The wheels on the bus go round and round!
April 15, 2009 § 6 Comments
Throughout the last week, Edinburgh has been hosting the International Science and Technology Festival. A buzz of scientific activities, events and talks have been taking place all over the city, including, of course, Edinburgh Zoo. This Saturday, 18th April, as part of the festival events, Edinburgh Zoo will be unveiling its ‘Wild Bus’ at ‘Our Dynamic Earth’. Everyone is welcome to come along and find out more throughout the day. And, you may even get the chance to meet some of the smaller animals who will be travelling on the bus, before they start out on their travels throughout Scotland!
The RZSS ‘Wild Bus’ will make its debut this Saturday outside ‘Our Dynamic Earth’
Back at the zoo, plenty is of course, going on here with our animals!
The Gentoo Penguins have now laid 78 eggs! This number continues to increase every day, and our penguin keepers even have their fingers crossed that the Gentoo Penguins may cross the 100-mark this year! It would certainly be an appropriate way to mark the Centenary celebrations of the RZSS.
The Rockhopper Penguins have stopped at the 10 eggs previously announced, but as it has been commented, they have done very well indeed! They did lay 10 eggs last year as well, with 1 chick hatching and surviving. We hope for the same if not better success this year. It would certainly be nice for our youngest Rockhopper Penguin, Tristan, to have some other youngsters to play with!
We have only 6 female Rockhopper Penguins and therefore we have six pairs of Rockhoppers currently occupying their small, secluded nest site. Five of these pairs have produced 2 eggs each as we would expect. One pair (they ones nesting nearest to the fence) have not laid so far and we don’t expect them to, as they didn’t lay last year. The male of this pair also has quite sore feet just now (a common problem among Rockhopper Penguins) and at the moment is wearing boots to help his feet heal!
We can also announce that of the 5 pairs laying eggs, only 2 pairs are producing fertile eggs. This does mean that the very most we can hope for this year is 4 chicks. However, this would certainly be a triumph for out Rockhopper Penguins, and certainly an improvement on recent years.
Spot the Rockhopper chick hiding in the background!
Since 2006, the Penguin keepers have been moving the Rockhopper group into the main enclosure at the end of the breeding season and bringing them back into the ‘creche’ enclosure for the start of the breeding season. They have reason to believe this may have improved breeding attempts among the Rockhopper Penguins as this movement imitates their behaviour in the wild. Typically in the wild the male penguins will return to their nesting area first, followed a week or so later by the females.
Keepers and zoo vets are also starting to look at the use of artificial insemination with our Rockhopper Penguins in order to improve egg fertility. They have begun by practicing some of the techniques involved in the procedure this year, in the hopes that they may begin to use them next year. So far they have managed to get fertile semen samples from two of the bachelor males! This is a promising start to what could be a long and challenging advance in Penguin breeding.
On the 7th April a female Asiatic Golden Cat arrived at Edinburgh Zoo, to be paired, in the future, with our resident male, Bruno. ‘Swa-Fai’ is a young female, yet to reach her first birthday! She has no doubt been named after the Thai name for this species ‘Seua fai’ meaning ‘Fire Tiger’. According to some Thai legends the burning of an Asiatic Golden Cat’s fur drives tigers away.Others believe that eating the meat, or simply carrying a hair from his beautiful cat will ward off tigers too. Such myths, certainly won’t have done the conservation of this species any favours.
Bruno, our male Asiatic Golden Cat
Currently classified by the IUCN Red List as ‘Near Threatened’, it has been suggested that this cat is very close to being classified as a far more worrying ‘Vulnerable’. They are largely threatened by habitat loss, as Southeast Asian forests are undergoing the world’s fastest regional deforestation rates. However, Asiatic Golden Cats are also hunted for the illegal trade of their furs and bones (used in traditional medicines), have been persecuted for taking livestock, and are subject to indiscriminate snaring practices. The population is in decline in the wild, and that it why it is important for a captive population to be bred and maintained.
Once young ‘Swa-Fai’ has matured, keepers hope they may be able to breed her with our older male Bruno. Asiatic Golden Cats are notoriously difficult to breed in captivity. But with any luck, the two could one day contribute to the growing captive population, and to the conservation of their species.
You many remember that we recently announced that we have been expecting the arrival of a male Stanley’s Crane to join our resident female here at Edinburgh Zoo. On the 4th April a male arrived from Whipsnade Zoo to be paired with our female. Despite being just less than a year old the male has settled in well, and seems that the pair have taken to each other very well. They have been spotted performing courtship behaviours towards one another, and are never seen apart!
The new pair enjoy a paddle together
On the 24th March, a male Short-Clawed Otter also arrived at Edinburgh Zoo to join a resident female. However, this male’s arrival did not go quite so smoothly! Unfortunately, our female reacted aggressively to the arrival of this new male in her territory, and as a result the male decided to escape from the enclosure! On Wednesday 1 April, during their routine morning inspections, our keepers discovered the otter was missing from its enclosure. Staff immediately began searching for the animal within the park and it was spotted on several occasions but attempts to catch the animal were unsuccessful! The otter eventually escaped the zoo and was spotted in the Blackhall area of Edinburgh, where it was eventually recaptured in somebody’s private garden! The escapee has now been returned to its original enclosure. Modifications have been made to the enclosure to prevent future great escapes! There have also been modifications to separate the male and female for the time being, whilst giving them visual access to one another so that they may gradually get used to each other, before they are introduced again.
Short-Clawed Otters are often seen ‘juggling’ stones, and have been known to swallow them (this aids in the digestion of whole animal carcasses)
Unfortunately, this week’s blog ends with some sad news. Over the Easter weekend one of the Bush Dog puppies died. The death of one or more young in a litter is common in both the wild and in captivity. And, although zoo keepers and vets will do everything in their power to ensure each individual survives, sometimes it is beyond their control. The individual that died, as you may expect, was the ‘runt’ of the litter. Zoo vets are currently carrying out tests to try to determine exactly what caused the death of this pup. It is however, likely linked to the fact that the adult Bush Dogs have recently had upset stomachs and diarrhoea. This in itself meant that the puppies’ mother was unable to feed her pups properly, and so keepers have been administering supplementary ‘tube-feeds’ to the pups themselves. Despite these measures, the weakest of the pups could not be saved. On a more positive note, we can report that the other pups are now looking much stronger. Keep an eye out for them next time you are in the zoo.