Two baby African Sengis at Chester Zoo named Ping and Pong are about the size of – you guessed it – ping pong balls. The twins were born on May 5.
African Sengis, also known as Round-eared Elephant Shrews, grow to a maximum size of just four inches and weigh 1.5 ounces – about the same as seven US quarters.
Despite their small stature, Sengis have a genetic link to much larger animals, including Manatees, Aardvarks and Elephants.
Photo Credit: Chester Zoo
Dave White, team manager of small mammals at Chester Zoo, said, “They may be tiny but our new Sengi duo are hugely fascinating creatures, whose closest living relative is eight thousand times their size. They were once thought to be linked to the Shrew but their genetic makeup is actually closer to that of an Elephant - the giveaway is their amazing trunk-like snout.”
The prehensile snout is used to sniff out insects to eat. The bugs are collected with a quick flick of the tongue.
“Sengis are extremely energetic little critters and have a top speed of 18 mph. If scaled up, they would actually be twice as quick as the world’s fastest land mammal – the Cheetah. They’re incredibly charismatic and one of the very few mammals that pair up for life,” White said.
African Sengis are native to Botswana, Namibia and South Africa where they are found in a range of habitats including deserts, forests and savannahs.
There are nineteen different species of Sengi, and little is known about most of them. A new species was discovered by conservationists working in Namibia as recently as 2014.
On May 3rd, Wingham Wildlife Park welcomed their first ever European Wolf pups. Wolves have been part of Wingham Wildlife Park since 2013, when Dakota (the mother of this litter of pups) and her sister Arya arrived at the UK from Parc Animalier de Sainte Croix in France, to be joined later in 2015 by male, Raksha, from Bern Zoo in Switzerland.
The new litter of four pups is a first for Dakota. However, having grown up in a fairly large pack in Sainte Croix, she is used to the mechanics of what should be done and how best to keep the litter healthy and safe, as Tony Binskin, the managing director of WWP explained: “We are really pleased with how she is doing with the pups. When animals have their first ever babies it can always be a bit of a worrying time. Do they know how to socialize them? Will they know how to make their own den? Will they know to use their artificial den if they don’t? There are so many variables which can potentially go wrong!”
Jackie Binskin, Tony’s wife finished by saying, “She really is a great mum though! So far, she has done nothing wrong, and as for how the pups are faring with here… The proof’s in the pudding – they look great.”
Photo Credits: Wingham Wildlife Park
On the morning of May 13, the den, which Dakota had dug herself using a fallen over tree and its root system as a starting point and natural barrier, was inspected from a discrete distance by management staff at Wingham Wildlife Park.
The result of this inspection was a huge relief and surprise for the staff, as Tony explained; “Today was the clearest we have seen the pups so far. Before she had spent most of her time laying down with the pups huddle under her. In that position, we always only saw 3 but had our suspicions that there might be a 4th – after seeing the odd tail or foot hanging out which didn’t quite look right! Today however we saw all 4, clear as day.”
Markus Wilder, the parks curator interjected with; “…And to top it all off they all have their eyes open already and are moving around really well. When Dakota first made her den, it was quite shallow, but we can see now why she has been excavating it more – making it deeper and steeper. Whilst she is doing really well, it’s obviously also a bit of a learning curve for her!”
A female Southern White Rhino calf, born April 30 to first-time mother Kiazi and father Maoto, curiously checked out her surroundings May 18 at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, under the watchful eye of her attentive mother.
Kiazi’s pregnancy was very exciting for researchers at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. She arrived at the Safari Park in 2008 and, despite breeding regularly since her arrival, she had never before conceived. At 16 years old, she is past the average age that most female Southern White Rhinos have their first calf.
“The birth of Kiazi’s calf gives us a great deal of hope that by feeding low phytoestrogens at our institution and others, we can once again have a healthy, self-sustaining captive Southern White Rhinoceros population,” said Christopher Tubbs, Ph.D., a senior scientist in Reproductive Sciences at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. “With the high level of poaching currently happening in Africa, having a healthy ex situ population of Rhinos is as important as ever. This calf is an example of how we are using cutting-edge laboratory science to lead the fight against extinction.”
Photo Credits: San Diego Zoo Safari Park
Tubbs and his colleagues have been working for nine years to determine why Southern White Rhino females born in zoos tend not to bear offspring as often as their wild relatives. This problem is not found in other species of Rhinos living in zoos. Through extensive research, it was discovered that the animals might be sensitive to compounds called phytoestrogens found in soy and alfalfa, which are a component of the animals’ diets in zoos. During their 16-month gestation, female calves could be exposed to the compounds through their mother’s diet, resulting in infertility issues later in their life.
On the basis of these findings, the nutritional services team at San Diego Zoo Global changed the diet for Southern White Rhinos in 2014. First, they reduced the amount of pellets rich with soy and alfalfa that are fed to the Rhinos. Next, they developed a grass-based pellet for the Rhinos that is low in phytoestrogen and supplies nutrients to support reproduction. Approximately two years after the diet changes, two females became pregnant. Since then, there have been three pregnancies in females that had not successfully reproduced before, which resulted in the birth of two healthy calves.
Although Tubbs and his team have only focused on the potential effects of dietary phytoestrogens in White Rhinos, it is likely that a number of species living in zoo settings receive diets containing levels of phytoestrogens capable of affecting reproduction. Therefore, future research efforts will focus on identifying species that are possibly affected, evaluating their sensitivity to phytoestrogens and, if warranted, developing new diets and feeding practices aimed at enhancing fertility.
The research project has reached a real point of urgency, due to the increase in poaching in recent years that has dramatically affected Rhino populations in the wild. When the project began in 2007, 13 Rhinos were poached (that year). In 2016, 1,054 Southern White Rhinos were poached in South Africa—with an average of three Rhinos killed every day. There are five species of Rhinos, with three of those species—Black, Javan and Sumatran—listed as “Critically Endangered” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. The Greater One-horned Rhino is listed as “Vulnerable” and the Southern White Rhino is listed as “Near Threatened”.
Kiazi’s calf is the 96th Southern White Rhino calf born at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park since 1972. Estimated to weigh around 125 pounds at birth, the calf will nurse from her mother for up to 14 months. She is expected to gain about 100 pounds a month in her first year. When full grown, at around 3 years of age, she could weigh 4,000 to 5,000 pounds. The Rhino calf and her mom can best be seen roaming their habitat from the Park’s Africa Tram Safari or a Caravan Safari.
Utah's Hogle Zoo is pleased to introduce their new Amur Leopard cubs, Rafferty and Roman!
The cubs were born February 17 and have been bonding with mom, Zeya, behind the scenes, learning all the basics of being an Amur Leopard. Rafferty’s name means “one who possess prosperity”, and Roman means “strong, powerful”.
According to keepers, Zeya is doing a great job nurturing her little duo and is fiercely protective of the boys. At their recent check-up, Rafferty and Roman clocked in at 12 and 13 pounds and are now ready to meet Zoo guests!
Hogle Zoo is thrilled to contribute to the population of this critically endangered species. Experts estimate only 60 Amur Leopards remain in the wild.
Photo Credits: Utah's Hogle Zoo
The Amur Leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis) is a subspecies native to the Primorye region of southeastern Russia and the Jilin Province of northeast China. The Amur Leopard is also known as the “Far Eastern Leopard”.
Amur Leopards are threatened by: poaching, encroaching civilization, new roads, poaching of their prey, forest fires, inbreeding, possible coexisting with disease carriers and transmitters, and exploitation of forests.
Due to the small number of reproducing Amur Leopards in the wild, the gene pool is so reduced that the population is also at risk from inbreeding depression.
The Amur Leopard is known as the most endangered of all Leopard subspecies. It is currently listed as “Critically Endangered” on the IUCN Red List. In 2007, only 19–26 wild Amur Leopards were estimated to have survived, and as of 2015, fewer than 60 individuals are estimated to survive in Russia and China.
According to the IUCN’s latest report, “Although the population of P. p. orientalis may have increased recently, especially on the Chinese side of the border (Xiao et al. 2014), the total population remains <60 individuals. With no noted population or range increase, the Sri Lankan Leopard (P. p. kotiya) should retain its current status as Endangered. The Leopard of southwestern Asia (P. p. saxicolor or ciscaucasica) has been recorded in previously undocumented areas of the Caucasus, such as Georgia and Azerbajian (Sarukhanova 2014, Voskyanyan 2014), however, due to overall low numbers and restricted range, this subspecies should remain listed as Endangered (Khorozyan 2008).”
A tiny turtle made a timely debut on May 15 at ZSL London Zoo. Not only was the Spiny Hill Turtle hatchling the first ever of its kind to hatch at the Zoo, it arrived just in time for World Turtle Day on May 23*.
After keeping a close eye on the egg during its 136 day incubation period, keepers managed to capture the ‘cracking’ moment the endangered Spiny Hill Turtle came out of its shell, on a time lapse camera.
ZSL keeper, Francesca Servini, said, “The reptile team have spent four years carefully researching this fascinating turtle species so we’re very excited to have our first ever hatch at ZSL London Zoo – just in time for World Turtle Day.”
“The hatchling used its special egg-tooth to break the shell’s surface early in the morning, and it took 36 hours to completely push its way out. The egg-tooth, which is a tiny sharp white bump on the turtle’s head, will soon fall off now its job is done.”
The turtle weighed a tiny 33g at birth and measured just 61mm, although it will eventually grow to approximately 27cm in size.
Photo Credits: ZSL London Zoo
The Spiny Hill Turtle (Heosemys spinosa) is native to lowland and hill rainforests, usually in the vicinity of small streams, from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.
The unusual spiny shell spikes that give the turtles their name are used to deter predators and provide camouflage among their forest floor homes.
The Spiny Hill Turtle has been classified as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List. According to the IUCN: “…known trade volumes of the species have declined by about 50% in Indonesia recently despite high demand in the food trade. It is restricted to small and isolated populations over much of its range, although there is a lack of data for some areas.”
ZSL London Zoo is honored to be a part of the work being done to save this endangered species. According to a Zoo spokesperson, “It has been estimated that more than ten million turtles are being traded for food, traditional medicine and the pet trade each year in Asia, where this turtle originates. The husbandry research being carried out here at ZSL London Zoo is becoming increasingly important in guaranteeing the existence of these animals for the future.”
*American Tortoise Rescue (ATR), a nonprofit organization established in 1990 for the protection of all species of tortoise and turtle, is celebrating its 17th annual World Turtle Day® on May 23rd. The day was created by ATR to celebrate and protect turtles and tortoises and their disappearing habitats around the world. Now celebrated around the globe, turtle and tortoise lovers are taking “shellfies” and holding “shellebrations” in the US, Canada, Pakistan, Borneo, India, Australia, the UK and many other countries.
ATR launched World Turtle Day to increase respect and knowledge for the world’s oldest creatures. These gentle animals have been around for 200 million years, yet they are rapidly disappearing as a result of smuggling, the exotic food industry, habitat destruction, global warming and the cruel pet trade. It is a very sad time for turtles and tortoises of the world.
For more information about American Tortoise Rescue and World Turtle Day, see their website: www.worldturtleday.org
Reid Park Zoo celebrated a special arrival on April 22. A female Tamandua arrived on “Earth Day”, and in honor of the baby’s special birthday, she has been named Terra (Latin for “the planet earth”).
Reid Park Zoo is working in partnership with the Southern Tamandua SSP to place several of its Tamanduas, and to continue the Zoo’s breeding based upon the SSP recommendations. Reid Park Zoo’s Education Supervisor, Jennifer Stoddard, is also an education adviser for this vital program.
Though not on exhibit, the Zoo’s Tamanduas make regular appearances during education programs and formal presentations. They can also been seen going for informal walks, with the animal care staff, on zoo grounds.
Photo Credits: Reid Park Zoo (Image 1: pup at one-month-old/ Image 2: two-weeks-old)
The Southern Tamandua (Tamandua tetradactyla), also known as the “Collared Anteater” or “Lesser Anteater”, is a species of anteater from South America. It is native to Venezuela, Trinidad, northern Argentina, southern Brazil, and Uruguay at elevations to 1,600 m (5,200 ft.).
It is a solitary animal, found in many habitats from mature to secondary forests and arid savannas. It feeds on ants, termites, and bees. Its very strong fore claws can be used to break insect nests or to defend itself.
Mating generally takes place in the fall. Gestation ranges from 130 to 190 days, and usually one young is born. At birth, the young does not resemble its parents, its coat varies from white to black. The pup will ride on the mother's back for some time.
The species is currently classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List. Their main threat is being killed by hunters. Some hunters pursue the species with claims that the Tamanduas kill domestic dogs. They are also killed for the thick tendons in their tails, from which rope is made, and Tamanduas are sometimes used by Amazonian Indians as “organic” bug control in an effort to rid their homes of ants and termites.
When a Southern Three-banded Armadillo was born at the Cincinnati Zoo this spring, keepers selected a fitting name for the golf-ball-sized female: Pallina, which happens to be the name of the small white ball in a bocce set.
Within a month of her birth on February 28, Pallina more than quadrupled her weight – the equivalent of a seven-pound newborn human weighing 32 pounds at one month of age!
Pallina is the first offspring for parents Lil and Titan and the first Armadillo born at the zoo since 2011.
Armadillos are known for their ability to curl into a ball, using their hard outer shell to protect their face and soft underside. The outer “armor” is made of keratin, the same material that makes up your fingernails. Southern Three-banded Armadillos are native to South America, where they inhabit parts of Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, and Brazil and feed on a variety of insects.
Southern Three-banded Armadillos are listed as Near Threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Primary threats include habitat destruction as native grasslands are converted to farms. Hunting and capture for the pet trade also contribute to the Armadillos' decline.
With huge eyes, spotted wings, and tubular nostrils, Eastern Tube-nosed Bats are a unique and fascinating Australian Fruit Bat species. Two of these little Bats are currently being cared for at the Australian Bat Clinic.
Photo Credit: Rachael Wasiak/Wakaleo
Video Credit: Adam Cox/Wakaleo
The two Bats were injured in the wild and brought to the Clinic. One of the Bats was attacked by a Kookaburra, and the other was caught in barbed wire. Once the Bats recover from their injuries, they will be released back into the wild.
It’s rare for humans to encounter these Bats, because they are shy and extremely well-camouflaged. As fruit-eaters, Tube-nosed Bats disperse the seeds of many native and exotic fruiting trees, including fig trees.
Eastern Tube-nosed Bats live in forests along Australia’s northeastern coast.
A Bornean Orangutan was born on December 5 at Zoo Krefeld, in Germany.
Proud mother, Lea, welcomed the lovely female infant. Because of the baby’s beautiful orange-red coloring, keepers decided to name her Suria, from the Malay (Sanskrit) word for “sun”.
Suria is the third infant born to Lea, and her older brother, Changi, has embraced the presence of his new sibling.
Although Suria is beginning to explore her exhibit, she still prefers to cling to the safety of her mother, as can be seen in these amazing images captured by photographer, Arjan Haverkamp.
Photo Credits: Arjan Haverkamp
The Bornean Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) is a species of Orangutan native to the island of Borneo. Together with the Sumatran Orangutan, it belongs to the only genus of great apes native to Asia. Like other great apes, Orangutans are highly intelligent, displaying advanced tool use and distinct cultural patterns in the wild.
The Bornean Orangutan is classified as “Critically Endangered” on the IUCN Red List, with deforestation, palm oil plantations and hunting posing a serious threat to its continued existence.
The total number of Bornean Orangutans is estimated to be less than 14% of what it was in the recent past. This sharp decline has occurred mostly over the past few decades due to human activities and development.
Species distribution is now highly patchy throughout Borneo; it is apparently absent or uncommon in the southeast of the island, as well as in the forests between the Rejang River in central Sarawak and the Padas River in western Sabah (including the Sultanate of Brunei). A population of around 6,900 is found in Sabangau National Park, but this environment is at risk.
According to Harvard University anthropologist, Cheryl Knott, in 10 to 20 years, Orangutans are expected to be extinct in the wild if no serious effort is made to overcome the threats they are facing.
A rare Pheasant, usually found in the rainforests of South East Asia, has been successfully bred at Chester Zoo for the first time. Two Great Argus Pheasant chicks hatched on May 3, after a 24-day incubation.
With Great Argus Pheasant numbers in steep decline across much of its native range, keepers at the Zoo have hailed the arrival of the young pair.
The birds, which are found on the Malaysian peninsula, south Myanmar, South West Thailand, Borneo and Sumatra, are iconic in their homeland but are threatened by hunting and habitat loss.
Photo Credits: Chester Zoo
Andrew Owen, Curator of Birds, said, “The Great Argus Pheasant [Argusianus argus] is under real pressure in parts of South East Asia. Like so many bird species in that part of the world, they are the victim of rapid deforestation and illegal trapping.”
“Great Argus males, in particular, are amongst the most unusual and distinctive of all birds, with their astonishingly long wing and tail feathers adorned with thousands of eye-spots. It is their beauty, which is, in part, what makes them so prized by hunters. To have two chicks hatch here for the very first time in the zoo’s long history is a great achievement; they’re certainly important young birds.”
As part of its mating ritual, the male constructs a ring on the ground out of sticks and twigs, then calls to entice a female to enter into the circle. He then performs a mating dance, culminating in him spreading his wings wide to show off a complex pattern of eyespots in his plumage.
It is these ‘eye-spots’ that give the Argus Pheasant its name: Argus Panoptes (or Argos) being a many-eyed giant in Greek mythology.
The Great Argus Pheasant has been evaluated and is currently classified as “Near Threatened” on the IUCN Red List.