Green goodness gets Meerkat mob moving

22 December 2021

A favourite snack is ample reason to reach for the sky at Werribee Open Range Zoo, as its mob of Meerkats have been doing.

Zookeepers have created a new enrichment item to hang across the Meerkat habitat, which encourages the small mammals to use their bodies through the full range of motion and stimulates their problem-solving skills.

African River Trail keeper Danielle Ridgway said the purpose-made coconut bowls are filled with pear, insects and diced greens, which introduces new sights, scents and flavours for the mob, causing a flurry of investigatory and foraging behaviours.

“We ultimately want to encourage their natural foraging behaviours, which means they need to use their paws and claws to work for their favourite snack,” Ms Ridgway said.

“The Meerkats responded really well to the new enrichment and we can tell that by the amount of time they spent engaged with it.”

Providing experiences that an animal would likely encounter in their wild environment is extremely important when keepers design new enrichment items and experiences.

Meerkats spend a significant part of the day foraging for their food using their sensitive sense of smell. Extended mealtimes have further positive animal welfare benefits, too. When given the choice, most animals prefer to work for their food – a concept called contrafeeloading.

A range of enrichment items is provided daily to all animals at Werribee Open Range Zoo. Visitors may see the Meerkats engaging with their enrichment experiences first-hand through the viewing area at the Zoo’s Meerkat Bistro.