Belfast Zoo

Rare Langur Swings Onto the Scene at Belfast Zoo

(2) Our little 'rascal' was born on 7 November to mum Nicoleen and dad AJ but only now have we been able to catch a gimpse of him!

A rare François’ Langur born in late 2017 has finally made his first appearance for visitors at Belfast Zoo

This endangered primate was born on November 7, 2017 to mom, Nicoleen and dad, AJ, but spent most of his time clinging tightly to Nicoleen’s belly until just recently. 

While adult François’ Langurs are black in color with striking white sideburns, infants are born with ginger fur and their color changes slowly as they mature. The baby has been named Huaidan, which means ‘rascal’ in Chinese, thanks to his cheeky attitude.

(1) Endangered Francois langur finally makes his first appearance at Belfast Zoo!
(1) Endangered Francois langur finally makes his first appearance at Belfast Zoo!
(1) Endangered Francois langur finally makes his first appearance at Belfast Zoo! Photo Credit: Belfast Zoo

Huaidan’s arrival means that Belfast Zoo’s Monkey House is home to five of these leaf-eating primates.  François’ Langurs live in small family groups consisting of one adult male and a harem of adult females and their offspring. All females in the group take an active interest in the care of an infant. This allows Nicoleen to rest and eat while the other females babysit Huaidan.  

Andrew Hope, Curator at Belfast Zoo, said, “François’ Langurs are found in the tropical forests and limestone hills of China, Vietnam and Laos but they are facing increasing threats and are endangered in their natural habitat.  This is primarily due to habitat loss, hunting, the traditional medicine trade and the pet trade.”

The wild population of François’ Langurs has declined by at least 50% over the past three decades. Scientists estimate that the total wild population is less than 2,500 individuals.

Belfast Zoo works with others zoos around Europe to ensure the survival of François’ Langurs through an active breeding program. Huaidan’s arrival is important to the genetic diversity of the European population of this primate, which is listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).


Endangered Tree Kangaroo Emerges at Belfast Zoo

1_(2)  “Our ‘good little fellow’  Kayjo  was born to mother Jaya and father  Hasu Hasu on 9 June 2017.

A Goodfellow’s Tree Kangaroo joey has been spotted peeking out of the pouch for the first time at Belfast Zoo!

Senior keeper, Allan Galway, explained, “Our ‘good little fellow’, Kayjo, was born to mother, Jaya, and father, Hasu Hasu, on 9 June 2017. Like all marsupials, female Tree Kangaroos carry and nurse their young in the pouch. When the joey was first born, it was the size of a jellybean and remained in the pouch while developing and suckling from Jaya. Female Tree Kangaroos have a forward facing pouch, containing four teats and we carry out routine ‘pouch’ checks as part of our normal husbandry routine with this species.”

Allan continued, “Jaya moved to Belfast Zoo in January 2013, as part of the collaborative breeding programme. Since then, we have incorporated training into her daily husbandry routine. This involves getting Jaya used to being touched by keepers through a process of ‘positive reinforcement’. We started by providing Jaya with her favourite treat, sweetcorn, until she gradually became used to the keepers touching her. We then built this up to allow keepers to open her pouch. This allows us to check Jaya’s pouch for health purposes and to track the development of the young during these crucial early months. However, it is completely optional, and if Jaya does not want to take part, she has the freedom to move away from the keeper.”

Zookeeper, Mitchell Johnston, is part of the Belfast Zoo team who care for the Goodfellow’s Tree Kangaroos: “I have been a keeper for four and a half years and I definitely have a soft spot for the tree kangaroos. Through the daily training routine, I have developed a strong relationship with the Kangaroos but especially Jaya. Having worked with her for a while now, I have a strong understanding of her behaviour and, last summer, I started to notice signs that a joey may be on the way. Following further behavioural changes on 9 June, I carried out the pouch check and was delighted to find the jellybean-sized joey. Being able to witness and photograph the infant’s development over the last six months has been fascinating. In fact, I have become so fond of both mother and baby that I decided to name him Kayjo which is a play on words of my eldest child’s name, as the joey certainly feels like one of the family!”

2_(1)  Endangered tree kangaroo pops out of pouch at Belfast Zoo!

3_(10)  This species is listed as Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red list.

4_(11)  Keepers treated the new mum and the rest of her family to some Christmas themed enrichment with a wreath of their favourite foods.Photo Credits: Belfast Zoo

As their name suggests, the Goodfellow’s Tree Kangaroo (Dendrolagus goodfellowi) is a tree-dwelling mammal, which is native to the mountainous rainforests of Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. These animals are well adapted to a life in the trees by climbing up to 20 feet high and leaping more than 30 feet through the air from branch to branch. However, this species is facing increasing threats due to habitat destruction and hunting.

Zoo manager, Alyn Cairns, said, “As part of our commitment to conservation, we take part in a number of global and collaborative breeding programmes. Until this year, Belfast Zoo was the only zoo in the United Kingdom and Ireland to care for Goodfellow’s Tree Kangaroo, and we were the first in the UK to breed the species back in 2014. Since then, we have bred three joeys. This species is listed as ‘Endangered’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red list, as the population has dramatically declined in Papua New Guinea by at least 50% over the past three generations. The efforts of zoos around the world, are becoming ever more vital in ensuring the survival of so many species under threats. We are delighted that our team’s efforts have led to the arrival of Kayjo, and that we are playing an active role in the conservation of this beautiful and unique species.”

Kayjo is following in the footsteps of big sister, Kau Kau, who hopped out of Jaya’s pouch earlier this year. At this age, visitors who are patient may be rewarded with a glimpse of the new joey. The new arrival will continue to develop in the pouch. As the joey grows it will begin to explore the world outside of the pouch, officially moving out at about 10 months but will continue to feed from mum until at least 16 months old. The youngster will live with the family group at Belfast Zoo until old enough to move to another zoo as part of the collaborative breeding programme.

Amazing pics below of Kayjo's life-in-the-pouch!

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Belfast Zoo Celebrates Five Kits in Red Squirrel Nook

1_(4)  Photo credit - Jon Lees    Belfast Zoo born red squirrels have been released to protected areas as a ground-breaking conservation effort.

Belfast Zoo is celebrating another conservation success with the birth of five Red Squirrel kittens.

The kits were spotted outside of their drey (squirrel nest) for the first time at the start of July and can now be spotted in the zoo’s Red Squirrel Nook.

2_(6) The kittens stay in the drey (nest) for the first few months and are starting to explore their surroundings.

3_(1)  Photo credit - Jon Lees    Belfast Zoo is celebrating another conservation success with the birth of five red squirrel kittens.

4_(2)  Photo credit - Jon Lees     The kits were spotted outside of their drey for the first time at the start of July and can now be spotted in red squirrel nookPhoto Credits: Images 1,3-5: Jon Lees (Northern Ireland Environment Agency) / Images 2,6: Belfast Zoo

The Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) is a small, tree-living rodent, which is believed to have been present in Ireland for more than 10,000 years. Many people are familiar with this iconic native species, its bright red coat, creamy white belly, bushy tail and distinctive ear tufts. However, the Red Squirrel in Northern Ireland is in serious trouble. The population has dramatically declined due to the loss of their forest habitats in addition to competition from the invasive Grey Squirrel that carries a lethal pox virus.

Zoo Manager, Alyn Cairns, explained, “Here at Belfast Zoo, we care for some of the most endangered species from around the globe but the problem is closer to home than most people think! Animals on our own doorstep are facing increasing threats and populations are disappearing at an alarming rate. Recognizing this alarming trend, the Belfast Zoo team formed a native species group in 2004 to work on a number of native species projects. In 2012, following the culmination of many years of work and consultation with local wildlife organizations, we opened Red Squirrel Nook.”

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Tiny New Pudu for Belfast Zoo

(1)  Belfast Zoo keepers have said ‘hello deer’ to the latest arrival as the world’s smallest deer  the Southern pudu  has given birth!

Belfast Zoo keepers have said ‘hello deer’ to a new arrival as one of their Southern Pudu has given birth!

The latest arrival was born to father, Mr Tumnus, and mother, Susan, on June 18.

The Southern Pudu originates from the lowland forests of Southern Chile and Southwest Argentina and is the smallest member of the deer family! Adults measure only 43 centimeters in height when fully grown and, at birth, a fawn is so small that it weighs less than a bag of sugar.

(2)  The latest arrival was born to father  Mr Tumnus and mother  Susan on 18 June 2017.

(4) .  When fawns are born they are a light brown colour and their fur is covered with small white spots.  This helps the infant to camouflage in the undergrowth.Photo Credits: Belfast Zoo

Senior keeper, Allan Galway, said “Although small in size, our fawn is massively important to Belfast Zoo and to the European breeding programme for the Southern Pudu. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) considers this species to be vulnerable to the threat of extinction and numbers in the wild have dramatically declined in recent years due to loss of habitat through deforestation, hunting and predation.”

Allan continued, “We have been giving Susan and her new arrival some space to bond, so have not yet determined the sex of the new arrival or given the fawn a name. When fawns are born they are a light brown color, and their fur is covered with small white spots. This helps the infant to camouflage in the undergrowth especially when they are left alone while the mother feeds.”

Belfast Zoo’s Southern Pudu family share their home with some other South American “amigos” including: Southern Screamers and Red Howler Monkeys.

Belfast Zoo visitors can now experience a new reptile and amphibian house. Summer visitors can also witness daily feeding times, a new visitor photography base camp, the Adventurers’ Learning Centre and can visit all the latest zoo babies.

(3)  Adult Southern pudus measure only 43 centimetres in height when fully grown (pictured is father  Mr Tumnus)

Belfast's Baby Gorilla Is a Girl!

(6)  Zoos are increasingly important in the conservation of species under threat.  Belfast Zoo takes part in a breeding programme for this species.
A critically endangered Western Lowland Gorilla born at the Belfast Zoo on August 28 is a girl! 

Because baby Gorillas cling to their mother’s belly for the first few months of life, keepers were unable to determine the baby’s gender until now.  The baby has been named Olivia.

(2)  The latest arrival was born to mother, Namoki, and father, Gugas, on 28 August 2016.
(5)  All ape species are endangered or critically endangered.  Gorillas are facing the real and severe risk of extinction in the
(3)  For the first months, the newborn clings to the mother's stomach.  Keepers recently discovered the infant is a female and she has been named Olivia.
(1)  Belfast Zoo is celebrating the birth of a critically endangered Western lowland gorilla!Photo Credit:  Belfast Zoo

Olivia’s arrival is significant because her father, Gugas, was born in the wild and his genetic background is important to the zoo population.  But Gugas had an unfortunate start to life as his parents were killed, probably for bushmeat.  As a young, orphaned Gorilla, he was acquired by a Portuguese circus and became very ill.  He was abandoned at the gates of Lisbon Zoo and was then moved to Stuttgart Zoo to live in a nursery group for orphaned Gorillas. He arrived at Belfast Zoo in 1998 and in 2012, with no sign of any pregnancies, the zoo tested Gugas’ fertility and the results were not promising.  In fact, it was felt that Gugas would never father any young. 

“Gugas has defied the odds.  In fact he has had an extremely busy few years, as this is the third infant that he has fathered since 2013,” says Julie Mansell of the Belfast Zoo. 

The Belfast Zoo’s Gorilla breeding program is part of a global effort to create a safety net population should this species become extinct in the wild – a very real possibility, given that Gorillas are under threat from habitat loss, the bushmeat trade, the pet trade, trophy hunting, and other human activity. 

Western Lowland Gorillas come from the dense forests of western central Africa.  Gorillas are the largest of all primate species.  They are listed as Critically Endangered, with the wild population shrinking by 80% within the past three generations.

Zoo "Bear-ly" Able to Contain Excitement Over Cub

(1)  Belfast Zoo is celebrating the first Andean bear birth, at Cave Hill, in more than 20 years!
A little cub named Lola is the first Andean Bear birth at the Belfast Zoo in more than 20 years.

Keepers didn’t have high hopes when the Lola’s parents, Spook and Alice, were first introduced, as the two scarcely seemed to tolerate one another.

Then, in late 2015, Alice began to show signs of pregnancy.  Keepers gave Alice a private den for the latter stages of her pregnancy, and Lola was born on February 6.

(2)  Andean bears give birth in dens and remain there with the cubs for the first few months.
(4)  Lola has recently started to come out of the den to explore her enclosure.  Visitors can catch a glimpse of the bears betwe
(3)  On 6 February 2016 keepers discovered a cub.  The cub is a female and has been named Lola.Photo Credit:  Belfast Zoo

Andean Bear cubs remain in the den with their mother exclusively for several months.  On May 31, the zoo’s veterinary staff performed their first health check on the cub, confirmed her gender, and pronounced her healthy.

Now that Lola is in the Bear habitat, zoo guests are enjoying her antics as she navigates the rocks and tries out new foods. 

Andean Bears are also known as Spectacled Bears due to the light fur around their eyes, which can look like spectacles against the Bear’s darker fur.  No two bears have the same pattern.

These Bears live in cloud forests on the slopes of the Andes Mountains, stretching Venezuela to Peru.  There are eight species of Bear species worldwide, but the Andean bear is the only one native to South America. Andean Bears are listed as Vulnerable to Extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to habitat destruction and fragmentation caused by agriculture.  They are also hunted for meat and for their supposed medicinal properties.

Belfast Zoo Has New ‘Happy Capy’ Pups

(1)  Belfast Zoo keepers are hearing the ‘pitty patter’ of tiny webbed feet with the arrival of four capybara babies.

Belfast Zoo keepers are hearing the ‘pitter patter’ of tiny webbed Capybara feet as the parents, Charlie and Lola, welcomed four pups on May 10.

Capybaras (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) are the largest rodent species in the world. These rodents are found in South America and are semi-aquatic mammals. They have webbed feet and can stay underwater for up to five minutes, which allows them to hide from predators. In fact, their scientific name even means ‘water hog’.

Zoo curator, Alyn Cairns, said “Our Capybaras live with some other South American ‘amigos’, including Giant Anteaters and Darwin’s Rhea. We have said ‘hola’ to quite a few new arrivals in this enclosure recently including a baby Giant Anteater, Darwin’s Rhea chicks and now four Capybara babies. We couldn’t be more delighted."   

Cairns continued, "While the Capybara is not currently classified as an endangered species, it is hunted and poached for its meat and skin. It is important that zoos, such as Belfast Zoo, help to raise awareness of this species and the increasing dangers which they face in their natural habitat. We have no doubt that our South American babies will soon be a firm favourite with visitors!”

(2)  The latest arrivals were born to mum, Lola and dad, Charlie.

(3)  Capybaras are the largest rodent species in the world.

(4)   The latest arrivals were born on 10 May 2016.Photo Credits: Belfast Zoo

The Capybara is a large rodent of the genus Hydrochoerus of which the only other extant member is the lesser Capybara (Hydrochoerus isthmius). Although a close relative of Guinea Pigs and Rock Cavies, it is more distantly related to the Agouti, Chinchillas, and the Coypu. Native to South America, the Capybara inhabits savannas and dense forests and prefers to live near bodies of water. They are social and can be found in groups of up to 100 individuals.

Their bodies have been specially adapted for swimming - with webbed feet and their eyes, ears and nostrils located on top of their heads. They are able to stay submerged in water for around five minutes to help avoid detection by predators such as Jaguars, Anacondas and Caiman in their native South America.

Capybaras are herbivores, grazing mainly on grasses and aquatic plants, as well as fruit and tree bark. Their jaw hinge is not perpendicular and they chew food by grinding back-and-forth rather than side-to-side.

They are incredibly vocal animals, communicating through barks, whistles, huffs and purrs.

They have a gestation period of about 130 to 150 days and usually produce a litter of four. Newborn Capybaras will join the rest of the group as soon as they are mobile. Within a week, the offspring can eat grass, but they will continue to suckle, from any female in the group, until about 16 weeks.

You can support the care of Belfast Zoo’s Capybaras by taking part in the animal adoption scheme. Find out more at .

(5)  Keep up to date with Belfast Zoo news at

(6)  Belfast Zoo's capybaras share their home with some other South American 'amigos' including giant anteaters and Darwin's rheas.

(7)  There will be animal feeding times throughout this bank holiday weekend!  Call by to see Belfast Zoo's latest arrivals.

Belfast Zoo Unveils a New ‘Giant’

1_(1)  BIG news at Belfast Zoo with ‘GIANT’ arrival!

Belfast Zoo welcomed a baby Giant Anteater on December 22, 2015! This endangered South American mammal was born to parents, Pancho and Kara, and the Zoo is asking for your help to name the special arrival.

Pancho arrived in Belfast from Duisburg Zoo (Germany), in 2012, and was joined by Kara from Olomouc Zoo, in February 2015, as part of the European breeding programme. There are only 200 Giant Anteaters living in zoos around the world and Pancho and Kara are the only breeding pair in Ireland!

Zoo curator, Alyn Cairns, said, “We are all delighted to welcome a new member to the zoo family. Kara is a fantastic mum and for the first six months she will carry the pup on her back nearly all the time. While this is great camouflage from predators, it also makes it extremely difficult for the keepers to get a good look at the infant to find out whether it is male or female and we don’t want to disrupt the pair at this stage. Even though we don’t know what sex the pup is, the team have come up with some names and we would love your help to pick one!"

You can help to name the Zoo’s latest arrival by voting for one of the names pre-selected by Keepers. Place your vote at:

2_(5)  Kara is a fantastic mum and for the first six months she will carry the pup on her back nearly all the time.

3_(2)  Belfast Zoo welcomed a baby giant anteater on 22 December 2016!

4_(3)  You can help name the zoo's latest arrival.  Visit for more information.Photo Credits: Belfast Zoo

As the name suggests, the Giant Anteater is the world’s biggest anteater species and can grow up to seven feet in length.   In Central and South America, they live in the grasslands and rainforests. While this species was once widespread, today their numbers vary drastically between countries. They are considered one of the most threatened mammals in Central America. In fact, in Brazil, there are serious concerns because, in some areas where they once roamed, there are now none left.

Zoo curator, Alyn Cairns, continued, “Giant Anteater populations have declined by 30% between 2000 and 2010, showing how vulnerable the species is. Our latest arrival is not only cause for celebration for Belfast Zoo and the breeding programme but also for Giant Anteater conservation as a whole. Giant Anteaters are unquestionably one of the most unusual looking species. They have a long snout, long hair, a large bushy tail and a long tongue, which is approximately 50 centimeters in length! They use their tongue to mop up insects and can eat up to 30,000 insects in a single day! We have no doubt that the newest arrival is going to be a popular addition with both staff and visitors.”

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Movember Madness at Belfast Zoo

(1)  Movember is in full swing at Belfast Zoo with the arrival of an emperor tamarin!

The Emperor Tamarins, at Belfast Zoo, are up and ready for “Movember”!  The newest moustached member of the zoo, ‘Lucky’, was born on September 28th to mother, ‘Bella’ and father, ‘Alfie’.

(2)  The moustached little monkey, who has been named Lucky, was born on 28 September 2014 to mother, Bella and father, Alfie.

(3)  These primates live in family groups and, while the mother nurses her offspring, it is the father who carries and cares for them.

(4)  Alfie certainly has his hands full with the new arrival but luckily the pair’s other offspring, Dot, Ethel, Ping and Pong help out with the childcare!Photo Credits: Belfast Zoo

“Movember” is an international campaign, held every November. Men across the globe are encouraged to grow moustaches as a means to promote and raise awareness for men’s health issues, such as prostate cancer.

Zoo manager, Mark Challis, said, “Emperor Tamarins are named after the German Emperor, Wilhelm II, because of their long white moustaches. It is fantastic that at less than two months old, little Lucky has a ‘Movember’ moustache to rival anyone’s!  Lucky is the third Emperor Tamarin to be born at the zoo in 2014, and we are delighted to welcome him to the Belfast Zoo family!”

Emperor Tamarins are found in the tropical rainforests along the Amazon River in Peru, Brazil and Bolivia.  These primates live in family groups, and, while the mother nurses her offspring, it is the father who carries and cares for them. Little Lucky’s father, ‘Alfie’, certainly has his hands full with the new arrival, but luckily the parent’s other offspring, ‘Dot’, ‘Ethel’, ‘Ping’ and ‘Pong’, help out with the childcare!

More pics below the fold!

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New Joey is a First for Belfast Zoo


It’s a UK first for Belfast Zoological Gardens, as a Goodfellow’s Tree Kangaroo has been born!



Belfast_treeKangaroo_4Photo Credits: Belfast Zoological Gardens

Belfast Zoo is home to the only Goodfellow’s Tree Kangaroos in the United Kingdom and Ireland. In fact, there are only 22 tree kangaroos in the whole of Europe and only six of this subspecies.

The newborns father ‘Hasu-Hasu’ and mother, ‘Jaya’, arrived at Belfast Zoo in 2013. Keepers first noticed movement in Jaya’s pouch on in early May 2014, but it was not until recent weeks that the joey’s head was spotted peaking out!

Zoo Curator, Andrew Hope, said “Like all marsupials, female tree kangaroos carry and nurse their young in their pouch. Keepers first noticed movement in the pouch back in May, but it is only recently that the joey has started to make an appearance. The joey will remain in Jaya’s pouch for several more months before starting to explore and, for this reason, it is not yet possible for keepers to determine the sex or the name of the latest arrival.”

As their name suggests, Goodfellow’s Tree Kangaroos are tree-dwelling mammals, found in the mountainous rainforests of Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. They can climb 15 to 20 feet up tree trunks and can leap more than 30 feet through the air from branch to branch!

Belfast Zoo manager, Mark Challis, said “Belfast Zoo is home to a number of extremely rare and endangered species and, while the team is always ecstatic when any of the animals successfully breed, we are particularly over the moon with the arrival of the tree kangaroo joey! Only 13 zoos internationally are home to Goodfellow’s Tree Kangaroos, so the arrival of our joey is spectacular! The population of Goodfellow’s Tree Kangaroo has dramatically declined in the last 30 years due to the habitat destructions and hunting. Zoos have an important and active role to play in their conservation, and I am proud that Belfast is leading the way for Goodfellow’s Tree Kangaroo in the UK and Ireland.”

More photos below the fold!

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