Amur tigers and Dalmatian pelicans: New additions at the Moscow Zoo in 2020

September 20
Parks and pedestrian areas

The Moscow Zoo is currently not just a place for recreation and leisure, but it is a research facility that takes part in international programmes for the preservation and restoration of rare animal populations. The experts that work there do their best to preserve biodiversity on planet Earth.

In recent years, the zoo’s collection has been growing because the inhabitants are provided with very comfortable conditions for living and reproducing. Some animals require more space than they can have in a big city so the zoo opened the Centre for Rare Animal Species Reproduction near Volokolamsk. It provides animals with additional space and fresh air.

Good news from the centre: four Amur tiger cubs have been born there. Zoologists all over the world are working on creating a reserve population of this threatened subspecies. There are currently four adult Amur tigers and four grown-up cubs at this research centre.

At first, the tigress did not let the cubs out of the den in her enclosure. But now she allows them to leave the den and explore the world. They even try adult food such as beef, chicken, guinea pigs and quail. However, they will be taken care of by their mother until they reach two.

Later, one or two cubs will probably stay at the reproduction centre or at the main enclosures at the Moscow Zoo. The rest will go to the leading zoos in Russia and the world. Visitors can see the cubs at the reproduction centre on a guided tour.

A happy year for the zoo

People will remember the year 2020 as a very difficult one; but for animals at the Moscow Zoo, this is a happy year. Thus, in addition to the birth of Amur tiger cubs, this summer, the Pallas’s cat returned to the zoo.

The manul, or Pallas’s cat (named after German biologist Peter Simon Pallas who described him for the first time) is listed on the Red Data List as close to extinction. The Pallas’s cat has been a symbol and mascot of the Moscow Zoo for over 30 years. There used to be another Pallas’s cat in the Moscow Zoo but, regrettably, it died of an incurable disease. The main population of Pallas’s cats live in the Moscow Zoo’s Centre for Rare Animal Species Reproduction near Volokolamsk. Zoologists there have created almost natural conditions for them, so the cats feel safe and can reproduce regularly. The Pallas’s cat Timofei moved to the zoo from the centre and now lives next to pandas in the old section of the zoo.

In January, zoo workers had an opportunity to have a closer look at a rare Azara’s night monkey. The baby was born in mid-December, but zoologists weren’t able to see it closely for months because the caring parents used to hide their baby. With their tiny ears, huge eyes, a small nose and a long bushy tail that can reach 45 cm, these monkeys look very unusual.

Azara’s night monkeys arrived at the Moscow Zoo in May 2019; they were brought from Riga. The animals were placed in the spacious Nocturnal World. It has dim lighting imitating twilight for night monkeys to feel comfortable and safe. Night monkeys are active only in the dark. They normally sleep during daylight hours.

This species is on the IUCN Red List. The population has been declining due to deforestation. Also, monkeys often become victims of poachers. The baby monkey that was born at the Moscow Zoo will be moved to another large zoo where it can have a family of its own.

On 6 January, a family of great cormorants had a new addition. These IUCN-listed birds in the wild have one or two chicks but the parents are not always able to raise them. The older chick often pushes the smaller one out of the nest. In the zoo, the birds are provided with enough fish for as many as four chicks.

Ornithologists are monitoring the cormorant family round the clock and are ready to step in and feed the nestlings. Their main goal is to provide conditions for the birds so that nothing will disturb them and the nestlings can grow in peace.

Two couples of Dalmatian pelicans also had offspring. These birds are also listed on the Red Data List as near threatened. The population is threatened by water pollution, rover desiccation, the pollution of fish with industrial waste and oil products. Poachers are also a threat.

In the spring when the weather became stable, the families moved to the Swamp open-air enclosure. There the offspring learned to swim and hunt.

This year, it was possible to see maned wolf cubs. They were born in November 2019, but spent several months with their parents in the warm winter enclosure. When the cubs grew a little, the mother began taking them for walks to the outer enclosure.

Maned wolves are one of the rarest representatives of the canidae family. In the wild, the population numbers about 17,000 animals, and it continues to decrease every year. Due to the unusual appearance, they are in demand on the black market, and also are considered a valuable hunting trophy.

To preserve these predators, a European programme was launched for this threatened species. The Moscow Zoo has taken an active part in it for many years.

On 8 January, a Humboldt penguin chick was born at the zoo. This was followed by four more. The Moscow Zoo is now home to Russia’s largest population of these rare birds in captivity. Together with five newly hatched chicks, there are now 35 individuals in the family.

Humboldt penguins have been in the zoo's collection since 1997, and since the early 2000s, ornithologists regularly see offspring from them. Then chicks will be moved to leading Russian and European zoos. Thus, Moscow-born penguins live in Izhevsk, Novosibirsk, Voronezh and other cities.

Recently, on 19 August, a Northern fur seal family had a pup. These eared seals are listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as vulnerable. The birth of a fur seal is a very important event because they rarely breed in captivity.

The Moscow Zoo has worked to maintain a reserve population of these rare animals for the past several years. Seals are among the most active inhabitants of the zoo. Experts hold daily training sessions with them to make sure the animals have the physical and intellectual exercises that are necessary for their wellbeing and health. The seals remain independent, maintaining a ‘business-like’ relationship with people and never fail to request fish.

These are not all the new additions to the Moscow Zoo family this year. A rare ring-tailed lemur gave birth to a pup, and a black stork was born in the spring. In June, a Northern Luzon giant cloud rat arrived on the scene, and the hornbill family also had a new arrival in July. Pink and red flamingoes, as well as rare blue pit vipers, royal pythons and a couple of rare white-tailed eagles had offspring too.

 Animal records

2019 was a very fruitful year for the Moscow Zoo, with a high birth rate. This indicates that the animals are kept in comfortable conditions, receive the proper care and a balanced diet. They like it at the zoo because the best experts make sure they have a quiet, undisturbed lives.

“A range of factors is necessary for regular breeding. These include an environment close to what they would have in the wild, a scientifically reasonable and stable diet, and a feeling of safety. It is important to consider the individual needs of each animal. Typically, before a couple is formed, a long-term period of acquaintance at a comfortable distance is needed so we can assess the attitude between the potential parents,” said Sergei Khlyupin, head of the research department at the Moscow Zoo.

Among the record-breakers are birds: they had 287 chicks. Steppe eagles, snowy owls, flamingoes, rare southern ground hornbills and other birds had offspring.

For mammals the year is also quite productive. They had 185 babies, among them meerkats, Kirk's dik-diks, Sumatran orangutans, East Siberian lynxes, Japanese macaques, markhors, lion-tailed macaques and many others.

The zoo’s amphibians had 33 babies. In 2019, reptiles also successfully reproduced. One of the most important events was the hatching of a rare Mexican beaded lizard. They are a rare breed in captivity, but the zoo created suitable conditions for them.

The zoo also took in many rare species from other Russian and foreign zoos. In particular, giant pandas have returned to Moscow: they have moved to the zoo for 15 years as part of the preservation, protection and research of this species.

Protecting rare species

The Moscow Zoo’s reproduction centre opened in 1994 in the Volokolamsk District. It takes part in 27 European programmes for the breeding of rare and threatened species.

Researchers create couples and groups of rare animals and develop new ways to accommodate and breed them. They also do other research, take part in study and practical conferences and exchange experience with their colleagues from all over the world.

The centre has 213 species and over 7,500 animals that inhabit various continents in various climate zones, from the Arctic to Africa. Among them are some of the rarest animals in the world, such as Far Eastern leopards, Przewalski's horses and Blakiston's fish owls.

Some species have reproduced in Russia at the centre for the first time including the wolverine, vicuna, Marco Polo sheep and oriental stork.

The centre offers guided tours daily at 11 am, 1 pm, 2.30 pm, 4 pm and 5.30 pm.

Source: mos.ru

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