Excitement bubbles up at Melbourne Zoo seal pool

10 September 2019

Melbourne Zoo's seals have been enjoying a new form of enrichment, thanks to a bubble curtain installed in their pool.

The curtain works from a perforated tube installed at the bottom of the seals’ main pool at the Zoo's Wild Sea exhibit. When a blower is switched on bubbles begin and the Zoo's five seals come back into the pool to explore and play.

Nine-month-old Australian Fur Seal pup Bella was among the first of the seals to engage with the new entertainment, taking great delight in swimming alongside and through the bubble curtain.

Wild Sea keeper Jose Gomes said the bubble curtain is the latest example of enrichment activities on offer for animals of all shapes and sizes right across Melbourne Zoo.

"We were after an innovative idea for enriching our seals," he said. "We were specifically after something that would work from the bottom up, not from the surface.

"It is something new and it possibly generates some interesting sensations in their fur and on their face. The combination of those things probably makes it interesting for them.

"Enrichment is very important because we want to offer our animals lots of opportunities to engage with different behaviours. We really want to offer them something slightly different every day."

"It has been pretty amazing to have the opportunity to create this enrichment. We are really, really happy with how it played out. I think it is a big win."

Mr Gomes says the bubble curtain will be used from time-to-time as part of the seals' enrichment program.

"Enrichment is very important because we want to offer our animals lots of opportunities to engage with different behaviours. We really want to offer them something slightly different every day."

As well as being great enrichment for Melbourne Zoo's seals, bubbles are at the centre of a Zoos Victoria conservation campaign that aims to reduce the harm caused to wildlife by outside balloons.

The Bubbles Not Balloons campaign encourages wildlife lovers to blow bubbles at birthday parties and other celebrations instead of using balloons outside.

Marine mammals, such as seals and penguins, as well as bird species, including pelicans, are particularly at risk from balloons and other plastics that end up in oceans and waterways.

Anyone keen to join the Bubbles Not Balloons campaign can find out more information by visiting www.zoo.org.au/balloons

The Seal Bubble Curtain project was kindly funded by The Cochrane Family.