Binturongs, New Babies and a Little Bit of Head-Flagging!

April 28, 2010 § Leave a comment


Come and see the Binturongs!

In the past week our Binturongs (Arctictis binturong) have moved enclosures and are now on show to the public!  They have been off show for the past 6 months but recent animal moves have meant that they have now moved on to the back road.  They can now be found in the enclosure between the Sumatruan Tigers and Amur Leopards (the enclosure where Tyson our Ratel used to be housed before he moved to Howlett’s Zoo earlier this year).  They are a mainly nocturnal species but they do enjoy sunbathing on a nice day.  We have two Binturongs here at the zoo, Billy a 6-year-old male and Bali our 8-year-old female.  

Just in case anyone out there isn’t too sure what a binturong actually is it’s a member of the Viverridae family (which includes civits and genets) but is often referred to as a bearcat as this is probably the best way to describe its appearance.  They are similar in size to a Ratel, have a shaggy dark brown coat and a large prehensile tail.  They eat fruit, plants, eggs and small invertebrates but may also hunt rodents and birds. 

The nickname 'bear cat' describes a Binturong quite well!

 These animals spend most of their time in trees and as a result of this have some pretty impressive adaptations to such an arboreal lifestyle including the ability to rotate their back legs so that their claws can grip even when the binturong is moving head first down a tree and of course the prehensile tail which they can use to grip during climbing (an adaptation more commonly associated with new world monkeys!).   

And just in case this isn’t enough to convince you to come and see if you can spot our Binturongs they also use scent marking to communicate, a smell which people often describe as the smell of popcorn!  

Spring is in the air for our Flamingos!  

You may have noticed that our gentoo penguins are getting a lot of press at the moment with TV appearances left right and centre but the penguins are not the only bird species at the zoo that are busy trying to impress members of the opposite sex!  Courtship behaviours have begun all over the zoo!  

Our Chilean Flamingos can now be seen performing synchronised head-flagging behaviours as part of their courtship.  Head-flagging involves lifting head and neck up and ‘flagging’ their heads from side to side while making loud vocalisations. This is the first stage in their courtship and is thought to help synchronise breeding within the group and to reinforce the bond between breeding pairs.  Soon we will be looking out for nest building behaviours.  The flamingos build nests in mud and so a muddy area has been created in their enclosure ready for the breeding season.  2009 was a very successful year for breeding flamingos at the zoo and you can identify last year’s chicks as they are still grey; they haven’t yet developed their characteristic pink adult colouration.  Last year’s parents are also easily identifiable as the strain of raising chicks in the previous season leaves them drained of their colour, as a result they may not produce offspring this year, giving them a well-earned rest! 

Flamingos get their distinctive pink colouration from the food that they eat!

 Check out the blog next week for an update on the love lives of some of our other bird species that we have in the zoo, including the elaborate courtship of our Crowned Cranes, find out if Orlan and Caspian our Steller’s Sea Eagles are showing any courtship now that they are both coming in to maturity and an update on the breeding of a bird species that is now extinct in the wild and why the captive breeding of this species is so important!    

Bush Baby Babies!   

 And finally, we are happy to announce that on the 5th January Bobby and Beatrix, our pair of Senegal Bush babies (Galago moholi) gave birth to a set of twins who were sexed last week.  Now that they are over four months it was possible for zoo vets to catch them for routine DNA sampling and micro-chipping without causing undue stress.  The process was filmed and can now be seen on the Edinburgh Zoo YouTube Channel at:  http://www.youtube.com/TheEdinburghZoo.   

Bush Babies have large ears, an adaptation to help them locate their insect prey in the dark! Photo credit: RZSS

  The sexing showed that we have one male and one female, which was especially good news as keepers had been hoping for a girl since all of Bobby and Beatrix’s previous offspring have been male.  This means that she is the first female bush baby to have been born at the zoo since the pair arrived 5 years ago!  The twins have now been named Belle (female) and Bonbon (male).     

If you want to come and see our bush babies their enclosure is located in between the red river hog and bongo enclosures.

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