Halloween Enrichment for Animals at Perth Zoo
The spookiest occasion of the year is also one of the most interesting for the animals at Perth Zoo, as they are treated to Halloween themed enrichment activities.
The Coati, meerkats and Tasmanian Devils woke to find devilish treats and ghoulish carved pumpkins peppering their exhibits.
Perth Zoo Keeper, Katie Snushall said: “By adding a Halloween twist to the Zoo’s regular enrichment program for the animals, we ensure that they have plenty of variety to engage their natural curiosity.”
“We always make sure that every day is a little different for our animals, with activities or items to keep them physically and mentally stimulated.”
The Zoo’s bachelor group of South American Coatis, all born at Melbourne Zoo, were curious to encounter bright orange pumpkins in their exhibit, for the very first time.
Using their long snouts, the five coatis inspected the unfamiliar scent of their pumpkins, with spooky faces carved in.
To get to their favourite foods hidden inside, the coatis used their powerful claws and teeth to tear open their Halloween surprise.
In the African Savannah, the group of Slender-tailed Meerkats, had a very different approach for inspecting the pumpkins placed in their home.
Working as a group, the little meerkats reached their arms and faces through the carvings of their festive fruit, with some even climbing inside to explore further and eat the meal worms, a favourite food that was concealed inside.
A haunting site was seen in the Zoo’s Australian Bushwalk with little papier-mache ghosts, filled with some tasty food, hovering from trees in the Tasmanian Devils’ exhibit.
“Ghosts may be scary to some people, but what frightens us even more is the conservation status of the endangered tassie devils,” Katie said.
The species continue to be threatened by a transmissible cancer called Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD).
Through a regional breeding program and ongoing research to find a cure for DFTD, Australian zoos, including Perth Zoo, and government departments are working together to ensure a future for this iconic Aussie animal.
“Pet owners can use similar techniques to provide some spooky enrichment and variety for their animals at home.”
To ensure that the 1400 animals which call Perth Zoo home are in optimum health, the Zoo has a comprehensive timetable of enrichment activities which is provided in a variety of ways:
Exhibit design: Provides a variety of substrates, levels, and complexities;
Olfactory: Different smells including natural predator or prey scents, in addition to novel smells or pheromone scents can be introduced to an animal exhibit to entice interest;
Auditory: Taped sounds or vocalizations can simulate things that an animal may hear in the wild;
Food related: This is a common form of enrichment. Keepers can present food in a variety of ways such as in a simple puzzle feeder, hidden throughout the enclosure, scattered about the enclosure, or buried in a substrate. To get the food, the animal must use natural foraging behaviours and/or mentally solve the puzzle.
Novel objects: Various items placed in an animal’s enclosure allow the animal to mimic behaviours exhibited in the wild or could challenge them. These items could include burlap bags, sheets, boomer balls, chew toys, or a hammock. Often, novel objects will be combined with food related enrichment. For example, bags may be filled with hay and treats and tied closed. The animal would then have to get into the bag and sort through the hay to get to the treats.