Baby boom at zoo lightens pandemic blues

TAIWAN (AFP) – Taiwan’s largest zoo has celebrated a flurry of births in recent months – including pandas and pangolins – in a welcome boost during a visitor slump due to the coronavirus.

Human footfall to Taipei Zoo may have dropped this year but officials have been kept on their toes with an animal baby boom that has just kept coming.

Formosan serows, Eurasian otters, jackass penguins, koalas, marmosets and black-capped squirrel monkeys have all added to their ranks since the beginning of 2020.

“We are very lucky this year with successful breedings from many international cooperation projects with our partner zoos and aquariums in Europe and Southeast Asia,” Taipei Zoo spokesman Eric Tsao told AFP.

The birth that has garnered the most excitement is Yuan Bao, the second female cub born to giant panda Yuan Yuan. Yuan Yuan and her partner Tuan Tuan have been star attractions at the zoo since their arrival in 2008. Three-month-old Yuan Bao – “round baby” in Mandarin – has grown into a robust cub currently weighing five kilogrammes, up from 186 grammes at birth.

A mother panda keeping her 36-day-old cub by her mouth at the zoo on September 24. PHOTO: AFP

The zoo has posted regular pictures of Yuan Bao on its social media platform and the public will likely be able to catch a glimpse of her in person by the end of the year.

Taipei is preparing to send two pangolins to Prague Zoo – including a male born in April – as part of an exchange agreement between the two sister cities.

Tsao said he hoped the spate of new arrivals will help raise conservation awareness among the public.

“The role of a zoo has evolved from collecting exotic animals in the last century to carrying the responsibility to help prevent the extinction of endangered animals,” he said. “The zoo has to play an important part to maintain a safe population for the endangered species under its care… in the hope that one day they can return to their natural habitats.”