Friday, November 9, 2012
The gates have closed to the public at Cromer zoo, but a winter season of hard work lies ahead as the attraction weather-proofs its exotic stars, and helps them to breed - with some of it literally done by mirrors.
Its flamingos are happier and more likely to produce eggs if they are in larger groups - so staff have added mirrors to the pen to fool them into thinking the flock is bigger than it actually is.
On site manager Imogen Burgoyne said the birds were building nests for the first time since the introduction of large mirrors in to their pen.
Three eggs have been laid so far, which failed to hatch, but Miss Burgoyne said she was hopeful there would be chicks in the warmer months because the adults were pairing up and displaying courtship behaviour.
During the depths of winter the spindly-legged creatures, who are prone to falling on snowy and icy ground, will be moved inside to stop them being injured.
The daring ring-tailed coati also have to be moved to different pens when the lake surrounding their island enclosure freezes over because they have a tendency to try to escape by walking over the ice to freedom.
Miss Burgoyne said the keepers were hoping love would blossom between some of the other animals over the winter.
A pair of capuchin monkeys called Petal and Chico are already cuddling up closer and grooming one another since being moved to a new enclosure.
Female jaguar Indiana is among the animals likely to be starting a new life elsewhere. The 19-year-old lost her twin sister and life-long companion Troy to mammary cancer five months ago and since then has struggled to cope with the attention of visitors.
Miss Burgoyne said: “We are thinking about putting her in to retirement. This summer has been stressful for her. It isn’t that she pined for her sister when she died but there has been changes in her behaviour and she deserves to go somewhere a lot quieter for her last few years.”
It was hoped the much-loved jaguar could go to a private collection, where she would have more peace and enjoy the distraction of occasional visitors. The aim was to get another pair jaguars to replace her. And the South American-themed zoo was also eagerly awaiting the arrival of if its first toucan before reopening again in Easter,
Wintertime in Cromer is a world away from the jungles and mountains of South America and, although the animals are captive bred in UK and European zoos and are used to the cold, the keepers take special care to make sure the inhabitants are kept warm and safe.
Miss Burgoyne said: “Some are used to colder climates. The pumas come from Austria. They are pretty hardy but each species does need different looking after. All the primates have got heaters in their sheds and all the shed are insulated, Our job as keepers is to make sure the animals are bedded down well with lots of fresh bedding so they are clean and dry at all times.”
She said the life of the zoo keeper was far from the idealised image many people had in their head. The keepers had to clean and feed the animals every day, even during the coldest weather, and were required to carry out maintenance and gardening work at all times of the year.
She added: “It does all get harder during the winter because of the weather, It is not great pushing a trolley full of food through feet of snow but it is also nice to be alone with the animals and so it is also the keepers’ favourite time.”