Taronga Western Plains Zoo

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.

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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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3_Elephant calf at Taronga Western Plains Zoo by Rick Stevens (3)

4_RST472120151016Photo Credits: Rick Stevens / Taronga Western Plains Zoo

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.

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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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4_14753781_1209062335804312_2498235218252250916_oPhoto Credits: Taronga Western Plains Zoo

“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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Koala joey
Koala joey_2Photo Credit:  Taronga Western Plains Zoo
 
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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4_IMG_0770Photo Credits: Taronga Western Plains Zoo

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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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.

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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.

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“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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