July begins!

July 1, 2009 § Leave a comment


The hot weather has continued with intensity this week, but don’t worry, it’s bound to end as soon as the kids break for their summer holidays! Here’s what has been happening in the zoo this week.

The penguin chicks are now getting very large, and are beginning to lose their downy feathers. As this happens and the chicks become waterproof they are moved into the creche enclosure (the smaller enclosure, next to the large one!) so that they do not keep pestering their parents for food, and learn to become more independent. It’s quite natural for young penguins to “creche” together in the wild and learn new skills like swimming. While they are still in the crèche, keepers will take blood samples so that each chick can be DNA sexed. Once the DNA results are in keepers can christen the young penguins with their permanent bands. At this time they are also micro-chipped. When keepers are happy that all the chicks are hand feeding well they are allowed back into the main enclosure. Look out for all of this happening in the coming weeks!

The chicks are looking rather scruffy now as they lose their downy feathers! 

The chicks are looking rather scruffy now as they lose their downy feathers!

A recent addition to the Budongo Trail has been the 50 to 60 carp that have been introduced to the moat at the front of the enclosure. The mirror and common carp are perfect for the deep water of the moat and can often be seen floating near the surface soaking up the sun.

Their arrival hasn’t gone un-noticed by our chimpanzees with our youngest chimp Liberius paying particular attention to these large fish. Pay a visit to the Budongo Trail and you may be lucky enough to see young Liberius whiling away many an afternoon watching the fish swim by. Although chimpanzees can’t swim and tend to avoid water where possible they are incredible tool makers so who knows, maybe Liberius will be perfecting the fishing rod in the near future!  

 Liberius, still recognizable by his pale face!

Liberius, still recognizable by his pale face!

We are pleased to announce that our hamerkop family has once again produced chicks. Two chicks hatched on the 7th April this year. However, due to the impressive nest constructed by the hamerkop parents, the chicks were completely hidden until they fledged the nest on the 28th May. The chicks are not yet sexed, but can be spotted flying around the African aviary.

Hamerkops are known for their nest building activities, and you will spot our hamerkops’ nest very easily, right in the middle of the aviary. It is up to 1.5m in length, width and depth, and could easily hold the weight of a human! Inside this huge construction of sticks and mud, a tunnel leads from the underside of the nest, up to 60cm in to the heart of the nest, where a chamber can be found, large enough to hold both parents and their chicks. The building of such an elaborate construction must be very time and energy consuming, but that doesn’t stop the hamerkops! They are known to be compulsive nest builders in the wild, constructing up to 5 nests a year sometimes, even when not breeding! Abandoned nests can provide an important habitat for some other wildlife such as small mammals, snakes, weaver birds and even owls.

Due to the strange behaviours of the hamerkop, this species has become the focus of many myths. Some believe that the hamerkop could bring death, or that anyone who disturbed its nest would suffer some sort of dreadful fate. Such myths have actually afforded the hamerkop some protection from humans. It is classified as ‘least concern’ by the IUCN red list and has a large natural population.

 The hamerkop, so named because of the hammer-like shape of its head

The hamerkop, so named because of the hammer-like shape of its head

Finally, today will see us welcoming some new swamp wallabies to Edinburgh Zoo, all the way from Zurich! Our lone male swamp wallaby will no doubt be pleased to welcome such company, after his mate sadly dying earlier this year. The new group will most definatly include some females and may even be accompanied by a joey! As well as this, they will now be living opposite to the Darwin’s rhea, in what was the hog deer enclosure. (The hog deer have now been moved to the old swamp wallaby enclosure, next door to the koalas). This should make them a lot more visible to the public, so we will all be able to keep a close eye on their antics as they settle in, and, with any luck, begin breeding.

Swamp wallabies are classified as ‘least concern’ by the IUCN red list due to their large wild population, and wide range along the eastern coast of Australia. We are pleased to report that this is one species that actually faces no major threats in the wild!

However, the swamp wallaby is indeed a very interesting and unique animal. It is the only living member of the genus, ‘wallabia, and therefore has some unusual traits. Differing from other wallaby species, the swamp wallaby prefers grazing to browsing, has a distinct colouring to its body (rather than being grey), and utilises delayed implantation of the embryo which can lengthen its gestation period considerably. They are also known for their unpleasant smell, which is probably the thing that has kept them safe, making them undesirable to hunters!

Our lone male waits anxiously for the new arrivals! 

Our lone male waits anxiously for the new arrivals!



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