Animal Diaries Archive
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Show Off Those Pearly Whites!
4 February 2005Here at Australia Zoo we've just gone through one of the busiest times of the year, and over this summer break Kids Zoo has certainly had its fair share of the crowds! And of course, with the more guests who come through to see us, the more questions there are for us Kid Zoo keepers to answer. One of the most common questions, that we'd like to address this week in our animal diaries, is "do they bite?". Basically, this question is exactly like asking if your neighbour's kitten scratches! Everyone knows that the kitten has claws (just like all our farm animals have teeth!), and so is perfectly capable of giving a good scratch. However... whether or not the kitten actually WILL scratch depends on how it's being treated, and the same goes for our animals at Kids Zoo! I mean, in reality everything that eats can bite - otherwise it couldn't eat! As long as the animals are patted gently, not disturbed when they're trying to rest, and fed only from the flat palm of your hand, there will never be a problem with an accidental bite. The teeth of our animals are actually very interesting, coming in enough different shapes and sizes to suit all the shapes and sizes of our animals! The calves, our biggest babies, are in fact the least likely to bite, not only because they prefer to use their huge raspy tongues to lick up farm food, but because the only teeth at the front of their mouths are big flat ones on their lower jaw- the top is all gum! At the other end of the scale, our tiny piglets are the ones you'd have to watch out for the most, with pointy little canine teeth it is easier for them to get a little overzealous when they get excited over their farm food. Eventually (when they are bigger) they'll use these teeth to tear through all sorts of food (especially big tough crunchy sweet potatoes- yum!). The lambs and kids' sets of teeth are relatively similar to the calves, but their feeding methods are a little different. When out in the paddock, they use their front teeth, called 'incisors', to nip off blades of grass or leaves, and they go for farm food in exactly the same fashion. This is why it's so important to feed them with a flat hand, giving them no fingers to accidentally nip. Just as important is to remember that their side teeth, called 'molars', are strong enough to grind up their very, very tough leafy diet, which is why you should never stick your fingers into their mouths! So next time you come by the Kids Zoo, spare a thought for our animals' fabulous dentition, and realise there's no need to worry about being bitten so long as you show our animals (and their teeth!) a little respect.