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Meet Tod the Dummy Keeper

For this week’s article we are going to be letting you in on a little secret on some of the more peculiar ways our keepers look after our animals. One of which has fascinated our guests and fellow staff in particular has been our dummy keeper ‘Tod’. Tod is situated against the fence of our ‘Africa’ Paddock which includes our Kafu Lechwe and also our 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 visible vest, the works! He is in place to allow the Kafu Lechwe in particular to be more comfortable entering the house when a Zoo Keeper is present as now there is always a Keeper present! This will allow us to isolate any individuals if any health checks or observations are absolutely necessary. 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. These Lechwe originate from swamps and wetlands in Zambia, Africa. Their hooves are long and wide-spreading which enables them to move easily on marshy ground. Their back legs are also longer than their front legs which assists them. They stand about 3½ feet tall and weigh between 132 - 286 pounds. The males have beautiful long horns which are thin and ridged. These Lyre shaped horns can also grow 3feet in length and the males would use them for competing with each other over the females. During the summer they remain outside and feed almost entirely on the large abundance of grass they have available in their paddock. During the winter their diet consists of hay and specialised pellets.

The Lechwe also share a paddock with Scimitar Horned Oryx who are a very special animal to us here at Flamingo Land. The scimitar-horned Oryx is listed as extinct in the wild by the IUCN in 2004 but they are still abundant in zoos, safari parks, ranches and private holdings with approximately 9,000 Oryx in captivity around the world. We have a very successful breeding herd and were blessed with 6 Oryx calves last year. Zoo’s around the world are re-introducing this vital 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 for some of our lesser known residents here at the zoo.