Dartmoor Zoo April Newsletter
Friday 28th April 2017 at 11:40am by Rachel Franklin
DZP newsletter. April issue.
This month I visited Highland Wildlife Park, the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s version of Whipsnade. They keep big animals there, but ones which are adapted to the cold, for it is a very cold place. Polar bears saunter around snowy hills and musk ox and bison loom up to the vehicle. My favourites amongst their collection, a breeding pair of wolverines, were nowhere to be seen. I’m always amazed they haven’t escaped. Perhaps they had. I went with keeper Alex to see their new facility for the incredibly rare and endangered Amur leopard. HWP hold a pair for off-show breeding, so that they don’t get too used to people, in order that their cubs, when weaned, can be taken to a reintroduction facility in Siberia. This is arguably one of the most important conservation projects in the entire world. Only four zoos in the UK have been selected to take part. And Dartmoor Zoo is one of them. The facility looked like something we could accomplish here in the next couple of years, as long as we begin planning now. Alex, who has done a Masters dissertation on the Amur Leopard but never actually seen one, was very excited. As we rounded the corner of the screened enclosure the first glimpse was fleeting, as Freddo, the enormous, long-limbed shaggy male, leapt out from cover and jumped at the fence. Conservation isn’t just about the charismatic big mammals, but they are very important in galvanising the public, and bringing hope to the next generation that it’s not all one way habitat destruction, and doom and gloom. I am definitely galvanised by the prospect of taking part in this project. Coming home to Dartmoor I am also reminded daily of the work which we still have to do on our existing enclosures, like getting power to the African house and the tapir house, which we will be able to achieve this year. Onwards and upwards.
We would like to welcome Megan and Alyiah to the research team this month. We are excited to be opening up some new projects looking at animal enrichment over the next few months, particularly looking at new ways to keep our otters entertained and stimulated. Keeping captive animals enriched is a critical part of animal welfare in zoos and it’s an exciting and constantly developing field of study. We are also deep into some exciting research looking at the interactions between members of our Iberian wolf pack so don’t be surprised if you see a few cameras at their enclosure fence so we can see what they get up to at night! We will have a student profile next month so you can hear about their studies straight from them.
At the end of February we were finally able to lift the restrictions that DEFRA had imposed regarding the Bird Flu outbreak. The restrictions were in place for approximately 3 months, and I am pleased to say that all the staff complied with our bio-security measures exceptionally well. Everyone understood the seriousness of the situation, and responded magnificently, with some even going as far as to bring in a change of clothing if they kept birds at home! We would also like to thank the visitors who weren’t able to access certain areas during the restrictions for their understanding and co-operation.
Our new Cheetah Tibo and Baro are now totally at home in their enclosure, and can often be seen on top of the mound checking out their surroundings. This behaviour is exactly what they would do in the wild, where they would find a high vantage point to look out for prey, or to spot any danger in the form of Lions or Hyenas. This is a good example of designing an enclosure to allow, and promote, natural behaviours in animals. Our partner charity Grow4Good will be sowing a wild seed mix in the enclosure in the near future, so expect to see a riot of colour in there over the next few months.
Discovery and Learning Team:
We held our first STEM careers event this month. It was a huge success with just over 150 students joining us throughout the day. We had stands from Plymouth University, Duchy College, City College Plymouth, The Navy, Army, Babcock, Women in STEM and the MET Office. Students were challenged to take part in lots of activities and most were booked into the ‘Wonder Workshops’ where they made animal manikins out of newspaper (you will be able to see them in the Wallace classroom) and little cars out of CDs which were used to race against poachers. A big thank you to all the companies that joined us for the event and to the schools that joined us throughout the day…we hope you enjoyed yourselves.
Over the past year Dartmoor Zoo and Paignton Zoo joined forces with one of the most prestigious names in academia, Cambridge University. Evidence-based practice has become a hot topic in many fields, as practitioners see the benefits of basing their decisions on good strong science. This new work represents a global first for zoo husbandry practices. Conservation Evidence has already compiled evidence for many aspects of conservation work, including birds, bats, amphibians and habitats such as forests (www.conservationevidence.com ). It’s hoped that extending the remit to captive animal management will benefit everyone from fieldworkers studying and conserving animals in the wild to keepers, vets and researchers working in zoos, aquariums and captive breeding centres.
The Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust and Dartmoor Zoological Park are the only zoological collections in the country involved in the work at this stage, although the aim is to bring in other zoos to champion new topics and to add to the Management of Captive Animals synopsis of evidence.
Restaurant & Events News:
Let’s start as we mean to go on, with March also looking to be a busy month!
March for the Catering, Retail & Events Department is a key time in the year to reflect on the operations thus far and preparing for the switch into Summer Operations.
With summer, comes a new Summer Menu…very exciting indeed as we consider the street food to go products, whilst keeping within our current ethical purchasing guidelines. Finger’s crossed the sun will come out to play as we preparations are underway for the Ice Cream kiosk renovations and new milkshake menu!
Let’s not forgot about our Gift Shop, as we are also expecting some great new product lines to merge with our existing stock.
And finally, the Events are also coming in thick and fast with a variety of different enquiries coming through. But at current, we are concentrating on our first ever Open Air Cinema which is looking to attract 350 attendees and our 3rd wedding of the year!
2017 is looking like a great year ahead already with visitor numbers on the rise and the development of the Events department. Our wedding theme and décor suppliers, Boutique Collection, are helping us put together a packaged Zoo Wedding and are currently in planning stages for a Wedding photoshoot and Winter Masquerade Ball!
Easter is only a few weeks away and all systems are go, with the help of the kind volunteers on Saturday 25th March who will be helping the Zoo look it’s very best for the peak season.
Spring is here and the wild flowers are popping!
Much development on the animal side for the Maintenance Crew this month - Raccoon Dogs’ new furniture bringing a three dimensional spin to a challenging enclosure; and improvements to the structure of cat houses and their facilities, and to the stand-off fences that keep our guests away from containment fences.
Our regular volunteers have also been in full effect, collecting animal feeds, decorating our Wedding Suite, and knocking many other tasks off the do-list. And one-day volunteers from City College did a sterling job sprucing the Otter enclosure in the rain: thanks guys!
We now have power points fitted at the Tennis Courts ahead of spring and summer events, hand-washing stations near places where guests and students can contact animals directly (Walk Through Enclosure, and Discovery and Learning Centre); and our tree surgery is up-to-date ahead of spring proper: dead wooding over paths, crown reductions and the felling of a couple of undesirable trees has taken place thanks to Orchard Tree Services: the east Devon family team who donate their time to help us out, thank you!!
Coming up will be a total overhaul for the Top Kiosk for the start of the season, more electrical improvements, and with help from the Royal Marines Ju Jitsu team, the installation of the huge donated platform into Chincha’s enclosure. Should be fun!
Key Dates for the Diary… Lion King Open Air Cinema 15th April 2017 Wedding Fair 11th June 2017
Hungry for knowledge
Zoos are amazing places where we get the unique opportunity to observe different animals - from the small and mild to the big and wild. However zoos aren’t just for observation but conservation, and education.
There is so much to learn and see, and a lot of what they do is aimed at young people, to inspire their choices into adult life. This goal is shared by City College Plymouth wishing to motivate young people and help them make decisions about their futures.
In light of this, the College is holding an Open Day to showcase the College’s wide range of career-focussed courses. Staff will be offering advice on full-time, part-time, access, university-level and Apprenticeships options.
Come along on Saturday 29 April 10.00am - 1.00pm at Kings Road. For more information go to cityplym.ac.uk/events or call 01752 305300.