Posts Tagged With: Enrichment

Bamboo donation a welcome treat


Red river hog plays in enrichment-CBThree acres of overgrown bamboo is a good problem to have, as long as you’re a Dallas Zoo animal! Our red river hogs, primates and many other animals are now benefiting from Paula Hagan and George Muszejnski’s landscape problem at their Lake Tyler property.

The couple donated more than 3,000 feet of valuable timber bamboo to be used as animal enrichment.

Enrichment is anything that enhances animal behaviors or their natural environments, according to Dallas Zoo Enrichment Committee Chair Jenifer Joseph. This can include spreading an evening snack for a tiger all across the habitat or building complex scratching structures out of natural products for the hogs and giraffes.

Bamboo is especially useful for animal enrichment because of its versatility. Food is stuffed in it for animals to dig out (think nature’s Kong toy), and it’s made into fencing, scratchers and more for the animals.

IMG_7806 Bamboo 4H CS-resize“George and I had thought about trying to find a buyer for it, but we were also wondering if the Dallas Zoo would have any use for it,” said Hagan. “Then we visited the Zoo in May with our family and noticed bamboo fencing the same size as what we had cut down.”

Hagan and Muszejnski are happy to do a good deed for Hagan’s late grandmother, who was an animal lover and originally planted the bamboo to use as fishing rods.

Now in the hands of the Zoo, staff and volunteers are giving the bamboo a second life all across the Zoo’s 106 acres.

But what about enrichment for our larger-than-life animals? Easy. DSC_0165We love larger-than-life natural donations. The Zoo’s award-winning Giants of the Savanna exhibit received a root ball from a large tree removed from Highland Park. Our elephants treat large logs and tree roots like furniture, moving them all around the habitat.

Interested in helping with Dallas Zoo animal enrichment? Check out these two options:

  • E-mail if you have a very large quantity of tree limbs, root balls, logs, etc. that you would donate.
  • Visit the Local Oak restaurant in Oak Cliff this weekend (June 23-26). A portion of all food and beverage sales will be donated to the Zoo’s Enrichment Committee.
IMG_1051 IMG_7820 Bamboo 4H CS-resize
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Root Balls: An elephant delicacy


Each morning, our five female elephants enter the Giants of the Savanna and look for their breakfast. But recently, the “Golden Girls” discovered a new treat. Temple Emanu-El, a reform Jewish synagogue in Dallas, donated nine massive red oak root balls to us after they were excavated from a building project at the temple. The root balls were scattered throughout the habitat, used as enrichment to stimulate the elephants’ natural behaviors. It gives the girls something new to explore, and guests from the temple got to see the amusing sight of them ripping apart roots with their trunks.

The root balls are delivered to the Zoo.
The root balls are delivered to the Zoo.
Ashley Allen/Dallas Zoo
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Categories: Africa, Elephant, Enrichment, Mammals | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Naked sheep roaming at the Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo


With bikini season in full swing, our four resident sheep have shed a few pounds – 8 pounds of wool, to be exact.

Mary, Matha, Alice, and Herbert look a little lighter than usual in the Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo farmyard. To keep them cool and comfortable during warmer months and to prevent their hair from covering their eyes, they are carefully sheared twice a year. Summer temperatures have been known to get as high as 110 degrees in Dallas, and that’s too warm if you’re wearing a wool coat.

But it’s not as easy as getting a haircut. Each sheep was bathed with a special lanolin shampoo a day before so its thick wool could dry completely before shearing. With the help of our Junior Zookeepers, all of the dirt, pine shavings, and hay that had hibernated into their wool was removed. The next day, one by one, the sheep were brought into the barn for a gentle trimming with electric clippers. Unlike commercial farms, where shearing is done quickly, our staff takes their time to ensure that it’s a good experience for the animals.

Ours also don’t have as much wool as other species of sheep, because they’re one of the smallest breeds, often called miniatures. Known as Babydoll Southdown sheep, they’re one of the oldest English breeds, originating in the South Down hills of Sussex County, England. And they produce some of the best wool — their fleece is so fine, it’s put into the class of cashmere.

Of course, we never want to see anything go to waste. “We give the wool to other animals in the Zoo as part of enrichment,” zookeeper Sarah Brys said. “They can smell it, play with it, just get a sense of another animal’s coat.”

Sheep Mary relaxes after her shearing; Alice waits for her turn.
Sheep Mary relaxes after her shearing; Alice waits for her turn.
Dallas Zoo/Ashley Allen
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Categories: Children's Zoo (Lacerte Family), Enrichment, Exhibits and Experiences, Mammals, Volunteers, Zookeepers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Digging for breakfast: It’s a hog thing


A few times a month in the Giants of the Savanna habitat, you’ll see our four resident hogs with their bottoms up in the air, tails wagging as they shovel dirt with their tusks and noses.

It takes a lot of arm strength and sweat for keeper Christina Eastwood to cut foot-deep holes in the Texas clay for warthogs and red river hogs in their Giants of the Savanna habitats.
It takes a lot of arm strength and sweat for keeper Christina Eastwood to cut foot-deep holes in the Texas clay for warthogs and red river hogs in their Giants of the Savanna habitats.
Dallas Zoo/Cathy Burkey
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Hank and Riley, our red river hogs, and Marge and Akoko, our warthogs, dig deep into the ground searching for their breakfast. To keep the hogs enriched, their keepers like to make them work to find their food, just as they would in the wild.A hog’s most natural behavior, when it comes to foraging, is to smell for their food in the ground and dig for it, searching for things like sweet potatoes and tree roots. It’s common for them to dig a few feet down to find their next meal.However, hiding food for some of our animals isn’t as easy as you may think. Armed with a posthole digger, mammal keeper Christina Eastwood gets quite the arm workout plowing through the tough Texas clay. Each time, she creates six holes in the red river hog habitat and another six for the warthogs.

After all the holes are dug, she drops in their food — a combination of pelleted grain and a variety of produce. “These guys prefer to work for their food,” Eastwood said. “Our No. 1 goal is to try and elicit natural behaviors. If these guys were in the wild, they’d spend the majority of their day foraging, when they’re not sleeping.”

The holes are then covered up and the hogs are let in. They usually begin sniffing for their normal scattered food on the ground. When that’s nowhere to be found, Eastwood says they know it’s a “challenging day.” With their incredible sense of smell, the hogs quickly find the holes and begin digging. They kneel down, fold their ankles under, and use their snouts as shovels.

Even after they’ve found all the food, they’ll go back to every hole to double-check that nothing was left behind. “Even a week later, Riley will keep checking the holes, thinking maybe food magically appeared or maybe she left one little piece behind,” Eastwood said with a laugh.

And as much as we want our hogs to stay enriched and active, we also want our guests to experience one of their natural behaviors. So come early on your next visit to the Zoo and you just may see those bottoms up in the air, digging for breakfast.

Check out this video to see how keepers challenge our warthogs and red river hogs to forage for their food.

Categories: Africa, Enrichment, Exhibits and Experiences, Mammals, Nutrition, Zookeepers | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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