On Tuesday, 12 July 2022, the three West Indian manatees enjoy a special treat of tender branches with fresh leaves in front of the large window to mark the fifth anniversary of Burgers’ Mangrove. The Arnhem saltwater mangrove, inspired by the nature reserve that Royal Burgers’ Zoo has protected in Belize for over thirty years, has undergone remarkable developments:
A West Indian manatee has given birth twice in less than five years in the Burgers’ Mangrove. The second calf, born on 30 December 2021, will stay with the two parents in the Arnhem Zoo for the next few years. The birth was filmed live, and these rare images were viewed all over the world. The calf is a female and was exactly six months old on 30 June 2022.
Fiddler crabs mate in burrows on the mudflats, after which the female produces a clutch of fertilized eggs. A clutch is a minuscule cluster of eggs, which the female keeps in a mass on the underside of her body and which she constantly provides with fresh water and cleans. After about one and a half to two weeks, the females sprint to the water to deposit the eggs, which hatch soon after as tiny larvae. Burgers’ Zoo has successfully bred with these larvae off-exhibit. Several offspring can now be spotted on the mudflats on-exhibit.
The reproduction of various butterfly species has been very successful in the Mangrove. The same applies to several bird and reptile species, including the red-legged honeycreeper, violaceous euphonia, blue ground doves, crested bobwhites, brown basilisk and Allison’s anoles. Several cichlid species are also reproducing very well in the manatee pool, and fellow zoos have regularly received fish from Arnhem.
The manatee pool consists of fresh water, while the mudflat with the fiddler crabs and the adjacent pool with mangrove jellyfish are supplied with salt water. The saltwater area ebbs and flows twice a day thanks to the tidal system we installed. Tidal pools of this kind are hardly ever built in zoos of this size, so it remains pioneering work. The system works as expected.
Mangrove plants grow relatively slowly, just like in nature. However, the mangrove forest has grown considerably compared to the start five years ago. The seeds from the mangrove trees in the old Mangrove at Burgers’ Zoo have now grown into fully-fledged mangrove trees. Using the black mangrove tree in the Mangrove, the University of Wageningen has demonstrated scientifically for the first time that two plants have grown from a single seed.
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