Keeper's Diary - November 2008
Winter has arrived on Mammals South this month with the much talked about migration of our two Pygmy hippos, Thug and Nicola, over to their winter home in Zoo World.
After a long summer spent outdoors in their large paddock outside the Zoo World building, there comes a time when both Thug and Nicola refuse to go into their pool, as the water is just too cold at this time of year, and it also becomes more difficult for us keepers to coax them out of their dens in the morning!
This causes a problem for us, as the hippos need regular bathing water to stop their skin from becoming dry and cracking. Thankfully it is a problem easily solved as we actually have a heated indoor pool inside Zoo World. Dubbed the ‘Hippo hot tub’, this pool has a constant supply of warm water and the hippos absolutely love it.
When it came to walking the hippos across this month, we were doing things slightly differently to usual, as we have now decided to weigh them both during their moves between enclosures. This is something which will allow us to manage the hippo’s diet more effectively, and it also helps us to know if they are in good health.
After carefully setting up heavy duty weigh bars under a wooden board below the step into the indoor pool, the hippos casually stepped onto it during their leisurely walk inside, and we were lucky enough to get (hopefully accurate!) readings for both animals. The male, Thug weighed in at 360kg, while Nicola, the female, weighed 270kg.
Visitors can now find Thug and Nicky happily splashing around in their indoor pool, where they will stay until next spring when they will move back outside to enjoy the warmer weather.
Also this month I have been back to school!
As part of the job of a trainee keeper at ZSL, you are required to complete a 2 year college course, which is an Advanced National Certificate in the management of zoo animals, and I have spent some time away from the section this month as I have been on a residential week at college.
Most of the course involves studying and completing assignments in your own time, but the residential week is a mix of lectures and practical sessions, involving subjects such as Animal behaviour, nutrition, record keeping, anatomy and taxonomy.
As well as being a week of learning, it was also a good experience meeting other trainee keepers from other zoos in the UK.
More next month