Puzzling feeder no match for stealthy Cheetah

01 February 2023

Cheetahs are widely known for being the fastest land animals on the planet, but Werribee Open Range Zoo’s Cheetah is proving that her mind is equally as sharp as her athletic prowess.

A new puzzle feeder – a large-hanging, swivelling and hollowed tube filled with meaty treats – is putting the stealthy big cat’s problem-solving skills to the test, encouraging her natural investigatory and predatory behaviours.


The challenge is being accepted with interest by Kulinda the Cheetah, who is using her excellent sense of smell as well as occasionally standing tall on her hind legs to investigate the puzzle. She then uses her furry paws and squeezes her face into its holes to dislodge her nutritious rewards.


Werribee Open Range Zoo African River Trail keeper Laura Hickleton said the puzzle feeder is designed to sharpen both the cheetah’s physical and cognitive skills.

“We specially designed it to encourage Kulinda to express her natural wild behaviours,” Ms Hickleton said.

Kulinda is a notoriously calm-natured, relaxed, and sedentary Cheetah and is often seen nonchalantly basking in hidden locations in her habitat. Ms Hickleton said the puzzle feeder is prompting some healthy additional physical activity.


“Traditionally, only moving things grab attention and excite Kulinda, but we’re observing that she’s been spending a long amount of time thinking very hard and working out how to complete this challenge, which is awesome to see,” Ms Hickleton said.


The Cheetah puzzle feeder is just one of a range of enrichment items provided daily to all animals at Werribee Open Range Zoo. Visitors may see Kulinda and other animals engaging with these experiences first-hand during a walk around the Zoo.


Cheetahs are native to Africa and Iran and are classified as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature – largely a result of habitat destruction due to urbanisation. There are an estimated 7000 remaining in the wild.


Zoos Victoria and Werribee Open Range Zoo visitors are reminded that all tickets must be pre-booked online at zoo.org.au.

 

Zoos Victoria Members no longer need to book but are required to scan their Membership card for entry.