It’s getting ‘otter in here!

September 9, 2009 § Leave a comment

A new dominant male chimpanzee, a new male otter, a Darwin 200 event and of course, an update on our penguins are the top stories from Edinburgh Zoo this week! Enjoy the read!

The weather may have been wet and miserable this summer but things have certainly being hotting up with our group of 11 chimpanzees in the Budongo Trail. Over the past few months the chimp group’s current dominant male Qafzeh, has come under increasing pressure from another male Kindia who looks like he has eyes for the top spot himself. In the wild chimps can live in groups of up to 100 individuals with a single dominant male ruling over all. This position allows the male first access to the best feeding grounds, resting places and of course females and so often has to be defended from other males within the group. Being highly intelligent animals, chimpanzees play a very political game when it comes to deciding the dominant male. While minor fights do sometimes break out within the group you are much more likely to see our chimpanzees grooming and sitting with each other in an attempt to form strong alliances. In our group at the moment both Kindia and Qafzeh are attempting to gain the support of Louis and David (two other big males) either of which would make a powerful ally.

It’s not just the males that are involved in the politics of the group the females get to have their say as well and none more than Emma, the group’s dominant female. Emma is mother to Qafzeh and played an important role in helping her son take over the group 4 years ago from the then dominant male, David. This time it seems Emma has a tough choice on her hands, does she continue to support her son and risk losing her position if the group supports Kindia? Or does she abandon the support of her son and back Kindia in the hope that she’ll retain her number 1 spot? It really is an exciting time in our chimp group, keep checking the blog to find out what happens next!

 Kindia enjoying a piece of fruit while perhaps planning his next move in the group!

Kindia enjoying a piece of fruit while perhaps planning his next move in the group!

We’ve had a new arrival to the zoo over the weekend! On Saturday a male Asian short-clawed otter called Ray arrived for our female Maluku. At the moment he is getting used to his great new home which can be found in the zoo between the red river hog and the souslik enclosures. Once he has settled in he will be introduced to Maluku and hopefully the two will get along well! Asian short-clawed otters are related to the European otter which can be found in the UK (and also in Edinburgh Zoo!) but in the wild Asian short-clawed otters are found across Asia in areas in India, southern China, Sumatra, Java, Borneo and the Philippines.

They are the smallest of all otter species and get their name from their tiny claws which don’t even reach the ends of their fingers! Having short claws actually helps the otters to handle their prey as you can see in the photo! They enjoy eating crabs, snails, frogs, fish, snakes and insects. They are classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN red list. The biggest threat Asian short-clawed otters face in the wild is habitat loss. They are found in and around rivers, estuaries and streams, however throughout Asia deforestation for agriculture results in loss of the habitat they need. It’s great that Edinburgh Zoo looks after this endangered species of otter and next time you’re in the zoo keep a look out for our new addition!

Yummy, fish is on the lunch menu today!

Yummy, fish is on the lunch menu today!

No blog entry would be quite complete without an update on our penguins! If you have visited the zoo recently you would’ve noticed that the gentoo penguin’s nest rings are reducing in number. The breeding season is now over for the gentoo penguins and the keepers have been gradually taking the nest rings away. The few rings left are still being appreciated by some individuals to lay on while they finish off their annual moult

Just the last few nest rings out in the penguin enclosure.

Just the last few nest rings out in the penguin enclosure.

The penguin keepers are hoping to move all the gentoo chicks back into the main enclosure this week as they have all been sexed and given permanent flipper bands. The chicks had been kept in the zoo’s penguin crèche separate to their parents because in the wild penguin parents leave their chicks behind when they go out to sea.  Keep a look out for gold beads on the penguin’s flipper bands – if you see a gold bead it is a chick from 2009! We have 23 males and 19 females this year which is great as we have less adult males than females.

Check out my brand new flipper band – I’m a boy!
Check out my brand new flipper band – I’m a boy! 

…and I’m a girl! 

…and I’m a girl!  

Don’t forget to check out our live penguin web cam on Edinburgh Zoo’s website: 

Finally, ever wanted to try your hand at digging for a dinosaur? Or making a fossil? We are holding a Fossil and Dinosaur Day at the zoo on Sunday 27th of September. Normal zoo admission rates apply and there is no need to book. Just come along to the zoo to find out about fossils, how are they formed and how they provide evidence for evolution. Fossil and Dinosaur Day is a Darwin 200 event which is a full programme of celebrations centred on Darwin’s 200 birthday and 150th anniversary of the publishing of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. Darwin 200 events celebrate the impact that Darwin’s ideas about evolution, his approach to the understanding of the natural world and his outstanding example as a scientist, continue to have on our lives.

Charles Darwin

 ‘There is grandeur in this view of life… from so simple a beginning, endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.’ Charles Darwin


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