In the space of three months, Africa Alive! has experienced three high profile births that are simply….black & white!
The first to be born were delightful twin black lemurs back in April. Tiny and completely dependent on mum for the first two to three months of their life, they are only now just starting to venture off her and explore their island home. Although sexually dimorphic (males are a different colour to females), males are born the same colour as the female with their fur turning black within 5-6 weeks. Whilst this helps camouflage babies while they are young and clinging to mum’s fur, it does delay keepers being able to give them names for a while. Dylan and Marlien are not new to parenthood, although it is the first time that they have ever produced twins. This species is listed as ‘Vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species due to their geographic range being severely fragmented and undergoing continuing decline in area and quality of habitat. As well as this, the number of mature individuals is also known to be in decline as well. Our black lemur family can be seen on their island here at Africa Alive! and the twins are a very welcome and important addition to the park.
The second birth was a Chapman’s zebra. The strong, healthy (and very cute) foal was born on the 12th of June and is being closely watched over by his mother Sage and father Max, as well as the rest of the herd. Unlike the lemur twins, zebra foals are quite precocious and can usually walk within 15 minutes of birth and run after about an hour. Father Max came from Schwerin Zoo in Germany, back in July 2013 and his mother Sage was born here at Africa Alive!
Born after a gestation period lasting twelve months, the foal will suckle from mum for at least six months and will start to nibble at grass after just a few days. The foal will be fully independent at about a year and sexually mature at two and a half years old.
The foal, named Parsley by his keepers, can be seen with his parents and the other zebras on the ‘PLAINS OF AFRICA’ experience in their wonderful 4 acre setting, mixing with giraffe, white rhino, blesbok (a type of antelope) and ostrich, simulating a typical scene from the African plains.
Three days after the birth of the zebra, staff were overjoyed to find a very welcome addition to the parks growing family of king colobus monkeys. This rare primate from the tropical rainforests of West and Central Africa is considered to be highly endangered due to habitat destruction and hunting by humans (to which it is extremely vulnerable).
Parents Ebony and Bert, arrived from Marwell Zoo in Hampshire and Paignton Zoo in Devon in 2007 and as always, are proving to be exemplary parents. At birth, colobus monkeys are covered in white fur that is gradually replaced with black hair matching the adults. The young are not very agile to begin with and are carried around for some time, with the female primarily responsible for its care. For this reason, it is difficult to determine the gender of the baby at the moment and therefore, keepers have still to give it a name.
There are very few zoos within Europe that keep this species and none outside of Europe, so this is yet another important addition to the park and will play a crucial role in assisting with the European breeding programme for this species.