Saturday, 25 August 2012

Galliformes 1: Roulroul partridge

At Bristol we do not keep many species of galliform (the group of birds that includes chickens, pheasants, turkey, grouse etc) at present, but in the past we kept more. This group of birds has been popular with humans for a very long time, at first as favourite prey items (a state that still persists) and then as domesticated birds for eggs and meat. More recently, many species of gamebird are kept for ornamental purposes as well. Unfortunately, several species, especially the rainforest forms, are now threatened by deforestation and over-hunting. Their mostly prolific nature (many lay large clutches) and the ease with which chicks can be artificially reared means that it is often possible to boost wild numbers by raising and releasing captive raised birds, either for conservation purposes or for hunting. At present, Bristol has three species of galliform bird on show.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Frogs of Bristol 7: Green Mantella

The latest species of amphibian to go on show in the Amphipod is the Green Mantella, Mantella viridis. After the success we had in the last couple of years with breeding Golden Mantellas (M. aurantiaca), with over 600 froglets distributed to zoos in Europe and elsewhere, we have temporarily suspended breeding them and moved on to their slightly larger cousins.

Monday, 13 August 2012

The great southern invasion

Great Bittern

Grey Heron
 When I was a child, only two species of heron, the Grey Heron and the European Great Bittern, bred in the UK, and Bitterns were incredibly rare and hard to see. White Stork and Spoonbill were rare vagrants, and Glossy Ibis unheard of. If you made a trip to the Mediterranean, however, you could see a much larger variety of herons and other waterbirds. In the last five years however, it has been possible to find no less than seven species of heron breeding in the UK, and Spoonbill has also colonised. White Storks and Glossy Ibis have become regular visitors, at least on migration. How this change came about, and the implications for the past and future of Britains’ fauna, is the subject of this article.

Monday, 6 August 2012

New Arrival: Macho monkeys

Male Drill
In every book on primates there will be a picture of the insanely coloured mandrill, Mandrillus sphinx. With its vividly coloured face and rear end, it always attracts attention (and giggles from the kids). Not nearly as likely to be shown is its less vividly coloured northern relative, the Drill, Mandrillus leucophaeus. Two of the latter have just arrived at Bristol, and are the first monkeys a visitor to Bristol will encounter. Drills in general body size are comparable to Mandrills, but instead of the blue and red face of Mandrills, the have a black face with a white chin, set off with what looks like pink lipstick. The anogenital region is coloured in muted red and purple, instead of the matching blue and scarlet of the Mandrill. As the largest of the Old World monkeys, Mandrillus sp, especially males, have a great presence and give the impression of a calculating intelligence as they view visitors and their surroundings.