Taronga Western Plains Zoo

A Little Prince Debuts in Australia

RajahThe first Greater One-horned Rhino to be born in Australia made his public debut last week at the Taronga Western Plains Zoo.

Amala and Rajah Rick Stevens  (27)
Rajah on his own Rick Stevens  (33)Photo Credit:  Rick Stevens
 
You first read about the calf on ZooBorns here after his October 25, 2015 birth was announced.  The calf was named Rajah, which means ‘prince,’ reflecting his significance to the species’ breeding program.

“Rajah’s birth is the result of over 15 years of hard work and dedication from keepers and zoo staff,” said New South Wales Deputy Premier, Troy Grant.

The stage was set for Rajah’s birth when the zoo constructed a new Rhino facility in 2002.  Shortly after that, the zoo obtained a bull Rhino named Dora from Japan and Amala, a female Rhino, from the United States.  As Amala matured, keepers fine-tuned their husbandry techniques to better understand the species’ breeding habits, including travelling to India to participate in Rhino conservation projects. 

Zoo Director Matthew Fuller said, “In 2012 introductions began with keepers spending months getting the pair ready to meet each other. Finally, in 2014 the pair was introduced and a mating took place and in October, our little prince was born.”

Rajah and his mother have spent the past four months bonding behind the scenes while keepers helped Rajah learn new routines for his debut.  They have learned that Rajah is a little fussy, especially about bananas, his favorite treat:  if the skin is too tough or too brown, he won’t eat it!

Also known as Indian Rhinos, Greater One-horned Rhinos are found only on the Indian sub-continent.

Zoo breeding programs may hold the key to survival for creatures like the Greater One-horned Rhino.  In the early 1900s, Rhinos were nearly wiped out due to excessive sport hunting, but the establishment of reserves and anti-poaching laws helped to stabilize the species.  Some animals were translocated from existing reserves to establish new populations in protected areas of India.   Poaching for Rhino horns continues to be a threat.  Only about 2,700 Greater One-horned Rhinos remain in the wild.


Taronga Western Plains Zoo’s Giraffe Herd Is ‘Twice As Nice’

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Taronga Western Plains Zoo is excited to announce the arrival of their second female Giraffe calf of the year. The newest arrival was born on the evening of February 1st.

The birth delighted Zoofari guests who had the chance to witness it during their evening, behind-the-scenes tour. Tour guides quickly alerted Keepers, who excitedly found the healthy calf.

Keepers have named the new female Kito (kee-toe), meaning “gem” in Swahili.

Kito is the first calf for mother, Myzita, who is showing all the right maternal behaviors.

“Kito is on exhibit with the rest of the herd including our other calf Nyah, born earlier this year,” said Giraffe Keeper Fiona Cameron. “She is distinguishable from Nyah by her size and her lighter coloring. Over the coming weeks, Kito will become more confident and we’ll start to see the two calves run, play and explore together. We are still expecting more Giraffe calves to be born this year, which is really very exciting.”

Kito_KellseyMelhuishPhoto Credits: Kellsey Melhuish / Taronga Western Plains Zoo

Giraffe numbers in the wild have been decreasing over the past decade it is estimated less than 80,000 Giraffe remain in the wild. The 30% drop in numbers is directly due to poaching for bush meat and also habitat encroachment by farmers.

“Every birth for a species, such as the Giraffe, that are seeing a decline in wild populations is important, as it helps to insure against extinction,” Fiona continued.

“Through programs such as Beads for Wildlife, we aim to help animals such as the

Giraffe by providing communities in Kenya with alternate income sources so they don’t have to rely so much on the herds and grazing. Less livestock means less pressure on water and food for wildlife such as the Giraffe.”


Foal Part of Conservation Success Story

Bukhara_Kellsey Melhuish (2)Keepers at Taronga Western Plains Zoo are delighted to announce the birth of a Przewalski’s Horse foal, born on January 20.

The female foal has been named Bukhara after a reserve in Uzbekistan, Mongolia, where the population of this Critically Endangered species is regaining a foothold after being declared Extinct in the wild.

Bukhara_Kellsey Melhuish (1)Photo Credit:  Kellsey Melhuish
 
“Both mother and foal are doing well. The foal is staying close to her mother’s side although she is starting to become curious about her surroundings. She continues to gain strength and confidence,” said Unit Supervisor Pascale Benoit.

Native to central Asia, the Przewalski’s Horse is Critically Endangered and was once classified as Extinct in the wild. In 1995, five Przewalski’s Horses from Taronga Western Plains Zoo were flown to Mongolia and reintroduced to the wild in the Gobi Desert as part of a herd assembled by zoos from around the world. Since then, the Horses’ numbers have steadily increased in Mongolia.

“There are now almost 2,000 Przewalski’s Horses in human care and in the wild today, which is a huge step for this species that was once Extinct in the wild,” said Pascale.


Baby Giraffe Arrives With the New Year

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As zoo keepers walked their early morning rounds on New Year’s Day at Australia’s Taronga Western Plains Zoo, they discovered the zoo’s first baby of 2016:  a female Giraffe calf with her mother, Ntombi.

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Photo Credit:  Rick Stevens

Keepers named the calf Nyah, which means “purpose” in Swahili.

Nyah is Ntombi’s third calf.  Keepers say Ntombi is very protective of her calf, but she is showing all the right maternal behaviors.

“The Giraffe calf is on exhibit with the rest of the herd, however, she is still a little shy, spending a lot of her day at the back of the exhibit,” said Giraffe keeper Jackie Stuart. “Over the coming weeks, she will start to become more confident and explore the rest of the exhibit.”

Wild Giraffe numbers have decreased dramatically over the past decade.  Scientists estimate that fewer than 80,000 Giraffes remain in Africa’s wild grasslands and savannahs. The 30% drop in numbers is due to poaching for bush meat and human encroachment into formerly wild lands.

The zoo participates in programs such as Beads for Wildlife, which provides income for Kenyan communities thereby reducing dependence on livestock, which require grazing.  With less livestock, the number of wildlife/livestock conflicts can be reduced, as well as reducing pressure on food and water sources.


Christmas Calf Arrives at Taronga

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Christmas arrived a few days early at Taronga Western Plains Zoo when a White Rhinoceros calf was born on December 19.

The female calf is the third Rhino born at the zoo this year, with a male Black Rhino calf born in April and Australia’s first-ever Greater One-horned (or Indian) Rhino calf born in October.

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Photo Credit:  Taronga Western Plains Zoo
 
The calf was born to experienced mother Mopani, who is nurturing the calf extremely well.

“Staff are absolutely thrilled to be celebrating another precious Rhino birth, it is wonderful to end a hugely successful conservation breeding program on such a positive note for 2015,” said Zoo Director Matthew Fuller.

Keepers have named the calf Kamari, meaning ‘moonlight’ in Swahili, symbolizing the calf’s early morning birth.

“Kamari’s birth and the other successful Rhino births this year serve as a timely reminder about how important our conservation breeding programs are for species that are so heavily under threat in the wild,” said Unit Supervisor Pascale Benoit.

White Rhinos are native to a few areas in southern Africa, but were once found in most of Africa’s tropical grasslands.  They are listed as Near Threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to poaching for their horns, which are sold as traditional medicine in parts of Asia.  Rhino horns are also sold in some Middle Eastern countries to make handles for daggers, which are seen as status symbols. 

See more photos of the calf below.

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Meet the First Greater One-horned Rhino Born in Australia

Greater One horned Rhino calf_Photo by Bobby-Jo Clow_1

Taronga Western Plains Zoo is thrilled to announce the birth of Australia’s first Greater One-horned Rhino calf! The male calf was born early on the morning of October 25th, to first-time mother Amala.

Zoo Keepers are closely monitoring both mother and calf, and although it is still early days, report that both are doing well.

“Amala is being very protective of him,” said Unit Supervisor Jennifer Conaghan. “She is keeping her distance from us and keeping the calf close, which is what we expected to see. In the last couple of days, Amala has brought the calf into a behind the scenes yard, and we’ve been able to monitor things more closely. We have seen the calf suckling and although it is still only days old, we are extremely happy with the situation so far and absolutely thrilled to have this new addition on the ground.” 

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Greater One horner Rhino calf with mother Amala_Photo by Ian AndersonPhoto Credits: Bobby-Jo Clow (Images 1,2); Ian Anderson (Image 3)Taronga Western Plains Zoo is home to three species of rhino: Black Rhino, White Rhino (Africa) and Greater-One horned Rhino (Asia), and they have breeding and conservation programs for all three species.

The Greater One-horned Rhino breeding program commenced in 2009, when Amala arrived from Los Angeles Zoo to join resident male Dora (who came from Nagoya Higashiyama Zoo in Japan).

“This birth is a credit to years of work by the Zoo’s dedicated Life Sciences team to successfully introduce the two, an introduction which has produced a healthy calf following Amala’s 15 month gestation,” said Taronga Western Plains Zoo Director Matthew Fuller. “We’re the only Zoo in Australia to have three species of rhino, and three successful rhino breeding programs, so critical for these species that are all threatened in the wild.”

The Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros is classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List, with as few as 2,700 animals left in the wild.

This recent birth follows the exciting arrival of a Black Rhino calf at the Zoo, earlier this year.

“The situation facing wild rhinos is devastating. Taronga actively supports conservation efforts for wild rhinos in Africa, Indonesia and India, including providing funds and support for habitat protection and reforestation, anti poaching and rhino protection units and reduction of human-rhino conflict. We’re also a founding member of the International Rhino Foundation,” said Matt.

Amala and her calf will remain behind the scenes for the coming weeks where they can continue to bond.


New Ring-tailed Lemur at Taronga Western Plains Zoo

1_Mother and baby CREDIT Sasha Brook

Taronga Western Plains Zoo, in Australia, has welcomed a baby Ring-tailed Lemur! The female Lemur, which Keepers have named Imerina (after one of the old kingdoms of Madagascar), was born on August 25. 

2_Peekaboo CREDIT Sasha Brook

3_Close up CREDIT Sasha Brook

4_Ring tailed Lemur baby SM aPhoto Credits: Sasha Brook (1,2,3) / Taronga Western Plains Zoo

Zoo Keepers are thrilled with this breeding success, which comes three years after the arrival of three female Lemurs from Italy to commence the Zoo’s Ring-tailed Lemur breeding program.

“It’s wonderful to have a successful breeding season and a healthy baby on the ground,” Keeper Sasha Brook said. “Imerina is a strong baby and first time mother, Rikitra, is doing all the right things, nursing and grooming her baby well, which is great to see.”

In the past two to three weeks, Keepers have been delighted to see Imerina starting to explore a little bit independently of her mother.

“She has started to climb on her own and is also starting to mouth solid foods,” Sasha said. “Rikitra is never more than one to two meters away, keeping a watchful eye on her offspring, and rescuing her from any pickles she gets herself into! Imerina is also starting to jump onto her father Bruce’s back. Bruce is an experienced father so he’s taking things in his stride.”

For the short term, Keepers have separated Rikitra and her baby, along with Bruce, from the group’s two other females, to give them time to bond and prevent interference from the females.

“The family is currently alternating access to their island exhibit with the two females, and during the day they have access to their night yards so they can choose to go where they feel most comfortable,” Sasha said. “In time we will introduce the two females back to the group, as it’s important to keep the group cohesive. The females enjoy each other’s company usually; but we’re giving them some space.”

When Imerina grows up she will play a vital role in the Zoo-based Ring-tailed Lemur breeding program, and with Lemurs endangered in the wild due to habitat destruction, her birth is very important for the future of her species.

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Boisterous Black Rhino Boy Makes Debut

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Taronga Western Plains Zoo is thrilled to announce the arrival of a male Black Rhino calf, born in the very early hours of Monday April 20th

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4_Black Rhino calf by Rick Stevens May 2015 (8)Photo Credits: Rick Stevens /Taronga Western Plains Zoo

The yet-to-be-named arrival is the second calf born to mother ‘Bakhita’, and the third calf born in 10 years to the Zoo’s internationally renowned breeding program for this critically endangered species.

“With just over 4,000 Black Rhinos remaining, and all five rhino species under enormous pressure in the wild, every birth is critical,” said General Manager, Matthew Fuller.

“This little rhino is precious, as are all rhinos, and we’re hopeful that his birth will further highlight the need to protect these remarkable creatures.”

The calf, which weighs between 30-40kg, has already captured the hearts of zookeepers. His birth, ahead of Mother’s Day, is a great reminder of the achievements of the remarkable wild mothers in the zoo’s care.

“At three weeks of age, he is very confident and bold,” Keeper Jake Williams said. “He is full of energy and likes to run flat out around his yard, first thing in the morning, sometimes venturing 15-20 meters from Bakhita before galloping back to her. He is a strong calf and doesn’t show much fear.”

Mr. Williams said experienced mother Bakhita is taking things in her stride.

“She’s doing all the right things. She is alert when keepers approach her yard and is protective of her calf, but she quickly settles. She is a pretty relaxed mother.”

Bakhita and the calf will remain behind the scenes for the coming weeks, where they can continue to bond, before going on public display in June.

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First Vet Visit for Taronga's Lion Cub Trio

Lion cubs vaccination_SM_7.4.15 (38)Three Lion cubs born at the Taronga Western Plains Zoo on February 28 had their first veterinary visit this week, and all were pronounced healthy and strong.

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Lion cubs vaccination_SM_7.4.15 (30)Photo Credit:  Taronga Western Plains Zoo
 

The cubs, a male and two females, are the first Lion cubs ever born at the zoo, so the staff is especially thrilled with the new arrivals.  The cubs have not yet been named.  This is the first litter for mother Maya and father Lazarus.    

Maya and Lazarus were introduced in 2014 and breeding behavior was observed almost immediately after the introduction.  Staff monitored Maya carefully throughout her pregnancy, and keepers have been monitoring Maya and her cubs via a video camera in their den since birth, allowing them time to bond together on their own. 

The staff is taking a hands-off approach, allowing Maya to use her natural mothering instincts.

At their veterinary check-up this week, the cubs each weighed about 11 pounds, more than doubling their birth weights.  In the coming weeks, the cubs will begin to eat solid food and explore their surroundings. 

Wild African Lions are classified as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, with populations decreasing due to human-animal conflict, depleted prey base, and habitat loss.  

See more photos of the cubs below.

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Otter Pups Venturing out with Their Fam

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Keepers at Taronga Western Plains Zoo are excited by the birth of three Oriental Small-Clawed Otter pups, born January 8, 2015.

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Otter pups_6.3.15_MT (5)Photo Credits: Taronga Western Plains Zoo

The litter consists of two females and one male, and all are yet to be named. Keepers will name two of the siblings, but they are seeking name suggestions for one of the female pups, via the Zoo’s facebook page.

This is the second litter for mother, ‘Emiko’ and father, ‘Pocket’. Both are exceptional parents, and they are taking great care of their offspring.

“Emiko and Pocket are very hands-on parents and have been displaying ideal nurturing behaviors,” said Keeper, Ian Anderson. “The pups have been in the den, to date, and we have been monitoring them via a video camera, to ensure they are growing and developing well.”

This birth of this litter continues the breeding success for the Oriental Small-Clawed Otters at the Zoo, with the first litter born to the breeding program in January 2014.

“The older siblings born in 2014 have been assisting their parents with the daily care of the pups including grooming and babysitting the new arrivals. Oriental Small-Clawed Otters are a special species and live in large families, so it is anticipated that the family will remain together for the near future,” said Ian.

The Otter pups are currently on display sporadically as they spend a lot of their time in their den. Over the coming weeks they will start to venture out with their parents and older siblings, more often, to explore their exhibit and to learn to swim.

“By the end of April we will expect to see the pups out and about more regularly in the exhibit…,” said Ian.

More pics below the fold!

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