Zoo animals go wild for Spring feast

A critically endangered Orange-bellied parrot nibbles on grevillea. (Zoos Victoria)

Werribee Open Range Zoo’s animals are tucking in to the culinary delights of native blossoms and blooms to celebrate the first day of Spring.

The sun’s rays are awakening an explosion of vibrant floral delicacies at the zoo – including hibiscus, grevillea and acacia – much to the delight of wildlife palates.

Werribee Open Range Zoo Natives Life Science manager Jacinda Goodwin said, while vibrant colours are often alluring for animals, it’s the taste that appeals most.

“Our Eastern grey kangaroos and critically endangered Orange-bellied parrots absolutely adore grevilleas because they contain a sweet honey-like liquid,” Ms Goodwin said.

“The plants have distinctive yellow, pink or red flowers with long, thin petals that can be quite brush-like in appearance.

“Grevillea is also an irresistible and important food source for many nectar-eating birds, butterflies and bees, which will visit suburban backyards.”

Over on the zoo’s Savannah, antelope herds of Blackbuck and Lowland nyala are exploring flower trails of purple hibiscus.

Savannah keeper Lauren Irving said Hibiscus blooms are particularly popular.

“Hibiscus are trumpet-shaped blooms that have bright and ruffled petals,” Ms Irving said. “The antelope love them because they have a nice tart flavour with a sweet nectar at the base. These flowers are also great because they’re high in vitamin C.”

Acacia is top of the menu for the Zoo’s inquisitive Vervet monkeys and Eland herd.

“Acacia is made up of small, round flowers that occur in clusters to make a characteristic bright yellow display,” African River Trail keeper Gunther Venables said. “It is irresistible to many species, especially the Vervet monkeys, because it is high in sugar and resembles a naturally occurring sweet treat.”

All blossoms and blooms at Werribee Open Range Zoo are provided to the animals in moderation as part of a rotating daily schedule of food-based enrichment. Keepers aim to replicate food items and experiences that are similar to what the animals come across in their wild environment.

Members and visitors to Werribee Open Range Zoo may have the opportunity to see animals engaging with blossoms and blooms along the walking trails or during a Savannah bus tour, which run throughout the day and are included in entry.