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Wild thing, you make my heart sing!

Date: 13 Feb 2015

Giant anteater

Love is in the air at Belfast Zoological Gardens, this Valentine’s Day. From getting the nursery ready for penguins to finding a date for a lonely anteater, it’s a busy time for the Belfast Zoo team.

Getting the nursery ready
Belfast Zoo’s penguin keepers have been busy over the last few days. Just like any expectant parents, it is important to prepare for the new arrivals. Keepers have been getting ready for the upcoming breeding season and have been putting ‘nest rings’ into the penguin enclosure.

The arrival of the rings caused a lot of excitement and as females began to spot the new home improvements, they ‘flocked’ to get the best spot! Just like humans, male gentoo penguins find the perfect ‘rock’ to woo their love interest. The female accepts the male if he presents her with the perfect pebble and then she uses the pebbles to fill her nest ring and to lay eggs onto.

Breeding season can be a noisy affair and, over the next few weeks, there will be even more excitement for the penguins as three birds will be arriving from Odense Zoo, one bird from London Aquarium, one bird from Dingle Aquarium and one bird from Antwerp!

It’s a love story
Our ‘hearts bleed’ for this pair and our latest love story. Belfast Zoo’s rainforest house has been home to a male Luzon bleeding heart dove for a number of years but he has recently been joined by a new female. It is already proving to be quite the love story as the pair get to know each other! Luzon bleeding heart doves get their unusual names from the splash of vivid red on their white breasts, which resemble a bleeding heart. The Rainforest house will be closed until 27 February, to allow our ‘love birds’ to have some privacy. These doves stay in contact with each other using a series of ‘coos’ so listen out for them when you next visit Belfast Zoo’s rainforest house.

Love or lust?
Namoki, the Western lowland gorilla, arrived at Belfast Zoo in October 2014 as part of the breeding programme. She joined Delilah, Kamili, Kwanza, Baako, Kibibi and resident silverback, Gugas. It was love…or lust at first sight and Gugas and Namoki have since become inseparable. Keepers are extremely hopeful that it is only a matter of time before they hear the pitter patter of little gorilla feet and have been regularly carrying out pregnancy tests.

Lonely hearts
Pancho the anteater is looking for love this Valentines! His partner, Cara, sadly passed away in 2014 but he won’t be lonely for long! Giant anteaters are part of a collaborative breeding programme, managed by a studbook keeper. Their job is to monitor the number of species living at each zoo and to provide breeding recommendations based on a number of factors, such as genetics. They are basically the Cilla Black of the zoo world! Pancho will be lonely no more as on 17 February, he will be joined by a female from Olomouc Zoo in the Czech Republic.

Zoo manager, Mark Challis, said “Here at Belfast Zoo we take part in more than 90 breeding programmes! The majority of the species which we care for are in danger in their natural habitat. The role of all modern zoos is to conserve the species we care for, through collaborative breeding programmes and to provide a safety net population. All of the species which we care for have very different breeding behaviours and it is the expertise of our zoo keepers that enable us to provide the conditions necessary for the animals to breed. We are extremely excited to hear the pitter patter of flippers, feet and hooves in the coming months!”

If you are looking for the ‘PURR-fect’ gift for your Valentine, why not adopt an animal at Belfast Zoo. Nothing says ‘will zoo be mine’ quite like your very own penguin, meerkat or elephant and you can support the care of Belfast.