Baby boom and spring-cleaning: how the Moscow Zoo is meeting spring

April 12

The onset of warm weather is changing the rhythm of life of the capital's zoo. While some animals emerge from hibernation others form pairs and have their young. Keepers watch the newly born cubs, clean and change the enclosures scenes.

Addition to families in the zoo

One of the most important recent task of zoologists was taking care of newborn pets. So, at the end of February there was an addition to the family of Sichuan takins Xia and Doni: a calf weighing nine kilograms was born. The baby takin is feeling great, its mother is always near and feeds it with her milk and the calf is starting to eat food for adults. They haven't come up with a name for it yet.

Xia and Doni were also born in the Moscow Zoo. A total of five Sichuan Takins live here. You can see them on the so called deer row at the new territory between camels and Pere David's deer. These animals belong to the endangered species.

"We try not to interfere with the reproduction process of Sichuan Takins as much as possible — they are doing great themselves. We monitor their health, provide timely assistance, enrich the environment and at the same time we are trying to leave the takins’ territory totally for themselves. In my opinion, this is a guarantee that the animals will feel confident and calm", says Igor Tsarev, Head of the Ungulate Department.

A great joy for zoologists was the birth of hatchlings of the Agamov family rarest lizards — chameleon gonocephalus, which, because of their unusual appearance, are also called forest dragons. Their natural area of habitation is the rainforests of Southeast Asia. It is extremely difficult to achieve reproduction of these lizards in captivity — they need special conditions for breeding.

"The experimental breeding process of chameleon gonocephalus started two and a half years ago and is still underway. We are trying to study the maximum number factors of their regular reproduction, and the process can last another year. The peculiarities of caring for these lizards largely come down to regulating the temperature regime and, first of all, that of humidity. Periodically, it takes several times a day to moisten the soil and plants around the animal trying to imitate the natural environment of chameleon gonocephalus," says Sergey Kudryavtsev, Head of the Terrarium Department.

Initially, they tried unsuccessfully to incubate the forest dragon clutches, but this time they decided to leave them in the terrarium together with the parent pair of lizards. After a while four hatchlings were born followed by two more.

Recently the family of bush dogs gave birth to five puppies — two boys and three girls. This is the third offspring of Witzli-Putzli and Freya pair. Both parents are engaged in the upbringing of the puppies: they will take care of them for about a year, and then the baby dogs will leave the pack to find a suitable partner and start their own family.

Zoo employees try to create living conditions for bush dogs that are close to natural and as comfortable as possible: the animals have a large heated house where they can always hide, as well as a vast unpaved area where it is easy to dig burrows.

"Zoo workers constantly monitor the condition of the animals, adjust their food spectrum if necessary, regularly enrich their environment, but try not to interfere directly with their lives. It is this conditional non-interference, in my opinion, that is the key to peace, comfort and, as a result, stable reproduction of bush dogs. For example, some time before giving birth, the male began to dig a hole himself which is absolutely natural behavior confirming the fact that the animals feel that the territory is theirs. And then the whole group began to dig and expand the burrows together, " says Mikhail Bragin, Head of the Mammals Department.

Among new inhabitants of the zoo are four pups of common dormouse. These rodents are born very tiny weighing about 2.5 grams, so their appearance can go unnoticed until the baby mice leave the nest. So it happened this time — zoologists did not learn about the birth immediately. Now the pups are gaining weight and are running around the enclosure with all their might. The peak of their activity is in the evening, but you can also see them during the day time — the family of common dormice lives in the pavilion Night World.

Other representatives of the Moscow Zoo new generation of inhabitants baby alpaca named Vitamin and two calves of domestic yak, Amur and Nuar. They were born earlier than others. They have already grown up, become stronger and enjoy playing with keepers. Visitors can watch them in the open-air enclosure at the old territory, where domestic yaks live, as well as in the Animals of Africa pavilion at the new territory, where alpacas are settled.

Emerging from hibernation

The animals emerging from hibernation in the Moscow Zoo is always a big event. The marmots were the first to wake up this year. Male Archie came to the surface earlier than his partners Sarah and Nagaina.

"Archie is doing fine, but he's being careful so far. In the first days after waking up he makes short rounds of his possessions, leaving fresh marks on the ground for every uninvited guest to know that he is entering someone else territory. “After a while, he will start to renew the additional entrances to marmot's burrow and sweep the litter out of the underground passages”, says leading zoologist of the bird department Gayane Piloyan. As soon as we saw that Archie cleaned the exit a light meal was prepared for him. Despite the fact that marmots get along without food for almost five months they are in no hurry to pounce on food. Now Archie gets only the necessary minimum of feed. We give it a fresh salad, as well as a mix of vegetables — nothing nourishing or high-calorie. The marmot's digestive system needs time to resume functioning."

After the marmots a group of raccoons woke up, and with them raccoon dog Buba. According to the keepers, all the animals feel fine. In the near future they will return to their usual rhythm of life and begin gaining weight, but so far their food spectrum is quite simple.

Brown bear Rose and Himalayan bear Aladdin also emerged from hibernation. The keepers were preparing for their awakening in advance. ,A plentiful treat was laid out in the outdoor enclosures for bears: apples, pears and lettuce. Smooth transition from light food to a full-fledged diet for animals will take about a month and a half. At this time bears, as a rule, spend only a small part of the day in the fresh air and, after taking a morning walk, they always lie down to take a nap. Such behavior is partly explained by the considerable age of the animals: Rose is already 29 years old, Aladdin is 27.

After a long winter sleep the jerboa also emerged from hibernation. They spent their hibernation in personal houses covered with foam rubber that were placed into special cold storage rooms. For almost six months zoologists weighed their pets weekly: the mass of rodents shows when it's time to wake them up. A reduction in weight to about summer values means that the reserves accumulated for hibernation have been depleted. The animals were moved to the enclosure along with their houses. It was important to make the move during the day so that the jerboa, as nocturnal animals, had time to warm up to the dark time of the day.

"Proper maintenance of winter hibernation is extremely important for jerboa, since only after it they begin to reproduce. We always try to provide the most natural conditions for our animals and take into account their natural rhythms of life. The jerboa house consists of two sections-rooms, the passage between which is located not at the bottom — “on the floor”, but at the top — “on the ceiling". This is done to simulate the feeling of “going down into the hole”, which is important for the comfort and tranquility of the animal," - said Philip Tumasyan, the leading zoologist of the small mammals experimental department.

Spring-cleaning and change of scene

The arrival of spring makes the zoo start preparing for the summer season. Keepers do spring-cleaning, change the ground and the scene in the enclosures.

Recently experts installed new log structures for Himalayan bear Aladdin, and for sloth-bear named Pelmen (Dumpling) they renovated its favorite hammock where it spends a lot of time in the warm season.

"Our inhabitants take interest in any renewal of enclosures.  Even elderly bears always inspect and sniff all new objects. For them, this is also a kind of enrichment of the environment — animals can spend quite a lot of time studying new structures and objects and new smells," Moscow Zoo press service noted.

The summer enclosures of great apes were also changed — ropes were replaced there. And evening lighting appeared in the enclosures for yellow-throated martens, otters and wallabies. This does not cause any discomfort to the animals themselves but it has become much more convenient for visitors to observe their pets.

Opening hours

Since April 1 the Moscow Zoo opening time is two hours longer. You can take a walk in the zoo from 09:00 to 20: 00. The entrance to the territory is open until 19:00.

The additional opening hours are a great opportunity to visit as many pavilions as possible and observe their inhabitants, who become more active in the evening and at night.


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