Carmen the Cockatoo 

Creature Feature, Uncategorized

Meet Carmen! This happy girl is a Moluccan, or Salmon-crested, Cockatoo. Native to Indonesia and Australia, they can live into their 70s, so Carmen is still young at 21 years of age.

Cockatoos have incredibly loud voices, and Carmen definitely uses hers! She enjoys chatting to her keepers, though her ‘talking’ is not quite what you would think; although cockatoos can say words, they are only mimicked sounds rather than words with meaning for them. Carmen enjoys announcing that she is a ‘pretty girl’ to anyone that will listen!

 

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Carmen with keeper Tim – photo courtesy of Tim Dirksen

They live on a diet of fruit, nuts and seeds – cashews are Carmen’s favorite treat! They have terrifically strong beaks designed to crack open nuts or get through tough foods. They use these picks to pick things up and play as well – Carmen LOVES using hers to shred cardboard. “That’s her favorite activity,” says keeper Tim Dirksen. As her primary trainer, Tim spends time with Carmen for her training and enrichment – socialising her and making sure she’s healthy and happy. She can be very picky about who she works with – not every keeper makes into her good graces. Tim, however, is a firm favourite!

Play time for Carmen! - photo courtesy of Tim Dirksen

Play time for Carmen! – photo courtesy of Tim Dirksen

Since cockatoos are very intelligent, they need a lot of attention or they become easily bored. Carmen gets lots of love, toys, and fun things in her day to keep her occupied. “She particularly loves it when people speak or sing in Spanish to her,” Tim tells us.

Carmen lives in the aviary section of the Wildlife Safari Village – come and meet her in person!

Enrichment – Making Life Fun!

Behind the Scenes, Carnivores

The primary job of keepers at Wildlife Safari is to ensure that all of our animals are happy and healthy. This requires a little extra effort on the part of the keepers. The key is to give the animals new things to interact with every single day. The public helps with this because every car that comes through the drive through gives the animals something new to look at and to smell. The animals can interact with the cars, or not, as they choose. They can run away, they can hide, they can passively watch the car pass, or they can investigate.

Even tigers like to sit in boxes. Photo courtesy of Mikaely Riley.

Even tigers like to sit in boxes. Photo courtesy of Mikaely Riley.

For animals that are in smaller spaces, keepers also provide daily enrichment, something to make the animal think “What is that?!” Enrichment comes in a huge variety of forms and allows keepers to show off their creative sides. It is important for enrichment to excite one of the senses, whether it be sight, touch, taste, sound, or smell. The best forms of enrichment cover multiple senses at once and make the animal think.

Brown Bears playing with a firehose ball. Photo courtesy of Melissa Fox.

Brown Bears playing with a firehose ball. Photo courtesy of Melissa Fox.

Tactile Enrichment

This may be the simplest form of enrichment because it is just giving the animal something to play with or touch. Each day, the lions and tigers get a variety of toys; both in their yards, where they spend the day, and in their huts, where they spend the nights. Generally, there is at least one toy in every room of a hut and those toys get moved around or swapped out with other toys every day. All of the animals have their favorite toys. The tigers love their big blue barrels. They chew on them, roll them around, and push them over.

If you throw a ball for Pancake, the cheetah, she will usually chase it and bat it around. Other tactile enrichment can be boxes, pumpkins, shredded newspaper, paper chains, and paper-mache. Really, the sky is the limit. But we do have to be careful of one thing – many of our animals like to chew their toys, so we have to make sure that there is nothing that could harm them if they were to eat it.

One of our male lions playing tug-o-war

One of our male lions playing tug-o-war

Sight enrichment

Sight enrichment involves giving the animal something new to see. Sometimes animals don’t play with the toys that they are given, sometimes they just look at them. But that is also a form of enrichment. Sight enrichment can also involve moving an animal to a new enclosure. Here, the animal has new neighbors to look at and sniff (doubling as scent enrichment) and a new area to explore. In the winter, when the brown bears are hibernating, we have the unique opportunity to bring cheetahs out into the bear enclosure. We simply close the gates and allow them to roam freely within the drive through bear enclosure. It gives them a little extra space to run around in, if they choose, but they can also look at animals they don’t get to see every day. It is like a field trip for them.

Cheetahs out on "Cheetah Watch" where they can explore cheetah Drive thru before the park opens

Cheetahs out on “Cheetah Watch” where they can explore cheetah Drive thru before the park opens – Photo courtesy of Sheila Swanson

Scent Enrichment

Scent enrichment can involve anything from spraying perfume on toys or trees to moving animals into different enclosures. Most of our animals mark trees or toys in their enclosure, so when a new animal is moved in or a toy is moved out and given to another animal, there is something new to smell.

We can also do things like putting elephant scat in with the carnivores. This enrichment is a favorite of the tiger girls, Riya and Kemala. They love to roll around in it and to play with it. But as always, safety first! In order to keep our animals safe and healthy, we make sure to freeze the scat for a couple of days to make sure there are no microbes in it that could make the tigers sick. Freezing the scat also adds to the enrichment, because the tigers have to work to break up the large scat into smaller pieces to play with!

Perfumes and spices are also usually a hit with the animals. We can put these out in the yards, in their huts, or on their toys.

One of our lions playing with a paper-mache ghost around Halloween. Photo courtesy of Caroline Harris.

One of our lions playing with a paper-mache ghost around Halloween. Photo courtesy of Caroline Harris.

Taste Enrichment

This form of enrichment is used for animals all across the park, from carnivores to giraffes, to emus. This form of enrichment includes giving the animal some type of food that they don’t get every day, or perhaps an extra snack. Examples of taste enrichment include tossing apples or lettuce to hoof stock in the drive through, hanging browse for the giraffes, and pouring protein drinks on toys for the lions and tigers. An important thing to remember here is that this enrichment is in addition to, not in replace of, their regular diets. Because many of our animals are highly food-motivated, we can also exercise their minds and make them work to get their food, as they would in the wild. We can put food into puzzle feeders or hang it from something. This requires the animal to think about how to get to the food. For example, we will put bear food into barrels. The barrels have holes that are big enough for the bears to reach and grab a snack, but it requires that the bear reach in and work for that food.

Bandit the American Badger enjoying a strawberry - his favorite!

Bandit the American Badger enjoying a strawberry – his favorite!

Sound enrichment

Sound enrichment is often easy to overlook, but is equally as important as other forms of enrichment. One of the simplest forms of sound enrichment is to play music. It could also be something like putting crinkly newspaper in a hut. We can also use toys for sound enrichment. The lions have a rattle, that was made by putting rocks in an enclosed PVC pipe. We recently gave the cheetah cubs a toy that squeaked. They loved it!

At Wildlife Safari, we keep an enrichment calendar to help us keep track of the forms of enrichment we have done recently. It helps to ensure that we are covering every sense and that we are providing the animals with unique forms of enrichment. Think that you have a great idea for animal enrichment? Tell us about it in the comments! We are always looking for new, creative enrichment ideas!

One of our young cheetahs running off with a new toy. Photo courtesy of Katie Low.

One of our young cheetahs running off with a new toy. Photo courtesy of Katie Low.

Room to Run

Behind the Scenes, Cheetahs, Uncategorized

Every morning, before the park is open to visitors, the cheetah keepers give their animals a chance to stretch their legs. The gates to Cheetah Drive-through are closed, and a different cheetah everyday is let out into that space to run around!

Khayam and Mchumba, our cheetah ambassadors relaxing in the cheetah drive-through – Photo courtesy of Sheila Swanson

The cheetahs love it, spending their time sniffing new things, exploring, and of course: finding a new spot to nap – they are cats after all! To make sure they stay safe, and keepers know where they are, a volunteer is always watching them from inside their vehicle.

Photo courtesy of Sheila Swanson

The reason we let out one cheetah, or a pair if they live together, is because cheetahs are normally solitary animals and may get upset with each other if they had to share a space.

Photo courtesy of Sheila Swanson

Our cheetahs are quite happy taking turns though, especially since winter brings yet another fun space to play in: the Brown Bear Drive-Through. Since our bears are hibernating inside, keepers are able to take cheetahs out there for the day.

Cheetahs stretching their legs – Photo courtesy of Sheila Swanson

Kitty kisses with Khayam and Mchumba – Photo courtesy of Sheila Swanson

Soon our cheetahs will have even more chances to run as a lure course is currently under construction. This will also allow visitors to see our cheetahs running as fast as they can!

Cuddle time with Khayam and Mchumba – Photo courtesy of Sheila Swanson

Extreme Makeover – Carnivore Edition

Behind the Scenes, Carnivores, Cheetahs, Uncategorized

Here at the Wildlife Safari, we are constantly working to enrich the lives of the animals under our care. Enrichment comes in many different forms, from spraying perfume on enclosure trees for scent enrichment to behavioral training, puzzle toys and climbing structures. Here is a look at some of the exciting new enclosure enrichment brought to you by the Carnivore Department of the Wildlife Safari.

 

Just Lion’ Around

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If you drive through the lion loop nowadays, you may see a lion or two lounging on their new favorite enclosure structure. This two tiered hammock, perfect for midday naps and relaxing, was built and designed by carnivore keepers Taylor and Jordan. While the first hammock tier is already complete and ready for lion enjoyment, the second tier is still in construction and will be added soon. Lions love their rest and sleep about 20 hours a day in the wild. Stop by the lion loop, near the beginning of our drive-through safari, and observe these sweet snoozers.

The hammock in the lion enclosure - newly renovated

The hammock in the lion enclosure – newly renovated

 

Bearobics

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American black bears survive in the wild by utilizing their hooked, non-retractable claws for tree climbing, reaching impressive heights with remarkable speed. Here in the carnivore department of the Wildlife Safari, we are very excited to have a new climbing structure for our oldest black bear, Donna. The structure, built by the dedicated maintenance staff of the Safari, took two weeks to complete, stands 14 feet high, and consists of over a dozen logs. Not only is the structure designed to help Donna practice those natural climbing abilities, it also provides another area for keepers to spread food enrichment that will be tricky and exciting for Donna to find. Keep climbing Donna!

 

New black bear climbing structure

New black bear climbing structure

 

Run Cheetah, Run!

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Cheetahs are the fastest land animal and can run rates of 70 miles per hour in pursuit of prey. Although their bodies are perfectly adapted for sprinting, it still takes time and practice to build up the muscle mass and technique for reaching these top speeds.

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Here at the Wildlife Safari, we are hoping to increase our cheetahs’ speeds through the introduction of a lure pulley system. The system works by attaching a large portion of meat onto a wire-pulley system that rapidly pulls the tempting treat across the ground over a 300 foot distance.

Cheetah chasing the bait on a lure

Cheetah chasing the bait on a lure

 

Cheetahs will chase the bait from one side of the pulley to the other, gradually developing their running skill to more closely mirror that of their wild cousins. Construction of the lure system is already underway, and the flat land that will serve as the running track can be seen to the right of the road near the exit of the Cheetah drive-through loop.

Treasured Tigers 

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Sumatran Tigers are the rarest subspecies of tiger, with only approximately 400 left in the world. With populations of these beautiful creatures shrinking, breeding the remaining Sumatran Tigers is essential to subspecies survival. Here at the Wildlife Safari, we are lucky to have two Sumatran sisters, Riya and Kemala. The Wildlife Safari, in collaboration with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan (SSP), is hoping to begin a Sumatran Tiger breeding program soon when a male Sumatran Tiger is available. More tigers means more space.

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Fundraising from the Ladies Auxiliary of Wildlife Safari’s (LAWS) 20th annual auction night this year will go toward a major enclosure upgrade for our girls and any future Safari tigers. In years passed, LAWS events have raised money to create major Safari projects such as the new veterinary clinic and elephant watering hole. This year, the auction was named, “Hold that Tiger” with an old Hollywood theme. Money raised over the course of the evening will go towards our Sumatran Tiger improvement project.

Stay tuned for more exciting innovations in our carnivore department!

Summer Swims

Behind the Scenes, Carnivores

This summer the tigers and lions had fun in the sun with sprinklers and pools! Although the lions were uncertain at first, they soon decided that sprinklers were a great way to beat the heat.

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Our lion family enjoying the sprinklers

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The lion pride’s first sprinkler playtime

The tigers took a while to venture into their pond this year, but they spent the last few weeks of summer making up for it!

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Tigers playing in their pond – photo courtesy of Jocelyn Krim

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Sumatran tiger sisters, Riya and Kemala, consider a swim on a hot day – photo courtesy of Jocelyn Krim

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Pool party! – photo courtesy of Jocelyn Krim

Keeping it Cool

Behind the Scenes, Carnivores, Cheetahs, Keeper Chats, Uncategorized

With the hot summer sun heating up our days, many of the animals at Wildlife Safari are getting ice treats!

Bandit enjoying an ice bath on a hot summers day

Bandit the American Badger enjoying an ice bath on a hot summers day

Pancake, Wildlife Safari's youngest cheetah, investigates some ice cubes

Pancake, Wildlife Safari’s youngest cheetah, investigates some ice cubes

Whether it’s ice to cool down or play with, or popsicle treats, its a good way for the animals to cool down and a more challenging way to get a snack!

Black bears enjoying a fruit popsicle!

Black bears enjoying a fruit popsicle!

 

Elephant Artists

Behind the Scenes, Elephants, Keeper Chats, Uncategorized
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Painting supplies at the elephant barn – photo courtesy of Tracy Moser

Elephants are known for their intelligence, but not everyone knows about their finesse as artists! At Wildlife Safari, our elephants paint as an enrichment activity – something fun for them to do – but it also allows people to take home a unique keepsake. Not everyone has a painting done by an elephant in their gallery!

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Keeper Courtney cleans up after a painting session – photo courtesy of Tracy Moser

The elephants paint on a lot of their encounters. It makes a good training exercise for them, and elephants are always happy for their snack rewards! “It’s fun for the elephants to do, but it’s also fun for the guests to watch,” says Tracy Moser, one of the Elephant Keepers at Wildlife Safari. “We work with the elephants to hold onto a sponge,” she explains. “We figured a sponge would work better than a paint brush since elephants have a lot of moisture in their nose which can drip down onto the canvas. While they hold onto the sponge, one of the staff will hold the canvas in front of them and they’ll stretch out their nose and paint however they like!”

Typically a painting will have three or four colors before it is pronounced complete. Then comes the clean up part of the session. “When they are done they will politely hand their sponge back to their trainer,” says Moser. Then it’s time for some trunk cleaning to get rid of any paint drips on the artist’s nose.

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Elephant painting session – photo courtesy of Tracy Moser

The elephant’s also make foot print paintings! For these the elephants take a more laid back approach, allowing their keepers to paint and stamp with their feet rather than compose the painting themselves. “George in particular has impressive feet since he is our largest elephant. so we do a lot of foot prints with him,” says Moser. “We do back and front foot pints, and what’s neat about that is they look completely different, because the shape is different.”

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Keeper Nick holds the canvas for an elephant painting session – photo courtesy of Tracy Moser

Every painting is different and is an expression of that elephant artist’s personality, whether they are slow and careful or fast and eccentric. “All of our elephants have a different style to their paintings, a different technique,” says Moser.

Just some paint, a sponge and an elephant and you end up with a master piece!

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The finished product! – photo courtesy of Tracy Moser

Bandit the Badger

Ambassador Days, Creature Feature

Normally found in either his den or his dig box, Bandit the American Badger has a pretty relaxed life here at Wildlife Safari. Aptly named, Bandit tends to steal people’s hearts with his wonderful personality and incredible good looks.

Bandit the American Badger

Bandit the American Badger

Like all badgers, Bandit has a passion for digging. Whether its in his dig box, or in the gardens while on a walk with his keepers, once he starts digging he won’t stop until he finds something interesting or has a big enough hole to lay down in. “Being a fossorial animal, he absolutely loves digging,” says Leila Goulet, Director of Education at Wildlife Safari, and one of Bandit’s keepers. Which leads us to another of Bandit’s passions: napping.

Bandit enjoying an ice bath on a hot summers day

Bandit enjoying an ice bath on a hot summers day

Badgers go into what we call a torpor during the winter months, which is a kind of hibernation. It isn’t as complete as other forms of hibernation, for example bears will not eat or go to the bathroom for their entire four months. Instead, badgers will choose to sleep through many of the colder days of winter, relying on their stores of fat built up in the summer months, but will get up and find food if the weather is mild enough.

Bandit in his den box

Bandit in his den box

Badgers are omnivores, which means they eat meat, vegetables and fruit. For their meat they will usually eat mice, small birds or chicks, eggs and insects. The rest of their food they will forage for and it will depend on what is growing in their area, changing seasonally. Bandit loves berries of any kind, the juicier the better! He is not, however, a fan of anything green. Whenever keepers try to see if broccoli or green beans are acceptable to him, they usually find them in his dig box the next day – apparently the offending vegetable must be put out of site. His attitude towards greens does change though if they are slathered in mashed raspberries!

Badgers are known for their aggression – they are solitary creatures and quite territorial. “Badgers are very spunky animals,” says Julianne Rose, Lead Educator at Wildlife Safari and one of Bandit’s keepers. “An American Badger will challenge large animals like bears that wander into their territory.” Bandit, however, has been hand raised. Orphaned when he was young and taken in by a family who passed him along to Wildlife Safari when he became too rambunctious. Since he is used to human contact and attention, rather than being aggressive, Bandit is actually quite affectionate towards his keepers. He is particularly fond of back scratches.

Bandit enjoying a cardboard box

Bandit enjoying a cardboard box

Bandit is trained to do a number of things that make it easier for his keepers to look after him, including going into his travel crate and stationing on a mat for his harness to be put on. Badgers are very clever creatures, which is helpful for foraging for food, and for learning things with training, but can lead to some stubbornness. If an animal is smart enough to work out how to do something, they are generally smart enough to work out how NOT to do it. “Bandit is extremely intelligent, which means that he also has the luxury of being extremely stubborn,” Goulet explains. “When we were teaching him how to go into his travel crate on his own, he realized what we were asking him to do and went inside. The only catch was that he didn’t want us to close the door, so he made sure that he stuck his back paw outside so that we wouldn’t be able to close it!”

One of the ways Bandit charms everyone he meets is through his playfulness. Although, this can hinder some of the duties his keepers need to complete. “One afternoon while I was cleaning his enclosure, he attempted to pull the broom out of my hands. When this failed, he ran to the dustpan, kicked everything out and sat on it,” says Rose.

Bandit helping his keepers clean his enclosure

Bandit “helping” his keepers clean his enclosure

While Bandit’s “help” with cleaning is just for his keepers to handle, you can see him displaying his digging skills in Safari Village! Check the sign on the dig box outside of the gift shop to see what time he’ll be arriving to play!

Bandit's dig box in Safari Village

Bandit’s dig box in Safari Village

Barrels of fun

Behind the Scenes, Carnivores, Uncategorized

Everyday the animals at wildlife Safari get something exciting that we call ‘enrichment’. This could be a toy, an exciting snack or an interesting smell, whatever will pique their interest so they can explore something new and fun each day. For our Sumatran Tiger girls, there’s nothing quite as exciting as their barrels! That’s right, their toy of choice is a large blue plastic barrel.

Sumatran tiger, Riya, investigates her dinner on her favorite barrel - photo courtesy of Taylor Sherrow

Sumatran tiger, Riya, investigates her dinner on her favorite barrel – photo courtesy of Taylor Sherrow

Large enough that the Tigers can’t crush them and hurt themselves, and strong enough to withstand the attention of two 200lb Tigers, these things make for hours of fun!

Barrel play time! - Photo courtesy of Taylor Sherrow

Barrel play time! – Photo courtesy of Taylor Sherrow

The girls love to bat them around, whack them, jump on them… No matter what else is happening, if they see a barrel, they have to investigate before they do anything else.

Painting with Paws

Behind the Scenes, Cheetahs, Uncategorized

All of the animals at the park have unique personalities, but some of them are artists as well! They may not be able to hold a brush, but they still find a way to make some pretty amazing paintings.

A painting done by Pancake and Dayo, our cheetah and dog ambassador pair - photo courtesy of Sadie Ryan

A painting done by Pancake and Dayo, our cheetah and dog ambassador pair – photo courtesy of Sadie Ryan

Our tigers and cheetahs paint by walking through a mat covered with paint and then onto a canvas.

Pancake doing a painting session - photo courtesy of Sadie Ryan

Pancake doing a painting session – photo courtesy of Sadie Ryan

Dayo, the dog paired with Pancake as an ambassador, doing a painting session - photo courtesy of Sadie Ryan

Dayo, the dog paired with Pancake as an ambassador, doing a painting session – photo courtesy of Sadie Ryan

Other animals take a more passive approach. The hippos only have to hold still while the keepers do all the work!

Padron the hippo making a 'hippo kiss' painting - photo courtesy of Allison Trout

Padron the hippo making a ‘hippo kiss’ painting – photo courtesy of Allison Trout

Although motivated by the keepers (also known as providers of snacks) and not by a need for artistic expression, the resulting paintings are amazing prints and splatters that are unique every time. If you are lucky you may even get a tail brush swipes!

An array of paintings done by Pancake and Dayo - photo courtesy of Sadie Ryan

An array of paintings done by Pancake and Dayo – photo courtesy of Sadie Ryan