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Werribee Open Range Zoo

Serval sisters leap into their 10th Birthday

21 December 2018

It was double the trouble at Werribee Open Range Zoo today, as Serval sisters Nanki and Morili leapt into their 10th birthday celebrations.

After completing a dazzling display of training exercises to encourage their natural behaviors, the siblings were treated to a birthday banquet.

Arriving at the zoo as three-month-old kittens, the African animals quickly won the hearts of visitors and zoo staff alike with their strong personalities, distinctive ears and long legs.

Zoo keeper Paul Rushworth said the cats’ monikers suit them to a tee: Nanki means ‘one’ or ‘undivided’, and Morili means ‘woman with a fiery tongue’.

“Even as a kitten, Nanki has always been the leader and the first to investigate,” he said. “And Morili is very vocal.”

Mr Rushworth is one of the keepers who implements the serval sisters’ training and enrichment programs, as well as the zoo’s popular Serval Encounter, which demonstrates their hunting skills and incredible agility.

“With training they work for their food, which allows them to display behaviours they would in the wild,” Mr Rushworth said. “We have a trusting relationship with our animals, but we don’t modify their natural behavior.”

Although Nanki and Morili are provided with a stimulating and diverse training program, their domesticated cousins are not always as lucky.

Zoos Victoria has partnered with RSPCA Victoria on “Safe Cat, Safe Wildlife”, a program that shares fun ideas to help pet cats thrive at home while protecting local wildlife. Visit safecat.org.au