July 24, 2008

Zoo Sniffs Out Rivals to Beat Smelly Skunk

By Gareth Edwards

DAYS after the birth of an albino skunk was celebrated at a Lothian zoo, Edinburgh has hit back with a couple of stinkers of its own.

Two young swamp wallabies are the latest addition to the zoo's collection, becoming only the second UK attraction to care for the animals.

Like Strachan the pure white skunk who was unveiled this week at the Five Sisters Zoo in West Calder, they are expected to leave a lasting impression on keepers' senses.

The youngsters have been given the Aboriginal names of Allambee, which means "a quiet resting place" and Barega, which means "wind".

Both three years old, they arrived from Belgium earlier this week, with keepers saying they had quickly settled into their new home. It is hoped that the pair will be joined by a female in the near future, so that they can join an international breeding programme.

Swamp wallabies are native to Cape York in Queensland, and despite the name they do not actually live in swamps, but inhabit a variety of landscapes such as open forests and gullies. Unfortunately for them, they are also known as "stinkers" in their homeland because of their distinctive smell, believed to be caused by their diet of shrubs, grass and ferns.

Before now the only place in Britain to see the animals, also known as the black wallaby, fern wallaby and black pademelon, was the South Lakes Wild Animal Park in Cumbria.

Kathleen Standen, the head keeper at Edinburgh Zoo, said: "They have quickly made themselves at home here and we're pleased that they have settled in."

The two creatures are being kept in a modified enclosure next to the zoo's only other native Australian animals, Koala's Chumbee and Jannali.

Keepers at the Zoo admitted the animals' smell was "pungent". It is understood the smell is hardly noticeable from the public viewing area, however.

The Zoo is currently looking to secure deal which will see a breeding pair of Giant Pandas brought to the attraction at some point next year.

If successful it would make them one of only a handful of zoos outside Asia to have giant pandas and would provide a huge boost to visitor numbers.

Edinburgh Zoo is already one of Scotland's top visitor attractions, with around 650,000 visitors a year, and it is hoped an ongoing GBP 72 million redevelopment of the Zoo will see that figure rise to over one million.

(c) 2008 Evening News; Edinburgh (UK). Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.