On our final day of BIAZA Creatures Unseen, Abigail Hardwick introduces Tropical World, Leeds, and their nocturnal creatures...
Night-time is when most of us are tucked in bed asleep, but for many nocturnal animals they are busy exploring or showcasing their marvellous hunting skills in their dark environment. Usually, we don’t have the opportunity to naturally observe many nocturnal animals, however zoos may house some exotic species in a nocturnal house.
Tropical World is a small to medium sized zoo located near Leeds City Centre. It hosts a variety of taxa from primates, meerkats, birds, amphibians, porcupines and a crocodile! The team of animal keepers work hard to care for over 250 animals housed at the zoo, within the different biodomes; Waterfall house, Rainforest Canopy, Desert and Creature Cavern.
To maximise the chances of visitors witnessing wonderful, nocturnal animals being active, zoos will reverse the lighting within the animal enclosures. This tricks the animals into reversing their daily activity cycle, resulting in them being active during our daytime whilst their lighting is dark, then sleeping in our night-time once their lights are switched on. To allow visitors to still see these sometimes-secretive creatures in the dark, red lights are often used. Non-human animals either do not see the red light, i.e. their environment remains dark, or it does not interfere with their vision as it isn’t as invasive as a white light.
Nocturnal houses within zoos provide an ideal opportunity for visitors to learn about many nocturnal animals and their adaptations. Can you spot their large eyes to bring in more light to assist with vision? Or perhaps they have enormous ears to provide an ideal way to direct the sound. Sometimes they have a large nose which could be used for sniffing out prey or detecting their predators’ scent and avoiding capture. Many nocturnal animals are also camouflaged with their surroundings making them tricky to spot if they are stationary.
Leeds City Council runs two zoos in Leeds, both of which have a dedicated nocturnal section. In Tropical World’s Creature Cavern zone, you can find a beaded lizard, tarantula, scorpion, stick insects and lesser hedgehog tenrecs. Lotherton Wildlife World has a purpose-built nocturnal house with fruit bats, armadillo, kinkajou and cloud rats. It also has other nocturnal animals such as porcupines and tapir.
- Abigail Hardwick, Animal Officer, Tropical World
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