ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) - The Albuquerque zoo is now doing something no other zoo in the country is doing, feeding the animals by remote control using an app.
You see the signs at the zoo that say "don't feed the animals." That's a job for the zookeepers.
Now, zookeepers in Albuquerque are feeding them in a brand new way, with the touch of a smartphone.
The "feed pods" are filled with feed pellets, peanuts and hay cubes. The elephants go crazy for the goodies, and that's the point. It keeps them moving, going from feeder to feeder hoping for a reward.
"Elephants are made to forage on average about 15 hours a day," says Rhonda Saiers, Rio Grande Zoo Elephant Manager. "So anything we can do to encourage them to do what they do in the wild, it's a big bonus for us."
The zoo's elephant manager knows that rewarding elephants for being elephants is a never-ending job. She can now do that by shooting off a text from her office.
Saiers says she can see the elephants moving and walking around on the camera system, and can text message the feed pod and it will release food. But that doesn't mean one of the most popular happenings at the zoo, feeding time, will go away.
Zookeepers still have to haul in the bales of hay, straw and grass and the fruits and vegetables the elephants love. But soon, a lot more of the feeding around the zoo will be done via remote control.
Next to receive the feed pods are the gorillas, orangutans, chimps and the rhinos and zebras. While it is all about the animals, the pods can make zoo keeping, which can be a lot like parenting, just a little easier.
"We want to see them active and busy, and while they're active and busy we're getting our tough job of shoveling and cleaning for them also," says Saiers.
The zoo has ten of the feeders, four of them in the elephant exhibit.
They're made in Ireland, and they go for $1,800 apiece. They were paid for with donations.
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