Baby boom at Colchester Zoo

VIDEO Cute, cuddly and mischievous, baby animals are often more adorable than their adult parents. So after a baby boom at Colchester Zoo, REBECCA LEFORT went to get a closer look.

Rebecca Lefort

CUTE, cuddly and mischievous, baby animals are often more adorable than their adult parents. So after a baby boom at Colchester Zoo, REBECCA LEFORT went to get a closer look.

COLCHESTER Zoo has been experiencing a baby boom recently.

Delighted keepers and visitors have been treated to births galore among a variety of animals, big and small. And there are even more expected to come in the next few months!

Each new birth adds a bit more excitement and fulfilment for workers at the zoo, as well a sometimes a bit of extra work to make sure the small creatures get the best care possible.

There are normally between 100 and 200 births each year at the zoo and by the end of January there should be big excitement as Zola, one of the zoo's elephants, is due to give birth.

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At that stage she will have been pregnant for 22 months, the longest gestation period of any land animal.

But although most births are welcomed and actively sought, with some animals being artificially inseminated, some creatures are stopped from breading.

The zoo's lions are fitted with contraceptive implants to prevent them producing lion cubs as their have been too many born into captivity.

Adam Jupp, head of the carnivore section at the zoo who looks after the giant anteater which recently gave birth to a baby called Silver, said: “It is one of the most exciting things that has happened since I came to the zoo.

“It means we are looking after the parents properly if they have children and it is a wonderful feeling.

“I am really proud.”

Have you been to see babies at Colchester Zoo? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

Seven baby squirrel monkeys have recently been born at Colchester Zoo to the delight of proud keepers.

The young monkeys spend most to their time clinging tightly to their mothers' backs but even from a very young age look like miniature versions of their parents.

Curator Clive Barwick said: “Squirrel monkey births tend to be quite seasonal and normally occur over a five to six week period. Twins have been known but single births are more common.

“The relationship between the mother and child is very very close from day one. Babies are carried on their mothers' backs. They normally start coming off at about ten to 12 weeks but they don't venture that far.”

He said changes were made to the mothers' diet in the run-up to the birth but the keepers kept their distance throughout the process with most births happening overnight and with labours of less than 20 minutes.

And it is not until the monkeys are six to eight months old that their sex becomes known and they are micro-chipped by keepers.

Squirrel Monkeys urinate on their hands and feet to get a better grip on branches

Live in the tropical forests of Central and South America

Grow to 25 to 35cm, plus a 35 to 42cm tail

Have the largest brain, proportionately, of all primates, including humans

Females have a pseudo-penis that they use to display dominance over smaller monkeys

Live in groups with up to 500 members

Eat fruits, insects, nuts, buds, eggs and small vertebrates

The gestation period for a squirrel monkey is 170 days

Two baby mandrills have been born recently.

Chimelu was born in October and at the end of November another baby arrived, whose sex is not yet known and who has not been named.

Kate Harness, deputy head at Colchester Zoo's Africa section, said: “The mothers keep them close so you can't see what sex they are straight away. They just stay with their mums and the mums won't even share them at all, they tell all other females to go away.”

She added that babies are born without the distinctive colourful markings the adults have on their face and bottoms, as their colours are connected to sexual maturity.

She added: “The colours start to come out when they get older; it is all to do with status. The more testosterone a male has, the brighter his colours. This is so the mandrills can see their leader when they are in their troops. The females' colours are less bright but when they come into season their bottoms swell up.”

The word mandrill means man-ape

Are found in the tropical rainforests of southern Cameroon, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea

The gestation period is six to seven months

Can grow to be about one metre long

Normally live to about 44 years old

Sleeps in trees at night

Are one of the more endangered primates in the world

Four baby red river hogs have been born recently at the zoo.

The two oldest are both boys called Mickey and Morris, and the younger two are girls called Duchess and Daisy.

Nicole Upsher, head keeper of Kingdom of the Wild, said: “I call them hoglets, but really they are piglets. They get fed hog pellets designed for pigs when they are youn, and gradually they get introduced to meat into their diet like fish and chicken.

“They are very nervous when they are first born but the more hands-on you can get for health checks, the more you can help them later in life. Having the babies makes my job even more enjoyable. They are very boisterous and lots of fun.”

Red River Hogs are excellent swimmers and fast runners

Red River Hogs

Are wild members of the pig family that lives in the rainforests, mountains and brushes of Africa

Eat grass, berries, roots, insects and little vertebrates

Are mostly nocturnal hiding in dense bushes by day and roaming in troops for food by night

Are killed in Africa for destroying crops and spreading disease

The gestation period is 127 days

Have white whiskers and long pointed ears with tufts of hair at the tip, which they shake to exaggerate their size and intimidate predators

Males have warts above their eyes to protect their faces when sparring with other males

An old male leads the family group, who all communicate by grunts and squeaks

Caption: YOUNG Star reader Aidan Charles, aged 11 from Rushmere St Andrew took these great pictures on his trip to Colchester Zoo. Send your pictures to Your Letters, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

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