SINGAPORE ZOO WELCOMES 21st WHITE RHINO CALF

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Robust baby up and walking within an hour of birth; First male calf in five years

Image 1 (left): Donsa, Singapore Zoo’s 32-year-old female white rhino proudly shows off her calf. This is Donsa’s 11th baby and one of seven white rhinos at the wildlife park. Altogether, 21 white rhinos have been born in the zoo, some of which have been sent to zoos in Australia, Indonesia, Korea and Thailand as part of a global animal exchange programme.

Image 2 (right): The yet-to-be-named calf stays close to mom Donsa at Singapore Zoo’s back of house rhino facility. Visitors to the park will be able to see him in a few months, when he is ready to join the rest of the herd. PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

Singapore, 28 September 2017Singapore Zoo’s prolific 32-year-old white rhino Donsa quietly delivered her eleventh calf in the wee hours of 6 September, and by the time her keepers arrived for work within an hour of the birth, the healthy male calf was already taking his first wobbly steps.

With 20 rhino births under their belts, keepers knew Donsa was due to deliver, and had prepped the birthing den two days before, in anticipation of the new arrival.
The yet-to-be-named calf currently spends time bonding with mom in the back of house facility. An energetic lad, the young one enjoys being scratched with an extended brush.

Keepers use this opportunity to get him comfortable to their presence. These sessions also pave the way for future medical training: conditioning that allows animals to be examined and given simple treatment without being stressed.

Singapore Zoo is home to seven of these majestic creatures, and the latest addition is the first male born in five years after a string of females. Of the 21 babies born here, some have been sent to Australia, Indonesia, Korea and Thailand as part of the Zoo’s ex-situ conservation efforts through its worldwide exchange programme.

Although Donsa and baby are not in the public eye yet, you can meet Hoepel the proud father, and the other white rhinos, during their daily 1.15pm feeding session—the first ever in Asia and one of Singapore Zoo’s signature programmes—and experience an up close and personal encounter with these giants.

White rhinos are considered near threatened in the wild on the IUCN’s* Red List of Threatened species. Together with the Indian rhino, it is the largest species of land mammal after the elephant. They are poached for their horns, which some believe as having medicinal properties. In fact, the horns are made of solid keratin, the same material in hair and fingernails, and there has been no scientific evidence to suggest that they are a cure for anything.

SZ White Rhino Calf 3_SZ

Image 3 (left): Although barely three weeks old, Singapore Zoo’s white rhino calf already knows what he loves—being scratched! Keepers indulge him in this activity as part of early conditioning, which allows him to be comfortable around keepers and less resistant to touch during future medical procedures. PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

*International Union for the Conservation of Nature

ASIAN SONGBIRD TRADE CRISIS SPECIALIST GROUP FORMED TO TACKLE CONSERVATION THREATS

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Specialist group is first of its kind, and is part of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Species Survival Commission

Image (left): Bali Mynahs are listed as critically endangered due to the illegal cage bird trade. PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE
Image (right): Songbirds on sale at a market in Jakarta, Indonesia. PHOTO CREDITS: TRAFFIC

Singapore, 25 September 2017 – Threatened songbirds in the region will now have the voice of the first Asian Songbird Trade Specialist Group to join the chorus against the illegal and unsustainable cage bird trade.

Formally recognised by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Species Survival Commission (IUCN SSC) in May 2017, the Asian Songbird Trade Specialist Group (ASTSG) is dedicated solely to preventing the imminent extinction of songbirds threatened by unsustainable trapping and the trade. This is the first multidisciplinary specialist group, and prior to its formation, there was no official conservation body under the IUCN SSC focusing on songbirds and the threats arising from its illegal trade.

Together with other global experts, Wildlife Reserves Singapore played a key role in driving the formation of the ASTSG – a natural progression from the Songbird Crisis Summits in 2015 and 2017— also hosted by Wildlife Reserves Singapore—and will implement the conservation strategy and action plans discussed at these important meetings. This is also the first time an institution in Singapore is hosting a specialist group under the IUCN SSC.

Southeast Asia is home to more than 850 bird species. Keeping songbirds is seen as a social status symbol, with demand also arising from cultural practices—such as religious releases and songbird competitions. As a result, the region sees huge demand for domestic and international bird trade, involving countless individuals of hundreds of species. Many of these are now facing catastrophic declines.

David Jeggo, Chair of the ASTSG said: “The songbird trade conservation issue is highly complex, with many different perspectives and challenges. A coordinated effort under this Specialist Group would create synergies by bringing together a range of subject matter experts to find solutions to reverse the growing threat to songbird species and improve the conservation status of all the species involved.”

Currently, conservation efforts are broadly centred around in situ research into wild populations; genetic research; trade monitoring and legal protection; ex situ conservation breeding programmes; and education and community engagement. These five themes form sub-groups are led by vice-chairs in the ASTSG.

Vice-chair (Trade and Legislation) – Christopher Shepherd, Wildlife Trade Expert, Canada
Vice-chair (Field Research) – Stuart Marsden (Manchester Metropolitan University, U.K.)
Vice-chair (Genetics) – Frank Rheindt (National University of Singapore, Singapore)
Vice-chairs (Ex-situ Breeding and Reintroductions) – Luis Neves (Wildlife Reserves Singapore, Singapore) & Andrew Owen (Chester Zoo, U.K.)
Vice-chair (Education and Community Engagement) – Ria Saryanthi (Burung Indonesia, Indonesia)

Wildlife Reserves Singapore also contributes in other capacities towards songbird conservation, including education and community outreach activities, as well as through the conservation breeding of various threatened species of songbirds at Jurong Bird Park. Wildlife Reserves Singapore also supports two songbird conservation projects in Bali and Java, Indonesia, where the critically endangered songbirds are bred and reintroduced into the wild.

This press release coincides with the timely launch of European Association of Zoos and Aquaria’s two-year ‘Silent Forest’ campaign, aimed to support and raise awareness of conservation efforts of Southeast Asian songbirds threatened by trade, and by extension the ASTSG’s objectives.