In our efforts to keep the animals in our care both mentally and physically healthy, keepers must continually devise new ways to provide stimulation and enrichment. Primates, in particular, are exceptionally smart and keepers are constantly challenged to find items and activities to keep them interested and active.
Our bachelor gorilla group at Werribee Open Range Zoo receives a variety of food based enrichment each day. Keepers also conduct positive reinforcement training sessions on a daily basis to provide new challenges and also to help manage the health of each animal closely.
One activity that really appears to excite and stimulate the gorillas is the opportunity to finger paint. We have found that both of our younger males, Ganyeka and Yakini seem to get much enjoyment from painting on a canvas with a variety of colors. Keepers will present each gorilla with a thin canvas that has a number of different paint colors dotted on it. When given the verbal cue ‘paint’ each gorilla makes their own interpretation of art.
What fascinates us keepers is the different styles of painting for each gorilla. Yakini loves to run his fingers through the paint very quickly, with large strokes. It’s fantastic to see him so excited whilst painting. He even pleasure grumbles during the activity!! Ganyeka prefers to take his time with painting. If presented a canvas on his right side, he will always pick it up in his hand, then use the knuckles on his other hand to drag through the paint spots. He does this quite slowly and deliberately. If we present him with a canvas on his left side he will only place his fingers through the paint on the canvas. He also loves to taste each new color!!
It is so wonderful to watch our gorilla boys become so engaged and fascinated with the act of painting. We have even been able to sell some of their artwork to raise funds for anti-poaching patrols in Africa. How great to think that while our gorillas are exploring their creative side that they are also helping their cousins in the wild!
On a recent scientific field survey of Bokor National Park in Southwest Cambodia, I came across a fascinating little creature. Weighing only 7 grams, but able to kill and eat something bigger than itself, this voracious animal is a true hunter of the jungle!
This is a shrew, but not one we have seen before. In fact, this little creature is the first shrew caught on a scientific survey in Bokor National Park and doesn’t match any species descriptions from Cambodia or Southeast Asia! Could this be a new shrew?
Genetic testing should help us tease out who this may be. In the meantime, all of our shrews were happily released back to the wild, untamed and ready to hunt through the Cambodian night!
Zoos Victoria is helping both the community and wildlife though our capacity building and conservation project in Cambodia. We are working closely with our partners, Fauna & Flora International and the Cambodian Ministry of Environment.
Once we have a better idea of who is scurrying through the jungles, we will be better able to protect them for the future. Just another way we’re helping to Fight Extinction worldwide!
In our Zoopermarket you can scan products commonly found on supermarket shelves and see if they contain palm oil, and if so whether it is being produced sustainably. The clearing of rainforest in order to plant vast expanses of palm oil trees is the single largest threat to wildlife in South East Asia, including orang-utans and tigers.
Knowing what’s in your favourite products can be confusing, especially since Australia’s labelling laws allow palm oil to be labelled as ‘vegetable oil’. Palm oil is found in about 40% of the products on supermarket shelves. Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) is an alternative ingredient that is produced without harming local wildlife and also is beneficial to communities.
Visitors to our Orang-utan Sanctuary will now be able to scan selected products, see how they rate, and then email manufacturers accordingly, either to say ‘well done!’ or to ask for a change in palm oil policy. They can also check out our new keeper talk where our young male orang-utan Menyaru teaches us what products he chooses when shopping.
Imagine if we can get all food manufacturers to commit to only using CSPO? Then we can still enjoy our chips, ice creams and bikkies without indirectly harming our wild ginger cousins. Tim Tams may still be a guilty pleasure in other ways though…
We’ll have an online version of the Zoopermarket available by the end of May too that will be ‘mobile friendly’. Find out more here: www.zoo.org.au/palmoil
I was recently very lucky to work with Zoos Victoria’s partner, Fauna & Flora International, on our Capacity Building project in the Kingdom of Cambodia. In particular, I worked with an amazing team of researchers and rangers deep in the jungles of South West Cambodia, an area that has never been scientifically surveyed. Although we were conducting important research and conservation work for many wildlife species in the region, sometimes it’s helping an individual that becomes your most memorable experience.
While on a survey for endangered pileated gibbons, the team and I came across villagers illegally hunting in the National Park. Thankfully, our well-armed rangers were able to peacefully convince the villagers to empty their bags. There, underneath a mix of clothes, baskets and machetes, we found a frightened little endangered elongated land tortoise on his way to a cooking pot!
I named the tortoise Clancy, a good Aussie name (Clancy of the Cambodian overflow?). I checked Clancy for injuries, gave him food and water and started the long trek back to a safe location to release him. After a bruising and exhausting trek through the jungle (it is not easy with two hands on a tortoise, using your shins to brace against boulders!), we reached a safe location, where no one would hunt Clancy again.
One small step for a tortoise, one giant leap in the hearts of all who helped him! Just another way that Zoos Victoria, Fauna & Flora International and our Cambodian friends are helping the wildlife of this beautiful country.
No idea!…. but I’m taking this opportunity as a zoo keeper to introduce (what I believe) is one of the best species you will see in zoos around the world.
You may not have heard of them before, but Helmeted Guinea Fowl are full of personality and I could spend hours watching them. They typically form flocks of around 25, and walk long distances each day in search of food. Werribee Open Range Zoo has 15 Guinea fowl who roam freely around our Pula Reserve Walking Trail. These birds are full of energy and are constantly communicating with each via a series of clucks, squawks and loud calls. You might find them scratching through the garden beds or digging up a dust bath just metres from guests or chasing each other across one of the zoo’s lawns. They can fly for very short bursts to evade predators and are excellent at defending each other in their large flock.
Helmeted Guinea Fowl are found throughout Africa, mainly through the Sahara, but have also been introduced to other countries like Australia, France and Brazil. Flocks are kept on farms and provide excellent warning for snakes, cats and foxes with their loud vocalizations. Werribee Open Range Zoo has recently had two new, and very tiny, additions to the Guinea Fowl flock. Two chicks were born about a week ago and are protected wonderfully by their large family. Let’s hope the flock continues to breed successfully and our visitors can view this unique species in large numbers exploring our zoo grounds. So, when next you visit us, keep an eye out for these cool birds and I am positive they will provide you with loads of entertainment!
Our many visitors to Melbourne Zoo will be used to our beautiful Peafowl roaming around our zoo.
The males call and display, and the fluffy chicks can be seen scurrying after Mum through the gardens, but did you know there are different types of Peafowl? The most famous is the Indian (Blue) Peafowl from South Asia, but there are also Green Peafowl found from Burma to Java, and the Congo Peafowl found in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Zoos Victoria helps to protect the Congo and Green Peafowl by supporting research, rangers and education through our international partnerships with the Jane Goodall Institute (Democratic Republic of Congo) and Fauna and Flora International (Kingdom of Cambodia). Recently, I had the opportunity to work with researchers and rangers in the field in Cambodia where the team found signs of the endangered Green Peafowl!
The Green Peafowl is one of the longest birds in the world – the male is up to 3 metres long, including his tail feathers! Unfortunately, this stunning bird is endangered due to habitat destruction and hunting for food and its beautiful feathers. It is hoped that by learning more about its movements in the wild, we can protect it so future generations can see the beauty of all three amazing peafowls!