Belfast Zoo celebrates pitter patter of penguins, pudu and prairie dog pups
It has been a busy summer so far for Belfast Zoo with bundles of new animals making an appearance. Last month, Belfast Zoo was thrilled to welcome the arrival of penguin chicks, prairie dog pups and a tiny pudu fawn alongside Ballygeorge the Rothschild's giraffe calf.
Belfast Zoo are 'zooper' excited to welcome 13 gentoo penguin chicks to the Belfast Zoo 'waddle'. 'Waddle' is the term used to describe a group of penguins on land. Due to habitat loss, gentoo penguin populations have declined in recent years, so the recent additions to Belfast Zoo are great news for the conservation of this species. Both parents play an active role in incubating eggs for around 30 to 40 days. When the chicks first hatch they are covered in fluffy feathers, however these birds grow extremely quickly with some already moulting in preparation for their adult plumage.
There has been a great "pup"ulation boom to the black-tailed prairie dog colony at Belfast Zoo, with an estimated 17 prairie dog pups born last month. The Belfast Zoo prairie dogs, who are native to North America, have set up their complex network of tunnels and colony 'towns' in outdoor areas located around the Floral Hall. Prairie dogs mate once a year and the pups are born blind, only emerging from their burrows at around six weeks old. The young pups are extremely playful and can often be seen romping near their burrows or enjoying nibbling on carrots at feeding time.
The zoo is also celebrating the birth of the world's smallest deer, the Southern pudu. At birth, a pudu fawn is so small that it only weighs about 900 grams, which is less than a bag of sugar. When fully grown, a southern pudu, originating from Chile, will only reach 43 centimetres in height and weigh around 12 Kilograms. Southern pudu's are born with a light brown colour and their fur is covered with small white spots, this helps to keep the baby pudu fawn camouflaged in the undergrowth when they are left alone while their mother feeds. This species is vulnerable as wild populations have declined drastically due to deforestation an hunting.
Zoo Manager, Alyn Cairns, said, "We are always thrilled to announce breeding success at Belfast Zoo. More species are facing extinction than ever before and one of our primary aims is to play an active role in conservation to ensure the survival of species under threat. We take part in 60 collaborative breeding programmes with zoos located around the world. We are delighted to share the births of our southern pudu, gentoo penguins, black tailed prairie dogs alongside or other recent arrival, Ballygeorge the giraffe. Visitors can see our newest arrivals daily during the summer and we have no doubt that they will be firm favourites with many visitors."
You can 'fawn' over the latest baby boom at the zoo from 10am until 6pm (last admission 5pm) daily during summer. Belfast Zoo tickets can be bought online at http://www.belfastzoo.co.uk/plan-your-day/prices-tickets.aspx.