Taronga Zoo

Record Number of Feathertail Gliders Born at Taronga Zoo

Please credit photographer _ Sarah Lievore 6

Taronga Zoo, located in Sydney, Australia, is celebrating the breeding success of 13 Feathertail Glider babies, adding to 20 babies born only months ago. Born in March, the new joeys have just emerged from their mothers’ pouches.

Joeys usually emerge from their mother’s pouch when they are about 63 days old. At this point, the pouch, with up to four joeys inside, is so big that the mother’s feet cannot touch the ground.

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Please credit photographer _ Sarah Lievore 3Photo Credit: Sarah Lievore

Feathertail Gliders are named after their long tail that is fringed with stiff hairs that resemble a feather. These tiny marsupials are only two to three inches long but can glide up to 90 feet from tree to tree. A flap of skin stretching from front to back legs acts like a parachute, while the tail serves as a rudder for steering. As adults they weigh .4 ounces – about the same as two US quarters.

Taronga Zoo Sydney is believed to be the first Zoo to ever successfully breed Feathertail Gliders, and in the last decade has seen the birth of up to 200 individuals.

With the help of fine skin ridges and tiny hairs on their feet, Feathertail Gliders are able to climb smooth surfaces, such as vertical panes of glass. Sweat helps the feet act like suction cups to aid in climbing.

Feathertail Gliders are probably common in much of eastern Australia, but few people see them due to their tiny size and nocturnal habits.

Not a lot is known about these tiny animals in the wild. While there appear to be no immediate major threats to this species in the short term, Feathertails may be locally threatened by habitat loss as well as predation by feral cats and foxes.  

See more photos of the Gliders below.

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Rescued Little Penguins Return to the Sea

Please Credit Photographer Sarah Lievore (4)
On April 17, Taronga Wildlife Hospital staff released five healthy Little Penguins into the sea after nursing them back to health in Sydney, Australia.

The birds arrived at Taronga from nearby beaches over the past two months. Injuries included dehydration, a fishing hook injury and a broken foot.

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Photo Credit: Sarah Lievore

Taronga Wildlife Hospital manager Libby Hall said, “Most of the penguins were brought to Taronga Wildlife Hospital by members of the community who saw them in difficulty and took action. The community’s awareness of Little Penguins and other wildlife is increasing all the time and by acting quickly, they give us the best chance to help the birds through difficult times.”

The penguins were nicknamed by the Taronga Wildlife Hospital:

  • Bondi, found on Bondi Beach
  • Footsie, found in Newcastle on Stockton Beach
  • Nigel, found Chowder Bay in Mosman
  • Margaret, found in Maroubra
  • Collin, found on Collins Beach in Manly

Penguins hunt for fish as they swim in the ocean. Little Penguins become vulnerable during their annual molt, when their waterproof feathers fall out in clumps. Until their new feathers grow in, they cannot enter the water to capture fish. Because the Penguins do not feed during the molting period, they become emaciated and weak so are vulnerable to domestic pets, most particularly dogs.

The colony of Little Penguins at Manly in Sydney Harbor is the last remaining on the mainland of New South Wales. This population is protected and numbers only about 60 pairs. Other nearby colonies are located on offshore islands, which offer the Penguins some protection from pressure from humans and domestic pets.

Little Penguins are found in habitats along Australia’s southern coast and on the shores of Tasmania. These birds are also present on the southern coast of New Zealand. Several colonies have declined over the past decades, mostly due to human interference and predation. They are listed as a species of Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

People can help Little Penguins at beaches by keeping dogs on leashes, not leaving rubbish including fishing line hooks around and protecting habitat at the shoreline.

See more photos of the Penguin release below.

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Meerkat Siblings Join the Troop at Taronga

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Keepers at Taronga Zoo Sydney are excited by the arrival of two Meerkat pups, born on January 20.

This is the sixth litter of pups for mother, Narobi, who has been keeping a close eye on her offspring as they emerge from the den and explore their surroundings. The pair was fathered by Maputo.

The sex of the duo is yet-to-be-determined, so they are currently without names. However, when the time is right, their names will likely be taken from the Swahili language to reflect their African heritage.

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As with all Meerkat young, the pups are developing very quickly. Carnivore Keeper, Maz Boz, said, “The infants are starting to eat bits of fruits, veggies and fly pupae. They learn to eat solids by mimicking their parents and siblings, which is a natural behaviour in the wild.”

“The pups are now standing on their hind legs, which will play an important role during sentry duty watches when they become adults,” Maz added. “The pups are now starting to emerge outside after a few weeks being in their dens, visitors can see the pups for short periods each day as they start to grow in confidence and explore their home.”

“Mum, Nairobi, is a very experienced mother having her sixth litter, two daughters, Serati and Xolani, also learning from her and being very tentative and assisting their mother in babysitting the pups whilst mum has a break,” said Maz.

Both Narobi and father, Maputo, play an important role in rearing the pups. The other members of the troop will also assist with caring for and protecting the pups as they grow and develop.

According to the Keepers at Taronga Zoo, they are quite hands-off with the Meerkats. They choose to allow the “politics” to be sorted out by the animals within their own hierarchy.

“They may be young, but they’re already showing signs of their own little personalities. They are both quite outgoing, adventurous and inquisitive jumping on the other Meerkats to play,” Maz concluded.

The Meerkat pups can be seen on exhibit with the rest of their troop, which is now comprised of eighteen in total. According to Maz, the best time to catch a glimpse of the pups is during the daily Keeper Talk and feeding at 11:30am daily.

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Feathertail Gliders Fill Their Nests at Taronga Zoo

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Taronga Zoo is celebrating the breeding success of more than twenty Feathertail Gliders, one of the smallest mammals in the world.

Twelve different female adult Feathertail Glider’s fell pregnant at a similar time with the joeys, and the mothers now communally care for one another’s young.

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4_IMG_5183_CC_Hi_ResPhoto Credits: Taronga Zoo

The emergence of the joeys from their mother’s pouch typically occurs around 63 days, when the pouch usually gets so large that mom’s feet cannot touch the ground.

Keepers at Taronga Zoo can’t be sure exactly how many joeys have been born, as the speedy little Gliders race around their exhibit gliding between branches, however they estimate to have spotted approximately twenty new offspring.

“The remarkable breeding success means the tiny Gliders will become important ambassadors for their species,” said Australian Fauna Keeper, Rob Dockerill.

“We were the first Zoo to ever breed these tiny marsupials, so it’s always exciting when such a large group like this is born,” added Keeper Rob. “When they’re born, they’re only half the size of a grain of rice. The adults only weigh 13 grams and are about 7cm long.”

“We started breeding the Gliders in 1988, and in only the past decade, we’ve seen up to 200 joeys emerge,” he said.

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Koala Joey Emerges For Warm Holiday Season

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Taronga Zoo is delighted to share images of their new male Koala joey. The tiny face has appeared just in time to catch the warmer weather of an Australian summer.

The joey has been named ‘Banks’ after naturalist and explorer Sir Joseph Banks. This continues Taronga’s tradition of choosing names for their Koalas while honoring Australian heritage.

Banks is nine months old and is the second joey to mum Malleey, who gave birth to Baxter three years ago.

According to keeper, Laura Jones, Banks is now eating eucalyptus leaves, supplemented with mum’s milk. Soon he will be weaned and his diet will consist of only Eucalyptus leaves.

Banks has also now completely emerged from the pouch. “At ninth months old, he’s already experimenting with sitting on his own, which usually happens around 10 months, so he is a bit advanced for his age,” remarked Laura.

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3_Banks and Malleey 9 (1)Photo Credits: Taronga Zoo

Koalas are one of Australia’s most iconic species. Unfortunately, Koala numbers are declining in the wild due to habitat encroachment, so every birth helps to secure a future for this iconic species.

Found along the East Coast of Australia, Koala’s are losing their homes due to deforestation. Being a sensitive animal, Koala’s do not translocate habitats well. Rather than cutting down trees and planting new ones elsewhere in the hope that wildlife will relocate, it is very important to protect their home today.

“It is particularly important for people to watch out for Koalas on the roads with the arrival of the busy Christmas period,” Laura added.

Taronga’s Koala breeding program has now produced three joeys this year. A great time to see the new Koala joey, in the zoo’s Aussie Walkthrough exhibit, is during the daily keeper talks at 3:30pm.

More great pics below the fold!

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Endangered Gorilla Born at Taronga Zoo

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Taronga Zoo announced the recent birth of a male Western Lowland Gorilla. The adorable baby was born to mum, Mbeli, and father, Kibali, on September 1st.

Primate Keeper, Alison Smith, said the team is delighted with the addition to the family at Taronga Zoo: “Mbeli is a very relaxed and confident mother. Her mother was a fantastic role model for her so she has taken that on and is really attentive toward the baby. In turn, the baby is getting stronger every day.”

Ms. Smith added, “Mbeli and baby are both doing very well and are bonding well. They are being closely watched by our Keepers and veterinary team, as well as the baby’s inquisitive big brother, MJ, who is almost two years old. MJ was present during the birth and he will be excited to start playing with his brother when he gets a little bit older.”

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The birth brings the number of Taronga’s Western Lowland Gorillas to seven. The newborn is an extremely valuable addition to world breeding programs for gorillas, helping insure against rapidly declining numbers of gorillas in Africa. Western Lowland Gorillas are critically endangered, with the long-term survival of this species under serious threat due to habitat destruction and deforestation, poaching and disease outbreaks like Ebola.

Minister for Environment, the Hon Gabriel Upton MP, said the birth was a significant achievement for wildlife conservation. “The birth of this new baby gorilla is such exciting news, and helps to secure the future of the Western Lowland Gorilla, with as few as 100,000 remaining in the wild in the Congo Basin,” said Minister Upton.

“This is just one insight into the important work Taronga Zoo does to ensure species thrive. Taronga Zoo plays an important role as a world leader in conserving threatened and endangered species in Australia and worldwide,” Minister Upton said. “I congratulate Taronga Zoo on all of their efforts in ensuring the success of this birth.”

A competition will take place to name the newborn gorilla over the next two weeks via the zoo’s website at: www.Taronga.org.au.

Keen-eyed visitors to Taronga Zoo can catch glimpses of the new arrival and his family throughout the day. The best viewing times are during the Gorilla Feeding Sessions at 10.45am, 12.30am and 2.30pm.

More pics below the fold!

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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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“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

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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.

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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

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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.”

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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

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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.

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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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