Behaviour of animals at Oakvale Wildlife Park changes due to lack of visitors

Angela Lambert and one very aware Meerkat due to lack of overhead prey. Photo: Tara Campbell.

 

WE are all aware of the impacts of COVID-19 on our contact with other humans, however many haven’t considered just how animals are coping with the lack of visitors and wildlife parks.

Oakvale Wildlife Park is usually filled with a range of guests who are happily greeted by many of the free-range animals in the park but since lockdowns were enforced, the park has to close its gates.

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Park Curator Angela Lambert began to notice changes in the behaviour of the animals, some predictable, and some not so much.

“Many of our regular guests will know that once they enter the free-range area of the park, they will be pounced on by our very cute and entertaining baby goats and lambs, as they do love lots of attention.

“Currently with no visitors on site, they are quite a handful for our keepers, and are consequently causing havoc, chasing the keepers for attention and food that they would normally receive from our guests,” Angela told News Of The Area.

The closure of the park has been enriching for many of the animals in other ways, breaking their daily routines.

“Our keepers are not undertaking scheduled talks and feeds for our guests so they have been able to implement random and interruptive enrichment activities that are not set at a designated time of day.

“In addition, we are increasing our enrichment programmes to compensate for the closure to keep the animals mentally and physically simulated during this time,” Angela said.

Many of the animals’ senses have been heightened due to this closure, and reduction of noise levels has resulted in many animals being more alert to their surroundings.

This has been noticed in the meerkats, who generally consider planes flying overhead to be prey and since the lack of flights, are now more cautious to potential prey and on quite high alert.

Other animals such as Lenny the Texas Longhorn who is usually not too fussed about the keepers, has become more physically affectionate with the keepers, allowing them to pat him.

Although these changes are not overtly observable Angela and the Oakvale Wildlife team are intrigued to keep noticing the changes in behaviour of the animals whilst the park is still closed.

 

By Tara CAMPBELL

 

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