Noah's News Blog
Musical animals – audio enrichment at Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm
Two gorgeous ellies enjoyed Bach’s Concerto in D Minor when violinist Eleanor Bartsch broke away from the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra to give them a private rendition.
Kelly and Viola, aged 44 and 45, seemed to react positively to the soothing concerto.
The impact music has on animals has been well documented and can therefore be used to enhance the day to day lives of zoo animals.
Last year we did a musical experiment at Noah’s Ark and found that, like these elephants, our tigers were partial to a spot of classical music.
Keepers at Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm in Wraxall experimented with a variety of audio enrichment for our big cats, rhinos and giraffes.
The big zoo animals got the chance to listen to different radio stations, with keepers monitoring the effects this had on their behaviour.
Classic FM proved to be a roaring favourite for the felines, who rolled around, relaxed and napped when the station was played.
It’s important to keep our residents engaged and stimulated and we play with a whole range of alternative enrichment activities to add variety to their lives.
Audio enrichment is something we use alongside activities catering to other natural behaviours, from adding interesting-textured trees to enclosures through to food foraging.
Just as animals react to tone of voice and the sounds around them, so they show an interest in different kinds of music.
While the tigers and lions loved classical music, our White rhinos Rumbull and Rumba seemed to prefer the more up-beat pop and dance played on Kiss and Heart FM.
They often stood with their heads through their fence to get closer to the radio and their favourite songs!
Auditory enrichment is a great way to promote good physical and mental health by keeping our animals stimulated.
Keepers also engage the other senses – such as visual, olfactory or smell, taste and touch. These can be stimulated in scent trails or task-orientated feeding challenges, both of which encourage animals to think and work for food and rewards, as they would in the wild.
We’re always thinking up new creative enrichment ideas which add complexity to the big zoo animals’ habitats.
For the recent Elephant Day, we gave some lucky visitors the chance to hide treats for Buta our African elephant to find.
These kind of activities also give keepers a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the animals’ personalities and behaviours.
With all the amazing big zoo animals here at Noah’s Ark, there is a wealth of opportunity to study the behaviour of some of the world’s most fascinating creatures.
We’re currently planning several exciting research projects into animal behaviour on the Ark.
Working with inter-zoo research groups allows for wider groups of animals to be studied and Buta the elephant will be considered for an upcoming study.
Noah’s Ark is also in discussions with a university to form an undergraduate and postgraduate research link, which would allow students to base their dissertations and research projects on the farm.
If you have any fun, new ideas to introduce play and learning into our animals’ lives, get in touch on our Facebook page!
Cageless ‘Zootopia’ and Noah’s Ark’s zoo innovations
A Danish architect has draw up designs for an innovative new way of approaching the zoo environment – without cages.
Bjarke Ingels’ ‘Zootopia’ reinvents the zoo by making it a space where humans are hidden from view and animals roam free in mixed habitats.
Zootopia imagines a zoo environment without cages or fences where human visitors go unnoticed by the animals
The fantastical designs are for a project to expand and redevelop Givskud Zoo.
The 1960s park in Southern Denmark expects to open phase one of the new design in 2019.
Natural borders will be created and visitors will be able to see animals from underground observatories, mirrored cable cars and hidden lookouts in piles of logs.
Here the Danish designs show visitors passing elephants in reflective river pods, getting quietly close to animals
Redesigning the typical zoo experience is certainly something we worked towards when conceptualising our innovative new elephant habitat.
The £2 million Elephant Eden opened to visitors last year when Buta the African elephant arrived to settle into her new home.
We wanted to offer something new in elephant husbandry at Noah’s Ark and when we look out at Buta enjoying her soft sand yards, mud wallows and acres of fresh, green grass, we know we have.
Elephant Eden offers elephants already living in captivity greater freedom, space and comfort, with various special features allowing them to exhibit their natural wild behaviours.
This includes the scale of the habitat – with 20-acres, Buta has the space to stretch her great legs and mimic wild elephant behaviour.
Eden is a sustainable and enriched environment. Not only the biggest European elephant habitat, Eden has a pool, wallowing mud and winches to elevate feeds above the elephants, encouraging them to reach and stretch to graze, as they would on the savannah.
We’ve also been focusing on spending more Keeper time doing enrichment work with our beautiful animals, from hiding treats for Buta through to running play sessions with our little Lowland Tapirs.
Enrichment is an important part of the management plans for all our animals at Noah’s Ark and gives them a chance to get active and stimulated.
As most of our animals are motivated by food, enrichment activities often involve presenting food in a different way to normal to stimulate natural behaviours – such as stashing treats for our primates in hanging baskets, which encourages climbing and scavenging to get them down!
We regularly keep our Bengal tigers Tiana and Khan on their toes with everything from meat stashed in pumpkins through to fresh wood for them to test their claws on.
The big cats also get to enjoy scent trails, allowing them to explore new smells and put their highly sensitive noses to good use tracking down the trails.
Enrichment takes all forms – so along with smelling out food, we encourage our animals to play using all their senses. Around Christmas time our lions and tigers always love brushing up against the novel texture of the dozens of pine trees we bring into their enclosures!
At Noah’s Ark we pride ourselves on providing a unique experience for our visitors.
One of our special and unusual features is the proximity of play areas to some of our animal enclosures.
Our play areas are scattered around the site, some of which allow the animals to enjoy watching children!
There are a variety of play areas near to some of the big African animal areas, fusing play with an animal visit. The lions and elephants aren’t forced to be close to people, but are given the choice to be if they wish.
They are very comfortable with the set up and their curiosity often gets the better of them, causes them to choose to come over to the nearest public fence – entertaining both animals and visitors!
It’s an exciting time to be working in conservation and zoo animal management and we’ll certainly be watching the Danish developments to see how we can continue to make the animal-human experience at Noah’s Ark as mutually beneficial as possible.
We’re open all summer and the rest of the year offering play areas, mazes and of course our fantastic wildlife, for a great family day out in Bristol.
Reptile Fortnight at Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm
Deadly snakes will soon be slithering into Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm to add a bite to our busy summer schedule!
We’re running a two-week long event with educational workshops focusing on some of the world’s most notorious reptiles.
Reptile Fortnight runs at the Wraxall zoo from Monday, August 4 to Saturday, August 16.
The highlight is surely the breath-taking Venomous Snake Shows running in the Ark Arena at 12.30pm and 2pm every day.
Put on by the reptile experts from Bristol’s Reptile Zone, the shows introduce highly dangerous creatures to our visitors in a safe, controlled environment.
Experienced snake handler Pete Blake will lead demonstrations with notorious snakes like Black mambas and Taipans, designed to demonstrate their amazing behaviours and adaptations.
These relaxed and informal demonstrations will offer alternative views of these incredible creatures, as well as teaching visitors about snake biology, venom and its uses in modern medicine.
Mr Blake will display the snakes from within a see-through Perspex room specially constructed to give both maximum visibility and safety for visitors. Specially trained in handling venomous snakes, Mr Blake is perfectly placed to showcase the very best of these reptiles.
Black mambas have a fearsome reputation. These sub-Saharan African snakes are highly venomous and one of the fastest moving snakes in the world.
Second only to the King cobra in length, Black mambas have toxic, fast-acting venom. Without quick anti-venom treatment, a bite is almost always fatal.
Despite its name, the Black mamba’s back skin colour ranges from olive, brown and grey to khaki.
The King cobra, the world’s longest venomous snake, is found across India and South-east Asia, where it chiefly preys on other snakes.
Also on show will be the venomous Taipan snake, which hails from Australia, and the Diamondback rattlesnake. This American native pit viper is often feared but usually tries to avoid human contact and only attacks in defence.
These daily shows are free for all day ticket visitors to Noah’s Ark, making the coming weeks a great time for a family day out in Bristol!
There will also be a chance to meet and have your photograph taken with some of the reptiles – just the friendly non-venomous ones! These include the Mississippi alligator, Panther chameleon and Burmese python.
Visitors will be able to handle and make lasting memories by having their photo taken with the reptiles (at a £5 charge).
This will be the ninth year we have run the event, which is going from strength to strength and always proves popular with visitors.
Reptile Fortnight is a good time to visit the reptiles who live here on the Ark. We’ve got beautiful Royal pythons, as well as Nile crocodiles, Crocodile monitor lizards, Green iguanas and Bearded dragons.
As well as the exciting reptile events, we’ve got lots of other fun on offer during the summer holidays. Staff and small animals will be visiting Ashton Court for this year’s Bristol Balloon Fiesta on the weekend of August 9 and 10, giving visitors a chance to meet our animals and find out more about Noah’s Ark.
You can book your Noah’s Ark summer visit tickets online, where you’ll be given a bonus 5% off your entrance and guarantee your place on the Ark.
For more information about Reptile Fortnight or any of our animals, please visit the Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm website or call 01275 852606.