Stuck in a rut?

October 7, 2009 § Leave a comment


 

This week we fill you in on the wildlife story of the season: the deer rut; as well as the fledging of some rather exotic birds, and an update on the short clawed Asian otters. 

Native wildlife lovers will no doubt be well aware that we are now at the height of the seasonal red deer rut in Britain. Through out the country, these magnificent mammals can be observed exhibiting interesting (and sometimes deadly) behaviours, as they begin to breed.

The red deer herd at the Highland Wildlife Park are no exception and males can be seen attempting to herd females, roaring at one another, chasing each other off and occasionally locking antlers to engage in a fight. They do this to secure a harem of females, with whom they will then breed. These activities are so time and energy consuming that males will loose a considerable amount of weight during this time.

There are just four male red deer resident at Highland Wildlife Park, along with 20 females, all found on the Main Reserve. One of these males is just a year old and not yet mature enough to breed or to be of threat to the others. However, four year old ‘Achilles’, ten year old ‘Thor’ and eleven year old ‘Snap’ will no doubt give each other some grief. Who secures the most breeding females still remains to be seen. We will keep you updated here; but if, in the meantime, you take a trip to the Highlands yourself, then please do let us know of any interesting behaviours you may have observed (or even captured on camera!)

A HWP stag lets one rip!

A HWP stag lets one rip!

Meanwhile at Edinburgh Zoo, our Eurasian tundra reindeer have also been engaged in their rutting season. The herd is now settled in their new enclosure (the old Addax field) along the far eastern boundary of the park, just beneath the African Plains. There are just two mature males resident in this herd; eight year old ‘Eskimo’, recognizable by his yellow ear tag, and three year old ‘Fakta’, recognizable by his pink ear tag (very masculine!). There are also just three mature females in this herd. These small numbers are likely to make the reindeer rut far less dramatic that the red deer’s. However, the reindeer can be seen shedding their antler velvet and occasionally chasing one another around the enclosure. Why not take a trip up to see them, and let us know if you spot any more interesting behaviours?

 Reindeer stags lock antlers at HWP last year

Reindeer stags lock antlers at HWP last year

You may recall, that about 1 month back, we welcomed a new short-clawed Asian otter to the zoo. Ray, was brought to the zoo to be a mate for our existing adult female, Maluku. He was initially allowed full range of their enclosure, while she was kept off-show. This was to give him a chance to settle in, explore, and to get used to her scent! Soon after, keepers caught Ray up, and placed him in a cage, within that same enclosure. This was so that he could be introduced to Maluku without the danger of the two having physical contact with one another (and perhaps reacting aggressively to one another).

This was crucial after the last attempt to bring in a mate for Maluku was ill-fated to say the least! You may remember that back in summer a new male otter escaped from the zoo, after being mixed with a rather unwelcoming and aggressive Maluku. He was eventually caught up and returned to the zoo. However, it seems that this pairing was not meant to be, as the two did not mix well with one another.

We were therefore pleased when Maluku responded far more positively to Ray’s arrival! The otters made their introductions through the cage, which enabled them to see one another, smell one another and hear one another. And once keepers were happy that the two were not reacting aggressively towards one another, Ray was set free in the enclosure once again. Since then, the new pair have been frequently spotted out and about, following each other around and playing with one another.

Short-clawed Asian otters typically live in extended family groups, with one breeding pair, and their off-spring. The female is the dominant partner, but the pair are strongly bonded and strictly monogamous. We hope that our otters may soon turn their thoughts to breeding and building up their own social group. Watch this space for more news!

The new pair enjoy exploring their enclosure together 

The new pair enjoy exploring their enclosure together

We are pleased to announce that 3 lilac breasted rollers have now fledged their parent’s nest in the African aviary. These chicks, born on the 27th August, have taken just 19 days to fledge the nest. They have purple-grey feathers and look like drabber versions of their more colourful parents! They have also not yet developed the distinctive outer tail streamers that their parents sport during the breeding season. However, it shouldn’t take long for them to develop these colours, as chicks become independent of their parents within 20 days of fledging. Why not see if you can spot them whilst they are still immature?

This is the second clutch of chicks that have fledged from our lilac breasted roller pair this year. Another chick was born back in June, making this a very successful first year of breeding for our lilac breasted roller pair. Keepers are very pleased with this success and hope that it is an indication of more to come! Typically, their breeding season stretches over 6 months in this bird’s native Africa. However, we would not expect our pair to produce any more youngsters this British season!

The beautiful adult lilac breasted roller 

The beautiful adult lilac breasted roller

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