Animal explorations on the new African Savanna
The opening of a new habitat is exciting, but it is also a lot of hard work. As the care team of many of the animals that are part of the new African Savanna, we have relied heavily on teamwork, communication and our knowledge of the animals. As an animal care professional, it’s very important to understand the animals’ natural behaviors, as well as their unique and individual behaviors. In doing so, you ensure the smoothest and safest introductions. The Savanna animals have done really well adjusting to their new habitat, even though some have adjusted faster than others.
When starting giraffe introductions, we wanted to introduce the younger two first. Our goal was to have Etana and Isooba comfortable in the new space before introducing the largest and oldest male, Abu. Abu did not have any reservations about the new space and stepped right out. After giving Abu his time to properly acclimate to the habitat, we were able to put all the giraffes out together. The giraffes are now loving the new space and have been using their time to investigate the new area, although the smallest giraffe, Isooba, is still a bit leery of the shade structures and will be seen kicking at them occasionally. During this entire process, we have been careful to consider the animals’ comfort levels. This is where knowing the animals really comes into play. We have had to read the animals’ subtle cues and adjust our plans as necessary. During introductions, if any of the giraffes seemed uncomfortable, we would pause and give them a break if needed. Doing the introductions in these short intervals has allowed us to work on more than one introduction at a time.
While the giraffes were given a break for the day, we would use the remainder of the day to work on zebra introductions. The zebras, Hannah and Shinda, were hesitant to go out at first. It took them an hour before they were brave enough to walk out into the new habitat. Once they were out, they were very interested and excited about the new space and were seen running around. However, a small amount of time was enough for them on their first day, and they only stayed out for about 30 minutes. Now, however, they love to go out in the new space and stay out for long periods of time grazing on the beautiful new grass in the Savanna.
Our next step in the introduction process was reintroducing the zebras to Abu. These introductions went great; Abu was very interested in the zebras and attempted to smell them a few times, but respected their space and the zebras were happy to give Abu his. The next step will be reintroducing the zebras to the two younger giraffes. Hopefully those introductions will go just as well.
And finally, the ostriches! The ostriches have definitely been the most challenging when it comes to introductions as they have been very hesitant to come out and investigate the new habitat. We are still working diligently with them to ensure that they adapt to their new surroundings and will hopefully have them out soon, too.
Keeper II, Mammals