Calgary Zoo makes history with greater rhea hatchings

Click to play video 'First baby rhea chicks hatch at the Calgary Zoo' First baby rhea chicks hatch at the Calgary Zoo
First baby rhea chicks hatch at the Calgary Zoo – Aug 24, 2018

History was made at the Calgary Zoo with some new arrivals. The Zoo’s greater rhea population has two new chicks.

“This is exciting for us,” Calgary Zoo spokesperson Trish Exton-Parder told Global News. “It’s kind of an interesting parental story to tell, and overall really exciting that a threatened bird has had a birth here and they are hatching, and that people can now see the little guys.

“We waited a little while just to make sure that everybody was doing well and they were big enough to see, because they weren’t very big to start with, and now they’re romping around.”

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While the Zoo has housed greater rheas for a number of years, this is the first time the emu- and ostrich-related large flightless birds have hatched chicks in Calgary.

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“This is really important for us because the greater rheas are in something we call a species survival plan. These plans are national plans with accredited zoos that work to ensure that we have diversity within populations of species at risk.”

Native to South America, greater rheas face declining numbers due to hunting and habitat loss.

A greater rhea chick at Calgary Zoo.
A greater rhea chick at Calgary Zoo. Calgary Zoo

Not unlike with penguins, male greater rheas play a central role in preparing for and raising their young.

“The males are who develop the nest, build the nest for the females, the females lay the eggs in the nest. And, once the eggs are there and incubated by the males, the little guys are looked after by dad as well,” Exton-Parder explained. “Our male’s name is Jekyll, and he’s been very attentive and doing all the things that a dad needs to do.”

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Hatched on Aug. 3 and Aug. 5, the chicks and adults can be found at the zoo in the large area on St. George’s Island with the alpacas and peccaries.

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The Calgary Zoo is unsure which of their two females, Sweet Pea or Coco, laid the eggs. And the zoo keepers still have yet to name the two chicks.

“Once we have a little better idea on the sex of these two chicks, we’ll probably look at getting some unique names for them. Clearly the names that the adults have are quite original.

“So we’ll leave it to the keepers to come up with something special based on the habits of these little guys and were they’re from, and we’ll be able to announce to the community once we have those names in place as well.”