With all the building work and preparations towards opening in May, there’s been a new impetus to a bit of zoo spring cleaning.
But it’s not just us keepers busy with brushes and pans; a lot of animals do their own versions of ‘spring cleaning’ at this time of year, too.
Many visitors are lucky enough to see our boas and pythons shedding their skins, a process called ecdysis.
Done when a snake simply outgrows its old skin, younger, still-growing snakes do it up to several times a year.
It’s also necessary for snakes of any age, as the old, damaged layer is replaced by a lovely new, supple, colourful skin.
But many other reptiles and insects in the zoo shed their skins, including our cockroaches, tarantulas, stick insects, praying mantis, lizards, millipedes, and crustaceans.
They can be more lethargic and vulnerable during this time, so keepers are trained to spot signs and provide a safe, secluded space if needed, and sometimes additional stones or rough surfaces to help the process.
Many insects, as well as shedding their own exoskeletons, perform an invaluable service as a ‘clean-up crew’, cleaning up everyone else’s mess and preventing disease.
With the Oasis’s policy of recycling and composting, as well as many exotic insect species on display, a hardworking ‘back office’ team of insects populates our composting bins.
These break down animal bedding and food waste into micro nutrients which return to the land as brilliant natural fertilisers.
Spring also triggers birds’ instincts to moult and reveal colourful breeding plumage, like our magnificent new African Spreo starlings; followed by spring-cleaning and rebuilding nests.
You can help by sweeping last year’s waste out of any nest boxes.
Make sure this is before they start nesting to avoid disturbance; websites like the RSPB will advise for different species, or get the family to keep an eye on the box for a few hours first.
Those with dogs, cats and rabbits know how hairy your clothes and soft furnishings get during ‘spring moulting’ time. It’s exactly the same with our snow leopards, and they have famously thick coats – happy hoovering, everyone!