Meerkat pups born at Taronga

Meerkat Pups_Photo by Paul Fahy (10)Taronga Zoo is celebrating the birth of its first Meerkat pups in nearly seven years.

The two pups were born to first-time parents Nairobi and Maputo on 7 January, but have just begun venturing out of their nest box to explore Taronga’s African-themed Meerkat exhibit. “They were initially a little wary of this big new world outside, but with a bit of encouragement from mum and dad they started to explore,” keeper Courtney Mahony said.

The pups’ sex will be confirmed when they have their first vaccinations and a veterinary examination, although keepers suspect there is a male and a female. They have started to do quick hands on health checks and are weighing the pups regularly to ensure they are healthy and comfortable in the keepers’ presence.

As with all Meerkat young, the yet-to-be named pups are developing very quickly. Despite only weighing a few grams when born, they both now tip the scales at over 120 grams and have begun to sample solid foods such as fly pupae and mealworms.

They are also practising sentry duty, trying to stand on their hind legs. Continue reading Meerkat pups born at Taronga

First greater one-horned rhino calf born in Australia

Greater One horned Rhino calf_Photo by Bobby-Jo Clow_1Taronga Western Plains Zoo has announced the birth of Australia’s first Greater One-horned Rhino calf.

The male calf was born early on Sunday morning, 25 October, to first-time mother Amala.

Zoo Keepers are closely monitoring both mother and calf, and although it is still early days, report that both are doing well.

“Amala is being very protective of him,” Unit Supervisor Jennifer Conaghan said. “She is keeping her distance from us and keeping the calf close, which is what we expected to see. In the last couple of days Amala has brought the calf into a behind the scenes yard, and we’ve been able to monitor things more closely.”

“We have seen the calf suckling and although it is still only days old, we are extremely happy with the situation so far, and absolutely thrilled to have this new addition on the ground.”

Taronga Western Plains Zoo is home to three species of rhino – Black Rhino, White Rhino (Africa) and Greater-One horned Rhino (Asia), with breeding and conservation programs for all three species. The Greater One-horned Rhino breeding program commenced in 2009 when Amala arrived from Los Angeles Zoo to join resident male Dora which came from Nagoya Higashiyama Zoo in Japan. Continue reading First greater one-horned rhino calf born in Australia

Taronga makes Mjukuu welcome

Picture: Lisa RidleyA new gorilla named Mjukuu was born at Taronga Zoo on Tuesday October 28.

The baby boy was born to female Mbeli and male Kibali, and things are going well according to gorilla keeper Vera Nedved.

“Kibali is starting to take his role of silverback more seriously,” she said.

“He briefly checked his son after the birth and now he is protecting and guarding Mbeli; our vet can vouch for it, having witnessed Kibali’s growing protective silverback skills.”

Nedved said Mbeli is under supervision, and a human obstetrician was on standby in case of emergency or birth complications.

The birth went smoothly, the baby is suckling well, and the new arrival represents the “culmination of the hard work of many people.” Continue reading Taronga makes Mjukuu welcome

Clinical Zoo: Tales from the tiger boudoir

Photo: Taronga Zoo

When three Sumatran tiger cubs were born at Taronga Zoo on a cold August morning last year, keepers and veterinarians breathed a sigh of relief.

Sumatran Tigers are critically endangered, with as few as 400 estimated to be living in the wild. Only seven per cent of their original habitat remains, with palm oil plantations the major threat to the forests they live in. On top of that, tiger body parts continue to be used in traditional medicines, and tiger pelts fetch high prices on the black market. In fact, so great is the demand for tiger pelts that in 2009 a female tiger was poisoned, killed and skinned while in an exhibit at Rimbo Zoo in Indonesia (a suspect has since been arrested).

For these reasons, Taronga’s three cubs represent a staggering one per cent of the existing Sumatran Tiger population. Over the years the Zoo has made a significant contribution to Sumatran Tiger conservation, with the breeding program yielding 30 tigers since 1979. But the lead up to this birth wasn’t straightforward.

Father Satu was imported from Stuttgart Germany at the age of 18 months as part of the international zoo breeding program for Sumatran Tigers. Too young to breed, he spent around 18 months acclimatising at Western Plains Zoo before arriving at Taronga Zoo in January 2008.

When he did arrive he was kept in his own enclosure, as tigers are generally solitary animals. However, he had auditory and olfactory contact with Jumilah and was allowed into her enclosure when she was in oestrus. Continue reading Clinical Zoo: Tales from the tiger boudoir

Source sought for Taronga’s TB

Pak Boon and Tukta in 2010 (Picture: Bobby-Jo Vial)An expert panel led by NSW Health is continuing work to determine the source of a tuberculosis (TB) outbreak at Taronga Zoo.

In February media reported the TB diagnosis of Pak Boon, one of Taronga’s elephants.

In September Taronga issued a statement on its website which said a male chimp with the disease had been euthanased.

There have been no public health warnings about the presence of the disease at Taronga, drawing criticism from NSW Greens MP John Kaye, who said potential visitors to Taronga were denied the right to evaluate the risk of infection.

“The elephants and the chimps are in enclosures that are 50 metres apart, and there are two public walkways in between,” Kaye said.

“It is possible there is a risk to humans; not a great risk, but I think NSW Health and the zoo are making it impossible for clients to make their own assessments.”

Kaye has called on Health Minister Jillian Skinner to force the zoo to warn visitors of the presence of TB in two species, and therefore the possibility that the infection spread from one to the other.

He added that he is particularly concerned about school groups.

“Teachers and principals have to sign off on the well-being of children without being given full information, so I will continue to put pressure on NSW Health,” Kaye said.

“Australia has an excellent track record for infection control regarding TB, and it would be a terrible thing to compromise that record to support the profitability of the zoo.”

Taronga Media Relations Manager, Mark Williams, denied that profits have been put before public health. Continue reading Source sought for Taronga’s TB