Pumpkins keep the animals curious!

A rhino with a pumpkin.
A rhino with a pumpkin.

It’s been a very busy half term at Flamingo Land! Last week brought our Halloween extravaganza, with games and activities taking place all over the park and a spectacular fireworks display on the night itself. Our fancy dress competition was a great success and we saw some fantastic family efforts! The zoo’s Education Centre has been packed to the rafters with visitors helping us to make decorations and meeting our animals, but most popular of all has been the pumpkin carving – so popular, in fact, that we ran out of pumpkins not once, but twice! Although many decided to take their creations home with them, others left theirs behind to serve as puzzling treats for our animals.

In case you missed our column last week, this is a technique known as enrichment, intended to keep our animals both physically and mentally active. This is especially important at this time of year, since the cold weather drawing in means many species will start to become less active over the winter months. Some of them have taken to our pumpkins more than others, with our giraffes being particularly engaged. But since giraffes are known to eat fruit in the wild, they may have seen them as less of a puzzle and more as a free meal! Our two young white rhinos, who are pure grazers, were somewhat less enthused, having a bit of a sniff but then abandoning them in their paddock. Our lemur troop, however, not only have fruit as a significant part of their diet but are also fairly intelligent – so they spent more time puzzling over the mysterious-yet-tasty orange intruders than anyone else!

It would be unfair if our herbivores had all the fun, so of course something had to be prepared for our meat-eaters too!

Our Keeper Academy students, who have been here for the week learning about the practical and theoretical sides to zookeeping, prepared straw-filled hessian sacks with two intriguing fillings for our African lion pride. One was soaked with blood (just a by-product of food preparation, don’t worry!), and the other was filled with scraps of meat. The students then observed which sack the lions preferred, generating useful data which will help us to determine how best to keep our animals occupied.