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Six Meerkat and Serval Arrive Today

Media Release
27 May 2005

Zoo Ahoy!

Six Meerkat and one male Serval arriving at Wellington Zoo today are the latest in a series of animal arrivals destined to increase endangered species population numbers through breeding programmes at the Zoo.

Arriving at Wellington Zoo at approximately 10:15am, the animals will have travelled 23 hours from Bester Birds and Animal Park in Pretoria, South Africa to their new home at Wellington Zoo.

Wellington Zoo Veterinarian, Doctor Katja Geschke comments “All seven animals will be housed initially in our Zoo quarantine facilities for thirty days, then they’ll move into their respective enclosures to enjoy the attention of our Zoo Keepers and visitors who will no doubt be keen to see how they’re getting on”.

With a primary focus on conservation education, Wellington Zoo intends to breed the Meerkat in order to strengthen the bloodlines of the regional population. Meerkat are not an endangered species, however numbers in the wild are declining due to human interference and habitat destruction.

Such breeding will not only increase species numbers, but the Zoo also aims to encourage its visitors to view the animals and read the corresponding signage in order to develop an empathy for wildlife and hopefully understand and take action against the plight many animals face as a result of human interference.

While the Zoo currently houses two Meerkat in a new enclosure outside Eva Dixon’s Café at the front of the Zoo, both animals are female and introducing a male to this established group will be a very risky exercise due to the fact that a social bond has already formed.

Wellington Zoo Chief Operating Officer, Mauritz Basson describes the future for the latest Meerkat as “A very exciting move for the Zoo. We haven’t bred Meerkat at the Zoo in 10 years and the population in the Australian Species Management Program is in desperate need of a new genetic injection”.

Meerkat live in very strong social groups and territory marking will be one the first activities this new group will get busy with in their new enclosure. They will achieve this by scent marking via an anal gland, urinating and defecating in strategic spots of their new enclosure.

While the Meerkat are expected to be popular with Zoo visitors, the male Serval is a unique addition to the Zoo family where it is the first of its species to live at the Zoo since Naxos, the oldest known Serval in captivity, died in 2003.

Also from Bester Birds and Animal Park, the Serval will also be quarantined for a period of 30 days before moving into his enclosure.

Both the Serval and the Meerkat are native South African species. Serval are an endangered species with an unknown number left in the wild. However, they are subjected to the same human induced threats as most wild species.

While Serval usually live solitary lives, coming together only for breeding, Meerkat as a species are very group oriented with each animal holding special duties such as babysitting or sentinel in order to ensure the survival of the group.

Visitors to the Zoo can expect to view the Meerkat and Serval in their enclosures from approximately the end of June this year.

ENDS

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