April Begins…

April 1, 2009 § 1 Comment


As we move into the fourth month of the year (where is time going?!) April brings the promise of warmer weather, chocolate eggs and hot cross buns! For our animals, April promises breeding and births for many of our seasonal breeders.


The Penguin egg count has continued to rise this week, with the Rockhoppers now having laid a staggering 8 eggs, and the Gentoos having laid 15 eggs (with plenty more to follow I’m sure!) The Gentoos are caring for their eggs themselves, whereas the Rockhopper eggs have been taken away for artificial incubation and replaced with dummy eggs.


Unfortunately, this week, we also have some very sad news to relay regarding our Gentoo Penguins. Many visitors to the zoo may be familiar with Esme; a Gentoo Penguin with a curved spine. Esme was always recognisable due to her deformity, which she had on hatching. It’s difficult to know whether her deformity was genetic or just the way she grew in her egg. Unfortunately though, Esme died this week, after having an egg removed that had become stuck.


Esme was four years old and was always very healthy. She was regularly x-rayed by our vets to check whether or not the curvature was getting worse and also had her annual health checks. Last year was the first time she paired up with a male which was great as it showed that her deformed spine did not affect her breeding behaviour. She laid her first egg with absolutely no problem but unfortunately her partner broke it on the nest! She became uncomfortable when the second was due a few days later and so we had her x-rayed on suspicion of her being egg-bound. She was, and one of vets did a great job of removing the egg intact, and she recovered really well. The keepers didn’t return her egg, as due to her absence from the nest, another pair took it over.


After last year, the keepers discussed Esme’s breeding options with the vets and decided that since only one egg became stuck they would give her one more chance to breed this year. Depending upon the outcome they may then have considered operating to prevent her laying eggs in the future. This would have been a last resort as invasive surgery is dangerous.


On Friday morning (27th March) she was lying away from her nest and obviously uncomfortable, though she had been completely normal the previous day. The vet came in and removed an intact egg and she was left her in the pen to recover. She was a little slow in recovering and so keepers left her in the pen overnight. Unfortunately, she was found dead first thing the next morning. We don’t know the official cause of death yet, but her body will be sent away for a Post Mortem so that we can learn more.


We were all shocked at her dying so suddenly, especially after the egg was removed very quickly and efficiently. We were all very fond of her and will miss her a lot, as we are sure, many of our visitors will too.


Esme, quite a character among our Gentoo colony, and always recognisable, even without a flipper band


Esme, quite a character among our Gentoo colony, and always recognisable, even without a flipper band


On a more cheery note, we are pleased to announce the birth of a rather novel animal here at the zoo; a Nudu! This mix between a Nyala and Lesser Kudu was born only today (April 1st) in the early hours of the morning! Keepers and Vets were on call overnight, as they felt special care should be taken over the mother (a Nyala) as she was delivering the first ever animal of this kind! The foal (a male) was delivered successfully, and both mother and baby appear very healthy.


Nyala and Lesser Kudu are both species of African Antelope and are very similar in appearance, both having a brown coloured coat, with white stripes. The females of both species tend to be smaller with a lighter coat, whereas the males are larger, darker and possess spiralled horns. The main differences between the two species are that the Nyala tend to have longer, more orange coats, whereas the Lesser Kudu coat is shorter and greyer in colour.


The youngster therefore does not look very different to the Nyala and Lesser Kudu young, born earlier in the year. However, he does have exceptionally large ears! We are not quite sure why he has these unusual features, but a DNA sample will be sent away for testing so that we can learn more about this new hybrid!


A computer simulation of what the Nudu will look like when on show, in a few weeks time
A computer simulation of what the Nudu will look like when on show, in a few weeks time


Finally, following the arrival of a related pair of Stanleys Cranes last year, we can now confirm that we are to begin breeding this species. The male previous kept at Edinburgh has now been transported to another zoo, leaving his sister behind, who is to be paired with an unrelated male in the future. This species is classified as ‘Vulnerable’ by the IUCN Redlist, and is threatened by loss of it’s grassland breeding habitat, direct poisoning and collision with power lines. Although the population is currently stable, it could very easily decline again unless conservation measures are implemented. Edinburgh Zoo will be breeding this species under recommendations from the European Studbook keeper, who works with zoological collections across Europe to produce and maintain a healthy captive population.


 The beautiful Stanleys Crane can be seen opposite the Darwin’s Rhea, sharing an enclosure with the Hog Deer

The beautiful Stanleys Crane can be seen opposite the Darwin’s Rhea, sharing an enclosure with the Hog Deer


P.S. April Fool! As if Edinburgh Zoo would ever allow such irresponsible breeding and produce a ‘Nudu’!


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§ One Response to April Begins…

  • Barry says:

    Very good news about the Rockhopper Penguins laying eight eggs. This is now more important than ever because Birdlife International has recognised that there are two species of Rockhopper (following DNA testing) although Vauterin had been saying for twenty five years that they should be split, he had based his opinion primarily on the length of the ear tufts and the differences in behaviour and vocalization between chrysocome and moseleyi. Anyway Edinburgh holds a group of Eudyptes moseleyi (Northern Rockhopper)which as a result of the split has been reclassified by the IUCN from Vulnerable to Endangered, reflecting the fact that the world population of Northern Rockhoppers has declined by 90% in the past fifty years. It is a pity that this fact has not, as yet, been acknowledged in the signage.

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