One of Flamingo Land’s tigers enjoyed an unusual treat last week when zebra was on the menu! Not the real thing though – this was a papier mache model filled with pieces of meat. The model zebra was the creation of Zoo Academy, a week-long summer school for 8-11 year olds. The Zoo Academy students created their zebra from cardboard boxes and papier mache; a real labour of love as no sticky tape, glue or staples could be used to hold the parts together because we wouldn’t want tigers eating any of those things!
The zebra was made as realisitic as possible with details such as a mane and ears and it was carefully painted using non-toxic paint. It took all week to complete and the students couldn’t wait to see what the tigers would make of it!
Bahwe, our male tiger, was the lucky recipient. We have two tigers at Flamingo Land, Bahwe and his mate Suriya. Both are young Sumatran tigers and they are intended to be a breeding pair, although due to their age (they are just old enough to breed) there haven’t been any cubs just yet. We didn’t want the two of them fighting over who got the zebra so the decision was taken to just give it to Bahwe, who tends to be a little more interested in his food then Suriya. Bahwe seemed a little uncertain when he was first let out into the enclosure where the zebra had been placed but he soon caught the scent of the chunks of meat hidden inside and started to investigate. After a few tentative pokes of the zebra with a paw to see what it would do, he realised it wasn’t going to move and attacked it properly, knocking it to the ground, jumping on it and ripping his way into the middle. Needless to say, the whole spectacle didn’t last very long!
Providing animals in zoos with an extra stimulus such as the model zebra is known as enrichment. It offers the animal something new and interesting to think about and encourages them to use their brains to consider how to get the hidden food and their muscles as they actually try to get the treat. It also gives them an extra opportunity to demonstrate natural behaviour such as stalking and pouncing. Other animals at Flamingo Land receive items of enrichment. Why not try and spot them next time you visit the zoo?