Todays highlights of a Zookeeper and What's so good about Reindeer anyway?
Today started just like yesterday only this time we didn't lose any animals over night which was a wonderful feeling after yesterday. As part of my morning I spent time organising some enrichment for my birds, as they are one of the worlds most destructive birds we try and keep our group of 49 busy. A couple of days ago I bought the birds a large watermelon so I decided to use the remaining pieces and make them a smoothie and it went down a treat but they didn't drink it all so we shared it with the pigs and they LOVED it.
As it was a weekend there wasn't much other than selling animal food that we were required to do. I briefly bumped into Basil and gave him the biggest scratches and also gave him some of his favourite treats (a bit of goat food and some carrot batons) he wasn't best pleased we were not going to train and stood behind me for most part of my afternoon shouting at me. Basil is a diva, a complete diva. If he wants to train he will find a way to persuade me or just be the first out of the goat gate as quick as lightning so he can get to the training spot and then ignore everyone but me to get him back in- hes a nightmare at times but I do love him.
I did the last weigh in of our two small Mediterranean Spur-Thigh tortoises who we have been preparing over the past 6 weeks for hibernation which means they haven't eaten now for 6 weeks! I can't imagine not eating for 6 minutes... let alone 6 weeks. We have been required to daily bath the boys to see if they are drinking, or going to the toilet - reptiles will go to the toilet in the bath - and today was their final bath and they are currently now nestled into the fridge at a constant steady temperature to sleep for another 12 weeks providing they do not lose weight or move too much during their sleep. It is incredible that these animals can survive like this! Why do we need to make sure they poo? If they go into hibernation with faeces in their system this will eventually kill them as their whole body system will of almost shut down completely to survive.
Not much else to report on the day today, as I am still on the same section I won't do another big post about my day until I have moved to a different part or something big happens.
As promised here is my daily species and profile!
Scientific Name: Rangifer tarandus
Common Name: Reindeer / Caribou
ID: Ronnie (Geronimo)
Age: 5 years 5 months
Birth Location and details: Captive born, UK Zoo collection
Current Weight: 141.5kg
Pecking Order: Used to be the most dominant, now appears to be 2nd ranking
Diet: 3 scoops of reindeer pellet AM and PM, large chunks of glucose AM and PM and carrots and apples PM only sliced into batons not chunks (they do not have top teeth to enable them to chew chunks)
Behaviour: Ronnie is a very inquisitive naughty reindeer who likes to pull your bin bags of rubbish you have collected from his field back onto the floor to make more mess. Reindeer do not like their hay and straw shaken up and will not eat it unless it is given to them whole in their slices. Ronnie is always the first reindeer over to say hello and forgets how big his antlers are and before you know it you have more antler than reindeer in your face when cleaning.
Are they dangerous?: Yes, very much so. The reindeers themselves are not very big however, their antlers are massive and also very heavy. They are made of bone and they drop and regrow annually, each yeah the boys will grow a new point on their set of antlers and they also grow back bigger every year. The bigger the better, it means in the wild should they win a fight against another deer they will be able to breed with a large number of females. When working with the deer its important keepers are aware where the deer are at all times and also are equipped with a radio in-case something goes wrong, keepers will agree on their exit route and will also get themselves to safety. Working with reindeer its not like working with large animals such as horses, they do not respond in the same way as a horse does, if you push back on a reindeer it will push harder and thats when you get into trouble, it is always best to get yourself away safely and calmly without taking your eyes off them - this is why we work in twos!
Conservation Status: Fortunately for the Reindeer their status is Least Concern which means their numbers are stable! It does not mean they are not at risk or not important, for thousands of years reindeer have been providing meat, fat, skins for clothing, bedding and tents and antlers for tools for many cultures. Sweden Russia and Finland depend highly on the animals for their income and in Canada they are an important food source for the far northern communities.
- Their lowest critical temperature point is -40C
- The clicking sound you famously hear is the small tendons in their toes slipping over the bone. This noise is made so during a snow storm they are able to hear one another
- They can change the reflective surface at the back of their eyes depending on the season. During the summer the colour is golden like cats and dogs when you shine light into their eyes in the dark. In the winter the colour is blue, this is so during the thickest of snow the food they eat - Lichen - absorbs UV to which their eyes can see it and are able to continue to find food.
- They have their own set of a snow shoes! With four toes on each foot, they evenly distribute the weight over each foot acting as a snow shoe on both ice and snow without slipping. Their toes are also incredibly sharp allowing them to dig through ice to get water. Our boys are constantly destroying water troughs even though they have no ice in there!
- They are the only type of deer that both males and females grow and replace their antlers annually. The boys naturally lose their antlers at the end of the rutting season (just before winter) and the girls keep theirs until they have given birth. You may be wondering are Santas reindeer fake or girls? I would say no! Santa quite frankly does not need to have the stress of having 8 rutting male reindeers pulling his sleigh and fighting the whole time, I believe them to be castrated where Santa would not bring them into their rutting season until the big day has finished! Our boys are brought into rut in January once we have had the all clear from the big man himself and they will lose their antlers between March and May then fully regrow by September. Their antlers is also covered in velvet not fur, the velvet offers vital insulation during the cold winter months, this is shed first exposing bone and blood underneath when they come to shed their antlers, the blood supply eventually dies from tip to the base of their head and then they fall off exposing the new set underneath already growing!
- They are so well insulated your probably wondering if they can cool down and the answer is yes! They will flush their legs with blood reducing their body temperature and they can also reduce the temperature in their legs to near freezing level which keeps their core body heat even.
- The average lifespan is approximately 15 years in the wild.
- Reindeers live in a herd which can consist of 10 individuals to 1000 deer!
Santa picked one of the most magical creatures to pull his sleigh and I hope you can agree. Any questions please feel free to ask!
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**Thank you for all your support!!