Keeping Tiger Meal Times Delicious and Enriching
Meal times have become even more interesting for one of Melbourne Zoo's most popular residents.
Zoo keepers have installed a feeding zip line for Indrah the Sumatran tiger as part of the Zoo's animal enrichment program. The zip line is suspended high above Indrah's habitat, and gives her the chance to leap into the air to grab her favourite food or treats.
Zoos Victoria's Animal Welfare Specialist Dr Hannah Larsen says the zip line allows Indrah to explore her environment in a new way and develop her problem-solving skills.
“The zip line gives Indrah the opportunity to use her mind to figure out how to get whatever is hanging on the zip line, but also her physical strength to be able to reach what is hanging," Dr Larsen said.
“Every day animals in the wild will come across different challenges in their environments where they need to use their minds to problem-solve. That is what we are trying to replicate here in the Zoo in a safe setting for Indrah to come across some really interesting challenges that we know are going to be rewarding for her."
The zip line can be operated in a variety of ways, and will only be used occasionally to keep it interesting and enriching for Indrah.
“Indrah always has the choice about whether or not she is going to engage with the zip line," Dr Larsen said. "She is provided with food and enrichment outside of this too. It is totally up to her as to whether or not she wants to engage."
“Enrichment programs are just one part of how we care for animal welfare here at Melbourne Zoo," Dr Larsen said. "The programs let us give animals of all shapes and sizes behavioural and cognitive challenges to keep them stimulated throughout the day.”
Sumatran Tigers are classified as Critically Endangered in the wild by the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List, with just several hundred remaining in the wild. Habitat destruction through the clearing of rainforests for palm oil plantations is one of the biggest threats Sumatran Tigers face.
Zoos Victoria’s Don’t Palm Us Off initiative has been calling for clearer labelling of palm oil on products to try to reduce the impact of unsustainable palm oil operations. For more information and to get involved in the campaign, Tiger lovers can visit https://www.zoo.org.au/dont-palm-us-off/