Riot shields at the zoo
At a British zoo, keepers bear police riot shields to enter the crane enclosures. As these birds often attack intruders, keepers were trained by police officers and can now make good use of the riot shields.
The Exmoor Zoo in Devon (UK) houses nine of the fifteen known crane species. Keepers there report that crane behaviour there has become less social and highly territorial. Some species exhibit this behaviour mostly during the breeding season, but others, such as the paradise crane, are aggressively territorial all year long. The birds sport strong claws, and can be up to 1.5 metres tall, with a wingspan of 2.5 metres. Aiming to protect their nest, territory or partner, the cranes can be quite difficult for keepers. And yet zoo employees must enter enclosures regularly to feed the birds and check the nests and eggs.
Keepers used to protect themselves with rubbish bin lids, but this was not effective enough. After the zoo curator had seen a television programme featuring the riot police and their use of shields, he contacted the police about possibilities for the zoo. The police donated shields to the zoo and trained the animal keepers to use them: a shield in the one hand, the other hand free to provide feed or care. The keepers enter the enclosure in pairs, so that one can provide care of the animals and the other can keep the cranes at bay. The transparent shields allow good visibility. The keepers are quite satisfied with this new tool.
The photo shows a wattled crane, one of the species kept at Exmoor Zoo.