Musical animals - audio enrichment at Noah's Ark Zoo Farm
29th August 2014
As a video of two elephants enjoying some classical music has gone viral, we’ve been thinking about the ways in which we’ve used music at Noah’s Ark to enrich our animals’ lives. 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! For more information on our animals please visit the Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm website or call 01275 852606.
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