FRIDAY FEAST with Nikki Logan

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Happy Friday, Feasters! Are you feeling all spring-y? Isn’t it wonderful to see the sun and experience its lovely warm caress again? Very difficult to feel down when the sky is clear and blue, plants are in flower and nature’s creatures are bouncing around all a-frisky.

Ooh, and speaking of nature’s creatures, we have a rather different focus today. Yes, m’dears, Friday Feast is going animal! And so it should. I mean it’s not every day you get a multi-published author and zoo worker regaling you with tales, is it?

Romance with Nature is Australian author Nikki Logan’s catchphrase and how wonderfully she does it too. Whether it’s one of Nikki’s many captivating Harlequin Romance novels or a heart-pumping romantic suspense, you’ll be caught up in her vivid, wild environments and beautiful, passionate love stories.

Just check out her new release, Wild Encounter.

 

WILD ENCOUNTER

 

A wildlife release mission in Africa turns deadly when the convoy is hijacked by smugglers, and veterinarian Clare Delaney is taken hostage. Terrified for her life and her animals, the intrepid Clare establishes a rapport with the man she believes is the criminals’ leader, and reluctantly finds herself under his protection…and falling hard for the enigmatic man.

Alpha-to-the-max Simon deVries sees right through his sexy captive’s attempt to seduce her way to freedom. So when their simmering attraction flares into true passion, it takes them both by surprise. Now he’s torn between completing his secret mission and letting her escape without telling her his true identity. He knows if he lets her go, he will be risking his career, his life…and his heart.

 

Ooh, I’m a sucker for an African tale. Add in a sexy hero and a wild romance and I’m there. And so could you be! One click and Wild Encounter will be all yours. Go on. You know you want to…

Done? Excellent. Now you can have Nikki!

 

What To Feed Your Own Zoo

 

Working in a zoo you get to see and hear a lot of things related to the nutrition of different species. I bring a lot of ideas home to my own ‘pack’. Food enrichment ideas and activities to make the fur-kids work harder for their food and get more enjoyment from it.

The key to an effective captive diet (for any animal, including yours at home) is to replicate the wild one as much as possible. Not just the obvious stuff —wolves eat meat therefore my dog should eat meat—but the incidental diet elements too. Wolves eat meat, and hide, and leathery tendons, and whatever was in its prey’s stomach.

Numbats, for instance, spend huge parts of their day foraging for termites—their primary nutrition source. But while they busily ingest 20,000 termites a day (!), they’re also accidentally ingesting the semi-digested timber and grit inside the termites as well as the material from the termite mound that they accidentally ingest as they tongue-up thousands of termites a day. Their bodies have evolved to not just tolerate but also require that natural fibre for good digestive function. So much so that zookeepers at Perth Zoo grind up chunks of the termite’s nest mound and sprinkle it on their food like cinnamon on eggnog.

(Look at that little one on its back… so cute.)

Cathryn said you guys love recipes… here’s one for you. A termite-charged numbat slurpee courtesy of Perth Zoo.

Ingredients

Water | Eggs | Low-lactose milk powder | Ground up termites | Live Termites (two species) | Ground up mound material | Calcium | Vitamins |

·       Mix water, eggs, milk-powder and cook until like custard in consistency.

·       Mix in crushed-up termites and live termites

·       Sprinkle ground-up mound material, calcium and vitamins

·       Serve chilled

Mmm-mmm. I’m sure you’re all rushing off to make some right now.

Why am I talking about numbats? Because they’re so very, very adorabubble. Here’s one we prepared earlier.

Similarly, the big carnivores may be ‘meat eaters’ but they predate almost exclusively on grazing animals and so a percentage of their weekly diet is green stuff.  Pre-chewed, half-digested greenstuff but plant material, nonetheless. So a certain amount of ‘greens’ is good for carnivores, too.

Note ‘weekly’ diet. Not ‘daily’. Grass grazers [zebra|deer|pig|birds], fruit pickers [birds|monkeys|rodents] and leaf browsers [elephants|giraffe|kangaroo]  tend to spend most of their day foraging for their plant-based food because of its lower nutritional value and relative abundance. But while the top end carnivores have an energy-rich, concentrated meat diet, it does come at a price. They use a lot more energy catching it, they fail as often as they succeed, and sometimes food is just really hard to come by. Or to keep.

Wild dogs, for example, will work in packs, expending enormous amounts of collective energy tracking the right prey (the slowest, the weakest, the least experienced, the most vulnerable), isolating it and then hunting it down. They’re efficient, humane killers once they’ve done that but more often than not as soon as they’ve done all the hard work and settled in for a good feed, along will come a larger prey (lion, hyaena, leopard) and steal their feed out from under their paws. Compared to the muscle-mass of the larger carnivores, wild dogs are pretty rangy and that’s basically because their protein intake is only *just* ahead of their energy expenditure. They go hungry more often than not, work super-hard for their food and—unlike the other ‘me, me, it’s all about me’ carnivores—wild dogs make sure the weak and young are fed first. So a rangy alpha is a good alpha. It means he’s looking after his pack.

Why am I talking about wild dogs? Because I really respect their carnivore values and because I have a romantic suspense called ‘Wild Encounter’ out this week through Entangled which features them. My heroine is up to her elbows inmoving a pack of unconscious and endangered wild dogs across African borders when she and the dogs are kidnapped by wildlife traffickers. I got to spend months researching these beautiful, unique animals and their quirky ways and the affection has stuck.

Just like your dogs at home, animals which are biologically adapted to be foraging and working hard for their food risk becoming overweight if their food is plonked in twice a day and the only thing they have to do for it is haul themselves up and walk to a bowl. So good zoos will implement behavioural enrichment challenges for their captive creatures to make sure that the have to work for their daily food allowance.

(BTW, every single one of these you can do at home for your own captive collection…I’ve modified them for your average suburban kitchen and not the industrial zoo food prep areas…)  There’s so much we can do for our backyard zoo just by taking the lead of the people who look after animals for a living.

Frozen icies: boil up a stock using dinner bones or the left-over blood from the meat tray of your next roast and some water. Freeze a portion, then layer in some small treats and splash a tiny bit of blood stock on them. Freeze to bond them in place. Then add more stock, freeze. Repeat. That way you have a tasty, lickable, layered snack for a hot day that will keep the animal engaged and active. (You can do this for nectar loving birds with diluted peach-juice for stock and fruit pieces inside. Or horses with a super diluted molasses mix and apple/carrot bits inside.)

Scatter feeds: withhold 1/3 of the animal’s daily food and hide it around their environment. Under plants, wedged in logs, tucked in corners, smeared on sticks, buried in sandpits. Release the animal into the environment and watch them go—hunting and foraging like a pro and using all their natural behaviours. (This is also a great one for pets who suffer separation anxiety because they’re so engaged with the ‘hunt’ they don’t have time to indulge the addictive anxiety behaviours as you leave for the day.)

Stuffed pinecones (great for cockies):  Take an open pinecone and wedge unsalted, unbuttered popcorn into the crevices. Hang on a hook in the aviary.

Carcass feed: in zoos, carnivores can be fed entire or half-carcasses which gives them a chance to really work out those natural predator muscles. Zookeepers suspend them from bungees, or affix them to flying foxes so the predators have to chase their ‘kill’. At home you can give dogs entire kangaroo tails (hide-on) and tie them to a post so they can play tug-of-war.

Puzzle boxes:  put some food treats in a discarded toilet roll stuffed with straw. Wrap it in old newspaper. Hide in the garden. Messy but so much fun!

So that’s it. The ideas are as unlimited as your imagination. The secret is to understand what your animal’s wild behaviours would have been and then to find ways to stimulate those.

Good luck! Let me know here if you have any enrichment ideas of you own or if you have any success with one of the above.

*Nikki*

 

How cool was that? A bit different to our usual Friday Feasts but variety is indeed the spice of life, although I can’t imagine I’ll be whipping up any termite slurpees anytime soon. Not deliberately, anyway.

What tricks do you use to keep your menagerie amused or well-fed? My mum used to pong the house out cooking up kangaroo mince mush for the dogs. And my beloved collie, Cooch (darling, darling doggie), had a real thing for horse hoof trimmings. Absolutely loved them. Suppose it was like the canine equivalent of biting someone else’s toenails…

Nikki and I would love to hear your tales (or tails!), so get a-commenting!

If you’d like to learn more about Nikki and her romance with nature, please visit her website. You can also connect via Facebook and Twitter. Or check out her trailer on YouTube.

 

19 thoughts on “FRIDAY FEAST with Nikki Logan

  1. AvatarHelene Young

    What a fabulous post, Nikki!! Love your latest book – have always been a fan of all things African and your hero and heroine are fabulous!!

    As to things to keep Zeus the hound happy? We used to feed him bones but after he got a large one stuck in his throat which required an expensive visit to the Vets on Good Friday he’s restricted to equally expensive dog food…

    When he was a pup he contracted parvo and almost died (despite vaccinations…) Dehydration was the biggest risk once he’d got over the worst of it but he wouldn’t drink the electrolytes. A friend who’s a nurse suggested soaking raw chicken in the water and it worked! His favourite food is still raw chicken 12 years later.

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      Poor Zeus. Sounds like he’s had his fair share of adventures, Helene. I’m sure you have!

      Doesn’t Nikki’s book sound great? I am such a sucker for African stories. Must have been all those Wilbur Smiths I devoured. How I loved those Courtneys!

    2. AvatarNikki Logan (@ReadNikkiLogan)

      Oh, poor Zeus the troublesome pup! Yes, to the chicken water. Same works for icies on hot days. mmmm… chickeny goodness…

      I didn’t know you *could* get parvo even after having the vaccinations. That’s worrying. but lovely that he’s still going strong all these years later.

      Pats for Zeus.

  2. Avatarrachael johns

    I think that might be the coolest Friday Feast ever!! Thanks for sharing all those tasty treats Nikki! Will buy your book and add it to my MASSIVE TBR pile. Sorry, I can’t think of anything to offer in terms of animal food. My poor pets get BORING food!

    1. AvatarNikki Logan (@ReadNikkiLogan)

      Rach – well when you have a zoo-full of human animals to be worrying about its easy for the non-human ones to miss out. Next time you make soup, before you chuck the carcass, boil up some carcass water and then freeze it. then you have it on hand come summer for the pets.

  3. Avatarannegracie

    I love this post. I have no zoo, but one of the daily joys of my life is having the rainbow lorikeets chirrupping and tootling in my big flowering gum tree out the front. Planting native foods in the garden is also another way of feeding the wild zoo.

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      The birds around us have been twittering madly lately, Anne. Such a great sound and much nicer to wake up to than sirens and traffic. Yesterday they were so loud I wondered if I’d somehow been spirited to the country overnight!

    2. AvatarNikki Logan (@ReadNikkiLogan)

      Yes!!! How could I forget flora for fauna. The easiest and most responsible way to look after wild creatures.

      I do have one for the nectar loving birds in the height of summer (they use it for the native birds at the Zoo) Make a very diluted mix of syrup from canned fruit and water, do the frozen layers thing with chopped up fruit and then add a string loop to one of the middle layers. Then you can hang it outside on a hot day ad let the lorikeets go mad tonguing the juice off. (The trick with this one is to try and hang it near or in a tree so they can sit on a branch to consume it. Otherwise it’s too cold and slipperty for them to hang off the icie itself.)

  4. AvatarSharon Archer

    Brilliant post, Nikki and Cathryn! Those numbats are so cute! Mmm, and with a diet of termites they’d be kinda handy to have around the house!

    We live out of town on 5 acres and get lots of gorgeous native visitors. I love watching the honey eaters hang off flowers and delve in to collect the nectar. We have an echidna which visits occasionally too and although he’s a bit of a destructo he’s fun to watch as he barges through the garden beds.

    Cathryn, our dear old dog used to be a fan of horse-hoof clippings too – actually she was a fan of anything that was on the stinky side!

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      Oh, you have an echidna visitor, Sharon? How gorgeous! I spied one bumbling along a path when we were in Mildura last weekend, right alongside the river. So sweet.

      My Cooch used to make me laugh to hard with those hoof clippings. She’d get such a blissful look on her face when chewing. They do love stinky things, don’t they? Our foxie used to adore anything dead, and as for rotting seaweed, ooooh!

      Thanks so much for dropping by.

    2. AvatarNikki Logan (@ReadNikkiLogan)

      Sharon – there is an echidna version of the numbat custard (called ‘Echidna cake’ I think). I’ll find the zoo recipe and send it to you. that might help keep him out of your garden beds.

      Numbats are just the sweetest (most vulnerable) things. but if you have an echidna you won’t need the numbats — also massive termite munchers, of course.

  5. AvatarAlison Stuart

    Loved your post, Nikki. I grew up in Africa and can say with my hand on my heart that my brother nearly had his finger bitten off by an African wild dog! Ok…it was at an animal sanctuary (not in the backyard!) but there was a lot of blood, a lot of screaming (mostly from me and my mother) and several stitches. Not one of my favourite beasties! Just as I was disappointed to find the streets of Perth were not teeming with kangaroos, I had to convince my class mates that the streets of Nairobi were not humming with lions and zebras!

    1. AvatarNikki Logan (@ReadNikkiLogan)

      Wow, Alison. that is the first time I’ve heard of an actual human injury by painted dog and that includes the people who work with them for a living. Given the number of teeth in their mouth your brother really is lucky to still have all ten digits. Because they’re actually wolf (Lycaon) and not dog (Canis) they’re really not very good at being tamed, so I guess yr brother came across one that was wilder than most!

  6. AvatarNatalie Moress

    Great post. Thanks, Nikki and Cathryn. I’m going to make some pooch popsicles for my spaniels. My Maremma, Bess, gets her own treats, and she’s found some doozies! BTW, I agree, a rangy alpha IS a good alpha!

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