Saturday, 27 June 2009

On the 25th June Dartmoor Zoo received a female southern cheetah, called Sita Johanna. She arrived around lunch time having travelled the short distance from Paington Zoo. She spent the afternoon and that night shut into the house within her enclosure so to let her settle down. We let Sita out on Friday morning under the watchful eyes of all the keepers, and a gathering group of keen public.

Her first steps out into her new enclosure were nervous ones, at first she didn't venture far from her house before returning to it, but with each return to the outside enclosure her confidence grew and she ventured further afield.

The enclosure she occupies is great for cheetah, she is in what used to house the three tigers, Vlad, Blotch and Stripe. This enclosure was actually designed for cheetah when it was built, but until now has never had any in it. With the large hill in the middle of the enclosure and the long grasses it is similar to a lookout point that cheetah would use in the wild. We have added a new platform in the enclosure as well as some bushes and small trees, which when fully established will provide more shaded areas and cover for her.

After only the first 8 hours in the enclosure Sita has already found her favourite spot, she lies at the highest point within the enclosure looking out over the picnic area and into some of the exhibits. Sita is currently occupying the enclosure by herself, but this is not a problem for her as female cheetahs are solitary by nature.

Cheetah are a very important species to keep in zoos as there numbers in the wild are diminishing and are now classed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red list. We are very honoured to of received Sita from Paington Zoo as there is usually a five year waiting list to get a stud booked cheetah.

This has ment our red foxes have come out of the large enclosure, but are on a rotor system with the silver foxes taking it in turns to go into the grassy enclosure next to the cheetah. We are currently planning a new enclosure for both the silver and red foxes.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Enrichment items wanted

In order to further develop the enrichment programme at Dartmoor Zoo, two keepers recently attended the 9th International Conference on Environmental Enrichment. This year it was hosted by Paignton Zoo and held in Torquay. The conference was attended by around 250 delegates, with people travelling from all continents to listen to a variety of presentations, many given by experts in the field. The keepers learned a great deal from the week and are now starting to trial some of the techniques discussed.

Designing enrichment devices, providing them to the animals and assessing how well (or not!) they are recieved is a very important part of a zoo keepers job. It is also one of the most fun! Visitors often ask us if they can do anything to help and we feel this is an area in which they certainly can. If you can donate any of the following items they will be used for enrichment. Many are household items you may consider rubbish and throw out routinely. Anything listed here would be greatfully recieved.

Plastic film canisters
Hessian sacks
Ice cube trays
Ice cream containers and lids
Curver storage boxes (and lids if possible)
Dried fruit
A sprinkler system (for our tigers)
Ceramic strawberry planters
Boomer balls
Dog toys
Pots of herbs and spices
Old perfume
Lengths of metal chain
Plastic spray bottles

Sunday, 21 June 2009

A Feathered Father's Day

Here at Dartmoor Zoo we have 9 rhea and recently one of our female's has started laying eggs. The eggs are quite big and weigh around 500-700g each and are a creamy colour with a thick shell.

The reproduction behaviour of these birds are quite strange as the female's lay the eggs and then the male's incubate and look after the chicks once they have hatched.

Our male's have made nests by scraping the ground and lining them with some leaves. Female's can lay up to 60 eggs per year and once they start laying during spring/summer time they often lay an egg every other day.

We are pleased to say that 3 of our male rhea are sitting on eggs at the moment and hopefully in a few weeks time we will have rhea chicks running around the paddock. The male's are been very protective about the eggs and won't even move for food. We have to go up to them (while they are hissing at us) and throw some food by them so they get something to eat.

The eggs take around 35-40 days to hatch so we will let you know if any do!

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Elvis lives

Last week three of our four male African pygmy goats had the snip. We have seven pygmy goats at the zoo that arrived in two groups, the first was a mother and her two female youngsters, the second was a group of siblings, four males and one female. To make sure we don't get any inbreeding we decided to give three of the boys the snip leaving only one intact, he is called Elvis!! We also implanted the female in the second group with a contraceptive device.

Using our on-site veterinary facilities and one of our vets, Steve Grills we anaesthetised the males one at a time to do the procedure. When any animal is anaesthetised it gives us a great chance to give them a thorough check-up. Although our goats are easy to catch and check over without been anaesthetised it isn't such an easy thing to do with something like a lion or tiger.

Colin Northcott, our Head Keeper and Collection Manager, is currently off work having a similar procedure. Although the goats were running around as if nothing happened within the next few hours, it has taken him a week to recover.

A Piggy Problem

We have 7 Vietnamese pot bellied pigs that are in need of a new home. Can anyone offer them one??

We are branching into more exotic animals and therefore need to re home some of our more domestic species. The pigs range in ages from 2 - 9 years old and are 3 males and 4 females. The males have been casterated.

As pigs are social animals we want them to be re homed in groups of a minimum of 2. The ideal home for them would be a nice grassy paddock with a mud wallow and a shelter.

These pigs are pretty low maintenance and very friendly. We feed them pig pellets, fruit and vegetables daily.

Any possible homes will need to be inspected by one of our keepers and transport will have to be sorted by whoever wants them. They are free to a suitable home.

If you are interested in giving these pigs a home please contact the zoo on 01752 837645 and ask for Will Walker.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

A Weekend of Adventure...

If you've visited the zoo in the last month you will know that we moved our red foxes into the old 'Tiger Mountain' enclosure. However, the idea was always to rotate the silver and red foxes between this enclosure and the adjacent silver fox enclosure. Even though they are all one species (the silver foxes are just a colour variation of the red fox), the animals cannot be mixed as they would fight.

Bramble and Foxy, our red foxes, appeared to enjoy their time in 'Tiger Mountain'; they dug a cosy den into the side of the hill and were even seen trying to catch some dinner! After four weeks the keepers felt it was time for the first rotation, and to allow the silvers access to a brand new enclosure.

Both pairs of foxes are very co-operative and the houses have inter-connecting doors so the physical process of moving the animals is very easy and not at all stressful. Buddy and Jabba, the silver fox brothers, needed no persuading and were quick to enter the larger enclosure on Saturday morning. Bramble and Foxy were also keen to explore an area of the zoo they had never been into before.

Alternating the foxes in these enclosures is a fantastic form of environmental enrichment, by providing new sights, structures and smells on a regular basis. As territorial mammals, the task of establishing and defending a territory becomes a much more real one too. Bramble was this lunchtime busily scent marking, trying to cover up that silver fox odour! We aim to rotate the animals monthly as of now.

Fallow Fawn

Dartmoor Zoo's first baby fallow deer of 2009 is now one week old. These photos, taken today, show him lying low amongst the logs in the paddock. He is now becoming more mobile however, and will soon be running with the herd. The keepers are hoping he will be joined by a few more youngsters in the coming weeks!

Friday, 12 June 2009

Alpaca Pedicure

Fun and games yesterday as it was the three monthly alpaca and llama feet trimming exercise. Basically we catch up all our alpaca and our one llama, Douglas, to check the conditions of their feet. We trim their nails and check for any early signs of foot rot, which fortunately they don't have. They also get a full health check by the keepers.

Although alpacas and llamas are strong robust animals, which in South America are used like 'pack horses' to carry heavy loads, they can easily be overcome by someone holding onto their ears. Our smallest keeper, Nicola, is easily able to control them by using this method whilst Ben trimmed their feet.

Once done we let them back out into the

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

First Steps

It seems fitting that in first tentative steps into the world of blogging we announce the arrival of a new addition to our collection here at DZP.

Earlier this week we were delighted to discover a new male fallow deer. Whilst he is undoubtedly cute and adorable, eager to explore the paddock he and his family shares with the lama, alpaca, and Pete the ostrich, he has some strong competition for attention in the shape of our newly arrived meerkats.

We recently introduced Sue and Timon to their brand new enclosure outside the Jaguar Restaurant. It's no overstatement to say that the enclosure is fantastic. With glass on all sides and an open top, visitors could not get any closer to these fascinating creatures.

Sue is the older and bolder of the two taking the lion's share of sentry duty whilst Timon spends most of his time foraging and bolting for cover. However, we're also pleased to confirm that he's been taking his responsibilities as the only male in the vicinity very seriously and we have high hopes of baby meerkats before the end of the summer.

We'll be here regularly to keep you posted on developments with these and other stories as they unfold. The world of blogging is quite new to us and we're looking forward to discovering where it takes us.