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Animal care at zoos is anything but routine | Environment

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Animal care at zoos is anything but routine

No one likes getting into a rut doing the same things over and over again and we now know that animals don’t either. In the wild, animals encounter many challenges in their day to day life. In Zoos, there is no need to hunt, forage for food, and to protect themselves from predators, so to prevent boredom,  Zookeepers (both at John Ball Zoo and Zoos around the world) must be very clever about finding ways to keep their animals’ instincts sharp and their senses stimulated. This practice of animal care is called “animal enrichment”. 

John Ball Zoo has a detailed, daily, enrichment plan in place for most of the 2,000 animals in their care. Sometimes it’s a tried-and-true method, such as peanut butter stuffed inside a coconut. At other times it’s experimental. One of the chimp keepers at John Ball Zoo gave the chimps a pillow case. The smallest one put it on her head – ghost style – and ran around chasing the other chimps. The results of these kinds of experiments will be shared with other zookeepers in the animal care community. Special smells, unique tastes, bizarre textures all make for good enrichment. Just like with our pets at home, zookeepers learn their animals’ preferences. 

Once or twice a year, John Ball Zookeepers ask our visitors and supporters to help collect the many, many enrichment items needed to care for the Zoo’s animals.  Enrichment is expensive, especially durable toys. Where a Kong toy might last a few months for a German shepherd, it’s a one day toy for the lions. It’s these non-food items that keepers are requesting in this year’s CHRISTMAS FOR THE ANIMALS enrichment drive. In return, John Ball Zoo will be throwing an ALL FREE Christmas party for visitors making donations! Santa will be available for visits and he’s bringing his reindeer! Plus, the keepers will be demonstrating enrichment in action! The event takes place on Saturday, December 4th, from 10am – 2pm.