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Baby boom at the Joburg Zoo
13 July 2010

The Joburg Zoo boasts dozens of new borns, a boon for visitors

It has been a good year for the Johannesburg Zoo so far, with dozens of newborns, including a chimp and serval twins, adding to its menagerie.

IN the first five months of the year, 50 animals were born at the Johannesburg Zoo. There are white flags outside enclosures that house babies, making it easier for visitors to keep an eye out for the newborns.

A serval with her new-born baby
A serval with her new-born baby

The newborns range across various species, including: sitatunga or marshbuck, which is endangered; scimitar-horned oryx; blackbuck; waterbuck; serval; red lechwe, a buck from southern Africa; Bapedi sheep; nyala; aoudad, a wild Barbary sheep from north Africa; flamingo; bontebok; L'Hoest's monkey; and more.

"Six newborns, including chimpanzee, serval, L'Hoest's monkey, mona monkey, lar gibbon and Bapedi sheep [are] part of the zoo's baby animal tour - a walking tour that takes place every morning at 9.20am, for 30 minutes," said the zoo's brand and communications manager, Letta Madlala. "During the tour, the zoo's animal staff talk about the life and day of the baby animals."

Monkey business
The zoo's newest baby chimp was born in May; it is the fifth baby born to Daisy and Thabo. Chimps normally breed once every five years; however, the new chimp's closest sibling, Charles, is only three years old.

Chimps are very protective of their young, and Daisy spends most of its time with the newborn. The mother chimp will not let anyone, not even the keepers, near her.

Pricilla, one of the zoo's L'Hoest's monkeys, gave birth to a healthy baby five months ago. The baby, whose gender has not yet been determined, is often seen swinging with its mother, jumping from one branch to the next.

Twin servals were born on 31 March, weighing about 260g each. The kittens are always with their mother, who is still very protective of them. At birth servals do not resemble the adult cats, being grey to black in colour with no stripes or spots.

Bapedi sheep with their new born
Bapedi sheep with their new born

One of the serval babies is noticeably larger than its sibling, and Divy Mavasa, the zoo's carnivore keeper, believes this is because the larger baby suckled more than its smaller sibling. The smaller one is fine, Mavasa says.

Between April and June, three Bapedi lambs were born. The lambs do not look very different from the adults; they do have longer hair, however, with more wool, which they will lose as they grow older. Young sheep reach sexual maturity at the age of one. The gestation period is five months and usually one baby is born.

This year has not been the only bumper one for zoo births. A single female baby lar gibbon was born at the zoo about 10 months ago, in 2009. It spends a lot of time with its mother. Lar gibbons weigh about 400g at birth and by six to eight weeks can pull themselves upright and can kneel and sit. Their gestation period is seven months.

Lar gibbons are monogamous, having only one partner for their entire lives. They can live for 25 years in the wild, and even longer in captivity. Their sex is differentiated by their colour - males are white and females are black.

And a healthy male mona monkey was born in December 2009. Similar to other primates, mona monkeys are very protective of their young. The mother will spend most of its time with its baby, until it is a year old. Mona monkey's gestation period is between five and six months, and usually only one baby is born.

The Johannesburg Zoo has grown from housing 20 animals when it was founded 151 years ago, to 1 784 animals, comprising 365 species in 54 hectares, today. Visitors should look out for a white flag outside the enclosures that house babies. To join the baby animal tour or make arrangements to take photos of the newborns, contact Nonkie Morobe on 011 646 2000 ext 260.

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Last Updated on 30 July 2010