Conservationists at Chester Zoo have celebrated an unprecedented number of births in 2018, including some of the world’s rarest and most at-risk species.
Adorable cub Kyra was the first Sun Bear to be born in the UK. Her birth was caught on the zoo’s CCTV cameras and people around the globe watched Kyra’s first moments with her mom. Kyra’s parents, Milli and Toni, were both rescued from poachers in Cambodia.
Conservationists estimate that less than 1,000 Sun Bears remain in the wild across Southeast Asia. Deforestation and commercial hunting for their body parts have decimated their numbers.
Critically endangered Western Chimpanzee Stevie was the first of her kind to be born at Chester Zoo in nearly 10 years.
Stevie’s birth followed a scientific project, spanning several years, which carefully assessed the genetics of all Chimpanzees in zoos across Europe. The study confirmed that the troop of Chimps at Chester Zoo is the highly-threatened West African subspecies – one of the rarest in the world – establishing them as a critically important breeding population. It is estimated that as few as 18,000 West African Chimpanzees now remain in the wild.
After an unusually long pregnancy believed to have lasted 25 months, Asian Elephant Thi Hi Way gave birth to a healthy male calf, who keepers named Anjan.
A major Chester Zoo project in Assam, northern India, has successfully found ways to eliminate conflict between local communities and the nearby Asian Elephant population, offering a blueprint for the future conservation of the species.
Greater One-horned Rhino
The momentous birth of Greater One-horned Rhino calf Akeno, born to mom Asha, was captured on CCTV cameras at the zoo.
Keepers watched as Asha delivered her calf safely onto to soft bedding after a 16-month-long gestation and 20-minute labor.
At one stage, the Greater One-horned Rhino was hunted almost to extinction and less than 200 survived in the wild. Thankfully, steps to protect the Rhinos were taken just in time and today there are around 3,500 in India and Nepal.
A rare Okapi calf named Semuliki arrived to first-time parents K’tusha and Stomp. The Okapi is found only deep in the forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo and its highly secretive nature contributed to it being completely unknown to science until 1901.
Despite being a national symbol and protected under Congolese law, Okapi populations declined in the wild by nearly 50% over the past two decades and the species is now listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Bell’s Anglehead Lizards
A clutch of rare baby Bell’s Anglehead Lizards – also known as Borneo Forest Dragons – hatched at the zoo, helping conservationists uncover more about the species’ breeding patterns, life cycle and habits.
The Lizards’ wild south Asian habitat however, is being decimated to make way for unsustainable palm oil plantations – a threat which is pushing many species in the region to the very edge of existence.
The birth of a tiny Silvery Gibbon astonished visitors to the zoo who were able to admire the infant just minutes after its birth.
Conservationists hailed the arrival of this highly endangered primate, with just 4,000 of its kind now remaining on the island of Java, Indonesia, where the species is now listed as endangered by the IUCN.
Keepers were tickled pink by the arrival of 21 Flamingo chicks. Each of the fluffy newcomers was carefully hand fed by the zoo’s bird experts four times a day for five weeks until they were developed enough to fully feed for themselves.
Flamingo chicks are white or grey in color when they first hatch, resembling little balls of cotton wool, and begin to develop their famous pink plumage at around six months old.
The first set of Babirusa triplets were born at the zoo, a huge boost to the species which has experienced a recent population crash on the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia.
Once considered fairly common, the rapid decline comes as result of hunting for their meat and habitat loss, which has seen Babirusas disappear from many parts of the island.
Eastern Black Rhino
The arrival of Jumaane, a rare Eastern Black Rhino calf, left a handful of lucky zoo visitors in shock as his birth took place right in front of them.
Conservationists now estimate that fewer than 650 Eastern Black Rhino remain across Africa – a staggeringly low number driven by an increase in poaching to meet demand for rhino horn, which supplies the traditional Asian medicine market.
The birth of Jumaane is another vital boost to the Europe-wide breeding program which is crucial for the conservation of this critically endangered species.