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New arrivals further strengthen ZSEA’s commitment to conservation

Tuesday 20th April 2021

Both Africa Alive in Suffolk and Banham Zoo in Norfolk have seen the arrival of a southern white rhino and the hatching of a Ruppell’s griffon vulture chick respectively.

A female southern white rhino named Belle arrived at Africa Alive in early March on the recommendation of the coordinator for the European breeding programme for this species.

Belle exploring her new home

New arrival Belle exploring her new home. photo credit: Ben Thomas

Arriving from Cotswold Wildlife Park where she was born on 2nd October 2017, Belle has since been introduced to resident females Norma and Njiri and is now in the process of getting used to Zimba, Africa Alive’s male southern white rhino, in the hope they will successfully breed.

Having previously been hunted almost to extinction, the number of southern white rhinos has since grown but with the risk of poaching on the increase, these magnificent animals are now classed as near threatened in the wild.

To date, Africa Alive have donated over £33,000 to Save the Rhino as part of its involvement in the conservation of this species.

Terry Hornsey, animal manager at Africa Alive, said: “Moving a rhino takes a reasonable amount of planning and expense and involves organising a crane to unload the large travelling crate, so that the rhino can be safely let out.

“As a testament to everyone involved, Belle arrived in good health and we are very much looking forward with anticipation to the forthcoming year and Belle’s first full season with Zimba, Norma and Njiri.”

Meanwhile at Banham Zoo, a Ruppell’s griffon vulture chick has hatched as part of the captive breeding programme for this species to mother Verity, a female vulture who was one of the earlier chicks hatched at the zoo, and father Foster.

Ruppell's Griffon Vulture Chick

Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture Chick with mum verity. photo credit: Banham zoo

Named after Eduard Ruppell, a 19th Century German explorer and zoologist, Ruppell’s vultures typically roost on cliffs in large numbers where one white egg is laid and incubated for around 55 days. The chick will then stay in the nest for at least another 150 days.

These vultures are seriously threatened in the wild due to habitat loss, poisoning and hunting with numbers believed to have dropped by up to 97% in just 50 years.

Mike Woolham, Head of Living Collections at Banham Zoo, said: “We are very proud to breed these spectacular animals and have done for many years. These birds are critically endangered in the wild due to ongoing problems with poachers who purposefully poison animal carcasses to deter vultures and other animals from giving away their presence in the area.

“Our flying displays at Banham Zoo aim to empower our visitors on the conservation of these birds and are vital for raising awareness and much needed funds for not only Ruppell’s griffon vultures but some Asian species too. So far to date we have donated almost £45,000 to vulture conservation as a result of these displays.”

Co-ordinated breeding programmes and well run studbooks have contributed greatly with helping the zoo community to utilise their expertise, knowledge and experience to not only successfully breed and manage the species in their care, but also to be involved and be able to assist in all areas of animal conservation.

Claudia Roberts, CEO at the Zoological Society of East Anglia, said: “Following a hugely difficult year financially, I am delighted that we are able to re-focus our attention on our commitment to conservation. We will soon be starting an exciting project with Wild East as well as opening discussions with further in situ conservation projects.

“Driving our charitable objectives in conservation, education and community remain our priority throughout our rebuild.”

Belle, the southern white rhino, can be seen on your next visit to Africa Alive, however the Ruppell’s griffon vulture chick will be off show for a few months until it fledges its nest.

The Zoological Society of East Anglia are committed to conservation through collaboration, networking and training activities that aim to measurably improve national and global biodiversity.

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