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Zoo celebrates arrival of newborn endangered species during lockdown

Jason Brown

By Ben Mitchell, PA

A zoo is celebrating after a number of baby endangered species including a lemur and a mountain bongo were born during lockdown.

Other arrivals at Marwell Zoo in Hampshire include two blesbok calves and a number of chicks in its aviary and tropical house.

Ian Goodwin, animal collection manager, said: “These are some incredibly important births for the breeding programmes, not just for us as a zoo but for the conservation of the species as a whole.

“Without action, we are sadly on the brink of losing many of these species forever. To have these different animals born within weeks of each other is fantastic news and we’re delighted we’re now reopen so guests can join us this summer in watching their development.”

The black and white ruffed lemur baby named Zephyr was born during lockdown to parents Breeze and Shorty and staff say it is now enjoying its independence, “darting in and out of the bushes and jumping on his parents”.

A spokeswoman for the zoo, which is owned by conservation charity Marwell Wildlife, said: “The main threat to the black and white ruffed lemur in eastern Madagascar is habitat loss due to farming, logging and mining. As they are large bodied and awake during the day, they are among the most heavily hunted of all the lemur species.”

A critically endangered mountain bongo named Arthur, described as “strong and lively”, was born to first-time parents Ituri and Canela last month. It is the second calf to be born at the zoo in 10 years.

Mountain bongos are found in Kenya where their numbers are dwindling with less than 100 left in the wild. Threats include hunting, loss of habitat due to illegal logging and diseases transmitted from domestic cattle.

Marwell also welcomed its first blesbok calves to be born at the zoo.

Animal team leader Lauren Arthy-Miles said: “We have not held blesbok as a species before so we hope these calves are the first of many.

“Although currently considered ‘least concern’, blesbok did experience a massive and rapid decline in numbers due to overhunting prior to receiving protection in some areas of Africa so can be considered a conservation success story. Breeding this species responsibly in zoos will help this success to continue.”

In recent weeks, a number of chicks have also hatched in the zoo’s tropical house and walkthrough aviary including a black-headed weaver, crested wood partridge, striking Brazilian tanager and Sclater’s crowned pigeon.

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