Tuesday, 8 January 2013

New Arrivals

The long awaited and very adorable baby meerkats*
There’s been lots going on at DZP over the past twelve months with new additions to the collection, new babies and lots of developments. Here’s a quick round up of some of the recent highlights.

New Babies!
We've had lots of new babies recently including pygmy goats and lechwe, but the real treat came just be for Christmas in the shape of three adorable baby meerkats.

Sue and Timon are long-standing residents at DZP arriving in the spring of 2010. Though they got on very well together, in all that time we never saw any kits. But with the recent introduction of feisty young female, Xena things got very interesting. She gave birth to two girls and a boy shortly before Christmas.

Sue was always the boss of the troop and, as hoped, Xena took a back seat to let Sue take over the care of the new arrivals. This is quite common among meerkats who are known for sharing the responsibility of bringing up the young.

The arrival of the youngsters brings the total number of meerkats to six. Just a few inches in length, they made their first public appearance in early January. The keepers are working on names at the moment so we'd love to hear your suggestions in the comments below.

Baby Tapir
April saw the arrival of baby tapir, Luta. His name means, "fighter" and you can find out why in this report from Head Keeper, Mike Downman.

Zebra, getting used to their new accommodation
Zebra Development
Over the past few months we have been very busy making preparations to receive three Grant’s Zebra from Longleat Safari Park. Staff and contractors have been working hard through the atrocious weather up-grading the entire perimeter fence and constructing a wonderful curved stable complex that many visitors say resembles an ark. It has three individual stables large enough to provide comfortable accommodation for the zebra as well as our herd of Lechwe Antelope and our two ostrich, providing much needed shelter from the chilly winter months.

This is the largest development we’ve undertaken for quite some time and it would not have been possible without the enthusiastic support of certain members of staff (who literally threw themselves out of a plane to raise money) as well as local businesses, MST Parkins who provided much needed heavy machinery and Tesco who made a generous donation.

The Zebra arrived safely in early December and are currently going through a settling period during which they’ll be kept within the perimeter of the new building. They will be able to enjoy the full run of the main paddock soon, but in the meantime they can still be viewed in the yards from the Jaguar restaurant and play area.

The zebra are a great addition to the collection enhancing a beautiful African vista; a piece of the African plains in rural Devon. Who’d have thought?

You can see more images of the development here and here.

Mongoose Development
In other developments, the old foundation shell of a Victorian greenhouse has lent itself beautifully to becoming the new enclosure for our three mongoose. They have spent most of their time here in an indoor enclosure but this new development gives them a heated house and a large outdoor run.

The house is raised off the ground to avoid the damp with a ramp for access. The walls of the original greenhouse have been retained for their naturally aged beauty but have been modified to contain the animals with a glazed extension. We’ve also provided an outdoor heated area to allow the mongoose to have some fresh air whilst still keeping warm as well as a covered viewing area to provide visitors with shelter from the Devon weather whilst viewing the mongoose through full height glass walls.

Like the zebra development, this project was also made possible by the very generous support of Cornwall Glass & Glazing Ltd who provided all the reinforced glass. There’s a little more work to do but the Mongoose will move in to their new home within a week or so.

Iberian Wolves
Raul and Carlos in their off-show enclosure
Also on the list of “new at the zoo” is the addition of our Iberian Wolves.

To assist with an on-going breeding programme we exchanged our Grey Wolves, Sarah and Parker, with Woburn Safari Park for a trio of Iberian Wolves, Carlos and his younger brothers, Gregorio and Raul (the latter two named with the help of our visitors). Since their arrival they have been housed in our quarantine facility which is an off-show area. This gave us the perfect opportunity to make some major improvements to the old wolf enclosure to welcome our new pack.

The work entailed bringing down several trees with which we were able to build a new “natural” platform to give the wolves a high vantage point as well as shelter. Beside this platform we built an underground den which gives the wolves privacy and also allows us to catch them should the need arise for veterinary treatment or similar interventions. The enclosure containment has also been improved and with the help of Grow for Good South West the entire exhibit has been planted out with meadow flowers to bring a blaze of colour to the site in the spring and summer.

As is often the case with major developments, it has not been easy. Our planned release has been delayed by the severe weather hampering our build and the heavy rains have flooded the den before we were able to complete! So for the time being, they will remain in the off-show holding area which has all the facilities to meet their needs. We plan to have them in their new home very soon. Watch this space!

You can see more images of the wolves and the development, herehere and here.

*Thanks to Steve Haywood for the meerkat photos.