Sunday, June 18, 2006

English Zoo celebrates birth of wolf cubs

JULIETTE MAXAM

AFTER a barren 20 years, the patter of 20 pairs of little paws can be heard in the wolf enclosure at Colchester Zoo. Tallulah and Wilfy, a pair of timber wolves, are the proud parents of five cute little cubs, which are the first to be born for 20 years at Colchester Zoo.

Zookeepers think the baby wolves were born on either May 13 or May 14, but they did not venture out of their den until June 3. So far, keepers have not been able to get close enough to the cubs to find out what their sexes and so they have not yet been given names.

Colchester Zoo got their female wolf, Tallulah, a few months ago. After challenging the order of the existing males, Nelson and Wilfy, she hit it off with Wilfy and became pregnant. Now Wilfy is the top male of the enlarged pack, but zoo staff are expecting Nelson to help out with looking after the cubs, just as he would in the wild.

In the wild a few of the adults stay at the den and babysit the cubs, while the rest of the pack go out hunting. When they get back, the babysitters beg for food, along with the cubs, and the hunters regurgitate some meat for them. Colchester Zoo's new cubs are now regularly venturing out into the enclosure, particularly at feeding time, when they can be seen suckling and having their first chew on meat.

Both cubs and parents are still rather cautious, so viewing of the wolves is restricted at the moment. Visitors can catch sight of them at feeding time, at about 2.30pm every day.

The zoo is going to keep the cubs, but if one of them is ostracised they will send it to another zoo either in the UK or in Europe. Tallulah will be put on hormonal contraceptives to prevent her becoming pregnant again for the time being.

Anthony Tropeano, zoo curator, said: “The birth of the wolf cubs is fantastic news and we are delighted to have wolf cubs here for the first time in 20 years.”

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