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Ocean Park Announces Birth of Hong Kong’s First-ever Wallaby and a Dolphin Calf Accidental Death of a Spotted Seal to be Further Investigated

2015-06-01

Ocean Park recently welcomed the birth of two new animal ambassadors, including the first ever red-necked wallaby joey in Hong Kong and an Indo-Pacific bottle-nose dolphin calf. Animal care givers first noticed in March regular movements of the pouch of Nano, a female wallaby from South Australia, and other signs that she was carrying a joey, such as pouch-licking, increased appetite and weight gain.  The joey has been developing steadily and recently started lifting its head outside its mom’s pouch to look around.  Both Nano and her joey are thriving at the wallaby exhibit inside Adventures in Australia presented by Australia and New Zealand Banking Limited (ANZ).  It is expected that the young wallaby will permanently exit its mother’s pouch and start hopping around the exhibitin in about 6 months.  In addition, a dolphin recently gave birth to a female calf.  Both mother and calf are doing well.  Separately, the Park is investigating the accidental death of a spotted seal, which happened at around 2:30pm today.

As a marsupial, newly born wallaby joeys are highly undeveloped, about the size of a bean. After a relatively short gestation period of about a month, the joeys crawl along their mother’s fur all the way into her pouch.  The joey then attaches itself to a teat, which swells in its mouth, thereby ensuring stability during the remainder of its development period.

Nano was born at a zoo in South Australia and is four years of age.  Mr. Grant Abel, Director of Animal Care, said, “We are all excited by the wallaby birth as Nano was not obviously pregnant when she left South Australia for Hong Kong in October 2014. She did not become pregnant by the male wallaby in our exhibit as he is sterile.  Instead, Nano kept an embryo in a dormant state inside her body – a phenomenon known as embryonic diapause – and resumed her pregnancy once she felt comfortable with her home in Hong Kong.”

Since discovering the joey, Ocean Park has been in consultation with experts in South Australia and has kept Nano and the concealed joey under close observation.  However, an up-close inspection of the joey has yet to be conducted as disturbing the pouch could cause unnecessary stress to both wallabies.  The joey’s gender is not known at this time and will be determined in due course.

Mr. Abel added, “Although we have yet to examine the joey, its rapid growth inside Nano’s pouch is certainly a positive sign that it is doing well. We expect the joey will continue to grow and start leaving Nano’s pouch in about 6 months’ time.  It is now feeding exclusively on its mother’s milk and will not be weaned until about one year old.  We have also prepared husbandry equipment, including milk bottles, teats and milk powder, as a contingency if hand feeding is ever needed.”

As Nano continues to reside in the wallaby exhibit inside Adventures in Australia presented by ANZ, guests visiting the attraction can look forward to catching a glimpse of the joey resting inside Nano’s pouch. It normally takes a joey around 4 years to reach its full size and weight, so guests will have a chance over the coming years to witness the development of the first Hong Kong-born wallaby, which will join the other animal ambassadors from South Australia to promote LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability).

On 4 May at another corner of Ocean Park, 32-year-old dolphin named Ada gave birth to a female calf under the watchful eyes of the Park’s marine animal care staff.  Both mother and her calf are doing well at the Marine Mammal Breeding and Research Centre.  The neonate calf is relatively chubby in profile and stays close to her mother’s side at all times.  She also gets along well with other dolphins and appears to be active and inquisitive.  As an experienced mother, Ada has maintained a healthy appetite and shown that she is able to nurse the new-born calf.

Separately, Ocean Park is investigating the accidental death of a one-year old male spotted seal which was born at Ocean Park last year. The incident occurred around 2:30pm today during a routine backwash cycle of filters at Polar Adventure.  The death appeared to have been the result of the seal being trapped against an outlet during the backwash operation. The Park is deeply saddened by the loss.

The Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department has been notified of the birth of the joey and the dolphin calf, as well as the seal’s death. An investigation into the seal’s accidental death is ongoing.