On Saturday, December 12 the Sacramento Zoo held its annual Holiday Magic event, a day set aside to provide holiday-themed enrichment items for the animals. Enrichments are items or activities, not normally part of the daily routine, that stimulate the natural behaviors of animals. Such activities help the well-being of zoo animals as they use natural skills such as foraging, digging, pouncing and engaging curiosity. The Sacramento Zookeepers regularly provide enrichments for the animals; you may visit the zoo and see boxes, coffee sacks or large plastic objects in exhibits as part of a ongoing enrichments throughout the year.
Holiday Magic, however, is a special time as zookeepers work with other zoo staff and volunteers to develop festive enrichments that are given on a schedule for the public as well as the animals’ delight. This year there were ten scheduled enrichments accompanied with keeper staff who narrated and answered questions. There were also plenty of off-schedule enrichments given to animals in the Reptile House and throughout the zoo.
From Christmas trees to stockings and boxes filled with treats, the animals received a variety of stimulating (and festive) items.
Each enrichment item is veterinary and animal care staff approved. The cardboard boxes are thoroughly inspected so they don’t have any staples, tape or other residues. Then they are painted with nontoxic paints for a festive look.
Some of them, like the Santa’s Village in the black and white ruffed lemur exhibit, included cutouts so the animals could explore inside the boxes as well. Other boxes were dusted with scents and spices to excite the animals. Edible enrichments, such as wreaths for the giraffe and pinecone reindeer for the Wolf’s guenon included plants and foods from their normal diet as well as some additional goodies like grapes, cranberries, apples and yam puree that they only receive on occasion. These treats enticed the animals to forage for sweet rewards.
The large cats are always a public favorite to watch. This year the African lion pride received a number of enrichments. From a very large painted box, to a Christmas tree and smaller boxes filled with scents, the adults and three growing cubs had a blast exploring the items before dad took claim of his favorites.
You have opportunity to view another upcoming enrichment day on Sunday, February 14 during I Heart Sacramento Zoo. This event is completely organized by the Sacramento Zoo Teen volunteers.
Save the date and plan to bring your valentine to this special day at the zoo.