Taronga Western Plains Zoo’s Meerkat troop were treated to a new toy recently, a specially made enrichment feeder that was constructed by volunteer Jess Barkley. The enrichment feeder was made up of a number of pipes with holes in them that moved when the Meerkats touched them. Keepers placed mealworms inside the pipes and then put it into the Meerkat exhibit. After a little bit of trial and error the Meerkats quickly worked out how to get the mealworms out and continued playing with the feeder until all the food was gone.
This is just one example of how keepers ensure the animals’ are active and healthy, keepers will also hide food, change feed times, provide toys and games as well as build new ‘furniture’ for climbing and play.
Some of these toys and enrichment items include piñatas filled with the animals’ favourite food, a bungee cord for the big cats to wrestle with, a puzzle ball that has the Elephants food hidden inside or ice blocks which have frozen food inside them such as pilchards and yabbies for the Otters. These novel objects keep the animals interested and active in their environment, sparking their curiosity and encourage them to investigate and explore for their food.