In our Spring newsletter we wrote about the new course, "Research, nature conservation, and education in zoos", in which the students carry out projects in the Zoological Garden. They had to choose one of two types of project: either designing a new exhibition in order to improve the animals' welfare; or planning and implementing an enrichment tool in order to add interest to the animals' daily routine, stimulate their senses, and cause them to be more active. In each of the projects the students learned about the animals they were working with and worked in full cooperation with the animal keepers. Here is a glimpse at three of the projects.

Enrichment for the fennec foxes - the students Orr Atalai, Amit Shauly, Enav Marcus, and Shir Goldovsky chose to prepare enrichment tools for our two groups of fennec foxes. They observed the fennecs' behavior, learned about them, consulted Ehud Katzir, their keeper, and then planned and implemented several successful enrichment tools.

  • "Ice lollies" – made of frozen fruits and vegetables. The ice lollies were served on hot days and helped the fennecs to cool themselves.
  • "Insect lettuce" – a lettuce in which various arthropods were hidden. The fennecs had to take the lettuce apart and find the delicious food items. 
  •  "Surprise box" – full of sand and "surprises" (eggs and insects). The fennecs had to dig in the sand (a natural behavior that we want to encourage) and use their sense of smell in order to reach the delicacies. 
  • "Insect mobile" – a plastic bottle with tiny holes, hung high and from which, when it moves, small arthropods fall. The purpose of the mobile is to encourage the fennecs to move their body, run, and jump high, as though they are hunting flying insects in nature.

Enrichment for the golden spiny mice – the students Idan Friedman, Amit Deligdish, Mariana Badarny, and Roi Gerstel carried out their project in the golden spiny mice exhibition in the reptile yard. They observed the spiny mice

behavior, learned about the exhibition structure and ways to improve it, consulted Barak Levi, the spiny mice keeper, and together they planned and built several simple enrichment tools that the spiny mice quickly used, including the two described below.

  • "A ladder" on which a bowl with root vegetables is placed. The spiny mice have to locate the food with their sense of smell and then climb the ladder in order to reach the desired food. The ladder presents an interesting and challenging food stand. 
  • New "houses" in long and thick bamboo poles. The houses are safe and warm and their size fits the small spiny mice. The partitions between the sections enable every spiny mouse to find a place of its own, and the material that was chosen – bamboo – encourages chewing, which is very important for maintaining normal growth of the mice' teeth.

A new mixed exhibition: a coypu and porcupines - The project undertaken by Liana Yones, Yara Halabi, and Adan Miari was to plan the connection of the coypu exhibition with that of the porcupines. The students learned about the biology of the two species and their specific needs and designed a joint exhibition that is suitable for both. The students only needed to plan it, but when they started to work we decided to actually carry out the connection. Thus, after the metal works and earthworks were completed and the water pools had been treated, the students, with the help of the keeper Emanuel Bar, were involved in joining the coypu with the porcupines and in observing their behavior in the shared enclosure. A large amount of soil was introduced into the exhibition, in which peanuts, potatoes, onions, and various seeds were mixed, both to give the porcupines a reason to dig, and to grow vegetables in the enclosure. Several wooden logs were also provided in order to make the terrain more variable. The porcupines enjoy gnawing at the logs, and the logs also prevent the soil from getting into the coypu's pond. Our main problem now is that the porcupines dig deep into the soil all over the enclosure and spend most of the daytime in their new burrows. There is no doubt that their living conditions have been improved, but now we have to find a way for the visitors to be able to see them. The plan is to get them accustomed to receiving desirable food only when visitors are in the Garden.

Top: The ice lollies in the freezer, photo: Shir Goldovsky; Bottom: Shir, a fennec fox and an ice lolly,  photo: Amit Shauly

Stopping the hard work to take a photo,  photo: Roi Gerstel

The joint exhbition: in the back – the soil, in the middle – the logs, in the front – the water pool,  photo: Ron Elazari-Volcani