Babies, babies, babies…

June 17, 2009 § 3 Comments

This week has brought news of many new births at both Edinburgh Zoo and Highland Wildlife Park. Read on to find out more

We now have 43 gentoo penguin chicks hatched from a total of 117 eggs, with 2 eggs (laid a little later than the others) still remaining. The chicks are growing well and the nest site is a flurry of activity now that some of the larger chicks are starting to explore the area. This week saw some heavy down pours at the zoo, leaving the chicks, with their fluffy, non-waterproof feathers, looking rather washed out!

There’s a reason why penguins breed in summer!

There’s a reason why penguins breed in summer!

Keep up to date with all the antics on the gentoo penguin nest site by tuning in to our new, live ‘penguin cam’. This can be found on the Edinburgh Zoo website.

We are pleased to announce that the first king penguin egg has been laid to the green banded female and the blue banded male on the 12th June. Incubation for king penguins is 56 days; one of the longest of all penguin species! So we have a long wait to see if a chick will hatch. The second king penguin female is still finishing her moult, but we are hopeful that she will eventually lay as well. Last year both king penguin females produced fertile eggs, and we have no reason to suspect that they would not this year.

This year keepers have decided to give the king penguins the chance to incubate their own eggs, rather than artificially incubating them as has been done in previous years. Unlike the gentoo and rockhopper penguins, king penguins balance their eggs on their feet, using their belly to incubate and protect the egg. Parents will ‘take turns’ to look after their egg, and this requires them to carefully roll the egg from their own feet onto the other penguin’s feetnot an easy feat task! The penguins can be rather clumsy, and one false move can mean that their egg will fall to the floor. In the wild, this would ultimately mean that no chick would survive as the penguins can’t pick that egg up off the floor, and protect it from the cold. Here in the zoo the keepers will be keeping a close eye on the king penguins and their eggs, and if necessary they will do their best to ‘rescue’ them!

Another problem can often be jealous penguins. Those males who have not paired up with a female, and therefore do not have an egg, have been known to try and steal eggs from the breeding pairs! This sort of behaviour could also easily lead to an egg rolling on to the floor, or even being damaged. Once again, the keepers will be keeping a close eye on any green-eyed penguins to ensure the breeding parents have peace and quiet!

The keepers hope that this year, by allowing the king penguins to care for their own eggs during the incubation period, we may have more chance of chicks surviving to hatching, and beyond. However, if at any time the keepers feel that an egg is in danger of damage or exposure to cold, they will most likely intervene and take an egg away for artificial incubation. The penguin parents will be given a dummy egg to incubate, and once the chick has hatched it will be returned straight back to its parents so that they can resume their parental duties.

We will keep you up-to-date with how the king penguin breeding is progressing, right here!

King penguins in the Falklands show us how it’s done! Watch out for a similar tell-tale bump on our green banded female

King penguins in the Falklands show us how it’s done! Watch out for a similar tell-tale bump on our green banded female and blue-banded male

We are also pleased to announce that our family of Cochin Chinese Red Jungle Fowl have once again successfully bred this year producing 2 (very cute!) chicks. The chicks hatched on the 13th May and can be spotted exploring their enclosure (behind the Rhinos) or peeking out from beneath Mum’s feathers!

Jungle fowl are dimorphic, meaning that the male and female look completely different to one another. Females are rather dull in appearance, having a coat of plain brown feathers. This helps the females to camouflage among the jungle floor vegetation (where they nest) and to hide her chicks when they are still small. Males on the other hand, are colourful with deep red, bronze and gold colours in their plumage. They also have an elongated tail. This is all in the name of attracting a mate as females prefer to mate with colourful males. You will no doubt see our male strutting around his enclosure, doing his best to look impressive and intimidating when you pass by! Both our male and female are very protective parents so please give them plenty of space when you are visiting.

A very serious chick explores its enclosure

A very serious chick explores its enclosure

Although this isn’t official Edinburgh Zoo news we can’t resist letting you know that the Highland Wildlife Park, Amur tiger pair have also given birth to three cubs!

Yuri (the male) and Sasha (the female) moved to a fantastic new enclosure at the Highland Wildlife Park from the zoo back in October 2008. They settled in quickly, and obviously took such as liking to their new home that they decided it would be perfect to welcome some youngsters into!

The three new arrivals were born on the 11th May. As they are still quite young, keepers won’t be able to sex or name them for another few weeks. Staff at the park have been keeping a close eye on them since they were born and all cubs are in excellent health and are ready to start exploring their outside enclosure. Sasha and Yuri are already extremely experienced parents, having successfully reared six cubs at Edinburgh Zoo in the past. So, we have no doubt that they are doing a fantastic job this time. Why not take a trip to the Highland Wildlife Park to see if you can spot them?

The perfect parent!

The perfect parent!

Amur tigers (previously known as Siberian tigers) are classified as endangered by the IUCN red list and it is estimated that there are only around 500 remaining in the wild. This however, is a huge improvement on the 20-30 wild individuals remaining in the 1930’s. The Amur tiger population has made a spectacular comeback and is now relatively stable. However, they still face a large number of threats including poaching (their body parts are often used in traditional medicines), hunting of their prey species and persecution. They are also largely threatened by habitat loss which has led to them now only being found in fragmented and isolated pockets of forest in the Amur valley, far east Russia (hence the change of name). If the wild population were to face decline again it would be immediately classified as critically endangered due to the numerous threats it faces, and the need for intensive conservation efforts.

It is therefore critical that zoos maintain a healthy captive population of Amur tigers to support the on going conservation measures in the wild. There is currently a captive breeding population of around 450 individuals throughout the world, and the new births at the Highland Wildlife Park will make a welcome addition to this.

Very welcome additions to the Highland Wildlife Park and the captive breeding population

Very welcome additions to the Highland Wildlife Park and the captive breeding population



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