An endangered Rothschild’s giraffe was born at Belfast Zoo on Sunday 24 July 2022.
Proud mum, Casey, laboured for two hours and gave birth naturally at 2.30pm, inside the giraffe house, which was closed to the public to provide privacy for bonding. Zookeepers report that the male calf is doing well and that Casey is doing a great job. Casey is a second time mum, after giving birth to Ballyronan in May 2020.
Belfast Zoo has announced a menagerie of new arrivals ahead of the Bank Holiday. The latest new-borns include critically endangered cotton top tamarin twins, an endangered crowned lemur, prairie dog pups and penguin chicks.
This is the sixth offspring for the couple since they arrived at Belfast Zoo in 2010. Inca will be taking it easy this Valentine’s Day while Aztec has his hands full, as it is the male titi monkey that takes on the lion’s share of the childcare duties.
Unlike most other primates, coppery titi monkeys are very attentive fathers. They do the majority of the carrying, only handing the infant over to the mother for nursing. The infant will cling to Aztec for approximately four to five months so it will be some time before the keepers are able to confirm the gender of the infant.
The Zoo’s fluffy little new addition was born to mother Áine and father Ozark.
The now three-week-old was born overnight during the storm, with zookeepers making the wonderful discovery the following morning. The baby’s gender is currently unknown but keepers are hopeful they’ll be able to confirm it in the coming weeks.
The rare Francois' langur primate, who is only three months old, is still being carefully looked after and bottle-fed by Belfast Zoo Keeper, Geraldine Murphy.
As her “adoptive mother”, Geraldine takes the baby monkey home every night so she can continue bottle feeding her every few hours.
Born on 8 May, the female primate has been nicknamed “wee red” by Geraldine’s family and so she has been officially named Hóngxīn, meaning “red heart” in Chinese. The name is also a nod to the small distinctive heart-shaped birth mark on the back of the infant’s head.
Geraldine has spent several months raising Hóngxīn and has now begun the process of slowly reintroducing her into the family unit.
Listed as endangered with estimates of less than 2000 left in the wild, the monkey is native to China and Vietnam and is threatened by poachers and loss of habitat in its home countries.
These rare primates have black fur with white streaks of hair running from their mouths to their ears. They also have a tuft of hair on top of their head. However, infants are born with orange fur which gradually changes to adult colouration as they mature.
Keeper Geraldine explained that sometimes animals reject their offspring,
“There are occasions where mothers just do not have the skill set or the instinct to care for their young but thankfully this is not very frequent. After monitoring the mother and baby it quickly became clear that we needed to become involved.”
Geraldine is no novice when it comes to hand-rearing animals as she was tasked with looking after two Chilean flamingo chicks, named Popcorn and Peanut, back in 2018.
Geraldine said, 'We prefer for animals to be reared naturally by their parents but this isn’t always possible. Hand-rearing animals is no easy job, it is time consuming and can be difficult, but it is also very rewarding. Hóngxīn is definitely keeping me busy but it will be worth it when she is fully integrated back into her family again. Not a lot of people know about this type of primate, but these beautiful monkeys are very vibrant animals, who are incredibly intelligent and agile. It is a real privilege to be able help this endangered species.”
Hóngxīn is not the first of its kind to be born at Belfast Zoo as the zoo has been home to this stunning but threatened species since 1994 with more than 20 births since then.
Belfast Zoo Curator, Andrew Hope is the studbook keeper for the François’ langur breeding programme. This means he is responsible for co-ordinating the genetic and reproductive management of this captive population, which are living in seven European zoos.
Commenting on the birth, Andrew said, “Here at Belfast Zoo we have been incredibly successful at breeding this endangered primate and we are delighted with the arrival of Hóngxīn. This infant is not just something for us to celebrate here at Belfast Zoo, but globally this is significant as with each new arrival, fresh hope is brought to the species as a whole. Logging and the expansion of agriculture has destroyed the habitat of the François’ langur and they are also captured and sold as pets or used in traditional medicines. Numbers are in serious decline and we are honoured that we are able to play an active role in the conservation of the François’ langur.”
Northern Ireland’s Belfast Zoo has welcomed several newborns lately including an endangered crowned lemur.
Zoo Manager Alyn Cairns said, “The birth of every species at the zoo here is a joy, but the birth of an endangered species is always extra special. Lemur mothers keep their babies close to their body so we had to wait for a few weeks to go by before we could confirm that the latest arrival is a boy.”
Crowned lemurs are listed as endangered due to habitat loss, mining and logging. They are also hunted for food and the pet trade.
Crowned lemurs originate from the forests of northern Madagascar and get their names from the ‘crown’ marking above their eye line. Females are primarily grey with orange crowns and males are a darker red-brown with black and orange crowns.
With the start of spring, Belfast Zoo welcomed a Vicuña calf, a Red-backed Bearded Saki, and two White-belted Ruffed Lemur babies.
An adorable baby Vicuña was born on March 27 to mother, Gretchen, and her new mate, Ozzy. The zoo is now home to five Vicuña (Vicugna vicugna), which is a camelid species that originates from mountain and grassland areas of South America. The number of Vicuña living in the wild has decreased due to hunting and habitat destruction, and the species is dependent on breeding programmes to ensure population growth. Belfast Zoo has successfully bred this endangered species for many years. Visitors can see the new baby in its mountaintop habitat, with stunning views across Belfast Lough.
Photo Credits: Belfast Zoo
Zoo primates have also had recent breeding success. A Red-backed Bearded Saki (Chiropotes chiropotes) and two White-belted Ruffed Lemur (Varecia variegata subcincta) babies were born during April. Belfast Zoo is one of only two zoos in the UK to care for Red-backed Sakis, which originate from South America, and it was the first zoo in Europe to breed the species.
White-belted Ruffed Lemurs, from Madagascar, are facing a high risk of extinction in the wild due to habitat loss. Unlike other Lemur species, the baby doesn’t cling to their mother but instead is left to rest in a nearby tree or carried in its mother’s mouth.
Alyn Cairns, Zoo Manager, said, “We are absolutely thrilled with our recent baby boom at Belfast Zoo and hope our visitors will enjoy seeing our newest arrivals.”
Belfast Zoo is delighted to announce the birth of their third set of Capybara babies in the past year!
The Zoo’s Capybara couple, Chester and Lola, has produced happy ‘capy’ babies three times in the last nine months. The loved up couple welcomed the first pair in April 2018, followed by the second set in July, and the most recent babies in late December.
Belfast Zoo is now home to an impressive herd of 17 Capybaras. The newest male and female offspring have not yet been named.
Photo Credits: Belfast Zoo
Capybaras are the largest rodents in the world and are often found on Central and South American riverbanks, beside ponds and in marshes. The semi-aquatic mammal can dive underwater for up to five minutes and typically live in family groups of 10 to 40. The vocal animals communicate using barks, whistles, huffs and purrs. The species’ biggest threat is their skin, which is in high demand in South America.
Zoo curator, Raymond Robinson, said, "Although the species is not currently classified as endangered, Capybaras are facing increasing danger in their natural habitat, so it is important for zoos to raise awareness of this species and help to sustain their population. We are delighted at Lola and Chester’s successful births over such a short period of time. Our Capybara’s reside in a grassy habitat along our lake walk and live alongside some other South American species including Giant Anteater and Darwin’s Rhea. We hope our visitors will enjoy seeing our little Capybara babies over the upcoming half-term holidays.”
Belfast Zoo is celebrating the birth of endangered twin Red Panda cubs! The pair was born to parents, Chris and Vixen. Chris arrived at Belfast Zoo, from Beekse Bergen Safari Park in the Netherlands, in 2013. As part of a collaborative breeding programme, he was joined by Vixen (who arrived from Dresden Zoo in April 2017). The pair hit it off straight away and after a gestation period of approximately 135 days, Vixen gave birth to two healthy female cubs on 19 June 2018.
Zoo curator, Julie Mansell, said, “Red Panda cubs are born blind and develop quite slowly. They therefore spend the first few months in the den. It is for this reason that, despite being born back in June, the twins have only recently started to venture outside. Over the last few weeks the twins have become more adventurous and visitors will hopefully get the chance to spot our colourful little arrivals as they start exploring their habitat!”
Photo Credits: Belfast Zoo
Red Pandas are also known as ‘lesser’ panda or ‘firefox’. It is believed that their name comes from the Nepalese term for the species ‘nigalya ponya’ which translates as ‘bamboo footed’ and refers to their bamboo diet. It was originally thought that this species was related to the raccoon family or even the other bamboo eater, the Giant Panda. They have since been classified as a unique species in their own family, called Ailuridae. Red Panda spend most of their time in the trees. Their sharp claws make them agile climbers and they use their long, striped tails for balance.
Zookeeper, Geraldine Murphy, has had her hands full over the last few weeks as she has been hand-rearing the first ever Chilean Flamingos to hatch at Belfast Zoo!
Belfast Zoo has been home to flamingos since the zoo first opened in 1934, but the zoo first became home to Chilean Flamingos in 2010. However, in all this time, the birds never laid eggs, despite attempts by the zoo team to encourage breeding behavior.
The team installed mirrors in the enclosure to make the birds think that they were part of a much larger flock, but without success. Last year, keepers built artificial nests consisting of mounds of mud measuring 30 to 60 centimetres in height and installed ‘dummy eggs’, produced by a local wood turner. This had instant success with the birds beginning to display natural courtship behaviours, and soon eggs began to appear on the nests.
Despite the initial excitement, the eggs were infertile but it gave the team hope, which became a reality when this year’s eggs hatched.
Photo Credits: Belfast Zoo
Zookeeper, Geraldine, stepped in to hand-rear the young chicks, “Popcorn hatched on 17 September and Peanut hatched on 5 October. We monitored the behavior of the adult birds and unfortunately, due to their inexperience at being parents, we had to step in to hand-rear the chicks on this occasion! Until flamingo chicks are able to feed themselves, they rely on ‘crop milk’ which is a nutritious liquid produced by both parents. When they first hatched they needed to be hand-fed six times a day with a substitute that has been developed to provide all of the essential vitamins and nutrients. The pair therefore came home with me every evening and back to the zoo with me each day. As they get older, they will need fewer feeding during the day and when they are old enough they will be reintroduced to the rest of the flock.”