Werribee Zoo's primate troop devour ‘fairy floss’ flowers

22 September 2021

Spring has stirred up seasonal treats at Werribee Open Range Zoo, with its resident troop of Vervet monkeys finding one particular wattle blossom absolutely irresistible.

Vervet monkey looking over right shoulder holds bright yellow wattle

While in bloom, zookeepers are hanging whole branches of the flowering native throughout the monkeys’ habitat to encourage their natural foraging behaviours.

African River Trail keeper Kristin Garcia said that, while the vibrant yellow colour is alluring for the Vervet troop, it’s the taste that appeals to them most.

“This Acacia species is so irresistible to our monkeys because it’s high in sugar, resembling something like a naturally occurring fairy floss,” Ms Garcia said.

As with any sugary treat, the wattle is provided in moderation and offered occasionally amongst a rotating daily schedule of food-based, sensory and physical enrichments.

“We provide different enrichment items every single day,” Ms Garcia said. “These blossoms are only available for a short while in late winter and spring. So, it’s a great opportunity for us to offer them something new and novel, and something we know that they will love.

“We try to replicate food items and experiences that the Vervet monkeys could come across in the wild environment. In this case, wattle replicates endemic acacia species that exist throughout Africa.”

Vervet monkey eating bright yellow wattle blossoms

Ancient Acacia was prolific across the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana, which is why numerous sub-species are also found in Africa, South America and India.

Much of Vervet monkey habitat overlaps with the Acacia woodlands of Eastern Africa. Vervet monkey populations are adaptable and fairly widespread. However, the species is now absent from large areas of their original geographic range. Human-impacted habitat destruction is a continuing threat, causing fragmentation of smaller, vulnerable populations.

Werribee Open Range Zoo is currently closed to members and visitors in line with current COVIDSafe directions. However, animal lovers at home can stay connected through Zoos Victoria's Animals at Home livestream cameras at zoo.org.au/animals-at-home