A day in the life of: a hoof stock keeper
Published: Nov 23, 2018This month we focus upon our hoof stock department - which some of you may be surprised to know that this department looks after some of the most dangerous animals we have here!
As we continue to delve deep into the animals of Newquay Zoo, this month we’re focusing on hoofstock. Yes, that’s right, this department looks after all hooved animals, for example our Chapman’s zebras, black wildebeest and our Brazilian tapirs. So here’s a roundup of what a day holds for these guys – and what may shock you is, this department holds some of the most dangerous animals with which our staff work!
Mornings for us begin at around 7:30am, it’s straight in and straight to the food room to grab veggies for breakfast rounds. As there are usually two hoofstock keepers working each day, one will be hosing down, feeding and checking in on animals in the Village Farm whilst the other will begin main rounds, starting with the tapirs, capybara, Philippine spotted deer and Visayan warty pigs; feeding and checking to make sure all are happy and healthy.
As well as their normal veggies, we give the animals browse. Browse means the leaves, shoots and twigs of shrubs and trees used as food for animals. This is given to all zoo herbivores including the hoofstock section. We cultivate as many browse plants as we can on site. We can then use browse as and when needed without having to depend on other sources.
We finally head down to the African Savannah where our black wildebeest, zebras and nyala antelope live. It’s time to start the big job of cleaning the barn.
You may think this isn’t that glamourous or fun, but in fact it’s a great way to interact with the animals. Although the wildebeest and zebras aren’t the cute and cuddly types or the most affectionate in the animal kingdom, they each have their own little characters, which is great to see. However, they are dangerous animals to work with - the wildebeest has extremely sharp horns and a zebra can break a lion’s jaw with a kick! It’s safe to say we are extremely careful around these guys.
Once we have mucked out the old and refreshed with the new, it’s time for us to have a well-earned cuppa.
After first break:
I may be biased, but this is definitely my favourite time of the day as we head over to the tapir paddock to see Johnson (the capybara) and Al, Emily and little Matilda (the tapirs). We recently filmed them for an episode of Keeping up with the Keeper, which you can see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjjBDtodXHg&t=30s
So, of course before we get to the nitty-gritty of cleaning their enclosure we indulge in some tapir tickles as Al and Matilda especially love the attention!
We change and refresh their bedding and drinking water, plus hose down their outdoor area every day to keep their enclosure in tip-top condition. After we’ve cleaned down the tapir/ capybara enclosure we do the same for our drove of Critically Endangered Visayan warty pigs and Philippine spotted deer.
Now that we’ve been fed, I think that it’s time we head back around for the lunch time rounds as we don’t want any hungry animals. We also take this time to carry out diet prep for the following day as this can be a time-consuming job – so we like to get ahead of the game.
We carry out enrichment every day to stimulate natural behaviours and provide mental and physical exercise. Enrichment can take many forms, including behavioural, environmental, sensory and manipulative. Examples of previous enrichment we have given hoofstock animals include ice lollies, stuffed pumpkins and boxes filled with their favourite treats to find.
We also take time in the afternoon to carry out maintenance on enclosures ensuring they are in tip top condition for the animals.
After our final cuppa of the day it’s time to get all of the animals sorted for the evening. This includes final checks to make sure they are all OK, final feeding rounds and any other bits and bobs of cleaning that’s left down at the field. And that’s it! Just time to fill out our diaries for the day, then we head on home. See you tomorrow!Â