Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust

First Wild Population Of Wildcats To Be Established Outside Of Scotland In Over Two Centuries

Wildwood Trust, in collaboration with Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and Vincent Wildlife Trust, is taking the first steps in a groundbreaking new project to establish the first wild population of the functionally extinct wildcat outside of Scotland in over 200 years.


British wildlife conservation charity, Wildwood Trust, has today (4/20) announced the first steps in a groundbreaking new project to return the functionally extinct wildcat to suitable habitat outside of Scotland, seeing the species return for the first time since the 1800s.


Working in partnership with leading conservation organisations Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and Vincent Wildlife Trust, along with experts at the University of Exeter, the project will be the first of its kind outside of Scotland and could herald a new dawn for this iconic British species which is on the verge of total extinction in the wild.

The European wildcat is Britain’s rarest mammal and the only native cat species surviving in Britain. The wild population is thought to be less than 300 individuals, living exclusively in the remote Scottish Highlands, but that population has been declared “functionally extinct” which means that there is no longer a viable population left in the wild.

The species was hunted and persecuted to extinction in England and Wales a century ago, resulting in its disappearance. Loss and fragmentation of habitat and more recently interbreeding with domestic and feral cats, means it has not been able to return. Until now.

“Our goal is to return a viable and self-sustaining wildcat population to its former range. As a leading British wildlife conservation charity, we have developed years of experience and expertise in breeding wildcats in support of the existing Scottish conservation project. We are now excited to be utilising these skills to benefit wildcat recovery more broadly across Britain. This will be a long term commitment for Wildwood requiring increased resources and infrastructure so we are relying on the public’s support to help.” Said Laura Gardner, Director of Conservation at Wildwood Trust.

Reintroduction site and breeding facilities

After announcing this exciting new partnership last year, Wildwood is now taking the first steps in building new wildcat breeding facilities. The project partners, in collaboration with the University of Exeter, are currently undertaking research into the best sites for wildcat reintroduction in Britain. Alongside this, the project partnership is working closely with stakeholders and local people to ensure that the needs and views of local communities are taken fully into account.

Wildwood Trust will be breeding wildcats for the future reintroductions and has  launched a fundraising appeal to raise vital funds to build 10 new breeding facilities across its two sites in Kent and Devon. The Trust needs £50,000 to complete the build and is calling on the public to get involved by donating to the project and giving wildcats a brighter future.

Each enclosure will house a breeding pair of cats, whose kittens will later be released into the wild. Wildcat mating usually takes place between January and March with litters of 1-8 kittens born in April-May.

Breeding wildcats is notoriously difficult, as any noise and disturbance can adversely affect the cats. To ensure the survival and safety of the kittens, stress must be kept to a minimum. With this in mind, the new breeding enclosures will be built off-show at Wildwood Trust’s parks, helping to prepare kittens for life in the wild.

The wildcat is one of the few native predators left in Britain and performs important ecosystem functions. A healthy population of wildcats will help to restore the balance in the ecosystem by controlling numbers of prey animals, such as rabbits and rodents, and of predators such as foxes through competition for food. Predators also remove vulnerable prey, such as the old, injured, sick, or very young, leaving more food for the survival and success of healthy prey animals. Also, by controlling the size of prey populations, predators help slow down the spread of disease.

By dove-tailing their respective skills, knowledge and experience, Wildwood Trust, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and Vincent Wildlife Trust combine a wealth of expertise in species-recovery programmes, particularly in breeding and species reintroductions.

Wildwood’s mission is the protection, conservation and rewilding of British wildlife. Durrell's ‘Rewild our World’ strategy focuses on recovering wildlife, reviving ecosystems and reconnecting people to nature and Vincent Wildlife Trust has worked for over 40 years to monitor and recover mammal species of conservation concern in the UK, Ireland and elsewhere in Europe.

“Three Little Ducks Went out One Day…”

11027969_10152594221787041_5432568177538710850_oDurrell Wildlife Conservation Trust is excited to share the hatching of three important ducklings.



10866111_10152594221957041_5111781752943873373_oPhoto Credits: Floriot Randrianarimangason

These three Madagascar Pochard ducklings are special in several ways. They are considered a 'Lazarus species' (once declared extinct, but thankfully rediscovered), with a wild population of under 30 individuals, literally 'hanging on' in an environment where their young almost never survive.

They are also the first hatchlings to be parent-reared at Durrell's Antsohihy facility. This means that if they survive (ducklings are notoriously delicate), they could go back to wetlands that teams in Madagascar are working with local communities to restore.

The ducklings parents have been carefully selected using genetic information provided by students from Cardiff University who have been contributing valuable research to the all-out attempt (from Durrell, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) and the Malagasy Government) to save the Madagascar Pochard from extinction.

For more information on the project, please see their website: www.durrell.org/wildlife/species-index/madagascar-pochard


Keeper Documents Rare Starling's Growth

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Durrell Wildlife Park is home to ‘Sid’, a critically endangered Bali Starling. The series of pictures, taken by bird keeper Catherine Francescon while she and her colleagues have been busy rearing him, demonstrate a timeline of his growth. You can almost, literally, see his feathers growing!

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Durrell_Bali starling Sid_4Photo Credits: Catherine Francescon/Durrell Wildlife Park

Bali Starlings are the only endemic vertebrate left in the Indonesian Island of Bali. Experts believe that there are only around 130 or so left in the wild, and that the species is in real peril.

The extraordinary beauty of the Bali Starling has been a major factor in driving it to the brink of extinction. Its pure white plumage and blue streak across the eye, which hatchling ‘Sid’ will one day display, have made it irresistible to collectors. Attempts to reintroduce captive-bred birds to bolster the population have, in the past, failed, as poachers working for the illegal pet trade immediately target the new arrivals.

Education programs in Bali are now trying to tackle the problem. Meanwhile, a captive assurance or ‘safety-net’ population of about 1,000 birds has been established. Birds bred in the Jersey wildlife park are part of this international programme, which aims to keep the species going until the severe threats it faces in the wild can be addressed.

It's encouraging when healthy hatchlings, like ‘Sid’, are thriving at Durrell Wildlife Park!

More great pics of Sid's growth, below the fold!

Continue reading "Keeper Documents Rare Starling's Growth" »

Three's Company When It Comes to Otter Pups


On January 13, deep within the dens of the U.K.'s Durrell Wildlife Park Asian Small-clawed Otter enclosure, female otter Bintang gave birth to not one, not two but three babies! Small-clawed Otters are the smallest species of otter in the world, and when the babies were checked and weighed just days ago, they weighed a tiny three-quarters pound (335g) each!




Safe in her Mother's Arms: Baby Gorilla Born at Durell

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On September 27, as new mother Hlala Kahlili cradled her newborn infant, the U.K.'s Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust celebrated the arrival of their first Western Lowland Gorilla in nine years. Western Lowland Gorillas are one of the world's most critically endangered primates, so this birth is significant for the species' breeding program.

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The baby, whose gender is not yet known, is the first offspring of Badongo, a dominant silverback Gorilla who arrived at the park last year.  Hlali Kahlili is an experienced mother, and this is her fourth baby.

Mark Brayshaw, Head of Animal Collection at Durrell said, “We are delighted with the great news and so far the mother and baby are doing well, but as with all births we need to be extra cautious during the first few days. At the moment the group including the new parents are all very relaxed and our keepers are remaining as hands off as possible as the group appears quite settled.”

Western Lowland Gorillas are native to the forests of equatorial Africa.  They live in extended family groups, traversing the forest in search of fruit, leaves, and seeds. 

Photo Credits:  Will Bertram

Leapin' Lemurs! Twin Ring-tailed Babies Born at Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust

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A new pair of baby ring-tail lemur twins were born at Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust on March 28, 2011, to proud parents Muriel and Hannibal. The babies are usually with mum, clinging to her belly to start.Over the last few weeks they have begun climbing on her back so that they can take a good look at their surroundings. Dad Hannibal has been seen grooming the babies and sitting with his arm around Muriel. In just a short time the twins have grown quite a bit -- and gotten very active!

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Continue reading "Leapin' Lemurs! Twin Ring-tailed Babies Born at Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust" »

Yellow Mongoose Pups Just Days Old

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Three Yellow Mongoose babies were born last Sunday night (about one week ago from when these pictures were taken) to first time parents Basil and Sybil at Durrell Wildlife Trust. Yellow Mongoose litters usually consist of one or two individuals so having three is currently keeping Sybil very busy, but she is proving to be a great first time mom. Yellow Mongooses live with meerkats in the wild, and this natural behaviour is replicated at the conservation charity’s headquarters in the Channel Islands.

Yellow Mongoose Pup Carried by Mom Durrell 2

Yellow Mongoose Pups Durrell 3

At the moment the new babies are being kept hidden away by mum, their eyes have not yet opened and they are not strong enough to fend for themselves. But in another week or so they will be exploring outside, meeting their meerkat neighbours and in just a couple of months they will be completely weaned!

Rare Black Lion Tamarin Born at Durrell

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This week keepers at Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust were delighted to welcome a healthy male Black Lion Tamarin, the first born in captivity outside of Brazil in eight years! Mark Brayshaw, Head of Durrell’s animal collection said, “This baby is incredibly important to the European Endangered Species Program. There is still a very long way to go to ensure that the captive population’s viability is assured, but this is most definitely a step in the right direction.”

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This baby has been named Francisco after the Head of Durrell’s Veterinary Department who delivered him. He is the first healthy baby born to new mum Roxanne, who has previously lost two babies and suffered several miscarriages. Due to her previous problems the decision was made to monitor her four and a half month pregnancy carefully and to deliver the baby by caesarean section at the appropriate time. You can see a video below that includes the C-section at the end.

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Photo credits: Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust

So far both mother and baby are doing well. The infant is being hand-reared and syringe fed every two hours throughout the day and night. Over the next few weeks they will slowly teach him to lap milk from a dish; when he is able to do this successfully he can be returned to his family.

The video below contains grahic but fascinating footage of the actual c-section operation.

Introducing Pip the Porcupine Pup

The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust recently welcomed a baby African Crested Porcupine named Pippa or Pip for short. Baby porcupines are called "porcupettes" and their quills are soft for the first few days. However in adulthood this porcupine's quills provide a potent defensive weapon. When threatened, this species turns away from its aggressor, stamps its little feet, then charges rear-end first with its sturdiest quills sticking straight out. Doesn't look like Pip or mom have too much to be upset about though in salad paradise.

Newborn porcupine Pippa Credit Colm Farrington

Newborn porcupine Pippa Credit Colm Farrington20Photo credits: Colm Farrington

Name a Ring-tailed Lemur!

 Have you ever laid in bed at night wondering if somewhere else on Earth, a little Ring-tailed Lemur shares the exact same name as you? Or perhaps you have been searching for the perfect birthday gift for that hard to buy for Ring-tailed Lemur obsessive in your life. Well the search is over. Now you can bid on the opportunity to name not one, but both of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust's new little lemur twins! Born back in April, it's about time the little tykes got proper names. In addition to selecting the names, the winning bidder will also get to meet the lemurs as well as their keepers. All proceeds go to benefit Durrell's conservation work.

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Baby ring-tailed lemur Durrell Wildlife Conservation 5 Credit Reberto Hulzebos

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Photo credits - Images 1,2 & 4, Colm Farrington and images 3 and 5 Roberto Huzlebos

So what are you waiting for? Naming a lemur makes the perfect bar mitzvah gift. And how better to say "I love you" for a special anniversary than by naming a lemur after your wife? Join the bidding on eBay or read more about the contest on the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust site.

We're sorely tempted to name one "ZooBorns.com" but you gotta figure the little guy would be mercilessly teased in lemur elementary school.