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The nene season comes to a speedy end

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Wow. Arriving back from Madagascar I was amazed to see so many Nene nests, with eggs totalling around 80 and some exciting new pairs to discover.

I couldn’t possibly have¬†known however that not only¬†would these pairs all lay early, but almost on the same day!

Nine families of Nene hatched within six days of each other, adding an instant extra third to our captive population. Not only is this a record breaking week, the fertility was amazing, with only four infertile eggs and two addled.

With so many happy families running around second clutches seem hardly possible, and so the season seems to have crunched to a halt…

Many pairs who in recent years had made pathetic attempts at nesting, suddenly got it right! Having nested within 2m of a bulldozer in 2010, 2011 brought AVH and AXU a lovely nest behind a stump in the North American.

BBC and BBH made a lovely nest against the south lake fenceline, and despite hatching out three healthy chicks, sadly lost them during a cold snap :-(

You may notice that many of our goslings are not on public display. You may think this a strange contradiction considering that we allow them to parent rear and self-incubate.

The process a Nene family undergoes from the point of hatch is pretty critical. We cannot touch them for around three days as they are too delicate to stress out.

On the third day we swoop in and collect Mum, Dad and the babes, and take them to a safe and netted grassy space where they can pass through adolescence without the threat of herring or lesser-black-backed gulls.

At around four weeks, I deposit the whole family soundly back in the Big Pen. From there they can choose their own juvenile haunts, and learn the joys of hand feeding!

Whilst it seems double the effort to do all this extracting, it creates far more sound individuals. A gosling able to grow up with its parents and siblings is not going to be very likely to want to inbreed, and as such will fly the nest at some point in favour of a mate.

Nene brought up together in captivity through hand-rearing do not have the benefit of identifying their parents, and inbreeding is not something to be encouraged! Hopefully the offspring of 2011 will provide another generation of Nene to populate Slimbridge for many years to come.

Nene families are currently visible in the Big Pen, Loop fields and in the Loop side-pens.

And so until 2012, I might give Nene a rest and get on to talking about something new!