X-traordinary meerkats get on the same wavelength
The meerkat mob at Werribee Open Range Zoo is proving that there’s more to the inquisitive creatures than what meets the eye.
Five meerkats are demonstrating their intelligence by voluntarily stepping up to an X-ray plate as part of a proactive healthcare program.
An X-ray device has been custom designed by zookeepers, vets and the zoo’s trade staff to acquires clear radiographs of the inquisitive African native animals, all without the need for an anaesthetic procedure.
Following months of training, the Slender-tailed meerkats now voluntarily position themselves on an X-ray plate, which is placed by keepers beneath an adjustable tripod. A portable X-ray machine is attached to the top of the tripod that has the capability to be manoeuvred into a range of positions.
Werribee Open Range Zoo African River Trail keeper Eliza Baker said it’s exciting to see meerkats enthusiastically participating in the X-ray sessions.
“All of the scans are being taken within the meerkats’ habitat, which means the meerkats don’t need to leave the comfort of their own home, and we’re minimising any potential stress,” Ms Baker said.
Based on the scientific approach of Applied Behaviour Analysis, the training uses positive reinforcement, provides choice and control, and allows the animals to voluntarily participate in their own medical check-ups, which significantly reduces any stress and handling.
The meerkats are always provided with the choice to participate in the sessions, however the curious mammals are generally very eager because their involvement is always positively rewarded with some high value nutritious treats.
“The meerkats absolutely love peanut butter, so we find they will approach us voluntarily and remain still enough to ensure the X-rays are sharp, allowing our vets to make accurate medical assessments.”
The healthcare training of the meerkats is part of an innovative zoo-wide animal training program that provides the highest quality healthcare for the animals. Based on the scientific approach of Applied Behaviour Analysis, the training uses positive reinforcement, provides choice and control, and allows the animals to voluntarily participate in their own medical check-ups, which significantly reduces any stress and handling.
The meerkat X-ray training follows other recent successful healthcare training initiatives at Werribee Open Range Zoo, including a proactive footcare health program for the meerkat mob.
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.