Wintec and Hamilton Zoo collaboration for students

calendar iconPosted 17 September 2019

Wintec enrichment article donkeys Sept2020

Hamilton Zoo’s Jesse Golden (left), Mel Brookfield (third left) and Wintec animal care students at Hamilton Zoo. 

Students enrolled in Wintec’s New Zealand Certificate in Animal Care course are collaborating with Hamilton Zoo to research and design enhancements that encourage the natural behaviours of captive animals.

“Developing ‘enrichments’ requires heaps of creativity from our staff, and we always welcome a fresh perspective on how we can keep our animals stimulated – behaviourally and mentally,” says Jesse Golden, Professional Development Team Leader at Hamilton Zoo.

Wintec’s Level 3 course involves 80 hours of onsite training which tutor Mel Brookfield says has well- prepared students for the challenge.

 “Our programme focuses on the five domains that every animal needs to live a happy life: nutrition, behaviour, health, environment and mental health. Creating enrichment is important and as long as you focus on these five domains you can modify them to suit any animal.”

The students recently attended the zoo to study the enclosures of various animals including the tiger, kea and Capuchin.

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Animal care students are looking at the enclosures of various animals at Hamilton Zoo.

“It is not every day that students get to do this kind of stuff. This course can open up a lot of doors. It’s a foundational course so it gives you a good understanding” says Maia Hungerford, one of the students taking part.

The students will also assist Hamilton Zoo by considering mitigation techniques, maintaining clear records and noting down their observations. 

For Golden, the results of this data are important.

“This data helps us moderate and modify each animal’s activity budget, which in turns helps to drive goal-oriented calendars so that animals have continuous choice and control.

“Why is this important? I got into this business to conserve wildlife. Biodiversity maintains the resilience of nature. Biodiversity is all living things. The more we lose, the lower populations are and the harder it is for nature to be resilient against events like severe weather, fires and human development.”

The final designs will be presented to Hamilton Zoo on September 19, with the winning enrichment developed by the Zoo by late-October. The students will see the winning designs in action in November.

Find out more about the Centre for Applied Science and Primary Industries.