Chief Executives Blog

February 22, 2013 § Leave a comment


Yang Guang Eating a Carrot

Well the big news this week is that the giant panda breeding season is likely to be upon us in the next three to six weeks, as both Tian Tian and Yang Guang have started to show important courtship and early mating behaviour. Male Yang Guang recently started marking his territory and doing handstands, with the strongest male being the one to scent as high as possible. Female Tian Tian also already started calling out to Yang Guang.

Urine testing has commenced to monitor Tian Tian’s hormones levels and samples are now being couriered each morning to scientists at Edinburgh University; however we don’t expect to see hormonal changes just yet. It is by the combination of behavioural observation and hormone testing that we will know when the pandas are ready to be put together.

The two animals have also been responding well to enclosure swapping, which keepers will increase in frequency as the breeding season gets closer. Chemical communication is very important to giant pandas and many other animals, especially during breeding season, and is a key method by which the animals themselves will know that another panda in season is close by.

Yang Guang also has an increased appetite for bamboo and is starting to enhance his body size, as male pandas need to be in peak physical shape during breeding season. He’s almost doubled his intake of bamboo from around 35kg per day to 50kg, and we’ll soon see his appetite double again up to around 100kg. All great natural male panda breeding behaviour, in the wild he would need enough energy to move around the forests to travel to female’s territories and compete against other males for females. He also needs this extra bamboo to produce sperm and for the actual mating act itself.

Meanwhile, in the Highlands, our other set of pandas – this time the red ones – are also starting to show breeding behaviour with the male scent marketing his enclosure and the new wolverine enclosure in development is moving along at pace.

RZSS news further afield is that a baby giant armadillo was recently captured the birth of a baby giant armadillo using camera trap footage. Of huge significance, it’s one of South America’s most cryptic species and this is actually the first register of the giant armadillo reproduction and birth in the wild.

In July 2010 the Pantanal Giant Armadillo Project successfully established the first long-term ecological study of giant armadillos at the Baía das Pedras Ranch in the Nhecolândia sub-region of the Brazilian Pantanal. The partnership is a linkup between RZSS and a Brazilian NGO (IPÊ – Institute for Ecological Research), and a private cattle ranch (Baía das Pedras). The main goal of the project is to investigate the ecology and biology of the species and understand its function in the ecosystem using radio transmitters, camera traps, burrow surveys, resource monitoring, resource mapping and interviews.

Today there is still virtually no information on giant armadillo reproduction. The species has never bred in captivity and no observations have ever been made in the wild. Acquiring reproductive information on the species is crucial to understanding its population dynamics and for any type of conservation planning for giant armadillos. Gestation period, number of young and maternal behaviours of giant armadillos are vital pieces of information for the conservation of this rare species.

Finally, as our new penguin enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo nears completion, I can let you now that we have a partnership with Citroen who has kindly donated a brand new DS3 which we will raffle off from now until the end of November. The car is on display above the member’s gate in a fantastic glass box surrounded by penguins. Raffle tickets are just £1 and can be purchased from a member of staff (at reception) or you can text to win:

Text ZOOCAR to 82055 (standard network rate charges apply).  Please play to win this great looking car and help to support our conservation work.  And tell your friends and family too!

Best wishes,

Chris

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