Taronga Western Plains Zoo

Two Litters of Endangered Tasmanian Devils Born

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Taronga Western Plains Zoo is pleased to announce the arrival of two healthy litters of Tasmanian Devil joeys! According to keepers, this is one of the most successful years to date for the Zoo’s Tasmanian Devil conservation breeding program.

The first litter of three joeys arrived on March 19 to mother Lana. Keepers were recently able to take a close look at each joey and confirm their sex (two males and one female). Another female, Pooki, birthed four joeys more recently on June 19, which are yet to emerge from the pouch.

“We’re very pleased to see nurturing, maternal instincts from both Lana and Pooki, who are both two-year-old females and first-time mothers,” Taronga Western Plains Zoo Senior Keeper Steve Kleinig said.

“The three joeys born in March…are now weaned (meaning they have left mother Lana’s pouch) but they still remain close by her side. They are now playing with each other and exploring independently outside the den.”

“The four joeys born in June are starting to open their eyes and become more aware of their surroundings. While they are still attached to their mother's teats, we’re expecting they will begin to leave their mother’s pouch in the coming weeks,” Steve said.

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3 - TWPZ Keepers Hayley Brooks  Karen James and Rachel Schildkraut with Tasmanian Devil JoeysPhoto Credits: Taronga Western Plains Zoo (Image 3: Keepers Hayley Brooks, Karen James, and Rachel Schildkraut)

Taronga Western Plains Zoo is part of a national insurance population program designed to help save the Tasmanian Devil from becoming extinct as a result of the Devil Facial Tumour Disease*.

The Zoo’s breeding success this year is the result of a more targeted approach, and has benefited from favorable breeding recommendations. These are based on the unique characteristics and genetics of a breeding pair and, combined with their compatibility upon meeting, can determine breeding success.

“We are continuing to collaborate with other breeding institutions to improve the long-term viability of our program, such as Devil Ark in the Barrington Tops, where Lana and Pooki came from, and Tasmania’s Trowunna Wildlife Park, where the father originated,” Steve said.

Taronga Western Plains Zoo has two breeding facilities for the Tasmanian Devil located behind the scenes. The Zoo has bred 31 healthy Tasmanian Devil joeys so far - a significant boost to the regional zoo-based insurance population of this endangered species.

With Tasmanian Devil numbers in the wild currently dwindling to between 15,000 and 50,000 individuals, every birth is significant. The mainland breeding program of which the Zoo is a part could play an important role in helping to re-establish healthy wild populations of the species in Tasmania if needed in future.

The Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) is a carnivorous marsupial of the family Dasyuridae. It was once native to mainland Australia, but it is now found only in the wild on the island state of Tasmania, including tiny east coast Maria Island where there is a conservation project with disease-free animals.

The Tasmanian Devil is the size of a small dog and became the largest carnivorous marsupial in the world following the extinction of the Thylacine in 1936. It is related to Quolls and distantly related to the Thylacine.

It is characterized by its stocky and muscular build, black fur, pungent odor, extremely loud and disturbing screech, keen sense of smell, and ferocity when feeding. The Tasmanian Devil's large head and neck allow it to generate among the strongest bites per unit body mass of any extant mammal land predator, and it hunts prey and scavenges carrion as well as eating household products if humans are living nearby.

A breeding Tasmanian Devil female can produce up to 50 young that are about the size of a grain of rice. Competition for survival is fierce, and only the first four joeys are able to latch onto the mother’s teats.

In 2008, the Tasmanian Devil was assessed and classified as “Endangered” by the IUCN. In 2009, the Australian Government also listed the species as “Endangered”, under national environmental law.

*Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) is an infectious cancer that only affects Tasmanian Devils, and is transmitted through biting, fighting and mating. Since the first official case of DFTD in Australia in 1996, there has been a decline of up to 50-70 per cent of the Tasmanian Devil population across the majority of Tasmania.


Cheetah Trio Debuts in Dubbo

Cheetah cubs on exhibit April 2017 SM (17)

Three Cheetah cubs made their public debut last week at Taronga Western Plains Zoo.  Born on October 20, the cubs, one male and two females, have been growing and developing well behind the scenes under the watchful eye of mother, Kyan. 

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Cheetah cubs on exhibit April 2017 SM (13)Photo Credit: Taronga Western Plains Zoo

“The cubs are just over five months old now and are thriving. They are all developing quite distinct personalities and growing in confidence every day,” said zoo keeper Jordan Michelmore. 

Keepers have named the three Cheetah cubs.  The male has been named Obi, which means “heart” in Nigerian.  The females have been named Nyasa, which means “water” in Malawi and Zahara, which translates to “flower” in Swahili. 

“It has been a real pleasure watching them grow so far. Obi is very shy whilst Nyasa, the smallest of the trio, is actually the bravest and usually is the first to try new things. Zahara is also quite confident,” said Jordan.  “Kyan is becoming a little more relaxed now that the cubs are getting older. She is still quite protective and always keeps a watchful eye on them.”

Read more info and see additional photos of the cubs below.

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Endangered Foal Born at Taronga Western Plains Zoo

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Taronga Western Plains Zoo recently announced the arrival of a female Przewalski’s Horse foal!

The filly was born February 22, 2017. She has been named Nuruu after the national park in Mongolia called ‘Khustain Nuruu’, which is one of the few parks where the Przewalski’s Horse can be found in the wild today.

Nuruu is the fourth foal born to experienced mother Suren and sire is Stan. “Both mother and foal are doing well. Nuruu is growing stronger every day and is nursing from her mother regularly across the day,” said Keeper Anthony Dorian.

“Suren is being a fantastic mother. She is very protective and nurturing of her foal and is ensuring none of the other herd members get too close.”

“Both Suren and Nuruu are developing a great bond and Nuruu generally stays by her mother’s side most of the day. She does however enjoy a gallop around the paddock in the mornings,” said Anthony.

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Nuruu is the first foal to be born for the year at Taronga Western Plains Zoo, with more expected towards the end of the year. Taronga Western Plains Zoo has a successful history with its breeding program for Przewalski’s Horse. Since the breeding program commenced in 1982 the Zoo has welcomed over 35 foals.

In 1995, Taronga Western Plains Zoo was part of a re-introduction program that saw five Przewalski’s Horses sent from Dubbo to Mongolia to support a collaboration of Zoos releasing animals into the Gobi Desert to boost the declining wild population.

The Przewalski’s Horse (Equus ferus przewalskii) is classified as “Endangered” by the IUCN, and as recently as 1996 was classified as extinct in the wild.

On average, Przewalski females are able to give birth at the age of three and have a gestation period of about 11 to 12 months. Their reproduction process is seasonal, and in Mongolia the season is towards the end of May, June, or July.

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One, Two Three, Four Little Lion Cubs

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A litter of four male African Lion cubs born at Taronga Western Plains Zoo on November 19 is out of the den and playing outside. 

The yet-to-be-named cubs are doing very well under the watchful eye of their mother Maya and are developing on schedule.  This is the second litter of cubs for Maya and her mate Lazarus.  Their last litter was born in February 2015. 

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Photo Credit:  Rick Stevens



Though the family has been secluded in their den for the last two months, keepers monitored them via a video camera link.  By staying hands-off, keepers gave Maya and her babies time to bond.  Because Maya is an experienced mother, keepers had confidence in her ability to care for four cubs. 

The cubs recently had their first health check and received their first vaccinations.  All four had a clean bill of health.  At birth, each cub weighed about three pounds; they now weigh about 18 pounds each. 

The cubs have just started sampling solid foods and exploring outside their den behind the scenes. 

African Lions are classified as Vulnerable in the wild with populations decreasing due to human-animal conflict, depleted prey base, and habitat loss.

Continue reading "One, Two Three, Four Little Lion Cubs" »


It’s Going to Be a Doubly Good New Year at Taronga

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Taronga Western Plains Zoo excitedly welcomed the birth of two sets of Ring-tailed Lemur twins! The first set was born on October 5, and the second pair arrived October 17.

Mothers Rakitra and Cleo are both doing well and keepers are pleased with the maternal behaviors they are displaying towards their babies.

“Both Rakitra and Cleo are new mothers, they have had offspring before but sadly none of their young have survived past the first 12 weeks, so we’re taking things very slowly,” said Keeper Sasha Brook.

“So far the mothers and their babies are doing well and we are very happy with progress to date. Both mums are quite protective and are very careful of the way they move around and the speed at which they move around, ensuring their babies are holding on properly,” said Sasha.

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The babies will cling to their mothers until they are about four months old, but they have started to venture short distances away from their mothers to play. They are also starting to mouth and chew on food, but at this stage, it is simply practice and doesn’t serve a nutritional purpose. Ring-tailed Lemur babies are generally weaned from their mothers at around two months of age.

“Ring-tailed Lemur twins and triplets are not uncommon. In the wild, multiple births are usually dependent on a good season and an abundance of food,” Sasha continued.

Ring-tailed Lemur babies grow and develop rapidly; just like humans they need to learn how to do everything such as walking, jumping and climbing.

“When they are born, they instinctively know how to cling on to their mothers, but everything else they learn over a short period of time,” said Sasha.

The two sets of Ring-tailed Lemur twins are currently not on exhibit, as they are being given plenty of time to bond with their mothers, but they can occasionally be seen in the breeding facility from the perimeter fence. The mothers and their babies are likely to be on exhibit in the New Year.

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Happy Little Elephant Calf Given a Fitting Name

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Taronga Western Plains Zoo’s male Asian Elephant calf has been officially named ‘Sabai’, which means peaceful, happiness, relaxed or comfortable in Thai.

The name was chosen from almost 1500 suggestions. The competition called for suggestions that reflected the Thai origin of the Elephants. The winning submission came from Belle Lordan of Dubbo, NSW, Australia.

“We chose the name Sabai as the whole team felt it was fitting of his personality and demeanor and really suited a male elephant,” said Elephant Supervisor, Glenn Sullivan.

“Sabai is almost one month old and is continuing to progress well, meeting all the key milestones for a calf his age. He is very strong and confident and is steadily gaining weight,” said Glenn.

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3_Taronga Elephant Calf and Aunty Porntip_by Rick StevensPhoto Credits: Taronga Western Plains Zoo & Lachlan McFeeters (Image: 1) ; Rick Stevens (Images: 2,4)

Sabai was recently introduced to his brother, Luk Chai, through a fence, which was a very positive experience. Keepers hope to introduce Luk Chai to the herd in the future so Sabai can learn natural male elephant behaviors from his brother.

“Sabai is like most elephants and really loves the water, whether he is being hosed down by his keepers or splashing about in a shallow pool,” said Glenn.

“Thong Dee and [Aunty] Porntip are continuing to be very caring and nurturing of the young calf and he is often seen running from one adult to the other,” said Glenn.

Over the next few weeks keepers will expect to see the calf continue to grow in confidence and be increasingly inquisitive about the environment around him.

ZooBorns introduced readers to the little calf in an article from early November: Little Asian Elephant Calf Is a Really ‘Big’ Deal.

The calf was the first Asian Elephant born at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo. He was born November 1 to mom, Thong Dee, and dad, Gung.

Taronga has now welcomed four Elephant calves, across both of its zoo facilities, since the breeding program commenced 10 years ago (with three calves born in Sydney).

The Asian or Asiatic Elephant (Elephas maximus) is the only living species of the genus Elephas and is distributed in Southeast Asia from India in the west to Borneo in the east. Three subspecies are recognized: E. m. maximus from Sri Lanka, the E. m. indicus from mainland Asia, and E. m. sumatranus from the island of Sumatra. They are the largest living land animals in Asia.

Since 1986, E. maximus has been listed as “Endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The population has declined by at least 50% over the last three generations, estimated to be 60–75 years. The species is primarily threatened by degradation, fragmentation and loss of habitat, and poaching.


Little Asian Elephant Calf Is a Really ‘Big’ Deal

1_Elephant calf at Taronga Western Plains Zoo by Rick Stevens (4)

Taronga is thrilled to announce the birth of the first Asian Elephant calf at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo. The male calf was born November 1 to experienced mother, Thong Dee, in a behind-the-scenes paddock.

“This is tremendous news for the Australasian conservation breeding program for Asian Elephants. I’m delighted to report that mother and calf are doing well and veterinarians are happy with the calf’s progress at this early stage,” said NSW Environment Minister, Mark Speakman.

The calf was standing on his own within 30 minutes of being born and began suckling within hours.

“Thong Dee is doing a magnificent job and the successful birth is a tribute to the hard work of our keepers and veterinary staff. It’s a milestone achievement in the almost 40 year history of our zoo and we couldn’t be happier. Every birth is important as it helps to secure a future for this endangered species,” said Zoo Director, Matthew Fuller.

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The calf was sired by Taronga’s bull, Gung, in Sydney prior to Thong Dee moving to Dubbo with three other Elephants in 2015. The calf is the second for Thong Dee, who gave birth to Australia’s first Elephant calf, Luk Chai, in 2009.

Keepers and vets were on hand throughout the labor and birth of the calf.

“Everything went very smoothly with the birthing process. Thong Dee and the calf are in good health and spending time together in the Elephant barn. We have seen the calf suckling and we’re really pleased with the maternal behaviors we’re observing,” said Elephant Supervisor, Glenn Sullivan.

Coincidentally, the birth occurred with both the 10th anniversary of the Elephant herd’s arrival in Australia from Thailand in 2006 and the sixth birthday of Taronga’s third Elephant calf, Tukta.

Taronga has now welcomed four Elephant calves, across both Zoos, since the breeding program commenced 10 years ago (with three calves born in Sydney).

This successful breeding herd has been an important catalyst for Taronga’s work in the field with governments and conservation agencies in Asia to turn around the decline of Asian Elephants. Taronga also funds wildlife protection units and ranger stations in Thailand and Sumatra to help suppress elephant poaching.

Mother and calf will be given further time to bond behind-the-scenes before making their public debut. The Zoo will soon be announcing a competition to help choose a name for the calf.

Continue reading "Little Asian Elephant Calf Is a Really ‘Big’ Deal " »


Pack of Endangered Pups Emerge From Den

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Taronga Western Plains Zoo recently announced the arrival of eleven African Wild Dog pups!

The pups were born on August 25, 2016, and they are the second litter for breeding pair Kimanda (female) and Guban (male), who produced their first litter in late 2014.

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“The pups have recently emerged from the den and can be spotted out and about in the exhibit, especially in the mornings and at meal times,” said Keeper Genevieve Peel.

“African Wild Dogs can have up to 18 pups in a single litter, so it is not uncommon to see large litter sizes in this species. Kimanda is being a very attentive and nurturing mother. She will regurgitate food for the pups, and at this stage, they are still suckling. But this won’t be for much longer.”

The whole pack has been observed getting involved in the raising of the pups. The older siblings have been seen taking food to them as well as babysitting the newest members of the pack.

“The pups are getting really confident at coming up and participating in feeding time. It’s a great opportunity to see the pack rally and work together to devour their meal whilst caring for the pups’ needs,” Genevieve continued.

“The pups are now nine weeks old and continue to grow in confidence. From approximately 10 weeks old, they should be visible most of the time on exhibit.”

The African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus), also known as ‘African hunting dog’ or ‘African painted dog’, is a canid native to Sub-Saharan Africa. It is the largest of its family in Africa, and the only extant member of the genus Lycaon.

The species is classed as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The current population has been estimated at roughly 39 subpopulations, containing 6,600 adults. The decline of these populations is ongoing, due to habitat fragmentation, human persecution, and disease outbreaks. They are considered to be the most endangered large carnivore in Africa.

The African Wild Dog is a highly social animal, living in packs with separate dominance hierarchies for males and females.

Like other canids, it regurgitates food for its young, but this action is also extended to adults. It has few natural predators, though Lions are a major source of mortality, and Spotted Hyenas are frequent kleptoparasites (theft of prey by another competing animal).


Koala Joey Peeks Out of the Pouch

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It’s nearly springtime Down Under at Australia’s Taronga Western Plains Zoo, and the first Koala joey of the season has emerged from its mother’s pouch.

The male joey is just over five months old and starting peek out at the world. The yet-to-be-named youngster is the third offspring for his mother, Wild Girl.  She is experienced at raising babies and is showing all the right maternal behaviors.   

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Wild Girl arrived at the zoo’s Wildlife Hospital after being hit by a car, and her injuries prevented her from being released back into the wild.  She joined the zoo’s Koala group in early 2013 and has since played an important role in the breeding program.

For now, zoo visitors will have to look carefully to spot the joey when he is out of the pouch.  The little joey clings to Wild Girl’s belly and can be hard to see.  As the Australian spring arrives in full, the weather will warm up and the joey should become more active and independent. 

Koala joeys stay with their mothers until they are about 12 months of age. At that time, they gradually roam farther from their mothers before becoming fully independent.


Second Zebra Foal for Taronga Western Plains Zoo

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Keepers at Taronga Western Plains Zoo are excited by the arrival of their second Zebra foal in the past month. The female foal, which was born in the early hours of July 30, has been named Zina (free spirit in Swahili).

Zina is the fifth foal for experienced mother, Kijani. “Both mother and foal are doing really well, which is to be expected from an experienced mother like Kijani,” said Keeper, Carolene Magner.

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Zina, out on exhibit with her mother and the rest of the herd, is very calm and taking everything in her stride.

“Zina is staying close by her mother’s side at present but does enjoy a gallop around the paddock in the morning. Zina is a large foal in comparison to Khari, who was born a month ago, they are relatively the same size.”

“It is great to see the herd continuing to grow, and as the two foals get older, they will start to interact more together,” said Carolene.

There are now three generations of Plains Zebra on exhibit at Taronga Western Plains Zoo, with more foals expected later this year. This most recent arrival brings the total number in the breeding herd to nine.

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