FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – In addition to their main food, animals at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo also get enrichment. That’s special food or treats intended to bring out natural behaviors in the animals.
The zoo has two spotted Hyenas, one female and one male. It’s a female dominated species, so the zookeepers will spread enrichment food out to make sure they both get some. The special enrichment for the hyenas is a knucklebone from a cow.
“It just simulates what they’d experience in the wild. Hyenas are actually able to eat all parts of the body except for hooves, hair and horns, so they’d actually eat bones of whatever animal they’ve caught,” Animal Care Specialist Erin Roembke said. “I’ll come in the exhibit in the morning to do services and they’ll be no bones left.”
Hyenas are good hunters too, catching 95 percent of their prey.
“They have a higher success rate than lions,” Roembke said.
There is a breeding recommendation for the hyenas at the zoo, so there could be some babies in the future.
The zoo has two troops of Banded mongoose. One group is a mom and her five kids. The other is a group of three older animals.
“We have them some mixed nuts today, which is one of their all-time favorite enrichment items,” Becca Lipster, an Animal Care Specialist, said. “They’re just having a ball grabbing them and chucking them behind their legs and breaking them to get to all the tasty parts. In the wild, they’ll do this with things like eggs and snails and other hard shell things.”
Throwing the shells against stones acts like a nutcracker.
“In the wild these guys spend most of their day foraging and so we give them all sorts of fun things to sort of help elicit that behavior. Throughout the day, we’ll give them other things like mealworms that we’ll throw it in the red rock and they’ll go digging for it,” Lipster said.
In the wild they’ll live in groups of anywhere from five to 50. The safety in numbers helps them defeat snakes.
“If there’s a big snake they can’t run away and hide from, they’ll circle around them and some will distract while others attack and they’ll do that until the snake either manages to get away or is no longer existing. They also have incredible reflexes. A lot of times, as the snake strikes at them, they’re fast enough to get away,” Lipster said.
They also like to cuddle when they nap.
“During the day when it’s sunny and they’ve eaten and they’re tired, they’re usually in one big snuggle puddle. Their bands are meant for camouflage,” Lipster said.
They are in the Carnivora [order] and their closest relative at the zoo is actually the hyena. They’re also related to Meerkats.
The Cape porcupines are native to the southern regions in Africa and are the largest species of porcupine.
“They are actually rodents, so their teeth are continuously growing just like all other rodents. So, that’s why we like to give them lots of different stuff to chew on to help keep their teeth down to a good level,” Jessica Cline, an Animal Care Specialist, said.
Every day, the male and female porcupines will get treats with fruit and veggies frozen in big ice blocks. They’ll also get a lot of broughs full of yummy leaves to much on.
“In the wild, if they’re kind of low in calcium, they will actually eat bones. So sometimes here for enrichment, we will get them antlers to chew on,” Cline said.
The porcupines are covered in quills similar to hair on other animals.
“There are different size quills and some are hollow and when they shake them it makes a rattling sound,” Cline said. “They can do that to warn predators and they can puff out their quills when they are excited or threatened.”
They don’t actually shoot quills at predators.
“On the ends of their quills there are tiny barbs so they will kind of run into their predators with their quills and then they’ll stick in there and they might pull out since it’s kind of like hair,” Cline said.
The porcupines are nocturnal so they usually spend most of their days sleeping.
They do have a breeding recommendation as well.
“Baby porcupines are called porcupettes, so hopefully we’ll have some babies in the future,” Cline said.
The zoo is open until October 29 for the 2023 season.