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June 2018

Rare White Bison Born at Belgrade Zoo


A rare White American Bison calf was born at the Belgrade Zoo on May 28. White Bison are estimated to occur in only one out of ten million births.

The calf, named Dusica, is the offspring of Jova, an 11-year-old white male, and Iva, a seven-year-old female with a typical brown coat.


Photo Credit: Zoran Rajic

White Bison occur naturally due to albinism, leucism, or other genetic conditions. Sometimes, a White Bison develops brown fur as it ages. Others remain white (or light tan) for their entire lives. White Bison can also result from cross-breeding with cattle. 

Some American Indian tribes consider White Bison to be sacred as part of spiritual rituals.

American Bison are often referred to as “Buffalo,” but that term is misleading. Bison are quite different than true Buffalo species, such as the Asian Water Buffalo or the African Cape Buffalo. But early European settlers and explorers, upon seeing American Bison for the first time, thought the animals resembled Buffalo, and the name has been used ever since.

The Belgrade Zoo has a long history of breeding white animals, including Bengal Tigers, African Lions, Wallabies, Deer, Indian Peafowl, and various reptiles. Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, is known as the “White City.”

American Bison can weigh up to a ton (2,000 pounds) and feed on grass and vegetation.

Before settlement of the American West, hundreds of millions of Bison roamed the North American plains. By the 1800s, Bison were nearly extinct due to overhunting, with only a few hundred animals surviving. Breeding programs and farming have increased the population to around 150,000, but Bison are listed as Near Threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This status is due to the fact that most animals are maintained under conservation programs and only five viable populations exist in the wild. Herds are dependent on wide areas of protected land, including national parks and refuges.  

Elephant Calf Born Three Months Late Gets a Name

Baby elephant born at Chester Zoo three months after due date named Anjan (27)
An Asian Elephant calf born three months after its due date has been named Anjan by zoo keepers at Chester Zoo.

The male calf, born May 17, astonished experts when he was born to mum Thi Hi Way last month following an assumed gestation of 25 months.

Because the typical gestation for Asian Elephants is about 22 months, scientists believed Thi, who was already a great-grandmother and matriarch of the herd, had started a natural resorption process. 

Baby elephant born at Chester Zoo three months after due date named Anjan (33)
Baby elephant born at Chester Zoo three months after due date named Anjan (33)Photo Credit: Chester Zoo

Hormone tracking originally showed that Thi Hi Way was due to give birth in February, and after her due date passed, she was slowly returning to her normal weight.  

But, despite the unusual circumstances, Thi gave birth to the healthy baby boy and zoo staff say both mother and calf are doing incredibly well.

Mike Jordan, Chester Zoo’s Collections Director, said, “Thi is a wonderful matriarch to our family herd and a really experienced mum. She has successfully given birth to seven calves before, but this time around circumstances were really quite astonishing.”

“We believed Thi had exceeded her normal gestation period, which we were monitoring closely. Her hormone levels, behaviour and drop in weight gave us every indication that she may have been resorbing the calf – a natural process that some Elephants experience. However, nature always has that incredible ability to surprise you and that was certainly the case,” Jordan said.

Asian Elephants are listed as Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, threatened by habitat loss, poaching, disease and direct conflict with humans.

Conservationists from Chester Zoo have been working to combat these threats in the Elephant’s native India for more than twelve years, utilising the skills and knowledge developed working with the herd in Chester.

Zookeepers chose the name Anjan in honour of Anjan Nath, one of the leading conservation figures the zoo works with on a project in Assam, northern India, which has successfully eliminated conflict between local communities and the nearby Asian Elephant population, offering a blueprint for the future conservation of the species.

See more photos of Anjan below.

Continue reading "Elephant Calf Born Three Months Late Gets a Name" »

Four New Penguin Chicks Pass Their Physicals


A total of four Magellanic Penguin chicks hatched recently at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium.

Magellanic Penguin parents, “Yellow” and “Orange,” welcomed two chicks last week. These new chicks joined two chicks that hatched the week before to parents, “Pink” and “Red.”

Magellanic Penguins at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium are not named but rather are known by the colors of the identification bands on their wings.



4_DSC_0087Photo Credits: Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

Recently, zookeepers and a veterinarian carefully lifted the four small gray balls of fluff out of their two burrows – and very briefly away from their parents – to weigh the little penguins and give them well-chick examinations. The verdict: All of Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium’s newest residents are healthy and appear to be thriving!

Zoo veterinarians carefully examined each chick for overall body condition and energy and hydration levels to assess their health.

“The newest chicks were quite robust and active during their exams,” said the zoo’s Head Veterinarian, Dr. Karen Wolf. “They are endearingly plump and their parents are doing a great job caring for them,” said Wolf.

The newest hatchlings weighed-in at 4.5 ounces and 10 ounces.

“The two older chicks are continuing to thrive and are rapidly gaining weight,” said Wolf. They now weigh 14.9 and 17.7 ounces.  

The two new families are on exhibit in the Penguin Point habitat at the zoo, but spotting the chicks will take patience. They’re usually safely hidden under one of the parents while they’re being kept warm during the day, coming out occasionally for feeding. The parents feed the chicks a slurry of regurgitated fish after the adults have eaten herring and capelin.

Continue reading "Four New Penguin Chicks Pass Their Physicals" »

‘Extinct In the Wild’ Chick Hatches in Virginia


On May 17, one of the most endangered bird species on the planet hatched at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Front Royal, Virginia. Although currently helpless and almost featherless, the female Guam Kingfisher will soon enough be vibrant and colorful, like her parents.

A closed-circuit camera inside the institute’s incubator caught the exact moment the chick hatched. Since hatching, the chick has been living in an incubator that mimics the conditions of a nest.



4_kingfisher_chick_9602Photo Credits: Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute /Erica Royer (Images 1,2) /Chris Crowe (Images 5,6,7)

It has been four years since the last Guam Kingfisher chick hatched at SCBI. Guam Kingfishers are notoriously difficult to breed. They are territorial and it has been difficult to match compatible breeding pairs. The chick’s mother and father moved to SCBI from the Saint Louis Zoo in 2016 and 2014, respectively. This was the first fertile egg they have produced together. However, since the pair did not display appropriate parenting behaviors, keepers opted to artificially incubate the egg and are currently hand-raising the chick.

The incubation period for Guam Kingfishers is relatively short—only 21 to 23 days. The chick hatched after 22 days. During the incubation, keepers “candled” (shined a light against the shell of the egg) to track the chick’s development. When it hatched, the chick weighed 5.89 grams.

For the first seven days, keepers fed it every two hours, between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. The chick eats chopped mice and crickets, mealworms and anoles. Keepers are gradually decreasing the number of feedings, until the chick is 30 days old and ready to fledge the nest.

The Guam Kingfisher (Todiramphus cinnamominus) is the most endangered species living at SCBI. There are only about 140 Guam Kingfishers in the world, and they all live in human care.

The species is currently classified as “Extinct In The Wild” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. According to the IUCN: “The species was previously found in a fairly wide variety of habitats throughout the island of Guam, including the edges of mangroves, wooded coastal lowlands, coconut palms and mixed upland forest and also large gardens with plenty of timber (Fry and Fry 1999, del Hoyo et al. 2001, Kesler in litt. 2013)…its decline and extinction in the wild is the result of predation by the introduced brown tree snake Boiga irregularis (Fritts and Rodda 1998). Predation by feral cats may have represented an additional threat.”

All existing Guam Kingfishers in the world are descended from 29 individuals. They were taken from the wild into human care in the 1980s to create a breeding program to save the species from total extinction. SCBI hatched its first chick in 1985. Since then, 19 chicks have hatched at SCBI as part of the Guam Kingfisher Species Survival Plan.

SCBI plays a leading role in the Smithsonian’s global efforts to save wildlife species from extinction and train future generations of conservationists. SCBI spearheads research programs at its headquarters in Front Royal, Va., the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and at field research stations and training sites worldwide. SCBI scientists tackle some of today’s most complex conservation challenges by applying and sharing what they learn about animal behavior and reproduction, ecology, genetics, migration and conservation sustainability.





Just Tobi and Ria…and Baby Makes Three!

1_Tamandua baby (c) ZSL London Zoo 3

‘Tobi the Tamandua’ took-up residence at ZSL London Zoo, last October, as a potential companion for female, Ria. Zookeepers hoped to someday hear the pitter patter of tiny Tamandua toes. So, the Zoo was overjoyed when just five months later they spotted a tiny baby clinging to Ria’s back. When keepers did the math, they discovered that Ria must have fallen pregnant the same week of meeting her new mate, making newcomer Tobi a very fast mover!

ZSL keeper, Steve Goodwin, said, “Ria went into her nest box that morning, which isn’t unusual, as Tamanduas are nocturnal animals and often nap during the day. But at around 5pm, as the sun began to set, she amazed us all when she came outside for her evening explorations with a tiny newborn holding onto her fur.”

“We were confidant Ria was pregnant, as she’d just started to put on some weight, but we weren’t expecting to welcome a new member of the family quite so soon. They must have got together pretty much on their very first date – Tobi clearly pulled out all the stops!”

2_Tamandua baby (c) ZSL London Zoo 4

3_Tamandua baby (c) ZSL London Zoo 1

4_Tamandua baby (c) ZSL London Zoo 2Photo Credits: ZSL (Zoological Society of London)

The new baby, nicknamed ‘Poco’ by keepers, has remained close to Ria since the Easter Monday birth. Mum is sometimes seen tucking the youngster safely away in a hollow log.

Now, the two-month-old has started to tentatively venture away from mum to explore its “Rainforest Life” home, which the Zoo’s Tamanduas share with Two-toed Sloths (Marilyn, Leander and baby Lento), Emperor Tamarins, Red Titi Monkeys and Fruit Bats.

Steve added, “We set up a camera to keep a close eye on the pair, as they’re most active at night: we’ve been delighted to see the youngster peeking its head out of the tree stump at after dark, and now Ria is confident enough to carry her around the exhibit visitors will be able to spot the pair - especially at our Zoo Nights events this summer.”

The little one has also been spotted practicing sticking out its long tongue, which will grow up to 40cm in length and is used to extract tasty insects from inside branches and holes.

The Tamandua (Tamandua tetradactyla) is a nocturnal mammal. It is part of the anteater family and native to South America. They are also impressive climbers - holding on to mum enables the infant to build up the valuable muscles needed to climb easily through the treetop branches of London’s only living rainforest.

Juvenile Tamanduas spend the first three months clinging to their mother’s backs, sliding down to feed before pulling themselves back up to nestle into mum’s fur. They have fantastic camouflage as their distinguishable matching patterns align to create one continuous stripe, allowing the young pup to avoid the eyes of predators.

Keepers won’t know the youngster’s sex until it is scanned by vets, as the baby will remain close to mum until around six-months-old. Boy or girl, the newborn is a valuable addition to its species and once its sex is confirmed, its details will be added to the European Studbook (ESB), part of a coordinated breeding programme for Tamanduas.

The youngster’s public debut is just in time for the ZSL London’s Zoo Nights event. Every Friday, throughout June, visitors will be able to explore the Zoo after-hours, seeing its 19,000 animals in a completely different light.

See the Zoo come alive after dark at Zoo Nights. To book tickets or find out more, visit:

5_Tamandua baby night cam first image (c) ZSL London Zoo

Chester Zoo Has ‘Colorful’ New Trio

1_!Stars in stripes! Trio of red river hoglets born at Chester Zoo (28)

A trio of Red River Hogs was recently born at Chester Zoo. The tiny triplets arrived to mum Mali on May 4, following a four-month-long pregnancy.

The piglets stayed safely tucked in their den, bonding with mum, for the first few weeks of life, but they can now be seen on-exhibit, frolicking in the sun. According to keepers, the piglets are yet-to-be-sexed and yet-to-be-named.

2_!Stars in stripes! Trio of red river hoglets born at Chester Zoo (14)

3_Stars in stripes! Trio of red river hoglets born at Chester Zoo (30)

4_!Stars in stripes! Trio of red river hoglets born at Chester Zoo (41)Photo Credits: Chester Zoo

Red River Hogs are instantly recognizable for their bright red fur, which helps them blend into their Sub-Saharan African habitat. This coloring has made the pigs renowned as being the world’s most colorful member of the pig family.

They are native to the swamps and forests of West and Central Africa, but hunting for their meat has led to a decline in numbers where they were once commonly found.

Sarah Roffe, team manager at the Zoo, said, “It’s early days, but the piglets are doing great so far. They’re so small at the moment and their coats are covered in spots and stripes, which will slowly start to fade after about six months when they’ll take on their more iconic rusty coloring.”

“The trio are sticking very close to mum Mali (age 9), but it’s great to see them spending time with dad Con-Fetti. In fact, they can often be seen enjoying a nap whilst sat on top of him.”

Sarah continued, “This is the pairings first set of triplets, so they’ll soon be a real handful for mum and dad as they become more adventurous and playful. It’s amazing to see the family of seven together!”

Conservationists at Chester Zoo are keen to develop a greater understanding of how to care for the species in conservation breeding programmes, should the worst happen to the species and they become extinct in the wild.

Red River Hogs (Potamochoerus porcus) are also known as "tufted pigs" due to the white whiskers and tufts found on their ears. They are currently classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

More great pics, below the fold!

Continue reading "Chester Zoo Has ‘Colorful’ New Trio" »

Longleat Welcomes A Warrior Princess

1_Xena the cheetah cub close up at Longleat PIC Ian Turner (1400x933)

An abandoned Cheetah cub is being hand reared by her keeper at Longleat.

The female cub has been nicknamed “Xena”, after the warrior princess, which also marks her battling qualities.

Xena spent her first ten days being cared for by her mum, Wilma. However, keepers discovered the tiny cub was cold, weak and alone on April 19. Despite numerous unsuccessful attempts to get mother and baby back together, the decision was taken by keepers to remove the cub and rear her by hand.

2_Xena the cheetah cub licks her lips at Longleat PIC Ian Turner (1400x933)

3_Feeding time for Xena the cheetah cub at Longleat close up PIC Ian Turner (867x1300)

4_Feeding time for Xena the cheetah cub at Longleat  PIC Ian Turner (1000x1500)Photo Credits: Ian Turner (Images 1-4)/ Longleat

Keeper, Matt Cleverley, who has previously experienced hand-rearing a Cheetah while working in Africa, volunteered to look after the tiny cub. Matt’s wife, Kate, also a keeper at Longleat, also took up parenting duties.

The cub needs to be bottle-fed every four hours, day and night, until she is six weeks old. Then, she will start to be weaned on to a meat diet.

“No one is sure why Wilma, who was such a brilliant first-time mum with cubs Winston and Poppy in 2016, should have abandoned Xena,” said Matt.

“We did everything we could to try and get her to re-bond with the baby, but it wasn’t working, and we were faced with an extremely difficult choice of not interfering and letting the cub die or stepping in and attempting to rear her by hand.”

Matt continued, “It’s a huge responsibility, and we’re taking it day-by-day, but she is developing well and has already more than doubled her birth weight. So we’re cautiously optimistic that she will make it.”

“As with human babies, she does require round the clock care and attention, and Kate and myself share the duties between us.”

“It does mean the cub comes home with us at the end of each day, but it’s going to be very much worthwhile if we can help get her to a stage where she can fend for herself,” he added.

This is only the second Cheetah birth at Longleat, following the arrival of cubs Winston and Poppy in 2016.

The Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) is officially classified as ‘Vulnerable’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, which means it is likely to become ‘Endangered’, unless the circumstances threatening its survival and reproduction improve.

In 2008, the IUCN estimated there to be around 7,500-10,000 adult Cheetahs in Africa, and there are concerns the numbers have decreased significantly since then.

Longleat’s Cheetahs are part of the European Endangered Species Programme.

Zoo Wroclaw Welcomes Birth of First Cuscus


Zoo Wrocław says that the tiny Sulawesi Bear Cuscus born there recently is the first documented zoo birth of this rare species.

According to the Zoo, only four zoological gardens in the world are part of its conservation-breeding program. This is a truly extraordinary birth, because the Sulawesi Bear Cuscus is a little-known species, it has been extremely difficult to breed.      

On March 16, 2018, Zoo Wroclaw’s small mammal keepers noticed a newborn in the pouch of the female Cuscus. Although it had been suspected for a few weeks, this discovery electrified all employees and caused an explosion of joy.

This is a milestone in saving the species, giving hope for its survival. There are only 13 Cuscus in four zoos around the world: in Batu Secret in Java (Indonesia), Pairi Daiza in Belgium, Ústí nad Labem in the Czech Republic and at Wrocław, in Poland.

The cub rarely comes out of the mother's pouch, usually only sticking out its head and tiny hands, or sometimes just the tail. For now, its diet consists only of mother's milk.

Zoo staff also confidently stated they are “99% sure the baby is a male”.



0934_Tangkoko_2013Photo Credits: Zoo Wroclaw

The birth of the tiny Cuscus is a global breeding success. A success like this takes time and team effort to create optimal living conditions – a proper enclosure, special diet and professional caregivers. As previously mentioned, Cuscus biology is unknown. The Zoo says little is known about their diet, and almost nothing about reproduction. It is only suspected they are monogamous, so a happy match is neither simple nor reliable.

Now, the keepers are excited to collect data on Cuscus rearing and share this knowledge with colleagues from other zoological gardens, to help ensure effective breeding, and the stability of the population of these amazing marsupials in the future.

The Sulawesi Bear Cuscus (Ailurops ursinus) is a species of arboreal marsupial in the family Phalangeridae. It is endemic to Sulawesi and nearby islands in Indonesia.

It lives in tropical moist lowland forest and is diurnal, folivorous and often found in pairs.

The species is currently classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List. It is threatened by hunting, collection for the pet trade and deforestation. According to the IUCN: “It is widespread and common in suitable habitat. A density estimate (based on line transects) of 2.0 individuals/km2 was reported for North Sulawesi in the 1993-1994 (O'Brien and Kinnaird 1996). This species, however, was at one time much more plentiful. From 1979-1994, there had been a 95% decline in Tangkoko-DuaSudara Nature Reserve due to hunting and this decline may be indicative of trends for North Sulawesi (O'Brien and Kinnaird 1996). This decline is only getting worse due to hunting and the pet trade (M. Kinnaird pers. comm.).”