Keeper's Diary - September 2008
Starting this month, I have been asked to keep the monthly keeper's diary - writing about the work of a zookeeper at ZSL London Zoo.
Through writing this diary, I hope I am able to let readers know about all aspects of the role of a zookeeper at ZSL, and what it is like working on a large and diverse section like Mammals South. I hope the diary remains as interesting and entertaining as Ollie has made it over the last few years!
This month has been particularly busy on Mammals South as we have just opened ‘Outback’, our new exhibit . Outback is an enclosure set up to look like the Australian outback environment, and is now home to wallabies and emus. It is a re-development of the old Mappin terraces, which over the years has been an enclosure for various species of bear as well as many types of wild sheep and goats.
We currently house 24 wallabies and four emus on Outback. Our wallabies are a sub-species of the red-necked wallaby known as Bennett’s wallabies, which originate from Tasmania. Ours however have not travelled quite so far as they have all come from ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, our sister zoo in Bedfordshire.
I was lucky enough to be one of the keepers that went up to ZSL Whipsnade Zoo to collect our new animals. As wallabies are one of the free roaming species there, the zoo’s keepers had already done the hardest part of the job for us, managing to corral them all into a small enclosure, so all we had to do was jump in and catch them up! Then we just had to make the short trip back down the M1 to London and set them loose in their new home.
Emus are the largest birds found in Australia and these flightless giants of the bird world can weigh up to 60 kilograms and are the second tallest living birds reaching heights of up to 2 metres.
Our four emus arrived about a week after the wallabies and they were initially very keen to make friends with their new housemates, chasing them all about the enclosure. Luckily after a few hours’ things settled down and as the emus got bored the wallabies got a chance to relax.
Since the opening of Outback everything has gone a lot more smoothly than expected for a mixed species exhibit. While the wallabies are slowly becoming more confident coming into close contact with emus and us keepers, the emus are becoming real characters.
They show great interest in us keepers when we are cleaning their home, and they have even taken to going for occasional swims in the pool at the front of the enclosure. We have been keeping all the animals lives enriched by regularly supplying fresh browse and grass cuttings for them.
Outback looks set to continue becoming a very interesting exhibit to work on as we are already planning to add some waterfowl to the enclosure and hopefully the wallabies will be breeding soon and we will have a few joeys bouncing about!
More next month...