At least 50 animal babies at Johannesburg Zoo during the first five months

Johannesburg Zoo has seen at least 50 baby animals born during the first five months of the year. The newborns include: Sitatunga- which is endangered , Scimitar-horned Oryx – no longer found in the wild, Blackbuck- from the grasslands of India, Waterbuck, Serval, Red lechwe, Bapedi Sheep, Nyala, Aoudad, Flamingo, Bontebok, L’Hoest’s monkey, and more. Visitors to the zoo will be able to see most of these babies and should look out for a white flag outside these enclosures. Furthermore the zoo is carrying out a walking tour every day at 10h00 (weekends at 11h30), led by staff in the Animal Department to visit six baby animal, namely Chimpanzee, Serval, L’Hoest’s Monkey, Mona Monkey, Lar Gibbon and Bapedi Sheep.

Chimpanzees: Baby chimps are most adorable, tiny, weighing about 400 grams at birth with big beautiful eyes and small white faces, which will turn black at about the age of five. The zoo’s newest baby chimp was born in May 2010 and it is the fifth baby born to Daisy (mother) and Thabo (father). Theoretically, chimps breast feed for about 3, 5 years and will have one baby once in five years, however Daisy’s has had a baby within four years, as Charles, the youngest chimp, is only 3, 5 years of age. Chimps’ gestation period is 235 days and one baby is born. Chimps are very protective of their young; hence Daisy spends most of her time with her new born and won’t let anyone, even keepers, near her. Chimps reach sexual maturity at the age of twelve or thirteen and males two years later. Females will then leave the community to join other groups so that in breeding does not occur.

Servals: Unlike some animals such as antelopes, whose babies can run shortly after birth, Serval kittens rely entirely on their mother. They are born almost hairless, barely able to crawl with eyes closed. The kittens open their eyes for the first time in about ten days. At birth they do not resemble the adults, being grey to black in colour and no stripes or spots. Two kittens were born on the 31 March and weighed about 260g each. They are always with their mother, who is still very protective over them. Servals give birth to between one and five kittens at a time following a 66-77 days gestation period. They are weaned at about five months old and reach sexual maturity at the age of 1 year, upon which they will leave the group. Servals are nocturnal animals.

L’Hoerst's Monkey: The baby L’Hoerst’s Monkey is 5 months old. At birth, a baby L’Hoerst’s Monkey already has hair all over, can open its eyes and looks exactly like the adults except for size. The zoo’s baby is the happiest baby; she is often seen swinging with her mother, jumping from one branch to the next. Ordinarily, the mother carries her on her belly but lately the baby has been spotted swinging on her own near mom though.

Mona Monkey: Mona monkeys are very pretty monkeys. Babies look similar to adults except for the difference in sizes. Similar to the chimpanzees and L’Hoerst‘s Monkeys, Mona Monkeys are great care-givers that will protect their young. Following birth the mother will spend most of her time with the young until the age of one year. Their gestation period is between 5-6 months and one baby is born, twins are rare. Ordinarily, births take place in the night in a tree. Usually, the mother gives birth every two years.

Lar Gibbons: Gibbons are monogamous, having only one partner for their life. They give birth to one baby and twins are uncommon. Babies weigh about 400g and at 6-8 weeks they pull themselves upright and can kneel and sit, in 10 weeks they begin to climb. They can swing with both hands after four months. The zoo has a female baby, who is about 10 months and spends a lot of time with her mother. Their gestation period is seven months.

Bapedi Lamb: Bapedi Sheep are indigenous and hence more resistant to diseases. The zoo has three lambs of ages two weeks, one and two months and all from different ewes. A lamb does not require a lot of care: it will stay with its mother during the first week but become independent thereafter, though it will still drink from the mother though.

Lambs do not look very different from adults except that they have longer hair with more wool, which they will lose as they grow older. The zoo lambs are uniform brown in colour, which is different from their parents. Young sheep will reach sexual maturity at about one year old. The gestation period is five months and usually one baby is born.

The six newborns are part of the zoo’s baby animal tour, a walking tour, which takes place every morning at 9h20 for thirty minutes. During the tour, zoo’s animal staff talks about the life and day of baby animals. Please feel free to join the tour or make arrangements to take photos of the newborns. Should you be interested, please contact Nonkie on 011 646 2000 ext 260.

Johannesburg Zoo strives to be Gauteng’s environmental and wildlife destination of choice. It houses 1784 animals, comprising 365 species in 54 hectares.

Prepared and issued by Letta Madlala: Brand & Communications Manager – Johannesburg Zoo

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