Chester Zoo

‘Extinct’ birds hatch at Chester Zoo

'Extinct' birds hatch at Chester Zoo (6)

Two chicks belonging to a species that was declared extinct in the wild 47 years ago have hatched at Chester Zoo.

The Soccoro dove, which originates from Socorro Island located 400 miles off the west coast of Mexico, vanished from the wild completely in 1972.

'Extinct' birds hatch at Chester Zoo (10)

'Extinct' birds hatch at Chester Zoo (5)

The introduction of sheep that ate plants the doves depended on for food and shelter, and invasive species such as cats that preyed upon the birds, are believed to be the main factors behind their demise.

Now, there are less than 200 Socorro doves existing entirely in zoos around the world, with just 23 in the UK – including Chester Zoo’s latest arrivals.

The chicks, which hatched on 7 November and fledged 20 days later, were raised by ‘foster parents’ – a pair of barbary doves – as adult Socorro doves have a poor track record of incubating eggs and raising their own chicks.

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Chester Zoo's Top 10 Baby Animals of 2018

Conservationists at Chester Zoo have celebrated an unprecedented number of births in 2018, including some of the world’s rarest and most at-risk species.

1. Precious sun bear cub Kyra is first of her kind to be born in the UK (8)

Sun Bear

Adorable cub Kyra was the first Sun Bear to be born in the UK. Her birth was caught on the zoo’s CCTV cameras and people around the globe watched Kyra’s first moments with her mom. Kyra’s parents, Milli and Toni, were both rescued from poachers in Cambodia.    

Conservationists estimate that less than 1,000 Sun Bears remain in the wild across Southeast Asia. Deforestation and commercial hunting for their body parts have decimated their numbers.

2. Baby Stevie is the arrival of the decade… for Chester’s chimpanzees  (3)

Chimpanzee

Critically endangered Western Chimpanzee Stevie was the first of her kind to be born at Chester Zoo in nearly 10 years.

Stevie’s birth followed a scientific project, spanning several years, which carefully assessed the genetics of all Chimpanzees in zoos across Europe. The study confirmed that the troop of Chimps at Chester Zoo is the highly-threatened West African subspecies – one of the rarest in the world – establishing them as a critically important breeding population. It is estimated that as few as 18,000 West African Chimpanzees now remain in the wild.

3. Elephant calf Anjan astonishes scientists after being born three months after expected due date (2)

Asian Elephant

After an unusually long pregnancy believed to have lasted 25 months, Asian Elephant Thi Hi Way gave birth to a healthy male calf, who keepers named Anjan.

A major Chester Zoo project in Assam, northern India, has successfully found ways to eliminate conflict between local communities and the nearby Asian Elephant population, offering a blueprint for the future conservation of the species.

4. Greater one-horned rhino calf Akeno gives new hope to species (2)

Greater One-horned Rhino

The momentous birth of Greater One-horned Rhino calf Akeno, born to mom Asha, was captured on CCTV cameras at the zoo.

Keepers watched as Asha delivered her calf safely onto to soft bedding after a 16-month-long gestation and 20-minute labor.

At one stage, the Greater One-horned Rhino was hunted almost to extinction and less than 200 survived in the wild. Thankfully, steps to protect the Rhinos were taken just in time and today there are around 3,500 in India and Nepal.

5. Secretive okapi calf Semuliki is a star in stripes (2)

Okapi

A rare Okapi calf named Semuliki arrived to first-time parents K’tusha and Stomp. The Okapi is found only deep in the forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo and its highly secretive nature contributed to it being completely unknown to science until 1901.

Despite being a national symbol and protected under Congolese law, Okapi populations declined in the wild by nearly 50% over the past two decades and the species is now listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

6. Tiny forest dragons help uncover new information about the species (4)
Bell’s Anglehead Lizards

A clutch of rare baby  Bell’s Anglehead Lizards – also known as Borneo Forest Dragons – hatched at the zoo, helping conservationists uncover more about the species’ breeding patterns, life cycle and habits.

The Lizards’ wild south Asian habitat however, is being decimated to make way for unsustainable palm oil plantations – a threat which is pushing many species in the region to the very edge of existence.

7. Rare silvery gibbon adds to record baby boom at the zoo  (2)
Silvery Gibbon

The birth of a tiny Silvery Gibbon astonished visitors to the zoo who were able to admire the infant just minutes after its birth. 

Conservationists hailed the arrival of this highly endangered primate, with just 4,000 of its kind now remaining on the island of Java, Indonesia, where the species is now listed as endangered by the IUCN.

8. Fluffy flamingo chicks are pretty in pink  (2)

Flamingos

Keepers were tickled pink by the arrival of 21 Flamingo chicks. Each of the fluffy newcomers was carefully hand fed by the zoo’s bird experts four times a day for five weeks until they were developed enough to fully feed for themselves.

Flamingo chicks are white or grey in color when they first hatch, resembling little balls of cotton wool, and begin to develop their famous pink plumage at around six months old.

9. Tiny babirusa triplets arrive in zoo ‘first’ (3)

Babirusa

The first set of Babirusa triplets were born at the zoo, a huge boost to the species which has experienced a recent population crash on the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia.

Once considered fairly common, the rapid decline comes as result of hunting for their meat and habitat loss, which has seen Babirusas disappear from many parts of the island.

10. Black rhino birth a surprise to visitors  (5)

Eastern Black Rhino

The arrival of Jumaane, a rare Eastern Black Rhino calf, left a handful of lucky zoo visitors in shock as his birth took place right in front of them.

Conservationists now estimate that fewer than 650 Eastern Black Rhino remain across Africa – a staggeringly low number driven by an increase in poaching to meet demand for rhino horn, which supplies the traditional Asian medicine market.

The birth of Jumaane is another vital boost to the Europe-wide breeding program which is crucial for the conservation of this critically endangered species.


Elusive Wildcat Kitten Caught on Camera

1_Britain’s rarest mammal – the Scottish wildcat – has been born at Chester Zoo (35)

A rare Scottish Wildcat has been born at Chester Zoo. The female kitten is part of a breeding programme that is striving to save Britain’s rarest mammal from extinction.

As few as 100 Wildcats – also known as the ‘Highland tiger’ – are estimated to remain in the UK.

The animals once thrived in Britain but were hunted to the brink of extinction for their fur and to stop them from preying on game birds. As the only remaining wild feline species, Scottish Wildcats are now protected under UK law but are still under huge threat from habitat loss, crossbreeding with domestic cats, and disease.

2_Britain’s rarest mammal – the Scottish wildcat – has been born at Chester Zoo (43)

3_Britain’s rarest mammal – the Scottish wildcat – has been born at Chester Zoo (34)

4_Britain’s rarest mammal – the Scottish wildcat – has been born at Chester Zoo (30)Photo Credits: Chester Zoo (Images 7-11: wildcat mum "Einich")

Chester Zoo is one of a number of conservation partners, which form Scottish Wildcat Action - a coordinated effort to bring the tenacious hunters back from the brink.

Conservationists have hailed the latest kitten as “another lifeline for the species” and it is hoped that future generations will be reintroduced to the wild.

Tim Rowlands, the zoo’s Curator of Mammals, said, “Unlike domestic cats who can have several litters a year, Scottish Wildcats will usually only have one, so every birth is really, really significant.”

“The kitten was born to parents, Einich and Cromarty, in August but, given their incredibly elusive nature, had not been caught on camera until now. It’s ever so special to see just how active the kitten already is and how she’s already starting to practice the skills that these magnificent, stealth hunters use to pounce on their prey.”

Tim continued, “Conservation breeding in zoos is a key component in the wider plan to prevent Scottish Wildcats from disappearing altogether – and each new arrival offers another lifeline for the species. The hope is that the safety net population being bred by our carnivore experts will be released into the highlands of Scotland in the future. We’re very much part of the vision to restore and maintain a wild population of the stunning Scottish Wildcat for the long term.”

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Chester Zoo Shares Photos of One-Day-Old Baby Gibbon

1. Baby silvery gibbon (5)

A rare baby Gibbon is the latest addition to the “biggest baby boom of mammals” on record at Chester Zoo.

The Silvery Gibbon – one of the world’s most threatened primates – was born to mom Tilu, age 10, and 19-year-old dad Alven on October 10 after a gestation of around 210 days.

The tiny, pink-faced primate is much too small to be sexed and therefore has not yet been named.

1. Baby silvery gibbon (6)
1. Baby silvery gibbon (6)Photo Credit: Chester Zoo



Gibbons are built for life in the trees and use their extra-long arms to swing from branch to branch, a technique called brachiation. As mom travels in the treetops, her baby clings tightly to her chest using its long fingers.

As the baby matures, it will begin to venture away from mom for brief periods. Like most Apes, Gibbons grow relatively slowly and depend on their mothers for a long period. Females give birth approximately once every three years. Silvery Gibbons are uncommon in zoos.

Silvery Gibbons, also known as Javan Gibbons, are found only on the Indonesian island of Java. These Apes are restricted to mountainous areas with dense forest cover. Though habitat loss is an issue on heavily-populated Java, the areas where Gibbons are found are very remote and rugged, so Gibbon populations have stabilized. Nonetheless, Silvery Gibbons are listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Fewer than 5,000 individuals remain in more than 15 locations on the island. Only about half of the Gibbons live in protected areas.  

See more photos of the baby Gibbon below.

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Baby Sun Bear Born to Parents Rescued From Illegal Trade

UK’s first baby sun bear named Kyra (22)

A rare baby Sun Bear delighted conservationists when she was born at Chester Zoo in June to parents who were rescued from illegal wildlife traders in Cambodia. 

When they were just cubs themselves, mom Milli and dad Toni were taken from the Cambodian forest by poachers and were mistreated while kept as pets.

UK’s first baby sun bear named Kyra (16)
UK’s first baby sun bear named Kyra (16)Photo Credit: Chester Zoo



After being discovered in very poor condition and nursed back to health by conservationists working for the Free The Bears organization in Cambodia, the duo was transferred to the United Kingdom, first to the Rare Species Conservation Centre in Kent and then to Chester Zoo to complete their recovery.

Now, despite their troubled start to life, Milli and Toni are parents of a healthy baby girl and zoo staff say the trio is doing well. Keepers chose the name Kyra, which means ‘sun goddess,’ for the cub.

Sun Bears are the smallest of the world’s eight species of Bear and are listed as Vulnerable to Extinction on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Their demise is a result of widespread habitat loss to make way for palm oil plantations, human-wildlife conflict, hunting and the illegal wildlife trade.

Sun Bears are named for the yellow or orange crescent marking on their chest, which legend says resembles the rising or setting sun. The species is also known as the Honey Bear due to its love for honey, which it extracts from hives with its long tongue.  They also feed on termites and ants, beetle larvae, bee larvae, honey and a large variety of fruit species, especially figs.

See more photos of Kyra below.

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Chester Zoo Is Tickled Pink By 21 Flamingo Chicks

!Pretty in pink! Chester Zoo welcomes new flamingo chicks (8)

Beginning on June 25, a total of 21 Caribean Flamingo chicks have hatched at Chester Zoo, bringing the total number in the zoo’s flock to 120.

All 21 youngsters are being hand fed by zookeepers at regular timed intervals, four times a day, and will require such special attention for several more weeks.

Pretty in pink! Chester Zoo welcomes new flamingo chicks
Pretty in pink! Chester Zoo welcomes new flamingo chicksPhoto Credit: Chester Zoo

Mark Vercoe, Assistant Curator of Birds, said, “Hand-feeding young Flamingos is a really intricate and demanding challenge, but these chicks will form part of another important breeding colony and so we need to make sure that each and every one makes it through to adulthood." 

The young chicks are white or grey in color, resembling little cotton balls, but they will develop their iconic pink feathers at around six months old. Flamingos get their pink color from pigments in the crustaceans and algae that they eat.

Once all of the new chicks are developed enough to fully feed themselves, the group will move to another zoo to help form a brand-new colony.

Caribbean Flamingos are the largest of all Flamingo species. They are native to the Caribbean islands, northern South America, and the Galapagos Islands, and sometimes live in flocks numbering thousands of birds. They are also known as American Flamingos.

See more photos of the flamingo chicks below.

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Zoo Visitors Stunned With Black Rhino Birth

1_Baby black rhino birth catches visitors by surprise at Chester Zoo (11)

Visitors to Chester Zoo were left stunned when an Eastern Black Rhino, named Malindi, gave birth in front of them.

While most Rhino births typically happen at night or in the early hours of the morning, the 12-year-old critically endangered mum shocked onlookers when she went into labour at around 12:30 in the afternoon on July 31.

A healthy male calf was delivered safely, less than half an hour later, in what zoo conservationists have described as a “very rare and special event” to witness.

This is mum, Malindi’s, second calf, and 19-year-old dad, Magadi, has sired five previous calves.

The little one was up on its feet within 15 minutes and was seen running around soon after, before returning to suckle from mum.

2_Baby black rhino birth catches visitors by surprise at Chester Zoo (5)

3_Baby black rhino birth catches visitors by surprise at Chester Zoo (8)

4_Baby black rhino birth catches visitors by surprise at Chester Zoo (13)Photo Credits: Chester Zoo

Tim Rowlands, Curator of Mammals at the zoo, said, “Visitors to the zoo were treated to something incredibly special when Eastern Black Rhino, Malindi, went in to labour in front of them. With just 650 Eastern Black Rhino left in the wild, seeing the birth of a new calf and it’s very first steps is a very rare and special event indeed.”

“The newborn was delivered onto soft wood mulch and within next to no time it was up on its feet and running around – it couldn’t have gone any smoother.”

Rowlands continued, “Although it’s still very early days, the little one is showing great signs by feeding regularly and mum and calf appear to have bonded very quickly.”

“We just hope this new calf helps us to raise some much needed attention to this truly magnificent species, and inspires urgent action to protect their future on this planet. We cannot and must not allow this subspecies to become extinct – a fate which has, tragically, already become of some of its cousins.”

Conservationists now fear that less than 650 Eastern Black Rhino remain across Africa, with the animals listed as “Critically Endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The staggeringly low wild number is a result of the illegal wildlife trade, driven by the increasing demand for Rhino horn, which supplies the traditional Asian medicine market, where it is currently changing hands for more than gold and drugs.

Mike Jordan, Collections Director at Chester Zoo, added, “This new arrival is a real boost to a critically endangered species. It increases the number of Eastern Black Rhino at Chester to 11 and is another vitally important success story in a Europe-wide breeding programme for these highly threatened animals. A thriving, healthy population of this high profile species in good zoos is vitally important to the future of this species and a key component of our mission to prevent their extinction.”

In tandem with its acclaimed breeding programme, Chester Zoo is also fighting for the survival of Eastern Black Rhino in the field and has long supported conservation efforts to protect Black Rhinos and continues to fund, and provide expertise, to numerous sanctuaries, partners and wildlife reserves in Africa.

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Prodigious Pigeon Hatches at Chester Zoo

1_Victoria crowned pigeon chick on the nest with mum just days after hatching at Chester Zoo (8)

The world’s largest member of the pigeon family, a Victoria Crowned Pigeon, recently hatched at Chester Zoo.

2_Victoria crowned pigeon chick on the nest with mum just days after hatching at Chester Zoo (11)

3_Victoria crowned pigeon chick on the nest with mum just days after hatching at Chester Zoo (6)

4_Victoria crowned pigeon chick on the nest with mum just days after hatching at Chester Zoo (13)Photo Credits: Chester Zoo

According to the Zoo, the newly fledged little bird is now bright blue, rocks the best mowhawk, and can be seen strutting its stuff! When fully grown, the chick will be similar in size to a turkey.

Native to Indonesia and New Guinea, the Victoria Crowned Pigeon (Goura victoria) is supposedly named after Queen Victoria who had a penchant for wearing elaborate, feathered headwear.

One of the closest living relatives of the now extinct Dodo, the Victoria Crowned Pigeon is itself declining in the wild, largely due to habitat loss as its forest home is cleared to make way for unsustainable palm oil plantations. It is also a bird that is prized by hunters and popular in the illegal pet trade, due to its beautiful appearance and spectacular plumage. As a result, it is a species listed as “Vulnerable” to extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).  

Mark Vercoe, Assistant Curator of Birds, said, “Along with the Nicobar Pigeon and the Tooth-billed Pigeon, the Victoria Crowned Pigeon is a descendant of the Dodo – a bird that has been famously lost from the planet because of the actions of humans.”

“This is something we don’t want to see a repeat of and it’s a lesson we really should learn from. Sadly, however, many bird species, including the likes of the Victoria Crowned Pigeon, are in trouble for many of the same reasons – human activity. Hopefully this chick can help us to highlight how important it is that we act for wildlife now; we cannot possibly let these beautiful birds go the same way as their extinct cousins.”

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Biggest Bush Dog Litter Ever Born at Chester Zoo Emerges From Den

1Puppy love! Biggest ever bush dog litter born at Chester Zoo emerges from den (16)

The biggest Bush Dog litter ever born at Chester Zoo has emerged from its den.

The six pups, born to mother Mana, age 7, and dad Franco, age 4, have made their public debuts after spending their first few weeks of life tucked away in their underground burrows.

Puppy love! Biggest ever bush dog litter born at Chester Zoo emerges from den (13)
Puppy love! Biggest ever bush dog litter born at Chester Zoo emerges from den (21)Photo Credit: Chester Zoo


Keepers believe the first of the sextuplets arrived on May 13, which is when they first heard tiny cries coming from the dens as they performed their morning rounds.

The litter, which is above the average size for Bush Dogs and is made up of two boys and four girls, is the largest to be born at the zoo.

Now, the youngsters have come out to play and have begun exploring the outside world under the watchful eye of their parents.  

Tim Rowlands, Curator of Mammals at the zoo, said, “Mana is doing a wonderful job of caring for her new pups but with it being her biggest litter ever, she’s certainly got her paws full. We’ve seen fairly big litters of four or five pups born in the past, but never have we had a litter of six.

The zoo’s Bush Dog pack now contains 16 individuals. In the next few weeks, the newest pups will be weighed and sexed by the care team.

Bush Dogs belong to the canine family and live in small isolated populations in the wet forests and grasslands of Central and South America. They have evolved over thousands of years to have a web of skin between their toes, which makes them excellent swimmers.

Sightings of Bush Dogs in the wild are becoming increasingly rare with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listing the species as Near Threatened. Their wild numbers have dropped by more than 25% in just 12 years. This decline is caused by destruction of natural areas for farms and other human developments, poaching for their meat, and diseases contracted from domestic dogs.

Chester Zoo has supported partners in Misiones, Argentina, where conservationists helped to create a biological corridor of habitat for a range of carnivorous species to help improve the movement between different areas of fragmented forest.

See more photos of the sextuplets below.

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Chester Zoo Waits Almost Decade for New Chimpanzee

1_The first chimpanzee to be born in nearly a decade at Chester Zoo has arrived to doting mum ZeeZee (83)

A critically endangered Western Chimpanzee has been born at Chester Zoo. Primate experts say the baby, born June 4, is in good health and inseparable from 24-year-old mum, ZeeZee.

ZeeZee was born at Chester Zoo on February 15, 1994. Her new infant marks the first time in almost ten years that the Zoo has welcomed a baby Chimpanzee. The last, Tina, was also born to mum ZeeZee in February 2009.

The birth follows a scientific project, spanning several years, which has carefully assessed the genetics of all Chimpanzees in zoos across Europe. The study has confirmed that the chimps at Chester Zoo are the highly threatened West African subspecies – one of the rarest in the world – establishing the group as a critically important breeding population.

Mike Jordan, Collections Director, said, “The new arrival is particularly important as it contributes to better genetic diversity in the European Western Chimpanzee population. It comes after a five-year-long scientific study of Chimpanzees in zoos across Europe confirmed that the group of chimps at Chester is one of the rarest in the world – making it even more important to conservation breeding than was ever thought.”

“In the wild, the Western Chimpanzee is under huge threat from bush-meat hunting as well as extensive and increasing habitat loss and fragmentation from human activity, so much so that it is the first ever Chimpanzee subspecies to join the list of critically endangered great apes. It makes the group at Chester an important conservation insurance population and the new baby is hugely significant.”

2_The first chimpanzee to be born in nearly a decade at Chester Zoo has arrived to doting mum ZeeZee (27)

3_The first chimpanzee to be born in nearly a decade at Chester Zoo has arrived to doting mum ZeeZee (30)

4_The first chimpanzee to be born in nearly a decade at Chester Zoo has arrived to doting mum ZeeZee (18)Photo Credits: Chester Zoo

The Western Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes verus) is found in West Africa where it is patchily distributed from Senegal to Ghana and is already thought to be extinct in Benin, Burkina Faso and Togo.

At Chester Zoo, the new arrival has increased the number of their group to twenty, and zoo primate experts say the baby has excited other chimps in the family.

Tim Rowlands, Curator of Mammals, added, “Mum and baby have bonded positively, and ZeeZee is naturally being incredibly protective of her newborn. She’s a wonderful, experienced mother and has learnt much of her parenting skills from her own mum Mandy, who is also part of the group and always on hand to lend her support.”

“The interactions between the group are incredibly fascinating to watch. A new baby brings a new dynamic and the group is in a real state of excitement – particularly given that they haven’t seen a baby in their group for the best part of a decade.”  

Chester Zoo is also actively involved in the conservation of some of the world’s rarest Chimpanzee subspecies in the wild and, for more than 20 years, has supported the last stronghold of another of the rarest Chimpanzee subspecies, the Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee, in Gashaka Gumti National park in Nigeria.

The Western Chimpanzee is classified as “Critically Endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It is estimated that there could be as few 18,000 remaining in the wild.

More beautiful photos, below the fold!

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