A baby southern koala is set to make its first public appearance at Longleat over the coming days.
The baby, known as a joey, is the first ever southern koala to have been born in Europe. Although mum Violet gave birth last year, the baby spent the first six months of its life safely inside her pouch and is only now beginning to start venturing outside.
The successful birth is a major milestone for the Wiltshire safari park which opened its purpose-built facility in 2019 and also for Lord Bath, who has been instrumental in bringing koalas to Longleat and is the patron of the Koala Life charitable organisation based in South Australia.
“The arrival of the first baby southern koala is a huge event for the entire team here and something we have all been working towards and hoping for since we launched the new facility three years ago,” he said.
“We are delighted with how well both mother and baby are doing. As well as being a first for us, this is also Violet’s first experience of motherhood and she is proving to be a caring and attentive parent.
“We are still not fully sure on the sex of the joey but hope to get a better idea when it starts to spend more time outside of the pouch. Currently we want to leave them alone as much as possible,” he added.
Koalas give birth after around a month-long pregnancy. The joey is born blind and hairless and about the same size as a jellybean. Within minutes, the tiny baby is able to find its way into its mother’s pouch.
As it continues to grow and develop, the joey will leave the pouch and explore. However, it will remain largely dependent on its mother until it is up to a year old.
Longleat has been working closely with the Government of South Australia and Cleland Wildlife Park to establish Koala Creek as a European hub for the species.
“It has been a long and complicated process, but this birth is really important for a number of reasons,” said keeper James Dennis.
“As well as helping to raise awareness of the southern koala and the threats it faces in the wild, it is also teaching us so much about the species’ complex lifecycle.
“One of the most concerning issues with regard to southern koalas in Australia is the high levels of inbreeding and so the fact we are able to begin establishing a genetically diverse population here in Europe is also really important,” he added.
At Longleat the koalas’ purpose-built enclosure includes a natural stream, eucalyptus trees, climbing poles, a mix of indoor and outdoor habitats, viewing areas, and a medical care unit.
A plantation of eucalyptus trees has also been established on the estate to provide the koalas with a regular supply of leaves, the only thing the marsupials will eat.
The facility is part of a ground-breaking joint initiative with the Government of South Australia, Cleland Wildlife Park and Longleat to support research and raise funds for koala management and conservation.
In the aftermath of the bushfires, keepers from Koala Creek travelled out to South Australia to help with the recovery programme and in 2020 Longleat donated over £50,000 to support koala conservation and recovery programmes.
“The breeding of the first southern koala born in Europe represents the culmination of this fantastic partnership to better understand and protect koalas,” said Professor Chris Daniels, from the University of South Australia and Chair of Koala Life.
“In addition, Longleat now has a small but vital group of healthy animals free of debilitating diseases including chlamydia and retrovirus. This will help us understand how to keep sanctuary populations heathy and provide important information about the effects of these diseases.
“So, this joey represents a small, but vital step in the process to secure the long-term survival of one of the world's most loved animals. A major achievement,” he added.
There are two main subspecies of koala; the smaller northern variety and the southern koala, which has much thicker fur and can weigh twice as much as their northern relatives.
Visitors will have their first opportunity to see the baby koala when Longleat re-opens to the public this weekend.
Longleat Safari Park
A baby southern koala is set to make its first public appearance at Longleat over the coming days.
An emu chick which is having to be reared by keepers at Longleat after being rejected by its parents has made an unusual friendship with a flock of farmyard chickens.
The two-month old chick, who keepers have named Bueno, is the first to have been successfully reared at the Wiltshire safari park.
Keepers initially cared for the youngster at home, however it has now been returned to Longleat’s Family Farmyard area where it has struck up the unlikely alliance with the resident chickens.
“We decided to rear Bueno ourselves as there were signs first time mum and dad Bounty and Biscuit were not the most attentive of parents,” said keeper Gemma Short.
“As this was the first chick which had been reared here we wanted to give it as much of a chance of reaching adulthood as possible.
“Since returning to Longleat, it has settled in really well and, in addition to the chickens, it is also bonding with its adopted auntie Bourbon, an adult female emu,” she added.
If all goes well the plan is to reintroduce Bueno back to its parents once it has grown large enough to fend for itself.
Emus are among the largest birds in the world, growing in excess of two metres tall. They're found primarily in Australia, but also in New Guinea, Indonesia, Solomon Islands, and the Philippines and are part of the ratite family, along with rheas and ostriches.
Mating pairs stay together for up to five months, after which females lay large, emerald-green eggs in expansive ground nests. The males incubate the eggs for about seven weeks without drinking, feeding or leaving the nest.
Emu eggs, which are emerald green in colour, have to be incredibly tough to survive in their native Australia. The emu chick will start by pecking a hole in the egg before expanding his body to break the hard, brittle shell.
When the chicks are fully grown they can reach land speeds of up to 50 kilometres per hour making them one of the fastest land birds alongside their ostrich cousins.
Longleat keepers are celebrating Mother’s Day early after their Arabian rock hyrax unexpectedly gave birth to triplets.
It’s only the second time the species, which is also known as the rock rabbit or dassie, has bred at the Wiltshire wildlife attraction and the new arrivals came as a big surprise to staff who were unaware the female was pregnant.
Resembling large guinea pigs, rock hyraxes are found throughout Africa and in parts of Asia.
Longleat’s pair are part of a rarer Arabian subspecies, which makes the births even more welcome.
“To be honest we did not know for sure mum Dozy was expecting and so to come in and discover three tiny babies was fantastic,” said keeper Kim Ovens
“Although we can’t tell what sex they are yet, all three babies are doing extremely well and becoming more active and independent with every passing day,” she added.
‘A’ is for aardvark, anteater and armadillo - Keepers at Longleat are celebrating the births of their very own animal ‘A’ team.
Among the new arrivals is a baby aardvark, the first to have been born at the Wiltshire safari park.
Weighing a little more than a kilogramme at birth, the bizarre-looking calf is born without hair, has drooping ears and wrinkled skin.
Over time it develops hair, the long ears become upright and the wrinkles slowly disappear.
“This is our first ever aardvark birth so we are paying particularly close attention to how the calf is growing and checking its weight daily,” said Team Manager Catriona Carr.
“Aardvark calves can be fragile in their first stages of life, and parents can sometimes be a bit clumsy so we are closely monitoring mother and baby and helping with feeding sessions until the calf has got stronger and can look after itself,” she added.
Originally from Sub-Saharan Africa, aardvarks are renowned for their tunnelling abilities and are capable of digging through a metre of soil in under 30 seconds.
The two-metre-long mammals have specially-adapted spade-like claws on their front legs which allow them to dig out up to 50,000 bugs in a single evening.
They also have tongues measuring in excess of 30cms and nostrils, which they can completely close to prevent dirt getting into their noses.
The other members of the ‘A’ Team are a baby giant anteater and a pair of six-banded armadillos.
Giant anteaters originate from Central and South America and can be found in tropical and deciduous forests.
As its name suggests the giant anteater is the largest of the anteater family and can grow to over two metres in length with tongues that extend to more than 60cm.
The new arrival is the latest success story for Longleat captive breeding programme for the species, which is officially listed as ‘Vulnerable’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
As for armadillos, the name comes from the Spanish for ‘little armoured one’ and refers to the hard, protective bands which cover their bodies and protects them from predators. This protective layer is actually made from keratin, the same material which is in our hair and nails.
Potoroos, like the one seen here in a recent video filmed at Longleat, are born weighing just 0.3 grams. Within the first ten minutes of being born the young will climb up into its mother’s pouch and attach itself to one of her teats. It stays like this for the first one and a half to two months of its life. When the infant has developed fur, it starts to spend time outside of the pouch. It gradually spends more and more time outside until it is four or five months of age and the mother forces it to stay out, which usually coincides with the birth of a new infant. The young are weaned by five months of age but stay close to the mother until they are about a year old. Most female potoroos will be looking after three young at any one time, with one infant who is out of the pouch but still suckling or keeping close to her, a newborn in her pouch, and an embryo which starts to develop but then remains dormant until the young in the pouch is old enough to leave.
🐦 Longleat's flock of flamboyant Chilean flamingos is experiencing a summer baby boom – with fourteen chicks already hatched and more on the way.
All chicks are born with white plumage, which they keep for around three years, and a straight bill, which gradually droops down as they grow.
Keeper Lauren Hooper-Bow said: “We are extremely pleased with the high hatching success rate among the flamingos this year.
“With the number of eggs still to hatch, it could be our best year to date and it’s particularly welcome as in 2019 heavy snow showers prevented the flamingos from sitting on any of their eggs.
“This year’s success is likely to be down to a combination of factors including good weather during the egg hatching period, having a large colony and the fact so many of the eggs were fertile,” she added.
Flamingos lay a single egg on top of a tall cone nest. Fully grown they are around a-metre-and-a-half tall, and can weigh anywhere up to seven kgs.
They live 15-20 years in the wild, however in captivity, and safe from predators, they can reach ages of 70 years.
Chilean flamingos can survive at high altitude in the Andes Mountains. They are also significantly more able to deal with the cold than their Caribbean counterparts.
In the wild, flamingos eat small crustaceans and other microscopic animals and plants, which are obtained by filter feeding.
When adult, the continuously-moving beak acts as an efficient filter for food collection when water is pumped through the bristles of the mouth.
The flamingos’ famous pink plumage comes from pigments in their diet which is replicated in their special feed at the park.
After the newest litter of European Wolves began emerging from their den a few weeks ago, keepers at Longleat Safari Park weren’t exactly sure how many pups were in the litter. They eventually determined that parents Eliska and Jango were raising seven pups!
Once it was known that pups had been born, the care team allowed the family to bond without any interference from staff. Keepers would occasionally glimpse the pups when Eliska and Jango moved the pups between three separate underground dens in their woodland enclosure.
“As the pups spend their first few weeks underground it makes it very difficult to work out exactly how many there are. Initially we thought there were only five, so to discover there’s actually seven of them was a wonderful bonus,” said Longleat’s team manager for carnivores, Amy Waller.
The pups, which weighed less than a pound when born, are now able to eat small amounts of meat but will not be fully weaned until eight to 10 weeks of age.
This is the second litter born at the Safari Park in the last year and boosts the pack size to 14.
“The pups’ older siblings have also been getting involved with transporting them from den to den but have still not entirely got the hang of holding them the right way up so mum and dad do have to occasionally intervene,” added Amy.
Wolf packs have a highly complex social structure and each individual knows its place in the pack hierarchy. In the wild, wolves depend on cooperation within the pack for survival, both in hunting and in raising offspring.
Wild Wolves were eradicated from most of Western Europe in the 19th century and they have been extinct throughout the United Kingdom for more than 250 years.
Thanks to several Wolf reintroduction programs, the wild Wolf population in Europe is now thought to include 12,000 individuals in 28 countries.
There are established packs in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Portugal, Spain and Italy with numbers also on the rise in parts of France and Germany. In 2011, Wolves were also reported in Belgium and the Netherlands.
See more pup pics below!
An abandoned Cheetah cub is being hand reared by her keeper at Longleat.
The female cub has been nicknamed “Xena”, after the warrior princess, which also marks her battling qualities.
Xena spent her first ten days being cared for by her mum, Wilma. However, keepers discovered the tiny cub was cold, weak and alone on April 19. Despite numerous unsuccessful attempts to get mother and baby back together, the decision was taken by keepers to remove the cub and rear her by hand.
Keeper, Matt Cleverley, who has previously experienced hand-rearing a Cheetah while working in Africa, volunteered to look after the tiny cub. Matt’s wife, Kate, also a keeper at Longleat, also took up parenting duties.
The cub needs to be bottle-fed every four hours, day and night, until she is six weeks old. Then, she will start to be weaned on to a meat diet.
“No one is sure why Wilma, who was such a brilliant first-time mum with cubs Winston and Poppy in 2016, should have abandoned Xena,” said Matt.
“We did everything we could to try and get her to re-bond with the baby, but it wasn’t working, and we were faced with an extremely difficult choice of not interfering and letting the cub die or stepping in and attempting to rear her by hand.”
Matt continued, “It’s a huge responsibility, and we’re taking it day-by-day, but she is developing well and has already more than doubled her birth weight. So we’re cautiously optimistic that she will make it.”
“As with human babies, she does require round the clock care and attention, and Kate and myself share the duties between us.”
“It does mean the cub comes home with us at the end of each day, but it’s going to be very much worthwhile if we can help get her to a stage where she can fend for herself,” he added.
This is only the second Cheetah birth at Longleat, following the arrival of cubs Winston and Poppy in 2016.
The Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) is officially classified as ‘Vulnerable’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, which means it is likely to become ‘Endangered’, unless the circumstances threatening its survival and reproduction improve.
In 2008, the IUCN estimated there to be around 7,500-10,000 adult Cheetahs in Africa, and there are concerns the numbers have decreased significantly since then.
Longleat’s Cheetahs are part of the European Endangered Species Programme.
A baby Wallaby which is being hand reared in a backpack after being found abandoned is delighting keepers at Longleat with his progress.
The baby, who has been nicknamed Newt, is thought to be around 30 weeks old. He has been adopted by keepers Gemma Short and Jodie Cobb, who carry Newt around in a substitute pouch made from a backpack.
Photo Credit: Longleat
The Red-necked Wallaby, who was rescued after being found abandoned during snowy weather, is thriving under the care of his keepers at this safari park in the United Kingdom.
“It appears that for some reason his mum let him out of her pouch during the cold weather but then refused to let him back in again,” said keeper Gemma. “We kept him under closer observation but when it became clear she had abandoned him, we had to step in and hand rear him.”
“Initially we had to feed him every two hours, but now he feeds at four-hour intervals and he’s starting to take solids,” Gemma said. “At first it felt a little strange to be carrying this backpack around but after a while you do get used to it. He’s a real character and is beginning to venture out on his own again and explore the outside world,” she added.
At birth, Newt weighed just 20 grams and was little larger than a baked bean. He crawled through his mother’s fur from the birth canal into the pouch where he began to suckle.
Volunteering to take over as surrogate mothers has been a real labor of love for the keepers - especially with feedings every four hours day and night.
Gemma and Jodie will have to keep up their role as adoptive parents for up to 18 months until the youngster is fully weaned and ready to return to the Wallaby colony.
Red-necked Wallabies, also known as Bennett’s Wallabies, are native to eastern Australia and the island of Tasmania. As marsupials, their babies are born in a highly underdeveloped state and complete their growth inside the female’s pouch. They feed on grasses and leaves during the night and rest during the day. Red-necked Wallabies are not under threat, and so are listed as a species of Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
A rare pair of Cheetah cubs has ventured outside for the first time at Longleat Safari Park.
Thirteen-week-old cubs, Poppy and Winston (who were named by the public), are the first of their kind to have been born at the Wiltshire, UK wildlife attraction.
The brother-and-sister duo, still sporting juvenile fur, was allowed outside to explore their paddock under the watchful eye of mum Wilma.
“It’s amazing to see how fast they are developing and fascinating to watch their reactions to the outside world,” said keeper Eloise Kilbane.
“Both of them were initially a little disconcerted by the wet grass and kept trying to wipe the water off their paws. Poppy also got a leaf stuck to her back and couldn’t quite work out how to get it off!
“However it wasn’t long before they were demonstrating the Cheetah’s famous turn of speed as they chased each other around,” she added.
The Cheetah is officially classified as ‘Vulnerable’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species, which means it is very likely to become ‘Endangered’ unless the circumstances threatening its survival and reproduction improve.
In 2008 the IUCN estimated there to be around 7,500-10,000 adult Cheetahs in Africa and there are concerns the numbers have decreased significantly since then.
The births, which come almost five years after Cheetahs first arrived at Longleat, are particularly welcome as the cubs are part of the European Endangered Species Programme.
“Both mum Wilma and dad Carl have very valuable genetics within the European population as they came to us from a captive breeding population in Pretoria, South Africa,” said Eloise.
“This means Winston and Poppy, are also genetically distinct from the vast majority of the Cheetah within Europe, which means their birth is even more important,” she added.
Despite being the fastest developing member of the cat family, the cubs will remain reliant on mum for up to two years.
Cheetahs are the world’s quickest land animals, capable of top speeds of 71 miles per hour. While running they can cover four strides in a second, with each stride measuring up to eight metres.
Longleat Safari & Adventure Park is a member of the British and Irish Association of zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA). The facility celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.