A Spot of Perfection at the Zoo and Hippo Spotting in the Wild!

May 27, 2010 § 2 Comments


Apologies blog readers as we missed our usual Wednesday evening posting this week. One of our blog author is out in darkest Oban (which has been amazingly sunny this week!) with the Outreach team participating in the Festival of the Sea with the Wildbus! Our usual rainforest lessons have been revamped this week for marine conservation visiting children at Park, Lochnell and St Columbus Primary schools. Children are investigating various marine biofacts, making penguin badges and donning their scientist caps to investigate the problem seabirds encounter in the face of the great oil spill currently ravaging the waters around the Gulf of Mexico heading for Florida and the North American East coast. 

Now that we’ve managed to find an internet connection we can tell you about all the other goings on this week. 

The RZSS is proud to announce it’s involvement in research coordinated by IBREAM the Institute of Breeding Rare & Endangered African Mammals to investigate the reproductive cycles of pygmy hippos. Researchers have found a tendency in pygmy hippos breeding in captivity to produce more females than males with a sex ratio of 60% to 40%. A project has been set up to investigate if these figures are reflected in the pygmy hippo breeding in the wild. There was an estimated 3000 pygmy hippos in the wild in the 90’s but with fears this could have been an exaggerated figure scientists are keen to get a clearer picture.

Pygmy Hippo at Edinburgh Zoo

Research is now underway using camera traps to gather information on numbers of individuals and behaviours. The pygmy hippo is a very secretive animal and mostly active at night making camera traps the best opportunity to see what these creatures are up to.

 As Dr Monique Paris, IBREAM Research Director based in the Netherlands explains “There are clear reasons as to why populations have declined in the wild, such as habitat loss and hunting, but for those working with captive populations there are equally puzzling questions. With the endangered status of the hippo, maintaining a viable population in captivity is important. However for every two males born, three female babies are born making zoo management complex. We are also dealing with extremely shy animals with little knowledge of their natural behaviour and therefore we really don’t know if this is purely a natural reproductive phenomenon or one restricted to the captive environment.”

Edinburgh Zoo is home to three pygmy hippos, with one female born last year. Iain Valentine, RZSS’ Director of Animals, Education and Conservation, said:

“For scientists to ensure genetic diversity in captive stocks, it is important to work out why genetically valuable females may not be breeding. But to do this, we need better understanding of the natural cycles to make sure that we can do all we can in the captive environment. That is why RZSS is part of this pioneering conservation partnership and is funding primary research that will help the whole zoo community. This will hopefully give this species of hippo a fighting chance in the wild.”

 Check out some amazing pictures the camera traps have caught so far of some other animals. Below are a forest elephant and a Jentink duiker a species of antelope.

Forest Elephant Captured on the Camera Trap

Jentink Duiket Captured on the Camera Trap

Finally we get the pleasure to announce the arrival of Kamal, who’s name means perfection, our bouncy baby male tapir! Kamal was born on Friday April 23rd just in time for World Tapir Day which took place on Tuesday 27th of April. He is son to mum Sayang who is carefully watching him charge around their enclosure jumping and delighting visitors with the cutest squeaks and squawks as he goes. Aww! Not only distinguishable from his parents by his size, tapir youngsters look very different to their older relatives. Unlike his parents who have a black coat with a large, wide, white band, the baby tapir is covered in white stripes and spots which remain until they develop their adult coat at six months old. Kamal can be found in the corner of the zoo next to the Rhino paddocks be sure to pay him a visit but remember our youngster is still shy so we ask visitors to keep some ssshhhhh around the tapir house while Kamal gets used to his new home.

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§ 2 Responses to A Spot of Perfection at the Zoo and Hippo Spotting in the Wild!

  • Ian Robinson says:

    Jentink’s duikers are antelopes, not deer! Hate to be pedantic, as this spoils what is otherwise a really good update from a zoo that’s looking to do things.

  • rzss says:

    Thank you for pointing this out! I’ve corrected the mistake in the text!

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