Weigh in on Werribee Open Range Zoo’s Savannah

15 July 2022

The tallest birds on earth are joining forces with herds of antelope to form a fascinating partnership at Werribee Open Range Zoo.

Ostriches, Blackbuck and Lowland nyala are learning to step up to the plate – enabling keepers to obtain a voluntary recording of their weight within the vast expanses of the Zoo’s multi-hectare Savannah.

It’s all being made possible thanks to a clever combination of some dedicated weekly training sessions, new portable scales, and some tasty and nutritious food rewards.

Werribee Open Range Zoo Savannah keeper, Katie Jones, said the training initiative is helping to further enhance the Zoo’s healthcare initiatives, allowing for keepers and veterinarians to proactively keep track the wellbeing of many animals.

“The Ostriches are naturally very curious animals and are always interested in new and novel things,” Ms Jones said. “The Blackbuck and Lowland nyala tend to be a little more tentative, so it’s important to tailor our training approach to each species and individual animal to help build their confidence to step onto the scales, and also build trust with keepers.”

The training initiative is helping to further enhance the Zoo’s healthcare initiatives, allowing for keepers and veterinarians to proactively keep track the wellbeing of many animals.

Ms Jones said it has historically been a challenge to secure weight readings from animals that live in large herds, but keepers at Werribee Open Range Zoo are always thinking of new and innovative ideas.

“Gathering weights from animals equips keepers with information that can help to maintain a healthy body condition,” Ms Jones said. “It also allows us to see if there are any sudden deviations in weight that may indicate signs of underlying sickness or illness, which we can then proactively investigate and provide treatment for if required.”

Ms Jones says the Savannah weight training initiative is still a work in progress, but keepers are pleased with the strides and achievements made so far.

“We’re excited about how these animals are showing such a wonderful capacity to learn, and we hope to one day extend this to other animals on the Zoo’s Savannah.”

Werribee Open Range Zoo is home to a flock of eight Ostriches and herds of 30 Blackbuck and 13 Lowland nyala in its Woodlands habitat - one of multiple habitats that form part of the wider zoo Savannah. Visitors can see them on a savannah bus tour, which run throughout the day and are included in entry.

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