Summer Ends!

September 1, 2009 § Leave a comment


With the start of September, the quickly cooling temperatures and the nights drawing in, we embrace the end of summer and the beginning of Autumn this week. The zoo has become gradually quieter, and so it seems, have the animals. Here are the updates for this week.

We are pleased (and also suitably surprised!) to announce that another King Penguin egg was laid on the 30th August. This egg is rather late as usually eggs are laid in June or July with chicks expected to hatch August or September. None of our penguin keepers can recall any other eggs being laid quite as late in the year as this one! This egg has been laid by the female who wears a red band. This female moulted much later than the other king penguins and this has probably affected her body clock in some way. Keepers had all but given up on breeding king penguin chicks this year, as it is nearly the end of the breeding season. The red banded female and her partner, the yellow banded male, have therefore surprised us all with this late arrival!

The pair can be spotted, not in the usual king penguin breeding area, but in the near corner on the right hand side of the bridge (if you are looking from the penguin lawn). You are unlikely to spot the egg itself (unless you are lucky enough to see mum and dad swapping duties) but you may be able to spot a tell tale bump above the feet and under the belly of one of these penguins. The pair will incubate the egg in this way for 56 days, periodically swapping the egg between them and taking their turn.

Check out Dad’s bump! 

Check out Dad’s bump!

Keepers intend to leave the egg with its parents, as they did for the other egg laid this season, rather than artificially incubating it. However, they will be keeping a close eye on it to ensure that it does not stray from underneath the protective parents’ bellies. This is particularly important with the colder temperatures we are now experiencing, as a developing chick would not survive exposure to the cold for long.

It is important to remember, as always, that the egg may not survive its incubation period, or may even be infertile. These two penguins have paired together in the past, and unfortunately have only ever had infertile eggs. However, it is impossible to say whether the egg is fertile or not. Keepers will leave the egg with the pair and simply wait and see what happens. Keepers will not be able to check on the status of the egg (without disturbing the parents) until a later date and so we will keep you updated on the king penguins right here!

 Proud parents guard their egg from any jealous peers

Proud parents guard their egg from any jealous peers

The maned wolf pups have now been sexed and we are pleased to tell you that we have 2 males and 1 female. It is excellent for our wolves to have produced this ratio of individuals, as there are currently 107 known males and 126 known females in captivity. Our pups will therefore be able to make a good contribution to the captive breeding population of maned wolves, and in doing so, help to even out the sex ratio.

Once our pups have matured they will be likely to leave Edinburgh Zoo for other collections, where they can be mixed with unrelated individuals in order to breed. This is very important as there are currently less than 250 of this near threatened species held in captivity.

Maned wolves are found only in small densities throughout their range and are likely to experience continuing decline over the next decade. Unfortunately, they have almost reached the criteria for a threatened species on the IUCN red list. In their native South America they have suffered drastic reduction in suitable habitat as a result of the conversion of grasslands to agricultural land. This has decreased and fragmented their habitat, leading to small, isolated populations of maned wolves. Proximity of the grasslands to ever expanding urban areas also has its effects. Many wolves are killed in road accidents, while others suffer from conflict with domestic dogs. Dogs can be actually be quite aggressive towards maned wolves resulting in injuries and sometimes death. They also introduce diseases to maned wolves, which may have harmful effects on their small but highly social populations.

It is therefore crucially important for us to continue to breed the maned wolf in captivity. This enables us to safeguard the population, as well as researching the species to understand their biology in more detail. This research can then be applied to protection of the wild population.

An almost adolescent maned wolf pup 

An almost adolescent maned wolf pup

You may recall that we announced the hatching of Chilean flamingo chicks just a few weeks ago. We are now pleased to tell you that four chicks have survived to date. Two other chicks did hatch, but unfortunately, as would also be the case with some individuals in the wild, these two individuals did not survive past a week old. The four remaining chicks are now around two months old and are maturing well. They have begun to develop a thick and fluffy coat of grey feathers, and are around half the size of the adult flamingos now.

On the nest site, another two eggs were laid, but did not hatch. However, another two eggs were laid more recently, which, after a 30 day incubation period, should hatch during September. This means that every breeding pair has now attempted to breed, many with success. Keepers are particularly pleased as the Chilean flamingos have only bred four times in forty years of keeping them! Keepers have conducted twice daily observations of the nest site, and kept detailed records of everything that has happened.

 The flamingo chicks have really grown, and have even begun standing on one leg!

The flamingo chicks have really grown, and have even begun standing on one leg!

Finally, RZSS is looking for brave souls, who can face the heat of our Firewalk challenge and raise at least £150 in sponsorship for the society. Take part in the hottest event of the year by walking across a bed of hot cinders and surviving to tell the tale! This will take place on Friday 2nd October from 6pm onwards. Places are limited, so if you think you’re up to the challenge then please call 0131 314 0374 or email to request a registration pack. Spectators are also welcome!

Can you handle the heat? 

Can you handle the heat?


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