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April has come and gone which means Tayto Park is now in full swing for the next few months!
It’s been another busy few weeks for our keepers with two members of our bird of prey team traveling to London Zoo for a two-day workshop focusing on Birds of Prey in Demonstrations. Thanks to Tayto Parks Continuous Professional Development programme (CPD), Derek and Rob had an amazing two days and got the opportunity to attend various presentations given by leading bird of prey professionals. Topics covered included health and nutrition, animal welfare, husbandry and enrichment to name a few.
While daily husbandry such as cleaning and maintenance can take over the majority of a zookeepers day, here in the zoo we always find time to create new and exciting ways of enriching the lives and welfare of our animals. Ciara is one of our keepers who has a particularly keen interest in enrichment and has taken on the ambitious responsibility of establishing an Enrichment Committee.
Ciara, you’ve been part of the Tayto Park zoo-keeping team for 2 years now, congratulations! But when did you first realise that zoo-keeping was a profession you were interested in?
Thank you, it’s been a fast two years! I’ve loved every moment. Animals have been my main Love for as long as I can remember. I never had any doubts that my career would be based around them. My Dad organised work experience for me in our local vets when I was about fifteen but I quickly decided that wasn’t for me. I used to spend all my time watching the Animal Channel and I guess that’s when I started thinking about Zookeeping. So, when I was in sixth year I searched for courses that would help me realise that dream. I did Zoology in UCC, met some wonderful likeminded people and learnt a lot.
For anyone who doesn’t understand what enrichment is, how would you describe it to them?
Enrichment is a process used to encourage natural behaviours through the means of both natural and artificial methods. There are many forms of enrichment such as Sensory, Foods/Feeding, cognitive, behavioural/social and environmental. It can be complicated or simple and will vary depending on each species. Enrichment is important as it helps us to provide the best possible care for our animals both physically and mentally.
Establishing a new Enrichment Committee is a big commitment and is obviously something you’re passionate about. What enticed you to take on this role?
I spent a year volunteering at a Big Cat sanctuary in America and that is where I learnt all about enrichment. Ever since then it’s been something I am hugely passionate about. I want to provide the best care I can to the amazing animals I look after and Enrichment plays an important part in that. It was the Enrichment workshop I attended in Belfast Zoo that pushed me to create the committee here at Tayto Park. I realised that even though we were already doing a lot with enrichment there is potential to do even more. The committee is only new but I have high hopes for it both for animal welfare within the park and educating the public too.
If you want to meet up with Ciara and the rest of the zoo-keepers, Love Your Zoo week is taking place this month on the 25th of May. Make sure to stop by our Enrichment station where you can talk all things enrichment and even help them create puzzles for our mischievous monkeys.
In other news from the zoo, our very vocal pair of Japanese crane that arrived in February have started showing some very positive signs of breeding behaviour! Keepers have spotted the pair mating, with the female even beginning to make a nest. Coming to a new home can take time to settle in so keepers were unexpectedly surprised to see this behaviour so soon! The cranes will need a little help along the way though! To help with nesting we will provide them with additional natural items such as straw, twigs or leaves which will give the female choice as to what she would prefer to use - a mother knows best! J Apart from this however, we will leave the pair alone with little disturbance, especially if she lays an egg and starts to incubate.
We also received exciting news from the Goeldii EEP co-ordinator who has recommended that a female in France come join our male to form a breeding pair as part of EAZA’s European Endangered Species Programme. Goeldi’s are a small species of primate found in South American and have been here in the zoo since August 2015.
In conservation news, 2018 marks the 6th year of our involvement with Biodiversity Ireland’s Bumblebee and Butterfly Monitoring Scheme. From April to August a member of the Education team walks a pre-determined track within Tayto Park and identifies the species of bumblebee or butterfly they see. This is an amazing initiative and is part of the Citizen Science Project which means everyone can partake and get involved. If this is something you have an interest in and would like to play your role in monitoring the population of Ireland’s flora and fauna then please follow the link www.biodiversityireland.ie. You’ll also find more conservation news in Aprils Conservation & Research Newsletter live on our website at www.taytopark.ie/zoo/news.
That’s it for this month folks, see you back here in a month!
Aisling (Head Keeper)