Meet the Keeper: Malcolm Fitzpatrick, Curator of Mammals
Wednesday 22 March 2006
Malcolm Fitzpatrick, Curator of Mammals at ZSL, recently visited Warsaw Zoo where he met a spectacular species that will be populating the new Into Africa exhibit, opening at ZSL London Zoo this Easter.
Malcolm has worked at ZSL since 1989, when he joined as a seasonal keeper for Primates in between travelling expeditions abroad. Brought up on a farm in Scotland, his background has always involved animals and he studied a science degree at university.
After his degree Malcolm spent time travelling, and it was initially only as a stop gap between trips that he took a position with ZSL. Sixteen years later, having worked with a wide variety of species, he is still here, only now he’s graduated to the lofty heights of Curator of Mammals – but the travelling bug hasn’t suffered too much, it’s just that most trips now revolve around zoology!
Most recently Malcolm has been over to the icy climes of Poland where he has been meeting the keepers at Warsaw Zoo and their collection of African hunting dogs.
Into Africa, a new exhibit previewing at ZSL London Zoo this Easter, will be playing host to some of Africa’s most unusual animals and among these species will be four hunting dogs from Warsaw. Malcolm’s trip to the zoo allowed him to meet with the keepers and also observe the pack first hand.
The dog transfer from Warsaw to London is part of a wider European Endangered Species Breeding Programme (EEP) that makes recommendations for breeding or non-breeding, as appropriate.
Initially four males will be brought to ZSL London Zoo and, following an initial settling period, these dogs will feature in the new exhibit that opens to the public on April 1st 2006.
Once the males have settled and enrichment and husbandry techniques have been established, ZSL will be looking to introduce females with the aim of breeding in the long term.
In a pack all the males are related to one another and all the females are related to each other, but not to the males. In the wild the females migrate into the pack and at ZSL London Zoo the EEP will provide recommendations as to which female dogs are appropriate for integration.
On seeing the pack face to face for the first time Malcolm says:
'I was amazed at how active the group was at Warsaw. They will be a great addition to our living collection here at ZSL, plus they will provide a great link to the valuable work that we are involved with in the field, through our Carnivores and People programme.'
African hunting dogs were formerly distributed throughout sub-Saharan Africa, occupying a range of habitats from grass plains and open woodland, from the Sahara Desert up into the lower forests of Mount Kilimanjaro. However, with less than an estimated 6000 hunting dogs now remaining in Africa their range is dramatically reduced.
A major decline in numbers of wild dogs in has be due in part to its severe persecution and the loss of habitat as human populations have expanded.
They are social, communally hunting carnivores, which live in small cohesive packs typically composed of a dominant breeding pair, a number of non-breeding adults, and their dependent offspring.