Taronga Western Plains Zoo

Boisterous Black Rhino Boy Makes Debut

1_Black Rhino calf by Rick Stevens May 2015 (7)

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

2_Black Rhino calf by Rick Stevens May 2015 (1)

3_Black Rhino calf by Rick Stevens May 2015 (4)

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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Hot Fun in the Summertime for Hippo Calf

Hippo calf enjoying being hosed_December2014_MT (87)

While it is definitely winter for a lot of us, ‘Kibibi’, the 15 week old Hippo calf, is testimony to the fact that it is summer in Australia. Keepers at Taronga Western Plains Zoo have been treating Kibibi to a cooling hose down in the summer heat, while her mother, ‘Cuddles’, enjoys her morning meal.

Hippo calf enjoying being hosed_December2014_MT (25)

Hippo calf enjoying being hosed_December2014_MT (44)Photo Credits: Taronga Western Plains Zoo

“Kibibi really enjoys being hosed down just like her mum. I think the sensation of the water spraying over her is a real treat for her,” said Keeper, Carolene Magner.

“We have been working hard to develop a relationship with Kibibi, just like the one we have with her mother, so that she trusts us. Hosing her down is just one way we are working to build a bond with her as she continues to thrive,” said Carolene.

Kibibi is continuing to grow and develop rapidly. She is now well over double her birth weight and growing in confidence.

“She is becoming more confident and will sometimes stay in the shallow water on her own while Cuddles comes out to feed, but most of the time they are spotted side by side in their pond together,” said Carolene.

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Taronga Welcomes Second Giraffe Calf This Year

Ajali giraffe calf SM (6)

Keepers at Taronga Western Plains Zoo welcomed their second Giraffe calf of 2014 when a female baby was born on October 19.

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Ajali giraffe calf SM (7)
Ajali giraffe calf SM (1)Photo Credit:  Taronga Western Plains Zoo

The new calf is named Ajali, which means “destiny” in Swahili. Ajali’s mother Tuli has delivered seven previous calves, so she is a very experienced mother.

Ajali already has a best friend – male calf Nkosi, who was born on August 3. 

“It is always nice to see youngsters on exhibit together and knowing that they have a companion close to their age. As they grow and develop, visitors will see the pair running around together and exhibiting playful behaviors,” said zoo keeper Anthony Dorrian.

“The calves are already starting to develop a relationship, as Nkosi is very curious about the new calf,”  said Dorrian.

Giraffe numbers have been decreasing in the wild by more than 30% in the past decade, with about 80,000 Giraffes remaining on Africa's savannahs. Poaching for bush meat and habitat encroachment by humans are having a drastic effect on the wild population.

“Every birth for a species such as the Giraffe that is experiencing a decline in the wild population is important, as it helps to insure against extinction,” said Dorrian. 

See more photos of Ajali below.

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Little Hippo is Taronga's First in 10 Years

Hippo calf by Anthony Dorian (15)Taronga Western Plains Zoo is excited to announce the birth of a Hippo calf – the first in more than 10 years – on September 11 to mother Cuddles and father Mana.

Hippo calf by Anthony Dorian (13)

Hippo calf by Anthony Dorian (7)
Hippo calf by Anthony Dorian (18)Photo Credit:  Anthony Dorian

Because this birth is the first for Cuddles and Mana, the calf represents a new genetic bloodline for the species and will be important for the zoo-managed population of Hippos.

The calf weighs an estimated 88 pounds (40 kg). It is yet to be named and keepers have not determined the calf's gender, becuase Cuddles is being very protective.

“Hippos nurse their young underwater and whilst we haven’t seen this behaviour, from everything we have witnessed the pair is bonding really well,” said Hippo Keeper Carolene Magner.

Hippos most of their days in the water, feeding on vegetation.  For now, the calf stays close to its mother’s side.

Guests staying on the zoo’s Zoofari Lodge were able to see the calf just a few minutes after its birth.

Hippos once ranged throughout sub-Saharan Africa, but are now restricted to smaller, more fragmented habitats.  They are listed as Vulnerable to Extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

See more photos of the Hippo calf below.

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Visitors Witness Giraffe Birth at Taronga Western Plains Zoo

IMG_6808Visitors taking an early morning tour at Australia's Taronga Western Plains Zoo on August 3 got an unexpected bonus when they witnessed the birth of a baby Giraffe!

Giraffe calf with mum licking face by MT
Giraffe calf-LS-06-08-2014 (35)_cropPhoto Credit:  Taronga Western Plains Zoo 

Keepers named the male calf Nkosi (pronounced N-koh-see), meaning “ruler” or “chief” in Zulu.

Nkosi is the second calf for mother Ntombi, who is very protective of her calf but is showing all the right maternal behaviours.

“The Giraffe calf is on exhibit with the rest of the herd; however, he is still a little shy, spending most of the day at the back of the exhibit,” said Giraffe Keeper Kevin Milton

“Over the coming weeks, he will start to become more confident and explore the rest of the exhibit.”

Africa's Giraffe populations have decreased an estimated 30% in the last 10 years, with an approximately 80,000 Giraffes remaining in the wild. The dramatic decrease is directly due to poaching for bush meat and 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.”

The Taronga Zoo participates in programs such as Beads for Wildlife, which provides communities in Kenya alternate sources of income, thus reducing their dependence on livestock. 

“Less livestock means less pressure on water and food for wildlife such as the Giraffe,” said Milton. 

See more photos of the Giraffe calf below.

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Koala Joey Blooms at Taronga Zoo

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Taronga Western Plains Zoo in New South Wales, Australia, has a lovely new flower to share with visitors.  A female Koala joey, named “Rosea”, has recently emerged from her mother “Wild Child’s” pouch!

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Koala joey_7Photo Credits: Natacha Richards (Photos 1, 5), Rachel Hanlon (2,3,4,6), Jackie Stuart (7,8)

“Rosea (named for a species of flowering eucalypt) is approximately 8 months old and is a little shy at present, preferring to stay close to mum’s chest, but in the coming months will start to move on to her mother’s back,” said keeper, Natacha Richards.

The new Koala joey is the first offspring for her attentive mother, and the pair makes their home in the zoo’s Aussie Walkthrough exhibit.  They are joined by a small group of Koalas that is growing by several members this season. Two more Koala joeys are yet to emerge from their mother’s pouches.

Although Koalas are classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List, their numbers are declining in the wild due to habitat encroachment.  Every new birth in an accredited zoo is one way to help secure the future of the species.

See more photos below.

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Far from the Galápagos, Breeding Program Hatches Tiny Tortoises

1 tortoise

Success! As a result of a special breeding program, two endangered Galápagos Tortoises have hatched at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Australia. The tiny tortoises emerged from their shells on January 24 and 26.

These hatchlings follow the zoo's breakthrough breeding achievement in 2011 when Taronga Western Plains Zoo became the first zoo in Australasia to successfully breed Galápagos Tortoise. Now three years old, RJ weighs about 2.4 pounds (1100 g). 

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2 tortoise

5 tortoisePhoto credit: Taronga Western Plains Zoo

One of the longest-living vertebrates, Galápagos Tortoises can live for over 100 years in the wild and reach weights of around 880 pounds (400 kg) and lenghths of up to 5 feet (1.5 m). They are found only on the Galápagos archipelago, west of continental Ecuador. 

Now a protected species, Galápagos Tortoises were reduced by centuries of exploitation as a food source for sailors. Today, only about 15,000 remain in the wild. Released tortoises from captive breeding programs, as well as efforts to restore habitat and manage competing species, are helping to revive populations in the wild. 

See more after the fold.

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Echidna Puggle Gets a Helping Hand

1 pugglePhoto credit: Taronga Western Plains Zoo

A team of veterinary nurses at the wildlife hospital of Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Australia has been hand-raising and caring for an Echidna puggle over the last couple of months.

The baby Echidna was found on the road between Wellington and Dubbo. It is believed its mother was hit by a car, orphaning the puggle as a result. The puggle came into care at the Zoo’s Wildlife Hospital in early November and has been cared for by vet nurses ever since.

“The puggle is now approximately four months old and responding very well under the watchful eye of the vet nurses,” said vet nurse, Jodie Milton.

“It’s feeding well and gaining weight steadily, so we’ll be able to wean it in about three to four months’ time and start introducing it to solid food.”

The little puggle has also started to develop the species’ distinctive spines, leaving its team of dedicated vet nurses pleased with its development.

It is extremely rare to see an Echidna puggle, let alone raise one, because they live in their mother’s pouch for two to three months before moving into a secluded burrow for up to a year.

In the coming months the Echidna puggle will be transferred to Taronga Zoo in Sydney to join the Short-beaked Echidna breeding program at the Zoo.

“It will be some time before the puggle will be able to fend for itself, but until then it’s in safe hands,” said Jodie.