New Year at Taronga
Thursday 27th December 2012

Fireworks ring in the New Year with colourful and spectacular visual displays but are also accompanied with noise. 

Taronga Zoo’s close proximity to the firework festivities requires special attention to our animals’ reactions. Keepers casually observe the animals’ behaviour and have never detected a problem.  Whereas a couple animals show changes in behaviour this is also noted with natural occurrences such as thunderstorms.  One such animal is a dog.  Katharina Theodore, Backyard to Bush keeper who works with Taronga’s two sheep dogs, is leading an upcoming project collecting cortisol levels in dogs to reveal what heightens their anxiety levels, e.g.: noises, noises over a certain level, lack of places to hide. 

In partnership with Taronga Western Plains Zoo’s Endocrinology Laboratory, Taronga Zoo Sydney will collect saliva and poo samples to gauge if variations occur with loud noises and use this data to systematically and empirically incorporate stress reducing activities into the dogs daily housekeeping and husbandry measures.  This approach can then be expanded to any of Taronga’s animals if stress related behaviour is ever noted.

- Dr. Vicki Melfi, Taronga Behavioural Biologist.