Hooves and hatchings!

August 26, 2009 § Leave a comment


This week it has all been happening in the bird and hoofstock sections!

Over the course of the summer, 13 vulturine guineafowl chicks have hatched here at the zoo. This is the first time that Edinburgh Zoo has bred this species, and so we are very pleased with the success we have had.

Vulturine guineafowl first arrived at Edinburgh in November 2007. Initially, 4 juvenile birds (2 male and 2 female) made the African aviary their home and this year they matured to become breeding adults. You can still see the adults out and about in the African aviary. However, you won’t be able to spot any of their chicks!

This is because keepers decided to artificially incubate the eggs, and to subsequently hand rear the chicks. This decision was made for two reasons. The first was the presence of the Marabou stork in the African aviary at the start of the breeding season. (The Marabou stork has now left Edinburgh for another collection.) Marabou storks are a natural scavenger, posing a very real threat to the eggs of a ground nesting bird such as a vulturine guineafowl.

The second reason was that hand rearing potentially means that more chicks can be reared, than if the parents were rearing them themselves. Two breeding pairs can only successfully care for so many chicks. However, a hard working team of keepers, with the right equipment, can potentially rear a much larger number. Vulturine guineafowl are a species very much in demand in zoological collections, and breeding a large number would be beneficial to the zoo community as a whole.

We are pleased that so many chicks have hatched from our two breeding pairs and many of these chicks will move on to other collections so that they can continue to contribute to the captive breeding program. This season has also provided the keepers with some great experience in artificial incubation and hand rearing techniques, which may be applied to other species in the future.

Some of the vulturine guineafowl chicks may remain at Edinburgh, but due to the hand rearing process, they are unlikely to be on show in the African aviaries before they have grown as large as the adults. In the meantime, why not take a trip to the African aviaries to admire the adults?

 The very funky looking vulturine guinea fowl!

The very funky looking vulturine guinea fowl!

The hoofstock section have also been busy of late, as they have prepared for some comings and goings of the animal kind. The addax antelope will be leaving the collection very soon. Although the addax are a critically endangered species, they are not part of our future collection plan. They are a desert species, and therefore not best suited to life in Edinburgh. However, they will move onto another zoo where we are sure they will be happy, and continue to contribute to the highly important captive breeding program. This enclosure will house the reindeer once the addax have gone.

For the time being, the reindeer have moved from their hill top enclosure to the old camel fields. And very soon, a new species will be moving into their old enclosure; heck cattle.

Heck cattle are an interesting species as they were developed by man in the early 20th century. The Heck brothers attempted to breed modern cattle back to their ancestral form; the auroch. Hungarian Grey Cattle, Scottish Highland, German Friesian and Spanish and French fighting cattle were just some of the breeds mixed in an attempt to breed back the auroch. At the end of World War II some of theses hybrids were lost. However, those remaining continued to breed and propagate. At the end of the 20th century, other primitive breeds were crossbred with Heck cattle to come closer to the aim of creating a cattle breed that resembles the extinct aurochs in external appearance.

Heck cattle are now considered one of the most suitable cattle breed for low intensity grazing systems, due to their ruggedness and lack of need for human care. They are propagated in some places to fulfill the role of extinct megafauna in the ecosystem.

They will certainly be an interesting addition to the collection at Edinburgh Zoo, and you can expect to see them very soon!

Coming soon to Edinburgh Zoo! 

Heck cattle – coming soon to Edinburgh Zoo!

Finally, we are pleased to announce that yet another nyala has been born to our African plains antelope group! A male was born on the 25th July and is doing very well. Unfortunately, he has not yet been named, but do look out for him exploring the plains on your next visit into the zoo. This is the fourth nyala calf to be born in the past year, and once again, we are very pleased with the on going breeding success of this species.

A young nyala 

A young nyala


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