May Bank Holidays Arrive

May 20, 2009 § 8 Comments


With Edinburgh’s ‘Victoria Day holiday this week, and the English ‘Wit week’ holidays starting next week, there will be plenty of reasons to come and spend some quality time with the animals at Edinburgh Zoo (providing the rain stops for long enough!) Here’s what the animals have been up to this week. 

Thirty-seven gentoo penguins have now hatched from the one hundred and twelve eggs laid, and they have certainly been keeping their keepers busy! Here’s a run-down of just what the keeper’s have to do to care for the eggs and chicks at this time of year!

When the penguins lay each egg, keepers mark it (important because there are often two eggs on each nest) and all details are recorded on a clutch sheet and then transferred to a database. This is used to help keepers in carrying out daily nest checks.

 The daily nest check

The daily nest check

When the chicks first hatch, keepers dust their navel area with an antibiotic powder to prevent any infection and then weigh them. If it is a first chick and another is due on the nest, the chick is marked with a special dye as a method of telling the siblings apart. Once the second chick has hatched, and both siblings have grown a little, they are both banded using flexible plastic wire bands which can be adjusted or changed on a daily basis, as the chicks grow. This helps the keepers to identify penguin chicks whilst they are still young.

 A new hatchling is treated with antibiotic powder

A new hatchling is treated with antibiotic powder

Baby’s first weighing! 

Baby’s first weighing!

Keepers also collect the shells of all the eggs that have hatched. Previously a study was done on the composition of the shell in relation to diet, and researchers only need a tiny piece of shell from each egg to do this. We therefore hope that future studies can be carried out if we keep all the eggshells.

 Shell collection

Shell collection

Chicks are weighed every day for the first 10 days after hatching so keepers can monitor how well they are being fed by their parents. After 10 days they are weighed every other day unless there is any cause for the keepers to be concerned. When chicks reach a weight of about 300g keepers will start to feed them very small fish called ‘whitebait’ to get them used to being hand fed and to help out their parents as well! Everything is recorded from start to finish as it’s important for keepers to keep a full detailed progress report of every penguin that hatches.

We are pleased to announce the arrival of three male European Grey Wolves at Edinburgh Zoo, from their previous home at the Highland Wildlife Park. ‘Puika’, ‘Dalls’ and ‘Ilknis’ can be viewed out in their enclosure, opposite the African Plains, where they are now getting settled in. It has been a full 16 years since wolves were last resident at Edinburgh Zoo, and we are sure many visitors will be happy to see them return. One male, ‘Hans’ from the Highland Wildlife Park pack has remained at the Highland Wildlife Park to be introduced to a female, ‘Elara’ in the hopes that we can begin breeding this species. This pair of wolves will be resident in a new enclosure, as work will soon begin to transform the old wolf enclosure into the new polar bear enclosure.

Wolves were once widespread throughout Europe, including the UK, but due to hunting, habitat loss and diseases passed onto them by domestic dogs, they are now confined to small pockets in Italy, Poland, France, Portugal, Russia, Scandinavia, Spain and throughout Eastern Europe. They became extinct in the UK during the 18th century.

 Three handsome bachelors arrive in town!

Three handsome bachelors arrive in town!

We are sad to have to tell you that two more of the Bush dog puppies died at the end of April. Unfortunately, despite the special care both keepers and vets had been giving to our bush dogs, the illness that the dogs have been suffering from got the better of yet two more of the puppies. As you can imagine, after caring for the puppies for so long, this was very sad news for the keepers and all staff alike. As one blog reader noted just last week, it is a sad fact of life that in captivity, as in the wild, some animals will make it, and others will not. The remaining bush dog puppy has been seen out frequently, and is growing larger each time. We are hopeful that he will continue to grow healthily and one day contribute to the breeding programme himself.

Finally, if you’re visiting the zoo during the next week or so, you may want to pay a visit to Tyson the honey badger. We are expecting to wave goodbye to Tyson towards the end of May as he leaves the zoo to join another collection. Many visitors will be familiar with Tyson as he is quite the character! Always on the go, since Tyson’s arrival at the zoo, he has caused his keepers constant headaches! From breaking his water dish (and in doing so, flooding his enclosure) to figuring out how to open his door at will (and letting himself in and out when he felt like it!), Tyson has been a non-stop trouble maker! Fondly named ‘Tyson the Dyson’, he certainly kept his keepers challenged as they came up with all sorts of enrichment to prevent him from destroying his enclosure! We will all be sad to say goodbye to the honey badger, and we hope that he will be happy in his new home, and can contribute to the rambunctious captive population of this species.

Farwell Tyson! 

Farwell Tyson!


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§ 8 Responses to May Bank Holidays Arrive

  • Carol says:

    Last week when I was at the zoo I was talking to one of your keepers and he told me the the tigers at the wildlife park were due to give birth. Can you tell me if the has happened and if not when is the expected delivery date. many thanks

  • Barry says:

    Re the Bush Dog puppies.
    Whilst it is always a matter of regret that young animals die, one must bear in mind the mathematics of the situation.
    All it takes for a population of any animal to remain stable is for a given pair to raise two offspring to maturity during their lifetime. If, for instance, every bush dog puppy survived to maturity and went on to breed we would be knee deep in Bush Dogs in a very short time.

  • Barry says:

    P.S. How about an update on the Darwin’s Rhea?

  • rzss says:

    I can confirm that the Amur Tigers at the Highland Widlife Park are expecting the pitter patter of tiny paws! If all goes well Sasha should be giving birth in the next few weeks, and we would expect the cubs to be out and about towards the end of June. Watch this space for more news.

  • rzss says:

    The Darwin’s Rhea have laid several eggs, some of which are still in the incubator. There are no survivng hatchlings so far, but we are keeping out fingers crossed for the remaining eggs. We will keep you updated on the progress.

  • Simon says:

    Will be sad to see Tyson go. That hyper little honey badger had real character. Hope wherever he’s going is aware of the chaos he can cause!

  • Dave says:

    Nice blog, but why so much “bold”?

    Actually makes quite an ammusing read if just read the bold bits and skip the rest 🙂

    PS: Can we have more pics of the keepers in action please!

  • david says:

    Where is Tyson going to?

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