Taronga’s Backyard to Bush precinct plays home to some of our closest neighbours, and provides an opportunity for Taronga’s talented keepers to tell the zoo’s visitors about the resident animals. At Backyard to Bush, you’ll see energetic chickens darting around their enclosure, sleepy wombats in their wombat burrow, hungry goats devouring their vegetables, and you might even see our resident pigs showing off their tricks for our keepers!
Pigs are clever creatures, and our resident porcine playmates have been working trained by our keepers since they were little piglets! Star (a sow) and Max (a boisterous boar), participate in what the keepers call ‘enrichment’ activities, which are a fun way to keep these animals active whist giving them an opportunity to show off their intelligence. Like many pets, the pair recognises their own names!
Star and Max were born in 2007, and will be celebrating their fifth birthday later this year. The pigs have bonded with our keepers, and when they’re not enjoying some time in the mud they like going for walks around Backyard to Bush. They are extremely food-motivated so when it comes to meal-time, they’re on their best behaviour.
Food has been an important ingredient in training our pigs. In anticipation of a tasty treat, the pigs will sit, stay, and move to a different part of their enclosure at the keepers’ instruction. Training the pigs to sit was perhaps the biggest challenge, but because pigs are unable to look up, they learn to sit in order to see the food that the keepers hold above their heads.
Training Star and Max has been a very important step in improving animal husbandry practices, and has taught us alot about these intelligent animals!