Saturday, January 9, 2010

Winter Animal Enrichment

With all of the cold and snow, my work tends to be much easier. In the warm months I spend up to 45 minutes washing windows every morning. When it's below freezing I spend a couple of minutes removing monkey fingerprints and hog noseprints from their respective day room windows, but that's it. Also, of the animals I care for only the zebras have been going outside. That saves me a lot of time on cleaning yards. It's a very nice break from the nonstop rush of the past nine months.

One way I fill my extra time is by providing enrichment for the animals. Stuck inside, they have less room to run and play, not as much to look at or watch, etc. I provide enrichment year-round, but I try to kick it up in the winter months. This week I took advantage of the snow. I made small mountains of snow in the hog, monkey and lion stalls. The lions were very excited when I was moving the snow into their stall, but once they had access to it they just sniffed it and walked away. I threw some apple and sweet potato chunks into the monkeys' snow pile and the two young boys had fun digging for it. Mom and Grandma monkey opted to skip the snow in favor of the other produce I had scattered around their exhibit. The hogs had by far the best reaction. All six immediately started rooting with their snouts. The piglets took turns climbing on top of the pile and rolling. Best of all, they had the entire pile CONSUMED in about 20 minutes. It was hilarious!

Other fun things I've done recently were a baby pool filled with ball pit balls for the monkeys. (I found the balls when I was going through the kids' old stuff to donate to Goodwill.) The monkey boys had a blast playing in the balls and throwing them around. I also removed a log from the hog day room and gave it to the lions. They loved the scent of hogs. The hogs like to tear up empty feed bags. I gave the lions a phone book they ripped into a jillion pieces. Ooh, I think I'll give one to the hogs tomorrow! My favorite lion enrichment was a huge new "Boomer Ball." It's a giant, supposedly indestructible ball. Lizzie went crazy for it! She carried it around, rolled it all over the place and even brought it up on her bench to guard it from Arthur. Poor Arthur wanted to play too, but Lizzie wouldn't let him. Ball hog! They've had the ball for about a week now, so Arthur has had plenty of time with it. It was fun to watch Lizzie hogging that ball, though.


The kids and Gene went back to school/work this week. The three of them were very unhappy that Thursday wasn't a snow day. I was happy since I had to work regardless and better a day in school now, following two weeks off, than in June! We decided to not take the kids out of school for vacation this year, so we're all looking forward to spring break. At the moment we're planning to go to Ohio (of all places) to the Cincinnati and Colombus Zoos as well as (yet another) waterpark resort. We're also considering Atlanta and/or Knoxville and the Smokey Mtn National Park. I have to check out probable weather, etc. for all locations. I'm sort of surprised that I'm not sad to be skipping Disney World this January/February. Even the kids want to see other places!

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