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