Keeper's diary - March 2009
As the days are getting longer we have more time to spend with the animals, and the opportunity to be a bit more creative in our work
As ZSL London Zoo is now on summer opening times, it means that as keepers we now have to work longer hours. People in other professions might view this as a bad thing, but as a zoo keeper it’s not all bad news as we now have the ability to do more with our days.
Over the winter months sometimes it feels like there is not enough time to do much more than feed, check the health of all our animals, clean enclosures, prepare food for the next day and then give everything a final evening feed before it is time for us to go home.
This is the basic routine of a standard day as a keeper on Mammals South, but we have other important roles which we are now enjoying the chance to spend more time doing.
Enriching the lives of all the species on section is very important as we don’t want our animals to get bored. Enrichment is carried out year round, but now we can take more time over it and also we can gauge what really works and what doesn’t.
Monkey using a puzzle feeder Monkeys are intelligent problem solvers, and benefit from having to spend time searching and foraging for food. Food is ideally hidden and spread around an enclosure to make monkeys have to work for their meals.
This provides them with some exercise and stimulates their natural behaviour. Enrichment devices such as puzzle feeders have also been made to help with this.
Ungulates, hoofed animals such as the Lowland Anoas and Bactrian camels are now also benefiting from weekly deliveries of fresh browse. As it is spring, there are a lot of new buds on the branches we are getting in, and the animals are enjoying eating these before proceeding to strip all the bark off.
Most of the bark is eaten off browses such as ash and willow. The process of removing and eating it can take quite a while, but both the anoas and the camels are more than happy just standing around all afternoon munching on it!
We have also had a swell of voluntary workers this month as a local Scout Group has helped us out by replacing the ground substrate in the Bearded pig’s paddock. As a result of high rainfall and the pigs being such an active species, the ground in their enclosure became very muddy over winter.
Thankfully the Scouts have helped us sort this out by removing all the mud and replacing it with a fresh covering of wood chips. This was a massive task, but the pigs couldn’t be happier with the results, and are now making the most of the fresh paddock as they are now able to walk through areas that used to be thick mud, but they really seem most happy when they nestle down in the wood chip for an afternoon snooze!
More next month.