Sunday, 30 August 2009

Solomon steals the limelight at Josie's party

On Saturday we celebrated our lioness Josie's 9th birthday. As explained in a previous blog we threw her a party with lots of enrichment. Josie and her father Solomon had their meat cut into small peices and hidden in hessian sacks with straw (one of which we hung from a tree). It was also concealed in birthday boxes and tubes, these are just cardboard but covered in colourful wrapping paper. We also gave them the hanging boomer ball and stuffed meat behind the fire hose straps (see previous blog for further details). Finally the lions had ginger, thyme, and Josie's personal favourite, catnip, scented in their enclosure.

Josie was quick to demolish the boxes and the hessian sack but Solomon amazed the watching crowd as he swung off the hanging sack and tore it down. He spent a lot of time getting the meat from the hanging boomer ball; using his great weight and strength he even managed to pop it out of the sling. He looked puzzled as it bounced down the enclosure, but was later seen rolling it around on the ground. This design will need adapting before it is given to our tigers next!

We have made a short video which we had hoped to include below, however numerous technical issues currently prevent this! We hope that in time videos will become regular features of the blog. Come back to the blog soon if you were unable to visit on Saturday, hopefully you will enjoy a few clips from the afternoon.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Coati enclosure gets a makeover

After completing the refurbishment of the vervet monkey enclosure recently, we set our sights on the coati pen. Our six ring-tailed, or brown-nosed, coati moved into their current enclosure back in January. Basil, a nine year old male, and Junior, a three year old female, produced four healthy babies in May last year. As a result they outgrew their previous home beside the monkeys. Their new enclosure used to house the serval cats, and is much higher and longer. When the youngsters were eight months old we decided it was time to move the family. This now included an additional male, Diego, and three more females, Fonzo, Julio and Zorro.

Coati are members of the raccoon family, unlike all other members of this family they are diurnal, which means they are active during the day and sleep at night. They live in forests across large areas of South America. Coati are omnivores, eating a wide variety of plant and animal matter, and they use their highly sensitive nose and excellent sense of smell to locate their food. They forage both on the ground and in the trees.

The species is well known for digging and shredding so we had to remember this when revamping their enclosure, hopefully then they wouldn't destroy everything we put in! First of all we took down the old ropes. Except for the fire hose hammock, the items now hanging from the roof are all new. These include new ropes and fire hoses to climb, a hanging tube, fire hose swing and a rope ladder. One of our keepers, Ben, designed a new enrichment object which we are all calling the hot air balloon for that is what it resembles! It is a hanging horizontal life buoy, covered in rope, from which hangs a small wooden box where we can place some of their food. The coati are often seen sitting in this, despite its unusual appearance it is a definite success with them!

As we worked our way down to the ground, dead plants and old logs were removed. Most of the larger climbing structures were left this time. We have spent time planting about a dozen or so new bushes and shrubs and have surrounded these with rocks in the hope it will increase their lifespan! We also tried to use plants that were less appealing to the coati, we used some grasses and ferns, but soon discovered these were irresistible to them! They have been replaced with hardier species.

The main enclosure refurbishment is now complete for the coati, but like all of the animals at the zoo they are given enrichment on a regular basis. Items such as puzzle feeders, fruitbergs, and feeder balls are popular. A fresh layer of bark chip is also added whenever we get a delivery; they forage through this and pick out all of the invertebrates.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Fire hose fun for Sovereign

Thanks to another large donation of fire hose from the fire brigade this week, the keepers have been very busy creating a variety of enrichment devices. Fire hose is used by lots of zoos, it is incredably durable and therefore safe to use with even the most destructive of our animals.

Sovereign, our ten year old male jaguar, was one of the first to benefit from the delivery. We decided to make a sling for a large boomer ball and to hang this up from a tree in his enclosure. Boomer balls are a firm favourite with the carnivores but by suspending one up high, the type of movement possible would obviously be very different. It was made so that peices of meat could be wedged between the straps and the ball, making food acquisition much more of a challenge! After a week or two, the object will be removed and hung in one of our other cat enclosures for a short time so that Sovereign doesn't become bored with it. The scent of other felines on the ball as it is rotated around the enclosures can only add interest.

Fire hose was also randomly woven between the other trees in the jaguar enclosure and loose ends left hanging down. We hope Sovereign will perhaps bat and pull on these, and we can also suspend food from them.

Our curator Will has made this browse holder and we will be making more in the near future. These will be given to many species including the vervet monkeys, coati, tapir and reindeer. We have plenty of other ideas for the fire hose including a hammock for the bears.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Josie's Birthday Bash

Our beautiful lioness Josie will be 9 years old on Saturday 29th August and the keepers are already busy planning her party! On the afternoon of her birthday we will be giving our lions lots of enrichment. We are letting you know in plenty of time so that you can come and watch Josie, and her father Solomon, receiving the presents. So, what do you get a lioness for her birthday? Well, a party is not a party without food! It will be a feed day for the lions but their meat will be hidden around the enclosure and inside some of the enrichment items. This is going to include birthday cardboard boxes, hanging hessian sacks, boomer balls and scents. In addition they will each be given a birthday bloodberg. This is the big cat alternative to chocolate cake!

Josie was born at Dartmoor Zoo in 2000 and grew up in a pride of 4 lions, with her parents Peggy and Solomon, and maternal grandmother Emma. Unfortunately Peggy died of lung cancer in 2006 and old age caught up with a 20 year old Emma in 2007. Solomon however, now 14, is still Josie's companion and, as he has been vasectomised, there is no danger of them breeding. Josie is a very cheeky, playful and agile girl; we are looking forward to celebrating her special day and hope there will be plenty of people in fine voice to sing Happy Birthday to her!

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Capybara babies

Last Friday we doubled the amount of capybara we have at the zoo over night as our female gave birth to two healthy youngsters!!

Last year we sourced a female capybara from Paignton zoo which we paired up with a young male we got from Reaseheath college near Chester. The male was called Taco, as capybara are from South America we thought we would continue naming all our capys after South American food. We called the female Fajita, and we're calling the two youngsters Burrito and Chimicanga. We are still unsure of the sexes of these two new arrivals as capybara cannot be easily sexed visually. We will wait until they are a bit older before we catch them up to find this out. Now they are a week old they are eating grass and splashing around in the large pond with mom and dad.

Capybara are the world's largest rodent, their name originates from the Guarani word Kapiyva, which means 'master of the grasses.' They are usually found in large groups of between 10 and 20 individuals controlled by a dominant male. They are a semi aquatic animal living along rivers, estuaries and marsh areas. Although they are not an endangered species, we are very happy to keep them at the zoo and are pleased they have bred successfully.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Pigs transferred to new homes

This photo, taken earlier this afternoon, shows our curator Will and keeper Ben, ushering the two remaining female pigs from their enclosure into a horse box. You may remember in an earlier blog we told you we were looking to rehome our 7 vietnamese pot bellied pigs. Well, over the last few weeks suitable homes have been found for all of them, and these sisters were the last to leave. The 3 males, dominant Boris and his sons, were transferred together two weeks ago and are now living in Somerset. The two females we moved yesterday are also sisters, and were relocated to a small holding in North Cornwall; they are likely to breed in the future. The keepers are very pleased that the pigs have gone to such good homes and could be kept in suitable groups.

The pig enclosure will soon be undergoing redevelopment to accomodate our reindeer, Blitzen, Comet and Donna. Before building work begins in two weeks time, the empty paddock will be used by the reindeer during the daytime. This is to get them used to this area of the zoo gradually. They will have different animal neighbours here, and of course there will be other new sights, smells and noises too. It also means that the tapir will have access to their paddock 24/7 again. The reindeer will still be walked back to the unused tapir house and hardstanding area overnight. Construction of the new houses and hardstandings will begin soon so check the blog regularly for updates on how it is progressing.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Our very own Jemima Puddle-Duck

A new arrival has joined the many birds which live in the walk-in enclosure. Four weeks ago, our pair of runner ducks hatched one chick, and the youngster is now thriving amongst the various ducks, geese, guinea fowl and chickens which share this area. Although the keepers do not know whether the new bird is a male or a female, it has been given the nickname Jemima. The wet weather in recent weeks created lots of little puddles for the chick to splash about in, so the name seemed fitting! The chick is growing quickly and has recently been exploring the lake, as always, closely followed by its parents.

In an earlier post we told you about our first fallow fawn of 2009, well we have had five born in total this year. They are all fit and healthy and back with the main herd. At the beginning of July we received six new black cheeked lovebirds from Newquay Zoo to add to our existing flock. Both the black cheeked and the peach faced lovebirds have also bred well again this year.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Animals Asia

For just over a year we have been supporting an animal charity called Animals Asia by collecting money here at the zoo.
Animals Asia is a Hong Kong based charity who are devoted to the needs of wild, domesticated and endangered species throughout the Asian continent. One of their campaigns is called the 'moon bear rescue'. In countries across Asia, thousands of bears live a life of torture on bear farms, so that bile can be extracted and used in traditional medicine to cure ailments ranging from headache's to haemorrhoid's. Bears are confined in cages which vary from agonisingly tiny crush cages to larger pens, all of which cause terrible physical and mental suffering.

Animals Asia go to these farms and document what is happening and try to get these farms shut down. The bears are then taken to their rehabilitation centre where they begin the long journey of getting better. Some never make it as they are too ill and are put down, but the staff at the centre do their best and alot grow healthier by the day and spend the rest of their lives at the Animals Asia Sanctuary. These bears could never be released into the wild again as they have had too much human contact and some are missing limbs.

We chose this charity as although we don't have Asiatic black bears at the zoo we do have European brown bears and thought it would be a worthy cause. Unfortunately on Friday we came to empty our Animals Asia collection pot which is situated by our bears and found that someone had stolen it. This upset the staff alot, as we have so far raised nearly £1500 for Animals Asia, and were hoping that we would increase the amount over the summer holiday.

Anyone with any information about the theft should contact Dartmoor Zoo.