Friday, 29 January 2010

A sparring log for Sovereign

Today we have been busy in the jaguar enclosure, which is of course home to Sovereign. We wanted to give him some large new logs to scratch and clamber on. One of these in particular was very heavy indeed and so a good size for this big cat. We also wanted to secure a hanging log that Sov would be able to tussle and spar with. We hoped that the movement of such a large, strong object would provide much stimulation and activity.

As you can see from the photos, we secured a rope between the two trees (easier said than done!) and then used a small length of chain to attach the log to that. The log had long eye bolts screwed into it to allow the chain to be connected.

Sovereign's response wasn't as quite as dramatic as we'd imagined but, as you can see from the short video, he eventually got the idea of it! We hope he will use it much more in the future and have already had a few thoughts on how we can make it more appealing, such as wrapping it in horse fur. We had altered his enclosure a fair bit, so it's understandable because Sov did have lots of other things to investigate and, of course, scent mark!

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Kiruna goes crazy for hanging enrichment

At Dartmoor Zoo we have a carefully designed enrichment programme which means that our animals receive a variety of different types of enrichment on a regular basis. We monitor and record their response to the items we provide so that we know what is successful with each species or individual, and what we need to change or withdraw altogether. A few weeks ago one of our keepers had the idea of hanging up a pelt for some of our small carnivores. They would normally have skin and fur present on their meat, but on its own, and hanging from a branch it encouraged a great deal of activity both from our female red fox Bramble and our female Siberian lynx Kiruna. Kiruna can be seen with this enrichment in the short video clip below.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Keepers' Snowy Week

This week at Dartmoor Zoo we have not escaped the heavy snowfall, icy roads and freezing conditions that have plagued the country. On Wednesday morning the treacherous driving conditions meant that many staff were unable to even get to the zoo. Hundreds of schools and offices in Devon have been shut for the last few days, but when animals are involved, life must go on as normal. They of course still need to be fed, watered, cleaned out and cared for, the same as every other day. Most of the keeping staff have made it in every day so far to do just this. Zoo keeping is hard work at the best of times, but this week that has been an understatement!

Water bowls have been freezing so hard that in some cases, keepers have been able to stand on them. As soon as we have broken the ice in every water bowl, they start to freeze up again. Although some of our animals, like the tigers and lynx are well adapted to these wintry conditions, many are not. For these species we have been providing extra large straw beds and heat lamps. Some, like the tapir, are being kept in overnight as well.

The biggest and least desired job every morning at the moment is breaking the ice on the Tiger Rock and Jaguar moats. In case you don't know, the moats are used instead of fencing on one side of each enclosure. Every day the ice gets thicker so we need to break it up first thing before we let the cats out. Normally the cats are out 24/7, but obviously this is not the best idea in these circumstances!

The keepers' favourite weapon is a long metal pole with a large bar on the end. It is very heavy and you can always tell who's done the cat round because they are collapsed over the table at break time!

Today is the first time since Tuesday that the van has been able to get to the main road (via the fallow field)! The drive is too slippery for any cars, which is one of the reasons why we are presently closed. As you can see from the video, it did need some help from the dumper on the way back, but we were running quite low on fruit and vegetables for our animals and so it was important to make the journey. The weather forecast for the weekend is more snow so we felt we had to take the opportunity to get some supplies in. Please telephone the zoo before you visit, to make sure we are open.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Putting the Art into Dartmoor

For those of you with an eye for art Dartmoor Zoo may be just the place. Following recent discussions with the well respected wildlife artist, Pip McGarry, we will be holding a wildlife art competition and exhibition here at the Zoo in May.

Pip McGarry, Chairman of the Marwell International Wildlife Art Society, describes himself as a self- taught artist but attributes his natural talent to his artistic family background. Working mainly in oils, his originals are extremely popular. His success has enabled him to raise thousands of pounds for a variety of conservation projects including the Dambari Field Research Station for Black Rhinos in Zimbabwe, the Epulu Okapi Game Reserve Appeal in Zaire, and Save the Tiger. He has hosted several art exhibitions across the country and is keen to make use of the excellent facilities here at DZP.

The competition will cover five categories; World Mammals, Birds, British Wildlife, Animals in Action and All Other Wildlife. Pip, who has also judged the BBC Wildlife Art Competition, will head a panel of three judges for the competition which will be open to anyone over 17 years of age.

Entry deadline is the 8th May and artists’ submissions must be delivered to the zoo on Sunday 23rd May. The top 50 pictures will be chosen and exhibited at DZP for a private viewing on Friday 28th May. The exhibition will then be open to the public on the 29th May for 7 days during which visitors will have the opportunity to purchase an original work for themselves.

We intend this to be the first of many exhibitions which will include photographic and sculptural works. The zoo is the perfect setting for such events, and Pip’s track record as an artist and event organiser make this one a must-see. Works from Pip’s previous exhibitions are rated among the best in the country.

If you feel inspired to take part why not use our animals as subjects? Our excellent open-front enclosures are ideal for anyone trying to capture images of wildlife at its best.

For competition entry details please contact George Hyde. For more information about Pip McGarry and a sample of his excellent work visit:

Friday, 1 January 2010

Christmas Trees Wanted!

If you are thinking of taking down your Christmas tree down in the next few days and taking it to the tip, please don't! We would be grateful for any trees as we can use these for enrichment in our animal enclosures. Thank you.