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Werribee Open Range Zoo

Sugar gliders happy participants in their own healthcare

15 January 2019

In the low red light of Werribee Open Range Zoo’s nocturnal animal house, something special is happening with four furry female Sugar Gliders.

The usually shy native Australian animals are being trained to participate in their own healthcare, voluntarily emerging from nest boxes to allow keepers to check their body condition, and even jumping on scales for their regular weighing.

At an adorable 110 grams, the mammals are a tiny part of the bright future of animal healthcare at Zoos Victoria that allows keepers to monitor and treat animals big and small with less stress for all involved.

Werribee Open Range Zoo Keeper Alison Edwards, who works with the Sugar Gliders daily, said this type of proactive animal training gives the typically timid creatures the option of participating in their care.

“Not having to capture the animals means their health checks become a lot less stressful for them,” she said. “It also builds the animals’ confidence and resilience when they have more choice.”

During the training, Ms Edwards encourages the Sugar Gliders to step onto the scales using a tube full of nectar, then removes the incentive so the animals can be weighed and visually checked.

“The girls are responding really well to the training,” Ms Edwards said.

The Sugar Glider is threatened by clearing of its native woodland habitat by urban and agricultural development, and predation by introduced predators including cats and foxes.

Zoos Victoria and RSPCA Victoria’s Safe Cat, Safe Wildlife campaign provides cat owners with advice and support to help keep their cat in the home environment, which is better for cats and better for local wildlife like these adorable Sugar Gliders.

Visit www.safecat.org.au for more information.