November 4, 2009 § 1 Comment
November has begun, and the clocks have gone back (confusing many animals as they experience a shift in the timings of their daily routine). The dark nights are now drawing in and this week we celebrate Bonfire night (disturbing many animals even more!) With all this human activity of late, our animals have been keeping themselves quiet. But here’s what you can look out for if you are in the zoo over the next week.
This is the perfect time of year to catch a glimpse of the resident zoo European beavers. These crepuscular and nocturnal animals (when they come out varies very much from individual to individual) are rarely seen during the day light hours and so spotting them during the summer is near impossible! However, with the ever darkening nights, the beavers are now venturing out earlier and earlier each night. The zoo now closes at 4.30pm. However, on a cloudy day there is a strong chance of seeing our beavers out and about from 3.30pm onwards during winter.
Look out for them feeding on vegetation, bark and buds, or working on their ever-growing lodge. You are most likely to spot them in the water, where they feel safest. They are excellent swimmers and are capable of remaining submerged for up to 15 minutes (when still) or 5 minutes (when swimming). So, you may have to wait a while for them to pop up for air! They prefer to remain in or near water at all times, as submerging is the best way for them to avoid their predators in the wild. They are elusive creatures, and for that reason it is advisable to stay as quiet and still as possible when around them. However, they won’t hesitate to let you know if you have disturbed them, by using their large, flat tails to give the water an almighty slap! Why not pay our pair a visit in the old duck ponds, opposite the painted hunting dogs? We also currently have a lone individual living in the enclosure next to Pallas cats (not the one with the tigers in it!) that you may be lucky enough to spot.
In their element
Given the colder temperatures and darker days, now is also a great time of year to spot our wolverines. These crepuscular animals come out at dawn and dusk, and so are more likely to be seen early morning or late afternoon. Our male wolverine, 4 year old Logan is currently sharing enclosures with female, 5 year old Pige. You may recall that these two individuals were mixed together much earlier this year. Keepers reported that the two appeared to be greatly enjoying one another company; a great sign for their potential breeding prospects. However, no pregnancy resulted from these interactions in the end. Wolverines become sexually mature at the age of 2 – 3 years old, so perhaps this young pair have not yet got the hang of all this breeding malarkey!
Despite their solitary status in the wild, these two individuals appear to get on so well, that keepers have now decided that they can be mixed together on a much more long-term basis. The pair share two enclosures between them, so there is always plenty of room available, should they choose to spend some time alone. Keepers will keep a close eye on the pair, and if they exhibit any signs of aggression or territoriality towards each other, they will be separated once again. However, this more permanent living arrangement should provide the young pair with plenty of opportunities for breeding if, and when the female comes into oestrus.
In the wild, wolverines would typically breed between May and August. They then utilise delayed implantation. This means, that after the egg is fertilized, the embryo is not immediately implanted on the uterus wall (as it would be in the case of most mammals). Instead, it floats in the uterus until November to January. Gestation then takes only another 30-50 days, with kits usually being born late winter. Delayed implantation is used to prevent youngsters being born during the height of winter when food may be scarce. In fact, when food is scarce, a high percentage of a population will choose not to have young at all. Some females may not reproduce even when food is apparently abundant, because raising young results in such a large loss of energy for wolverine mothers. However, that being said, wolverines do not face the same stresses in captivity, as food is always abundant. We do not know if delayed implantation is used at all in captivity, or indeed if these breeding seasons are adhered to so strictly.
There are less than 100 wolverines currently kept in zoos worldwide, and so breeding this species would not only significantly contribute to the captive population, but also help the zoo community to learn more about this species and their breeding behaviours in a captive environment. We have our fingers crossed that our young pair will produce some kits in the near future. Watch this space!
Showing their softer side!
Why not visit Edinburgh Zoo or the Highland Wildlife Park in November, and bring your children for FREE!
To take advantage of this offer you must present the Kids Go Free voucher (downloadable from the Edinburgh Zoo and Highland Wildlife Park websites) to gain your free admission.
We also have lots of fun, family-friendly activities planned for November, including a production of everyone’s favourite pantomime, ‘Cinderella’ on 22 November, and the Imagination craft workshop on 14 and 15 November. For full details visit: http://www.edinburghzoo.org.uk/news-and-events/events/articles/event_0061.html