A new role has been created at our zoo. And it's looking after toys!
Our new library, has one big difference. Instead of books, we keep toys. A range of enrichment toys that the zoo's keepers can borrow each designed to enhance the animals lives by keeping them busy, encouraging natural behaviours and engaging them in fun and challenging activities.
Our zoo keeper Rosie's new role, as animal enrichment librarian, will see her supervise and approve all enrichment activity, book regular training courses and keep a record of the toys booked out by the keepers.
Toys available include a huge 31 inch diameter ball, handmade toys made by the keepers and a fire hose provided by Pembroke Fire Brigade which has already been put to good use by the fossa and ocelots.
Even a buoy found on a Pembrokeshire beach, part of a Keep Wales Tidy beach clean project, has also been recycled as an animal enrichment toy. The large orange buoy was put on a social media site after it was retrieved from West Dale beach in Pembrokeshire. One of our keepers spotted the post, got in touch and restored it. It was then filled with food and tied up high for the lions to play with, encouraging them to give their muscles a good work out.
Talking about her appointment and the new toy library, Rosie Griffin said:
"One of the our main jobs as zoo keepers at Folly Farm is to keep the animals happy and stimulated in their environment and these toys are the perfect tools to do that. So far we've got the floating doughnut which has been an interesting addition for the Humboldt penguin pool and a mirrored feeder has given our squirrel monkeys both a mealworm puzzle and the chance to see themselves.
"We've even had the charity 'The Shape of Enrichment' host a Student Environmental Enrichment Course (SEEC) at Folly Farm. The SEEC course taught us how to make different kinds of toys for different species as well as the theory behind animal welfare and husbandry."
SEEC courses are designed to teach students and keepers how to deal with the welfare needs of different species, as well as providing practical skills in designing, building and testing enrichment within the settings of a working animal organisation.
SEEC founder and instructor, Mark Kingston Jones, said: "The toy-box is a fantastic idea, by having the devices together the keepers are able to see what items are available and adapt each one to suit the species they're looking after.
"The course is designed to teach keepers the most efficient way to enrich the lives of the animals and also includes learning how to splice ropes, weave rubber hoses into cubes and hammocks to create holistic goal orientated games."
Enrichment is used to encourage natural feeding and foraging behaviors of animals in a captive environment. Approaches to enrichment can be varied from enclosure design, food, toys and scent aimed to provide animals with stimulation they get in the wild.
Rosie continued: "Every species in the zoo will be able to enjoy the toys - there are large hanging mirrors that the giraffes will love and rocking toys perfect for the smaller hoof-stock animals.
"Seeing the animals happy and enjoying life is one of the best bits of my job and when I was asked to take on the role of librarian I jumped at the chance!"