Animal keepers at West Midland Safari Park have been celebrating Valentine’s Day, with some very special gifts for the animals in their care.
Whilst the larger animals were treated to their favourite foods, keepers in the Discovery Trail made sure that the Park’s smaller inhabitants weren’t forgotten. This included the colony of 10,000 leaf-cutter ants, who were provided with rose petals, some cut into the shape of hearts, which staff had lovingly prepared as part of the morning’s husbandry.
Deputy Head Keeper of the Discovery Trail, Steve Slater said, “When people come to the Safari Park, they are excited to see the large animals, such as the rhinos and elephants. But there are some equally fascinating small animals in the Discovery Trail, such as our colony of leaf-cutter ants. These ants carry vegetation, which can be up to 50 times their own body weight, back to the nest where they create fungus farms for food.” He continued, “The nest centres around a queen who is irreplaceable! If she dies, the whole colony collapses.
For Valentine’s Day, we have treated the ants to some heart-shaped rose petals. We know the queen will have been waiting with great ant-icipation, to see what the workers bring from outside the nest and hope she approves! We also hope that our guests will take the time to observe the ants and show them a bit of love this
Leaf-cutter ants have a complex social system where each individual has a specific job related to its size. In the wild, worker ants will sometimes carry vegetation for hundreds of metres, guarded by larger soldier ants.
The queen is the largest in the whole colony and is the only ant able to produce offspring. She is capable of laying thousands of eggs per day, of which only a small number are fertile offspring which will leave the nest to mate and try to establish a nest of their own.
The leaf-cutter ants can be seen in the Park’s Discovery Trail on Valentine’s Day during Explorers Half Term. This is included in the standard admission charge of £23.00 for adults, £18.00 for children aged 3-15 and £21.00 for concessions. Admission includes a voucher for a return ticket or safari gift. Theme Park rides are charged extra. Prices include Explorers Half Term activities, such as a Dinosaur Explorer Craft Club, Twilight Cave feeds, Dinosaur Explorer Trail and a Facebook photo competition.