Growing up wild in the Johannesburg Zoo

Be it a buffalo or a bongo, a duiker or a De Brazza monkey, porcupine or Prevost’s Squirrel, every new birth at the Johannesburg Zoo is celebrated. In 2011 the zoo welcomed over 445 newborns (267 of which were frogs). Some of the major births included a Buff-Cheeked Gibbon, Hippopotamus, Arabian Oryx, L’Hoest Monkey and Greater Flamingoes. Since January 2012 the good news has continued with the birth of two Scimitar Horned Oryx calves, Prevost’s Squirrel’s and a De Brazza monkey born on 29th of February.

Animal babies are adorable when newly born; some species such as primates retain their cuteness for a number of years, while others such as antelope grow quickly and after a few months take on resemblance of mature adults. The length of childhood in animals depends on a number of factors such as biology, habitat and span of parental care. Where primate babies are cared for a number of years, antelope species are up and walking within a few hours of birth and need to keep up with the herd after a few weeks of birth.

There is always an exception to the rule and at the Johannesburg Zoo; the Prevost’s Squirrel is one such animal. Prevost’s squirrels are one of the most colourful of rodents found in the forests’ of South East Asia. In the past 2 months the zoo’s family of Prevost’s has surprised the keepers with 2 new births. After a gestation of approximately 40 days, these beautiful squirrels (as they are called) give birth to tiny naked kittens weighing only 16 grams. The kittens are kept hidden until approximately a month old when they start venturing out the nest. Once mobile the youngsters grow up fast and by 9 months are considered old enough to have babies too. Although very cute it is rare to see the youngsters in the open enclosure and the only way of distinguishing them from the adults is by their size.

Another important set of babies born in February were two Scimitar Horned Oryx calves. The Scimitar Horned Oryx historical range is throughout North Africa Sahara region. The Scimitar Horned Oryx is now considered Extinct in the Wild by the IUCN’s Red Data list and it is thought that the extinction was due to loss of habitat due to climate change and trophy hunting. It is only due to captive breeding in zoos and other programmes that this animal is being brought back from the brink. Every new birth is vital for the survival of the species in captivity and one day reintroducing a new population into the wild.

The zoo welcomed a very special newborn into the mix on February 29th 2012. Our “leap year baby” is a very cute De Brazza monkey who technically will only celebrate its birthday every fourth year. The De Brazza is a species of monkey from central Africa and is part of the Guenon family. At just under a month old this little “leapling” can be seen with its mom suckling or trying to explore its surroundings.
Every animal baby born at the Johannesburg Zoo is special in its own regard, be it their “cuteness factor”, the day they were born or even to the survival of their species. When visiting the Johannesburg Zoo look out for baby stickers on enclosure signs and watch these youngsters as they grow up.

Prepared Candice Segal and issued by Letta Madlala Brand and Communications Manager on behalf of the Johannesburg Zoo. END.

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