Wednesday, 9 January 2013

New Arrivals for Close Encounters

Sugar Gliders, Kyte & Calypso - too cute!
Close encounters at Dartmoor has always been a chance to get up-close and personal with some of our smaller animals and we are happy to introduce you to some of the new arrivals.

Two of our most mysterious additions are Sugar Gliders, Kyte and Calypso.  Sugar Gliders are part of the marsupial group originating from the forests of Australia.  They are nocturnal mammals closely related to possums. Their name comes from their love of sugary foods and their ability to glide distances of up to 150ft from one branch to the next.  Incredibly social in the wild, they can be found in groups of 7 adults plus their young and will be seen grooming each other in small groups.  Sugar Gliders are listed as ‘Least Concern’ under the IUCN Red List, despite the significant decrease of their natural habitat over the past 200 years they have proven to be very adaptable and can survive in small patches of remnant bushes. 

They are fascinating little creatures full of character but they take a lot of looking after. They made their debut with the public recently and were very well received. Needless to say, being this cute they’re already a firm favourite with the staff.

We’ve also added African Pygmy Dormice. As the name suggests they are a small rodent and they’re becoming more and more popular in the domestic pet trade. Also known as micro-squirrel’s these dormice are closely related to rats and mice. No more than 10cm in size, they are colony animals that live in large groups. Their diet consists of a mixture of fresh fruit, nectar and protein – often in the form of mealworm, eggs or crickets.  Here at the zoo we started with a colony of four males and one female, soon after there were two new arrivals, Bounty and Boost, now creating their own colony. 

Dexter - not cute, but very cool!
Our most recent addition, a Florida Soft Shelled Turtle, Dexter, is part of a sad rescue story with a happy ending.  Dexter arrived in a bucket at Endsleigh Garden Centre, Ivybridge, in late November.  Wrapped in a towel, covered in burnt skin pigmentation and suffering with shell distortion as a result of malnutrition and lack of light, he was a particularly unlucky turtle. Florida soft shells are native to the US and found in sand bottom lakes, ponds or slow moving water. They require much more specialist care than other common pet turtles owing to their sensitive shells that, as the name suggests, are soft and covered with skin. They are also highly carnivorous and need a wide range of foods including fish, shellfish, insects and egg.  Dexter was collected from Endsleigh by DZP at the end of December and has settled in well.

One of the largest introductions to our Close Encounter animal collection is Monty, a Flemish Giant Rabbit. Flemish giants originate from Flanders in Belgium. They are believed to have descended from meat and fur breeds of rabbit in the early 16th Century.  These species are a little different to your every day pet rabbit averaging a weight of 16 - 18 lbs. (7-8 Kg) and have been known to reach over 20 lbs (9Kg) and boast an impressive ear size of over 150mm. However, other than their incredible size the rest of their lifestyle is very similar to wild rabbits. Monty lives on a diet of hay, high fibre pellets and the occasional orange root vegetable. He spends his days happily grazing and digging in his new outdoor enclosure in the walkthrough exhibit. 

You can see our Close Encounters collection at regular slots every day at the zoo and many of the animals take part in our outreach programme visiting schools, nurseries and other places.

For more information contact the Presentation Team Supervisor, Emma Baker.

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