The Moscow Zoo has recently seen births in several hoofed families. In late May – early June – the traditional kidding period − baby muskoxen, Sichuan takins (gnu goats), Dagestan aurochs and markhoors were all born. The little ones are now getting familiar with the zoo and their new families and are learning their surroundings.
“Each birth is very important for our zoo and it will play a role in the creation of a stable and genetically diverse population in captivity. The babies have been leaping and skipping around – hoofed youngsters tend to mature much quicker than cats or dogs. Just a few hours after coming into this world, baby goats, muskoxen and gnu goats are able to stand steadily on their legs and follow their mother around. This happens naturally since it’s the only way the youngsters can avoid danger from predators. Hoofed babies start eating adult food quickly. Over the first month and a half or two, their diet primarily consists of mother’s milk. After the first month, the young ones begin trying adult food,” said General Director of the Moscow Zoo Svetlana Akulova.
Sichuan takins are listed in the International Red Data Book as “vulnerable.” In the wild, the animals are native to the mountainous provinces of India, China, Nepal, Tibet and the eastern Himalayas. Gnu goats appeared in the Moscow Zoo in 2009 and have been producing offspring for almost eight years. The current inhabitants are an adult couple, two kids that have grown a little and one baby born on 24 May. Besides that, the Centre for Rare Animal Species Reproduction is home to a couple with two kids.
“Sichuan takins are very rare inhabitants of European and Russian zoos. We are proud that we have created two couples that reproduce every year,” noted Svetlana Akulova.
The Moscow Zoo is part of the compilation of the European Breed Registry of the species.
Markhoors are classified by the International Red Data Book as a “vanishing” species. In the wild they can only be found in hard-to-reach highland regions of India, East Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The Moscow Zoo is home to a group of 22 markhoors led by a ten-year-old alpha male. All the other males, including the six kids born in the first week of June, are his kids of different ages. The new-born kids follow their mothers’ steps and feed on her milk. By now, they can easily climb the artificial slopes of the Auroch Hill pavilion and fearlessly skip from stone to stone. In only a month, the goat kids will be trying hay, grass, special combined fodder and other “dishes” common to an adult markhoor diet.
Hierarchical relations among the markhoor group aren’t easy to identify; to make them out you need to spend a while watching them.
The Dagestan aurochs are markhoor’s neighbours in the zoo. This spring, they have enjoyed a “kindergarten” – eight calves born in the second half of May and early June, racing with one another across the enclosure, climbing the top of the hill and testing themselves in games. Although they are very young, the auroch calves have been strong enough to leave their mothers once in a while to get acquainted with the surroundings.
The population of Dagestan aurochs has been dwindling every year in the wild. This is primarily due to illegal hunting and poaching. The majestic horn makes the species an enviable hunting trophy. Another factor affecting the animals’ population is the shrinking of the area occupied by pasture land and the pollution of the feeding environment.
The Moscow Zoo has for many years been engaged in compiling the European Breed Registry on Dagestan aurochs as well as in the Eurasian Regional Association of Zoos and Aquariums programme to conserve hoofed mountain animals.
The muskox family that boast the longest fur of all mammals was also blessed with new offspring recently. A calf was born on 24 May. It has thick and warm fur and a seam of fat. The calf’s main diet is extremely fatty mother’s milk. From its first week, the muskox calf was eating adult feed – hay, vegetables, special combined fodder and willow branches.
A new home in a year
The muskox, Sichuan takin, markhoor and Dagestan auroch babies will spend at least one year at the Moscow Zoo. They will get older and stronger and then will move to other European and Russian zoos.