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Zoo Christmas

24 December 2012

Christmas came early at the Zoo this year, with some festive packaging giving a holiday feel to the treats provided for some of the animals.

Melbourne Zoo Keepers provide a variety of treats to the wildlife in their care every day of the year as part of the extensive enrichment program.

The enrichment can include a wide range of items, including fruits, nuts, popcorn, herbs, and even scented oils, all aimed at encouraging the animals to exercise the unique skills of their species.

But when it comes to Christmas time, those treats are enhanced with holiday trimmings that provide an extra challenge to the animals that need to unwrap the parcels to get to the contents.

Curator Jan Steele says that ‘organising enrichment activities is a vital part of a Keeper’s daily duties.  Usually our enrichment program aims to facilitate natural behaviours, which the various species would need in the wild.

‘Enrichment activities provide the animals with opportunities for problem solving and additional exercise, but at Christmas time the focus is more on fun!’

This is the first Christmas season for the 13-week-old Meerkats, so the presents provided them with a puzzling new experience, until they saw their mother successfully dealing with the wrapping paper containing their treats.

The Western Lowland Gorillas seemed to especially enjoy the cherries and strawberries in their gift boxes, and Sumatran Tiger Aceh made short work of the chickens in the two gift boxes placed in the Tiger Exhibit.

The agile orang-utans picked up their presents and carried them up to their perching platforms to enjoy – clearly a case of the advantage of having four ‘hands’ so they could easily carry while climbing.

Just a reminder also to visitors, that the zoo is open every day of the year, including all public holidays such as Christmas Day.