’Tis the season and during these challenging times it’s not just people that need to have some holiday cheer; the animals at Zoo Miami also love to receive special “gifts” to celebrate this time of year.
Throughout the year, zookeepers work together to create a variety of enrichment to mentally and physically stimulate the animals under their care. Creating items such a “fruitsicles” where an animal’s favorite fruit is frozen in the center of a block of ice, encouraging the animal to lick or scratch through the ice to get the treat, or filling a tube with insects and mealworms requiring an animal to figure out how to get them out, are just some examples of that enrichment.
During the holidays, the staff puts in extra effort to make the enrichment a bit more festive.
This year, the zoo’s sloth bear, “Hank,” got a gift box filled with mealworms and his favorite bear chow, wrapped in polar bear paper that he happily ripped while quickly sucking up the contents.
Adult Asian elephants Dalip and Nellie ate their holiday tree that had cantaloupes and apples for ornaments while the youngster, “Ongard,” ate his snowman that was decorated with peanut butter, sugar-free gelatin and a variety of his favorite fruits and vegetables.
The jaguars, “Reina” and “Adonia” got to stroll through “Candy Cane Lane” and explore through gift boxes while also savoring “bloodsicles” which are blocks of ice made with blood from meat.
“Banyon,” a Matchie’s tree kangaroo, carefully opened beautifully wrapped gift boxes containing newspaper strips and banana pieces.
Finally, the zoo’s troop of chimpanzees — Niger, Hondo, Samantha and Bubbles — thoroughly enjoyed exploring their habitat that had been decorated with a variety of holiday ornaments including a large Santa, a 6-foot tall snowman and a variety of gift boxes and tubes containing many of their favorite fruits and vegetables. In addition, they received special containers filled with diluted vanilla and chocolate Ensure as well as red Gatorade which they drank with great enthusiasm.
All the staff and residents at Zoo Miami wish you and yours a safe, healthy and happy holiday season.