On behalf of the zookeeping staff at Southwick’s Zoo, we’d like to thank everyone for a great summer. The weather was very good and we have been very busy. Thank you to the folks who have donated items for the animals, we truly appreciate it as you can see from some of the pictures of the chimpanzees, all the spare towels, bedding and t-shirts go to good use! We have completed the cotton top tamarin exhibit and are working on a new wolf’s guenon exhibit (they are in a temporary exhibit at this time) and we can’t wait until completion so these amazing primates will have lots of space to live and play! We also wanted to remind everyone that it is rut season for the deer and elk. This means that we are separating out the big, dominant males from the population so it will seem that there are less deer in the deer forest. Also at this time of year, the deer generally slow down or stop feeding in the afternoon so we suggest to visit the deer forest earlier in the day!
We recently celebrated the 5th birthday of Molly, a reticulated giraffe. We made her a “cake” of carrots, sweet potatoes, romaine lettuce and grain to celebrate her special day. She devoured the goodies, but we were able to share some with the rest of the giraffes! As you have probably seen, we have had two baby giraffes born here since the New Year. Daisy was born on Jan 11, 2014 and was very sick shortly after birth. However, with the help of Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Daisy is a healthy giraffe and stands at over 7 feet tall! Rocket was born on February 19, 2014 and was smaller than Daisy at birth, but we think he will grow big and strong. We are really excited about the babies and can’t wait to share them with our visitors in April. This has been a long winter for all of us and we are ready for Spring!
We have been getting a lot of questions about how the animals handle the colder/snowier than usual winter. Yes, the temperatures have been colder and we have seen a lot of snow but the zoo has been here for over 40 years and we have faced a lot of extreme weather from hurricanes and droughts to blizzards. Because we are in New England, we are prepared for the changes in the weather. Animals are amazingly adaptive as their survival instinct is very strong. We take every precaution and provide all that they would need to make their winter warm and cozy but sometimes even we are surprised how some of our animals choose to venture outside their warm dens to brave the winter…like the hyenas pictured! The biggest challenge for zookeepers is to keep the water supply from freezing by refreshing it often. Hydration is very important during the winter months for the animals as the air is much drier. We also make sure the animals get additional vitamins and proper nutrition to keep them strong and healthy during the winter that they may not need during the summer. However, if you’re a yak, you are in your element. They thrive in this weather and surprisingly so do the camels!
On Saturday January 11, 2014 we welcomed an amazing little female giraffe “Daisy” to the Southwick’s Zoo family. However, right off our veterinarian realized that Daisy needed some immediate attention. Her mother Dotty was not taking an interest in the 150 lb, 6 foot baby and she was getting lethargic and weak. He made the decision to take her to the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine where she would get the specialized care she needed. The first few days were very touch and go as she had a low white blood cell count and fighting an infection. We are happy to report that each day she is getting stronger and hopefully will be back with us soon.
Tanzania or Tanzie for short is a very active and rambunctious adolescent. Many times she is the ruler of the chimps as all the adults seem succumb to her whims; some might call her “fresh” :-). She has mommy, daddy and Auntie Jingles looking after her and of course keeping her entertained. We do help them by providing daily enrichment for all the chimpanzees. Many of our visitors have asked us “what is that in their habitat”…well we are constantly providing all forms of enrichment for them to explore, play with and destroy! A lot of times there will be treats inside the enrichment where you will see them use tools to forage them out. Tanzie is very active and you can see her swinging from the tree, doing flips and somersaults in the grass, climbing, spinning and jumping all over…even on top of the other chimps. We think her chimp family adores and spoils her! Of course, we do too!
You may have noticed our peacocks roaming around the zoo. Many of our guests have commented “Your Peacock escaped the zoo!” This is because they have free range on our entire zoo property including inside and outside the zoo! They especially love to posture and display in the zoo parking lot first thing in the morning right next to the entrance doors and you may find them many times there late afternoon as people leave for the day! Their plumage is full at this time of year and they will start to drop the feathers as the summer winds down. They display mainly for mating purposes but sometimes they will display to intimidate to appear bigger when startled. Our peacocks enjoy roosting on top of our entrance building…so look up when you enter. They love to give out a loud call early mornings and throughout the day. Our peacocks especially love windows, mirrors or shiny surfaces where they can see and peck at themselves! We do ask that you please do not chase them as this is their home and if you’re lucky you may see them walking right through the entrance building…they think they own the place!
Cheetahs have come to Southwick’s Zoo! Soon you will be able to meet Kate and Logan who are 1 1/2 yr old cheetahs who have come to us from another facility. We are very excited to have them here and we are in the process of building an exhibit for them to be ready soon. Cheetahs are amazing creatures and they are already here off exhibit waiting for their new home to be ready. They are very even tempered animals and they are built for strength, speed and agility….and are incredibly beautiful! We are so happy to have them as a new addition to the zoo!
We are very excited as Spring wraps up and Summer is just around the corner. The capybara, the largest rodent in the world, are fan favorites here at the zoo! They are supposed to be moving in with the the Brazilian Tapirs this summer….however, we are still not sure if we will be moving them. This is the first time other than the African Plains that we will be attempting to put two different species together in a habitat. We are a little hesitant as we don’t know how the Tapirs will react to the Capys! We’ll keep you updated! Thanks to everyone for their donations. We are still looking for towels and blankets (used is fine)!
There is a lot of activity at the zoo this week. We are opening on Saturday and it takes a zoo wide effort to make sure we are ready. As Zookeepers, it is our job to see to all the animal habitats, transfer animals from their winter quarters to their summer habitats while documenting and adjusting to their physical, behavioral, and social needs. Enrichment activities continue and we are always looking for some new ideas..we’d be happy to hear your enrichment suggestions. Some of our new animals have started to arrive and we are very excited. The Brazilian tapirs have arrived and they are currently adjusting to their new home. We are not sure if they will be on exhibit right away…we’ll keep you posted. Brazilian Tapirs are native to South America and a distant relative to the rhinocerous! They are very good at diving and swimming. They live along the water and will occasionally run into the water to evade predators. They can grow to 550 lbs and to around 6 feet in length! Here at Southwick’s Zoo the capybaras and tapirs will be co-existing in an exhibit like in their native habitat! Here is a sneak peek!