Taronga Zoo

A Wee Bit O’ Green for St. Patrick’s Day

Chameleon Hatchlings 1_Photo by Paul Fahy

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.

Chameleon Eggs_Photo by Lorinda Taylor (4)

Chameleon Eggs_Photo by Lorinda Taylor (5)

Chameleon Hatchling_Photo by Paul Fahy (1)Photo Credits: Taronga Zoo/ Paul Fahy (Images: 1,4,5,6,7) ; Lorinda Taylor (Images: 2,3,8,9,10,11)

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!

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Rare Antelope Calf Born at Taronga Zoo

Bongo Calf (8)Taronga Zoo is celebrating the arrival of an Eastern Bongo calf, one of the rarest antelope species in the world.

Bongo Calf (21)

Bongo Calf (7)

Bongo Calf (12)Photo Credits: Taronga Zoo

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!

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Mom Happy to Have a Monkey on Her Back

Photo by Lisa RidleyTaronga 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.

Photo by Madeleine Smitham (3)

Photo by Madeleine Smitham

Photo by Madeleine Smitham (2)Photo Credits: Lisa Ridley (Images 1,5); Madeleine Smitham (Images 2,3,4,6)

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.

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Help Name Taronga Zoo’s Bilby Joey

Bilby Joey Health Check 1

Taronga Zoo is asking the public for help in naming one of its first-ever Bilby joeys!

Bilby Joey Health Check 5

Bilby Joey Health Check 6

Bilby Joey Health Check 4Photo Credits: Taronga Zoo (Images 1,2,3,4); Robert Dockerill (Images 5,6,7,8); Auspic (Image 9)

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!

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Kissing Koalas at Taronga Zoo

Bai’yali & Holly 2

Two Koala joeys have become ‘tree-mates’ at Taronga Zoo, snacking, sniffing and snoozing side-by-side since moving away from their mothers.

Bai’yali & Holly 3

Bai’yali 3

Holly 9Photo Credits: Taronga Zoo

‘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.

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UPDATE: Chloe the Wombat Walkin’ It Off

Chloe's morning rounds (10)

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's morning rounds (5)

Chloe's morning rounds (8)

Chloe's morning rounds (11)Photo Credits: Paul Fahy/Taronga Zoo

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!

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"Royal" Bilby Babies a Taronga Zoo First

Bilby Joeys_Photo by Robert Dockerill (15)

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.

Bilby Joeys_Photo by Robert Dockerill (4)
Bilby Joeys_Photo by Robert Dockerill (5)
Royal_Visit_2 Photo by AuspicPhoto Credit:  Auspic (4), Robert Dockerill (all others)

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.

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Quokka Joey and Taronga Zoo Keeper Become Roomies

Quokka Joey_Photo by Paul Fahy (3)

A Taronga Zoo keeper has begun the round-the-clock task of caring for a six-month-old Quokka, one of three joeys born at the Zoo this breeding season.

Quokka Joey_Photo by Paul Fahy (9)

Quokka Joey_Photo by Paul Fahy (11)

Quokka Joey_Photo by Paul Fahy (12)Photo Credits: Paul Fahy/Taronga Zoo

Keeper Bec Russell-Cook has spent the past week carrying a makeshift pouch and waking at 2am for one of five daily bottle feeds, as she helps with the female joey’s weaning process.

The joey, who Bec has named ‘Meeuk Mia’ or ‘Mia’ for short, will grow up to have an important role at Taronga’s Education Centre, meeting and helping children learn about the importance of looking after native wildlife.

Bec said the joey, whose name means “halo of the moon” in the language of the Noongar people from Western Australia, is already growing in confidence.

“She’s quite the little climber. She loves climbing on the other keepers’ shoulders and heads during morning tea and I even woke up one night to find her looking at me from atop a mountain of pillows next to my bed,” said Bec.

For now the joey’s diet consists of a special milk mixture and the occasional nibble of native grass and flowers, but she’ll be introduced to solid foods such as carrot in the next few weeks.

“The 2am bottle feeds are certainly the toughest, as Mia gets tired and falls asleep while she’s drinking,” said Bec.

Mia is the youngest of three Quokka joeys born at Taronga this year. The Zoo is part of a national breeding program, helping to establish an insurance population to safeguard the species into the future.

One of the smallest wallaby species in Australia, Quokkas are found in high numbers on RottnestIsland and in small populations in the south-west of Western Australia. With their geographical range being limited to this small area, the species has been classified as vulnerable.

“If a natural disaster or disease were to hit RottnestIsland it would be devasting for Quokkas, which is why an insurance population is so important,” said Bec.

Mia will continue to be nursed by Bec until the joey is old enough to join Taronga’s trio of hand-raised Quokkas, ‘Poppy Lou’, ‘Autumn’ and ‘Jarrah’, at the Education Centre. 

More amazing pics, below the fold!

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Ghost Bat Stories at Taronga Zoo

Ghost Bat Pup_Photo by Vanessa Stebbings (2)

Taronga Zoo, in Australia, is celebrating its first successful birth of a Ghost Bat pup in 15 years! 

Ghost Bat Pup_Photo by Vanessa Stebbings (1)

Ghost Bat Pup_Photo by Vanessa Stebbings (3)

Ghost Bat Pup_Photo by Vanessa Stebbings (4)Photo Credits: Vanessa Stebbings/ Taronga Zoo

Born last month, the pup is the first for Taronga’s new breeding pair, ‘Celeste’ and ‘Nocturne’. The birth is also an encouraging sign for the regional breeding program for this vulnerable species.

Despite the challenges of breeding Ghost Bats, keepers are pleased with the progress of the pup, which can already be spotted on display at the Zoo’s Australian Nightlife exhibit.

Keeper, Wendy Gleen, said it may be a little while until keepers can determine the sex of the pup, so they are yet to choose a name. “The pup has been clinging to its mother for warmth and security, clutching onto her neck with its back legs,” said Wendy.

Ghost Bats are Australia's largest microbat, and their only carnivorous bat, preying on large insects, frogs, birds, lizards and small mammals, including other bats. As predators, they are important in the control of rodents, especially house-mice. Their name comes from the beautiful ‘ghost-like’ appearance of their wings in the moonlight.

Populations are under threat in the wild due to the loss of feeding habitat and destruction of caves and old mine shafts. “Ghost Bats are particularly vulnerable to mining, which can threaten their maternity caves,” said Wendy.

Wendy also said the birth of the pup provides a great opportunity for visitors to see these stunning but elusive creatures up close. “Ghost Bats are difficult to spot in the wild, as they often live in complete darkness and hide in remote caves. They’ve got the most amazing facial structures and use echolocation to find their way in the dark. Our modern sonar systems could probably learn a thing or two from these bats’ natural talents,” she said.

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Zoo’s Keepers 'Dig' Chloe the Orphan Wombat

Chloe the Wombat (5) Photo by Paul Fahy

An orphaned Wombat Joey is receiving round-the-clock care at Taronga Zoo after its mother was struck by a car outside Sydney.

Chloe the Wombat (1)

Chloe the Wombat (4)

Chloe the Wombat (2) Photo by Paul FahyPhoto Credits: Paul Fahy / Taronga Zoo

Taronga Keeper, Evelyn Weston, has taken on the role of surrogate mother to the six-month-old joey, carrying a makeshift pouch and stopping work for bottle feeds every five hours.

The female joey was rescued by a wildlife carer, in June, after its mother was struck and killed on a road near Jenolan Caves.  Luckily, the joey, named ‘Chloe’ by the carer, was found still alive inside the pouch.

Chloe was brought to Taronga Wildlife Hospital last week for ongoing care, and she’s been busy melting hearts among the Zoo’s keepers, who have been only too happy to help Evelyn with her mothering duties.

“My biggest problem is getting her back,” joked Evelyn. “She’s very affectionate and also a bit naughty. She loves chewing on shoes and if you walk away from her she chases after you like a rocket.”

Chloe will remain in Evelyn’s care for at least another two months, before moving to a temporary new home at Taronga’s Australian Walkabout. Keepers hope Chloe will be strong enough to return to the wild in about 18 months.

There are more amazing pics below the fold!

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