Summer Holidays Begin!

July 8, 2009 § 1 Comment


The Scottish school holidays have begun this week, and the zoo has been particularly busy. This is not least as a result of the exciting news that we bring you this week!

We are pleased to announce that our pygmy hippo pair have welcomed their first youngster into the world. Leishan, a female calf, was born on the 9th June and is doing very well indeed! 4 year old Ellen is proving to be a great first-time mum to Leishan. The calf has gradually been gaining weight and she is already out and about, exploring her enclosure. It won’t be long until her dad, Otto (also just 4 years old), will be allowed to join mother and baby.  Leishan will stay with her parents for at least the first two years of her life, before moving on to another zoo.

Ellen keeps a close watch over little Leishan 

Ellen keeps a close watch over little Leishan

As the name suggests, the pygmy hippo is far smaller that the common hippo but this is not the only difference between the two species. Pygmy hippos spend much less time in the water, instead inhabiting rainforest habitats in West Africa. They are also less gregarious then common hippos, tending to be solitary or to live in small families. However, they will defend their territory and their offspring aggressively, despite their small size!

Pygmy hippos are also far more threatened than the common hippo, and have been classified as endangered by the IUCN red list. Their primary threat is the loss of their forest habitat due to human development and the timber industry. They are also extensively hunted for their meat. Leishan is therefore a welcome addition to the captive breeding program, and we hope that she will help to raise awareness for her threatened counterparts in the wild.

Just gorgeous! 

Just gorgeous!

Like many of us over the last few weeks Edinburgh zoos 11 chimpanzees have been enjoying the run of good weather. One particular member who has been lapping up the sun is the youngest of the group Liberius.

At 10 years old Liberius is now an adolescent chimp and so is trying to find his place within the group. He can often be seen grooming and playing with more dominant individuals such as Lyndsey and her son Kindia. These close social interactions are extremely important if Liberius wants to see his status within the group rise.

A visit to Budongo Trail may also see our youngest chimp charging around the indoor tunnels making a lot of noise and generally showing off in a behaviour known as displaying. In the wild chimpanzees use displays to show their dominance within the group and Liberius is no exception. He hopes that by making such gestures, he can begin to assert his position within the social group. Whether the other members of the group are impressed by these noisy displays is another matter!

Liberius in the limelight again! 

Liberius in the limelight again!

Some of the oldest gentoo chicks will be moving into the crèche area of the penguin enclosure this week. And this change will probably be welcomed by their parents, who are currently being run ragged by the older chicks! As these penguins chicks become larger and more confident they often take to chasing any adult for food! This happens in the wild, as it does in the zoo, and scientists believe that this behaviour has evolved in penguin species which hatch more than one offspring at one time, ensuring that only the fittest chicks will survive. Chicks will chase their parents for lengthy periods if required, as well as chasing other parents, in the hopes of getting fed. Parents can recognise their own chicks and so will run away from all other youngsters to avoid being pestered by them. They may also sometimes choose to run away from their own chicks if they don’t feel like feeding them! In the wild, this sort of behaviour could lead to only the fittest and fastest chick from a brood, being fed.

This all happens in the zoo despite the fact that these chicks are already happy accepting fish from their keepers! This move will therefore encourage these chicks to become more independent and to stop pestering their poor parents for food! They will also begin to explore the water more and take their first swims! Keep your eyes peeled for these first times!

 The chase is on!

The chase is on!

Finally, we are also pleased to announce the birth of a white-faced saki monkey on the 9th April. The young male has been named Kanuku, after a mountain in South America. Kanuku can be easily spotted, catching a ride on mum’s back, and peering over her shoulders in the Magic Forest. Despite his young age, he is already beginning to develop the tell-tale white face that only the males of this species exhibit. He shares an enclosure with not only his mum, but also a very protective dad and an older sister. White-faced saki monkeys are sexually dimorphic, meaning that the males and females look completely different to each other. The males have a black body and a striking white face (hence the name!), whereas the females have a more dull grey-brown colour all over their body.

White-faced saki monkeys can be found throughout the northern Amazon basin in South America. They are not endangered, but do face threats such as habitat destruction and hunting for food and the pet trade. Little is known about their behaviour in the wild due to their secretive nature and speed of movement through the trees. The native people of the Amazon have named this species ‘flying monkeys’ as they are able leap up to 10m in one go!

It is therefore fantastic that our captive family have reproduced again this year. It indicates that they are comfortable in their surroundings here at the zoo, as well as providing our keepers with more of an insight into this elusive species.


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