been named Olivia.

(2)  The latest arrival was born to mother, Namoki, and father, Gugas, on 28 August 2016.
(5)  All ape species are endangered or critically endangered.  Gorillas are facing the real and severe risk of extinction in the
(3)  For the first months, the newborn clings to the mother's stomach.  Keepers recently discovered the infant is a female and she has been named Olivia.
(1)  Belfast Zoo is celebrating the birth of a critically endangered Western lowland gorilla!Photo Credit:  Belfast Zoo

Olivia’s arrival is significant because her father, Gugas, was born in the wild and his genetic background is important to the zoo population.  But Gugas had an unfortunate start to life as his parents were killed, probably for bushmeat.  As a young, orphaned Gorilla, he was acquired by a Portuguese circus and became very ill.  He was abandoned at the gates of Lisbon Zoo and was then moved to Stuttgart Zoo to live in a nursery group for orphaned Gorillas. He arrived at Belfast Zoo in 1998 and in 2012, with no sign of any pregnancies, the zoo tested Gugas’ fertility and the results were not promising.  In fact, it was felt that Gugas would never father any young. 

“Gugas has defied the odds.  In fact he has had an extremely busy few years, as this is the third infant that he has fathered since 2013,” says Julie Mansell of the Belfast Zoo. 

The Belfast Zoo’s Gorilla breeding program is part of a global effort to create a safety net population should this species become extinct in the wild – a very real possibility, given that Gorillas are under threat from habitat loss, the bushmeat trade, the pet trade, trophy hunting, and other human activity. 

Western Lowland Gorillas come from the dense forests of western central Africa.  Gorillas are the largest of all primate species.  They are listed as Critically Endangered, with the wild population shrinking by 80% within the past three generations.


Chicago’s Other Cubs Gear-Up for ‘Fall Fest’

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The Chicago Cubs baseball team is currently on track for their first World Series appearance in 71 years, and fans of the team will definitely have a big win at Lincoln Park Zoo this weekend (October 21-23, 2016) for the zoo’s Fall Fest. The event also offers a chance to catch a glimpse of Chicago’s other famous cubs…the zoo’s Red Panda cubs, Sheffield and Waveland (named after Wrigley Field’s cross-streets).

Born June 24, the pair of Red Panda cubs, Waveland (female) and Sheffield (male) have spent the last few months behind the scenes in their nest box. The cubs have grown more independent and have ventured out on exhibit intermittently as they continue to acclimate to ‘the friendly confines’ of their ivy-covered habitat.

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4_20161004_CB_Red Panda_waveland_25Photo Credits: Lincoln Park Zoo /Christopher Bijalba

Thanks to a breeding recommendation from the Red Panda Species Survival Plan (SSP), which cooperatively manages the endangered population, these cubs are the second set in two years for Lincoln Park Zoo’s breeding pair: Leafa (dam) and Phoenix (sire). Last year, the zoo celebrated its first-ever Red Panda cub litter including, Clark (male) and Addison (female), now thriving at San Diego Zoo and Northeastern Wisconsin Zoo, respectively.

“In the last year, Red Pandas have gone from a threatened to endangered species due to human impacts including habitat loss,” said Curator of Mammals Mark Kamhout. “These playful, curious, arboreal cubs here at the zoo serve as ambassadors to encourage learning and inspire visitors to help protect this species in the wild.”

For more information on Lincoln Park Zoo’s Fall Fest or the Red Panda cubs, check out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/lincolnparkzoo/  

...and the Zoo's website: www.lpzoo.org

More pics below the fold! 

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Traditional Birthday for Canada’s First Panda Cubs

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In March 2013, Giant Panda couple, Er Shun and Da Mao, arrived at the Toronto Zoo as part of a Global Giant Panda Conservation Breeding Program. On the morning of October 13, 2015, the Toronto Zoo announced that Er Shun had given birth to the first Giant Panda cubs born in Canada.

The Toronto Zoo recently hosted a First Birthday Celebration for their Giant Panda cubs. The lively pair of cubs, named Jia Panpan (Canadian Hope) and Jia Yueyue (Canadian Joy), were treated to a festive birthday party, including some of the other Toronto Zoo babies (in the form of artwork displays) who brought the cubs gifts which contained traditional Chinese fortunes of "Prosperity", "Happiness", "Wealth" and "Lots of Bamboo". Jia Yueyue was quick to select a gift of "Wealth", whereas Jia Panpan let his tummy lead, and he selected a gift of "Lots of Bamboo".2_14589715_1119730518063392_7125892738233464681_o

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4_14711613_1119730571396720_8510048094860094170_oPhoto Credits: Toronto Zoo

Media, Zoo staff, VIPs including Mr. Zheng Guangda, Vice President & Secretary General and Ms. Zeying Yu, Vice General Secretary, Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens (CAZG) were on hand to help celebrate this milestone for Canada's only Giant Panda cubs.

"The Toronto Zoo is thrilled to be hosting this one-year birthday celebration for our Giant Panda cubs," said John Tracogna, Chief Executive Officer, Toronto Zoo. "We are grateful to all of the partners who continue to support the ongoing success of our Giant Panda program, including the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens, Chengdu Research Base of Giant Pandas, Chongqing Zoo, State Forestry Administration of China and the Canadian Embassy in Beijing."  

Toronto Zoo Keepers have had the unique opportunity to experience the growth and development of these rare cubs over the past year, and there have been a number of challenges, balanced with a number of joyous moments, that have been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many of the dedicated and professional staff having the pleasure to work with the Giant Pandas. Karyn Tunwell, Senior Panda Keeper, has been with the cubs from their first day, and said, "Watching them grow and surpass the many milestones throughout their first year has been unlike anything else I have experienced in my career."

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‘Marvelous’ Duiker Calf at Cincinnati Zoo

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The Yellow-backed Duiker calf at Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is simply a “wondrous-marvel”, and that is just what her name, Shani, means in Swahili.

Shani was born August 22 and has been spending quality time bonding with her parents. The small family unit is a preference for the duiker.

Although her species name suggests otherwise, Shani’s characteristic yellow stripe won’t appear on her back until she is about six-months-old. For now, her coloring is suitable for hiding in the shelter of forest floors and brush.

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4_14712472_10154443459635479_9148495961607096627_oPhoto Credits: DJJAM Photo/ Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

The Yellow-backed Duiker (Cephalophus silvicultor) is a forest dwelling antelope in the order Artiodactyla, from the family Bovidae. They are the most widely distributed of all the duikers, and they are found mainly in Central and Western Africa, ranging from Senegal to Western Uganda with a possible few in Gambia. Their range also extends southward into Ruanda, Burunidi, Zaire, and most of Zambia.

Yellow-backed Duikers have a convex body shape, standing taller at the rump than the shoulders. They have very short horns, which are cylindrical and are ribbed at the base. Yellow-backed Duikers get their name from the characteristic patch of yellow hairs on their rump, which stand when the animal becomes alarmed or feels threatened. They weigh-in at about 60–80 kg, making it the largest of its genus. It has a large mouth, throat and jaw musculature.

Yellow-backed Duikers are mainly forest dwelling and live in semi-deciduous forests, rainforests, riparian forests, and montane forests. However, they can also be found in open bush, isolated forest islands, and clearings on the savanna. Their convex body shape is well suited for forest living. Also known as “little divers,” duikers dive into thick undergrowth to hide from predators; hence, the name duiker which means "diver" in Afrikaans.

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Okapi Calf Arrives in Time for ‘World Okapi Day’

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Today, October 18th, is the inaugural “World Okapi Day”, and there is no better way to celebrate than by announcing the arrival of a new Okapi calf!

In the early morning of October 1st, Zoo Basel welcomed their first Okapi birth in eleven years! The little bull calf, named Nuru, is the son of Mchawi. Keepers say he is a strong guy and has been exploring the indoor stables with great curiosity.

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4_12322917_1155029794534759_5469137915296834898_oPhoto Credits: Zoo Basel

Nuru is the first male calf for mom, Mchawi. Born in 2011 at Antwerp, Mchawi has lived at Basel Zoo since 2014. The genetic basis of the EEP (European Endangered Species Programme) was very narrow for the Okapi. Zoo Basel decided a few years ago, in consultation with the EEP, to expand this base by importing new animals from the United States. At the end of this reshuffling, three animals found new homes at Zoo Basel: new mom, Mchawi, an eight-year-old bull Imba (who came from Dallas Zoo, US, in 2013), and five-year-old Ebony.

The hard work and efforts, of the EEP and cooperating Zoos, have paid off. Nuru seems to be a curious, courageous, and healthy calf. Keepers report that he sometimes skips naptime for jumping capers through the stables. It's too cold for the little guy to spend time in the outdoor exhibit, but when the temperatures warm, and Nuru is older, he will enjoy the outdoors as well. His current exhibit house is open for visitors, but they are asked to be patient. Nuru frequently withdraws for long periods of time to bond with his mom.

The breeding of the Okapi at Zoo Basel has a long history, with many interruptions. For the Zoo’s 75th anniversary in 1949, they received a bull from the Epulu-Breeding Station (in what was then known as the Belgian Congo). In the years 1955 and 1956 more animals came, and the first calf for the Zoo was born in 1960. After several decades of unsuccessful breeding attempts, a calf was born in 2005. The birth of Nuru has been an exciting boost to the Zoo’s efforts at helping to preserve this endangered species.

The Okapi (Okapia johnstoni) is a giraffid artiodactyl mammal native to the northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa. Although the Okapi bears striped markings reminiscent of Zebras, it is most closely related to the Giraffe. The Okapi and the Giraffe are the only living members of the family Giraffidae.

The Okapi stands about 1.5 m (4.9 ft) tall at the shoulder and has an average body length of about 2.5 m (8.2 ft). Its weight ranges from 200 to 350 kg (440 to 770 lb). It has a long neck, and large, flexible ears. Its coat is a chocolate to reddish brown, much in contrast with the white horizontal stripes and rings on the legs and white ankles. Male Okapis have short, hair-covered horns called ossicones, less than 15 cm (5.9 in) in length. Females possess hair whorls, and ossicones are absent.

Okapis are primarily diurnal but may be active for a few hours in darkness. They are essentially solitary, coming together only to breed. Okapis are herbivores, feeding on tree leaves and buds, grasses, ferns, fruits, and fungi.

The gestational period for females is around 440 to 450 days, and usually a single calf is born. The juveniles are kept in hiding, and nursing takes place infrequently. Juveniles start taking solid food from about three months, and weaning takes place at six months.

Okapis inhabit canopy forests at altitudes of 500–1,500 m (1,600–4,900 ft). They are endemic to the tropical forests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where they occur across the central, northern and eastern regions.

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BIOPARC Keepers Announce New Gorilla Is a Girl

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BIOPARC Valencia is excited to announce that their newest Western Lowland Gorilla is a female! The birth of the baby on August 18 was witnessed, and filmed, by amazed Zoo patrons. (See our original article here: Zoo Guests Witness Gorilla Birth)

The new girl has become an important part of the Spanish zoo’s Gorilla troop. Mom, Nalani, and father, Mambie, are doing a fitting job caring for their new offspring.

From the beginning, keepers have worked to maximize the welfare of the mother and her baby. Unless necessary, the technical team of BIOPARC does not interfere in the natural development of breeding and, in this sense, mother and offspring have not been separated at any time. For this reason, only observation, patience and some luck, have finally allowed keepers to see and take a photo of the genital area of the new baby, and thus confirm that is a female.

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3_BIOPARC VALENCIA - Grupo reproductor de gorilas - MAMBIE, NALANI su bebé y el pequeño EBO (2)Photo Credits: BIOPARC Valencia

The Western Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) is one of two subspecies of the Western Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla) that lives in montane, primary and secondary forests and lowland swamps in central Africa in Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. It is the Gorilla most common to zoos.

The main diet of the Gorilla species is roots, shoots, fruit, wild celery, tree bark and pulp, which are provided for in the thick forests of central and West Africa. An adult will eat around 18 kg (40 lb) of food per day. Gorillas will climb trees up to 15 meters in height in search of food.

Females do not produce many offspring, due to the fact that they do not reach sexual maturity until the age of 8 or 9. Female gorillas give birth to one infant after a pregnancy of nearly nine months. Unlike their powerful parents, newborns are tiny (weighing about four pounds) and able only to cling to their mothers' fur. The infant will ride on mother’s back from the age of four months through the first two or three years of life. Infants can be dependent on the mother for up to five years.

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Zoo Gives Baby Snappers a Head Start

20160922_123518Even powerful creatures like Alligator Snapping Turtles need a little help sometimes – that’s why the Nashville Zoo is headstarting 30 young snappers for eventual release into Tennessee’s waterways. 

The hatchlings came to Nashville from the Tishomingo National Fish Hatchery in Oklahoma and are now being cared for behind-the-scenes at the zoo.  The hatchlings will remain at the zoo for three years, after which they will be released into the wild as part of a statewide program to boost populations of Alligator Snapping Turtles.

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20160929_112135Photo Credit:  Katie Gregory

Headstarting programs like this can help bring species back from the brink.  Female Alligator Snapping Turtles don’t produce large quantities of eggs, and many eggs laid in the wild are lost to predation.  By collecting eggs from wild females, raising hatchlings in a protected environment, and releasing juveniles once they have attained a larger size, biologists can boost the number of surviving young. 

With their expertise at caring for animals in aquariums and controlled environments, zoos are recognized as vital partners in the fight to save native species.   

After the Turtles’ release, zoo staff will monitor the young to determine the success of the headstarting program. 

Weighing 50-100 pounds as adults, Alligator Snapping Turtles are almost prehistoric in appearance.  They spend nearly all of their life in water, feeding on fish and other aquatic animals.  To lure prey within striking distance, these Turtles sit with mouths open to reveal a small, pink, worm-like appendage in the back of the mouth.  Once the prey swims close enough, the Turtle clamps down on it with powerful jaws.

Once inhabiting most of the rivers in the Mississippi watershed, Alligator Snapping Turtles (not to be confused with Common Snapping Turtles, which are abundant in waterways across the region) were decimated in the 1960s and 70s by commercial harvesting for their meat.  Today, habitat loss, egg predation, and the high rate of hatchling predation threaten the species.

 


Gibbon "Preemie" is Growing Strong

2016 10 PZ pileated gibbon baby by Miriam Haas 2Keepers at the Paignton Zoo are cautiously optimistic that a rare Pileated Gibbon baby will survive despite being born several weeks prematurely.

Born September 19 to parents Shukdi and Hantu, the baby would be the first of its species to be reared during the zoo’s 15-year breeding program.

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2016 10 PZ pileated gibbon baby 1Photo Credit:  Miriam Haas

 


Like all Gibbons, a Pileated Gibbon baby clings to its mother’s belly for the first several months of life.  Because the baby is so closely held by mom, keepers are often unable to determine the baby's gender until it begins exploring on its own.     

Male and female Pileated Gibbons display sexual dimorphism – males and females look differently from one another.  Females have light-colored bodies and dark faces, while males have all black fur with white markings. 

Found in Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos, Pileated Gibbons live in the treetops and feed during the day on fruit, leaves, and small animals.  They are listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, due to hunting and severe habitat loss and fragmentation. 

See more photos of the baby Gibbon below.

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