December Arrives!

December 2, 2009 § Leave a comment


The Highland Wildlife Park experienced the first snowfall of winter a couple of weeks ago. Keepers were looking forward to seeing how Mercedes was going to react but unfortunately it turned out to be a light dusting, which is similar to what she would have experienced in Edinburgh. Everyone is eagerly waiting for heavier snowfall.

In this instance at least, Mercedes decided to find the warmest and least snowy spot in her enclosure, and to sit out the cold snap right there! It is quite normal for polar bears to ‘den’ or find natural shelters in which to rest during the cold winter months in the Arctic, particularly during snow storms. Remaining inactive during such times helps the bears to conserve precious heat and energy, which is very important for their survival.

Mercedes behaviour will be monitored throughout the winter, and it will be interesting to note just how she responds to the snowy conditions on a long-term basis! Please let us know if you have been to visit Mercedes, and just how she was been spending her time during your visit. Pictures and videos are always appreciated!

Mercedes ‘chills’ out!

We are pleased to tell you that a male Asiatic golden cat arrived at Edinburgh Zoo on the 2nd Decemeber, from ‘Parc des Felins’ in France. He will complete his mandatory 6 month quarantine period in the small cat house, situated next door to the old polar bear enclosure. All animals imported to Britian, from the European continent, must, by law, complete a 6 month quarantine period. This is to prevent the introduction of any alien bacteria or viruses into Britain, and is particularly important in keeping Britain rabies-free. During this time, the animals must be kept in an enclosure which meets the strict criteria for quarantine standards, and cannot be mixed with other animals (unless all the animals are able to under-go the quarantine).

We hope that ultimately this new male will be a suitable breeding partner for our young female, 1 year old ‘Swa-Fai’. Our other resident male, ‘Bruno’ is now rather old at 12 years of age (although Asiatic golden cats have been know to live up to 20 years in some instances) and is unlikely to be a suitable match for young Swa-Fai.

In preparation for the new male’s arrival, we have made some alterations to the enclosure. Asiatic golden cats are a particularly elusive species, and so the windows of the enclosure have been partially covered to make spy holes! We hope that this alteration will make the new arrival feel more comfortable and secure in his new home, and hopefully it will mean that our visitors will stand a better chance of seeing him exhibiting natural behaviours.

Why not pay him a visit and see if you can spot this near threatened species?

The beautiful Asiatic golden cat

And finally this week, we are pleased to announce that a Victoria crowned pigeon hatched on the 27th October, and subsequently fledged the nest on the 24th November! The young bird is now visible in the Australian aviary (the bit before you get to the koalas!).

At hatching, the Victoria crowned pigeon is naked and helpless, and requires intensive parental care and feeding. Like flamingos, Victoria crowned pigeons are unusual among birds in that they produce a milk to feed to their chicks which has a chemical composition similar to that produced by mammals. This crop milk can be produced from crop of both adults, which forms the complete diet of nestlings for the first few days of life.

After around 4 weeks, the chick has grown its feathers and resembles an adult in colour and plumage. It is, however, still a third of the size of a full-grown adult. It is at this stage that it learns to fly and leaves the nest.

These birds, classified as vulnerable by the IUCN red list, can only be found native to small areas in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. They are threatened by logging, and hunting for their meat. Unfortunately, they now only survive in forests many hours or days walk away from human habitation. Their captive breeding program is therefore incredibly important, and we are pleased to have successfully bred this species.

The largest pigeon species in the world!



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