Taronga Western Plains Zoo

Taronga Western Plains Zoo Is Twice as Lucky

1 - Spider Monkey baby born 21 Dec 2017

Taronga Western Plains Zoo welcomed the arrival of a female Black-handed Spider Monkey baby, just prior to Christmas, on December 21, 2017.

After a little more than seven months gestation, the yet-to-be-named baby arrived to first-time mother, Margarita, and father, Pedro. The birth followed the exciting arrival of baby Isadora on October 9, 2017. Isadora was the first Spider Monkey to be born at the Zoo in 16 years.

“We are very excited to announce the arrival of another healthy female Spider Monkey baby, marking a wonderful boost to the Spider Monkey breeding program,” Keeper Mel Friedman said. “The baby’s mother, Margarita, is one of the last female Spider Monkeys to be born at the Zoo, 16 years ago. She has been proving her skills as an excellent mother, and has been taking great care of the baby, who clings to her belly as Margarita swings around her island home.”

“Margarita is quite a private individual compared to Jai (Isadora’s mother), who is more social, but now and then, she allows her Keepers to see the baby up close, which is very special,” Friedman said.

2 - Spider Monkey baby born 21 Dec 2017

3 - Spider Monkey baby born 21 Dec 2017Photo Credits: Rick Stevens/Taronga Western Plains Zoo

After a hiatus from breeding the species, Keepers were optimistic about the potential for more babies following the arrival of breeding male, Pedro, from France in 2014.

“Pedro is a highly valuable Spider Monkey male in the Australia/New Zealand region due to his genetics, and he has certainly been a great addition to the breeding group,” Mel said. “We were delighted when baby Isadora arrived in October last year, so to have two babies born in a three-month period is fantastic,” she said.

Once the baby becomes more active later in the year, Keepers expect to see her interacting with Jai’s four-month-old baby, Isadora. Isadora is already starting to engage with the rest of the troop while riding on her mother’s back.

To date, fifteen Spider Monkey babies have been born at Taronga Western Plains Zoo, which is home to three sub-species of Black-handed Spider Monkeys. The best time to see them is at the “Spider Monkey Feed” which occurs at 12.50pm daily.

The Black-handed Spider Monkey (Ateles geoffroyi), also known as Geoffroy's Spider Monkey, is a species of New World monkey that is native to Central America, parts of Mexico and possibly a small portion of Colombia. There are at least five subspecies.

One of the largest New World monkeys, it often weighing as much as 9 kg (20 lbs.). The arms are significantly longer than its legs, and its prehensile tail can support the entire weight and is used as an extra limb. Its hands have only a vestigial thumb, but long, strong, hook-like fingers.

They reside in troops that contain between 20 and 42 members. Their diet consists primarily of ripe fruit, and they require large tracts of forest to survive. As a result of habitat loss, hunting and capture for the pet trade, the species is currently classified as “Endangered” by the IUCN.

New Year Brings New Przewalski's Horse Foal

1_Przewalski's Horse foal

The pitter-patter of little hooves has been welcomed at Taronga Western Plains Zoo, with the arrival of a rare Przewalski's Horse foal. The filly was born on January 1 to first-time mother, Zaria.

The Zoo now has a breeding herd of eleven Przewalski's Horses, which are the last surviving subspecies of Wild Horse (Equus ferus), and are native to central Asia. Przewalski's Horses are also called ‘takhi’ which means ‘spirit’ in Mongolia.

“This foal has been named Dash, and she has certainly been living up to her name,” Keeper Pascale Benoit said. “She is healthy and well, and has plenty of energy, especially in the mornings. She can be seen dashing around and even lets out a tiny, high-pitched whinny when her mother strays too far away.”

“Dash is starting to become more independent, and while she generally stays close by her mother’s side, she is spending more and more time exploring and interacting with the herd,” Benoit said.

Dash’s father, Nikolai, was born at Werribee Open Range Zoo in 2012 and came to Taronga Western Plains Zoo in October 2016. Nikolai’s genetics make him an important breeding individual for the region, and thus a valuable addition to the Zoo’s Przewalski’s Horse breeding program.

2_Przewalski's Horse foal

3_Przewalski's Horse foal

4_Przewalski's Horse foalPhoto Credits: Rick Stevens/Taronga Western Plains Zoo

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 world zoos. Through this collaboration, numbers have continued to steadily increase 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,” Pascale said.

The foal’s birth represents yet another success for the Zoo’s breeding program, which saw another female foal, Naruu, born in February 2017. Keepers are awaiting the arrival of a second Przewalski’s Horse foal for the 2018 season, to mare Genghis, also sired by Nikolai.

Prior to reintroduction programs, Przewalski's Horses were last seen in the wild in the 1960s in the Gobi Desert, in south Mongolia. Their numbers dwindled as a result of human interference, such as poaching and capture. Today, their main threats include habitat loss and low genetic diversity.

Later this year, Taronga Western Plains Zoo will unveil a new exhibit for the Przewalski’s Horse to better tell the story of this incredible species.

Taronga Western Plains Zoo is located in Dubbo in Central Western NSW.

5_Przewalski's Horse foal

Two Baby Lemurs Are Twice the Fun

_AT_042720151016Taronga Western Plains Zoo is proud to announce the arrival of not one, but two Ring-tailed Lemur babies!

A male baby was born on September 1 to mother Rakitra. He was joined eight weeks later on October 28 by a female, born to mother Cleopatra. Both Rakitra and Cleopatra came to the Zoo from Italy in 2012 to boost the Ring-tailed Lemur breeding program.

Photo Credit: Rick Stevens

“It’s very exciting to welcome two healthy Ring-tailed Lemur babies this year, and particularly special to have one of each sex,” Keeper Sasha Brook said. “Both babies are being well cared for by their experienced mothers, and can be spotted riding on their mothers’ backs at the Ring-tailed Lemur breeding facility,” Sasha said.

“At three months of age, Rakitra’s male baby is already spending more time away from his mother and interacting with the two sets of twins born last year. He spends lots of time wrestling with them, and it’s great to see the twins playing gently with the baby,” Sasha said.

“At nearly five weeks of age, Cleopatra’s female baby is still developing her coordination skills, but we have noticed her also start to bounce away from her mother for short periods of time. Cleopatra is particularly relaxed around her keepers, so she doesn’t mind her baby exploring. “We’ll start to see the female baby play with others soon, including her older brother, but for now it’s very positive that she’s bonding with her mother,” Sasha said.

Continue reading "Two Baby Lemurs Are Twice the Fun" »

Southern Black Rhino Calf Born in Australia

1 - Black Rhino calf

Taronga Western Plains Zoo is pleased to announce the arrival of a rare Southern Black Rhinoceros calf, born on October 31 to mother Bakhita and father Kwanzaa.

The yet-to-be-named male calf is the second Black Rhino calf to be born at the Zoo this year, boosting the Zoo’s successful Black Rhino breeding program.

“We are very happy with the arrival of a healthy male calf born overnight on 31 October. Every birth is special, but to have two Black Rhino calves born in one year is particularly exciting. We’re thrilled,” Keeper Scott Smith said. “The birth occurred in the early hours of Halloween, following a 15-month gestation period for Bakhita. It was a smooth delivery, and the calf is strong, healthy and well. Bakhita is an experienced and nurturing mother, and while she’s protective of her baby, she is relatively relaxed and trusting around Keepers.”

2 - Black Rhino calf

3 - Black Rhino calf

4 - Black Rhino calf with mother BakhitaPhoto Credits: Rick Stevens/ Taronga Western Plains Zoo

“At just two weeks of age, the calf was showing his confidence and interacting with Keepers via a ‘creep’ yard - a fence opening large enough for the baby to pass through, but too small for Bakhita,” Scott said. This ‘creep’ yard allows the calf to get close to Keepers and grow used to their presence, while Bakhita comfortably eats hay nearby. By encouraging this interaction from a young age, Keepers can develop an important bond with him, which helps to make working with the calf a positive experience as he grows into an adult Rhino.

“The new calf is one of the biggest Black Rhino calves born here at the Zoo, with an estimated birth weight of 35 to 40 kilograms. We’re pleased to see he is suckling very well from Bakhita,” Scott said. “He has already been seen galloping around his behind-the-scenes enclosure and venturing a considerable distance from Bakhita for short periods of time. He’s an active calf and is very inquisitive about his surroundings.”

The calf is imitating eating behaviors by mouthing browse (leaves), but will only start to eat solid food at around three months of age. While Black Rhino are born without horns, the calf’s horn will soon begin growing at a rate of around half a centimeter to one centimeter per month.

The calf’s mother, Bakhita, is the first Black Rhino female to be born at Taronga Western Plains Zoo, with her arrival in 2002 being a widely celebrated occasion. The Zoo currently has three generations of Black Rhino. Bakhita’s daughter, Kufara, currently has a calf of her own - Mesi, born in April this year.

The best time to see Kufara and Mesi is at the Black Rhino Keeper Talk at 9.25am daily. Bakhita and her baby will remain behind the scenes as they continue to bond as mother and calf, and they will be on exhibit for the public to see early next year.

Taronga Western Plains Zoo is the only zoo in Australia to have successfully bred three species of Rhino: the Black Rhino and White Rhino from Africa, and the Greater One-horned Rhino from Asia. The new calf is the 14th Black Rhino calf to be born at Taronga Western Plains Zoo.

Every Rhino birth is extremely important. Southern Black Rhinoceros are critically endangered with only an estimated 4000 left in the wild, predominantly due to poaching for their horns. Taronga is a founding member of the International Rhino Foundation, and in addition to the breeding conservation program, actively supports conservation efforts for wild Rhinos in Africa, Indonesia and India in areas including habitat protection, anti-poaching and reduction of human-rhino conflict.

5 - Black Rhino calf

6 - Black Rhino calf

Two Litters of Endangered Tasmanian Devils Born

1 - Tasmanian Devil Joeys

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.

2 - Tasmanian Devil Joeys

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. 

Cheetah cubs on exhibit April 2017 SM (9)
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.

Continue reading "Cheetah Trio Debuts in Dubbo" »

Endangered Foal Born at Taronga Western Plains Zoo


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.



4_IMG_4881Photo Credits: Taronga Western Plains Zoo

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.


One, Two Three, Four Little Lion Cubs

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. 

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


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.



4_A33Y093320151016Photo Credits: Rick Stevens

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.

Continue reading "It’s Going to Be a Doubly Good New Year at Taronga " »

Happy Little Elephant Calf Given a Fitting Name

Taronga Elephant Calf_by Lachlan McFeeters

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.

1_Taronga Elephant Calf_by Rick Stevens

2_Taronga Elephant Calf

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.