Monday 10 February 2003
Saying it with herbs at London Zoo
With Christmas and New Year over for another 12 months, there has been time for a quick respite before thoughts naturally turn to amour! Yes, it's that time of year when we start thinking about flowers, chocolates, perfume and how many mystery admirers we don't have lurking in the wings! Not wanting the big cats to miss out, keepers at London Zoo have been saying it with herbs!
As part of an ongoing behavioural enrichment programme to encourage a full range of natural behaviours, areas of the big cat enclosures are being scented with a variety of herbs and spices such as fennel, mint and thyme, as well as perfume and aftershave for the cats to rub up against. Smell is an important form of communication for cats, increasing stimulation and exploratory behaviour, especially amongst social cats such as Asian lions, which rub cheeks to transfer scent. Each of the cats also appears to have a favourite, Kyhber, the Persian leopard, prefers good old-fashioned rosemary or lavender, Raika, the female Sumatran tiger's scent of choice is 'Aramis 900' whilst Ruchi and Abi, the Asian lions, enjoy the classic, 'Old Spice'.
Malcolm Fitzpatrick, big cat expert at London Zoo said, "Enrichment is part of our daily animal husbandry. We are constantly providing the cats with items that encourage them to display a wide array of natural behaviours."
Unlike the rest of us, the big cats at London Zoo are still to be found reaping the benefits of Christmas, having just inherited the old Christmas trees from Santa's Grotto in the Children's Zoo. The old conifers are proving very popular for a good old cheek rub and the sharpening of claws!
Notes to editors
*Behavioural enrichment is achieved by adding to a captive animal's environment or by modifying that environment to stimulate behaviours resembling those of their wild counterparts. Enrichment aims to fulfil an animal's physical and physiological needs and encourage behaviour appropriate to a species. Categories of enrichment include the physical environment, social groupings, routine husbandry and sensory stimulation.
- Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity: our key role is the conservation of animals and their habitats. ZSL runs London Zoo and Whipsnade Wild Animal Park, carries out scientific research in the Institute of Zoology and is actively involved in field conservation in other countries worldwide.
For further information please contact the ZSL Press Office
Leana Rochman, Press Officer
Tel: 020 7449 6361
Out of office mobile: 07889 043843
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