Comings, goings and some courting on the side!

February 24, 2010 § 1 Comment

There is plenty happening in the zoo at the moment, with animals arriving, others leaving and even some spring time courtships taking place. Read on to find out more…

There has been a severe lack of penguins out on parade of late, because the usually inquisitive gentoo penguins have been showing little interest in the world outside their enclosure. As our penguin parades are voluntary on the penguins’ behalf, when they don’t come out of their own accord, the parade is cancelled. So, please don’t be too disappointed if there is no penguin parade on your next visit to the zoo!

However, there is a reason for this current lack of interest in parading; the beginning of the gentoo penguins breeding season! The penguins have already begun gathering in their usual nesting spot (beneath the observation hut) in preparation for nest building and courtship rituals. The keepers will put out their nest rings on the 1st March (next Monday), and from then on, the gentoo penguins are likely to be very busy, pairing up, courting and bonding, and nest building. Look out for penguins (males in particular) searching the enclosure for the most beautiful pebbles to fill their nest with. Watch them carry the pebble carefully back to their nest and present it before their female partner for inspection. The female then judges the pebble, and if she is happy with it, she will ‘bow-hiss’ to the male (a behaviour made up of a bow, followed by a hiss – surprisingly!) in gratitude. However, if she dislikes the pebble she may pick it up in her beak and throw it out of the nest in disgust! The penguins’ pursuit of the best pebbles can also lead to some individuals thieving from other’s nests! At times, this can lead to all out fighting as individuals chase and flipper-slap one another!

The next few weeks should therefore be action-packed for these penguins. If you are visiting the zoo, I would strongly recommend spending some time watching the gentoo penguins, as this is one of the best times of year to observe them. If you can’t make it here, why not check out what they’re getting up to on our Penguin Cam?

One eager pair get their nest ring filled to the brim with pebbles!

Also, on the penguin front, we are thrilled to announce that the king penguin chick has now been identified as a male, and has been named MacLean! This does nothing to address the male: female imbalance (we currently have just two female king penguins) among this species, but we are very happy that MacLean is growing up healthily and happily!

The 1st March is going to be very busy indeed! The three male European wolves that arrived at Edinburgh zoo a year ago are set to leave us next Monday for the New Forest Wildlife Park in Hampshire. They will be a new species addition to this conservation park, which specialises in native and past-native species. We have also been informed that the wolves will have a humongous enclosure, which will suit them to a tee! We wish the wolves all the best of luck in their new home.

Off to pastures new

We are pleased to announce that a new female Oriental short-clawed otter will be arriving on the 28th February to join our resident male. Unfortunately, our old female died during the winter, and so our male has been occupying the otter enclosure on his lonesome for a few months now. This was very disappointing, especially as the pair had seemed to get along so well. We hope that our male will be interested in his new female partner, and we will keep you up to date on how the introductions come along.

Will this new pairing be love’s young dream?

And finally this week, we have some big news (in every sense of the word!); our two resident one-horned rhinos will be leaving Edinburgh Zoo in early March. Babu and Fanindra are both now five years old, and are maturing quickly. Typically, adult one-horned rhinos are solitary animals, and once mature, males can become aggressive towards one another, resulting in dangerous fights. It is therefore time for these two boys to say goodbye to one another, and to be paired up with adult females, in the hopes of breeding success. Babu (recognisable by his short horn) is off to Chester Zoo and Fanindra (recognisable by his longer, more rounded horn) is venturing further a field to Rotterdam Zoo in the Netherlands.

Once they have left, two young, immature bulls will be brought to Edinburgh Zoo as replacements. Just like Babu and Fanindra, they will spend their first few years here, learning to be independent and growing up, before moving on elsewhere to be paired with females.

One horned rhinos are classified as endangered by the IUCN red list, as there are only around 2400 of them left in the wild. It is therefore important that we breed one horned rhinos in captivity. However, here at Edinburgh our current enclosure is not large enough to keep a mature rhino family and so we are happy to contribute to the breeding program as a ‘maturing facility’ for young rhinos instead.

Babu and Fanindra enjoy a mud wallow together


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