A collaboration between Taipei Zoo and Florida’s Gulf Breeze Zoo to facilitate the procreation of pygmy hippopotamuses could finally begin after two animals arrived in Florida on Friday.
The breeding project, which was the result of discussions between the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the US Association of Zoos and Aquariums, aims to prevent inbreeding among rare animals, Taipei Zoo said, adding that the hippos it sent to Florida are males.
Plans to ship the animals to Florida in May were put on hold due to a COVID-19 outbreak in Taiwan, Taipei Zoo said.
Photo courtesy of Taipei Zoo
Its efforts to find an alternative flight or airline willing to transport the animals were moot throughout last month, it said.
In the middle of last month the zoo was told that flights to Miami would be possible this month, but the plans were again delayed after tropical storm Elsa blew into Florida this month.
Taipei Zoo eventually loaded the hippos onto a China Airlines cargo plane on Wednesday and the animals arrived on Friday after more than 18 hours in the air and 10 hours on a truck, it said.
Taipei Zoo said that it was unable to send staff with the hippos due to the pandemic.
The airline kept the temperature in the aircraft’s hold low to help keep the hippos hydrated, it said.
It thanked Alaska Zoo for providing staff during a stopover in Anchorage to care for the hippos.
The hippos have relatives in other zoos and parks in Taiwan, Taipei Zoo said, adding that it hoped the breeding project would go well.
In other news, the Taitung Forest District Office on Friday said that its year-long project to monitor a Formosan black bear released into the wild in May last year has ended and the animal is adapting well to its natural habitat.
Named Mulas by local villagers who found the cub in Taitung County’s Guangyuan Village (廣原) in July 2019, office personnel cared for it for 10 months, teaching it skills to survive in the wild before releasing it.
The cub was only a few months old when it was found and the office said it probably wandered from its parents.
Before its release, it was fitted with a GPS collar so its movements could be tracked, the office said.
“Mulas has fully returned to the wild,” office head Wu Chang-yu (吳昌祐) said, adding that the feeling of accomplishment was akin to seeing a daughter get married.
Although the collar was designed to fall off after about a year, Wu said that the office last month remotely triggered its release prior to its battery running out.
“We believe Mulas is mature enough and has been adapting well in the wild,” he said.
The device was retrieved about 3km from where the bear was released last year, the office said.
Taitung office member Lin Meng-yi (林孟怡) said that a team deployed to locate and retrieve the collar did not spot Mulas.
However, the area where the collar was found is sparsely populated and has abundant food resources, Lin said.
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