Taronga Zoo

Taronga Zoo Celebrates Elephant Birth

!_RIC021520151016Taronga Zoo is celebrating the birth of a healthy Asian Elephant calf, the first born there in nearly seven years.

The male calf was born at 1:35 am on May 26 after a pregnancy that lasted approximately 22 months. Labor was short and without problems, with the calf standing five minutes after birth and nursing just before 3:00 am.

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!_RIC010020151016Photo Credit: Taronga Zoo

“This is fantastic news for the Australasian breeding program for Asian Elephants, as every birth helps secure a future for this endangered species,” said Cameron Kerr, Taronga CEO and Chair of the Zoo and Aquarium Association’s Elephant Committee.

Pak Boon and her calf are in good health, and the staff is pleased with the calf’s progress so far.  He weighed 286 pounds at birth.

Keepers and vets were on hand for the birth of the calf, supporting mother Pak Boon throughout the quick 35-minute labor. She delivered naturally without any assistance from the team.

“Everything went very smoothly with the birthing process and the calf has spent its first day bonding with mum in the Elephant barn. Pak Boon is doing a tremendous job and the successful birth is a tribute to the hard work of our keepers and veterinary staff,” said Kerr.

Sired by the Zoo’s bull Elephant, Gung, the calf is the second for Pak Boon, who gave birth to a female calf named Tukta in November 2010.

Taronga has now welcomed five Elephant calves since the breeding program began just over 10 years ago, with four calves born in Sydney and one born at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo.

“This precious calf and the other Asian Elephants at Taronga play a vital role as ambassadors for their wild counterparts. They help educate visitors about the decline of wild populations due to habitat destruction and conflict with humans,” said Mr Kerr.

“The successful breeding herd has also been an important catalyst for Taronga’s work with governments and conservation agencies in Asia to turn around the decline of Asian Elephants.”

The surviving population of Asian Elephants is estimated to be between 30,000–50,000 individuals, with numbers continuing to decline due to habitat loss and poaching. Taronga supports wildlife protection units and ranger stations in Thailand and Sumatra to help prevent Elephant poaching. For keepers working closely with Taronga’s Elephant herd, this makes the calf even more precious.

“It’s an exciting time to see Pak Boon and the keeper’s hard work rewarded. It’s very special to have the new addition to the herd, who is also a cute ambassador to raise the plight of Elephants, ” said Elephant Supervisor Gabe Virgona.

Pak Boon and her calf will be given further time to bond behind-the-scenes before making their public debut. Taronga will soon be announcing a name for the calf that reflects the herd’s Thai cultural origin.

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Saved at Birth, Baby Otter Comes Out of the Nest

Otter Pup 6_Photo by Paul Fahy
An Otter pup whose life was saved by an emergency Caesarean section is out of the nest at Taronga Zoo.

When a female Oriental Small-clawed Otter named Pia went into labor on February 28, keepers noticed that she was having difficulty delivering her babies.  They called on the veterinary staff, who performed an emergency Caesarean section on Pia.  Unfortunately, all three of Pia’s cubs were unresponsive when they were delivered.

Otter Pup 12_Photo by Paul Fahy
Otter Pup 1_Photo by Paul FahyPhoto Credit:  Paul Fahy/Taronga Zoo

The staff tried to resuscitate the cubs, and amazingly, one survived.  That pup, a male named Intan, which means ‘diamond’ in Indonesian, has spent the last 10 weeks in the nest box with Pia and her mate, Ketut. Intan has just begun exploring outdoors and tasting solid food alongside mom and dad.

“They’ve been perfect parents. They’re both extremely attentive and occasionally even battle over who gets to look after the pup,” said Keeper Ben Haynes.  “Ketut is a first-time dad, but he grew up with younger siblings so he has experience collecting fish and caring for younger otters.”

The pup is the first successful Otter birth at Taronga in more than 15 years.

“He’s very curious, but still very much reliant on mum and dad for everything. They’ve started encouraging him into the water, swimming alongside him and teaching him to dive underwater,” said Ben.

The smallest of the world’s 13 Otter species, weighing less than 12 pounds as adults, Oriental Small-clawed Otters are found in the streams, rivers, marshes, and wetlands of southern India, southern China, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

Classified as a Vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, populations continue to be threatened by habitat loss, water pollution and poaching for the fur trade.

See more photos of Intan below.

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First Pygmy Hippo in Seven Years for Taronga Zoo

1_Pygmy Hippo Calf 1_Photo by Paul Fahy

Taronga Zoo is celebrating the arrival of an endangered Pygmy Hippo calf!

The female calf was born to first-time parents Fergus and Kambiri on February 21, and she is the first of her kind born at the Zoo in nearly seven years. Taronga Zoo is also planning a competition to help choose a name for the calf.

The calf made her public debut under the watchful eye of her mother and keepers. Visitors can now begin to, hopefully, catch glimpses of the rare newborn on Taronga’s Rainforest Trail as she starts to explore outdoors and perfect the art of swimming.

“Pygmy Hippos naturally spend a lot of time in the water, so the calf is already having a great time learning to swim next to mum and even practicing holding her breath underwater,” said Keeper, Renae Moss.

“We’ve started by filling the pond to about 40 cm deep, but we’ll gradually increase the depth of the water as the little one grows in confidence.”

2_Pygmy Hippo Calf 9_Photo by Paul Fahy

3_Pygmy Hippo Calf 3_Photo by Paul Fahy

4_Pygmy Hippo Calf 4_Photo by Paul FahyPhoto Credits: Paul Fahy / Taronga Zoo

Weighing about five kilograms at birth, the calf is growing at a healthy pace and has begun mouthing solid foods: “The calf is absolutely thriving. She’s putting on weight every day and she’s already got little rolls of fat around her neck,” Renae continued.

A vital addition to the region’s insurance population of Pygmy Hippos, the calf is the first born at Taronga since Kambiri in June 2010.

“Kambiri is proving to be an absolute natural as a mother. She’s very attentive and a great teacher, guiding the calf as she learns to swim and showing her what foods to eat,” said Renae.

“It’s also important for the calf to learn these natural mothering behaviors, as we hope she’ll grow up to be an excellent mum herself. With as few as 2000-3000 Pygmy Hippos remaining in the wild, every little calf is important.”

Native to the forests and swamps of West Africa, the Pygmy Hippopotamus (Choeropsis liberiensis or Hexaprotodon liberiensis) is a solitary animal that generally only comes together for breeding. Little is known about them in the wild, with the majority of research recorded about the species learned from those cared for in zoos. The species is currently classified as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

“These elusive animals continue to be threatened by loss of habitat as their forest homes are logged and converted to farmland at an alarming rate. They are also vulnerable to poaching, hunting and civil unrest and their wild populations continue to decline. Protecting their natural habitat is critical in ensuring the survival of wild populations and we can all help Pygmy Hippos by choosing paper and wood products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council,” Renae concluded.

More great pics below the fold!

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Tiny Turtles Help Save Their Species

1_Hatchlings 2_Photo by Paul Fahy

The conservation effort to save the Bellinger River Snapping Turtle from extinction has received a huge boost after 21 tiny turtles hatched as part of a NSW (New South Wales) Government captive breeding program at Taronga Zoo.

The turtles began to hatch on January 19 as part of the first ever breeding program for this critically endangered species.

“There could be as few as 200 Bellinger River Snapping Turtles remaining in the wild, so these hatchlings have a vital role to play in rebuilding this population,” Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said.

2_Hatchlings 3_Photo by Paul Fahy

3_Hatchlings 9_Photo by Paul Fahy

4_Hatchlings 7_Photo by Paul FahyPhoto Credits: Paul Fahy / Taronga Zoo

Taronga Zoo established the breeding program after a newly discovered disease wiped out up to 90 per cent of their local population of Bellinger River Snapping Turtles (Myuchelys georgesi) on the mid-north coast near Bellingen, NSW, Australia in 2015.

A government emergency response team was formed to investigate and coordinate the rescue of a group of healthy turtles to establish an insurance population.

Taronga Keeper Adam Skidmore said he was surprised at how quickly the turtles had settled into their new home, with four of the five females producing eggs this breeding season.

“We weren’t really expecting any hatchlings this year, so it was an amazing result to get four clutches of eggs. The team was very excited to see the first hatchlings push their way out of the eggs,” Mr. Skidmore said.

Weighing 4-5 grams at birth, the hatchlings have begun eating and swimming and are being closely monitored by keepers in a special quarantine facility at Taronga.

The long-term aim of the breeding program is to raise and release hatchlings back into Bellinger River. Meanwhile, Australian Registry of Wildlife Health researchers continue to investigate the cause of the disease and monitor the remaining turtles and other wildlife in the Bellinger River catchment system.

More great turtle pics below the fold!

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Meet Taronga Zoo’s Tiny Troop of Monkey Babies

1_Squirrel Monkeys 13_Photo by Paul Fahy

Taronga Zoo recently welcomed four tiny Squirrel Monkey babies to its vibrant group.

Visitors to the Zoo’s new "Squirrel Monkey Jungle Walk" exhibit may spot the new arrivals clinging to their mothers’ backs, like tiny backpacks, as they leap and scurry from branch to branch.

The infants are all under three-months-old. The eldest was born just before Christmas on December 20, and the youngest was born on January 10.

2_Squirrel Monkeys 18_Photo by Paul Fahy

3_Squirrel Monkeys 11_Photo by Paul Fahy

4_Squirrel Monkeys 12_Photo by Paul FahyPhoto Credits: Taronga Zoo /Paul Fahy

Primate keeper, Janet Lackey, said, “It’s a very exciting time for the family group of 17 Squirrel Monkeys. We are starting to see the older babies venturing off mum’s back and exploring the trees and ropes, and being very playful together. The youngest baby is still clinging tightly to mum as there is quite a big developmental difference between four and six weeks of age.”

“We do have a first time mum in the group, little four-year-old Yamma, and she is doing so impressively well. We are really proud of her,” said Janet.

Keepers are yet to name or determine the sexes of the babies, who are receiving lots of attention from the other adults in Taronga’s Squirrel Monkey group.

“We have noticed some of the aunties in the family group have started sharing the responsibility of looking after the babies. It’s wonderful to see some of our more experienced mums, who haven’t had a baby this season, sharing their mothering skills. It’s also lovely to see some of the younger aunties practicing their mothering skills and the whole community working together to bring up the babies,” said Janet.

Taronga is part of the regional breeding program for Bolivian Squirrel Monkeys (Saimiri boliviensis boliviensis). Squirrel Monkeys are native to Central and South America and, while not endangered, they are still at risk from habitat loss and the illegal pet trade.

More adorable pics below the fold!

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Taronga Celebrates Birth from World's Smallest Fox

Fennec Fox Kit 4_Photo by Paul FahyTaronga Zoo is celebrating a birth from the world’s smallest Fox species, with keepers monitoring the progress of a tiny Fennec Fox kit.

The curious little kit was born on December 3, but has just started to venture outside its nest box.

Fennec Fox Kit 3_Photo by Paul Fahy
Fennec Fox Kit 5_Photo by Paul FahyPhoto Credit:  Paul Fahy

“The little one is beginning to spend a lot more time outdoors. We’re seeing it playing, rolling around on its back and chasing after mum and dad,” said keeper Deb Price.

Keepers have not yet named or confirmed the sex of the kit, which is the first Fennec Fox born at Taronga since 2013. The infant is the seventh for experienced parents Kebili and Zinder, who have successfully raised two previous litters.

“The parents are doing a fantastic job again, with Zinder proving to be a particularly attentive dad. We’ve seen him filling up his mouth with food and then racing back to deliver it to the kit,” said Deb.

Born with its eyes closed and famously gigantic ears folded over, the kit has gone from being completely reliant on its parents to learning how to forage for food on its own.

The kit weighed in at just over one pound this week and has begun to sample solid foods such as crickets, mealworms, and mice.  Adults weigh up to 3.5 pounds.

The smallest of all the world’s Foxes, the Fennec Fox has enormous batlike ears that can grow to more than six inches in length.  These oversized ears help the Foxes to dissipate heat and keep cool in the blazing desert sun of northern Africa.  They also have hairy feet that enable them to run on hot, loose sand and dig tunnels where they live and rear their kits.   At this time, the wild Fennec Fox population is stable.

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Cotton-top Tamarin Debuts at Taronga Zoo

1_Tamarin Baby 1_Photo by Paul Fahy

Taronga Zoo is celebrating the birth of a tiny, boiled egg-loving Cotton-top Tamarin.

The baby was born on December 10, but has just started to explore on its own and sample solid foods, to the delight of keepers and keen-eyed visitors.

“We’re beginning to see the baby climbing off mum or dad’s back to explore. It’s started to run along tree branches and it’s grabbing food out of mum’s hands. It really seems to enjoy eggs, along with little pieces of carrot and sweet potato,” said Primate Keeper, Alex Wright.

Keepers are yet to name or determine the sex of the baby, which is the first Cotton-top Tamarin born at Taronga in 10 years. The baby is also the first for mum and dad, Esmeralda and Diego, who are proving to be particularly attentive parents.

“Diego is playing a very active role in caring for the baby. We usually see the baby on his back during the day, so mum must be doing the night shift,” said Alex.

Native to the forests of northwest Colombia, Cotton-top Tamarins usually weigh less than 500 grams as adults and are sometimes likened to tiny punks due to their distinctive crest of white hair.

“The baby does have an impressive mohawk, but it’s quite flat at this early stage. Once it gets a bit older we’d expect that little mo’ to really grow,” said Alex.

2_Tamarin Baby 2_Photo by Paul Fahy

3_Tamarin Baby 5_Photo by Paul Fahy

4_Tamarin Baby 10_Photo by Paul FahyPhoto Credits: Taronga Zoo & Paul Fahy (Images 1-8) / Renae Robinson (Images 9-10)

Classed as “Critically Endangered” by the IUCN, with less than 6,000 remaining in the wild, Cotton-top Tamarins (Saguinus oedipus) have lost more than 75% of their original habitat in northwestern Colombia to deforestation. They are also threatened by capture for the illegal pet trade.

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Red Panda Cub Gets a Helping Hand at Taronga Zoo

Red Panda Cub 9_Photo by Paul Fahy
A Red Panda cub is making a remarkable recovery at Taronga Zoo with the help of a surrogate mom and a cuddly soft toy.

The two-month-old female cub, named Maiya, gets round-the-clock care after sustaining a neck injury while being carried in her mother’s mouth.

Red Panda Cub 7_Photo by Paul Fahy
Red Panda Cub 6_Photo by Paul FahyPhoto Credit:  Paul Fahy/Taronga Zoo

“She’s definitely a little survivor,” said Tamara Gillies, Maiya’s primary keeper. “She’s guzzling down her milk formula, she’s gaining weight every day and the wound on her neck has almost completely healed.”

The cub has also found a fluffy new friend in the form of a soft toy Red Panda, which she clings to while feeding and sleeping.

“The soft toy gives her something with a familiar scent to snuggle and play with. It’s the same color as a real Red Panda and she clings to it using her claws and teeth as she would do with her mum,” said Tamara.

Maiya, whose name means “little girl” in Nepali, was born at Taronga on November 20, 2016 to first-time parents Amala and Pabu. The cub spent her first five weeks in mother Amala’s care before keepers made the difficult decision to intervene.

“It was a hard choice as we’d always prefer for a cub to be raised by its mother. Amala was doing an amazing job for a first-time mum. She was very attentive and we observed all the right suckling and grooming behaviours, but unfortunately the injury to the cub’s neck required urgent veterinary care,” said Tamara.

Tamara said it’s not uncommon for Red Panda cubs to experience neck wounds as mothers often carry their young by the scruff of the neck.

Maiya will remain in Tamara’s constant care for at least another month, but keepers are already taking steps to gradually reintroduce the cub to her parents.

Red Pandas are native to the Himalayan Mountains, where they dwell in the forests.  They feed primarily on bamboo and are in decline due to shrinking habitat.

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Two Koala Joeys Emerge at Taronga Zoo

1_Sydney's Joey (4)_Photo by Paul Fahy

Taronga Zoo’s Koala keepers received an early gift this past festive season…two Koala joeys emerged from their pouches just in time for Christmas!

The tiny face of a male joey appeared in time to catch some of Australia’s warmer weather. The seven-month-old is the second joey for mother Sydney. “It’s a bit hot inside that pouch on steamy summer days, so he’s started to climb out and sit on Sydney’s head or cling to her belly and back,” said Koala Keeper, Laura Jones.

Prior to Christmas, Keeper Laura reported it would not be long before the joey began to spend all its time outside the pouch. “He’s still climbing back into the pouch occasionally, but it’s a tight squeeze and his arms or legs are often sticking out. By New Year’s Eve I don’t think he’ll fit back in,” she said.

Sydney isn’t the only new mum at Taronga Zoo’s Koala Encounter; her neighbor Willow also recently welcomed her second joey.

At eight months old, the female joey is slightly more developed than her tree mate and already starting to sample eucalyptus leaves. “She’s begun to nibble on leaves while mum is having breakfast. She’s a bit awkward and clumsy trying to get the leaves into her mouth, but she’s getting better every day,” said Laura.

2_Sydney's Joey (3)_Photo by Paul Fahy

3_Sydney's Joey (5)_Photo by Paul Fahy

4_Sydney's Joey (2)_Photo by Paul FahyPhoto Credits: Paul Fahy/Taronga Zoo (Images 1-5: Sydney and her male joey; Images 6-12: Willow and her female joey)

The yet-to-named joeys will spend at least another three to four months with their mothers before starting to venture out on their own.

Visitors have begun to meet the two joeys at Taronga’s Koala Encounter, where they also learn more about the threats that Koalas face in the wild.

Laura said it was particularly important for locals to watch out for Koalas on the roads over the Christmas holidays.

“It’s breeding season and that means Koalas, particularly males, will be on the ground more and potentially crossing roads as they range around for territory and search for females. Motorists should be particularly careful when driving at dawn and dusk,” said Laura.

More great pics below the fold!

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Taronga Welcomes Its Largest-Ever Meerkat Litter

Meerkat Pups 13_Photo by Paul Fahy
Taronga Zoo welcomed its largest litter of Meerkats ever, with keepers monitoring the progress of six playful pups.

The pups were born on November 7, but have just begun to venture outside their nest box to explore their habitat.  This is the third litter for experienced parents Nairobi and Maputo.  Previous litters had only two pups each. 

Meerkat Pups 5_Photo by Paul Fahy
Meerkat Pups 18_Photo by Paul Fahy
Meerkat Pups 16_Photo by Courtney MahonyPhoto Credits:  Paul Fahy (1,2,3,5,6,7,8,9), Courtney Mahoney (4,10,11,12)

Keeper Courtney Mahony said the size of this litter came as a complete surprise.

“We knew that Nairobi was bigger than she was during her previous pregnancies, but we definitely weren’t expecting six pups! Meerkats usually give birth to 3-4 pups, so mum certainly has her paws full this time,” said Courtney.

Courtney said Nairobi appeared to be relaxed and confident caring for the largest litter of pups in Taronga’s history.

“She’s an incredible mother and seems to be taking it all in her stride. She’s so attentive to the pups and she’s getting lots of babysitting help from dad and her eldest daughter, Serati,” said Courtney.

Keepers will confirm the sex of the pups when they have their first veterinary examination next month, but they suspect there are three males and three females. They have begun to do hands on health checks and weigh the pups regularly to ensure they are healthy and comfortable in their presence.

The yet-to-be-named pups have started to sample solid foods, such as mealworms, wood roaches, fruit and vegetables.

“They are growing a bit slower than our two previous litters, but they’re still hitting all the right milestones and starting to show their own little personalities. The biggest pup is a boy and he’s definitely the most adventurous of the six. He’s the first out of the nest box each morning and the first one to explore new things,” said Courtney.

Native to southern Africa’s arid plains, Meerkats live in extended family groups called mobs.  With sharp claws, they dig for insects, spiders, centipedes, and other small animals, which are crushed with sharp teeth.  As social animals, Meerkats have a wide range of vocalizations to convey alarm, fear, and contentment.   The International Union for Conservation of Nature states that there are no major threats to the species.   

 

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