Feb 122012

While their regular off-exhibit holding areas were being renovated, a pair of echidnas and several bettongs were given access to a service room overnight. Keepers first removed any items that the animals could damage or get hurt on. Bags of grain were raised out of their reach, but several heavy bags of bark chips were left in one corner since no one thought that they would bother them.

The following morning the keepers found that a small hole had been scratched into the corner of one of the bags and some bark chips had been spilled on the floor, but other than that the temporary housing had worked out just fine.

Soon, however, one of the echidnas was found to be missing.

Keepers moved the bags of bark chips, thinking that the animal might have crawled underneath, or wedged himself between the bags and the wall. When he wasn’t found there the search moved out into the exhibit on the chance that he may have been able to squeeze past the door.

Twenty minutes later the exhibit had been scoured several times and there was still no sign of the echidna. The keepers decided to check the storeroom again and someone remembered the hole in the bag. The bag was dumped out and there, sleeping peacefully in a little nest hollowed out of the chips, was the missing echidna.

Feb 092012

In the indoor Australian “walkabout” the animals were exhibited in a series of open grottos, which the public viewed from an elevated walkway winding around between the exhibits. The barless enclosures were fine for the wombats and Tasmanian devils, but they were no match for the agile brush-tailed possums. The possums jumped effortlessly in and out moving freely between the various exhibits.

Visitors tended to congregate in front of the Tasmanian devil exhibit to get a look at the almost legendary creature that most of them knew only from the huge, aggressively violent creature called a Tasmanian devil in the well-known cartoon series.

Due to the devil’s shyness, however, and the possum’s desire to roam, the animal they were seeing was more often than not a brush-tailed possum. The visitors often expressed surprise that the “devil” was so small. And they were often more surprised when the animal jumped out of the exhibit, landing on the railing in front of them.

Keepers said that the possum seemed to wait until there was a large crowd in order to cause the greatest possible panic.

Feb 092012

The hose feeding water into the tapir moat had been left on accidentally and it had run all night. Ordinarily, that wouldn’t have been a problem, as the excess would have overflowed into the drain in the adjacent stall containing the African crested porcupines. This night, however, the drain had become plugged with food and hay and the porcupine’s stall had flooded.

When keepers arrived at work in the morning they found the porcupines frantically swimming for their lives. The animals were nearly exhausted—they had probably been swimming for most of the night. In fact, they probably would not have survived but for the buoyancy provided by their hollow quills.

Attempts by the keepers to clear the drain with a rake were unsuccessful so one of the keepers volunteered to go in and do it by hand. It was not an easy task. His arms were just long enough to reach the drain while barely keeping his face (and mouth) out of the tapir manure filled water.
To complicate matters, however, while he was attempting to execute this delicate maneuver, the porcupines, seeing a resting spot at last, were trying to scramble onto his head.

Eventually, the keeper managed to discourage the porcupines long enough to clear the obstruction. When the water receded the exhausted porcupines flopped down for a long overdue rest and the keeper went home for a much needed shower.