Off We Go! Flying Rhinos and Sleepy Sousliks! Lots of new faces at the zoo!

March 10, 2010 § Leave a comment

It’s been a hugely eventful time at the zoo this week! To follow on from our blog posting on Wednesday 24th of February, we said a bittersweet farewell to our Indian Rhino, Baabuu last week as he makes tracks to pastures new in Chester Zoo. Baabuu has been with us since September 2006 when he came to join our other Indian Rhino (also known as Great One-horned Rhinoceros) Fanindra. The boys have been fierce friends since meeting but as they approach sexual maturity must leave us here at Edinburgh to find their future girlfriends!

Upon reaching sexual maturity around the age of 6 or 7 they can take part in the European breeding program. Baabuu turned 5 in November 2009 so we’re very excited to see him all grown up. The Indian Rhino is listed by the IUCN as Vulnerable; this makes participation in the breeding program even more important as captive bred animals provide a ‘safety net’ for the species. During their time with us Baabuu and Fanindra were target trained. This is important in being able to perform simple tasks with the rhinos such as hoof checks and weigh ins without distressing the animal.

Baabuu is now weighing in at just over 2 tons. This makes for some interesting planning when figuring out how to get him out of one enclosure and into another almost 200 miles away!

Heave Ho!

A crane was brought in to hoist Baabuu in his transport crate onto the back of the lorry. The keepers had worked with Baabuu in the months leading up to his move to build on his target training and teach him to walk into his crate and get used to the door being closed. This helps create the minimum of fuss on moving day as Baabuu is used to the box and knows what is expected of him.

He was soon safely in Chester and exploring his new enclosure. Some of his Edinburgh keepers will stay with him in Chester for the first few days before leaving him in the capable hands of the Chester staff.

Our Handsome Bachelor

Good luck Baabuu we’ll miss you!! Fanindra is still with us here in Edinburgh as he awaits a move to Rotterdam to be paired with their female. Fanindra can be found next to the Education centre opposite our penguins.

 One Out One In!

Baabuu is off but as previously reported we’d like to officially welcome a new Oriental small-clawed female otter to the zoo family after her successful introduction to our resident male. The Oriental otter enclosure is in the middle of the park, just north of the Mansion House. Unlike other otter species Oriental small-clawed otters like to live in family groups rather than be solitary. The pair have been getting on famously since meeting the other week. Keepers could hardly hold the female back from meeting her new man! Edinburgh zoo has successfully bred Oriental small clawed otters before and hope to hear the pitter patter of tiny claws later in the year.

Pleased As Punch!

 Goooooooooooood Morning Sousliks!

Just next door to the short clawed otter enclosure you may be able to spot some animals that have been hidden underground for the past few months. Our European Sousliks (also known as European Ground Squirrels) have recently emerged from their winter hibernation. They hibernate in their underground tunnels from October to March and now that they have emerged you can see them tucking in to whatever food is on offer after living off their body fat reserves for the past few months.

One of our Sousliks tucking into a long awaited meal!

Some animals such as Sousliks have adapted hibernation to enable them to survive the harsh weather over winter when there may be little food available.  They spend the summer when food is plentiful building up fat reserves for them to survive on during hibernation.  When winter comes they hibernate, their heart and breathing rates slow down, slowing their metabolism, resulting in a huge drop in body temperature.  This means that they use much less energy and are able to survive on the fat reserves that they built up over the summer. 

Emerging from the burrow

As of yet the keepers haven’t spotted any young in the group. Now that they are emerging from their burrows the keepers will have the opportunity to get a better idea if our group have had any success breeding.  As the Sousliks spend so much time underground it can be difficult for keepers to keep track of numbers but after hibernation everyone will be ready for some food and it gives us the chance to see if any new members emerge.  Sousliks are classed as Vulnerable by the IUCN as out in the wild they are under threat from habitat loss.

 Even MORE new faces!!

In the next few months you may be able to spot 11 new faces in our Budongo chimpanzee exhibit.  A group of 11 new chimps will soon be joining our current group of 11.  The two groups will be gradually introduced to each other over time.  It is sure to be both an exciting and tense time for the Budongo keepers as we wait to see how the two groups get along.

One of our Budongo chimps Kilimi with all her hair standing on end, a sign that she is unsure or excited

There are 4 different sub-species of chimpanzees out in the wild, West African, Eastern, Central and Nigeria-Cameroon. DNA testing now means that we can find out what sub-species captive chimps belong to.  Our chimpanzees have all been tested and we have discovered that two of our males belong to the western sub-species.  The new group contains mostly western chimps and will come to Edinburgh Zoo under recommendation from the European Endangered species breeding Programme (EEP) for western chimpanzees. 

With 3 huge indoor ‘pods’ and an extensive outdoor area Budongo can house up to 40 Chimpanzees

Conserving animals such as chimpanzees through breeding programmes is only part of the bigger conservation picture.  Chimpanzees are endangered out in the wild and their numbers are mainly threatened by habitat destruction, human encroachment and poaching. The Budongo Trail exhibit at Edinburgh Zoo is linked to the Budongo Conservation Field Station (BCFS) out in Uganda.  This project is working hard to save chimpanzees out in their natural habitat through researching what is important to the chimpanzees and their survival, educating and assisting locals to try and reduce human-animal conflicts and hiring a snare patrol team to go out into the forest to remove snares set by poachers. 

Through visitors coming to see our chimps at the zoo it means that we can help to support the valuable work going on at the field station to try and save chimpanzees out in the wild.

 During the initial stages of the chimp introductions Budongo will be closed to the public to allow the troops to meet in peace. Please check with gate staff before coming to see the chimps specifically.

 To find out more about the BCFS visit their website at:
And if you want more information on our chimps here at the zoo or about our Budongo Trail exhibit visit the zoo website at:


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