Werribee Zoo tortoises go gaga for greens

22 April 2021

Keepers at Werribee Open Range Zoo are taking advantage of their slowest residents’ unbe-leaf-able love for greens to inspire enriching explorations within their habitat.

The Zoo’s creep of five Leopard tortoises receive an appetising assortment of vegetation, including 'tortoise kebabs' of chicory, endive and hibiscus flowers, and coprosma hung from a specially designed tree-like structure.

Keeper Meagan Thornton said the nourishing enrichment items are key to encouraging wild behaviours among the tortoises.

“By providing food-based enrichments, we encourage natural foraging behaviours,” Ms Thornton said. “There’s an added benefit of exercise as the tortoises explore their habitat in new ways and navigate their way to their favourite treat.”

Mental and physical stimulation are critical to the wellbeing of animals. Keepers rotate enrichment items and activities as important tools to maintain and promote positive animal welfare.

“Our tortoises receive enrichment at least three-times-a-week, particularly during warmer months,” Ms Thorton said. “As the temperature cools, we slow this down to twice-a-week while the cold-blooded tortoises are less active”

Leopard tortoises are endemic to the savannahs of eastern and southern Africa, and thrive in semi-arid and grassland habitats. While their wild populations are currently stable, habitat destruction due to agricultural pressure is considered a potential threat to their distribution.

Zoo members and visitors are reminded that all tickets to the Zoo must be pre-booked at zoo.org.au and are asked to follow the current COVIDSafe directions at https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/coronavirus.