In the Wrocław zoo a Sulawesi bear cuscus was born – a first documented zoo birth of this rare species.
It is an endemic marsupial inhabiting only one Indonesian island – Sulawesi (formerly Celebes). Only four zoological gardens in the world, including Wrocław, are part of its conservation breeding program. This is a truly extraordinary birth, because the bear cuscus is a little-known species, hence extremely difficult to breed.
On March 16th , 2018, our small mammals keepers noticed a newborn baby is in the bag of the female cuscus. Although it had been suspected for a few weeks, this discovery electrified all employees and caused an explosion of joy nonetheless.
When a rare animal such as the cuscus is born, it understandably draws attention and causes a stir. Most importantly, it is a milestone in saving the species, giving hope for its survival. There are only 13 cuscus in four zoos around the world: in Batu Secret in Java (Indonesia), Pairi Daiza in Belgium, Ústí nad Labem in the Czech Republic and in Wrocław, here in Poland.
- It's an amazing occurrence. I'm happy and proud, because that's yet another species that was successfully bred for the first time in the world, and it happened here, at our zoo. Last year, we celebrated the first documented hatching of the Palawan hornbill, and now we have the cuscus. More and more species of animals have a chance to live on thanks to zoological gardens, including Wrocław - says Radosław Ratajszczak, President of Zoo Wrocław - breeding an endangered, rare and above all, little known species, is a commitment and always comes with a great responsibility.
The cub very rarely comes out of the mother's bag, usually only sticks out its head and tiny hands or sometimes just the tail. For now, its diet consists only of mother's milk, composition of which varies depending on the stage of development of the young. We are 99% sure, the baby is a male.
The birth of cuscus is a global breeding success. A success like this takes time and team effort to create optimal living conditions – a proper enclosure, special diet and professional caregivers. As previously mentioned, cuscus biology is unknown. We know a little about their diet, but nothing about reproduction. It is only suspected they are monogamous, so a happy match is neither simple nor reliable.
And this is just the beginning of work. Now, the caregivers will collect data on cuscus rearing and share this knowledge with colleagues from other zoological gardens, to help ensure effective breeding, and the stability of the population of these amazing marsupials in the future.