A very fluffy Lesser Sooty Owl chick has recently joined the Free Flight Bird Show team, at Taronga Zoo. At the moment, he looks more like a ball of fluff than an owl, but soon the nine-week-old male will be fully fledged and ready to fly.
The chick, named ‘Griffin’, arrived at Taronga from Featherdale Wildlife Park and is being hand-raised by Bird Show Supervisor, Matt Kettle, who says that the chick was a big hit when he started taking him home.
“As soon as I walked in the door with him and set him down in his box, my four year old daughter came up and started telling him a story. At home he stretches out in my lap while I watch TV and I give him a bit of a scratch. While nice for us, this is actually part of his training. This human interaction is important as he’ll be doing encounters and flying in the show one day, so it’s essential that he’s prepared for anything,” said Matt.
Griffin is growing up fast and is already starting to lose his fluffy down feathers. Matt continued, “Like most babies, he spends most of his time sleeping, but he’s starting to explore his surroundings more, and he’s jumping off things getting ready to fly.”
Sooty Owls are Australia’s most nocturnal species of owl, preferring very dark and dense rainforest habitat. Lesser Sooty Owls, like Griffin, are found in Northern Queensland; however, the more common Greater Sooty Owl ranges from Sydney, Victoria and into Papua New Guinea. Despite their wide range of habitat, it is very rare to actually see one of these birds in the wild.
Matt said, “They are very, very secretive birds. They aren’t very common to see. Even people who go out searching for Sooty Owls in Sydney find them very hard to find.”
“That’s why it’s so special for Griffin to be here with us as an ambassador for his species, so people can come in and learn about these stunning owls, which also hunt rats and mice.”
Matt plans to start taking Griffin for walks around the Zoo, to continue his training getting used to people, and the youngster will soon be practicing flying in the Bird Show amphitheater.
Taronga’s birds have helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for wildlife conservation through encounters at the Bird Show.
A baby Echidna is recovering at Australia’s Taronga Zoo after being seriously injured when its burrow was dug up by a bulldozer.
Photo Credit: Paul Fahy
Zoo keepers have taken on the role of surrogate mother to the baby Echidna, called a puggle, feeding it a special milk mixture from the palms of their hands.
The puggle was first brought to the zoo with a deep wound to the side of its body after its nursery burrow was accidentally dug up by a bulldozer in December.
Believed to have been just two months old when rescued, the Echidna required weeks of antibiotics, hand rearing and sleep in a temperature-controlled artificial burrow.
The puggle – which is still too young for keepers to determine its gender –has doubled in size since February. Dubbed ‘Newman’ after the Seinfeld character who shares its beady eyes, the puggle is finally feeding confidently.
Instead of having teats like other mammals, Echidnas have patches on their abdomen that excrete milk for their young to lap up. Newman now eats steadily for about 40 minutes at a time, stopping only to blow milk out its nose. As adults, Echidnas use their sticky tongues to slurp up ants and termites.
Echidnas belong to a group of egg-laying mammals called monotremes, which are found only in Australia and New Guinea. Their spiny coats are an effective defense against predators. If their spines aren’t enough to keep them safe, Echidnas use their powerful claws to dig themselves into the earth, disappearing like a sinking ship.
See more photos of Newman below.
Taronga Zoo has welcomed more than 20 baby Chameleons, with the last of three clutches of eggs hatching this past week. About 5 cm long, the hatchlings are the first born at the Zoo in over five years.
Currently housed in a special temperature-controlled area behind the scenes at Taronga’s Reptile World, the hatchlings have begun feeding on crickets and turning on a bright green color display for keepers.
Reptile supervisor, Michael McFadden said the Chameleons, which are native to Yemen and Saudi Arabia, would be mature and able to showcase their full color palette within a year.
“Veiled Chameleons are a visually amazing species that we’re fortunate to have at Taronga. While they’re not endangered, they do play an important educational role in helping us to get people excited about reptiles and reptile conservation,” said McFadden.
Normally a shade of green or brown while at rest, Veiled Chameleons can change color when frightened, courting or defending territory. “You’ll see shades of green, yellow, aqua and even very dark brown or black depending on their temperature, mood and reproductive behavior. However, they don’t change color to match a particular background like you see in cartoons,” said Michael.
Built for a life in the trees, Veiled Chameleons also have zygodactyl feet that can easily grasp branches. Their eyes can rotate independently and look in two directions at once, and their tongue can project 1.5 times their body length to capture prey.
“They can literally look forwards and backwards at the same time, which enables them to be on the watch for predators and food at all times,” said McFadden.
Visitors to Taronga Zoo will be able to see these amazing adaptations in action when up to four of the new hatchlings go on display once they reach maturity. The remaining hatchlings will move to other Australian zoos and wildlife parks, once they reach 2-3 months of age.
More amazing pics, below the fold!
Taronga Zoo is celebrating the arrival of an Eastern Bongo calf, one of the rarest antelope species in the world.
Born in the early hours on February 8th, the calf has had time to bond with its mother, off display, before coming out onto exhibit for the first time.
Keepers are yet to determine the sex of the calf, which is the third born to mother, ‘Djembe’, and father, ‘Ekundu’.
“Djembe is a fantastic, protective mother and cleaned the calf as soon as it was born. The calf has already learnt to follow its mother around and was very curious and energetic when exploring its exhibit for the first time,” said Ungulate Keeper, Tracy Roberts.
Tracy said the new calf was an important addition to the Australasian breeding program, helping to save the critically endangered species from extinction.
“Every birth of a healthy calf is important, with fewer than 100 of these gentle animals left in the wild. Sadly Eastern Bongo numbers have collapsed due to poaching, disease and destruction of their native habitat in Kenya’s highlands,” she said.
Taronga is also helping to protect Bongos in the wild through its support of the Bongo Surveillance Project in the highlands of central Kenya. The project monitors herds and individual Bongo movements using visual signs, camera traps and GPS equipment and also combats poaching activities by removing illegal traps and snares.
More amazing pics, below the fold!
Taronga Zoo has a new addition to their Squirrel Monkey family! The tiny male can be seen holding tight to his mother ‘Lena’s’ back as she leaps around the exhibit.
The weeks-old youngster has been named ‘Julio’, and keepers say he and Lena are doing extremely well.
This is the first infant to be born out of the introduction of Taronga’s male, ‘Chico’, to 12 female Squirrel Monkeys from France, last year, through the regional breeding program.
Primate keeper, Suzie Lemon, says, “Lena and baby are doing amazingly well. A lot of the female Squirrel Monkeys have been interacting with the baby, and our two oldest Squirrel Monkeys, ‘Ayaca’ and ‘Squirius’, have been showing a lot of interest by vocalizing at him and rubbing up against him.”
Julio is developing very quickly. “He has already been seen climbing on ropes by himself with all four legs, with just his tail holding onto mum.
“In the next few weeks we’ll see other females start to carry him around and nanny him a bit, then he’ll slowly start to explore on his own,” said Suzie.
Taronga Zoo is asking the public for help in naming one of its first-ever Bilby joeys!
The Zoo announced the birth of the two joeys in December, capping off an exciting year that saw The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge officially open its new Bilby exhibit named in honor of their son, Prince George.
The Bilby youngsters had their first hands-on health check last week, with keepers confirming the pair are both female.
Taronga launched a public naming competition, a few days ago, for one of the two joeys on its Facebook and Instagram pages, calling for suggestions that reflect the joey’s native habitat. Keepers have already named one of the girls ‘Tanami’ after the Tanami Desert, which is home to fragmented populations of the Greater Bilby.
“We’ll be looking for a very Australian name, but not ‘Bruce’ or ‘Sheila’,” Bilby Keeper, Paul Davies said jokingly.
“It would be wonderful to find a name that reflects this beautiful Bilby’s natural habitat, which has sadly declined due to the introduction of farm animals and predators such as feral foxes and cats.”
Mr. Davies said the births have also helped build on the incredible exposure generated by the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to Taronga in April 2014.
“You could even say the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge brought us good luck, as it’s after their visit that we've been able to breed Bilbies for the very first time,” he said.
The Bilby (also known as the rabbit-eared bandicoot) is a rabbit-like marsupial. It lives in deserts, dry forests, dry grasslands, and dry shrubby areas in Australia. The Bilby's pouch faces backwards. These big-eared, burrowing mammals are in danger of extinction.
More great pics, below the fold!
Two Koala joeys have become ‘tree-mates’ at Taronga Zoo, snacking, sniffing and snoozing side-by-side since moving away from their mothers.
‘Holly’ and ‘Bai’yali’ recently moved into a “koala crèche”, where the pair has been spotted munching on eucalyptus leaves together and even sharing an occasional nose-rub to the delight of zoo visitors.
“Koalas are known to have poor eyesight, so smelling and hearing is much more important. Nose touching is a Koala greeting and a way for Koalas to determine if they’re encountering a friend or foe,” said Koala Keeper, Laura Jones.
The pairing of one-year-old Holly (whose birthday is Christmas Day) and 15-month-old Bai’yali, is designed to replicate Koala behaviors in the wild. From 12 months onwards, Koala joeys leave their mothers to find their own home ranges.
“We crèche them together so they can grow up and learn natural social behaviors without feeling threatened by the adult Koalas. It’s also nice for the joeys to have a companion while they’re making the big transition away from their mothers,” said Laura.
Laura said the female joeys would remain together for at least another year if they continue to get along.
In October, ZooBorns introduced you to ‘Chloe’, the orphaned Wombat joey, at the Taronga Zoo. Chloe’s mother was struck by a car, and Taronga keeper, Evelyn Watson, became surrogate mom to the six-month-old joey. Evelyn carried Chloe everywhere, in a makeshift pouch, stopping work for feeding every few hours.
Chloe is, now, nine-months-old and out of the pouch. She has become Keeper Evelyn’s loyal companion and assistant during her morning rounds at the zoo.
The morning walks are part of the joey’s continuing development, as she prepares to take her next big step towards returning to the wild.
“It’s a natural behavior and something Chloe would be doing with her real mother if she’d survived. Wombats stay with their mothers for up to two years, walking by their side until they’re old enough to fend for themselves,” said Evelyn.
Now strong enough to walk and explore on her own, Chloe has begun learning the natural Wombat behaviors she’ll need to survive in the wild. Keepers have built the joey a special home in an off-exhibit area to encourage her to dig burrows and forage for her own food.
“She’s really learning how to be a Wombat. Her paws are already toughening up and she’s quite happy digging about on her own,” said Evelyn.
When ready, Chloe will be transferred to a Wombat ‘halfway house’, where she’ll learn how to care for herself, before being released back into the wild.
More great photos of Chloe below the fold!
Taronga Zoo is celebrating the birth of its first-ever Bilby joeys. The births cap off an exciting year that saw The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge officially open the zoo’s new Bilby exhibit named in honor of their son, Prince George.
Two joeys were born about 10 weeks ago, but have only just begun to emerge from their underground nest alongside first-time mother, Yajala.
Yajala arrived from Monarto Zoo in 2013 and her successful pairing with Taronga’s resident male, also named George, is a triumph for the national breeding program for this threatened marsupial species.
“This breeding success will help us build on the incredible exposure of the visit by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their son Prince George, which brought the message of Bilby conservation to the world,” said Taronga Zoo Director Cameron Kerr.
The Royal couple visited Taronga on April 20 for the dedication of the Prince George Bilby Exhibit, part of the Australian government’s official gift following his birth in mid-2013.
“I’d like to think there was a little Royal magic at work in the birth of these joeys. You could say the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge brought us good luck, as it’s after their visit that we’ve been able to breed Bilbies for the very first time,” said Bilby Keeper Paul Davies.
The gestation period for the bilby is only 14 days, one of the shortest of all mammals. Joeys are then carried in their mother’s pouch for about 75 days.
Davies said keepers had yet to determine the sex of the two joeys, who still spend much of their time underground in their home.
Bilbies once ranged over most of mainland Australia, but have suffered a catastrophic decline over the past 200 years due to introduced predators such as feral foxes and cats, competition with rabbits and habitat degradation.
Taronga has begun conservation partnerships with the Save the Bilby Fund and Australian Wildlife Conservancy to help protect Bilbies and their remaining habitat in the wild.
See more photos of the Bilby joeys below.