Chester Zoo has announced it is celebrating the surprise birth of a critically-endangered Bornean orangutan this week.
The new baby took keepers by surprise as mum Leia – who was born in 1996 – had been given a pregnancy test just months before, which came back negative.
Orangutans are typically pregnant for 259 days (eight and a half months).
Keepers say the new arrival – which arrived on 18th June and has been “tucked away with Mum ever since” – is “bright and alert” and is suckling well from mum, who is incredibly protective of her new baby.
Bornean orangutans are listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as critically endangered in the wild.
Threatened by illegal hunting, habitat destruction and the conversion of their forest to palm oil plantations, the species has been pushed to the very brink of existence. Recent estimates suggest as few as 55,000 Bornean orangutans may remain on the island of Borneo in Indonesia and the only place they can be found in the wild.
With this huge decline in the population, the group of orangutans at Chester Zoo are part of a vital international breeding programme, which is working to conserve the species.
Chris Yarwood – a primate keeper at the zoo – said: “The pregnancy tests we had carried out on Leia in the months prior to the birth had actually returned negative results [so] it was therefore a wonderful surprise to arrive one morning to see her protectively cradling a beautiful new arrival.
“Leia enjoys spending lots of time alone with her baby and has so far been quite shy about showing it off. She always keeps it really close to her and so we’ve not yet been able to clearly determine what the gender of the infant is. What we are sure of though is that the baby is bright, alert and suckling well from mum and has developed well over the last couple of months.
“This is Leia’s second baby – she’s a great mum and is doing a fab job once again.
“Chester is one of the few zoos in Europe that cares for both Bornean and Sumatran orangutans. These are critically endangered animals and, importantly, we’ve seen babies from both sub-species born in recent times [so] it just goes to show that, despite all of the uncertainty in the world right now, life is carrying on as normal for the orangutans, which is really uplifting to see.”
Chester Zoo is working with conservation partners HUTAN in a bid to protect wild orangutans in Borneo.
Conservationists have been carrying out research in the Kinabatangan – home to one of the largest populations of orangutans in the Sabah region of the island – to gain a better understanding of how orangutans are adapting to an increase in oil palm plantations and the new landscapes which they have created.
A team of zoo experts has also helped to create special ‘orangutan bridges’, which are designed to connect pockets of fragmented forest and enable orangutans to safely travel between different areas.
Elsewhere, the zoo is working on environmental education programmes, which teach communities surrounding the forests about how they can help save the species and has also supported local NGO – the Borneo Nature Foundation – in tackling forest fires to help protect the Bornean orangutans’ habitat.
Dr Nick Davis – the zoo’s Deputy Curator of Mammals – said: “Bornean orangutans are the largest arboreal mammals in the world and how fast their numbers are plummeting is frightening.
“They are victims of illegal hunting and habitat loss and are highly threatened by the unsustainable oil palm industry, which is having a devastating effect on the forests where they live. These magnificent animals are being pushed to the very edge of existence and it really could be the case that we soon lose them forever.
“It’s absolutely vital therefore that there’s a sustainable population of Bornean orangutans in the world’s progressive zoos [and] every addition to the European endangered species breeding programme is so, so important.”
He continued: “There’s still a huge need to tackle the excessive deforestation in Borneo and show people everywhere that they can make a difference to the long-term survival of orangutans.
“We really hope that Leia’s new baby helps to further highlight how simple everyday choices, like choosing products which contain only sustainably sourced palm oil, can have a massive impact on the future of these remarkable animals.”
Chester Zoo is campaigning here in the UK against the use of unsustainable palm oil in everyday household and food items and is working with national governmental organisations and industries using palm oil to adopt Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) practices.
It is also raising awareness of the devastating effects unsustainable palm oil has on wildlife.
Cheadle care home asks locals to take their dogs to its ‘Canine Café’ next week to cheer up residents
A Greater Manchester care home is calling on locals to take their dogs down to its ‘Canine Café’ next week to help cheer up the residents.
After recent studies have shown that introducing dogs into care home settings can help lift people’s mood and increase social interaction among the community, Abney Court Care Home in the Trafford town of Cheadle – which sits within the picturesque grounds of Abney Hall Park – has decided to host its very-own ‘Canine Café’ next week.
But in a bid to make sure there’s enough canine cuddles for all the residents, staff at the home are asking the public to bring their own four-legged friends down to the party.
Abney Court created the canine-themed event after being inspired by the positive impact previous animal visits have had on residents’ wellbeing in the past, and after hearing how much they missed the company of their own pets from their younger years.
Taking place next Friday 8 March from 11am-12pm, Abney Court’s ‘Canine Café’ gives attendees the chance to enjoy loads of tasty puppy-themed treats and drinks, all while being in the company of furry friends.
Of course, all four-legged guests will be taken good care of too.
Not only will the pups be able to enjoy plenty of fuss from the home’s residents, but they’ll also get the opportunity to play with the other pooches, and be treated to their very-own ‘pup cake’ too.
There’ll also be lots of garden games and a raffle too, so everyone has a shot a winning a whole host of goodies to take home.
Inviting the Greater Manchester public down to the party next week, Amcia Hara, who is the Home Manager at Abney Court, said: “We are looking forward to inviting the local community to our Canine Café, as atudies have shown that introducing dogs into care homes can help lift people’s mood and increase social interaction.
“The human-animal bond is powerful in promoting self-esteem and wellbeing, which is exactly why we feel our Canine Café is set to be a brilliant event.
“Whether you have your own dog or simply an animal lover, we’d encourage you to come along to our event.”
Abney Court Care Home’s Canine Café is happening next Friday 8 March from 11am-12pm.
Featured Image – Abney Court (via Facebook)
Jason Manford is joining the cast of Waterloo Road as the new headteacher
The BBC has announced that Jason Manford will be joining the cast of Waterloo Road, and he’s got himself a starring role in it too.
The famous Manc may be more known for his stand-up comedy, screen presenting work, and on-stage musicaltheatre gigs – but now, he’s giving TV acting a go, and will be stepping into the role of the fictional school’s new headteacher in the next series of the show that’s set to air later this year.
Manford will play Steve Savage – or Mr Savage, to the kids – who goes on to have a big impact on the staff and pupils at Waterloo Road, but not before he ruffles a few feathers along the way.
While the BBC has teased that Manford’s new role as headteacher will leave people questioning how the future looks for current headteacher Kim Campbell, viewers will apparently just have to “wait and see” how the storyline plays out.
Manford has admitted it’s an “absolute treat” to have joined the cast of the popular show.
Speaking on his new role as the casting was announced on the official BBC social media platforms yesterday, Manford said: “What an absolute treat it is to join the cast and crew of Waterloo Road, right here in my home city of Manchester.
“My kids and I binged the show during lockdown.
“It’s such a brilliant and iconic show, so I’m dead proud to now be part of its history. Growing up, I always wanted to be a teacher, and now becoming a headteacher, I know I would have been terrible.”
Alongside Manford in his new role, the BBC has also announced that a whole host of other new characters are being thrown into the mix for the next series too – including Saira Choudhry as Nisha Chandra, the school’s newest maths teacher, and a gaggle of new students played by Olly Rhodes, Nathan Wood, Sonya Nisa, Miya Ocego, Danny Murphy, and Matthew Khan.
Jason Manford is joining the cast of Waterloo Road as the new headteacher / Credit: BBC
Fellow famous Mancs Adam Thomas and Kym Marsh are also set to return, alongside the rest of the current teaching staff and plenty of the same students.
Waterloo Road has continued to remain as popular as ever since its long-awaited return to TV screens last year, with the latest reboot series having been watched weekly on BBC One by audiences in their millions.
It’s also cemented its position as one of the top shows on BBC iPlayer for viewers under 35 too.