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Good and healthy nutrition is also a key factor in the care of the animals at the AWCP. Despite necessary cuts over the past year due to COVID19, nutrition is an area the team at the AWCP will not compromise on. This is all the more important now that many of the long-term residents of the zoo are surpassing their natural life expectancies. 

9am – The daily routine caring for 160 animals at the AWCP consists of a day-long routine, cleaning and feeding, from the moment the Keepers arrive. Many of the individual animals have been at the park since its conception in the late 90’s meaning they are now reaching their twilight years. La Vieja (aka ‘Teapot’ due to her squat and portly shape) is suspected to be in her mid-to-late 20s, but she is still remarkable sprightly. Macho, the once dominant male of the group, hasn’t weathered quite so well and is showing the scars and wear and tear from his mighty past. Both were thought to have been caught in the wilds of Indonesia by wildlife traffickers. They were found by Gibraltar Customs on a ship passing through the Straits. Long-tailed macaques are the most trafficked primate species in the world, most often used in animal testing laboratories due to their intelligent and adaptable nature. Despite this traumatic start, the group is thriving at the AWCP.

12pm – Elderly animals at the AWCP receive specially adapted diets, supplements and where required, medication. The Egyptian fruits bats are an ageing group, some individuals have been at the zoo for over 20 years, originating at Jerez Zoo. During routine health checks, half of the group have been found to have worn-down teeth. To cater for this, the AWCP staff and volunteers provide a mixed, solid and pureed soft fruit, nectar diet. In the wild, animals often don’t live as long as in captivity, due to external factors such as predations, stress, habitat loss, competition for or lack of food. At the AWCP all this is taken care of and they receive the best diets and care possible.

2pm – Rommie, the common marmoset is another elderly creature. Rescued from the pet trade, she was donated to the AWCP from Stichting AAP sanctuary in the Netherlands, as company for Djump, the male, who had also been a victim of the pet trade. Both are over the expected life expectancy for this species, and both have suffered health problems due to their unfortunate pasts. Poor diet and care has left Djump with a metabolic bone condition, similar to rickets, which means he can no longer live up to his name. This condition is managed with pain medication and special UV lighting and diet.

Rommie is now also facing a pureed food future, as her teeth are in a poor condition due to a previously poor diet. Volunteers and staff patiently hand feed her to ensure she maintains her weight. Her favourite food – cockroaches, are now proving quite a challenge, staff are now having to removing the heads to give Rommie a chance to suck her way through her favourite treat, before it runs away!

As Park Manager, nutrition has always been a key focus for me. One of the first overhauls I undertook as a new manager in 2009, was to revise all the diets. With a strong interest in wild primate research, I used this knowledge to discover more about the natural diets of the animals at the park and tried, wherever possible, to incorporate this into the diets, or to try to replicate. Human cultivated foods are often far removed from the wild diets of species found in the rainforests of Brazil and Asia. Our fruits and vegetables have been cultivated for our human tastes, often to the detriment of their nutritional value. It is easy for captive species diets to lack essential trace minerals and vitamins, due to a lack of variety and range. It is essential we try to replicate as much as possible. I believe that attention to detail in this area has been the key to our healthy population of animals at the AWCP, one of the battles has been to keep on top of this and to not allow diets to drift, but also to keep abreast of current zoo nutrition trends and advice.

4pm – One of the focuses for the AWCP and its campaigns has been our human diets and how they are affecting the planet. The Conscious Eating and CutMeatNotTrees campaigns have been run with local entities, Thinking Green and the Health Promotions Team, to encourage Meat-Free days for the good of the planet and our health. Conscious Eating was recently mentioned in the Gibraltar Government Climate Change proposal for its work on sustainable diets for Gibraltar.

Habits for Habits is an extension from this, incorporating not only eating habits, but other habits that affect the habitats of species around the world. This year, a new, interactive Habits for Habits online challenge for schools will be introduced by the AWCP, to encourage children (and adults) to think about the impacts of their everyday habits on the environment. What better time than January to revise our old habits and make new, healthier and sustainable habits for a better future on our planet.

Find out more about the AWCP and its work by visiting the website: www.awcp.gi or contact the team at: [email protected]

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Jess Leaper has managed the Alameda Wildlife Conservation Park (AWCP) for over 12 years. Having completed her MSc project on the Barbary macaque, she later returned to Gibraltar and was asked to help out at the Wildlife Park. Vowing to somehow improve the enclosures of the primates there before she moved on, she managed that and much more. Now also active locally in sustainability groups and campaigns, raising awareness of Climate Change, particularly in relation to species and habitats.