19 October 2023
Two baby yaks named Tonks and Cedric have been captured on camera jumping for joy and bucking around the Dunstable Downs at Whipsnade Zoo - the magical new arrivals were given the monikers by zookeepers following their tradition of naming the yak family after characters from the beloved Harry Potter books.
Zookeeper George Spooner said the first new woolly addition was female Tonks, born on Wednesday 20 September, followed by male Cedric on Saturday 7 October.
“Tonks was born to first time mum Pandora and dad Draco, while Cedric was born to female Petunia a few weeks later,” he said. “The two yaks are fast becoming the best of friends - just like we imagine their namesakes would have been had they met at Hogwarts - playing in the long grasses of their paddock, as their mothers look on and try to grab some rest.”
“Like the book character, Tonks is quite bold and friendly, and we hope she will grow up to be a strong leader in the group, while Cedric is just as loveable and handsome as his namesake - the two-week-old already has our visitors completely captivated.”
While Whipsnade is home to the herd of ‘fantastic beasts’ - Petunia, Hermione, Luna, Ginny, Pandora, Draco and now babies Tonks and Cedric - visitors will have no problem finding them this October half-term.
George added: “During the winter months when it’s beautifully misty at the conservation zoo, our big, hairy, loveable yaks can look a bit like dementors floating along in the distance. Dementors are the guards of the prison of Azkaban in the Harry Potter series – luckily, visitors have nothing to fear from our gentle yaks this Halloween.”
Yaks are extremely social animals living in herds of 10 to 20 individuals and use vocalisations to communicate. Yaks cannot moo like other cattle but will grunt instead. Their Latin name ‘bos grunniens’ translates to ‘grunting ox.’
Baby yaks weigh around 20kg when they’re born and both youngsters were up on their feet within 20 minutes of being born, after a gentle nudge from their mothers.
While Whipsnade Zoo has a healthy herd of domestic yaks sadly their counterparts, the wild yak (Bos mutus) is facing a myriad of problems in the wild.
“The domestic yak herd at our conservation zoo act as ambassadors for the wild yak, which are classed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List,” George added.
“Talking to visitors excited about the arrival of about Tonks or Cedric, provides us with a great opportunity to raise awareness about the plight facing wild Yaks in China and India, where numbers are sadly decreasing.”
Yaks were once widespread throughout South Asia but have gone extinct in countries like Bhutan. The species face threats from poaching, loss of habitat due to farming, competition with traditional livestock and disease transmission. ZSL, the conservation charity behind Whipsnade Zoo, works across Asia to help understand the threats facing threatened species on the continent.
For a wickedly entertaining October half-term, families can trick or treat themselves to a trip to Whipsnade Zoo for its spooktacular annual Boo at the Zoo and meet the magical family of yaks. From Saturday 21 – Sunday 29 October, visitors to the conservation zoo can celebrate all things spooky including a magic show, Halloween Disco, Creepy Crafts and Terrifying Animal Talks. Every ticket supports ZSL’s vital science and conservation work around the globe.