For many guests, the South America geozone at Hellabrunn is an absolute must-see every time they visit the zoo. It features a spacious communal animal enclosure that replicates a slice of wildlife on the Pampas of South America, offering visitors an opportunity to get to know many different species from the region such as Darwin's rheas, vicuñas, maras and capybaras.  In late July, a three-year-old male Darwin‘s rhea arrived at Hellabrunn Zoo from Paris. His first meeting with the resident female Rachel went smoothly, to the delight of the entire animal care team. The pair have been on view since mid-August and seem to get along well with each other. This is an encouraging sign for potential offspring in the future. Rheas are flightless birds from South America. Characteristic features include a small head, long neck, long legs and loose brown plumage with white flecking. They also have the largest wings in proportion to their body of all ratites. The ostrich-like species can grow up to 1.70 m tall and are the largest native birds on both American continents.

Midday birth – Hellabrunn Zoo welcomes baby vicuña

The second new resident of the South America geozone is a vicuña female cria called Xelin. The cria or baby was born in the middle of the enclosure in full view of the zoo guests. The time of birth is crucial to the survival of young vicuñas. Crias are typically born in the warmer hours of the morning or around midday. This allows their fur to dry before the chilly Andean night begins. Xelin has already undergone her first health check by Hellabrunn’s vet team. She weighed 7.6 kilos. She is already very active and can be seen running around the enclosure and playing with the maras and her other enclosure mates.

Vicuñas are native to the high Andes of Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile. There they live in territorial family groups at altitudes between 3,500 and 5,500 m. Each group comprises one male, several females, and their young. Upon reaching sexual maturity, juvenile males are driven away from the family herd. They then live in bachelor groups with other young males until they are strong enough to form their own herd with multiple females.

Future plans for vicuñas at Hellabrunn

Hellabrunn Zoo is planning for more additions to its vicuña family in the spacious enclosure, as zoo director Rasem Baban explains: “We are first and foremost delighted about the birth of the healthy offspring. We are also planning to have more individuals of this particular species here at Hellabrunn. Their thick, warm woolly coat means that visitors can observe these hardy animals in the outdoor enclosure even in winter.

After the death of female anteater Xippe this spring due to advanced age-related ailments, Hellabrunn Zoo has decided to continue to keep this species and plan for new individuals. The zoo will coordinate closely with the EAZA Ex-situ Programme (EEP) to develop the anteater enclosure in the near future. So there’s a lot of exciting things happening in the South America geozone for zoo guests big and small.

[Translate to English:] Ein Darwin-Nandu auf einer grünen Anlage.