Inquiry into meerkat munchings
Normally cast in drab shades of brown, the droppings of Hamilton Zoo's meerkats took on an unnaturally colourful hue this week - much to the alarm of their keepers.
A close inspection of one of their tiny turds revealed an inquisitive meerkat had eaten an assortment of rubber loom bands.
The colourful bands are a must-have accessory for schoolchildren, leading some schools to ban them.
Zoo curator Sam Kudeweh said staff had no idea how the bands got into the meerkat enclosure but suspected they could have been accidentally dropped over the railing by a young visitor.
Meerkats are omnivores, eating plants, insects and smaller animals.
The pint-sized mammals are also expert foragers.
"Meerkats are relentlessly inquisitive and anything novel has to be investigated," Kudeweh said. "If one of the bands was broken, it would have looked all wiggly and meerkats will consume anything. Typically the adults will find food and the babies will nick it off them."
Hamilton's meerkat family includes three adult males, an adult female and two young offspring.
Kudeweh said it was rare for foreign objects to find their way into the animal enclosures and he asked visitors to be mindful of their belongings and rubbish.
"The vet is happy that no harm has been caused but our keepers will keep a close eye on the meerkats and if they start to look under the weather we will act quickly," she said. The tiny rubber bands could potentially cause a blockage in the animals' bowels.