BY ABBIE KRAUSE
SPECIAL TO THE CHIEFTAIN
CHIEFTAIN PHOTO/ JOHN JAQUES
Zoos have evolved tremendously since their earliest versions of bored animals lounging in concrete cages and bars. Modern zoos incorporate concepts such as naturalistic exhibit design and animal enrichment to stimulate the minds and bodies of their resident animals.
One aspect of creating a more natural environment is to combine multiple species in one exhibit that may be found in a shared habitat in the wild. These animal communities evolve together, creating niche feeding strategies so they do not compete for food. By doing this, they naturally maximize the Earth’s resources among ground dwellers, aerial occupants and subterranean inhabitants.
At the Pueblo Zoo, as with many other modern zoos, you can find several of these multi-species exhibits. For example, three types of animals are found in the gibbon exhibit: gibbons, muntjac and tragopans.
Gibbons are arboreal apes, meaning they live in the trees. You can find them swinging in the high region of the exhibit and hanging out on aerial supports. The same exhibit features two types of ground dwellers that naturally might be found in the same part of the world as the gibbons — muntjac (a small type of deer) and tragopans (a type of pheasant).
In nature, gibbons gather fruit high in the trees while the ground dwellers graze, collect low-hanging fruit and also often benefit from the food that the gibbons drop. Though they all live together, the species don’t commonly interact.
However, muntjac are naturally curious and will “beg” from the gibbons. The gibbons will let them know with a gentle nudge or swat when they have had enough.
Examples of other international multi-species exhibits at the Pueblo Zoo include:
• Africa — Zebras, ostriches and gazelle located on the south side of the zoo. This May, we will welcome a new zebra and Speke’s gazelle.
• North America — Elk and bison. As Coloradoans, we are quite familiar with this combo.
• Australia — Kangaroos and emu.
• South America — Our rainforest illustrates a multitude of species commonly found together in nature.