Keeper's Diary - October 2008
This month we have again been busy introducing more animals into our collection on Mammals South, with new arrivals to both Zoo World and the Meet the Monkeys walkthrough.
Our two Bactrian camels Nadia and Noemie, who live in the Zoo World building, have just started sharing their home with some of their South American relatives, a group of llamas and alpacas who have moved over from the Children’s zoo section.
The Children’s Zoo has now closed for a major re-development over the winter, and as Nadia and Noemie have a nice large enclosure here on Mammals South, we have been able to accommodate the group- which is made up of two llamas and four alpacas.
Camels, llamas and alpacas are all species which belong to the Camelid family, a group of herbivorous ungulates. Although the three species look very different they all share a number of unusual characteristics - such as possessing canine teeth, having a split upper lip with both parts separately mobile and perhaps most interestingly they do not have hooves, instead having a soft footpad with two toenails.
The camel paddock in Zoo World seems to be the perfect environment for all three species with a mixture of sand, grass, rocks and a hardstand area, and the large indoor dens have more than enough space for all the animals on cold nights!
Introducing the camels to their new housemates has been a lengthy task, starting with us keepers taking them for daily walks around the zoo grounds to get everyone used to each other. The animals then spent alternate days in the paddock together and now finally they are living together full time.
Nadia and Noemie seem very tolerant of the llamas and alpacas, and they can often all be seen eating hay or fresh browse together -although Noemie the young camel sometimes seems to think they look a little bit too comfortable and chases them around the paddock for a while!
Over in the Meet the Monkeys walkthrough there has been a nice surprise for our group of 11 female Black capped squirrel monkeys with the introduction of a new male. The new boy Bounty has joined us from a wildlife park in France and has come to ZSL London Zoo to start a breeding group with our females.
With animals as socially complex as primates it requires a lot of keeper time to monitor controlled introductions between animals to make sure the existing group will accept a new arrival. As a result Bounty was initially housed in off-show dens in the non-walkthrough area of the enclosure.
He was allowed to spend afternoons with just a few female monkeys at a time who were regularly rotated, so they could all get used to each other in a manageable environment before he was released into the walkthrough.
Bounty can now be found out in the walkthrough area where he is happily getting along with all of his ladies, however they are all just as mischievous as ever, so when visiting make sure to not let them get too close to your camera or mobile phone!
More next month...