Look how they’ve grown! Zoo’s baby keep­ers tell their tales

Shanghai Daily - - ANIMAL PLANET - Li An­lan

At Shang­hai Zoo, the ba­bies are grow­ing up fast. The Ben­gal tiger cubs are now play­ing around with their si­b­lings and mother and learn­ing new skills, the “sin­gle child” Mal­abar pied horn­bill is al­most ready to be in­de­pen­dent, and the kan­ga­roos are now out of their moth­ers’ pouches.

This week, we’ve in­vited three zookeep­ers to share their sto­ries about the new­com­ers.

Mal­abar pied horn­bill

One Mal­abar pied horn­bill was born at the zoo this year. The male chick is now the same size as his par­ents.

The fe­male in­cu­bated for 26 days and raised the chick in the nest for two months.

Orig­i­nally from south­ern China, the two par­ent birds have been liv­ing in Shang­hai for more than a decade, and only started breed­ing ba­bies in 2015. Their ex­act age is un­known.

Keeper Shi Hongyun has been tak­ing care of the Mal­abar pied horn­bills since they ar­rived, and she ex­plained the species’ unique mat­ing and breed­ing habits.

“The Mal­abar pied horn­bills don’t ac­cept ‘ar­ranged mar­riage’ eas­ily. They pre­fer to find the love of their life by them­selves. Stay­ing to­gether doesn’t mean that they’ll breed. The male at the zoo had an­other mate pre­vi­ously and that re­la­tion­ship didn’t work out,” she said.

With a life­span of around 40 years, the birds are sex­u­ally ma­ture at 3 to 4, but may not start breed­ing un­til af­ter 10 years of age.

Al­though the fe­male lays two to three eggs, nor­mally only one to two hatch­lings sur­vive. Pre­vi­ously, the Mal­abar pied horn­bills at the zoo bred two chicks in one brood.

“The male bird feeds both the fe­male and the ba­bies dur­ing in­cu­ba­tion. The work­load is heavy,” said Shi. “Also, the Mal­abar pied horn­bills lay eggs at an in­ter­val of ap­prox­i­mately four days, that means the bird hatched from the later egg is hugely dis­ad­van­taged in size and strength. It can­not com­pete for food with the much big­ger sib­ling, so the sur­vival rate of the sec­ond bird is low.”

The low breed­ing rate is also the rea­son why horn­bills are hard to find in the wild.

The species is om­niv­o­rous, eat­ing both fruit and meat. They es­pe­cially fa­vor high pro­tein food such as in­sects and mice dur­ing breed­ing.

Four Ben­gal tiger cubs born on July 20 are thriv­ing un­der the care of their mother, ti­gress Nan Nan. They now weigh around 7 kilo­grams on av­er­age

A new­born Mal­abar pies horn­bill at Shang­hai Zoo

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