Well this post is going to be a bit longer than usual; however, there is a good reason for the change. Today was a rather special day where Takeshi and I got to use our Christmas presents from my sister and go behind the scenes of Adelaide Zoo to meet the resident hippos. Talk about an awesome gift!
The day started at 8:30am (so early after so little sleep) outside service gate 3 of the zoo (below).
We waited here with a large crowd of people all rugged up against the cold for our volunteers to take us to our tours. After Sally, our volunteer, arrived we headed off with another two people to our first stop – the hippo enclosure. We made a short detour along the way to release the Barbary Sheep from their night time pens, and then it was on to meet Susie and Brutus (the hippos) at their enclosure. As it was first thing in the morning, Susie and Brutus had not been released from their night time enclosure yet. We were able to see them get their morning mouth rinse (they seemed to enjoy it), feed them lots of carrots and check out the inside of their enclosure before they were released.
As they went past on their way out of the night pen, we were able to give them a pat and see what their skin was like. Brutus’s hide was rather rough, whereas Susie’s was very smooth in comparison.
From there, it was onto the tapir enclosure.
Obviously, I hadn’t read the description of the tour very well, as I was rather surprised that the hippos weren’t the only animal we would be visiting this morning. Turns out that we would also be visiting and feeding the tapirs, giraffes and meerkats as well (the hippo encounter tour name is rather deceptive…). The tapirs are a rather strange looking creature, and patting them their fur is not overly soft or thick either. That said, they are very fond of fruit – particularly bananas and pears and were rather eager to munch any fruit given to them.
After the tapirs we wandered over to the giraffe enclosure. We fed the giraffes carrots (similar to feeding a horse) prior to their release into the main enclosure. The tongue on giraffes is rather amazing – super long and very blue. These two are apparently very flighty, and even have their own night light in their enclosure so that if a possum runs past them during the night they can see what it is and hopefully not panic as much.
After the giraffes, it was onto the meerkats (one of my favourites!). We were able to feed them grubs, and it was rather interesting to see their strategies for getting food. All of them would squeak furiously and attempt to body slam each other out of the way to try to get the food.
There was one meerkat in particular who was rather interesting. This little one was nearly all white, but wasn’t albino (as you can see in the photo below, no pink eyes and still some pigmentation left on the chest). Apparently it was originally a normal looking meerkat and then starting losing its’ pigment. Fortunately the other meerkats haven’t rejected it, so it is able to continue living with the family group. Meerkats are a highly family orientated animal, and our keeper mentioned that members of the group can get rejected, in which case they will be continually attacked if they are still in the same area as the family.
After feeding the hippos, tapirs, giraffes and meerkats it turned out that our tour included a voucher for coffee and cake – so we got fed too!
It was a fantastic morning, and would highly recommend the tour to anyone interested in doing a behind the scenes at the zoo. It’s great fun to be able to go into the areas normally only the keepers or volunteers see, feed the animals and get any questions you have about the animals answered. Not only that, but your tour price includes general entry to the zoo and also helps to contribute to various conservation efforts for either local or exotic animals – so you’re helping the animals as well!