Chester Zoo is home to 10 critically endangered black rhinos and with numbers in the wild dwindling rapidly, the zoo’s breeding programme is a key part of preserving the species.
In the final episode of the series, we see female rhino Kitani introduced to her new mate Magadi so she can start a family of her own. It’s not as easy as putting them into the same enclosure, with a high risk of injury during mating, keeper Babs is concerned that Kitani may struggle to defend herself, since losing her horn after the death of her calf earlier in the year.
Keeper Babs said: “As long as we [The Zoo] get the pairing right, we’re alright… and if we get it wrong it can cause a fatal outcome”.
The programme reveals that Kitani was suffering from depression as she refused to set foot outside of her enclosure, January last year she gave birth to c care but it died six weeks later.
The keeper explained: “When she lost her baby, that was bad, really bad. It was something we could never had done anything about. Unfortunately it was a heart defect, we had to go in and catch the baby and it died in our arms, while we had hold of her.
“When we saw Kitani looking for it, it was really tough because you can’t tell them what happened. To her she was looking for it like it had gone missing..”
The loss of her baby has had a profound psychological effect on Kitani, the keepers hope that if she’d become pregnant it would help with her recovery.
They explained that she’s still mourning the loss of her baby and that they [the keepers] need to give her time to come over that.
Later on in the programme it showed the keepers putting protection in place to keep both rhinos safe as they introduced the two together for the first time, something that the public hasn’t seen before.
Finally, the pair were placed in the same enclosure.
While part of the Zoo were attempting to breed rhino’s, there was also a surprise birth in the orangutan house and with competition for mum’s attention becoming harder, older sibling Tuti had to fend for herself and begin the road to independence.
We were also given a glimpse into the complex and fascinating courtship behaviours of Rodrigues fruit bats.
A keeper explained the fruit bat forest as ‘a several swingers party happening at the same time’ – The Zoo is concerned with the amount of bats populating as it’s becoming ‘overcrowded’.
A new male Sulawesi macaque was introduced to a group of 30 eager females and was quickly turned the most popular macaque in the enclosure – It didn’t take long for his ‘instincts’ to take over.
Two young jaguars Napo and Goshi went head to head in a battle of wills.
Overall ‘The Secret Life Of The Zoo’ series (which had six episodes) has been an amazing and interesting insight into life at Chester Zoo, the UK’s most popular Zoo. While visiting the Zoo you don’t usually have access to ‘behind-the-scenes’ so Channel 4’s documentary informed us about the remarkable behaviour between the animals and close relationships they with with their keepers.
Since filming 8 months ago over 1,000 animals have been born at Chester Zoo, with more expected in the near future.
Chester Zoo is Britain’s most popular Zoo hosting 1.6 million visitors every year, visit their website for more information and plan a visit.