It’s the end of the day and zookeepers inside Adventure Africa are trying to get four species of animals inside their building. The first up is the zebra. Why are they the first to go in? According to the area supervisor, “they run the show.” It’s not just at night; the two male zebras appear to be the leaders in Impala Plains, presented by Holz Family Foundation.
The ostriches are often found hanging out in the corner or along the fence line.
The exhibit opened in the summer of 2019 and is home to zebras, impalas, ostriches and grey crowned cranes. Each species seems to get along, but they also keep to themselves. They all have their favorite areas, but when the zebras move, everyone moves. “The ostriches like to hang out in the corner. Sometimes the zebras like to go there, so the ostriches go somewhere else which means the cranes move which moves the impala,” says Erin Dowgwillo, elephant and mixed species supervisor.
The grey crowned cranes will occasionally peck at the impalas.
Dowgwillo explains zebras, generally speaking, can be bullies, so it’s not too surprising they run the mixed-species yard. While the two male zebras in this exhibit aren’t physical, they seem to get their point across. “The zebras don’t really go after anyone. For whatever reason, the others just know the zebras are the big guys.” On the opposite end, the grey crowned cranes are the smallest animals in the exhibit and would be considered at the bottom of the totem pole. However, they tend to pick on the impalas and will occasionally peck at them.
While keepers make sure none of the animals get hurt, Dowgwillo explains that giving the animals a more natural experience in a mixed-species yard means exposing them to different aspects of life. “For the animals, it’s good for them. It lets everyone be able to exhibit species-appropriate behaviors and it lets them have positive experiences and some negative experiences, which gives them a more enriched, full life.”
This article appeared in the May-June 2020 issue of Wild Things.