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Can’t believe it’s over! You spend 9 months of the year preparing for a busy summer season and then in the blink of an eye, it’s gone! Summer 2018 has been another amazing season and as per usual, the zoo has kept us on her toes.
Followers of our Zoo News will remember the monthly updates on the progress of our Japanese red-crowned crane and the single egg which both parents were carefully guarding! Thankfully, on 4th July, we arrived in the morning to find a newly hatched little chick. To say we were all excited would be an understatement! The new arrival will join his or her parents as part of the European Endangered Species Programme.
For the summer months, the zookeepers made an extra effort to interact with visitors to the zoo. Teaching people about the animals we care for and more importantly, why we do it, is something we all love to do. Zoo-keeping is an unusual career of choice so we love taking the opportunity to explain to people a little bit more about the work that’s involved when caring for animals in captivity. People often look at a small felid on its own in an enclosure and wonder why it doesn’t have mate or think the space is too small. We always want to give an animal the maximum space it can have but there are so many other factors to consider. Complexity within an enclosure or habitat is just as important as the amount of space offered when considering an animal’s welfare. Does it mimic or replicate the animals’ natural habitat? Is it a static environment or are there changeable and varying features within it to help make the area a dynamic changing environment? Climbing frames offer the animals’ opportunities to explore their habitat and express natural behaviours but also adds to that animal’s usable space. So when you look at an enclosure or habitat in any zoo, look at it from a 3D perspective. For example, arboreal species don’t just use ground level but will climb, run, jump and swing from branches, trees or rocks of varying heights. Natural social groupings is another factor we must consider, questions we ask ourselves are, in the wild is this species primarily a solitary animal (only coming together to mate) or does the species live in a social group? We, as zookeepers, could talk all day about all the little things we do for the animals in our care and for those of you who we met over the last few months we sincerely hope you left the zoo in Tayto Park knowing a little more about the work we do and why we do it.
Spreading awareness about current conservation efforts is a priority for all good zoos. In July, the keepers teamed up with our Education Department to create fun activities for International Tiger Day. Tigers are of course an iconic species so every year we are delighted to focus on our two beautiful Amur tigers, Gara and Khan.
Earning Your Stripes: This was one of many tiger themed activities for International Tiger Day. Guests were encouraged to share their tiger knowledge by writing down a fact and attaching it to the tiger board.
If you missed our Tiger Day celebrations during your visit you might have seen some of our most recent arrivals, binturong and Golden jackals. We were excited to introduce our female Asian small clawed otters to our binturong and thankfully, things went swimmingly…literally!! Our otters just love their new habitat with a deeper and larger pool to allow them to porpoise through the water while our binturong have enjoyed hanging around (again literally) with their prehensile tail.
This is also a busy time of year as we start looking at the months ahead. Creating new developments within the zoo and redeveloping older areas is an exciting time. Best practice guidelines are continually being reviewed and updated which means that zoos often need to alter an animal’s habitat or even make a dietary change to ensure we maintain the highest standards of animal welfare. This also means that us, the zookeepers, also need to continual upskill and keep up to date with the latest zoo conservation, research and husbandry practices. We are very lucky that Tayto Park provides us with an excellent Continual Professional Development Programme which gives us the opportunities to attend zoo research conferences, enrichment workshops and Mammal Working Group Conferences for example, but also to further our academic knowledge by completing Diplomas such as the Management of Zoo & Aquarium Animals offered by Sparsholt College in Hampshire, England.
September is fast approaching and we’ll be off to a busy start with International Vulture Awareness Day, on September 1st.
Aisling (Head Keeper)