May 5, 2019
- as seen by -Matthew Treppiedi
At WCS’s Prospect Park Zoo, you may notice that our pair of Von der Decken’s hornbills (Tockus deckeni) share an exhibit with a group of dwarf mongooses. In the wilds of Africa, these animals have a mutually symbiotic relationship — each species enables the other to have an advantage in survival. When the mongooses forage on and in the ground, they send insects and other small animals to the surface that the hornbills can snack on. Hornbills, in return, are perched high in trees and shrubs which gives the mongooses an additional alert system for oncoming danger.
Since our exhibit at Prospect Park Zoo doesn’t contain any natural bugs for hornbills to snack on, we animal keepers have an opportunity to improve our aim with an enriching bug toss. The toss provides a fun activity for our animals and builds bonds with keepers. This type of husbandry activity allows us to get closer to some of our animals so that veterinarian checks and regular work, like cleaning, are less stressful and even enjoyable for the animals. When I enter the exhibit, our hornbills greet me with expectant attention knowing a treat is on its way.
EDITOR’ S NOTE: The third season of Animal Planet’s THE ZOO takes viewers behind the scenes at the Bronx Zoo and the other WCS wildlife parks in New York City including the Prospect Park Zoo and tells powerful, compelling stories of animals and their keepers, and the zoos’ contribution to conserving wildlife around the globe.