December 22, 2009 § 3 Comments
Welcome to the last zoo blog of 2009! What a year we have had, and we are pleased to finish it with some great news of yet more successful breeding at the zoo this year. Please note that there will be no blog update next week due to staff holidays. But don’t forget that (weather permitting!) the zoo is open 365 days a year, and that includes Christmas day too!
Firstly, we are thrilled to announce that a king penguin chick hatched out at Edinburgh Zoo on the 22nd October to the red-banded female and the yellow-banded male! This is the first king penguin hatchling in five years and was very unexpected!
King penguins are notoriously difficult to breed. If a king penguin lays an egg the others can become jealous and try and take the egg for themselves, resulting in the egg becoming damaged. However, both parents doted on their egg during its two month incubation period, and successfully protected it on their feet, passing it between the two of them frequently. Keepers were extremely pleased that the pair cared so well for the egg, after making a conscious decision to leave the egg with its parents, rather than artificially incubating it. However, they were still surprised when a chick hatched, as, despite mating in the past, this pair had only ever produced infertile eggs.
Following the hatching of their precious bundle, the keepers fenced off the parents and their new chick from the other king penguins, to help protect it from any jealous peers. The parents continued to take great care of their new born, with Mum diligently keeping the chick on her feet for the first week and Dad keeping a close vigil. Keepers made frequent trips to the family’s little pen to ensure that Mum and Dad had plenty of food and to ensure the chick was healthy. The were thrilled to find that the family were doing very well, with the chick steadily putting on weight and growing at an impressive rate!
Almost the size of Mum and Dad already!
Recently, they have been letting the growing chick into the enclosure for an hour or so each day to gradually introduce it to the rest of the group.
The chick will be easy for visitors to spot as it’s covered in fluffy brown feathers. It will keep these feathers until it’s around 10 months old, after this time it will develop its waterproof black and white coat. The chick still doesn’t have a name as it’s still too young to tell if it’s a boy or a girl.
Lynda Burrill, Penguin Keeper, said:
“This chick was a total surprise to us. King penguins normally lay eggs in June and July but this egg arrived in late August. In October the chick started to break out of the egg and a couple of days later the new arrival emerged! It’s a feisty little character – if one of the other adults gets too close it will stand up for itself and have a peck at them. It will hopefully be fully integrated into the group in the next week or so.”
Not to be messed with!
We are also pleased to announce that a Gelada baboon baby was born on the 11th November to ‘Bafra’, a first time mum at just five years old! Despite not yet knowing the gender of the youngster, it has been named ‘Chabwera’, a traditional African name. This follows previous breeding success, as three babies were born in February and March this year. We are thrilled that this baboon troop is doing so well, and that ‘Malachi’ the dominant male, has continued to father offspring. The baboons have a large, hillside enclosure, with plenty of room for the troop to continue growing.
This is important as the wild population of Gelada baboons is decreasing, and, among other threats, they are particularly at risk from suffering the adverse effects of climate change. In the wild, this species has a small range and is restricted to life on the highlands in Ethiopia, where their food of alpine grasses grows. These grasses grow only under certain temperature and moisture conditions. Warmer temperatures and changing rain patterns, including widespread droughts, mean poorer quality grass, and less of it. As a result, Gelada baboons may find themselves being pushed higher into the mountains, in search of suitable climes and good quality food. However, the mountains are only habitable to a point, and if this trend continues, the baboons may find themselves losing their habitat altogether.
We would hate to loose this unique species. Why not pay the Edinburgh troop a visit to find out why they’re so special and keep an eye out for young Chabwera, most likely found clinging onto Mum’s belly!
Baby sporting the distinctive Gelada baboon red chest
And finally on the birth front we are pleased to announce the birth of another Grevy’s Zebra foal born on the 11th November. The youngster has been identified as a male and has been named ‘Alingum’. His mother is Daniella, a 7 year old female, who arrived at Edinburgh Zoo just last year. We are pleased that she has settled in so well to her new group, and has already produced offspring.
This news follows the birth of a female foal, Lois, in October to the other adult female, Emily. We have no doubt that Lois will enjoy having the company of another youngster on the African Plains, and we hope to see the two frolicking around together very soon. Why not pay them a visit on their African Plains enclosure, at the top of the zoo? (We advise catching the Hilltop Safari bus at this time of year though!)
The foals and their mums investigate the snow