Which zoo animals can leap across their exhibit, grab a cricket, and eat it, all in a few seconds? The zoo’s pair of northern tree shrews!
“They rarely sit still,” says Zoo Keeper Dave Messmann of these Southeast Asian forest-dwellers. “They are always moving.”
These tiny acrobatic critters look like miniature squirrels but are closely related to monkeys and apes. “Kids say that they look like Scrat, the character from the Ice Age movies,” Messmann says.
Belange, our one-year-old female and Tup, a five-year-old male, are still getting to know each other, so they take turns in the exhibit in Dr. Diversity’s Rain Forest Research Station in the Indonesian Rain Forest. Messmann lures them on and off exhibit with tasty crickets. “They really live their lives at top speed,” Messmann says, noting that tree shrews are sexually mature at 60 days and may live only about eight years. Aside from crickets, they dine on chopped fruits, veggies, insects, and a pelleted diet.
On a recent visit, Messmann gave Belange a shed snake skin as an enrichment activity. The tree shrew darted about and rubbed her chest on the shed skin, probably to scent mark the new item. At one point, Belange poked her head through the shed skin and wore it like a scarf for a few minutes, until her constant motion caused it to fall off.
Click the photos below to enlarge.