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Zoo has tall and small arrivals…

15 September 2004

Zoo has tall and small arrivals… and kiwi back on display

A fast easy birth, a mother-to-be's dream, was a reality for Auckland Zoo mum Kay last month when she delivered a healthy baby boy in just 20-minutes, following her 15-month pregnancy.

The same height and weight as your average catwalk model, the six-foot newborn giraffe calf was strutting his stuff within another 20 minutes and running in less than two hours. Keepers have aptly named this fast, feisty boy Ndale - a Ngoni name from Malawi meaning prankster.

"He's incredibly quick on his feet and a bit of a Houdini – one minute he's right there in front of you, the next he's nowhere in sight," says Pridelands Team Leader Michael Batty.

Bad winter weather, and noise from construction of the extended Pridelands boardwalk (as part of the zoo's new front entry development) has required keeping mum and her calf in the giraffe house at the back of the exhibit’s area.

However, with improved weather and the Pridelands boardwalk extension due to be completed this Friday (17 September), visitors can expect to see both Kay and Ndale out in Giraffe Valley most days from this Saturday. The birth of Ndale brings the zoo's giraffe herd to four.

Asiatic golden cat births While visitors won't be able to view them, Auckland Zoo is also celebrating the important birth of two Asiatic golden cat kittens, boosting the population of this shy, 'threatened' species in the Australasian region by a quarter.

Last year zoo keepers built a special off-display exhibit to encourage three-year-old female Hoi-An and 14-year-old male Hari to mate, and installed an infrared camera to track progress.

The successful births are a major coup for Auckland Zoo, as these notoriously reclusive cats are a difficult species to breed in captivity.

"After years of planning and working with the international studbook to find a mate for our male, it's a great accomplishment to finally have kittens on the ground," says Auckland Zoo Director Glen Holland.

"It's exciting not just for us, but for the species internationally. Golden cats are threatened due to the loss of their forest habitat through deforestation, as well as hunting for pelts and use of body parts in traditional Asian medicine. It is of some reassurance to be able to do our bit towards avoiding extinction of another species," says Mr Holland.

The zoo is planning to build a second off-display breeding facility for a potential second breeding pair.

The kiwi returns The completion of the zoo's new Education Service buildings and the extended Pridelands boardwalk have also paved the way for the re-opening of the BNZ Kiwi & Tuatara House this weekend. From Saturday, visitors can once again view our national icon. Access to this exhibit will be via a loop including part of the new front entry area, through which visitors can also access the extended Pridelands boardwalk. The main front entry, still under construction, is not due to open until late December.

As well as giraffe and Asiatic golden cat births, the zoo has hatched its first two kiwi chicks of the season for the BNZ Kiwi Recovery Trust's Operation Nest Egg programme. Seven more eggs are incubating. These first two kiwi births for the 2004/2005 season bring the total number of kiwi successfully hatched by the zoo for the programme to 112.


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