Bristol Zoo Gardens

Bristol Zoo Gardens First to Breed Rare Spider

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One of the rarest spiders on earth has bred at Bristol Zoo Gardens in a world first.

Over 1,000 tiny Desertas Wolf Spiderlings have hatched in the Zoo’s Bug World. So valuable are the babies, some have even been hand-reared by dedicated keepers from tiny eggs.

The hatchings are a huge boost for the species, which is only found in one valley on one of the Desertas Islands, near Madeira, Portugal. There is thought to be a single population of just 4,000 adult spiders left in the wild – an alarmingly small number for an entire invertebrate species.

It is hoped that some of the spiderlings can be returned to their native island in the future to boost dwindling numbers in the wild.

2_An adult female Desertas wolf spider with young on her backPhoto Credits: Bristol Zoo Gardens

Desertas Wolf Spiders (Hogna ingens) are classified as “Critically Endangered” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species but are not protected by any specific legislation.

The baby spiders are just 4mm in diameter but grow to be huge, impressive-looking black and white adults up to 12cm in size with a body size of 4cm. They are under threat from habitat loss, due to invasive grass binding the soil where they burrow and blocking their natural shelters.

Bristol Zoo has joined forces with Instituto das Florestas e Conservação de Natureza (IFCN) and the IUCN to develop a conservation strategy to protect the species in an effort to prevent it becoming extinct.

As part of the vital conservation effort, Bristol Zoo’s Curator of Invertebrates, Mark Bushell, travelled to Desertas Grande last year with Zoo vet Richard Saunders and collected 25 Desertas Wolf Spiders to be brought back to the Zoo to breed as a ‘safety net’ population.

The effort has been a great success, as Mark explains: “Because this was the first time this species had ever been taken into captivity to breed, it was a steep learning curve. After some of the female spiders were mated, it was an anxious wait to see if they would produce egg sacs. We were thrilled when they did, and to see the tiny spiderlings emerge was fantastic – a real career highlight.”

Such was the keepers’ dedication, that when one of the female’s egg sac broke, eggs were carefully transferred into a miniature incubator for rearing. Once the eggs hatched, they were put into separate containers with sterilized soil, kept in quarantine and individually fed with fruit flies.

Bristol Zoo now plans to send hundreds of the tiny spiderlings to other Zoos in the UK and Europe to set up further breeding groups as part of a collaborative conservation programme for the species.

Mark added: “Establishing the world’s first captive breeding programme for this species is a fantastic step towards protecting it for the future. It is a beautiful and impressive creature, but its natural habitat is being altered by invasive plants. There are simply not enough rocky and sandy areas of habitat left for the spiders to burrow and hide in. The result is a deadly game of musical chairs, whereby the spiders are competing for fewer and fewer burrows.”

Mark added: “In addition to the loss of habitat, one single catastrophic event could wipe out the species entirely. Now we have successfully created a ‘safety net’ population here at Bristol Zoo to help safeguard this impressive creature for the future.”

In future it is also hoped that Bristol Zoo’s team of horticulture experts can visit Desertas Grande to work with park rangers to control the invasive grass, which is destroying the spiders’ habitats and help restore the original landscape.

Bristol Zoo Gardens is a conservation and education charity and relies on the generous support of the public, not only to fund its important work in the zoo but also its vital conservation and research projects spanning five continents.

For more information about visiting Bristol Zoo Gardens, visit their website at www.bristolzoo.org.uk .


Endangered Pygmy Hippo Born at Bristol Zoo

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A tiny baby Pygmy Hippo has been born at the Bristol Zoo Gardens in the UK. The youngster is three weeks old and joins parents Sirana and Nato in the Zoo’s Hippo House.

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4_BristolZooPygmyHippoPhoto Credits: Bristol Zoo Gardens

The calf, which is yet to be sexed, currently spends time exploring the exhibit and using the heated pool. To enable Nato and Sirana time to settle into their parenting duties, the hippos had remained off-exhibit, but the family can now be seen for brief periods of time at the Hippo House.

Lynsey Bugg, Bristol Zoo’s Assistant Curator of Mammals said, “The calf is looking very strong and it certainly feeds well. Like any youngster, it wants to be close to Mum at all times and is often seen by her side. It spends short periods of time in the water but is not quite as good at swimming as its parents, so we often see Mum, Sirana, guiding her little one back into the shallow water. Young hippos tire easily.”

The Pygmy Hippopotamus (Choeropsis liberiensis or Hexaprotodon liberiensis) is threatened in the wild. In Liberia, destruction of forests surrounding the Sapo National Park by logging companies is damaging one of the few remaining strongholds for the Pygmy Hippo. Bristol Zoo Gardens is part of an international captive breeding programme for the Pygmy Hippo.

Lynsey continued, “The European programme is a well-established and very successful programme and our male, Nato, is a genetically important animal; by default, so will be his offspring.”

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Shy Pudu Fawn Born at Bristol Zoo

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A baby Pudu, the world's smallest species of deer, was born at the United Kingdom’s Bristol Zoo in May.

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Photo Credit:  Bob Pitchford

Weighing only about two pounds at birth, Pudu fawns have distinctive white-spotted markings on their backs, which help provide camouflage from predators. Because the zoo staff can’t get too close to the fawn yet, they don’t know its gender.  The fawn is being raised by its mother.

Pudus are native to lowland temperate rainforests in Chile and southwest Argentina.  They are usually active at night, when they emerge to feed on leaves, bark, and fallen fruit.  In the wild, Pudu populations are declining as their rain forest habitat is cleared for cattle ranching and other human development.  The Bristol Zoo participates in an international conservation breeding program for the species. Pudus are classified as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. 

See more photos of the Pudu fawn below.

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World's Rarest Lemurs Born at Bristol Zoo

10649865_10152342182161872_823240378907969850_nBristol Zoo Gardens in the United Kingdom is pleased to announce that Alaotran Gentle Lemurs Mr. and Mrs. Grey are now proud parents to a set of twins.  Gentle Lemurs are the most Critically Endangered species of Lemur in the world.

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10548316_10152342182166872_2497806362175922485_oPhoto Credit: Bob Picthford

Born in mid-July, the six-week-old babies weigh just 5 ounces (150g).  Keepers report that the twins are doing very well and are already confident climbers and jumpers.

Mr. and Mrs. Grey were first introduced to each other in the winter of 2012 at Bristol Zoo and have been inseparable ever since.  The twins are their first offspring.

Lynsey Bugg, Assistant Curator of Mammals, said, “It was love at first sight for these two young Lemurs and we could not be happier with the new arrival of their little ones. Mrs. Grey is a new mum and is doing a fantastic job with her new-borns. Mr. Grey is an attentive parent and particularly protective over his family.”

The new family is extremely important to the survival of this species, because only about 5,000 remain in the wild in Madagascar.  Because Gentle Lemurs live in only one small area on the island, they are particularly susceptible to the risks caused by habitat loss and hunting. 

Bristol Zoo has been part of the breeding program for Alaotran Gentle Lemurs since 1990. 


Rare Turtle Hatches at Bristol Zoo

IMG_8998One of the world’s rarest Turtles has hatched at the United Kingdom’s Bristol Zoo Gardens. The tiny, six-week-old Vietnamese Box Turtle weighs just half an ounce (14.6g) and is around the size of a matchbox. DSC_8262

DSC_8498Photo Credit:  Brsitol Zoo Gardens

The Turtle is so precious that it is being kept behind the scenes in a climate-controlled quarantine room. Once it is old enough, the hatchling will join the six adult Box Turtles in the zoo’s Asian Turtle breeding room.

The Turtle hatched after being kept at a constant temperature in an incubator for 85 days. Tim Skelton, curator of reptiles, has cared for Turtles for over 40 years. He said, “This is a very difficult species to breed so I am thrilled with the arrival of this baby; it comes after a lot of hard work.”

It is the second time the zoo has bred this critically endangered species, which it has kept for 12 years. The zoo’s first Vietnamese Box Turtle hatched in 2012 and is doing very well, thriving on a diet of snails, worms and chopped fruit. Bristol Zoo is thought to be just the second zoo in Europe to have ever bred the species.

Tim added, “Little is known about this species so we can learn an awful lot from this baby to improve our chances of breeding more in the future. These are secretive animals so we are keeping it in a warm, humid and quiet room with a constant temperature, in an enclosure to replicate its natural habitat where it can burrow among the soil and leaves.”

An adult Box Turtle weighs around two pounds (one kg), measures around eight inches (20cm) long, and can live for about 50 years.

Box Turtles are mainly terrestrial, although they will enter shallow water to hunt and soak.

They are hunted for their meat, for use in traditional medicines or as pets, and have been listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Bristol Zoo is working with the Turtle Conservation Centre in Cuc Phuong National Park in Vietnam. This year funds were donated to update their breeding facilities, helping them continue to safeguard this species in its home country.

 


A Pygmy Hippo Calf Makes Waves at Bristol Zoo Gardens

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A Pygmy Hippo has been born at Bristol Zoo Gardens in England! The calf, born in early February, has been named Winnie. She was born to mom Sirana and father Nato, and lives with them on exhibit at the zoo. She spends her time eating, sleeping, and swimming around the exhibit’s heated pool.

Baby hippos are usually born underwater and can swim almost immediately. However, mom still keeps a watchful eye on her calf. 

Assistant Curator of Mammals Lynsey Bugg says, “Young hippos tire easily and Sirana will quite often guide her baby into shallow water or bring her out of the pool. Sirana is very protective and doesn’t let her stay in deep water for too long."

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Photo credits: Katie Horrocks (1-3); Western Daily Press (4,5) 

Pygmy Hippos are much smaller than their big cousins the Common Hippopotamus, measuring just under three feet (.9 m) tall at the shoulder as adults. They are well adapted to aquatic life, with a nose and ears can be closed underwater. Shy and nocturnal, they live in the forests and swamps of West Africa. 

In the wild, females usually breed once every two years. A single calf is born after a gestation period of about six months. A calf weighs between 10 to 14 pounds (4.5 and 6.2 kg) and is unable to walk very far at first. The mother conceals it in thick cover and visits to feed it. After three months, the youngster begins to eat vegetation.

The Pygmy Hippo is threatened in the wild, where it is thought less than 2,000 survive. In Liberia, destruction of forests surrounding the Sapo National Park by logging companies is damaging one of the few remaining strongholds for this species. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the Pygmy Hippo as Endangered.

Bristol Zoo Gardens is part of an international captive breeding program for the Pygmy Hippo. Buggs says, “The European program is a well-established and very successful program and our male, Nato, is a genetically important animal; by default, so will be his offspring."


Rare Roti Island Snake Neck Turtles Hatch at Bristol Zoo

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The UK's Bristol Zoo announced some very good news: Six new Roti Island Snake Neck Turtles hatched and are all doing very well. They are just about a month old. It can take up to ten years for them to reach full adulthood.

The Roti Island Snake Neck Turtle has an extremely limited distribution and has been subjected to intense collection pressure for the international pet trade market, which has driven it into virtual commercial extinction. Recent field surveys have documented extremely depleted remaining populations still being impacted by persistent collection efforts, with remaining habitat areas also being reduced by agricultural development and conversion of swamps and marshland to rice fields.

The turtles will eventually be put out on display, although they’re still very young and fragile so are currently kept safely behind the scenes.

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Photo Credit: Bristol Zoo

 


Bristol Zoo's Critically Endangered Lion Cub Brothers Thriving

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On November 9, 2011, two healthy male Asiatic Lion cubs named Kamran and Ketan were born to mom Shiva at Bristol Zoo Gardens. Now at nine and a half weeks, both cubs are doing well and beginning to reveal their individual personalities. They’re spending more time outside in an off-show enclosure, though guests can now view them at play on a monitor outside the exhibit. 

But they have a story. Unfortunately, only 12 days after they were born, their eight-year-old father Kamal was put to sleep due to severely deteriorating health. Following his death, Shiva began to have difficulties mothering, which forced staff to make the rare decision to intervene and remove the two-week-old cubs for hand-rearing.

Asiatic Lions are classified as Critically Endangered and are part of an internationally coordinated conservation breeding program managed by Twycross Zoo. There are currently only a few hundred Asiatic Lions left in the wild, so every step had to be taken to ensure these cubs survive and thrive. Hand-rearing is a very demanding and challenging process, and is considered a last resort. But just as their father played a role in the conservation breeding program, both cubs are to play a role in the future of the breeding program. 

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"The initial transition was a very important time for the cubs,’ says Lynsey Bugg, Assistant Curator of Mammals. "We placed straw from their previous enclosure on the ground for familiarity, and gave each cub a cuddly toy to snuggle with to mimic mum. We also worked closely with the Vet Team to monitor their fluid intake while we got both cubs used to feeding from artificial teats."

A team of five keepers are dedicated to care for the cubs, who were initially fed five times over a 24 hour period. While the cubs got used to the new feeding regimine, keepers could spend up to two hours doing each feed. Both cubs have their weight, temperature and respiratory rate checked daily, and keepers monitor their activity level to ensure they’re progressing well. 

"Alongside the challenge of feeding when hand-rearing, we need to prevent the cubs from imprinting on the keepers, so we make sure we treat them the way that their mum would when we handle them," continues Lynsey. This involves picking them up by the scruff of the neck and brushing them with a coarse brush -- which replicates them being licked by their mother’s coarse tongue -- all to ensure they go on to be a fully functioning social animal.

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"I’m very proud of my team," says Lynsey. "However, I’ll deem the hand-rearing a success when our two young males are fully weaned and then go on to breed themselves. After all, protecting this incredible species is what we’re all working toward."

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Photo Credit: Bristol Zoo

Watch this video of the two nursing and being quite curious about the camera!


Much ado over baby Pudu!

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A baby Pudu, the world's smallest species of deer, recently made his debut at the UK's Bristol Zoo Gardens.

This male Pudu was born May 6 and has recently ventured out into his paddock for the first time.

The fawn weighed only about two pounds (1kg) at birth.  At one month, he weighed only four pounds (1.8kg) -- about half the weight of a newborn human baby! The tiny youngster is part of an international conservation breeding program. As with all Pudu fawns, he has distinctive white spotted markings on his back which help to camouflage him from predators.

Assistant curator for mammals Lynsey Bugg said, “Behaviour at the moment is still what you would expect from a young fawn. He enjoys hiding in shrubs and undergrowth where he feels most secure. Mum is very good at moving him around as she sees fit but he will always choose a quiet and secluded spot to settle."

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Pudus are classified as a vulnerable species. They live in lowland temperate rainforests in Chile and south-west Argentina but their numbers have declined due to their rainforest habitat being destroyed and cleared for cattle ranching and other human developments, as well as natural predators such as pumas and foxes.

Pudus are the world’s smallest species of deer, standing about 14" (38cm) at the shoulder when fully grown and weighing around 20-33 pounds (9-15kg).  A male’s antlers only grow to four inches (10cm) long.

Photo Credits:  Bristol Zoo

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Tiny Tarantulas Hatch By The Hundreds!

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The U.K.'s Bristol Zoo is celebrating the hatching of over 140 Antilles Pink-toed Bird-eating Tarantulas. At four weeks old, the spiderlings are now little more than the size of a 5p coin with a striking metallic steel blue-black colouring. Zoo guests can see the new arrivals in the window of the tropical breeding room in the Zoo’s Bug World.

Mark Bushell, assistant curator of invertebrates at Bristol Zoo, said: “This species is one of the most beautiful types of tarantula around. When the spiderlings first hatch, they are tiny and translucent but they gradually develop, moult and turn into little blue fluffy tarantulas and are very eye-catching”.

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Photo credits: Bristol Zoo

He added: “Breeding these spiders is a real achievement. It has been a fantastic experience for our team of invertebrate keepers and means now have the tools to successfully breed more species of arachnid in future, including some of the more endangered species.”

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