Drill enclosure gets a facelift and cute baby for endangered primate

With his cool punk hairstyle, bright pink face and irresistible jug ears, the baby drill is a source of delight for visitors to Hellabrunn Zoo. Apart from the new addition, the entire group of drills at the zoo will now be able to enjoy the facilities of the newly renovated enclosure, which was officially opened today.

Copyright Tierpark Hellabrunn/Marc Müller

Copyright Tierpark Hellabrunn/Marisa Segadelli

Copyright Tierpark Hellabrunn/Marc Müller

Copyright Tierpark Hellabrunn/Marc Müller

Copyright Tierpark Hellabrunn/Marc Müller

Copyright Tierpark Hellabrunn/Marc Müller

Mama drill Kaduna keeps a close eye on her little son - and above all makes sure he is always within reach. Whenever the six-week-old Oneto strays too far, she quickly brings him back under her watch. Oneto is the second offspring of papa drill Bakut (11 years) and mama Kaduna (10 years). Their first baby Nepomuk was born on 8 May 2013, with his brother Oneto arriving on 11 September 2014. The young Oneto, along with the other five drills at the zoo, will now have an opportunity to explore the new facilities of the revamped outdoor enclosure, which include natural rock walls, climbing structures, numerous plants and even a stream.

Hellabrunn Zoo coordinates the European Endangered Species Breeding Programme for the drill and maintains the International Studbook for this species. "Drills are generally less well known than mandrills, which is a shame because not only are they one of the most impressive primates, but also one of the most endangered in the world. So I'm delighted with the success of the breeding programme among our young group at Hellabrunn - after all, this is already the third in a year and a half - a remarkable achievement," says zoo director Rasem Baban, adding: "For the renovation, we were able to draw on the valuable experience gained from keeping drills at the zoo, which enabled us to redesign and reconstruct the enclosure to meet the latest zoological standards with little financial input and within a short period of time".

A complete revamp was required to bring the former Mandrill outdoor enclosure up to the latest standards. This included covering the unnatural-looking rear walls with rock and thereby creating a cavernous retreat for the new occupants. The supporting steel columns have now been covered with tree-like structures to resemble trees from the West African habitats where the animals originate. The revamped enclosure offers so many things for the curious Oneto, who is quite mature for his age, and his family to discover.

But primates are not the only animals to have recently given birth at Hellabrunn Zoo: in the past four months alone around 50 new residents were born in the zoo. They include six young capybaras now cavorting in the South America enclosure with maras, vicuñas and rheas. And in the Africa enclosure there is little Okawanga, a Hartmann's Mountain Zebra foal, born on 1 July, who likes to romp among kudus, antelopes and ostriches that share the same enclosure. A greater kudu has also recently given birth: Okima (born on 15 July) and Oringo (born on 16 July) like to play tag and chase each other.

There were also new births for the squirrel monkeys and many smaller Hellabrunn residents such as the Azara's agoutis, Cuban hutias and round-eared elephant shrew, who now live with the other 19,000 animals in zoo in Munich. 

About the drills

Originally from Wuppertal Zoo, Bakut arrived at Hellabrunn in April 2011. His two female companions Kaduna and Afi - from Port Lympne Wild Animal Park - have been keeping him company since July 2012. Nepomuk, son of Bakut and Kaduna, was born on May 8, 2013. Napongo, son of Bakut and Afi, was born on 24 January 2013. On 11 September 2014, Nepomuk's brother Oneto was born.

The drill is one of the most endangered African primates. The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has listed the drill in the Red List of the world’s most threatened species. There are now estimated to be only about 3,500 animals surviving in their natural habitat, an area of just 40,000 square kilometres in Cameroon, Nigeria, Gabon and the island of Bioko. This means that the habitat of the drill is smaller than Switzerland. Ongoing deforestation and the relentless hunting of this primate are among the prime factors contributing to the serious level of endangerment.

There are only about 70 drills in Europe, living in 16 zoos. Hellabrunn Zoo coordinates the European Endangered Species Breeding Programme (EEP) and maintains the International Studbook for this species. Hellabrunn Zoo is also a member of the Save the Drill Association, which supports the Pandrillus project in Nigeria. The zoo’s coordination of the breeding programme for the drill and its commitment to supporting drills in the wild highlights Hellabrunn's significant contribution to the conservation of this species.