Yesterday I began the Easter holidays with a visit to Chester Zoo with my sister – a place I love very much but haven’t been to for a few years. This zoo displays a huge range of animals of all types, with a particular focus on endangered species; it’s involved in many different conservation projects. It was a brilliant day, and while not all the animals were showing themselves, those that did were well worth a look. Here are some of the highlights.
The Asian elephants are right in front of you as you first enter the zoo. Chester Zoo’s current herd consists of a four-generation family – three generations of which were born at the zoo, including two 2-year-old youngsters.
These sitatunga are Central African antelope, and the presence of immature animals in this herd would indicate that Chester Zoo has had success in breeding them. The resident male was clearly still feeling virile, as he showed great interest in one particular female – some child-unfriendly behaviour ensued moments after the above photo was taken.
I don’t recall ever seeing an aardvark before, and while I wasn’t surprised to see them sleeping during the day, I was surprised that we were actually able to see them at all.
Likewise, I don’t think I’ve seen African painted dogs at a zoo before. These social dogs have one of the best hunting success rates of any predator on the African savannah, but persecution and disease have left them endangered in the wild, and remaining populations are extremely fragmented. Watching these animals in the zoo, you could see the pack mentality as they always followed each other around.
My sister’s favourites are the Rothschild’s giraffes; only a few hundred of this giraffe subspecies survive in the wild. Chester Zoo has successfully bred them, however, the most recent calf being born last December.
This bizarre creature is a Rio Cauca caecilian (Typhlonectes natans), a type of legless amphibian. It may not look like much, but it’s still pretty exciting to see one. Caecilians are secretive burrowing animals, very difficult to find in the wild – nearly 200 species are known, but little is known about them compared to other amphibians like frogs and salamanders.
This, meanwhile, is in fact a native species – a sand lizard. These lizards have been lost from much of their historic range in the UK, and Chester Zoo aids in a conservation project for them, boosting their numbers through captive breeding before reintroductions take place.
Having only heard a jaguar in the distance in Guatemala, it was a real pleasure to see one!
These little guys were getting a lot of attention: Jaya, Topan and Kasarna, the three Sumatran tiger cubs born on 2nd January. This subspecies of tiger is found only in Sumatra and critically endangered, so every baby born is precious. The mum, Kirana, was mostly sleeping, but woke up long enough to give her cubs a good grooming session. The father, Fabi, was mostly interested in keeping his territory well marked.