When animal enrichment is the outcome, our Auckland Zoo whānau are ready and willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done – even when that job involves moving two incredibly large trees across the zoo in the name of giraffe enrichment!
Our African Savanna habitat holds a mix of species from ostrich, to zebra, and giraffe. Each animal has their own needs, and that extends to the way they eat. Zebra are ‘grazers’, often eating from the ground; ostriches are also mainly grazers, but occasionally do a bit of ‘browsing’ which means they are feeding on high-growing vegetation; and giraffe are of course, browsers.
In our African Savanna, we had a tree with a winching system on it, so our keepers can lift browse high into the tree and allow our giraffes to eat at height. Completing this project now gives our giraffes two additional trees to eat at, each with their own winching system, that allows our trees to yield more vegetation every day. The variety and option of where to eat is enriching for the giraffes, they can choose where their preference is, and have their own space if they choose to.
This was a complex job, involving months’ worth of pre-work – researching the feeding systems used at other zoos around the world; sourcing the trees with appropriate limbs for the feeders, and at the right height; testing different winching systems with our fabricator/welder Imeraan; locating where we can dig due to the volcanic rock formation we are built upon; coming up with a manhole solution to change trees out as needed; actually getting the trees through the zoo; finding truck drivers with the skills to navigate the zoo's walkways, some of which are narrower than usual due to our South East Asia project; and coordinating with other construction work and the ungulates team as animals need to be behind the scenes for the work to be done.
This was a massive feat to achieve, involving collaboration between multiple teams through the zoo to achieve the best outcome. Tim Sherring, Senior Project Manager at Auckland Zoo, led this project, and despite all the difficulties and challenges, is happy he can contribute to enriching the lives of giraffes here at the zoo, which enables us to support the Giraffe Conservation Foundation helping stabilise giraffe populations in the wild.
“I never thought I’d be involved with giraffe feeders, ever, in my whole work career. I’m so pleased I can be,” Tim said.