Paper chains, decorated tubes, edible goodies, wrapped boxes and other enrichment items help keep animals alert, active, and curious. Everyday, zoo animals receive enrichment that encourages them to explore their habitats. Polar bears dive for fish. Elephants reach high into trees and low under logs to find goodies. Gorillas explore cloth, fruit chunks and leaves as they satisfy their curiosities. This Saturday, animal enrichment will be more festive and visible than usual.
Volunteers from UNM construct daily enrichment, and during the holidays, curators, keepers and zoo volunteers work extra hard to put together enrichment gifts. Enrichment is designed to stimulate animals' natural behaviors and encourage mental activities.
"We spend quite a bit of time putting enrichment together, and the animals are so excited to receive it, they immediately rip into it and make a giant holiday mess," said Lynn Tupa, Zoo Manager. "It's a lot of fun to watch the animals play with their gifts. There's a lot of activity, a lot of funny animal moments, like when someone discovers how to fit into a box, and a lot of great photo opportunities. It's a wonderful time to see the animals interact with each other and their toys."
This year, cats will receive meatballs hidden in boxes. Elephants will figure out how to retrieve peanuts and an assortment of produce from "puzzle feeders." Primates will nibble fruit wrapped in decorated tubes. Birds will peck at "birdseed paintings." And some lucky animal will receive a papier mache Grinch.
Enrichment activities start at 9:30 a.m. on December 22 and are included with regular admission.