Werribee Open Range Zoo staff have come up with a new way to provide some of its largest reptiles with the choice to explore further than they ever have before.
A contraption, dubbed the ‘snake ramp’, has been deployed today [Thursday 16 July] in time for World Snake Day.
The two-metre ramp attaches to the outside of the Zoo’s Dumeril’s boa snake exhibit on a 45 degree angle to the floor, providing a connecting bridge for the reptiles to explore their external environment in a safe and controlled manner.
The ramp is fitted with various wooden pegs to encourage the boas to actively constrict and manoeuvre their bodies, which are natural behaviours often used by the reptiles to secure their prey.
Keeper Malinda Delahant said the snake ramp was used for up to 30 minutes at a time, and provided the Dumeril’s boas with a range of benefits.
“The snake ramp equips the Dumeril’s boas with choice and control. They’re able to stretch out and exercise and they can choose when they want to come out and engage with keepers. It’s really great enrichment for them,” Ms Delahant said.
“By giving these snakes the choice to come out willingly, it provides high quality welfare. The snakes are able to control their muscles and support their own bodies much better than keepers can.
“Additionally we’re also able to get a better view of their overall condition through this exercise.”
Ms Delahant said the snakes were displaying positive behavioural signs from the experience with the ramp.
“Sometimes, they’ll be waiting for us at their exhibit doors, and when we open those doors they are choosing to engage in the activity. They are displaying relaxed behaviours and there’s a lot of tongue flicking which indicates that they’re trying to get a sense of their new environment.”
The snake ramp innovation is just one of many methods keepers at Werribee Open Range Zoo are implementing to provide the most positive, least intrusive approach for the animals in its care.
Werribee Open Range Zoo is home to four Dumeril’s boas, a species that is non-venomous and native to the coastal areas of Madagascar. It is characterised by its dark patches and greyish-brown colourisation. They can grow 1- 2metres in length and weigh up to 9 kilograms.
World Snake Day is an annual occasion aimed at generating awareness and appreciation for snakes. Roughly 3,000 species of these fascinating creatures inhabit the globe, but only a small portion are dangerous to human beings.
While Werribee Open Range Zoo is temporarily closed to members and visitors, animal lovers at home can stay connected with the Zoo’s animals through Zoos Victoria’s live stream cameras at www.zoo.org.au/animals-at-home