View from the Zoo: Dummy keeper, Tod, is valuable member of team

Tod on duty near the kafue lechwe enclosure.
Tod on duty near the kafue lechwe enclosure.
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This week we are letting you in on a little secret on some of the more peculiar ways our keepers look after our animals.

One, who has fascinated our guests and fellow staff is Tod, our dummy keeper. Tod is situated against the fence of the ‘Africa’ paddock which includes the kafue lechwe and also the scimitar-horned oryx.

With the appearance of a scarecrow, Tod, is actually designed to have a reverse affect. He is appropriately dressed in Flamingo Land uniform – pants, coat, high-vis vest, the works.

He is in place to allow the kafue lechwe in particular to be more comfortable when a real zoo keeper is present allowing staff to isolate any individuals for health checks or observations.

The kafue lechwe is a medium sized, reddish brown antelope with a white underside. They have distinctive black markings on the face and front legs and originate from swamps and wetlands in Zambia, Africa.

Their hooves are long and wide-spreading which enables them to move easily on marshy ground. They stand about three and a half feet tall and weigh between 132-286 pounds. Males have beautiful long horns which are thin, ridged, lyre shaped and grow to three feet in length.During the summer they remain outside and feed almost entirely on the large abundance of grass available in their paddock. In winter their diet consists of hay and specialised pellets.

The kafue lechwe also share a paddock with scimitar-horned oryx who are a very special animals to us here at Flamingo Land. The scimitar-horned oryx is listed as extinct in the wild by the Internation Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2004 but are still abundant in zoos, safari parks, ranches and private holdings with approximately 9,000 oryx in captivity around the world.

Flamingo Land has a very successful breeding herd and were blessed with six oryx calves last year. Zoos around the world are re-introducing the species back into Tunisia where they originate from.

So should you see an interesting character leaning against a fence in Flamingo Land uniform do be aware that he plays a key role in the daily animal welfare .