Built Safe. Built Tough. Let's Play!

We were invited to spend the day visiting The Captive Management & Reintroduction Section at Taroona in Tasmania and discuss with the staff methods of enrichment in general and pertaining to these iconic animals in particular.

June 2009  raining nonstop for days , operating out of a couple of shipping containers on a property  shared by the Australian Antarctic division  was not ideal situation but adequate! [Until appropriate buildings are erected for their use].

To enable 14 people to be able to sit down and discuss what the program and the animals were all about and where aussiedog could offer some help, we moved into a large shed /laboratory? Apart from the rain on the roof and part of a decomposing whale in the back, the meeting went well, with much information flowing in either direction.

Time to meet the animals!

Tassie Devil enclosure

Several pens are set up to accommodate breeding pairs

Background and Assessment

It is always a challenge when we are requested to make a new device for an animal we have not previously dealt with and it involves a considerable amount of research as to how we can interest the animal into using the devise and make sure we can keep its interest for longer than a few minutes.

Consider if you will: The Tassie Devil is an animal that:

  • Doesn’t hunt
  • Has no interest in playing
  • Not particularly friendly!
  • Capable of chewing through bones and sinews
  • Full of bluff
  • Thinks and acts as if it is much bigger than it actually is!
  • All it seems to want out of life is to eat and procreate
  • Typical scavenger!!
  • Not a particularly attractive animal, but none the less an animal, so it deserves a certain amount of respect and help to survive under the duress this particular animal is facing at the present moment

The Test

After putting out food and general cleaning up around the pens, we drove up into the hills to see more devils in a quarantine station at Ferntree where one of the animals is diurnal so we would be able to see if the enrichment device actually worked.

Introducing the TD1 Tassie Devil Tube

TD1 Tassie Devil Tube

Introducing the TD1 Tassie Devil Tube

Armed with all available information we were able to construct a suitable devise to trial during our visit.

TD1 internal view showing captive ball in situ

TD1 internal view showing captive ball in situ

The idea is to place a captivated ball containing food within a heavy duty tube that the animal has to rotate to obtain the food; this can only be achieved by the animal partially entering the tube, by using its paws to rotate the ball to receive a food reward.

Does it work?

Preparing the ball by placing food inside

Preparing the ball by placing food inside [love the boots!]

Cedric’s First encounter with the TD1,he can smell the food inside but cannot gain access

Cedric’s First encounter with the TD1,he can smell the food inside but cannot gain access

After manoeuvring the tube around [weight 5.5 kg] he was able to see into it, his next step was to work out how to get to the food that he could obviously smell!

After manoeuvring the tube around [weight 5.5 kg] he was able to see into it, his next step was to work out how to get to the food that he could obviously smell!

Finally with his head and front leg inside the tube, we could hear the ball being rotated.

Finally with his head and front leg inside the tube, we could hear the ball being rotated.

Interestingly he backed out of the tube dragging the food particles out before consuming them!

Interestingly he backed out of the tube dragging the food particles out before consuming them!

After observing Cedric for a while it was decided that the tube length should be reduced to make it less of an effort for the animal to get the reward although he did not seem to be bothered.

The length of the tube has since been reduced by Jocelyn’s crew and more holes have been added to the ball to enable the animal to receive a reward faster.

Trial 2

On my return to the North Island [mainland to you and I! not to the Tassie folk!] I was requested by Tammika McIvor keeper to the Tassie devil program at Healesville to take the TD1 up for a work out with the devil’s up there. By this time we had made a simpler version, the TD2, much the same but with the ball captivated in the centre of the tube and each end remained open, although the results were the same as with Cedric in Tasmania. We left both devises for extended trials for a period.

ggressive tassie devil

This little guy was very aggressive, throwing the device all over to release the food

Tassie Devil putting head into the tube to obtain food

Finally settling down and putting his head into the tube to obtain the reward

BIGGER AND BETTER THINGS, from small things grow!

A few weeks after this exercise we were contacted by Anna Bennet from Monarto zoo in South Australia looking for enrichment for some Hyenas she has there! Well!!! Apart from size and colour, these animals are very similar in many ways to our little Tassie mates! After several emails about what we had decided to make for Anna’s Hyenas, we got the go ahead and a short time later sent a massive tube version of the TD2 to Monarto zoo.

Pair of Hyena with head in food tube

Peek- a-boo! Hyena style!! They can’t get enough!

 

Our thanks to:
Jocelyn – For being so persistent! [I told you I would get down to see you, but thanks for nagging anyway!]
Tammika – For further help on this project, all we have to do now is convince the powers that be!! [Loved the bit with the mobile phone down the drain!]
Anna – For having the vision to realise that it could be done and trusting us to come up with the answer

And to all the  other participants in Tassie
Hayley Ricardo
Jennifer Pelham
Martin Pepperday
Jacob Holdsworth
Clare Lawerence
Karen Macnab
Fiona Seward
Christie O’Halloran
Suzanne Bartlett
Kathy Smith

Article was written by Joe Parsons, Director of Aussie Dog Products, for the Australasian Society of Zoo Keeping Conference (ASZK) https://aszk.org.au

Resources:
Department of industries – http://dpipwe.tas.gov.au/conservation
Monarto Zoo, South Australia – https://www.monartozoo.com.au
TD1,Tassie Devil Tube – https://aussiedog.com.au/product/tassie-devil-food-tube-open/
TD2,Tassie Devil Tube – https://aussiedog.com.au/product/tassie-devil-food-tube-open/
Healesville Sanctuary ,Tassie Devil programme – https://www.zoo.org.au/healesville/animals/tasmanian-devil

Loading...