April 4, 2003
By Elize Jacobs
A tyre ball weighing 270kg might not sound like the ideal plaything,
but to a 12-year-old rhinoceros it is the ultimate toy.
Angeliné Cloete, spokesperson for the Pretoria Zoo, said
animals roam around in the wild and can vary their environments,
but they get bored in smaller enclosures.
"If humans were to sit in their houses for weeks on end, they
would also get bored," Cloete explained.
So Mbani, a black rhino, has been given a tyre ball almost as high
as he is.
To stimulate natural animal behaviour, the zoo has come up with
environmental enrichment programmes for selected animals.
One of the conservation staff came up with the idea of a tyre ball
for the rhino.
The idea reached fruition when the South African Air Force's 142nd
Squadron donated the 1,5m, 270kg ball to the zoo for Mbani's use.
It is made from tractor tyres held together with bolts. Like a
giant rattle, stones have been placed inside to make a noise and
attract the rhino's attention.
The ball was placed in Mbani's enclosure when he wasn't around.
When he returned, he was immediately attracted to the ball and started
pushing it around. He even tried to climb on top of it.
Mbani - the name means thunder - seemed very impressed with his
Cloete said the ball wouldn't remain in the rhino's enclosure all
the time. He would get "ball time" to prevent him from
getting bored with his toy.
She said the ball could also be smeared with a variety of scents,
and food could be placed inside it. The rhino would then have to
roll the ball to get the food to fall out.
Other animals that have benefited from the zoo's active environmental
enrichment programme include the primates, leopard, hornbills and
warthogs. They have a daily treasure hunt to find hidden food.
Cloete said that for the primates, raisins were placed in a "termite
pole", and monkeys had to find a twig to dig them out.
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